Infomotions, Inc.Sevenoaks / Holland, J. G. (Josiah Gilbert), 1819-1881



Author: Holland, J. G. (Josiah Gilbert), 1819-1881
Title: Sevenoaks
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): belcher; jim; sevenoaks; benedict; miss butterworth; balfour; yates; jim fenton; robert belcher; mike conlin; sam yates; paul benedict
Contributor(s): Muir, Jessie [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 147,968 words (average) Grade range: 8-11 (high school) Readability score: 66 (easy)
Identifier: etext15214
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Title: Sevenoaks

Author: J. G. Holland

Release Date: March 1, 2005  [eBook #15214]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SEVENOAKS***


E-text prepared by Audrey Longhurst, Josephine Paolucci, and the Project
Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team



SEVENOAKS

A Story of Today

by

J.G. HOLLAND

New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers
Published by Arrangement with Charles Scribner's Sons

1875







CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.

  Which tells about Sevenoaks, and how Miss Butterworth passed one of
  her evenings

  CHAPTER II.

  Mr. Belcher carries his point at the town-meeting, and the poor are
  knocked down to Thomas Buffum

  CHAPTER III.

  In which Jim Fenton is introduced to the reader and introduces himself to
  Miss Butterworth

  CHAPTER IV.

  In which Jim Fenton applies for lodgings at Tom Buffum's boarding-house,
  and finds his old friend

  CHAPTER V.

  In which Jim enlarges his accommodations and adopts a violent method
  of securing boarders

  CHAPTER VI.

  In which Sevenoaks experiences a great commotion, and comes to the
  conclusion that Benedict has met with foul play

  CHAPTER VII.

  In which Jim and Mike Conlin pass through a great trial and come out
  victorious

  CHAPTER VIII.

  In which Mr. Belcher visits New York, and becomes the Proprietor of
  "Palgrave's Folly."

  CHAPTER IX.

  Mrs. Talbot gives her little dinner party, and Mr. Belcher makes an
  exceedingly pleasant acquaintance

  CHAPTER X.

  Which tells how a lawyer spent his vacation in camp, and took home a
  specimen of game that he had never before found in the woods

  CHAPTER XI.

  Which records Mr. Belcher's connection with a great speculation and
  brings to a close his residence in Sevenoaks

  CHAPTER XII.

  In which Jim enlarges his plans for a house, and completes his plans for
  a house-keeper

  CHAPTER XIII.

  Which introduces several residents of Sevenoaks to the Metropolis and
  a new character to the reader

  CHAPTER XIV.

  Which tells of a great public meeting in Sevenoaks, the burning in effigy
  of Mr. Belcher, and that gentleman's interview with a reporter

  CHAPTER XV.

  Which tells about Mrs. Dillingham's Christmas and the New Year's
  Reception at the Palgrave Mansion

  CHAPTER XVI.

  Which gives an account of a voluntary and an involuntary visit of Sam
  Yates to Number Nine

  CHAPTER XVII.

  In which Jim constructs two happy-Davids, raises his hotel, and dismisses
  Sam Yates

  CHAPTER XVIII.

  In which Mrs. Dillingham makes some important discoveries, but fails to
  reveal them to the reader

  CHAPTER XIX.

  In which Mr. Belcher becomes President of the Crooked Valley Railroad,
  with large "Terminal facilities," and makes an adventure into a
  long-meditated crime

  CHAPTER XX.

  In which "the little woman" announces her engagement to Jim Fenton
  and receives the congratulations of her friends

  CHAPTER XXI.

  In which Jim gets the furniture into his house, and Mike Conlin gets
  another installment of advice into Jim

  CHAPTER XXII.

  In which Jim gets married, the new hotel receives its mistress, and
  Benedict confers a power of attorney

  CHAPTER XXIII.

  In which Mr. Belcher expresses his determination to become a "founder,"
  but drops his noun in fear of a little verb of the same name

  CHAPTER XXIV.

  Wherein the General leaps the bounds of law, finds himself in a new
  world, and becomes the victim of his friends without knowing it

  CHAPTER XXV.

  In which the General goes through a great many trials, and meets at last
  the one he has so long anticipated

  CHAPTER XXVI.

  In which the case of "Benedict _vs._ Belcher" finds itself in court, an
  interesting question of identity is settled, and a mysterious
  disappearance takes place

  CHAPTER XXVII.

  In which Phipps is not to be found, and the General is called upon to do
  his own lying

  CHAPTER XXVIII.

  In which a heavenly witness appears who cannot be cross-examined, and
  before which the defense utterly breaks down

  CHAPTER XXIX.

  Wherein Mr. Belcher, having exhibited his dirty record, shows a clean
  pair of heels

  CHAPTER XXX.

  Which gives the history of an anniversary, presents a tableau, and drops
  the curtain





CHAPTER I.

WHICH TELLS ABOUT SEVENOAKS, AND HOW MISS BUTTERWORTH PASSED ONE OF HER
EVENINGS.


Everybody has seen Sevenoaks, or a hundred towns so much like it, in
most particulars, that a description of any one of them would present it
to the imagination--a town strung upon a stream, like beads upon a
thread, or charms upon a chain. Sevenoaks was richer in chain than
charms, for its abundant water-power was only partially used. It
plunged, and roared, and played, and sparkled, because it had not half
enough to do. It leaped down three or four cataracts in passing through
the village; and, as it started from living springs far northward among
the woods and mountains, it never failed in its supplies.

Few of the people of Sevenoaks--thoughtless workers, mainly--either knew
or cared whence it came, or whither it went. They knew it as "The
Branch;" but Sevenoaks was so far from the trunk, down to which it sent
its sap, and from which it received no direct return, that no
significance was attached to its name. But it roared all day, and roared
all night, summer and winter alike, and the sound became a part of the
atmosphere. Resonance was one of the qualities of the oxygen which the
people breathed, so that if, at any midnight moment, the roar had been
suddenly hushed, they would have waked with a start and a sense of
suffocation, and leaped from their beds.

Among the charms that dangled from this liquid chain--depending from the
vest of a landscape which ended in a ruffle of woods toward the north,
overtopped by the head of a mountain--was a huge factory that had been
added to from time to time, as necessity demanded, until it had become
an imposing and not uncomely pile. Below this were two or three
dilapidated saw-mills, a grist-mill in daily use, and a fulling-mill--a
remnant of the old times when homespun went its pilgrimage to town--to
be fulled, colored, and dressed--from all the sparsely settled country
around.

On a little plateau by the side of The Branch was a row of stores and
dram-shops and butchers' establishments. Each had a sort of square,
false front, pierced by two staring windows and a door, that reminded
one of a lion _couchant_--very large in the face and very thin in the
flank. Then there were crowded in, near the mill, little rows of
one-story houses, occupied entirely by operatives, and owned by the
owner of the mill. All the inhabitants, not directly connected with the
mill, were as far away from it as they could go. Their houses were set
back upon either acclivity which rose from the gorge that the stream had
worn, dotting the hill-sides in every direction. There was a clumsy
town-hall, there were three or four churches, there was a high school
and a low tavern. It was, on the whole, a village of importance, but the
great mill was somehow its soul and center. A fair farming and grazing
country stretched back from it eastward and westward, and Sevenoaks was
its only home market.

It is not proposed, in this history, to tell where Sevenoaks was, and is
to-day. It may have been, or may be, in Maine, or New Hampshire, or
Vermont, or New York. It was in the northern part of one of these
States, and not far from the border of a wilderness, almost as deep and
silent as any that can be found beyond the western limit of settlement
and civilization. The red man had left it forever, but the bear, the
deer and the moose remained. The streams and lakes were full of trout;
otter and sable still attracted the trapper, and here and there a
lumberman lingered alone in his cabin, enamored of the solitude and the
wild pursuits to which a hardly gentler industry had introduced him.
Such lumber as could be drifted down the streams had long been cut and
driven out, and the woods were left to the hunter and his prey, and to
the incursions of sportsmen and seekers for health, to whom the rude
residents became guides, cooks, and servants of all work, for the sake
of occasional society, and that ever-serviceable consideration--money.

There were two establishments in Sevenoaks which stood so far away from
the stream that they could hardly be described as attached to it.
Northward, on the top of the bleakest hill in the region, stood the
Sevenoaks poor-house. In dimensions and population, it was utterly out
of proportion to the size of the town, for the people of Sevenoaks
seemed to degenerate into paupers with wonderful facility. There was one
man in the town who was known to be getting rich, while all the rest
grew poor. Even the keepers of the dram-shops, though they seemed to do
a thriving business, did not thrive. A great deal of work was done, but
people were paid very little for it. If a man tried to leave the town
for the purpose of improving his condition, there was always some
mortgage on his property, or some impossibility of selling what he had
for money, or his absolute dependence on each day's labor for each day's
bread, that stood in the way. One by one--sick, disabled, discouraged,
dead-beaten--they drifted into the poor-house, which, as the years went
on, grew into a shabby, double pile of buildings, between which ran a
county road.

This establishment was a county as well as a town institution, and,
theoretically, one group of its buildings was devoted to the reception
of county paupers, while the other was assigned to the poor of
Sevenoaks. Practically, the keeper of both mingled his boarders
indiscriminately, to suit his personal convenience.

The hill, as it climbed somewhat abruptly from the western bank of the
stream--it did this in the grand leisure of the old geologic
centuries--apparently got out of breath and sat down when its task was
half done. Where it sat, it left a beautiful plateau of five or six
acres, and from this it rose, and went on climbing, until it reached the
summit of its effort, and descended the other side. On the brow of this
plateau stood seven huge oaks which the chopper's axe, for some reason
or another, had spared; and the locality, in all the early years of
settlement, was known by the name of "The Seven Oaks." They formed a
notable landmark, and, at last, the old designation having been worn by
usage, the town was incorporated with the name of Sevenoaks, in a single
word.

On this plateau, the owner of the mill, Mr. Robert Belcher--himself an
exceptional product of the village--had built his residence--a large,
white, pretentious dwelling, surrounded and embellished by all the
appointments of wealth. The house was a huge cube, ornamented at its
corners and cornices with all possible flowers of a rude architecture,
reminding one of an elephant, that, in a fit of incontinent playfulness,
had indulged in antics characteristic of its clumsy bulk and brawn.
Outside were ample stables, a green-house, a Chinese pagoda that was
called "the summer-house," an exquisite garden and trees, among which
latter were carefully cherished the seven ancient oaks that had given
the town its name.

Robert Belcher was not a gentleman. He supposed himself to be one, but
he was mistaken. Gentlemen of wealth usually built a fine house; so Mr.
Belcher built one. Gentlemen kept horses, a groom and a coachman; Mr.
Belcher did the same. Gentlemen of wealth built green-houses for
themselves and kept a gardener; Mr. Belcher could do no less. He had no
gentlemanly tastes, to be sure, but he could buy or hire these for
money; so he bought and hired them; and when Robert Belcher walked
through his stables and jested with his men, or sauntered into his
green-house and about his grounds, he rubbed his heavy hands together,
and fancied that the costly things by which he had surrounded himself
were the insignia of a gentleman.

From his windows he could look down upon the village, all of which he
either owned or controlled. He owned the great mill; he owned the
water-privilege; he owned many of the dwellings, and held mortgages on
many others; he owned the churches, for all purposes practical to
himself; he owned the ministers--if not, then this was another mistake
that he had made. So long as it was true that they could not live
without him, he was content with his title. He patronized the church,
and the church was too weak to decline his ostentatious courtesy. He
humiliated every man who came into his presence, seeking a subscription
for a religious or charitable purpose, but his subscription was always
sought, and as regularly obtained. Humbly to seek his assistance for any
high purpose was a concession to his power, and to grant the assistance
sought was to establish an obligation. He was willing to pay for
personal influence and personal glory, and he often paid right royally.

Of course, Mr. Belcher's residence had a library; all gentlemen have
libraries. Mr. Belcher's did not contain many books, but it contained a
great deal of room for them. Here he spent his evenings, kept his papers
in a huge safe built into the wall, smoked, looked down on the twinkling
village and his huge mill, counted his gains and constructed his
schemes. Of Mrs. Belcher and the little Belchers, he saw but little. He
fed and dressed them well, as he did his horses. All gentlemen feed and
dress their dependents well. He was proud of his family as he saw them
riding in their carriage. They looked gay and comfortable, and were, as
he thought, objects of envy among the humbler folk of the town, all of
which reflected pleasantly upon himself.

On a late April evening, of a late spring in 18--, he was sitting in
his library, buried in a huge easy chair, thinking, smoking, scheming.
The shutters were closed, the lamps were lighted, and a hickory fire was
blazing upon the hearth. Around the rich man were spread the luxuries
which his wealth had bought--the velvet carpet, the elegant chairs, the
heavy library table, covered with costly appointments, pictures in broad
gold frames, and one article of furniture that he had not been
accustomed to see in a gentleman's library--an article that sprang out
of his own personal wants. This was an elegant pier-glass, into whose
depths he was accustomed to gaze in self-admiration. He was flashily
dressed in a heavy coat, buff waistcoat, and drab trousers. A gold chain
of fabulous weight hung around his neck and held his Jurgensen repeater.

He rose and walked his room, and rubbed his hands, as was his habit;
then paused before his mirror, admired his robust figure and large face,
brushed his hair back from his big brow, and walked on again. Finally,
he paused before his glass, and indulged in another habit peculiar to
himself.

"Robert Belcher," said he, addressing the image in the mirror, "you are
a brick! Yes, sir, you are a brick! You, Robert Belcher, sir, are an
almighty smart man. You've outwitted the whole of 'em. Look at me, sir!
Dare you tell me, sir, that I am not master of the situation? Ah! you
hesitate; it is well! They all come to me, every man of 'em It is 'Mr.
Belcher, will you be so good?' and 'Mr. Belcher, I hope you are very
well,' and 'Mr. Belcher, I want you to do better by me.' Ha! ha! ha! ha!
My name is Norval. It isn't? Say that again and I'll throttle you! Yes,
sir, I'll shake your rascally head off your shoulders! Down, down in the
dust, and beg my pardon! It is well; go! Get you gone, sir, and remember
not to beard the lion in his den!"

Exactly what this performance meant, it would be difficult to say. Mr.
Belcher, in his visits to the city, had frequented theaters and admired
the villains of the plays he had seen represented. He had noticed
figures upon the boards that reminded him of his own. His addresses to
his mirror afforded him an opportunity to exercise his gifts of
speech and action, and, at the same time, to give form to his
self-gratulations. They amused him; they ministered to his preposterous
vanity. He had no companions in the town, and the habit gave him a sense
of society, and helped to pass away his evenings. At the close of his
effort he sat down and lighted another cigar. Growing drowsy, he laid it
down on a little stand at his side, and settled back in his chair for a
nap. He had hardly shut his eyes when there came a rap upon his door.

"Come in!"

"Please, sir," said a scared-looking maid, opening the door just wide
enough to make room for her face.

"Well?" in a voice so sharp and harsh that the girl cringed.

"Please, sir, Miss Butterworth is at the door, and would like to see
you."

Now, Miss Butterworth was the one person in all Sevenoaks who was not
afraid of Robert Belcher. She had been at the public school with him
when they were children; she had known every circumstance of his
history; she was not dependent on him in any way, and she carried in her
head an honest and fearless tongue. She was an itinerant tailoress, and
having worked, first and last, in nearly every family in the town, she
knew the circumstances of them all, and knew too well the connection of
Robert Belcher with their troubles and reverses. In Mr. Belcher's
present condition of self-complacency and somnolency, she was not a
welcome visitor. Belligerent as he had been toward his own image in the
mirror, he shrank from meeting Keziah Butterworth, for he knew
instinctively that she had come with some burden of complaint.

"Come in," said Mr. Belcher to his servant, "and shut the door behind
you."

The girl came in, shut the door, and waited, leaning against it.

"Go," said her master in a low tone, "and tell Mrs. Belcher that I am
busy, and that she must choke her off. I can't see her to-night. I can't
see her."

The girl retired, and soon afterward Mrs. Belcher came, and reported
that she could do nothing with Miss Butterworth--that Miss Butterworth
was determined to see him before she left the house.

"Bring her in; I'll make short work with her."

As soon as Mrs. Belcher retired, her husband hurried to the mirror,
brushed his hair back fiercely, and then sat down to a pile of papers
that he always kept conveniently upon his library table.

"Come in," said Mr. Belcher, in his blandest tone, when Miss Butterworth
was conducted to his room.

"Ah! Keziah?" said Mr. Belcher, looking up with a smile, as if an
unexpected old friend had come to him.

"My name is Butterworth, and it's got a handle to it,' said that
bumptious lady, quickly.

"Well, but, Keziah, you know we used to--"

"My name is Butterworth, I tell you, and it's got a handle to it."

"Well, Miss Butterworth--happy to see you--hope you are well--take a
chair."

"Humph," exclaimed Miss Butterworth, dropping down upon the edge of a
large chair, whose back felt no pressure from her own during the
interview. The expression of Mr. Belcher's happiness in seeing her, and
his kind suggestion concerning her health, had overspread Miss
Butterworth's countenance with a derisive smile, and though she was
evidently moved to tell him that he lied, she had reasons for
restraining her tongue.

They formed a curious study, as they sat there together, during the
first embarrassing moments. The man had spent his life in schemes for
absorbing the products of the labor of others. He was cunning, brutal,
vain, showy, and essentially vulgar, from his head to his feet, in
every fiber of body and soul. The woman had earned with her own busy
hands every dollar of money she had ever possessed. She would not have
wronged a dog for her own personal advantage. Her black eyes, lean and
spirited face, her prematurely whitening locks, as they were exposed by
the backward fall of her old-fashioned, quilted hood, presented a
physiognomy at once piquant and prepossessing.

Robert Belcher knew that the woman before him was fearless and
incorruptible. He knew that she despised him--that bullying and
brow-beating would have no influence with her, that his ready badinage
would not avail, and that coaxing and soft words would be equally
useless. In her presence, he was shorn of all his weapons; and he never
felt so defenseless and ill at ease in his life.

As Miss Butterworth did not seem inclined to begin conversation, Mr.
Belcher hem'd and haw'd with affected nonchalance, and said:

"Ah!--to--what am I indebted for this visit. Miss--ah--Butterworth?"

"I'm thinking!" she replied sharply, looking into the fire, and pressing
her lips together.

There was nothing to be said to this, so Mr. Belcher looked doggedly at
her, and waited.

"I'm thinking of a man, and-he-was-a-man-every-inch-of-him, if there
ever was one, and a gentleman too, if-I-know-what-a-gentleman-is, who
came to this town ten years ago, from-nobody-knows-where; with a wife
that was an angel, if-there-is-any-such-thing-as-an-angel."

Here Miss Butterworth paused. She had laid her foundation, and proceeded
at her leisure.

"He knew more than any man in Sevenoaks, but he didn't know how to take
care of himself," she went on. "He was the most ingenious creature God
ever made, I do think, and his name was Paul Benedict."

Mr. Belcher grew pale and fidgeted in his chair.

"And his name was Paul Benedict. He invented something, and
then he took it to Robert Belcher, and he put it into his
mill, and-paid-him-just-as-little-for-it-as-he-could. And
then he invented something more, and-that-went-into-the-mill;
and then something more, and the patent was used by Mr.
Belcher for a song, and the man grew poorer and poorer,
while-Mr.-Belcher-grew-richer-and-richer-all-the-time. And
then he invented a gun, and then his little wife died,
and what with the expenses of doctors and funerals and
such things, and the money it took to get his patent,
which-I-begged-him-for-conscience'-sake-to-keep-out-of-Robert-Belcher's-hands,
he almost starved with his little boy, and had to go to Robert
Belcher for money."

"And get it," said Mr. Belcher.

"How much, now? A hundred little dollars for what was worth a hundred
thousand, unless-everybody-lies. The whole went in a day, and then he
went crazy."

"Well, you know I sent him to the asylum," responded Mr. Belcher.

"I know you did--yes, I know you did; and you tried to get him well
enough to sign a paper, which the doctor never would let him sign, and
which wouldn't have been worth a straw if he had signed it.
The-idea-of-getting-a-crazy-man-to-sign-a-paper!"

"Well, but I wanted some security for the money I had advanced," said
Mr. Belcher.

"No; you wanted legal possession of a property which would have made him
rich; that's what it was, and you didn't get it, and you never will get
it. He can't be cured, and he's been sent back, and is up at Tom
Buffum's now, and I've seen him to-day."

Miss Butterworth expected that this intelligence would stun Mr. Belcher,
but it did not.

The gratification of the man with the news was unmistakable. Paul
Benedict had no relatives or friends that he knew of. All his dealings
with him had been without witnesses. The only person living besides
Robert Belcher, who knew exactly what had passed between his victim and
himself, was hopelessly insane. The difference, to him, between
obtaining possession of a valuable invention of a sane or an insane man,
was the difference between paying money and paying none. In what way,
and with what profit, Mr. Belcher was availing himself of Paul
Benedict's last invention, no one in Sevenoaks knew; but all the town
knew that he was getting rich, apparently much faster than he ever was
before, and that, in a distant town, there was a manufactory of what was
known as "The Belcher Rifle."

Mr. Belcher concluded that he was still "master of the situation."
Benedict's testimony could not be taken in a court of justice. The town
itself was in his hands, so that it would institute no suit on
Benedict's behalf, now that he had come upon it for support; for the Tom
Buffum to whom Miss Butterworth had alluded was the keeper of the
poor-house, and was one of his own creatures.

Miss Butterworth had sufficient sagacity to comprehend the reasons for
Mr. Belcher's change of look and manner, and saw that her evening's
mission would prove fruitless; but her true woman's heart would not
permit her to relinquish her project.

"Is poor Benedict comfortable?" he inquired, in his old, off-hand way.

"Comfortable--yes, in the way that pigs are."

"Pigs are very comfortable, I believe, as a general thing," said Mr.
Belcher.

"Bob Belcher," said Miss Butterworth, the tears springing to her eyes in
spite of herself, and forgetting all the proprieties she had determined
to observe, "you are a brute. You know you are a brute. He is in a
little cell, no larger than--than--a pig-pen. There isn't a bit of
furniture in it. He sleeps on the straw, and in the straw, and under the
straw, and his victuals are poked at him as if he were a beast. He is a
poor, patient, emaciated wretch, and he sits on the floor all day, and
weaves the most beautiful things out of the straw he sits on, and Tom
Buffum's girls have got them in the house for ornaments. And he talks
about his rifle, and explains it, and explains it, and explains it, when
anybody will listen to him, and his clothes are all in rags, and that
little boy of his that they have in the house, and treat no better than
if he were a dog, knows he is there, and goes and looks at him, and
calls to him, and cries about him whenever he dares. And you sit here,
in your great house, with your carpets and chairs, that half smother
you, and your looking-glasses and your fine clothes, and don't start to
your feet when I tell you this. I tell you if God doesn't damn everybody
who is responsible for this wickedness, then there is no such thing as a
God."

Miss Butterworth was angry, and had grown more and more angry with every
word. She had brooded over the matter all the afternoon, and her pent-up
indignation had overflowed beyond control. She felt that she had spoken
truth which Robert Belcher ought to hear and to heed, yet she knew that
she had lost her hold upon him. Mr. Belcher listened with the greatest
coolness, while a half smile overspread his face.

"Don't you think I'm a pretty good-natured man to sit here," said he,
"and hear myself abused in this way, without getting angry?"

"No, I think you are a bad-natured man. I think you are the
hardest-hearted and worst man I ever saw. What in God's name has Paul
Benedict done, that he should be treated in this way? There are a dozen
there just like him, or worse. Is it a crime to lose one's reason? I
wish you could spend one night in Paul Benedict's room."

"Thank you. I prefer my present quarters."

"Yes, you look around on your present quarters, as you call 'em, and
think you'll always have 'em. You won't. Mark my words; you won't. Some
time you'll overreach yourself, and cheat yourself out of 'em. See if
you don't."

"It takes a smart man to cheat himself, Miss Butterworth," responded
Mr. Belcher, rubbing his hands.

"There is just where you're mistaken. It takes a fool."

Mr. Belcher laughed outright. Then, in a patronizing way, he said: "Miss
Butterworth, I have given you considerable time, and perhaps you'll be
kind enough to state your business. I'm a practical man, and I really
don't see anything that particularly concerns me in all this talk. Of
course, I'm sorry for Benedict and the rest of 'em, but Sevenoaks isn't
a very rich town, and it cannot afford to board its paupers at the
hotel, or to give them many luxuries."

Miss Butterworth was calm again. She knew that she had done her cause no
good, but was determined to finish her errand.

"Mr. Belcher, I'm a woman."

"I know it, Keziah."

"And my name is Butterworth."

"I know it."

"You do? Well, then, here is what I came to say to you. The town-meeting
comes to-morrow, and the town's poor are to be sold at auction, and to
pass into Tom Buffum's hands again, unless you prevent it. I can't make
a speech, and I can't vote. I never wanted to until now. You can do
both, and if you don't reform this business, and set Tom Buffum at doing
something else, and treat God's poor more like human beings, I shall get
out of Sevenoaks before it sinks; for sink it will if there is any hole
big enough to hold it."

"Well, I'll think of it," said Mr. Belcher, deliberately.

"Tell me you'll do it."

"I'm not used to doing things in a hurry. Mr. Buffum is a friend of
mine, and I've always regarded him as a very good man for the place. Of
course, if there's anything wrong it ought to be righted, but I think
you've exaggerated."

"No, you don't mean to do anything. I see it. Good-night," and she had
swept out of the door before he could say another word, or rise from his
chair.

She went down the hill into the village. The earth was stiffening with
the frost that lingered late in that latitude, and there were patches of
ice, across which she picked her way. There was a great moon overhead,
but just then all beautiful things, and all things that tended to lift
her thoughts upward, seemed a mockery. She reached the quiet home of
Rev. Solomon Snow.

"Who knows but he can be spurred up to do something?" she said to
herself.

There was only one way to ascertain--so she knocked at the door, and was
received so kindly by Mr. Snow and Mrs. Snow and the three Misses Snow,
that she sat down and unburdened herself--first, of course, as regarded
Mr. Robert Belcher, and second, as concerned the Benedicts, father and
son.

The position of Mr. Belcher was one which inspired the minister with
caution, but the atmosphere was freer in his house than in that of the
proprietor. The vocal engine whose wheels had slipped upon the track
with many a whirr, as she started her train in the great house on the
hill, found a down grade, and went off easily. Mr. Snow sat in his
arm-chair, his elbows resting on either support, the thumb and every
finger of each hand touching its twin at the point, and forming a kind
of gateway in front of his heart, which seemed to shut out or let in
conviction at his will. Mrs. Snow and the girls, whose admiration of
Miss Butterworth for having dared to invade Mr. Belcher's library was
unbounded, dropped their work, and listened with eager attention. Mr.
Snow opened the gate occasionally to let in a statement, but for the
most part kept it closed. The judicial attitude, the imperturbable
spectacles, the long, pale face and white cravat did not prevent Miss
Butterworth from "freeing her mind;" and when she finished the task, a
good deal had been made of the case of the insane paupers of Sevenoaks,
and there was very little left of Mr. Robert Belcher and Mr. Thomas
Buffum.

At the close of her account of what she had seen at the poor-house, and
what had passed between her and the great proprietor, Mr. Snow cast his
eyes up to the ceiling, pursed his lips, and somewhere in the
profundities of his nature, or in some celestial laboratory, unseen by
any eyes but his own, prepared his judgments.

"Cases of this kind," said he, at last, to his excited visitor, whose
eyes glowed like coals as she looked into his impassive face, "are to be
treated with great prudence. We are obliged to take things as they air.
Personally (with a rising inflection and a benevolent smile), I should
rejoice to see the insane poor clothed and in their right mind."

"Let us clothe 'em, then, anyway," interjected Miss Butterworth,
impatiently. "And, as for being in their right mind, that's more than
can be said of those that have the care of 'em."

"Personally--Miss Butterworth, excuse me--I should rejoice to see them
clothed and in their right mind, but the age of miracles is past. We
have to deal with the facts of to-day--with things as they air. It is
possible, nay, for aught I know, it may be highly probable, that in
other towns pauperism may fare better than it does with us. It is to be
remembered that Sevenoaks is itself poor, and its poverty becomes one of
the factors of the problem which you have propounded to us. The town of
Buxton, our neighbor over here, pays taxes, let us say, of seven mills
on the dollar; we pay seven mills on the dollar. Buxton is rich; we are
poor. Buxton has few paupers; we have many. Consequently, Buxton may
maintain its paupers in what may almost be regarded as a state of
affluence. It may go as far as feather-beds and winter fires for the
aged; nay, it may advance to some economical form of teeth-brushes, and
still demand no more sacrifice from its people than is constantly
demanded of us to maintain our poor in a humbler way. Then there are
certain prudential considerations--certain, I might almost say, moral
considerations--which are to be taken into account. It will never do, in
a town like ours, to make pauperism attractive--to make our pauper
establishments comfortable asylums for idleness. It must, in some way,
be made to seem a hardship to go to the poor-house."

"Well, Sevenoaks has taken care of that with a vengeance," burst out
Miss Butterworth.

"Excuse me, Miss Butterworth; let me repeat, that it must be made to
seem a hardship to go to the poor-house. Let us say that we have
accomplished this very desirable result. So far, so good. Give our
system whatever credit may belong to it, and still let us frankly
acknowledge that we have suffering left that ought to be alleviated. How
much? In what way? Here we come into contact with another class of
facts. Paupers have less of sickness and death among them than any-other
class in the community. There are paupers in our establishment that have
been there for twenty-five years--a fact which, if it proves anything,
proves that a large proportion of the wants of our present civilization
are not only artificial in their origin, but harmful in their
gratifications. Our poor are compelled to go back nearer to nature--to
old mother nature--and they certainly get a degree of compensation for
it. It increases the expenses of the town, to be sure."

"Suppose we inquire of them," struck in Miss Butterworth again, "and
find out whether they would not rather be treated better and die
earlier."

"Paupers are hardly in a position to be consulted in that way,"
responded Mr. Snow, "and the alternative is one which, considering their
moral condition, they would have no right to entertain."

Miss Butterworth had sat through this rather desultory disquisition with
what patience she could command, breaking in upon it impulsively at
various points, and seen that it was drifting nowhere--at least, that it
was not drifting toward the object of her wishes. Then she took up the
burden of talk, and carried it on in her very direct way.

"All you say is well enough, I suppose," she began, "but I don't stop to
reason about it, and I don't wish to. Here is a lot of human beings
that are treated like brutes--sold every year to the lowest bidder, to
be kept. They go hungry, and naked, and cold. They are in the hands of a
man who has no more blood in his heart than there is in a turnip, and we
pretend to be Christians, and go to church, and coddle ourselves with
comforts, and pay no more attention to them than we should if their
souls had gone where their money went. I tell you it's a sin and a
shame, and I know it. I feel it. And there's a gentleman among 'em, and
his little boy, and they must be taken out of that place, or treated
better in it. I've made up my mind to that, and if the men of Sevenoaks
don't straighten matters on that horrible old hill, then they're just no
men at all."

Mr. Snow smiled a calm, self-respectful smile, that said, as plainly as
words could say: "Oh! I know women: they are amiably impulsive, but
impracticable."

"Have you ever been there?" inquired Miss Butterworth, sharply.

"Yes, I've been there."

"And conscience forbid!" broke in Mrs. Snow, "that he should go again,
and bring home what he brought home that time. It took me the longest
time to get them out of the house!"

"Mrs. Snow! my dear! you forget that we have a stranger present."

"Well, I don't forget those strangers, anyway!"

The three Misses Snow tittered, and looked at one another, but were
immediately solemnized by a glance from their father.

Mrs. Snow, having found her tongue--a characteristically lively and
emphatic one--went on to say:--

"I think Miss Butterworth is right. It's a burning shame, and you ought
to go to the meeting to-morrow, and put it down."

"Easily said, my dear," responded Mr. Snow, "but you forget that Mr.
Belcher is Buffum's friend, and that it is impossible to carry any
measure against him in Sevenoaks. I grant that it ought not to be so. I
wish it were otherwise; but we must take things as they air."

"To take things as they air," was a cardinal aphorism in Mr. Snow's
budget of wisdom. It was a good starting-point for any range of
reasoning, and exceedingly useful to a man of limited intellect and
little moral courage. The real truth of the case had dawned upon Miss
Butterworth, and it had rankled in the breast of Mrs. Snow from the
beginning of his pointless talk. He was afraid of offending Robert
Belcher, for not only did his church need repairing, but his salary was
in arrears, and the wolf that had chased so many up the long hill to
what was popularly known as Tom Buffum's Boarding House he had heard
many a night, while his family was sleeping, howling with menace in the
distance.

Mrs. Snow rebelled, in every part of her nature, against the power which
had cowed her reverend companion. There is nothing that so goads a
spirited woman to madness as the realization that any man controls her
husband. He may be subservient to her--a cuckold even--but to be mated
with a man whose soul is neither his own nor wholly hers, is to her the
torment of torments.

"I wish Robert Belcher was hanged," said Mrs. Snow, spitefully.

"Amen! and my name is Butterworth," responded that lady, making sure
that there should be no mistake as to the responsibility for the
utterance.

"Why, mother!" exclaimed the three hisses Snow, in wonder.

"And drawn and quartered!" added Mrs. Snow, emphatically.

"Amen, again!" responded Miss Butterworth.

"Mrs. Snow! my dear! You forget that you are a Christian pastor's wife,
and that there is a stranger present."

"No, that is just what I don't forget," said Mrs. Snow. "I see a
Christian pastor afraid of a man of the world, who cares no more about
Christianity than he does about a pair of old shoes, and who patronizes
it for the sake of shutting its mouth against him. It makes me angry,
and makes me wish I were a man; and you ought to go to that meeting
to-morrow, as a Christian pastor, and put down this shame and
wickedness. You have influence, if you will use it. All the people want
is a leader, and some one to tell them the truth."

"Yes, father, I'm sure you have a _great_ deal of influence," said the
elder Miss Snow.

"A great _deal_ of influence," responded the next in years.

"Yes, indeed," echoed the youngest.

Mr. Snow established the bridge again, by bringing his fingers
together,--whether to keep out the flattery that thus came like a subtle
balm to his heart, or to keep in the self-complacency which had been
engendered, was not apparent.

He smiled, looking benevolently out upon the group, and said: "Oh, you
women are so hasty, so hasty, so hasty! I had not said that I would not
interfere. Indeed, I had pretty much made up my mind to do so. But I
wanted you in advance to see things as they air. It may be that
something can be done, and it certainly will be a great satisfaction to
me if I can be the humble instrument for the accomplishment of a
reform."

"And you will go to the meeting? and you will speak?" said Miss
Butterworth, eagerly.

"Yes!" and Mr. Snow looked straight into Miss Butterworth's tearful
eyes, and smiled.

"The Lord add His blessing, and to His name be all the praise!
Good-night!" said Miss Butterworth, rising and making for the door.

"Dear," said Mrs. Snow, springing and catching her by the arm, "don't
you think you ought to put on something more? It's very chilly
to-night."

"Not a rag. I'm hot. I believe I should roast if I had on a feather
more."

"Wouldn't you like Mr. Snow to go home with you? He can go just as well
as not," insisted Mrs. Snow.

"Certainly, just as well as not," repeated the elder Miss Snow, followed
by the second with: "as well as not," and by the third with: "and be
glad to do it."

"No--no--no--no"--to each. "I can get along better without him, and I
don't mean to give him a chance to take back what he has said."

Miss Butterworth ran down the steps, the whole family standing in the
open door, with Mr. Snow, in his glasses, behind his good-natured,
cackling flock, thoroughly glad that his protective services were deemed
of so small value by the brave little tailoress.

Then Miss Butterworth could see the moon and the stars. Then she could
see how beautiful the night was. Then she became conscious of the
everlasting roar of the cataracts, and of the wreaths of mist that they
sent up into the crisp evening air. To the fear of anything in
Sevenoaks, in the day or in the night, she was a stranger; so, with a
light heart, talking and humming to herself, she went by the silent
mill, the noisy dram-shops, and, with her benevolent spirit full of hope
and purpose, reached the house where, in a humble hired room she had
garnered all her treasures, including the bed and the linen which she
had prepared years before for an event that never took place.

"The Lord add His blessing, and to His name be all the praise," she
said, as she extinguished the candle, laughing in spite of herself, to
think how she had blurted out the prayer and the ascription in the face
of Solomon Snow.

"Well, he's a broken reed--a broken reed--but I hope Mrs. Snow will tie
something to him--or starch him--or--something--to make him stand
straight for once," and then she went to sleep, and dreamed of fighting
with Robert Belcher all night.




CHAPTER II.

MR. BELCHER CARRIES HIS POINT AT THE TOWN-MEETING, AND THE POOR ARE
KNOCKED DOWN TO THOMAS BUFFUM.


The abrupt departure of Miss Butterworth left Mr. Belcher piqued and
surprised. Although he regarded himself as still "master of the
situation"--to use his own pet phrase,--the visit of that spirited woman
had in various ways humiliated him. To sit in his own library, with an
intruding woman who not only was not afraid of him but despised him, to
sit before her patiently and be called "Bob Belcher," and a brute, and
not to have the privilege of kicking her out of doors, was the severest
possible trial of his equanimity. She left him so suddenly that he had
not had the opportunity to insult her, for he had fully intended to do
this before she retired. He had determined, also, as a matter of course,
that in regard to the public poor of Sevenoaks he would give all his
influence toward maintaining the existing state of things. The idea of
being influenced by a woman, particularly by a woman over whom he had no
influence, to change his policy with regard to anything, public or
private, was one against which all the brute within him rebelled.

In this state of mind, angry with himself for having tolerated one who
had so boldly and ruthlessly wounded his self-love, he had but one
resort. He could not confess his humiliation to his wife; and there was
no one in the world with whom he could hold conversation on the subject,
except his old confidant who came into the mirror when wanted, and
conveniently retired when the interview closed.

Rising from his chair, and approaching his mirror, as if he had been
whipped, he stood a full minute regarding his disgraced and speechless
image. "Are you Robert Belcher, Esquire, of Sevenoaks?" he inquired, at
length. "Are you the person who has been insulted by a woman? Look at
me, sir! Turn not away! Have you any constitutional objections to
telling me how you feel? Are you, sir, the proprietor of this house? Are
you the owner of yonder mill? Are you the distinguished person who
carries Sevenoaks in his pocket? How are the mighty fallen! And you,
sir, who have been insulted by a tailoress, can stand here, and look me
in the face, and still pretend to be a man! You are a scoundrel, sir--a
low, mean-spirited scoundrel, sir. You are nicely dressed, but you are a
puppy. Dare to tell me you are not, and I will grind you under my foot,
as I would grind a worm. Don't give me a word--not a word! I am not in a
mood to bear it!"

Having vented his indignation and disgust, with the fiercest facial
expression and the most menacing gesticulations, he became calm, and
proceeded:

"Benedict at the poor-house, hopelessly insane! Tell me now, and, mark
you, no lies here! Who developed his inventions? Whose money was risked?
What did it cost Benedict? Nothing. What did it cost Robert Belcher?
More thousands than Benedict ever dreamed of. Have you done your duty,
Robert Belcher? Ay, ay, sir! I believe you. Did you turn his head? No,
sir. I believe you; it is well! I have spent money for him--first and
last, a great deal of money for him; and any man or woman who disputes
me is a liar--a base, malignant liar! Who is still master of the
situation? Whose name is Norval? Whose are these Grampian Hills? Who
intends to go to the town-meeting to-morrow, and have things fixed about
as he wants them? Who will make Keziah Butterworth weep and howl with
anguish? Let Robert Belcher alone! Alone! Far in azure depths of space
(here Mr. Belcher extended both arms heavenward, and regarded his image
admiringly), far--far away! Well, you're a pretty good-looking man,
after all, and I'll let you off this time; but don't let me catch you
playing baby to another woman! I think you'll be able to take care of
yourself [nodding slowly.] By-by! Good-night!"

Mr. Belcher retired from the glass with two or three profound bows, his
face beaming with restored self-complacency, and, taking his chair, he
resumed his cigar. At this moment, there arose in his memory a single
sentence he had read in the warrant for the meeting of the morrow: "To
see if the town will take any steps for the improvement of the condition
of the poor, now supported at the public charge."

When he read this article of the warrant, posted in the public places of
the village, it had not impressed him particularly. Now, he saw Miss
Butterworth's hand in it. Evidently, Mr. Belcher was not the only man
who had been honored by a call from that philanthropic woman. As he
thought the matter over, he regretted that, for the sake of giving form
and force to his spite against her, he should be obliged to relinquish
the popularity he might have won by favoring a reformative measure. He
saw something in it, also, that might be made to add to Tom Buffum's
profits, but even this consideration weighed nothing against his desire
for personal revenge, to be exhibited in the form of triumphant personal
power.

He rose from his chair, walked his room, swinging his hands backward and
forward, casting furtive glances into his mirror, and then rang his
bell. He had arrived at a conclusion. He had fixed upon his scheme, and
was ready for work.

"Tell Phipps to come here," he said to the maid who responded to the
summons.

Phipps was his coachman, body-servant, table-waiter, pet, butt for his
jests, tool, man of all occasions. He considered himself a part of Mr.
Belcher's personal property. To be the object of his clumsy badinage,
when visitors were present and his master was particularly amiable, was
equivalent to an honorable public notice. He took Mr. Belcher's cast-off
clothes, and had them reduced in their dimensions for his own wearing,
and was thus always able to be nearly as well dressed and foppish as the
man for whom they were originally made. He was as insolent to others as
he was obsequious to his master--a flunky by nature and long education.

Phipps appeared.

"Well, Phipps, what are you here for?" inquired Mr. Belcher.

"I was told you wanted me, sir," looking doubtfully with his cunning
eyes into Mr. Belcher's face, as if questioning his mood.

"How is your health? You look feeble. Overwhelmed by your tremendous
duties? Been sitting up late along back? Eh? You rascal! Who's the happy
woman?"

Phipps laughed, and twiddled his fingers.

"You're a precious fellow, and I've got to get rid of you. You are
altogether too many for me. Where did you get that coat? It seems to me
I've seen something like that before. Just tell me how you do it, man. I
can't dress the way you do. Yes, Phipps, you're too many for me!"

Phipps smiled, aware that he was expected to make no reply.

"Phipps, do you expect to get up to-morrow morning?"

"Yes, sir."

"Oh, you do! Very well! See that you do."

"Yes, sir."

"And Phipps--"

"Yes, sir."

"Bring the grays and the light wagon to the door to-morrow morning at
seven o'clock."

"Yes, sir."

"And Phipps, gather all the old clothes about the house that you can't
use yourself, and tie 'em up in a bundle, and put 'em into the back of
the wagon. Mum is the word, and if Mrs. Belcher asks you any questions,
tell her I think of turning Sister of Charity."

Phipps snickered.

"And Phipps, make a basket of cold meat and goodies, and put in with the
clothes."

"Yes, sir."

"And Phipps, remember:--seven o'clock, sharp, and no soldiering."

"Yes, sir."

"And Phipps, here is a cigar that cost twenty-five cents. Do it up in a
paper, and lay it away. Keep it to remember me by."

This joke was too good to be passed over lightly, and so Phipps giggled,
took the cigar, put it caressingly to his nose, and then slipped it into
his pocket.

"Now make yourself scarce," said his master, and the man retired,
entirely conscious that the person he served had some rascally scheme on
foot, and heartily sympathetic with him in the project of its execution.

Promptly at seven the next morning, the rakish pair of trotters stood
before the door, with a basket and a large bundle in the back of the
rakish little wagon. Almost at the same moment, the proprietor came out,
buttoning his overcoat. Phipps leaped out, then followed his master into
the wagon, who, taking the reins, drove off at a rattling pace up the
long hill toward Tom Buffum's boarding-house. The road lay entirely
outside of the village, so that the unusual drive was not observed.

Arriving at the poor-house, Mr. Belcher gave the reins to his servant,
and, with a sharp rap upon the door with the butt of his whip, summoned
to the latch the red-faced and stuffy keeper. What passed between them,
Phipps did not hear, although he tried very hard to do so. At the close
of a half hour's buzzing conversation, Tom Buffum took the bundle from
the wagon, and pitched it into his doorway. Then, with the basket on his
arm, he and Mr. Belcher made their way across the street to the
dormitories and cells occupied by the paupers of both sexes and all ages
and conditions. Even the hard-hearted proprietor saw that which wounded
his blunted sensibilities; but he looked on with a bland face, and
witnessed the greedy consumption of the stale dainties of his own table.

It was by accident that he was led out by a side passage, and there he
caught glimpses of the cells to which Miss Butterworth had alluded, and
inhaled an atmosphere which sickened him to paleness, and brought to his
lips the exclamation: "For God's sake let's get out of this."

"Ay! ay!" came tremblingly from behind the bars of a cell, "let's get
out of this."

Mr. Belcher pushed toward the light, but not so quickly that a pair of
eyes, glaring from the straw, failed to recognize him.

"Robert Belcher! Oh, for God's sake! Robert Belcher!"

It was a call of wild distress--a whine, a howl, an objurgation, all
combined. It was repeated as long as he could hear it. It sounded in his
ears as he descended the hill. It came again and again to him as he was
seated at his comfortable breakfast. It rang in the chambers of his
consciousness for hours, and only a firm and despotic will expelled it
at last. He knew the voice, and he never wished to hear it again.

What he had seen that morning, and what he had done, where he had been,
and why he had gone, were secrets to which his wife and children were
not admitted. The relations between himself and his wife were not new in
the world. He wished to retain her respect, so he never revealed to her
his iniquities. She wished as far as possible to respect him, so she
never made uncomfortable inquiries. He was bountiful to her. He had been
bountiful to many others. She clothed and informed all his acts of
beneficence with the motives which became them. If she was ever shocked
by his vulgarity, he never knew it by any word of hers, in disapproval.
If she had suspicions, she did not betray them. Her children were
trained to respect their father, and among them she found the
satisfactions of her life. He had long ceased to be her companion. As
an associate, friend, lover, she had given him up, and, burying in her
heart all her griefs and all her loneliness, had determined to make the
best of her life, and to bring her children to believe that their father
was a man of honor, of whom they had no reason to be ashamed. If she was
proud, hers was an amiable pride, and to Mr. Belcher's credit let it be
said that he respected her as much as he wished her to honor him.

For an hour after breakfast, Mr. Belcher was occupied in his library,
with his agent, in the transaction of his daily business. Then, just as
the church bell rang its preliminary summons for the assembling of the
town-meeting, Phipps came to the door again with the rakish grays and
the rakish wagon, and Mr. Belcher drove down the steep hill into the
village, exchanging pleasant words with the farmers whom he encountered
on the way, and stopping at various shops, to speak with those upon whom
he depended for voting through whatever public schemes he found it
desirable to favor.

The old town-hall was thronged for half-an-hour before the time
designated in the warrant. Finally, the bell ceased to ring, at the
exact moment when Mr. Belcher drove to the door and ascended the steps.
There was a buzz all over the house when he entered, and he was
surrounded at once.

"Have it just as you want it," shaking his head ostentatiously and
motioning them away, "don't mind anything about me. I'm a passenger," he
said aloud, and with a laugh, as the meeting was called to order and the
warrant read, and a nomination for moderator demanded.

"Peter Vernol," shouted a dozen voices in unison.

Peter Vernol had represented the district in the Legislature, and was
supposed to be familiar with parliamentary usage. He was one of Mr.
Belcher's men, of course--as truly owned and controlled by him as Phipps
himself.

Peter Vernol became moderator by acclamation. He was a young man, and,
ascending the platform very red in the face, and looking out upon the
assembled voters of Sevenoaks, he asked with a trembling voice:

"What is the further pleasure of the meeting?"

"I move you," said Mr. Belcher, rising, and throwing open his overcoat,
"that the Rev. Solomon Snow, whom I am exceedingly glad to see present,
open our deliberations with prayer."

The moderator, forgetting apparently that the motion had not been put,
thereupon invited the reverend gentleman to the platform, from which,
when his service had been completed, he with dignity retired--but with
the painful consciousness that in some way Mr. Belcher had become aware
of the philanthropic task he had undertaken. He knew he was beaten, at
the very threshold of his enterprise--that his conversations of the
morning among his neighbors had been reported, and that Paul Benedict
and his fellow-sufferers would be none the better for him.

The business connected with the various articles of the warrant was
transacted without notable discussion or difference. Mr. Belcher's
ticket for town officers, which he took pains to show to those around
him, was unanimously adopted. When it came to the question of schools,
Mr. Belcher indulged in a few flights of oratory. He thought it
impossible for a town like Sevenoaks to spend too much money for
schools. He felt himself indebted to the public school for all that he
was, and all that he had won. The glory of America, in his view--its
pre-eminence above all the exhausted and decayed civilizations of the
Old World--was to be found in popular education. It was the
distinguishing feature of our new and abounding national life. Drop it,
falter, recede, and the darkness that now hangs over England, and the
thick darkness that envelops the degenerating hordes of the Continent,
would settle down upon fair America, and blot her out forever from the
list of the earth's teeming nations. He would pay good wages to
teachers. He would improve school-houses, and he would do it as a matter
of economy. It was, in his view, the only safeguard against the
encroachments of a destructive pauperism. "We are soon," said Mr.
Belcher, "to consider whether we will take any steps for the improvement
of the condition of the poor, now supported at the public charge. Here
is our first step. Let us endow our children with such a degree of
intelligence that pauperism shall be impossible. In this thing I go hand
in hand with the clergy. On many points I do not agree with them, but on
this matter of popular education, I will do them the honor to say that
they have uniformly been in advance of the rest of us. I join hands with
them here to-day, and, as any advance in our rate of taxation for
schools will bear more heavily upon me than upon any other citizen--I do
not say it boastingly, gentlemen--I pledge myself to support and stand
by it."

Mr. Belcher's speech, delivered with majestic swellings of his broad
chest, the ostentatious removal of his overcoat, and brilliant passages
of oratorical action, but most imperfectly summarized in this report,
was received with cheers. Mr. Snow himself feebly joined in the
approval, although he knew it was intended to disarm him. His strength,
his resolution, his courage, ebbed away with sickening rapidity; and he
was not reassured by a glance toward the door, where he saw, sitting
quite alone, Miss Butterworth herself, who had come in for the purpose
partly of strengthening him, and partly of informing herself concerning
the progress of a reform which had taken such strong hold upon her
sympathies.

At length the article in the warrant which most interested that good
lady was taken up, and Mr. Snow rose to speak upon it. He spoke of the
reports he had heard concerning the bad treatment that the paupers, and
especially those who were hopelessly insane, had received in the
alms-house, enlarged upon the duties of humanity and Christianity, and
expressed the conviction that the enlightened people of Sevenoaks should
spend more money for the comfort of the unfortunate whom Heaven had
thrown upon their charge, and particularly that they should institute a
more searching and competent inspection of their pauper establishment.

As he took his seat, all eyes were turned upon Mr. Belcher, and that
gentleman rose for a second exhibition of his characteristic eloquence.

"I do not forget," said Mr. Belcher, "that we have present here to-day
an old and well-tried public servant. I see before me Mr. Thomas Buffum,
who, for years, has had in charge the poor, not only of this town, but
of this county. I do not forget that his task has been one of great
delicacy, with the problem constantly before him how to maintain in
comfort our most unfortunate class of population, and at the same time
to reduce to its minimum the burden of our taxpayers. That he has solved
this problem and served the public well, I most firmly believe. He has
been for many years my trusted personal friend, and I cannot sit here
and hear his administration questioned, and his integrity and humanity
doubted, without entering my protest. [Cheers, during which Mr. Buffum
grew very red in the face.] He has had a task to perform before which
the bravest of us would shrink. We, who sit in our peaceful homes, know
little of the hardships to which this faithful public servant has been
subjected. Pauperism is ungrateful. Pauperism is naturally filthy.
Pauperism is noisy. It consists of humanity in its most repulsive forms,
and if we have among us a man who can--who can--stand it, let us stand
by him." [Tremendous cheers.]

Mr. Belcher paused until the wave of applause had subsided, and then
went on:

"An open-hand, free competition: this has been my policy, in a business
of whose prosperity you are the best judges. I say an open-hand and free
competition in everything. How shall we dispose of our poor? Shall they
be disposed of by private arrangement--sold out to favorites, of whose
responsibility we know nothing? [Cries of no, no, no!] If anybody who is
responsible--and now he is attacked, mark you, I propose to stand behind
and be responsible for Mr. Buffum myself--can do the work cheaper and
better than Mr. Buffum, let him enter at once upon the task. But let the
competition be free, nothing covered up. Let us have clean hands in this
business, if nowhere else. If we cannot have impartial dealing, where
the interests of humanity are concerned, we are unworthy of the trust we
have assumed. I give the Rev. Mr. Snow credit for motives that are
unimpeachable--unimpeachable, sir. I do not think him capable of
intentional wrong, and I wish to ask him, here and now, whether, within
a recent period, he has visited the pauper establishment of Sevenoaks."

Mr. Snow rose and acknowledged that it was a long time since he had
entered Mr. Buffum's establishment.

"I thought so. He has listened to the voice of rumor. Very well. I have
to say that I have been there recently, and have walked through the
establishment. I should do injustice to myself, and fail to hint to the
reverend gentleman, and all those who sympathize with him, what I regard
as one of their neglected duties, if I should omit to mention that I did
not go empty-handed. [Loud cheers.] It is easy for those who neglect
their own duties to suspect that others do the same. I know our paupers
are not supported in luxury. We cannot afford to support them in luxury;
but I wash my hands of all responsibility for inhumanity and inattention
to their reasonable wants. The reverend gentleman himself knows, I
think, whether any man ever came to me for assistance on behalf of any
humane or religious object, and went away without aid, I cannot consent
to be placed in a position that reflects upon my benevolence, and, least
of all, by the reverend gentleman who has reflected upon that
administration of public charity which has had, and still retains, my
approval. I therefore move that the usual sum be appropriated for the
support of the poor, and that at the close of this meeting the care of
the poor for the ensuing year be disposed of at public auction to the
lowest bidder."

Mr. Snow was silent, for he knew that he was impotent.

Then there jumped up a little man with tumbled hair, weazened face, and
the general look of a broken-down gentleman, who was recognized by the
moderator as "Dr. Radcliffe."

"Mr. Moderator," said he, in a screaming voice, "as I am the medical
attendant and inspector of our pauper establishment, it becomes proper
for me, in seconding the motion of Mr. Belcher, as I heartily do, to say
a few words, and submit my report for the past year."

Dr. Radcliffe was armed with a large document, and the assembled voters
of Sevenoaks were getting tired.

"I move," said Mr. Belcher, "that, as the hour is late, the reading of
the report be dispensed with." The motion was seconded, and carried
_nem. con_.

The Doctor was wounded in a sensitive spot, and was determined not to be
put down.

"I may at least say," he went on, "that I have made some discoveries
during the past year that ought to be in the possession of the
scientific world. It takes less food to support a pauper than it does
any other man, and I believe the reason is that he hasn't any mind. If I
take two potatoes, one goes to the elaboration of mental processes, the
other to the support of the physical economy. The pauper has only a
physical economy, and he needs but one potato. Anemia is the normal
condition of the pauper. He breathes comfortably an atmosphere which
would give a healthy man asphyxia. Hearty food produces inflammatory
diseases and a general condition of hypertrophy. The character of the
diseases at the poor-house, during the past year, has been typhoid. I
have suggested to Mr. Buffum better ventilation, a change from
farinaceous to nitrogenous food as conducive to a better condition of
the mucous surfaces and a more perfect oxydation of the vital fluids.
Mr. Buffum--"

"Oh, git out!" shouted a voice at the rear.

"Question! question!" called a dozen voices.

The moderator caught a wink and a nod from Mr. Belcher, and put the
question, amid the protests of Dr. Radcliffe; and it was triumphantly
carried.

And now, as the town-meeting drops out of this story, let us leave it,
and leave Mr. Thomas Buffum at its close to underbid all contestants for
the privilege of feeding the paupers of Sevenoaks for another year.




CHAPTER III

IN WHICH JIM FENTON IS INTRODUCED TO THE READER AND INTRODUCES HIMSELF
TO MISS BUTTERWORTH.


Miss Butterworth, while painfully witnessing the defeat of her hopes
from the last seat in the hall, was conscious of the presence at her
side of a very singular-looking personage, who evidently did not belong
in Sevenoaks. He was a woodsman, who had been attracted to the hall by
his desire to witness the proceedings. His clothes, originally of strong
material, were patched; he held in his hand a fur cap without a visor;
and a rifle leaned on the bench at his side. She had been attracted to
him by his thoroughly good-natured face, his noble, muscular figure, and
certain exclamations that escaped from his lips during the speeches.
Finally, he turned to her, and with a smile so broad and full that it
brought an answer to her own face, he said: "This 'ere breathin' is
worse nor an old swamp. I'm goin', and good-bye to ye!"

Why this remark, personally addressed to her, did not offend her, coming
as it did from a stranger, she did not know; but it certainly did not
seem impudent. There was something so simple and strong and manly about
him, as he had sat there by her side, contrasted with the baser and
better dressed men before her, that she took his address as an honorable
courtesy.

When the woodsman went out upon the steps of the town-hall, to get a
breath, he found there such an assembly of boys as usually gathers in
villages on the smallest public occasion. Squarely before the door stood
Mr. Belcher's grays, and in Mr. Belcher's wagon sat Mr. Belcher's man,
Phipps. Phipps was making the most of his position. He was proud of his
horses, proud of his clothes, proud of the whip he was carelessly
snapping, proud of belonging to Mr. Belcher. The boys were laughing at
his funny remarks, envying him his proud eminence, and discussing the
merits of the horses and the various points of the attractive
establishment.

As the stranger appeared, he looked down upon the boys with a broad
smile, which attracted them at once, and quite diverted them from their
flattering attentions to Phipps--a fact quickly perceived by the latter,
and as quickly revenged in a way peculiar to himself and the man from
whom he had learned it.

"This is the hippopotamus, gentlemen," said Phipps, "fresh from his
native woods. He sleeps underneath the banyan-tree, and lives on the
nuts of the hick-o-ree, and pursues his prey with his tail extended
upward and one eye open, and has been known when excited by hunger to
eat small boys, spitting out their boots with great violence. Keep out
of his way, gentlemen! Keep out of his way, and observe his wickedness
at a distance."

Phipps's saucy speech was received with a great roar by the boys, who
were surprised to notice that the animal himself was not only not
disturbed, but very much amused by being shown up as a curiosity.

"Well, you're a new sort of a monkey, anyway," said the woodsman, after
the laugh had subsided. "I never hearn one talk afore."

"You never will again," retorted Phipps, "if you give me any more of
your lip."

The woodsman walked quickly toward Phipps, as if he were about to pull
him from his seat.

Phipps saw the motion, started the horses, and was out of his way in an
instant.

The boys shouted in derision, but Phipps did not come back, and the
stranger was the hero. They gathered around him, asking questions, all
of which he good-naturedly answered. He seemed to be pleased with their
society, as if he were only a big boy himself, and wanted to make the
most of the limited time which his visit to the town afforded him.

While he was thus standing as the center of an inquisitive and admiring
group, Miss Butterworth came out of the town-hall. Her eyes were full of
tears, and her eloquent face expressed vexation and distress. The
stranger saw the look and the tears, and, leaving the boys, he
approached her without the slightest awkwardness, and said:

"Has anybody teched ye, mum?"

"Oh, no, sir," Miss Butterworth answered.

"Has anybody spoke ha'sh to ye?"

"Oh, no, sir;" and Miss Butterworth pressed on, conscious that in that
kind inquiry there breathed as genuine respect and sympathy as ever had
reached her ears in the voice of a man.

"Because," said the man, still walking along at her side, "I'm spilin'
to do somethin' for somebody, and I wouldn't mind thrashin' anybody
you'd p'int out."

"No, you can do nothing for me. Nobody can do anything in this town for
anybody until Robert Belcher is dead," said Miss Butterworth.

"Well, I shouldn't like to kill 'im," responded the man, "unless it was
an accident in the woods--a great ways off--for a turkey or a
hedgehog--and the gun half-cocked."

The little tailoress smiled through her tears, though she felt very
uneasy at being observed in company and conversation with the
rough-looking stranger. He evidently divined the thoughts which
possessed her, and said, as if only the mention of his name would make
him an acquaintance:

"I'm Jim Fenton. I trap for a livin' up in Number Nine, and have jest
brung in my skins."

"My name is Butterworth," she responded mechanically.

"I know'd it," he replied. "I axed the boys."

"Good-bye," he said. "Here's the store, and I must shoulder my sack and
be off. I don't see women much, but I'm fond of 'em, and they're pretty
apt to like me."

"Good-bye," said the woman. "I think you're the best man I've seen
to-day;" and then, as if she had said more than became a modest woman,
she added, "and that isn't saying very much."

They parted, and Jim Fenton stood perfectly still in the street and
looked at her, until she disappeared around a corner. "That's what I
call a genuine creetur'," he muttered to himself at last, "a genuine
creetur'."

Then Jim Fenton went into the store, where he had sold his skins and
bought his supplies, and, after exchanging a few jokes with those who
had observed his interview with Miss Butterworth, he shouldered his sack
as he called it, and started for Number Nine. The sack was a contrivance
of his own, with two pouches which depended, one before and one behind,
from his broad shoulders. Taking his rifle in his hand, he bade the
group that had gathered around him a hearty good-bye, and started on his
way.

The afternoon was not a pleasant one. The air was raw, and, as the sun
went toward its setting, the wind came on to blow from the north-west.
This was just as he would have it. It gave him breath, and stimulated
the vitality that was necessary to him in the performance of his long
task. A tramp of forty miles was not play, even to him, and this long
distance was to be accomplished before he could reach the boat that
would bear him and his burden into the woods.

He crossed the Branch at its principal bridge, and took the same path up
the hill that Robert Belcher had traveled in the morning. About half-way
up the hill, as he was going on with the stride of a giant, he saw a
little boy at the side of the road, who had evidently been weeping. He
was thinly and very shabbily clad, and was shivering with cold. The
great, healthy heart within Jim Fenton was touched in an instant.

"Well, bub," said he, tenderly, "how fare ye? How fare ye? Eh?"

"I'm pretty well, I thank you, sir," replied the lad.

"I guess not. You're as blue as a whetstone. You haven't got as much on
you as a picked goose."

"I can't help it, sir," and the boy burst into tears.

"Well, well, I didn't mean to trouble you, boy. Here, take this money,
and buy somethin' to make you happy. Don't tell your dad you've got it.
It's yourn."

The boy made a gesture of rejection, and said: "I don't wish to take it,
sir."

"Now, that's good! Don't wish to take it! Why, what's your name? You're
a new sort o' boy."

"My name is Harry Benedict."

"Harry Benedict? And what's your pa's name?"

"His name is Paul Benedict."

"Where is he now?"

"He is in the poor-house."

"And you, too?"

"Yes, sir," and the lad found expression for his distress in another
flow of tears.

"Well, well, well, well! If that ain't the strangest thing I ever hearn
on! Paul Benedict, of Sevenoaks, in Tom Buffum's Boardin'-house!"

"Yes, sir, and he's very crazy, too."

Jim Fenton set his rifle against a rock at the roadside, slowly lifted
off his pack and placed it near the rifle, and then sat down on a stone
and called the boy to him, folding him in his great warm arms to his
warm breast.

"Harry, my boy," said Jim, "your pa and me was old friends. We have
hunted together, fished together, eat together, and slept together
many's the day and night. He was the best shot that ever come into the
woods. I've seed him hit a deer at fifty rod many's the time, and he
used to bring up the nicest tackle for fishin', every bit of it made
with his own hands. He was the curisist creetur' I ever seed in my life,
and the best; and I'd do more fur 'im nor fur any livin' live man. Oh, I
tell ye, we used to have high old times. It was wuth livin' a year in
the woods jest to have 'im with me for a fortnight. I never charged 'im
a red cent fur nothin', and I've got some of his old tackle now that he
give me. Him an' me was like brothers, and he used to talk about
religion, and tell me I ought to shift over, but I never could see
'zactly what I ought to shift over from, or shift over to; but I let 'im
talk, 'cause he liked to. He used to go out behind the trees nights, and
I hearn him sayin' somethin'--somethin' very low, as I am talkin' to ye
now. Well, he was prayin'; that's the fact about it, I s'pose; and ye
know I felt jest as safe when that man was round! I don't believe I
could a' been drownded when he was in the woods any more'n if I'd a'
been a mink. An' Paul Benedict is in the poor-house! I vow I don't
'zactly see why the Lord let that man go up the spout; but perhaps it'll
all come out right. Where's your ma, boy?"

Harry gave a great, shuddering gasp, and, answering him that she was
dead, gave himself up to another fit of crying.

"Oh, now don't! now don't!" said Jim tenderly, pressing the distressed
lad still closer to his heart. "Don't ye do it; it don't do no good. It
jest takes the spunk all out o' ye. Ma's have to die like other folks,
or go to the poor-house. You wouldn't like to have yer ma in the
poor-house. She's all right. God Almighty's bound to take care o' her.
Now, ye jest stop that sort o' thing. She's better off with him nor she
would be with Tom Buffum--any amount better off. Doesn't Tom Buffum
treat your pa well?"

"Oh, no, sir; he doesn't give him enough to eat, and he doesn't let him
have things in his room, because he says he'll hurt himself, or break
them all to pieces, and he doesn't give him good clothes, nor anything
to cover himself up with when it's cold."

"Well, boy," said Jim, his great frame shaking with indignation, "do ye
want to know what I think of Tom Buffum?"

"Yes, sir."

"It won't do fur me to tell ye, 'cause I'm rough, but if there's
anything awful bad--oh, bad as anything can be, in Skeezacks--I should
say that Tom Buffum was an old Skeezacks."

Jim Fenton was feeling his way.

"I should say he was an infernal old Skeezacks. That isn't very bad, is
it?"

"I don't know sir," replied the boy.

"Well, a d----d rascal; how's that?"

"My father never used such words," replied the boy.

"That's right, and I take it back. I oughtn't to have said it, but
unless a feller has got some sort o' religion he has a mighty hard time
namin' people in this world. What's that?"

Jim started with the sound in his ear of what seemed to be a cry of
distress.

"That's one of the crazy people. They do it all the time.'"

Then Jim thought of the speeches he had heard in the town-meeting, and
recalled the distress of Miss Butterworth, and the significance of all
the scenes he had so recently witnessed.

"Look 'ere, boy; can ye keep right 'ere," tapping him on his breast,
"whatsomever I tell ye? Can you keep yer tongue still?--hope you'll die
if ye don't?"

There was something in these questions through which the intuitions of
the lad saw help, both for his father and himself. Hope strung his
little muscles in an instant, his attitude became alert, and he replied:

"I'll never say anything if they kill me."

"Well, I'll tell ye what I'm goin' to do. I'm goin' to stay to the
poor-house to-night, if they'll keep me, an' I guess they will; and I'm
goin' to see yer pa too, and somehow you and he must be got out of this
place."

The boy threw his arms around Jim's neck, and kissed him passionately,
again and again, without the power, apparently, to give any other
expression to his emotions.

"Oh, God! don't, boy! That's a sort o' thing I can't stand. I ain't used
to it."

Jim paused, as if to realize how sweet it was to hold the trusting
child in his arms, and to be thus caressed, and then said: "Ye must be
mighty keerful, and do just as I bid ye. If I stay to the poor-house
to-night, I shall want to see ye in the mornin', and I shall want to see
ye alone. Now ye know there's a big stump by the side of the road,
half-way up to the old school-house."

Harry gave his assent.

"Well, I want ye to be thar, ahead o' me, and then I'll tell ye jest
what I'm a goin' to do, and jest what I want to have ye do."

"Yes, sir."

"Now mind, ye mustn't know me when I'm about the house, and mustn't tell
anybody you've seed me, and I mustn't know you. Now ye leave all the
rest to Jim Fenton, yer pa's old friend. Don't ye begin to feel a little
better now?"

"Yes, sir."

"You can kiss me again, if ye want to. I didn't mean to choke ye off.
That was all in fun, ye know."

Harry kissed him, and then Jim said: "Now make tracks for yer old
boardin'-house. I'll be along bimeby."

The boy started upon a brisk run, and Jim still sat upon the stone
watching him until he disappeared somewhere among the angles of the
tumble-down buildings that constituted the establishment.

"Well, Jim Fenton," he said to himself, "ye've been spilin' fur
somethin' to do fur somebody. I guess ye've got it, and not a very small
job neither."

Then he shouldered his pack, took up his rifle, looked up at the cloudy
and blustering sky, and pushed up the hill, still talking to himself,
and saying: "A little boy of about his haighth and bigness ain't a bad
thing to take."




CHAPTER IV.

IN WHICH JIM FENTON APPLIES FOR LODGINGS AT TOM BUFFUM'S BOARDING-HOUSE,
AND FINDS HIS OLD FRIEND.


As Jim walked up to the door of the building occupied by Tom Buffum's
family, he met the head of the family coming out; and as, hitherto, that
personage has escaped description, it will be well for the reader to
make his acquaintance. The first suggestion conveyed by his rotund
figure was, that however scantily he furnished his boarders, he never
stinted himself in the matter of food. He had the sluggish, clumsy look
of a heavy eater. His face was large, his almost colorless eyes were
small, and, if one might judge by the general expression of his
features, his favorite viand was pork. Indeed, if the swine into which
the devils once entered had left any descendants, it would be legitimate
to suppose that the breed still thrived in the most respectable sty
connected with his establishment. He was always hoarse, and spoke either
in a whisper or a wheeze. For this, or for some other reason not
apparent, he was a silent man, rarely speaking except when addressed by
a question, and never making conversation with anybody. From the time he
first started independently in the world, he had been in some public
office. Men with dirty work to do had found him wonderfully serviceable,
and, by ways which it would be hard to define to the ordinary mind, he
had so managed that every town and county office, in which there was any
money, had been by turns in his hands.

"Well, Mr. Buffum, how fare ye?" said Jim, walking heartily up to him,
and shaking his hand, his face glowing with good-nature.

Mr. Buffum's attempt to respond to this address ended in a wheeze and a
cough.

"Have ye got room for another boarder to-night? Faith, I never expected
to come to the poor-house, but here I am. I'll take entertainment for
man or beast. Which is the best, and which do you charge the most for?
Somebody's got to keep me to-night, and ye're the man to bid low."

Buffum made no reply, but stooped down, took a sliver from a log, and
began to pick his teeth. Jim watched him with quiet amusement. The more
Mr. Buffum thought, the more furious he grew with his toothpick.

"Pretty tough old beef, wasn't it?" said Jim, with a hearty laugh.

"You go in and see the women," said Mr. Buffum, in a wheezy whisper.

This, to Jim, was equivalent to an honorable reception. He had no doubt
of his ability to make his way with "the women" who, he was fully aware,
had been watching him all the time from the window.

To the women of Tom Buffum's household, a visitor was a godsend.
Socially, they had lived all their lives in a state of starvation. They
knew all about Jim Fenton, and had exchanged many a saucy word with him,
as he had passed their house on his journeys to and from Sevenoaks.

"If you can take up with what we've got," said Mrs. Buffum suggestively.

"In course," responded Jim, "an' I can take up with what ye haven't
got."

"Our accommodations is very crowded," said Mrs. Buffum.

"So is mine to home," responded Jim. "I allers sleep hangin' on a
gambrel, between two slabs."

While Mr. Tom Buffum's "women" were laughing, Jim lifted off his pack,
placed his rifle in the corner of the room, and sat down in front of the
fire, running on with his easygoing tongue through preposterous
stories, and sundry flattering allusions to the beauty and
attractiveness of the women to whose hospitalities he had committed
himself.

After supper, to which he did full justice, the family drew around the
evening fire, and while Mr. Buffum went, or seemed to go, to sleep, in
his chair, his guest did his best to entertain the minor members of the
group.

"This hollerin' ye have here reminds me," said Jim, "of Number Nine.
Ther's some pretty tall hollerin' thar nights. Do ye see how my ha'r
sticks up? I can't keep it down. It riz one night jest about where you
see it now, and it's mostly been thar ever sence. Combin' don't do no
good Taller don't do no good. Nothin' don't do no good. I s'pose if Mr.
Buffum, a-snorin' jest as hard as he does now, should set on it for a
fortnight, it would spring right up like a staddle, with a b'ar ketched
at the eend of it, jest as quick as he let up on me." At this there was
a slight rumble in Mr. Buffum's throat.

"Why, what made it rise so?" inquired the most interested and eldest
Miss Buffum.

"Now, ain't your purty eyes wide open?" said Jim.

"You're jest fooling; you know you are," responded Miss Buffum,
blushing.

"Do ye see the ha'r on the back of my hand?" said Jim, patting one of
those ample instruments with the other. "That stands up jest as it does
on my head. I'm a regular hedgehog. It all happened then."

"Now, Jim Fenton, you shall go along and tell your story, and not keep
us on tenter-hooks all night," said Miss Buffum sharply.

"I don't want to scare the dear little heart out o' ye," said Jim, with
a killing look of his eyes, "but if ye will hear it, I s'pose I must
tell ye. Ye see I'm alone purty much all the time up thar. I don't have
no such times as I'm havin' here to-night, with purty gals 'round me.
Well, one night I hearn a loon, or thought I hearn one. It sounded 'way
off on the lake, and bimeby it come nigher, and then I thought it was a
painter, but it didn't sound 'zactly like a painter. My dog Turk he
don't mind such things, but he knowed it wa'r'n't a loon and wa'r'n't a
painter. So he got up and went to the door, and then the yell come agin,
and he set up the most un'arthly howl I ever hearn. I flung one o' my
boots at 'im, but he didn't mind any thing more about it than if it had
been a feather. Well, ye see, I couldn't sleep, and the skeeters was
purty busy, and I thought I'd git up. So I went to my cabin door and
flung it open. The moon was shinin', and the woods was still, but Turk,
he rushed out, and growled and barked like mad. Bimeby he got tired, and
come back lookin' kind o' skeered, and says I: 'Ye're a purty dog, ain't
ye?' Jest then I hearn the thing nigher, and I begun to hear the brush
crack. I knowed I'd got to meet some new sort of a creetur, and I jest
stepped back and took my rifle. When I stood in the door agin, I seen
somethin' comin'. It was a walkin' on two legs like a man, and it was a
man, or somethin' that looked like one. He come toward the cabin, and
stopped about three rod off. He had long white hair that looked jest
like silk under the moon, and his robes was white, and he had somethin'
in his hand that shined like silver. I jest drew up my rifle, and says
I: 'Whosomever you be, stop, or I'll plug ye.' What do ye s'pose he did?
He jest took that shinin' thing and swung it round and round his head,
and I begun to feel the ha'r start, and up it come all over me. Then he
put suthin' to his mouth, and then I knowed it was a trumpet, and he
jest blowed till all the woods rung, and rung, and rung agin, and I
hearn it comin' back from the mountain, louder nor it was itself. And
then says I to myself: 'There's another one, and Jim Fenton's a goner;'
but I didn't let on that I was skeered, and says I to him: 'That's a
good deal of a toot; who be ye callin' to dinner?' And says he: 'It's
the last day! Come to jedgment! I'm the Angel Gabr'el!' 'Well,' says I,
'if ye're the Angel Gabr'el, cold lead won't hurt ye, so mind yer eyes!'
At that I drew a bead on 'im, and if ye'll b'lieve it, I knocked a tin
horn out of his hands and picked it up the next mornin', and he went off
into the woods like a streak o' lightnin'. But my ha'r hain't never come
down."

Jim stroked the refractory locks toward his forehead with his huge hand,
and they rose behind it like a wheat-field behind a summer wind. As he
finished the manipulation, Mr. Buffum gave symptoms of life. Like a
volcano under premonitory signs of an eruption, a wheezy chuckle seemed
to begin somewhere in the region of his boots, and rise, growing more
and more audible, until it burst into a full demonstration, that was
half laugh and half cough.

"Why, what are you laughing at, father?" exclaimed Miss Buffum.

The truth was that Mr. Buffum had not slept at all. The simulation of
sleep had been indulged in simply to escape the necessity of talking.

"It was old Tilden," said Mr. Buffum, and then went off into another fit
of coughing and laughing that nearly strangled him.

"I wonder if it was!" seemed to come simultaneously from the lips of the
mother and her daughters.

"Did you ever see him again?" inquired Mr. Buffum.

"I seen 'im oncet, in the spring, I s'pose," said Jim, "what there was
left of 'im. There wasn't much left but an old shirt and some bones, an'
I guess he wa'n't no great shakes of an angel. I buried 'im where I
found 'im, and said nothin' to nobody."

"That's right," wheezed Mr. Buffum. "It's just as well."

"The truth is," said Mrs. Buffum, "that folks made a great fuss about
his gettin' away from here and never bein' found. I thought 'twas a good
riddance myself, but people seem to think that these crazy critturs are
just as much consequence as any body, when they don't know a thing. He
was always arter our dinner horn, and blowin', and thinkin' he was the
Angel Gabriel. Well, it's a comfort to know he's buried, and isn't no
more expense."

"I sh'd like to see some of these crazy people," said Jim. "They must be
a jolly set. My ha'r can't stand any straighter nor it does now, and
when you feed the animals in the mornin', I'd kind o' like to go round
with ye."

The women insisted that he ought not to do it. Only those who understood
them, and were used to them, ought to see them.

"You see, we can't give 'em much furnitur'," said Mrs. Buffum. "They
break it, and they tear their beds to pieces, and all we can do is to
jest keep them alive. As for keepin' their bodies and souls together, I
don't s'pose they've got any souls. They are nothin' but animils, as you
say, and I don't see why any body should treat an animil like a human
bein.' They hav'n't no sense of what you do for 'em."

"Oh, ye needn't be afraid o' my blowin'. I never blowed about old
Tilden, as you call 'im, an' I never expect to," said Jim.

"That's right," wheezed Mr. Buffum. "It's just as well."

"Well, I s'pose the Doctor'll be up in the mornin'," said Mrs. Buffum,
"and we shall clean up a little, and put in new straw, and p'r'aps you
can go round with him?"

Mr. Buffum nodded his assent, and after an evening spent in
story-telling and chaffing, Jim went to bed upon the shakedown in an
upper room to which he was conducted.

Long before he was on his feet in the morning, the paupers of the
establishment had been fed, and things had been put in order for the
medical inspector. Soon after breakfast, the Doctor's crazy little gig
was seen ascending the hill, and Mr. Buffum and Jim were at the door
when he drove up. Buffum took the Doctor aside, and told him of Jim's
desire to make the rounds with him. Nothing could have delighted the
little man more than a proposition of this kind, because it gave him an
opportunity to talk. Jim had measured his man when he heard him speak
the previous day, and as they crossed the road together, he said:
"Doctor, they didn't treat ye very well down there yesterday. I said to
myself; 'Jim Fenton, what would ye done if ye had knowed as much as that
doctor, an' had worked as hard as he had, and then be'n jest as good as
stomped on by a set o' fellows that didn't know a hole in the ground
when they seen it?' and, says I, answerin' myself, 'ye'd 'a' made the
fur fly, and spilt blood.'"

"Ah," responded the Doctor, "Violence resteth in the bosom of fools."

"Well, it wouldn't 'a' rested in my bosom long. I'd 'a' made a young
'arthquake there in two minutes."

The Doctor smiled, and said with a sigh:

"The vulgar mind does not comprehend science."

"Now, jest tell me what science is," said Jim. "I hearn a great deal
about science, but I live up in the woods, and I can't read very much,
and ye see I ain't edicated, and I made up my mind if I ever found a man
as knowed what science was, I'd ask him."

"Science, sir, is the sum of organized and systematized knowledge,"
replied the Doctor.

"Now, that seems reasomble," said Jim, "but what is it like? What do
they do with it? Can a feller get a livin' by it?"

"Not in Sevenoaks," replied the Doctor, with a bitter smile.

"Then, what's the use of it?"

"Pardon me, Mr. Fenton," replied the Doctor. "You'll excuse me, when I
veil you that you have not arrived at that mental altitude--that
intellectual plane--"

"No," said Jim, "I live on a sort of a medder."

The case being hopeless, the Doctor went on and opened the door into
what he was pleased to call "the insane ward." As Jim put his head into
the door, he uttered a "phew!" and then said:

"This is worser nor the town meetin'."

The moment Jim's eyes beheld the misery that groaned out its days and
nights within the stingy cells, his great heart melted with pity. For
the first moments, his disposition to jest passed away, and all his soul
rose up in indignation. If profane words came to his lips, they came
from genuine commiseration, and a sense of the outrage that had been
committed upon those who had been stamped with the image of the
Almighty.

"This is a case of Shakspearean madness," said Dr. Radcliffe, pausing
before the barred and grated cell that held a half-nude woman. It was a
little box of a place, with a rude bedstead in one corner, filthy beyond
the power of water to cleanse. The occupant sat on a little bench in
another corner, with her eyes rolled up to Jim's in a tragic expression,
which would make the fortune of an actress. He felt of his hair,
impulsively.

"How are ye now? How do ye feel?" inquired Jim, tenderly.

She gave him no answer, but glared at him as if she would search the
very depths of his heart.

"If ye'll look t'other way, ye'll obleege me," said Jim.

But the woman gazed on, speechless, as if all the soul that had left her
brain had taken up its residence in her large, black eyes.

"Is she tryin' to look me out o' countenance, Doctor?" Inquired Jim,
"'cause, if she is, I'll stand here and let 'er try it on; but if she
ain't I'll take the next one."

"Oh, she doesn't know what she's about, but it's a very curious form of
insanity, and has almost a romantic interest attached to it from the
fact that it did not escape the notice of the great bard."

"I notice, myself," said Jim, "that she's grated and barred."

The Doctor looked at his visitor inquisitively, but the woodman's face
was as innocent as that of a child. Then they passed on to the next
cell, and there they found another Woman sitting quietly in the corner,
among the straw.

"How fare ye, this mornin'?" inquired Jim, with a voice full of
kindness.

"I'm just on the verge of eternity," replied the woman.

"Don't ye be so sure o' that, now," responded Jim. "Ye're good for ten
year yit."

"No," said the woman, "I shall die in a minute."

"Does she mean that?" inquired Jim, turning to the Doctor.

"Yes, and she has been just on the verge of eternity for fifteen years,"
replied the Doctor, coolly. "That's rather an interesting case, too.
I've given it a good deal of study. It's hopeless, of course, but it's a
marked case, and full of suggestion to a scientific man."

"Isn't it a pity," responded Jim, "that she isn't a scientific man
herself? It might amuse her, you know."

The Doctor laughed, and led him on to the next cell, and here he found
the most wretched creature he had ever seen. He greeted her as he had
greeted the others, and she looked up to him with surprise, raised
herself from the straw, and said:

"You speak like a Christian."

The tears came into Jim's eyes, for he saw in that little sentence, the
cruelty of the treatment she had received.

"Well, I ain't no Christian, as I knows on," he responded, "an' I don't
think they're very plenty in these parts; but I'm right sorry for ye.
You look as if you might be a good sort of a woman."

"I should have been if it hadn't been for the pigeons," said the woman.
"They flew over a whole day, in flocks, and flocks, and cursed the
world. All the people have got the plague, and they don't know it. My
children all died of it, and went to hell. Everybody is going to hell,
and nothing can save them. Old Buffum'll go first. Robert Belcher'll go
next. Dr. Radcliffe will go next."

"Look here, old woman, ye jest leave me out of that calkerlation," said
Jim.

"Will you have the kindness to kill me, sir?" said the woman.

"I really can't, this mornin'," he replied, "for I've got a good ways
to tramp to-day; but if I ever want to kill anybody I'll come round,
p'r'aps, and 'commodate ye."

"Thank you," she responded heartily.

The Doctor turned to Jim, and said:

"Do you see that hole in the wall, beyond her head? Well, that hole was
made by Mr. Buffum. She had begged him to kill her so often that he
thought he would put her to the test, and he agreed he would do so. So
he set her up by that wall, and took a heavy stick from the wood-pile,
raised it as high as the room would permit, and then brought it down
with great violence, burying the end of the bludgeon in the plastering.
I suppose he came within three inches of her head, and she never winked.
It was a very interesting experiment, as it illustrated the genuineness
of her desire for death Otherwise the case is much like many others."

"Very interestin'," responded Jim, "very! Didn't you never think of
makin' her so easy and comfortable that she wouldn't want any body to
kill her? I sh'd think that would be an interestin' experiment."

Now the Doctor had one resort, which, among the people of Sevenoaks, was
infallible, whenever he wished to check argumentation on any subject
relating to his profession. Any man who undertook to argue a medical
question with him, or make a suggestion relating to medical treatment,
he was in the habit of flooring at once, by wisely and almost pityingly
shaking his head, and saying: "It's very evident to me, sir, that you've
not received a medical education." So, when Jim suggested, in his
peculiar way, that the woman ought to be treated better, the Doctor saw
the point, and made his usual response.

"Mr. Fenton," said he, "excuse me, sir, but it's very evident that
you've not had a medical education."

"There's where you're weak," Jim responded. "I'm a reg'lar M.D., three
C's, double X, two I's. That's the year I was born, and that's my
perfession. I studied with an Injun, and I know more 'arbs, and roots,
and drawin' leaves than any doctor in a hundred mile; and if I can be of
any use to ye, Doctor, there's my hand."

And Jim seized the Doctor's hand, and gave it a pressure which raised
the little man off the floor.

The Doctor looked at him with eyes equally charged with amusement and
amazement. He never had been met in that way before, and was not
inclined to leave the field without in some way convincing Jim of his
own superiority.

"Mr. Fenton," said he, "did you ever see a medulla oblongata?"

"Well, I seen a good many garters," replied the woodsman, 'in the
stores, an' I guess they was mostly oblong."

"Did you ever see a solar plexus?" inquired the Doctor, severely.

"Dozens of 'em. I allers pick a few in the fall, but I don't make much
use of 'em."

"Perhaps you've seen a pineal gland," suggested the disgusted Doctor.

"I make 'em," responded Jim. "I whittle 'em out evenin's, ye know."

"If you were in one of these cells," said the Doctor, "I should think
you were as mad as a March hare."

At this moment the Doctor's attention was called to a few harmless
patients who thronged toward him as soon as they learned that he was in
the building, begging for medicine; for if there is anything that a
pauper takes supreme delight in it is drugs. Passing along with them to
a little lobby, where he could inspect them more conveniently, he left
Jim behind, as that personage did not prove to be so interesting and
impressible as he had hoped. Jim watched him as he moved away, with a
quiet chuckle, and then turned to pursue his investigations. The next
cell he encountered held the man he was looking for. Sitting in the
straw, talking to himself or some imaginary companion, he saw his old
friend. It took him a full minute to realize that the gentle sportsman,
the true Christian, the delicate man, the delightful companion, was
there before him, a wreck--cast out from among his fellows, confined in
a noisome cell, and hopelessly given over to his vagrant fancies and the
tender mercies of Thomas Buffum. When the memory of what Paul Benedict
had been to him, at one period of his life, came to Jim, with the full
realization of his present misery and degradation, the strong man wept
like a child. He drew an old silk handkerchief from his pocket, blew his
nose as if it had been a trumpet, and then slipped up to the cell and
said, softly: "Paul Benedict, give us your benediction."

"Jim!" said the man, looking up quickly.

"Good God! he knows me," said Jim, whimpering. "Yes, Mr. Benedict, I'm
the same rough old fellow. How fare ye?"

"I'm miserable," replied the man.

"Well, ye don't look as ef ye felt fust-rate. How did ye git in here?"

"Oh, I was damned when I died. It's all right, I know; but it's
terrible."

"Why, ye don't think ye're in hell, do ye?" inquired Jim.

"Don't you see?" inquired the wretch, looking around him.

"Oh, yes; I see! I guess you're right," said Jim, falling in with his
fancy.

"But where did you come from, Jim? I never heard that you were dead."

"Yes; I'm jest as dead as you be."

"Well, what did you come here for?"

"Oh, I thought I'd call round," replied Jim carelessly.

"Did you come from Abraham's bosom?" inquired Mr. Benedict eagerly.

"Straight."

"I can't think why you should come to see me, into such a place as
this!" said Benedict, wonderingly.

"Oh, I got kind o' oneasy. Don't have much to do over there, ye know."

"How did you get across the gulf?"

"I jest shoved over in a birch, an' ye must be perlite enough to return
the call," replied Jim, in the most matter-of-course manner possible.

Benedict looked down upon his torn and wretched clothing, and then
turned his pitiful eyes up to Jim, who saw the thoughts that were
passing in the poor man's mind.

"Never mind your clo'es," he said. "I dress jest the same there as I did
in Number Nine, and nobody says a word. The fact is, they don't mind
very much about clo'es there, any way. I'll come over and git ye, ye
know, an' interjuce ye, and ye shall have jest as good a time as Jim
Fenton can give ye."

"Shall I take my rifle along?" inquired Benedict.

"Yes, an' plenty of amanition. There ain't no game to speak on--only a
few pa'tridge; but we can shoot at a mark all day, ef we want to."

Benedict tottered to his feet and came to the grated door, with his eyes
all alight with hope and expectation. "Jim, you always were a good
fellow," said he, dropping his voice to a whisper, "I'll show you my
improvements. Belcher mustn't get hold of them. He's after them. I hear
him round nights, but he shan't have them. I've got a new tumbler,
and--"

"Well, never mind now," replied Jim. "It'll be jest as well when ye come
over to spend the day with me. Now ye look a here! Don't you say nothin'
about this to nobody. They'll all want to go, and we can't have 'em. You
an' I want to git red of the crowd, ye know. We allers did. So when I
come arter ye, jest keep mum, and we'll have a high old time."

All the intellect that Benedict could exercise was summoned to
comprehend this injunction. He nodded his head; he laid it up in his
memory. Hope had touched him, and he had won at least a degree of
momentary strength and steadiness from her gracious finger.

"Now jest lay down an' rest, an' keep your thoughts to yerself till I
come agin. Don't tell nobody I've be'n here, and don't ask leave of
nobody. I'll settle with the old boss if he makes any sort of a row; and
ye know when Jim Fenton says he'll stand between ye and all harm he
means it, an' nothin' else."

"Yes, Jim."

"An' when I come here--most likely in the night--I'll bring a robe to
put on ye, and we'll go out still."

"Yes, Jim."

"Sure you understand?"

"Yes, Jim."

"Well, good-bye. Give us your hand. Here's hopin'."

Benedict held himself up by the slats of the door, while Jim went along
to rejoin the Doctor. Outside of this door was still a solid one, which
had been thrown wide open in the morning for the purpose of admitting
the air. In this door Jim discovered a key, which he quietly placed in
his pocket, and which he judged, by its size, was fitted to the lock of
the inner as well as the outer door. He had already discovered that the
door by which he entered the building was bolted upon the outside, the
keeper doubtless supposing that no one would wish to enter so foul a
place, and trusting thus to keep the inmates in durance.

"Well, Doctor," said Jim, "this sort o' thing is too many for me. I
gi'en it up. It's very interestin', I s'pose, but my head begins to
spin, an' it seems to me it's gettin' out of order. Do ye see my har,
Doctor?" said he, exposing the heavy shock that crowned his head.

"Yes, I see it," replied the Doctor tartly. He thought he had shaken off
his unpleasant visitor, and his return disturbed him.

"Well, Doctor, that has all riz sence I come in here."

"Are you sure?" inquired the Doctor, mollified in the presence of a fact
that might prove to be of scientific interest.

"I'd jest combed it when you come this mornin'. D'ye ever see anythin'
like that? How am I goin' to git it down?"

"Very singular," said the Doctor.

"Yes, an' look here! D'ye see the har on the back o' my hand? That
stands up jest the same. Why, Doctor, I feel like a hedgehog! What am I
goin' to do?"

"Why, this is really very interesting!" said the Doctor, taking out his
note-book. "What is your name?"

"Jim Fenton."

"Age?"

"Thirty or forty--somewhere along there."

"H'm!" exclaimed the Doctor, writing out the whole reply. "Occupation?"

"M.D., three C's, double X., two I's."

"H'm! What do you do?"

"Trap, mostly."

"Religious?"

"When I'm skeered."

"Nativity?"

"Which?"

"What is your parentage? Where were you born?"

"Well, my father was an Englishman, my mother was a Scotchman, I was
born in Ireland, raised in Canady, and have lived for ten year in Number
Nine."

"How does your head feel now?"

"It feels as if every har was a pin. Do you s'pose it'll strike in?"

The Doctor looked him over as if he were a bullock, and went on with his
statistics: "Weight, about two hundred pounds; height, six feet two;
temperament, sanguine-bilious."

"Some time when you are in Sevenoaks," said the Doctor, slipping his
pencil into its sheath in his note-book, and putting his book in his
pocket, "come and see me."

"And stay all night?" inquired Jim, innocently.

"I'd like to see the case again," said Dr. Radcliffe, nodding. "I shall
not detain you long. The matter has a certain scientific interest."

"Well, good-bye, Doctor," said Jim, holding down his hair. "I'm off for
Number Nine. I'm much obleeged for lettin' me go round with ye; an' I
never want to go agin."

Jim went out into the pleasant morning air. The sun had dispelled the
light frost of the night, the sky was blue overhead, and the blue-birds,
whose first spring notes were as sweet and fresh as the blossoms of the
arbutus, were caroling among the maples. Far away to the north he could
see the mountain at whose foot his cabin stood, red in the sunshine,
save where in the deeper gorges the snow still lingered. Sevenoaks lay
at the foot of the hill, on the other hand, and he could see the people
passing to and fro along its streets, and, perched upon the hill-side
among its trees and gardens, the paradise that wealth had built for
Robert Belcher. The first emotion that thrilled him as he emerged from
the shadows of misery and mental alienation was that of gratitude. He
filled his lungs with the vitalizing air, but expired his long breath
with a sigh.

"What bothers me," said Jim to himself, "is, that the Lord lets one set
of people that is happy, make it so thunderin' rough for another set of
people that is onhappy. An' there's another thing that bothers me," he
said, continuing his audible cogitations. "How do they 'xpect a feller
is goin' to git well, when they put 'im where a well feller'd git sick?
I vow I think that poor old creetur that wanted me to kill her is
straighter in her brains than any body I seen on the lot. I couldn't
live there a week, an' if I was a hopeless case, an' know'd it, I'd hang
myself on a nail."

Jim saw his host across the road, and went over to him. Mr. Buffum had
had a hard time with his pipes that morning, and was hoarse and very red
in the face.

"Jolly lot you've got over there," said Jim. "If I had sech a family as
them, I'd take 'em 'round for a show, and hire Belcher's man to do the
talkin'. 'Walk up, gentlemen, walk up, and see how a Christian can treat
a feller bein'. Here's a feller that's got sense enough left to think
he's in hell. Observe his wickedness, gentlemen, and don't be afraid to
use your handkerchers.'"

As Jim talked, he found he was getting angry, and that the refractory
hair that covered his poll began to feel hot. It would not do to betray
his feelings, so he ended his sally with a huge laugh that had about as
much music and heartiness in it as the caw of a crow. Buffum joined him
with his wheezy chuckle, but having sense enough to see that Jim had
really been pained, he explained that he kept his paupers as well as he
could afford to.

"Oh, I know it," said Jim. "If there's anything wrong about it, it don't
begin with you, Buffum, nor it don't end with you; but it seems a little
rough to a feller like me to see people shut up, an' in the dark, when
there's good breathin' an' any amount o' sunshine to be had, free gratis
for nothin'."

"Well, they don't know the difference," said Buffum.

"Arter a while, I guess they don't," Jim responded; "an', now, what's
the damage? for I've got to go 'long."

"I sha'n't charge you anything," whispered Mr. Buffum. "You hav'n't said
anything about old Tilden, and it's just as well."

Jim winked, nodded, and indicated that he not only understood Mr.
Buffum, but would act upon his hint. Then he went into the house, bade
good-bye to Mr. Buffum's "women," kissed his hand gallantly to the elder
Miss Buffum, who declared, in revenge, that she would not help him on
with his pack, although she had intended to do so, ands after having
gathered his burdens, trudged off northward.

From the time he entered the establishment on the previous evening, he
had not caught a glimpse of Harry Benedict. "He's cute," said Jim, "an'
jest the little chap for this business." As he came near the stump over
the brow of the hill, behind which the poor-house buildings disappeared,
he saw first the brim of an old hat, then one eye, then an eager,
laughing face, and then the whole trim little figure. The lad was
transformed. Jim thought when he saw him first that he was a pretty
boy, but there was something about him now that thrilled the woodsman
with admiration.

Jim came up to him with: "Mornin,' Harry!" and the mountain that shone
so gloriously in the light before him, was not more sunny than Jim's
face. He sat down behind the stump without removing his pack, and once
more had the little fellow in his arms.

"Harry," said Jim, "I've had ye in my arms all night--a little live
thing--an' I've be'n a longin' to git at ye agin. If ye want to, very
much, you can put yer arms round my neck, an' hug me like a little bar.
Thar, that's right, that's right. I shall feel it till I see ye agin.
Ye've been thinkin' 'bout what I telled ye last night?"

"Oh yes!" responded the boy, eagerly, "all the time."

"Well, now, do you know the days--Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and the rest
of 'em?"

"Yes, sir, all of them."

"Now, remember, to-day is Wednesday. It will be seven days to next
Wednesday, then Thursday will be eight, Friday, nine, Saturday, ten. You
always know when Saturday comes, don't ye?"

"Yes, because it's our school holiday," replied Harry.

"Well, then, in ten days--that is, a week from next Saturday--I shall
come agin. Saturday night, don't ye go to bed. Leastways, ef ye do, ye
must git out of the house afore ten o'clock, and come straight to this
old stump. Can ye git away, an' nobody seen ye?"

"Yes, I hope so," replied the boy. "They don't mind anything about us. I
could stay out all night, and they wouldn't know where I was."

"Well, that's all right, now. Remember--be jest here with all the clo'es
ye've got, at ten o'clock, Saturday night--ten days off--cut 'em in a
stick every day--the next Saturday after the next one, an' don't git
mixed."

The boy assured him that he should make no mistake.

"When I come, I sh'll bring a hoss and wagin. It'll be a stiddy hoss,
and I sh'll come here to this stump, an' stop till I seen ye. Then ye'll
hold the hoss till I go an' git yer pa, and then we'll wopse 'im up in
some blankits, an' make a clean streak for the woods. It'll be late
Sunday mornin' afore any body knows he's gone, and there won't be no
people on the road where we are goin', and ef we're druv into cover, I
know where the cover is. Jim Fenton's got friends on the road, and
they'll be mum as beetles. Did ye ever seen a beetle, Harry?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, they work right along and don't say nothin' to nobody, but they
keep workin'; an' you an' me has got to be jest like beetles. Remember!
an' now git back to Tom Buffum's the best way ye can."

The boy reassured Jim, gave him a kiss, jumped over the fence, and crept
along through the bushes toward the house. Jim watched him, wrapped in
admiration.

"He's got the ra-al hunter in 'im, jest like his father, but there's
more in 'im nor there ever was in his father. I sh'd kinder liked to 'a'
knowed his ma," said Jim, as he took up his rifle and started in earnest
for his home.

As he plodded along his way, he thought over all the experiences of the
morning.

"Any man," said he to himself, "who can string things together in the
way Benedict did this mornin' can be cured. Startin' in hell, he was all
right, an' everything reasomble. The startin' is the principal p'int,
an' if I can git 'im to start from Number Nine, I'll fetch 'im round. He
never was so much to home as he was in the woods, an' when I git 'im
thar, and git 'im fishin' and huntin', and sleepin' on hemlock, an'
eatin' venison and corn-dodgers, it'll come to 'im that he's been there
afore, and he'll look round to find Abram, an' he won't see 'im, and his
craze 'll kind o' leak out of 'im afore he knows it."

Jim's theory was his own, but it would be difficult for Dr. Radcliffe,
and all his fellow-devotees of science, to controvert it. It contented
him, at least; and full of plans and hopes, stimulated by the thought
that he had a job on hand that would not only occupy his thoughts, but
give exercise to the benevolent impulses of his heart, he pressed on,
the miles disappearing behind him and shortening before, as if the
ground had been charmed.

He stopped at noon at a settler's lonely house, occupied by Mike Conlin,
a friendly Irishman. Jim took the man aside and related his plans. Mike
entered at once upon the project with interest and sympathy, and Jim
knew that he could trust him wholly. It was arranged that Jim should
return to Mike the evening before the proposed descent upon Tom Buffum's
establishment, and sleep. The following evening Mike's horse would be
placed at Jim's disposal, and he and the Benedicts were to drive through
during the night to the point on the river where he would leave his
boat. Mike was to find his horse there and take him home.

Having accomplished his business, Jim went on, and before the twilight
had deepened into night, he found himself briskly paddling up the
stream, and at ten o'clock he had drawn his little boat up the beach,
and embraced Turk, his faithful dog, whom he had left, not only to take
care of his cabin, but to provide for himself. He had already eaten his
supper, and five minutes after he entered his cabin he and his dog were
snoring side by side in a sleep too profound to be disturbed, even by
the trumpet of old Tilden.




CHAPTER V.

IN WHICH, JIM ENLARGES HIS ACCOMMODATIONS AND ADOPTS A VIOLENT METHOD OF
SECURING BOARDERS.


When Jim Fenton waked from his long and refreshing sleep, after his
weary tramp and his row upon the river, the sun was shining brightly,
the blue-birds were singing, the partridges were drumming, and a red
squirrel, which even Turk would not disturb, was looking for provisions
in his cabin, or eyeing him saucily from one of the beams over his head.
He lay for a moment, stretching his huge limbs and rubbing his eyes,
thinking over what he had undertaken, and exclaiming at last: "Well,
Jim, ye've got a big contrack," he jumped up, and, striking a fire,
cooked his breakfast.

His first work was to make an addition to his accommodations for
lodgers, and he set about it in thorough earnest. Before noon he had
stripped bark enough from the trees in his vicinity to cover a building
as large as his own. The question with him was whether he should put up
an addition to his cabin, or hide a new building somewhere behind the
trees in his vicinity. In case of pursuit, his lodgers would need a
cover, and this he knew he could not give them in his cabin; for all who
were in the habit of visiting the woods were familiar with that
structure, and would certainly notice any addition to it, and be curious
about it. Twenty rods away there was a thicket of hemlock, and by
removing two or three trees in its center, he could successfully hide
from any but the most inquisitive observation the cabin he proposed to
erect. His conclusion was quickly arrived at, and before he slept that
night the trees were down, the frame was up, and the bark was gathered.
The next day sufficed to make the cabin habitable; but he lingered about
the work for several days, putting up various appointments of
convenience, building a broad bed of hemlock boughs, so deep and
fragrant and inviting, that he wondered he had never undertaken to do as
much for himself as he had thus gladly done for others, and making sure
that there was no crevice at which the storms of spring and summer could
force an entrance.

When he could do no more, he looked it over with approval and said:
"Thar! If I'd a done that for Miss Butterworth, I couldn't 'a' done
better nor that." Then he went back to his cabin muttering: "I wonder
what she'd 'a' said if she'd hearn that little speech o' mine!"

What remained for Jim to do was to make provision to feed his boarders.
His trusty rifle stood in the corner of his cabin, and Jim had but to
take it in his hand to excite the expectations of his dog, and to
receive from him, in language as plain as an eager whine and a wagging
tail could express, an offer of assistance. Before night there hung in
front of his cabin a buck, dragged with difficulty through the woods
from the place where he had shot him. A good part of the following day
was spent in cutting from the carcass every ounce of flesh, and packing
it into pails, to be stowed in a spring whose water, summer and winter
alike, was almost at the freezing point.

"He'll need a good deal o' lookin' arter, and I shan't hunt much the
fust few days," said Jim to himself; "an' as for flour, there's a sack
on't, an' as for pertaters, we shan't want many on 'em till they come
agin, an' as for salt pork, there's a whole bar'l buried, an' as for the
rest, let me alone!"

Jim had put off the removal for ten days, partly to get time for all his
preparations, and partly that the rapidly advancing spring might give
him warmer weather for the removal of a delicate patient. He found,
however, at the conclusion of his labors, that he had two or three spare
days on his hands. His mind was too busy and too much excited by his
enterprise to permit him to engage in any regular employment, and he
roamed around the woods, or sat whittling in the sun, or smoked, or
thought of Miss Butterworth. It was strange how, when the business upon
his hands was suspended, he went back again and again, to his brief
interview with that little woman. He thought of her eyes full of tears,
of her sympathy with the poor, of her smart and saucy speech when he
parted with her, and he said again and again to himself, what he said on
that occasion: "she's a genuine creetur!" and the last time he said it,
on the day before his projected expedition, he added: "an' who knows!"

Then a bright idea seized him, and taking out a huge jack-knife, he went
through the hemlocks to his new cabin, and there carved into the slabs
of bark that constituted its door, the words "Number Ten." This was the
crowning grace of that interesting structure. He looked at it close, and
then from a distance, and then he went back chuckling to his cabin, to
pass his night in dreams of fast driving before the fury of all
Sevenoaks, with Phipps and his gray trotters in advance.

Early on Friday morning preceding his proposed descent upon the
poor-house, he gave his orders to Turk.

"I'm goin' away, Turk," said he. "I'm goin' away agin. Ye was a good dog
when I went away afore, and ye berhaved a good deal more like a
Christian nor a Turk. Look out for this 'ere cabin, and look out for
yerself. I'm a goin' to bring back a sick man, an' a little feller to
play with ye. Now, ole feller, won't that be jolly? Ye must'n't make no
noise when I come--understand?"

Turk wagged his tail in assent, and Jim departed, believing that his dog
had understood every word as completely as if he were a man.
"Good-bye--here's hopin'," said Jim, waving his hand to Turk as he
pushed his boat from the bank, and disappeared down the river. The dog
watched him until he passed from sight, and then went back to the cabin
to mope away the period of his master's absence.

Jim sat in the stern of his little boat, guiding and propelling it with
his paddle. Flocks of ducks rose before him, and swashed down with a
fluttering ricochet into the water again, beyond the shot of his rifle.
A fish-hawk, perched above his last year's nest, sat on a dead limb and
watched him as he glided by. A blue heron rose among the reeds, looked
at him quietly, and then hid behind a tree. A muskrat swam shoreward
from his track, with only his nose above water. A deer, feeding among
the lily-pads, looked up, snorted, and then wheeled and plunged into the
woods. All these things he saw, but they made no more impression upon
his memory than is left upon the canvas by the projected images of a
magic-lantern. His mind was occupied by his scheme, which had never
seemed so serious a matter as when he had started upon its fulfilment.
All the possibilities of immediate detection and efficient pursuit
presented themselves to him. He had no respect for Thomas Buffum, yet
there was the thought that he was taking away from him one of the
sources of his income. He would not like to have Buffum suppose that he
could be guilty of a mean act, or capable of making an ungrateful return
for hospitality. Still he did not doubt his own motives, or his ability
to do good to Paul Benedict and his boy.

It was nearly ten miles from Jim's cabin, down the winding river, to the
point where he was to hide his boat, and take to the road which would
lead him to the house of Mike Conlin, half way to Sevenoaks. Remembering
before he started that the blind cart-road over which he must bring his
patient was obstructed at various points by fallen trees, he brought
along his axe, and found himself obliged to spend the whole day on his
walk, and in clearing the road for the passage of a wagon. It was six
o'clock before he reached Mike's house, the outermost post of the
"settlement," which embraced in its definition the presence of women and
children.

"Be gorry," said Mike, who had long been looking for him, "I was afeared
ye'd gi'en it up. The old horse is ready this two hours. I've took more
nor three quarts o' dander out iv 'is hide, and gi'en 'im four quarts
o' water and a pail iv oats, an' he'll go."

Mike nodded his head as if he were profoundly sure of it. Jim had used
horses in his life, in the old days of lumbering and logging, and was
quite at home with them. He had had many a drive with Mike, and knew the
animal he would be required to handle--a large, hardy, raw-boned
creature, that had endured much in Mike's hands, and was quite equal to
the present emergency.

As soon as Jim had eaten his supper, and Mike's wife had put up for him
food enough to last him and such accessions to his party as he expected
to secure during the night, and supplied him abundantly with wrappings,
he went to the stable, mounted the low, strong wagon before which Mike
had placed the horse, and with a hearty "good luck to ye!" from the
Irishman ringing in his ears, started on the road to Sevenoaks. This
portion of the way was easy. The road was worn somewhat, and moderately
well kept; and there was nothing to interfere with the steady jog which
measured the distance at the rate of six miles an hour. For three steady
hours he went on, the horse no more worried than if he had been standing
in the stable. At nine o'clock the lights in the farmers' cottages by
the wayside were extinguished, and the families they held were in bed.
Then the road began to grow dim, and the sky to become dark. The fickle
spring weather gave promise of rain. Jim shuddered at the thought of the
exposure to which, in a shower, his delicate friend would be subjected,
but thought that if he could but get him to the wagon, and cover him
well before its onset, he could shield him from harm.

The town clock was striking ten as he drove up to the stump where he was
to meet Benedict's boy. He stopped and whistled. A whistle came back in
reply, and a dark little object crept out from behind the stump, and
came up to the wagon.

"Harry, how's your pa?" said Jim.

"He's been very bad to-day," said Harry. "He says he's going to
Abraham's bosom on a visit, and he's been walking around in his room,
and wondering why you don't come for him."

"Who did he say that to?" inquired Jim.

"To me," replied the boy. "And he told me not to speak to Mr. Buffum
about it."

Jim breathed a sigh of relief, and saying "All right!" he leaped from
the wagon. Then taking out a heavy blanket, he said:

"Now, Harry, you jest stand by the old feller's head till I git back to
ye. He's out o' the road, an' ye needn't stir if any body comes along."

Harry went up to the old horse, patted his nose and his breast, and told
him he was good. The creature seemed to understand it, and gave him no
trouble. Jim then stalked off noiselessly into the darkness, and the boy
waited with a trembling and expectant heart.

Jim reached the poor-house, and stood still in the middle of the road
between the two establishments. The lights in both had been
extinguished, and stillness reigned in that portion occupied by Thomas
Buffum and his family. The darkness was so great that Jim could almost
feel it. No lights were visible except in the village at the foot of the
hill, and these were distant and feeble, through an open window--left
open that the asthmatic keeper of the establishment might be supplied
with breath--he heard a stertorous snore. On the other side matters were
not so silent. There were groans, and yells, and gabble from the reeking
and sleepless patients, who had been penned up for the long and terrible
night. Concluding that every thing was as safe for his operations as it
would become at any time, he slowly felt his way to the door of the ward
which held Paul Benedict, and found it fastened on the outside, as he
had anticipated. Lifting the bar from the iron arms that held it, and
pushing back the bolt, he silently opened the door. Whether the darkness
within was greater than that without, or whether the preternaturally
quickened ears of the patients detected the manipulations of the
fastenings, he did not know, but he was conscious at once that the
tumult within was hushed. It was apparent that they had been visited in
the night before, and that the accustomed intruder had come on no gentle
errand.. There was not a sound as Jim felt his way along from stall to
stall, sickened almost to retching by the insufferable stench that
reached his nostrils and poisoned every inspiration.

On the morning of his previous visit he had taken all the bearings with
reference to an expedition in the darkness, and so, feeling his way
along the hall, he had little difficulty in finding the cell in which he
had left his old friend.

Jim tried the door, but found it locked. His great fear was that the
lock would be changed, but it had not been meddled with, and had either
been furnished with a new key, or had been locked with a skeleton. He
slipped the stolen key in, and the bolt slid back. Opening the outer
door, he tried the inner, but the key did not fit the lock. Here was a
difficulty not entirely unexpected, but seeming to be insurmountable. He
quietly went back to the door of entrance, and as quietly closed it,
that no sound of violence might reach and wake the inmates of the house
across the road. Then he returned, and whispered in a low voice to the
inmate:

"Paul Benedict, give us your benediction."

"Jim," responded the man in a whisper, so light that it could reach no
ear but his own.

"Don't make no noise, not even if I sh'd make consid'able," said Jim.

Then, grasping the bars with both hands, he gave the door a sudden pull,
into which he put all the might of his huge frame. A thousand pounds
would not have measured it, and the door yielded, not at the bolt, but
at the hinges. Screws deeply imbedded were pulled out bodily. A second
lighter wrench completed the task, and the door was noiselessly set
aside, though Jim was trembling in every muscle.

Benedict stood at the door.

"Here's the robe that Abram sent ye," said Jim, throwing over the poor
man's shoulders an ample blanket; and putting one of his large arms
around him, he led him shuffling out of the hall, and shut and bolted
the door.

He had no sooner done this, than the bedlam inside broke loose. There
were yells, and howls, and curses, but Jim did not stop for these.
Dizzied with his effort, enveloped in thick darkness, and the wind which
preceded the approaching shower blowing a fierce gale, he was obliged to
stop a moment to make sure that he was walking in the right direction.
He saw the lights of the village, and, finding the road, managed to keep
on it until he reached the horse, that had become uneasy under the
premonitory tumult of the storm. Lifting Benedict into the wagon as if
he had been a child, he wrapped him warmly, and put the boy in behind
him, to kneel and see that his father did not fall out. Then he turned
the horse around, and started toward Number Nine. The horse knew the
road, and was furnished with keener vision than the man who drove him.
Jim was aware of this, and letting the reins lie loose upon his back,
the animal struck into a long, swinging trot, in prospect of home and
another "pail iv oats."

They had not gone a mile when the gathering tempest came down upon them.
It rained in torrents, the lightning illuminated the whole region again
and again, and the thunder cracked, and boomed, and rolled off among the
woods and hills, as if the day of doom had come.

The war of the elements harmonized strangely with the weird fancies of
the weak man who sat at Jim's side. He rode in perfect silence for
miles. At last the wind went down, and the rain settled to a steady
fall.

"They were pretty angry about my going," said he, feebly.

"Yes," said Jim, "they behaved purty car'less, but I'm too many for
'em."

"Does Father Abraham know I'm coming?" inquired Benedict. "Does he
expect me to-night?"

"Yes," responded Jim, "an' he'd 'a' sent afore, but he's jest wore out
with company. He's a mighty good-natered man, an' I tell 'im they take
the advantage of 'im. But I've posted 'im 'bout ye, and ye're all
right."

"Is it very far to the gulf?" inquired Benedict.

"Yes, it's a good deal of a drive, but when ye git there, ye can jest
lay right down in the boat, an' go to sleep. I'll wake ye up, ye know,
when we run in."

The miles slid behind into the darkness, and, at last, the rain
subsiding somewhat, Jim stopped, partly to rest his smoking horse, and
partly to feed his half-famished companions. Benedict ate mechanically
the food that Jim fished out of the basket with a careful hand, and the
boy ate as only boys can eat. Jim himself was hungry, and nearly
finished what they left.

At two o'clock in the morning, they descried Mike Conlin's light, and in
ten minutes the reeking horse and the drenched inmates of the wagon
drove up to the door. Mike was waiting to receive them.

"Mike, this is my particular friend, Benedict. Take 'im in, an' dry 'im.
An' this is 'is boy. Toast 'im both sides--brown."

A large, pleasant fire was blazing on Mike's humble hearth, and with
sundry cheerful remarks he placed his guests before it, relieving them
of their soaked wrappings. Then he went to the stable, and fed and
groomed his horse, and returned eagerly, to chat with Jim, who sat
steaming before the fire, as if he had just been lifted from a hot bath.

"What place is this, Jim?" said Mr. Benedict.

"This is the half-way house," responded that personage, without looking
up.

"Why, this is purgatory, isn't it?" inquired Benedict.

"Yes, Mike is a Catholic, an' all his folks; an' he's got to stay here a
good while, an' he's jest settled down an' gone to housekeepin'."

"Is it far to the gulf, now?"

"Twenty mile, and the road is rougher nor a--"

"'Ah, it's no twinty mile," responded Mike, "an' the road is jist
lovely--jist lovely; an' afore ye start I'm goin' to give ye a drap that
'll make ye think so."

They sat a whole hour before the fire, and then Mike mixed the draught
he had promised to the poor patient. It was not a heavy one, but, for
the time, it lifted the man so far out of his weakness that he could
sleep, and the moment his brain felt the stimulus, he dropped into a
slumber so profound that when the time of departure came he could not be
awakened. As there was no time to be lost, a bed was procured from a
spare chamber, with pillows; the wagon was brought to the door, and the
man was carried out as unconscious as if he were in his last slumber,
and tenderly put to bed in the wagon. Jim declined the dram that Mike
urged upon him, for he had need of all his wits, and slowly walked the
horse away on the road to his boat. If Benedict had been wide awake and
well, he could not have traveled the road safely faster than a walk; and
the sleep, and the bed which it rendered necessary, became the happiest
accidents of the journey.

For two long hours the horse plodded along the stony and uneven road,
and then the light began to redden in the east, and Jim could see the
road sufficiently to increase his speed with safety. It was not until
long after the sun had risen that Benedict awoke, and found himself too
weak to rise. Jim gave him more food, answered his anxious inquiries in
his own way, and managed to keep him upon his bed, from which he
constantly tried to rise in response to his wandering impulses. It was
nearly noon when they found themselves at the river; and the
preparations for embarkation were quickly made. The horse was tied and
fed, the wagon unfastened, and the whole establishment was left for Mike
to reclaim, according to the arrangement that Jim had made with him.

The woodsman saw that his patient would not be able to sit, and so felt
himself compelled to take along the bed. Arranging this with the pillows
in the bow of his boat, and placing Benedict upon it, with his boy at
his feet, he shoved off, and started up the stream.

After running along against the current for a mile, Benedict having
quietly rested meantime, looked up and said weakly:

"Jim, is this the gulf?"

"Yes," responded Jim, cheerfully. "This is the gulf, and a purty place
'tis too. I've seed a sight o' worser places nor this."

"It's very beautiful," responded Benedict. "We must be getting pretty
near."

"It's not very fur now," said Jim.

The poor, wandering mind was trying to realize the heavenly scenes that
it believed were about to burst upon its vision. The quiet, sunlit
water, the trees still bare but bourgeoning, the songs of birds, the
blue sky across which fleecy clouds were peacefully floating, the
breezes that kissed his fevered cheek, the fragrance of the bordering
evergreens, and the electric air that entered his lungs so long
accustomed to the poisonous fetor of his cell, were well calculated to
foster his delusion, and to fill his soul with a peace to which it had
long been a stranger. An exquisite languor stole upon him, and under the
pressure of his long fatigue, his eyelids fell, and he dropped into a
quiet slumber.

When the boy saw that his father was asleep, he crept back to Jim and
said:

"Mr. Fenton, I don't think it's right for you to tell papa such lies."

"Call me Jim. The Doctor called me 'Mr. Fenton,' and it 'most killed
me."

"Well, Jim."

"Now, that sounds like it. You jest look a here, my boy. Your pa ain't
livin' in this world now, an' what's true to him is a lie to us, an'
what's true to us is a lie to him. I jest go into his world and say
what's true whar he lives. Isn't that right?"

This vein of casuistry was new to the boy, and he was staggered.

"When your pa gits well agin, an' here's hopin,' Jim Fenton an' he will
be together in their brains, ye know, and then they won't be talkin'
like a couple of jay-birds, and I won't lie to him no more nor I would
to you."

The lad's troubled mind was satisfied, and he crept back to his father's
feet, where he lay until he discovered Turk, whining and wagging his
tail in front of the little hillock that was crowned by Jim's cabin.

The long, hard, weird journey was at an end. The boat came up broadside
to the shore, and Jim leaped out, and showered as many caresses upon his
dog as he received from the faithful brute.




CHAPTER VI.

IN WHICH SEVENOAKS EXPERIENCES A GREAT COMMOTION, AND COMES TO THE
CONCLUSION THAT BENEDICT HAS MET WITH FOUL PLAY.


Thomas Buffum and his family slept late on Sunday morning, and the
operating forces of the establishment lingered in their beds. When, at
last, the latter rose and opened the doors of the dormitories, the
escape of Benedict was detected. Mr. Buffum was summoned at once, and
hastened across the street in his shirt-sleeves, which, by the way, was
about as far toward full dress as he ever went when the weather did not
compel him to wear a coat. Buffum examined the inner door and saw that
it had been forced by a tremendous exercise of muscular power. He
remembered the loss of the key, and knew that some one had assisted in
the operation.

"Where's that boy?" wheezed the keeper.

An attendant rushed to the room where the boy usually slept, and came
back with the report that the bed had not been occupied. Then there was
a search outside for tracks, but the rain had obliterated them all. The
keeper was in despair. He did not believe that Benedict could have
survived the storm of the night, and he did not doubt that the boy had
undertaken to hide his father somewhere.

"Go out, all of you, all round, and find 'em," hoarsely whispered Mr.
Buffum, "and bring 'em back, and say nothing about it."

The men, including several of the more reliable paupers, divided
themselves into little squads, and departed without breakfast, in order
to get back before the farmers should drive by on their way to church.
The orchards, the woods, the thickets--all possible covers--were
searched, and searched, of course, in vain. One by one the parties
returned to report that they could not find the slightest sign of the
fugitives.

Mr. Buffum, who had not a question that the little boy had planned and
executed the escape, assisted by the paroxysmal strength of his insane
father, felt that he was seriously compromised. The flight and undoubted
death of old Tilden were too fresh in the public mind to permit this new
reflection upon his faithfulness and efficiency as a public guardian to
pass without a popular tumult. He had but just assumed the charge of the
establishment for another year, and he knew that Robert Belcher would be
seriously offended, for more reasons than the public knew, or than that
person would be willing to confess. He had never in his life been in
more serious trouble. He hardly tasted his breakfast, and was too crusty
and cross to be safely addressed by any member of his family. Personally
he was not in a condition to range the fields, and when he had received
the reports of the parties who had made the search, he felt that he had
a job to undertake too serious for his single handling.

In the meantime, Mr. Belcher had risen at his leisure, in blissful
unconsciousness of the calamities that had befallen his _protege_. He
owned a pew in every church in Sevenoaks, and boasted that he had no
preferences. Once every Sunday he went to one of these churches; and
there was a fine flutter throughout the building whenever he and his
family appeared. He felt that the building had received a special honor
from his visit; but if he was not guided by his preferences, he
certainly was by his animosities. If for three or four Sabbaths in
succession he honored a single church by his presence, it was usually to
pay off a grudge against some minister or member of another flock. He
delighted to excite the suspicion that he had at last become attached to
one clergyman, and that the other churches were in danger of being
forsaken by him. It would be painful to paint the popular weakness and
the ministerial jealousy--painful to describe the lack of Christian
dignity--with which these demonstrations of worldly caprice and
arrogance, were watched by pastor and flock.

After the town meeting and the demonstration of the Rev. Solomon Snow,
it was not expected that Mr. Belcher would visit the church of the
latter for some months. During the first Sabbath after this event, there
was gloom in that clergyman's congregation; for Mr. Belcher, in his
routine, should have illuminated their public services by his presence,
but he did not appear.

"This comes," bitterly complained one of the deacons, "of a minister's
meddling with public affairs."

But during the week following, Mr. Belcher had had a satisfactory
interview with Mr. Snow, and on the morning of the flight of Benedict he
drove in the carriage with his family up to the door of that gentleman's
church, and gratified the congregation and its reverend head by walking
up the broad aisle, and, with his richly dressed flock, taking his old
seat.

As he looked around upon the humbler parishioners, he seemed to say, by
his patronizing smile: "Mr. Snow and the great proprietor are at peace.
Make yourselves easy, and enjoy your sunshine while it lasts."

Mr. Buffum never went to church. He had a theory that it was necessary
for him to remain in charge of his establishment, and that he was doing
a good thing by sending his servants and dependents. When, therefore, he
entered Mr. Snow's church on the Sunday morning which found Mr. Belcher
comfortably seated there, and stumped up the broad aisle in his
shirt-sleeves, the amazement of the minister and the congregation may be
imagined. If he had been one of his own insane paupers _en deshabille_
he could not have excited more astonishment or more consternation.

Mr. Snow stopped in the middle of a stanza of the first hymn, as if the
words had dried upon his tongue. Every thing seemed to stop. Of this,
however, Mr. Buffum was ignorant. He had no sense of the proprieties of
the house, and was intent only on reaching Mr. Belcher's pew.

Bending to his patron's ear, he whispered a few words, received a few
words in return, and then retired. The proprietor's face was red with
rage and mortification, but he tried to appear unconcerned, and the
services went on to their conclusion. Boys who sat near the windows
stretched their necks to see whether smoke was issuing from the
poor-house; and it is to be feared that the ministrations of the morning
were not particularly edifying to the congregation at large. Even Mr.
Snow lost his place in his sermon more frequently than usual. When the
meeting was dismissed, a hundred heads came together in chattering
surmise, and when they walked into the streets, the report of Benedict's
escape with his little boy met them. They understood, too, why Buffum
had come to Mr. Belcher with his trouble. He was Mr. Belcher's man, and
Mr. Belcher had publicly assumed responsibility for him.

No more meetings were held in any of the churches of Sevenoaks that day.
The ministers came to perform the services of the afternoon, and,
finding their pews empty, went home. A reward of one hundred dollars,
offered by Mr. Belcher to any one who would find Benedict and his boy,
"and return them in safety to the home provided for them by the town,"
was a sufficient apology, without the motives of curiosity and humanity
and the excitement of a search in the fields and woods, for a universal
relinquishment of Sunday habits, and the pouring out of the whole
population on an expedition of discovery.

Sevenoaks and its whole vicinity presented a strange aspect that
afternoon. There had slept in the hearts of the people a pleasant and
sympathetic memory of Mr. Benedict. They had seen him struggling,
dreaming, hopeful, yet always disappointed, dropping lower and lower
into poverty, and, at last, under accumulated trials, deprived of his
reason. They knew but little of his relations to Mr. Belcher, but they
had a strong suspicion that he had been badly treated by the
proprietor, and that it had been in the power of the latter to save him
from wreck. So, when it became known that he had escaped with his boy
from the poor-house, and that both had been exposed to the storm of the
previous night, they all--men and boys--covered the fields, and filled
the woods for miles around, in a search so minute that hardly a rod of
cover was left unexplored.

It was a strange excitement which stirred the women at home, as well as
the men afield. Nothing was thought of but the fugitives and the
pursuit.

Robert Belcher, in the character of principal citizen, was riding back
and forth behind his gray trotters, and stimulating the search in every
quarter. Poor Miss Butterworth sat at her window, making indiscriminate
inquiries of every passenger, or going about from house to house,
working off her nervous anxiety in meaningless activities.

As the various squads became tired by their long and unsuccessful
search, they went to the poor-house to report, and, before sunset, the
hill was covered by hundreds of weary and excited men. Some were sure
they had discovered traces of the fugitives. Others expressed the
conviction that they had thrown themselves into a well. One man, who did
not love Mr. Belcher, and had heard the stories of his ill-treatment of
Benedict, breathed the suspicion that both he and his boy had been
foully dealt with by one who had an interest in getting them out of the
way.

It was a marvel to see how quickly this suspicion took wing. It seemed
to be the most rational theory of the event. It went from mouth to mouth
and ear to ear, as the wind breathes among the leaves of a forest; but
there were reasons in every man's mind, or instincts in his nature, that
withheld the word "murder" from the ear of Mr. Belcher. As soon as the
suspicion became general, the aspect of every incident of the flight
changed. Then they saw, apparently for the first time, that a man
weakened by disease and long confinement, and never muscular at his
best, could not have forced the inner door of Benedict's cell. Then they
connected Mr. Belcher's behavior during the day with the affair, and,
though they said nothing at the time, they thought of his ostentatious
anxiety, his evident perturbation when Mr. Buffum announced to him the
escape, his offer of the reward for Benedict's discovery, and his
excited personal appearance among them. He acted like a guilty man--a
man who was trying to blind them, and divert suspicion from himself.

To the great horror of Mr. Buffum, his establishment was thoroughly
inspected and ransacked, and, as one after another left the hill for his
home, he went with indignation and shame in his heart, and curses on his
lips. Even if Benedict and his innocent boy had been murdered, murder
was not the only foul deed that had been committed on the hill. The
poor-house itself was an embodied crime against humanity and against
Christianity, for which the town of Sevenoaks at large was responsible,
though it had been covered from their sight by Mr. Belcher and the
keeper. It would have taken but a spark to kindle a conflagration. Such
was the excitement that only a leader was needed to bring the tumult of
a violent mob around the heads of the proprietor and his _protege_.

Mr. Belcher was not a fool, and he detected, as he sat in his wagon
talking with Buffum in a low tone, the change that had come over the
excited groups around him. They looked at him as they talked, with a
serious scrutiny to which he was unused. They no more addressed him with
suggestions and inquiries. They shunned his neighborhood, and silently
went off down the hill. He knew, as well as if they had been spoken,
that there were not only suspicions against him, but indignation over
the state of things that had been discovered in the establishment, for
whose keeper he had voluntarily become responsible. Notwithstanding all
his efforts to assist them in their search, he knew that in their hearts
they charged him with Benedict's disappearance. At last he bade Buffum
good-night, and went down the hill to his home.

He had no badinage for Phipps during that drive, and no pleasant
reveries in his library during that evening, for all the possibilities
of the future passed through his mind in dark review. If Benedict had
been murdered, who could have any interest in his death but himself? If
he had died from exposure, his secrets would be safe, but the charge of
his death would be brought to his door, as Miss Butterworth had already
brought the responsibility for his insanity there. If he had got away
alive, and should recover, or if his boy should get into hands that
would ultimately claim for him his rights, then his prosperity would be
interfered with. He did not wish to acknowledge to himself that he
desired the poor man's death, but he was aware that in his death he
found the most hopeful vision of the night. Angry with the public
feeling that accused him of a crime of which he was not guilty, and
guilty of a crime of which definitely the public knew little or nothing,
there was no man in Sevenoaks so unhappy as he. He loved power and
popularity. He had been happy in the thought that he controlled the
town, and for the moment, at least, he knew the town had slipped
disloyally out of his hands.

An impromptu meeting of citizens was held that evening, at which Mr.
Belcher did not assist. The clergymen were all present, and there seemed
to be a general understanding that they had been ruled long enough in
the interest and by the will of a single man. A subscription was raised
for a large amount, and the sum offered to any one who would discover
the fugitives.

The next morning Mr. Belcher found the village quiet and very reticent,
and having learned that a subscription had been raised without calling
upon him, he laughingly expressed his determination to win the reward
for himself.

Then he turned his grays up the hill, had a long consultation with Mr.
Buffum, who informed him of the fate of old Tilden, and started at a
rapid pace toward Number Nine.




CHAPTER VII.

IN WHICH JIM AND MIKE CONLIN PASS THROUGH A GREAT TRIAL AND COME OUT
VICTORIOUS.


"There, Turk, there they be!" said Jim to his dog, pointing to his
passengers, as he stood caressing him, with one foot on the land and the
other holding the boat to the shore. "There's the little chap that I've
brung to play with ye, an' there's the sick man that we've got to take
care on. Now don't ye make no row."

Turk looked up into his master's face, then surveyed the new comers with
a wag of his tail that had all the force of a welcome, and, when Harry
leaped on shore, he smelt him over, licked his hand, and accepted him as
a satisfactory companion.

Jim towed his boat around a point into a little cove where there was a
beach, and then drew it by a long, strong pull entirely out of the
water. Lifting Benedict and carrying him to his own cabin, he left him
in charge of Harry and the dog, while he went to make his bed in "Number
Ten." His arrangements completed, he transferred his patient to the
quarters prepared for him, where, upheld and pillowed by the sweetest
couch that weary body ever rested upon, he sank into slumber.

Harry and the dog became inseparable companions at once; and as it was
necessary for Jim to watch with Benedict during the night, he had no
difficulty in inducing the new friends to occupy his cabin together. The
dog understood his responsibility and the lad accepted his protector;
and when both had been bountifully fed they went to sleep side by side.

It was, however, a troubled night at Number Ten. The patient's
imagination had been excited, his frame had undergone a great fatigue,
and the fresh air, no less than the rain that had found its way to his
person through all his wrappings, on the previous night, had produced a
powerful impression upon his nervous system. It was not strange that the
morning found Jim unrefreshed, and his patient in a high, delirious
fever.

"Now's the time," said Jim to himself, "when a feller wants some sort o'
religion or a woman; an' I hain't got nothin' but a big dog an' a little
boy, an' no doctor nearer 'n forty mile."

Poor Jim! He did not know that the shock to which he had subjected the
enfeebled lunatic was precisely what was needed to rouse every effort of
nature to effect a cure. He could not measure the influence of the
subtle earth-currents that breathed over him. He did not know that there
was better medicine in the pure air, in the balsamic bed, in the broad
stillness, in the nourishing food and the careful nursing, than in all
the drugs of the world. He did not know that, in order to reach the
convalescence for which he so ardently longed, his patient must go down
to the very basis of his life, and begin and build up anew; that in
changing from an old and worn-out existence to a fresh and healthy one,
there must come a point between the two conditions where there would
seem to be no life, and where death would appear to be the only natural
determination. He was burdened with his responsibility; and only the
consciousness that his motives were pure and his patient no more
hopeless in his hands than in those from which he had rescued him,
strengthened his equanimity and sustained his courage.

As the sun rose, Benedict fell into an uneasy slumber, and, while Jim
watched his heavy breathing, the door was noiselessly opened, and Harry
and the dog looked in. The hungry look of the lad summoned Jim to new
duties, and leaving Harry to watch his father, he went off to prepare a
breakfast for his family.

All that day and all the following night Jim's time was so occupied in
feeding the well and administering to the sick, that his own
sleeplessness began to tell upon him. He who had been accustomed to the
sleep of a healthy and active man began to look haggard, and to long for
the assistance of a trusty hand. It was with a great, irrepressible
shout of gratification that, at the close of the second day, he detected
the form of Mike Conlin walking up the path by the side of the river,
with a snug pack of provisions upon his back.

Jim pushed his boat from the shore, and ferried Mike over to his cabin.
The Irishman had reached the landing ten miles below to learn that the
birch canoe in which he had expected to ascend the river had either been
stolen or washed away. He was, therefore, obliged to take the old
"tote-road" worn in former years by the lumbermen, at the side of the
river, and to reach Jim's camp on foot. He was very tired, but the
warmth of his welcome brought a merry twinkle to his eyes and the ready
blarney to his tongue.

"Och! divil a bit wud ye be glad to see Mike Conlin if ye knowed he'd
come to arrist ye. Jim, ye're me prisoner. Ye've been stalin a pauper--a
pair iv 'em, faith--an' ye must answer fur it wid yer life to owld
Belcher. Come along wid me. None o' yer nonsinse, or I'll put a windy in
ye."

Jim eyed him with a smile, but he knew that no ordinary errand had
brought Mike to him so quickly.

"Old Belcher sent ye, did he?" said Jim.

"Be gorry he did, an' I've come to git a reward. Now, if ye'll be
dacint, ye shall have part of it."

Although Jim saw that Mike was apparently in sport, he knew that the
offer of a cash reward for his own betrayal was indeed a sore temptation
to him.

"Did ye tell 'im anything, Mike?" inquired Jim, solemnly.

"Divil a bit."

"An' ye knowed I'd lick ye if ye did. Ye knowed that, didn't ye?"

"I knowed ye'd thry it faithful, an' if ye didn't do it there'd be
niver a man to blame but Mike Conlin."

Jim said no more, but went to work and got a bountiful supper for Mike.
When he had finished, he took him over to Number Ten, where Harry and
Turk were watching. Quietly opening the door of the cabin, he entered.
Benedict lay on his bed, his rapt eyes looking up to the roof. His
clean-cut, deathly face, his long, tangled locks, and the comfortable
appointments about him, were all scanned by Mike, and, without saying a
word, both turned and retired.

"Mike," said Jim, as they retraced their way, "that man an' me was like
brothers. I found 'im in the devil's own hole, an' any man as comes
atween me an' him must look out fur 'imself forever arter. Jim Fenton's
a good-natered man when he ain't riled, but he'd sooner fight nor eat
when he is. Will ye help me, or won't ye?"

Mike made no reply, but opened his pack and brought out a tumbler of
jelly. "There, ye bloody blaggard, wouldn't ye be afther lickin' that
now?" said he; and then, as he proceeded to unload the pack, his tongue
ran on in comment. (A paper of crackers.) "Mash 'em all to smithereens
now. Give it to 'em, Jim." (A roasted chicken.) "Pitch intil the
rooster, Jim. Crack every bone in 'is body." (A bottle of brandy.)
"Knock the head aff his shoolders and suck 'is blood." (A package of
tea.) "Down with the tay! It's insulted ye, Jim." (A piece of maple
sugar.) "Och! the owld, brown rascal! ye'll be afther doin Jim Fenton a
bad turn, will ye? Ye'll be brakin 'is teeth fur 'im." Then followed a
plate, cup and saucer, and these were supplemented by an old shirt and
various knick-knacks that only a woman would remember in trying to
provide for an invalid far away from the conveniences and comforts of
home.

Jim watched Mike with tearful eyes, which grew more and more loaded and
luminous as the disgorgement of the contents of the pack progressed.

"Mike, will ye forgive me?" said Jim, stretching out his hand. "I was
afeared the money'd be too many for ye; but barrin' yer big foot an' the
ugly nose that's on ye, ye're an angel."

"Niver ye mind me fut," responded Mike. "Me inimies don't like it, an'
they can give a good raison fur it; an' as fur me nose, it'll look
worser nor it does now when Jim Fenton gets a crack at it."

"Mike," said Jim, "ye hurt me. Here's my hand, an' honors are easy."

Mike took the hand without more ado, and then sat back and told Jim all
about it.

"Ye see, afther ye wint away that night I jist lay down an' got a bit iv
a shnooze, an' in the mornin' I shtarted for me owld horse. It was a big
thramp to where ye lift him, and comin' back purty slow, I picked up a
few shticks and put intil the wagin for me owld woman--pine knots an'
the like o' that. I didn't git home much afore darruk, and me owld horse
wasn't more nor in the shtable an' I 'atin' me supper, quiet like, afore
Belcher druv up to me house wid his purty man on the seat wid 'im. An'
says he: 'Mike Conlin! Mike Conlin! Come to the dour wid ye!' So I wint
to the dour, an' he says, says he: 'Hev ye seen a crazy old feller wid a
b'y?' An' says I: 'There's no crazy owld feller wid a b'y been by me
house in the daytime. If they wint by at all at all, it was when me
family was aslape.' Then he got out of his wagin and come in, and he
looked 'round in all the corners careless like, and thin he said he
wanted to go to the barrun. So we wint to the barrun, and he looked all
about purty careful, and he says, says he: 'What ye been doin' wid the
owld horse on a Sunday, Mike?' And says I to him, says I: 'Jist a
pickin' up a few shticks for the owld woman.' An' when he come out he
see the shticks in the wagin, and he says, says he: 'Mike, if ye'll find
these fellers in the woods I'll give ye five hundred dollars.' And says
I: 'Squire Belcher,' says I (for I knowed he had a wake shpot in 'im),
'ye are richer nor a king, and Mike Conlin's no betther nor a pauper
himself. Give me a hundred dollars,' says I, 'an' I'll thry it. And be
gorry I've got it right there' (slapping his pocket.) 'Take along
somethin' for 'em to ate,' says he, 'and faith I've done that same and
found me min; an' now I'll stay wid ye fur a week an' 'arn me hundred
dollars."

The week that Mike promised Jim was like a lifetime. To have some one
with him to share his vigils and his responsibility lifted a great
burden from his shoulders. But the sick man grew weaker and weaker every
day. He was assiduously nursed and literally fed with dainties; but the
two men went about their duties with solemn faces, and talked almost in
a whisper. Occasionally one of them went out for delicate game, and by
alternate watches they managed to get sufficient sleep to recruit their
exhausted energies.

One morning, after Mike had been there four or five days, both stood by
Benedict's bed, and felt that a crisis was upon him. A great uneasiness
had possessed him for some hours, and then he had sunk away into a
stupor or a sleep, they could not determine which.

The two men watched him for a while, and then went out and sat down on a
log in front of the cabin, and held a consultation.

"Mike," said Jim, "somethin' must be did. We've did our best an' nothin'
comes on't; an' Benedict is nearer Abram's bosom nor I ever meant he
should come in my time. I ain't no doctor; you ain't no doctor. We've
nussed 'im the best we knowed, but I guess he's a goner. It's too
thunderin' bad, for I'd set my heart on puttin' 'im through."

"Well," said Mike, "I've got me hundred dollars, and you'll git yer pay
in the nixt wurruld."

"I don't want no pay," responded Jim. "An' what do ye know about the
next world, anyway?"

"The praste says there is one," said Mike.

"The priest be hanged! What does he know about it?"

"That's his business," said Mike. "It's not for the like o' me to answer
for the praste."

"Well, I wish he was here, in Number Nine, an' we'd see what we could
git out of 'im. I've got to the eend o' my rope."

The truth was that Jim was becoming religious. When his own strong right
hand failed in any enterprise, he always came to a point where the
possibilities of a superior wisdom and power dawned upon him. He had
never offered a prayer in his life, but the wish for some medium or
instrument of intercession was strong within him. At last an idea struck
him, and he turned to Mike and told him to go down to his old cabin, and
stay there while he sent the boy back to him.

When Harry came up, with an anxious face, Jim took him between his
knees.

"Little feller," said he, "I need comfortin'. It's a comfort to have ye
here in my arms, an' I don't never want to have you go 'way from me.
Your pa is awful sick, and perhaps he ain't never goin' to be no better.
The rain and the ride, I'm afeared, was too many fur him; but I've did
the best I could, and I meant well to both on ye, an' now I can't do no
more, and there ain't no doctor here, an' there ain't no minister. Ye've
allers been a pretty good boy, hain't ye? And don't ye s'pose ye can go
out here a little ways behind a tree and pray? I'll hold on to the dog;
an' it seems to me, if I was the Lord, I sh'd pay 'tention to what a
little feller like you was sayin'. There ain't nobody here but you to do
it now, ye know. I can nuss your pa and fix his vittles, and set up with
'im nights, but I can't pray. I wasn't brung up to it. Now, if ye'll do
this, I won't ax ye to do nothin' else."

The boy was serious. He looked off with his great black eyes into the
woods. He had said his prayers many times when he did not know that he
wanted anything. Here was a great emergency, the most terrible that he
had ever encountered. He, a child, was the only one who could pray for
the life of his father; and the thought of the responsibility, though it
was only dimly entertained, or imperfectly grasped, overwhelmed him. His
eyes, that had been strained so long, filled with tears, and, bursting
into a fit of uncontrollable weeping, he threw his arms around Jim's
neck, where he sobbed away his sudden and almost hysterical passion.
Then he gently disengaged himself and went away.

Jim took off his cap, and holding fast his uneasy and inquiring dog,
bowed his head as if he were in a church. Soon, among the songs of birds
that were turning the morning into music, and the flash of waves that
ran shoreward before the breeze, and the whisper of the wind among the
evergreens, there came to his ear the voice of a child, pleading for his
father's life. The tears dropped from his eyes and rolled down upon his
beard. There was an element of romantic superstition in the man, of
which his request was the offspring, and to which the sound of the
child's voice appealed with irresistible power.

When the lad reappeared and approached him, Jim said to himself: "Now,
if that won't do it, ther' won't nothin'." Reaching out his arms to
Harry, as he came up, he embraced him, and said:

"My boy, ye've did the right thing. It's better nor all the nussin', an'
ye must do that every mornin'--every mornin'; an' don't ye take no for
an answer. Now jest go in with me an' see your pa."

Jim would not have been greatly surprised to see the rude little room
thronged with angels, but he was astonished, almost to fainting, to see
Benedict open his eyes, look about him, then turn his questioning gaze
upon him, and recognize him by a faint smile, so like the look of other
days--so full of intelligence and peace, that the woodsman dropped upon
his knees and hid his face in the blankets. He did not say a word, but
leaving the boy passionately kissing his father, he ran to his own
cabin.

Seizing Mike by the shoulders, he shook him as if he intended to kill
him.

"Mike," said he, "by the great horned spoons, the little fellow has
fetched 'im! Git yer pa'tridge-broth and yer brandy quicker'n'
lightnin'. Don't talk to me no more 'bout yer priest; I've got a trick
worth two o' that."

Both men made haste back to Number Ten, where they found their patient
quite able to take the nourishment and stimulant they brought, but still
unable to speak. He soon sank into a refreshing slumber, and gave signs
of mending throughout the day. The men who had watched him with such
careful anxiety were full of hope, and gave vent to their lightened
spirits in the chaffing which, in their careless hours, had become
habitual with them. The boy and the dog rejoiced too in sympathy; and if
there had been ten days of storm and gloom, ended by a brilliant
outshining sun, the aspect of the camp could not have been more suddenly
or happily changed.

Two days and nights passed away, and then Mike declared that he must go
home. The patient had spoken, and knew where he was. He only remembered
the past as a dream. First, it was dark and long, and full of horror,
but at length all had become bright; and Jim was made supremely happy to
learn that he had had a vision of the glory toward which he had
pretended to conduct him. Of the fatherly breast he had slept upon, of
the golden streets through which he had walked, of the river of the
water of life, of the shining ones with whom he had strolled in
companionship, of the marvelous city which hath foundations, and the
ineffable beauty of its Maker and Builder, he could not speak in full,
until years had passed away; but out of this lovely dream he had emerged
into natural life.

"He's jest been down to the bottom, and started new." That was the sum
and substance of Jim's philosophy, and it would be hard for science to
supplant it.

"Well," said Jim to Mike, "ye've be'n a godsend. Ye've did more good in
a week nor ye'll do agin if ye live a thousand year. Ye've arned yer
hundred dollars, and ye haven't found no pauper, and ye can tell 'em so.
Paul Benedict ain't no pauper, an' he ain't no crazy man either."

"Be gorry ye're right!" said Mike, who was greatly relieved at finding
his report shaped for him in such a way that he would not be obliged to
tell a falsehood.

"An' thank yer old woman for me," said Jim, "an' tell her she's the
queen of the huckleberry bushes, an' a jewel to the side o' the road she
lives on."

"Divil a bit will I do it," responded Mike. "She'll be so grand I can't
live wid her."

"An' tell her when ye've had yer quarrel," said Jim, "that there'll
allers be a place for her in Number Ten."

They chaffed one another until Mike passed out of sight among the trees;
and Jim, notwithstanding his new society, felt lonelier, as he turned
back to his cabin, than he had ever felt when there was no human being
within twenty miles of him.

The sun of early May had begun to shine brightly, the willows were
growing green by the side of the river, the resinous buds were swelling
daily, and making ready to burst into foliage, the birds returned one
after another from their winter journeyings, and the thrushes filled the
mornings and the evenings alike with their carolings. Spring had come to
the woods again, with words of promise and wings of fulfillment, and
Jim's heart was full of tender gladness. He had gratified his benevolent
impulses, and he found upon his hands that which would tax their
abounding energies. Life had never seemed to him so full of significance
as it did then. He could see what he had been saving money for, and he
felt that out of the service he was rendering to the poor and the
distressed was growing a love for them that gave a new and almost divine
flavor to his existence.

Benedict mended slowly, but he mended daily, and gave promise of the
permanent recovery of a healthy body and a sound mind. It was a happy
day for Jim when, with Harry and the dog bounding before him, and
Benedict leaning on his arm, he walked over to his old cabin, and all
ate together at his own rude table. Jim never encouraged his friend's
questions. He endeavored, by every practical way, to restrain his mind
from wandering into the past, and encouraged him to associate his future
with his present society and surroundings. The stronger the patient
grew, the more willing he became to shut out the past, which, as memory
sometimes--nay, too often--recalled it, was an unbroken history of
trial, disappointment, grief, despair, and dreams of great darkness.

There was one man whom he could never think of without a shudder, and
with that man his possible outside life was inseparably associated. Mr.
Belcher had always been able, by his command of money and his coarse and
despotic will, to compel him into any course or transaction that he
desired. His nature was offensive to Benedict to an extreme degree, and
when in his presence, particularly when he entered it driven by
necessity, he felt shorn of his own manhood. He felt him to be without
conscience, without principle, without humanity, and was sure that it
needed only to be known that the insane pauper had become a sound and
healthy man to make him the subject of a series of persecutions or
persuasions that would wrest from him the rights and values on which the
great proprietor was foully battening. These rights and values he never
intended to surrender, and until he was strong and independent enough to
secure them to himself, he did not care to expose his gentler will to
the machinations of the great scoundrel who had thrived upon his
unrewarded genius.

So, by degrees, he came to look upon the woods as his home. He was there
at peace. His wife had faded out of the world, his life had been a fatal
struggle with the grossest selfishness, he had come out of the shadows
into a new life, and in that life's simple conditions, cared for by
Jim's strong arms, and upheld by his manly and cheerful companionship,
he intended to build safely the structure of his health, and to erect on
the foundation of a useful experience a better life.

In June, Jim did his planting, confined almost entirely to vegetables,
as there was no mill near enough to grind his wheat and corn should he
succeed in growing them. By the time the young plants were ready for
dressing, Benedict could assist Jim for an hour every day; and when the
autumn came, the invalid of Number Ten had become a heavier man than he
ever was before. Through the disguise of rags, the sun-browned features,
the heavy beard, and the generous and almost stalwart figure, his old
and most intimate friends would have failed to recognize the delicate
and attenuated man they had once known. Jim regarded him with great
pride, and almost with awe. He delighted to hear him talk, for he was
full of information and overflowing with suggestion.

"Mr. Benedict," said Jim one day, after they had indulged in one of
their long talks, "do ye s'pose ye can make a house?"

"Anything."

"A raal house, all ship-shape for a woman to live in?"

"Anything."

"With a little stoop, an' a bureau, an' some chairs, an' a frame, like,
fur posies to run up on?"

"Yes, Jim, and a thousand things you never thought of."

Jim did not pursue the conversation further, but went down very deep
into a brown study.

During September, he was in the habit of receiving the visits of
sportsmen, one of whom, a New York lawyer, who bore the name of Balfour,
had come into the woods every year for several successive years. He
became aware that his supplies were running low, and that not only was
it necessary to lay in a winter's stock of flour and pork, but that his
helpless _proteges_ should be supplied with clothing for the coming cold
weather. Benedict had become quite able to take care of himself and his
boy; so one day Jim, having furnished himself with a supply of money
from his long accumulated hoard, went off down the river for a week's
absence.

He had a long consultation with Mike Conlin, who agreed to draw his
lumber to the river whenever he should see fit to begin his enterprise.
He had taken along a list of tools, furnished him by Benedict; and Mike
carried him to Sevenoaks with the purpose of taking back whatever, in
the way of stores, they should purchase. Jim was full of reminiscences
of his night's drive, and pointed out to Mike all the localities of his
great enterprise. Things had undergone a transformation about the
poor-house, and Jim stopped and inquired tenderly for Tom Buffum, and
learned that soon after the escape of Benedict the man had gone off in
an apoplectic fit.

"He was a pertickler friend o' mine," said Jim, smiling in the face of
the new occupant, "an' I'm glad he went off so quick he didn't know
where he was goin'. Left some rocks, didn't he?"

The man having replied to Jim's tender solicitude, that he believed the
family were sufficiently well provided for, the precious pair of
sympathizers went off down the hill.

Jim and Mike had a busy day in Sevenoaks, and at about eight o'clock in
the evening, Miss Keziah Butterworth was surprised in her room by the
announcement that there was a strange man down stairs who desired to see
her. As she entered the parlor of the little house, she saw a tall man
standing upright in the middle of the room, with his fur cap in his
hand, and a huge roll of cloth under his arm.

"Miss Butterworth, how fare ye?" said Jim.

"I remember you," said Miss Butterworth, peering up into his face to
read his features in the dim light. "You are Jim Fenton, whom I met last
spring at the town meeting."

"I knowed you'd remember me. Women allers does. Be'n purty chirk this
summer?"

"Very well, I thank you, sir," and Miss Butterworth dropped a courtesy,
and then, sitting down, she pointed him to a chair.

Jim laid his cap on the floor, placed his roll of cloth upright between
his knees, and, pulling out his bandana handkerchief, wiped his
perspiring face.

"I've brung a little job fur ye," said Jim.

"Oh, I can't do it," said Miss Butterworth at once. "I'm crowded to
death with work. It's a hurrying time of year."

"Yes, I knowed that, but this is a pertickler job."

"Oh, they are all particular jobs," responded Miss Butterworth, shaking
her head.

"But this is a job fur pertickler folks."

"Folks are all alike to me," said Miss Butterworth, sharply.

"These clo'es," said Jim, "are fur a good man an' a little boy. They has
nothin' but rags on 'em, an' won't have till ye make these clo'es. The
man is a pertickler friend o' mine, an' the boy is a cute little chap,
an' he can pray better nor any minister in Sevenoaks. If you knowed what
I know, Miss Butterworth, I don't know but you'd do somethin' that you'd
be ashamed of, an' I don't know but you'd do something that I sh'd be
ashamed of. Strange things has happened, an' if ye want to know what
they be, you must make these clo'es."

Jim had aimed straight at one of the most powerful motives in human
nature, and the woman began to relent, and to talk more as if it were
possible for her to undertake the job.

"It may be," said the tailoress, thinking, and scratching the top of her
head with a hair-pin, "that I _can_ work it in; but I haven't the
measure."

"Well, now, let's see," said Jim, pondering. "Whar is they about such a
man? Don't ye remember a man that used to be here by the name
of--of--Benedict, wasn't it?--a feller about up to my ear--only fleshier
nor he was? An' the little feller--well, he's bigger nor Benedict's
boy--bigger, leastways, nor he was then."

Miss Butterworth rose to her feet, went up to Jim, and looked him
sharply in the eyes.

"Can you tell me anything about Benedict and his boy?"

"All that any feller knows I know," said Jim, "an' I've never telled
nobody in Sevenoaks."

"Jim Fenton, you needn't be afraid of me."

"Oh, I ain't. I like ye better nor any woman I seen."

"But you needn't be afraid to tell me," said Miss Butterworth, blushing.

"An' will ye make the clo'es?"

"Yes, I'll make the clothes, if I make them for nothing, and sit up
nights to do it."

"Give us your hand," said Jim, and he had a woman's hand in his own
almost before he knew it, and his face grew crimson to the roots of his
bushy hair.

Miss Butterworth drew her chair up to his, and in a low tone he told her
the whole long story as only he knew it, and only he could tell it.

"I think you are the noblest man I ever saw," said Miss Butterworth,
trembling with excitement.

"Well, turn about's fa'r play, they say, an' I think you're the most
genuine creetur' I ever seen," responded Jim. "All we want up in the
woods now is a woman, an' I'd sooner have ye thar nor any other."

"Poh! what a spoon you are!" said Miss Butterworth, tossing her head.

"Then there's timber enough in me fur the puttiest kind of a buckle."

"But you're a blockhead--a great, good blockhead. That's just what you
are," said Miss Butterworth, laughing in spite of herself.

"Well, ye can whittle any sort of a head out of a block," said Jim
imperturbably.

"Let's have done with joking," said the tailoress solemnly.

"I hain't been jokin'," said Jim. "I'm in 'arnest. I been thinkin' o' ye
ever sence the town-meetin'. I been kinder livin' on yer looks. I've
dreamt about ye nights; an' when I've be'n helpin' Benedict, I took some
o' my pay, thinkin' I was pleasin' ye. I couldn't help hopin'; an' now,
when I come to ye so, an' tell ye jest how the land lays, ye git
rampageous, or tell me I'm jokin'. 'Twon't be no joke if Jim Fenton goes
away from this house feelin' that the only woman he ever seen as he
thought was wuth a row o' pins feels herself better nor he is."

Miss Butterworth cast down her eyes, and trotted her knees nervously.
She felt that Jim was really in earnest--that he thoroughly respected
her, and that behind his rough exterior there was as true a man as she
had ever seen; but the life to which he would introduce her, the gossip
to which she would be subjected by any intimate connection with him, and
the uprooting of the active social life into which the routine of her
daily labor led her, would be a great hardship. Then there was another
consideration which weighed heavily with her. In her room were the
memorials of an early affection and the disappointment of a life.

"Mr. Fenton," she said, looking up--

"Jest call me Jim."

"Well, Jim--" and Miss Butterworth smiled through tearful eyes--"I must
tell you that I was once engaged to be married."

"Sho! You don't say!"

"Yes, and I had everything ready."

"Now, you don't tell me!"

"Yes, and the only man I ever loved died--died a week before the day we
had set."

"It must have purty near finished ye off."

"Yes, I should have been glad to die myself."

"Well, now, Miss Butterworth, if ye s'pose that Jim Fenton wouldn't
bring that man to life if he could, and go to your weddin' singin'
hallelujer, you must think he's meaner nor a rat. But ye know he's dead,
an' ye never can see him no more. He's a goner, an' ye're all alone, an'
here's a man as'll take care on ye fur him; an' it does seem to me that
if he was a reasonable man he'd feel obleeged for what I'm doin'."

Miss Butterworth could not help smiling at Jim's earnestness and
ingenuity, but his proposition was so sudden and strange, and she had so
long ago given up any thought of marrying, that it was impossible for
her to give him an answer then, unless she should give him the answer
which he deprecated.

"Jim," she said at last, "I believe you are a good man. I believe you
are honorable, and that you mean well toward me; but we have been
brought up very differently, and the life into which you wish to bring
me would be very strange to me. I doubt whether I could be happy in it."

Jim saw that it would not help him to press his suit further at that
time, and recognized the reasonableness of her hesitation. He knew he
was rough and unused to every sort of refinement, but he also knew that
he was truthful, and honorable, and faithful; and with trust in his own
motives and trust in Miss Butterworth's good sense and discretion, he
withheld any further exhibition of his wish to settle the affair on the
spot.

"Well, Miss Butterworth," he said, rising, "ye know yer own business,
but there'll be a house, an' a stoop, an' a bureau, an' a little ladder
for flowers, an' Mike Conlin will draw the lumber, an' Benedict'll put
it together, an' Jim Fenton'll be the busiest and happiest man in a
hundred mile."

As Jim rose, Miss Butterworth also stood up, and looked up into his
face. Jim regarded her with tender admiration.

"Do ye know I take to little things wonderful, if they're only alive?"
said he. "There's Benedict's little boy! I feel 'im fur hours arter I've
had 'im in my arms, jest because he's alive an' little. An' I don't
know--I--I vow, I guess I better go away. Can you git the clo'es made in
two days, so I can take 'em home with me? Can't ye put 'em out round?
I'll pay ye, ye know."

Miss Butterworth thought she could, and on that promise Jim remained in
Sevenoaks.

How he got out of the house he did not remember, but he went away very
much exalted. What he did during those two days it did not matter to
him, so long as he could walk over to Miss Butterworth's each night, and
watch her light from his cover in the trees.

Before the tailoress closed her eyes in sleep that night her brisk and
ready shears had cut the cloth for the two suits at a venture, and in
the morning the work was parceled among her benevolent friends, as a
work of charity whose objects were not to be mentioned.

When Jim called for the clothes, they were done, and there was no money
to be paid for the labor. The statement of the fact embarrassed Jim more
than anything that had occurred in his interviews with the tailoress.

"I sh'll pay ye some time, even if so be that nothin' happens," said he;
"an' if so be that somethin' does happen, it'll be squar' any way. I
don't want no man that I do fur to be beholden to workin' women for
their clo'es."

Jim took the big bundle under his left arm, and, extending his right
hand, he took Miss Butterworth's, and said: "Good-bye, little woman; I
sh'll see ye agin, an' here's hopin'. Don't hurt yerself, and think as
well of me as ye can. I hate to go away an' leave every thing loose
like, but I s'pose I must. Yes, I don't like to go away so"--and Jim
shook his head tenderly--"an' arter I go ye mustn't kick a stone on the
road or scare a bird in the trees, for fear it'll be the heart that Jim
Fenton leaves behind him."

Jim departed, and Miss Butterworth went up to her room, her eyes moist
with the effect of the unconscious poetry of his closing utterance.

It was still early in the evening when Jim reached the hotel, and he had
hardly mounted the steps when the stage drove up, and Mr. Balfour,
encumbered with a gun, all sorts of fishing-tackle and a lad of twelve
years, leaped out. He was on his annual vacation; and with all the
hilarity and heartiness of a boy let loose from school greeted Jim,
whose irresistibly broad smile was full of welcome.

It was quickly arranged that Jim and Mike should go on that night with
their load of stores; that Mr. Balfour and his boy should follow in the
morning with a team to be hired for the occasion, and that Jim, reaching
home first, should return and meet his guests with his boat at the
landing.




CHAPTER VIII.

IN WHICH MR. BELCHER VISITS NEW YORK, AND BECOMES THE PROPRIETOR OF
"PALGRAVE'S FOLLY."


The shadow of a mystery hung over Sevenoaks for many months. Handbills
advertising the fugitives were posted in all directions throughout the
country, but nothing came of them but rumors. The newspapers, far and
near, told the story, but it resulted in nothing save such an airing of
the Sevenoaks poor-house, and the county establishment connected with
the same, that Tom Buffum, who had lived for several years on the
border-land of apoplexy, passed suddenly over, and went so far that he
never returned to meet the official inquiry into his administration. The
Augean stables were cleansed by the Hercules of public opinion; and with
the satisfied conscience and restored self-complacency procured by this
act, the people at last settled down upon the conviction that Benedict
and his boy had shared the fate of old Tilden--that they had lost
themselves in the distant forest, and met their death alike beyond help
and discovery.

Mr. Belcher found himself without influence in the adjustment of the new
administration. Sevenoaks turned the cold shoulder to him. Nobody went
to him with the reports that connected him with the flight and fate of
the crazed inventor, yet he knew, through instincts which men of his
nature often possess in a remarkable degree, that he was deeply blamed
for the causes of Benedict's misfortunes. It has already been hinted
that at first he was suspected of knowing guiltily more about the
disappearance of the fugitives than he would be willing to tell, but
there were only a few minds in which the suspicion was long permitted to
linger. When the first excitement passed away and men began to think,
it was impossible for them to imagine motives sufficiently powerful to
induce the rich proprietor to pursue a lunatic pauper to his death.

Mr. Belcher never had encouraged the neighborly approaches which, in an
emergency like this, might have given him comfort and companionship.
Recognizing no equals in Sevenoaks--measuring his own social position by
the depth of his purse and the reach of his power--he had been in the
habit of dispensing his society as largess to the humble villagers. To
recognize a man upon the street, and speak to him in a familiar way, was
to him like the opening of his purse and throwing the surprise of a
dollar into a beggar's hat. His courtesies were charities; his
politeness was a boon; he tossed his jokes into a crowd of dirty
employes as he would toss a handful of silver coin. Up to this time he
had been sufficient unto himself. By money, by petty revenges, by
personal assumption, he had managed to retain his throne for a long
decade; and when he found his power partly ignored and partly defied,
and learned that his personal courtesies were not accepted at their old
value, he not only began to feel lonesome, but he grew angry. He held
hot discussions with his image in the mirror night after night, in his
lonely library, where a certain measure which had once seemed a distant
possibility took shape more and more as a purpose. In some way he would
revenge himself upon the people of the town. Even at a personal
sacrifice, he would pay them off for their slight upon him; and he knew
there was no way in which he could so effectually do this as by leaving
them. He had dreamed many times, as he rapidly accumulated his wealth,
of arriving at a point where he could treat his splendid home as a
summer resort, and take up his residence in the great city among those
of his own kind. He had an uneasy desire for the splendors of city life,
yet his interests had always held him to Sevenoaks, and he had contented
himself there simply because he had his own way, and was accounted "the
principal citizen." His village splendors were without competition. His
will was law. His self-complacency, fed and flourishing in his country
home, had taken the place of society; but this had ceased to be
all-sufficient, even before the change occurred in the atmosphere around
him.

It was six months after the reader's first introduction to him that,
showily dressed as he always was, he took his place before his mirror
for a conversation with the striking-looking person whom he saw
reflected there.

"Robert Belcher, Esquire," said he, "are you played out? Who says played
out? Did you address that question to me, sir? Am I the subject of that
insulting remark? Do you dare to beard the lion in his den? Withdraw the
dagger that you have aimed at my breast, or I will not hold myself
responsible for the consequences. Played out, with a million dollars in
your pocket? Played out, with wealth pouring in in mighty waves? Whose
name is Norval still? Whose are these Grampian Hills? In yonder silent
heavens the stars still shine, printing on boundless space the words of
golden promise. Will you leave Sevenoaks? Will you go to yonder
metropolis, and there reap, in honor and pleasure, the rewards of your
enterprise? Will you leave Sevenoaks howling in pain? Will you leave
these scurvy ministers to whine for their salaries and whine to empty
air? Ye fresh fields and pastures new, I yield, I go, I reside! I spurn
the dust of Sevenoaks from my feet. I hail the glories of the distant
mart. I make my bow to you, sir. You ask my pardon? It is well! Go!"

The next morning, after a long examination of his affairs, in conference
with his confidential agent, and the announcement to Mrs. Belcher that
he was about to start for New York on business, Phipps took him and his
trunk on a drive of twenty miles, to the northern terminus of a railroad
line which, with his connections, would bear him to the city of his
hopes.

It is astonishing how much room a richly dressed snob can occupy in a
railway car without receiving a request to occupy less, or endangering
the welfare of his arrogant eyes. Mr. Belcher occupied always two seats,
and usually four. It was pitiful to see feeble women look at his
abounding supply, then look at him, and then pass on. It was pitiful to
see humbly dressed men do the same. It was pitiful to see gentlemen put
themselves to inconvenience rather than dispute with him his right to
all the space he could cover with his luggage and his feet. Mr. Belcher
watched all these exhibitions with supreme satisfaction. They were a
tribute to his commanding personal appearance. Even the conductors
recognized the manner of man with whom they had to deal, and shunned
him. He not only got the worth of his money in his ride, but the worth
of the money of several other people.

Arriving at New York, he went directly to the Astor, then the leading
hotel of the city. The clerk not only knew the kind of man who stood
before him recording his name, but he knew him; and while he assigned to
his betters, men and women, rooms at the top of the house, Mr. Belcher
secured, without difficulty, a parlor and bedroom on the second floor.
The arrogant snob was not only at a premium on the railway train, but at
the hotel. When he swaggered into the dining-room, the head waiter took
his measure instinctively, and placed him as a figure-head at the top of
the hall, where he easily won to himself the most careful and obsequious
service, the choicest viands, and a large degree of quiet observation
from the curious guests. In the office, waiters ran for him, hackmen
took off their hats to him, his cards were delivered with great
promptitude, and even the courtly principal deigned to inquire whether
he found everything to his mind. In short, Mr. Belcher seemed to find
that his name was as distinctly "Norval" in New York as in Sevenoaks,
and that his "Grampian Hills" were movable eminences that stood around
and smiled upon him wherever he went.

Retiring to his room to enjoy in quiet his morning cigar and to look
over the papers, his eye was attracted, among the "personals," to an
item which read as follows:

"Col. Robert Belcher, the rich and well-known manufacturer of Sevenoaks,
and the maker of the celebrated Belcher rifle, has arrived in town, and
occupies a suite of apartments at the Astor."

His title, he was aware, had been manufactured, in order to give the
highest significance to the item, by the enterprising reporter, but it
pleased him. The reporter, associating his name with fire-arms, had
chosen a military title, in accordance with the custom which makes
"commodores" of enterprising landsmen who build and manage lines of
marine transportation and travel, and "bosses" of men who control
election gangs, employed to dig the dirty channels to political success.

He read it again and again, and smoked, and walked to his glass, and
coddled himself with complacent fancies. He felt that all doors opened
themselves widely to the man who had money, and the skill to carry it in
his own magnificent way. In the midst of pleasant thoughts, there came a
rap at the door, and he received from the waiter's little salver the
card of his factor, "Mr. Benjamin Talbot." Mr. Talbot had read the
"personal" which had so attracted and delighted himself, and had made
haste to pay his respects to the principal from whose productions he was
coining a fortune.

Mr. Talbot was the man of all others whom Mr. Belcher desired to see;
so, with a glance at the card, he told the waiter promptly to show the
gentleman up.

No man in the world understood Mr. Belcher better than the quick-witted
and obsequious factor. He had been in the habit, during the ten years in
which he had handled Mr. Belcher's goods, of devoting his whole time to
the proprietor while that person was on his stated visits to the city.
He took him to his club to dine; he introduced him to congenial spirits;
he went to the theater with him; he went with him to grosser resorts,
which do not need to be named in these pages; he drove with him to the
races; he took him to lunch at suburban hotels, frequented by fast men
who drove fast horses; he ministered to every coarse taste and vulgar
desire possessed by the man whose nature and graceless caprices he so
carefully studied. He did all this at his own expense, and at the same
time he kept his principal out of the clutches of gamblers and sharpers.
It was for his interest to be of actual use to the man whose desires he
aimed to gratify, and so to guard and shadow him that no deep harm would
come to him. It was for his interest to keep Mr. Belcher to himself,
while he gave him the gratifications that a coarse man living in the
country so naturally seeks among the opportunities and excitements of
the city.

There was one thing, however, that Mr. Talbot had never done. He had
never taken Mr. Belcher to his home. Mrs. Talbot did not wish to see
him, and Mr. Talbot did not wish to have her see him. He knew that Mr.
Belcher, after his business was completed, wanted something besides a
quiet dinner with women and children. His leanings were not toward
virtue, but toward safe and half-reputable vice; and exactly what he
wanted consistent with his safety as a business man, Mr. Talbot wished
to give him. To nurse his good-will, to make himself useful, and, as far
as possible, essential to the proprietor, and to keep him sound and make
him last, was Mr. Talbot's study and his most determined ambition.

Mr. Belcher was seated in a huge arm chair, with his back to the door
and his feet in another chair, when the second rap came, and Mr. Talbot,
with a radiant smile, entered.

"Well, Toll, my boy," said the proprietor, keeping his seat without
turning, and extending his left hand. "How are you? Glad to see you.
Come round to pay your respects to the Colonel, eh? How's business, and
how's your folks?"

Mr. Talbot was accustomed to this style of greeting from his principal,
and, responding heartily to it and the inquiries accompanying it, he
took a seat. With hat and cane in hand he sat on his little chair,
showing his handsome teeth, twirling his light mustache, and looking at
the proprietor with his keen gray eyes, his whole attitude and
physiognomy expressing the words as plainly as if he had spoken them:
"I'm your man; now, what are you up to?"

"Toll," said Mr. Belcher deliberately, "I'm going to surprise you."

"You usually do," responded the factor, laughing.

"I vow, I guess that's true! You fellows, without any blood, are apt to
get waked up when the old boys come in from the country. Toll, lock the
door."

Mr. Talbot locked the door and resumed his seat.

"Sevenoaks be hanged!" said Mr. Belcher.

"Certainly."

"It's a one-horse town."

"Certainly. Still, I have been under the impression that you owned the
horse."

"Yes, I know, but the horse is played out."

"Hasn't he been a pretty good horse, and earned you all he cost you?"

"Well, I'm tired with living where there is so much infernal babble, and
meddling with other people's business. If I sneeze, the people think
there's been an earthquake; and when I whistle, they call it a
hurricane."

"But you're the king of the roost," said Talbot.

"Yes; but a man gets tired being king of the roost, and longs for some
rooster to fight."

Mr. Talbot saw the point toward which Mr. Belcher was drifting, and
prepared himself for it. He had measured his chances for losing his
business, and when, at last, his principal came out with the frank
statement, that he had made up his mind to come to New York to live, he
was all ready with his overjoyed "No!" and with his smooth little hand
to bestow upon Mr. Belcher's heavy fist the expression of his gladness
and his congratulations.

"Good thing, isn't it, Toll?"

"Excellent!"

"And you'll stand by me, Toll?"

"Of course I will; but we can't do just the old things, you know. We
must be highly respectable citizens, and keep ourselves straight."

"Don't you undertake to teach your grandmother how to suck eggs,"
responded the proprietor with a huge laugh, in which the factor joined.
Then he added, thoughtfully: "I haven't said a word to the woman about
it, and she may make a fuss, but she knows me pretty well; and there'll
be the biggest kind of a row in the town; but the fact is, Toll, I'm at
the end of my rope there. I'm making money hand over hand, and I've
nothing to show for it. I've spent about everything I can up there, and
nobody sees it. I might just as well be buried; and if a fellow can't
show what he gets, what's the use of having it? I haven't but one life
to live, and I'm going to spread, and I'm going to do it right here in
New York; and if I don't make some of your nabobs open their eyes, my
name isn't Robert Belcher."

Mr. Belcher had exposed motives in this little speech that he had not
even alluded to in his addresses to his image in the mirror. Talbot saw
that something had gone wrong in the town, that he was playing off a bit
of revenge, and, above all, that the vulgar desire for display was more
prominent among Mr. Belcher's motives for removal than that person
suspected.

"I have a few affairs to attend to," said Mr. Talbot, rising, "but after
twelve o'clock I will be at your service while you remain in the city.
We shall have no difficulty in finding a house to suit you, I am sure,
and you can get everything done in the matter of furniture at the
shortest notice. I will hunt houses with you for a week, if you wish."

"Well, by-by, Toll," said Mr. Belcher, giving him his left hand again.
"I'll be 'round at twelve."

Mr. Talbot went out, but instead of going to his office, went straight
home, and surprised Mrs. Talbot by his sudden reappearance.

"What on earth!"--said she, looking up from a bit of embroidery on
which she was dawdling away her morning.

"Kate, who do you suppose is coming to New York to live?"

"The Great Mogul."

"Yes, the Great Mogul--otherwise, Colonel Robert Belcher."

"Heaven help us!" exclaimed the lady.

"Well, and what's to be done?"

"Oh, my! my! my! my!" exclaimed Mrs. Talbot, her possessive pronoun
stumbling and fainting away without reaching its object. "_Must_ we have
that bear in the house? Does it pay?"

"Yes, Kate, it pays," said Mr. Talbot.

"Well, I suppose that settles it."

The factor and his wife were very quick to comprehend the truth that a
principal out of town, and away from his wife and family, was a very
different person to deal with from one in the town and in the occupation
of a grand establishment, with his dependents. They saw that they must
make themselves essential to him in the establishment of his social
position, and that they must introduce him and his wife to their
friends. Moreover, they had heard good reports of Mrs. Belcher, and had
the impression that she would be either an inoffensive or a valuable
acquisition to their circle of friends.

There was nothing to do, therefore, but to make a dinner-party in Mr.
Belcher's honor. The guests were carefully selected, and Mrs. Talbot
laid aside her embroidery and wrote her invitations, while Mr. Talbot
made his next errand at the office of the leading real estate broker,
with whom he concluded a private arrangement to share in the commission
of any sale that might be made to the customer whom he proposed to bring
to him in the course of the day. Half an-hour before twelve, he was in
his own office, and in the thirty minutes that lay between his arrival
and the visit of the proprietor, he had arranged his affairs for any
absence that would be necessary.

When Mr. Belcher came in, looking from side to side, with the air of a
man who owned all he saw, even the clerks, who respectfully bowed to him
as he passed, he found Mr. Talbot waiting; also, a bunch of the
costliest cigars.

"I remembered your weakness, you see," said Talbot.

"Toll, you're a jewel," said Mr. Belcher, drawing out one of the
fragrant rolls and lighting it.

"Now, before we go a step," said Talbot, "you must agree to come to my
house to-morrow night to dinner, and meet some of my friends. When you
come to New York, you'll want to know somebody."

"Toll, I tell you you're a jewel."

"And you'll come?"

"Well, you know I'm not rigged exactly for that sort of thing, and,
faith, I'm not up to it, but I suppose all a man has to do is to put on
a stiff upper lip, and take it as it comes."

"I'll risk you anywhere."

"All right! I'll be there."

"Six o'clock, sharp;--and now let's go and find a broker. I know the
best one in the city, and I'll show you the inside of more fine houses
before night than you have ever seen."

Talbot took the proprietor's arm and led him to a carriage in waiting.
Then he took him to Pine street, and introduced him, in the most
deferential manner, to the broker who held half of New York at his
disposal, and knew the city as he knew his alphabet.

The broker took the pair of house-hunters to a private room, and
unfolded a map of the city before them. On this he traced, with a
well-kept finger-nail, a series of lines,--like those fanciful
isothermal definitions that embrace the regions of perennial summer on
the range of the Northern Pacific Railroad,--within which social
respectability made its home. Within certain avenues and certain
streets, he explained that it was a respectable thing to live. Outside
of these arbitrary boundaries, nobody who made any pretense to
respectability should buy a house. The remainder of the city, was for
the vulgar--craftsmen, petty shopkeepers, salaried men, and the
shabby-genteel. He insisted that a wealthy man, making an entrance upon
New York life, should be careful to locate himself somewhere upon the
charmed territory which he defined. He felt in duty bound to say this to
Mr. Belcher, as he was a stranger; and Mr. Belcher was, of course,
grateful for the information.

Then he armed Mr. Talbot, as Mr. Belcher's city friend and helper, with
a bundle of permits, with which they set off upon their quest.

They visited a dozen houses in the course of the afternoon, carefully
chosen in their succession by Mr. Talbot, who was as sure of Mr.
Belcher's tastes as he was of his own. One street was too quiet, one was
too dark; one house was too small, and one was too tame; one house had
no stable, another had too small a stable. At last, they came out upon
Fifth avenue, and drove up to a double front, with a stable almost as
ample and as richly appointed as the house itself. It had been built,
and occupied for a year or two, by an exploded millionaire, and was an
elephant upon the hands of his creditors. Robert Belcher was happy at
once. The marvelous mirrors, the plate glass, the gilded cornices, the
grand staircase, the glittering chandeliers, the evidences of lavish
expenditure in every fixture, and in all the finish, excited him like
wine.

"Now you talk!" said he to the smiling factor; and as he went to the
window, and saw the life of the street, rolling by in costly carriages,
or sweeping the sidewalks with shining silks and mellow velvets, he felt
that he was at home. Here he could see and be seen. Here his splendors
could be advertised. Here he could find an expression for his wealth, by
the side of which his establishment at Sevenoaks seemed too mean to be
thought of without humiliation and disgust. Here was a house that
gratified his sensuous nature through and through, and appealed
irresistibly to his egregious vanity. He did not know that the grand and
gaudy establishment bore the name of "Palgrave's Folly," and, probably,
it would have made no difference with him if he had. It suited him, and
would, in his hands, become Belcher's Glory.

The sum demanded for the place, though very large, did not cover its
original cost, and in this fact Mr. Belcher took great comfort. To enjoy
fifty thousand dollars, which somebody else had made, was a charming
consideration with him, and one that did much to reconcile him to an
expenditure far beyond his original purpose.

When he had finished his examination of the house, he returned to his
hotel, as business hours were past, and he could make no further headway
that day in his negotiations. The more he thought of the house, the more
uneasy he became. Somebody might have seen him looking at it, and so
reached the broker first, and snatched it from his grasp. He did not
know that it had been in the market for two years, waiting for just such
a man as himself.

Talbot was fully aware of the state of Mr. Belcher's mind, and knew that
if he did not reach him early the next morning, the proprietor would
arrive at the broker's before him. Accordingly, when Mr. Belcher
finished his breakfast that morning, he found his factor waiting for
him, with the information that the broker would not be in his office for
an hour and a-half, and that there was time to look further, if further
search were desirable. He hoped that Mr. Belcher would not be in a
hurry, or take any step that he would ultimately regret. Mr. Belcher
assured him that he knew what he wanted when he saw it, and had no fears
about the matter, except that somebody might anticipate him.

"You have determined, then, to buy the house at the price?" said Talbot.

"Yes; I shall just shut my eyes and swallow the whole thing."

"Would you like to get it cheaper?"

"Of course!"

"Then, perhaps you had better leave the talking to me," said Talbot.
"These fellows all have a price that they ask, and a smaller one that
they will take."

"That's one of the tricks, eh?"

"Yes."

"Then go ahead."

They had a long talk about business, and then Talbot went out, and,
after an extended interview with the broker, sent a messenger for Mr.
Belcher. When that gentleman came in, he found that Talbot had bought
the house for ten thousand dollars less than the price originally
demanded. Mr. Belcher deposited a handsome sum as a guaranty of his good
faith, and ordered the papers to be made out at once.

After their return to the hotel, Mr. Talbot sat down to a table, and
went through a long calculation.

"It will cost you, Mr. Belcher," said the factor, deliberately, "at
least twenty-five thousand dollars to furnish that house
satisfactorily."

Mr. Belcher gave a long whistle.

"At least twenty-five thousand dollars, and I doubt whether you get off
for less than thirty thousand."

"Well, I'm in for it, and I'm going through," said Mr. Belcher.

"Very well," responded Talbot, "now let's go to the best furnisher we
can find. I happen to know the man who is at the top of the style, and I
suppose the best thing--as you and I don't know much about the
matter--is to let him have his own way, and hold him responsible for the
results."

"All right," said Belcher; "show me the man."

They found the arbiter of style in his counting-room. Mr. Talbot
approached him first, and held a long private conversation with him. Mr.
Belcher, in his self-complacency, waited, fancying that Talbot was
representing his own importance and the desirableness of so rare a
customer, and endeavoring to secure reasonable prices on a large bill.
In reality, he was arranging to get a commission out of the job for
himself.

If it be objected to Mr. Talbot's mode of giving assistance to his
country friends, that it savored of mercenariness, amounting to
villainy, it is to be said, on his behalf, that he was simply practicing
the morals that Mr. Belcher had taught him. Mr. Belcher had not failed
to debauch or debase the moral standard of every man over whom he had
any direct influence. If Talbot had practiced his little game upon any
other man, Mr. Belcher would have patted his shoulder and told him he
was a "jewel." So much of Mr. Belcher's wealth had been won by sharp and
more than doubtful practices, that that wealth itself stood before the
world as a premium on rascality, and thus became, far and wide, a
demoralizing influence upon the feverishly ambitious and the young.
Besides, Mr. Talbot quieted what little conscience he had in the matter
by the consideration that his commissions were drawn, not from Mr.
Belcher, but from the profits which others would make out of him, and
the further consideration that it was no more than right for him to get
the money back that he had spent, and was spending, for his principal's
benefit.

Mr. Belcher was introduced, and the arbiter of style conversed learnedly
of Tuscan, Pompeiian, Elizabethan, Louis Quatorze, buhl, _marqueterie_,
&.c., &c., till the head of the proprietor, to whom all these words were
strangers, and all his talk Greek, was thrown into a hopeless muddle.

Mr. Belcher listened to him as long as he could do so with patience, and
then brought him to a conclusion by a slap upon his knee.

"Come, now!" said he, "you understand your business, and I understand
mine. If you were to take up guns and gutta-percha, I could probably
talk your head off, but I don't know anything about these things. What I
want is something right. Do the whole thing up brown. Do you understand
that?"

The arbiter of style smiled pityingly, and admitted that he comprehended
his customer.

It was at last arranged that the latter should make a study of the
house, and furnish it according to his best ability, within a specified
sum of expenditure and a specified period of time; and then the
proprietor took his leave.

Mr. Belcher had accomplished a large amount of business within two days,
but he had worked according to his habit. The dinner party remained, and
this was the most difficult business that he had ever undertaken, yet he
had a strong desire to see how it was done. He learned quickly what he
undertook, and he had already "discounted," to use his own word, a
certain amount of mortification connected with the affair.




CHAPTER IX.

MRS. TALBOT GIVES HER LITTLE DINNER PARTY, AND MR. BELCHER MAKES AN
EXCEEDINGLY PLEASANT ACQUAINTANCE.


Mrs. Talbot had a very dear friend. She had been her dear friend ever
since the two had roomed together at boarding-school. Sometimes she had
questioned whether in reality Mrs. Helen Dillingham was her dear friend,
or whether the particular friendship was all on the other side; but Mrs.
Dillingham had somehow so manipulated the relation as always to appear
to be the favored party. When, therefore, the dinner was determined
upon, Mrs. Dillingham's card of invitation was the first one addressed.
She was a widow and alone. She complemented Mr. Belcher, who was also
alone.

Exactly the position Mrs. Dillingham occupied in society, it would be
hard to define. Everybody invited her, and yet everybody, without any
definite reason, considered her a little "off color." She was beautiful,
she was accomplished, she talked wonderfully well, she was _au fait_ in
art, literature, society. She was superficially religious, and she
formed the theater of the struggle of a black angel and a white one,
neither of whom ever won a complete victory, or held whatever advantage
he gained for any considerable length of time. Nothing could be finer
than Mrs. Dillingham in her fine moods; nothing coarser when the black
angel was enjoying one of his victories, and the white angel had sat
down to breathe. It was the impression given in these latter moments
that fixed upon her the suspicion that she was not quite what she ought
to be. The flowers bloomed where she walked, but there was dust on them.
The cup she handed to her friends was pure to the eye, but it had a
muddy taste. She was a whole woman in sympathy, power, beauty, and
sensibility, and yet one felt that somewhere within she harbored a
devil--a refined devil in its play, a gross one when it had the woman at
unresisting advantage.

Next came the Schoonmakers, an elderly gentleman and his wife, who dined
out a great deal, and lived on the ancient respectability of their
family. They talked much about "the old New Yorkers," and of the inroads
and devastations of the parvenu. They were thoroughly posted on old
family estates and mansions, the intermarriages of the Dutch
aristocracy, and the subject of heraldry. Mr. Schoonmaker made a hobby
of old Bibles, and Mrs. Schoonmaker of old lace. The two hobbies
combined gave a mingled air of erudition and gentility to the pair that
was quite impressive, while their unquestionably good descent was a
source of social capital to all of humbler origin who were fortunate
enough to draw them to their tables.

Next came the Tunbridges. Mr. Tunbridge was the president of a bank, and
Mrs. Tunbridge was the president of Mr. Tunbridge--a large, billowy
woman, who "brought him his money," according to the speech of the town.
Mr. Tunbridge had managed his trust with great skill, and was glad at
any time, and at any social sacrifice, to be brought into contact with
men who carried large deposit accounts.

Next in order were Mr. and Mrs. Cavendish. Mr. Cavendish was a lawyer--a
hook-nosed, hawk-eyed man, who knew a little more about everything than
anybody else did, and was celebrated in the city for successfully
managing the most intractable cases, and securing the most princely
fees. If a rich criminal were brought into straits before the law, he
always sent for Mr. Cavendish. If the unprincipled managers of a great
corporation wished to ascertain just how closely before the wind they
could sail without being swamped, they consulted Mr. Cavendish. He was
everywhere accounted a great lawyer by those who estimated acuteness to
be above astuteness, strategy better than an open and fair fight, and
success more to be desired than justice.

It would weary the reader to go through with a description of Mrs.
Talbot's dinner party in advance. They were such people as Mr. and Mrs.
Talbot naturally drew around them. The minister was invited, partly as a
matter of course, and partly to occupy Mr. Schoonmaker on the subject of
Bibles. The doctor was invited because Mrs. Talbot was fond of him, and
because he always took "such an interest in the family."

When Mr. Belcher arrived at Talbot's beautiful but quiet house, the
guests had all assembled, and, clothing their faces with that veneer of
smile which hungry people who are about to dine at another man's expense
feel compelled to wear in the presence of their host, they were chatting
over the news of the day.

It is probable that the great city was never the scene of a personal
introduction that gave more quiet amusement to an assemblage of guests
than that of the presentation of Mr. Belcher. That gentleman's first
impression as he entered the room was that Talbot had invited a company
of clergymen to meet him. His look of surprise as he took a survey of
the assembly was that of a knave who found himself for the first time in
good company; but as he looked from the gentlemen to the ladies, in
their gay costumes and display of costly jewelry, he concluded that they
could not be the wives of clergymen. The quiet self-possession of the
group, and the consciousness that he was not _en regle_ in the matter of
dress, oppressed him; but he was bold, and he knew that they knew that
he was worth a million of dollars.

The "stiff upper lip" was placed at its stiffest in the midst of his
florid expanse of face, as, standing still, in the center of the room,
he greeted one after another to whom he was presented, in a way
peculiarly his own.

He had never been in the habit of lifting his hat, in courtesy to man or
woman. Even the touching its brim with his fingers had degenerated into
a motion that began with a flourish toward it, and ended with a suave
extension of his palm toward the object of his obeisance. On this
occasion he quite forgot that he had left his hat in the hall, and so,
assuming that it still crowned his head, he went through with eight or
ten hand flourishes that changed the dignified and self-contained
assembly into a merry company of men and women, who would not have been
willing to tell Mr. Belcher what they were laughing at.

The last person to whom he was introduced was Mrs. Dillingham, the lady
who stood nearest to him--so near that the hand flourish seemed absurd
even to him, and half died in the impulse to make it. Mrs. Dillingham,
in her black and her magnificent diamonds, went down almost upon the
floor in the demonstration of her admiring and reverential courtesy, and
pronounced the name of Mr. Belcher with a musical distinctness of
enunciation that arrested and charmed the ears of all who heard it. It
seemed as if every letter were swimming in a vehicle compounded of
respect, veneration, and affection. The consonants flowed shining and
smooth like gold-fish through a globe of crystal illuminated by the sun.
The tone in which she spoke the name seemed to rob it of all vulgar
associations, and to inaugurate it as the key-note of a fine social
symphony.

Mr. Belcher was charmed, and placed by it at his ease. It wrought upon
him and upon the company the effect which she designed. She was
determined he should not only show at his best, but that he should be
conscious of the favor she had won for him.

Before dinner was announced, Mr. Talbot made a little speech to his
guests, ostensibly to give them the good news that Mr. Belcher had
purchased the mansion, built and formerly occupied by Mr. Palgrave, but
really to explain that he had caught him in town on business, and taken
him at the disadvantage of distance from his evening dress, though, of
course, he did not say it in such and so many words. The speech was
unnecessary. Mrs. Dillingham had told the whole story in her own
unapproachable way.

When dinner was announced Mr. Belcher was requested to lead Mrs. Talbot
to her seat, and was himself placed between his hostess and Mrs.
Dillingham. Mrs. Talbot was a stately, beautiful woman, and bore off her
elegant toilet like a queen. In her walk into the dining-room, her
shapely arm rested upon the proprietor's, and her brilliant eyes looked
into his with an expression that flattered to its utmost all the fool
there was in him. There was a little rivalry between the "dear friends;"
but the unrestricted widow was more than a match for the circumspect and
guarded wife, and Mr. Belcher was delighted to find himself seated side
by side with the former.

He had not talked five minutes with Mrs. Dillingham before he knew her.
The exquisite varnish that covered her person and her manners not only
revealed, but made beautiful, the gnarled and stained wood beneath.
Underneath the polish he saw the element that allied her with himself.
There was no subject upon which she could not lead or accompany him with
brilliant talk, yet he felt that there was a coarse under-current of
sympathy by which he could lead her, or she could lead him--where?

The courtly manners of the table, the orderly courses that came and went
as if the domestic administration were some automatic machine, and the
exquisite appointments of the board, all exercised a powerful moral
influence upon him; and though they did not wholly suppress him, they
toned him down, so that he really talked well. He had a fund of small
wit and drollery that was sufficient, at least, for a single dinner;
and, as it was quaint and fresh, the guests were not only amused, but
pleased. In the first place, much could be forgiven to the man who owned
Palgrave's Folly. No small consideration was due to one who, in a quiet
country town, had accumulated a million dollars. A person who had the
power to reward attention with grand dinners and splendid receptions was
certainly not a person to be treated lightly.

Mr. Tunbridge undertook to talk finance with him, but retired under the
laugh raised by Mr. Belcher's statement that he had been so busy making
money that he had had no time to consider questions of finance. Mr.
Schoonmaker and the minister were deep in Bibles, and on referring some
question to Mr. Belcher concerning "The Breeches Bible," received in
reply the statement that he had never arrived any nearer a Breeches
Bible than a pocket handkerchief with the Lord's Prayer on it. Mr.
Cavendish simply sat and criticised the rest. He had never seen anybody
yet who knew anything about finance. The Chamber of Commerce was a set
of old women, the Secretary of the Treasury was an ass, and the Chairman
of the Committee of Ways and Means was a person he should be unwilling
to take as an office-boy. As for him, he never could see the fun of old
Bibles. If he wanted a Bible he would get a new one.

Each man had his shot, until the conversation fell from the general to
the particular, and at last Mr. Belcher found himself engaged in the
most delightful conversation of his life with the facile woman at his
side. He could make no approach to her from any quarter without being
promptly met. She was quite as much at home, and quite as graceful, in
bandying badinage as in expatiating upon the loveliness of country life
and the ritual of her church.

Mr. Talbot did not urge wine upon his principal, for he saw that he was
excited and off his guard; and when, at length, the banquet came to its
conclusion, the proprietor declined to remain with the gentlemen and the
supplementary wine and cigars, but took coffee in the drawing-room with
the ladies. Mrs. Dillingham's eye was on Mrs. Talbot, and when she saw
her start toward them from her seat, she took Mr. Belcher's arm for a
tour among the artistic treasures of the house.

"My dear Kate," said Mrs. Dillingham, "give me the privilege of showing
Mr. Belcher some of your beautiful things."

"Oh, certainly," responded Mrs. Talbot, her face flushing, "and don't
forget yourself, my child, among the rest."

Mrs. Dillingham pressed Mr. Belcher's arm, an action which said: "Oh,
the jealous creature!"

They went from painting to painting, and sculpture to sculpture, and
then, over a cabinet of bric-a-brac, she quietly led the conversation to
Mr. Belcher's prospective occupation of the Palgrave mansion. She had
nothing in the world to do. She should be so happy to assist poor Mrs.
Belcher in the adjustment of her housekeeping. It would be a real
pleasure to her to arrange the furniture, and do anything to help that
quiet country lady in inaugurating the splendors of city life. She knew
all the caterers, all the confectioners, all the modistes, all the city
ways, and all the people worth knowing. She was willing to become, for
Mrs. Belcher's sake, city-directory, commissionaire, adviser, director,
everything. She would take it as a great kindness if she could be
permitted to make herself useful.

All this was honey to the proprietor. How Mrs. Dillingham would shine in
his splendid mansion! How she would illuminate his landau! How she would
save his quiet wife, not to say himself, from the _gaucheries_ of which
both would be guilty until the ways of the polite world could be
learned! How delightful it would be to have a sympathetic friend whose
intelligent and considerate advice would be always ready!

When the gentlemen returned to the drawing-room, and disturbed the
confidential _tete-a-tete_ of these new friends, Mrs. Dillingham
declared it was time to go, and Mr. Belcher insisted on seeing her home
in his own carriage.

The dinner party broke up with universal hand-shakings. Mr. Belcher was
congratulated on his magnificent purchase and prospects. They would all
be happy to make Mrs. Belcher's acquaintance, and she really must lose
no time in letting them know when she would be ready to receive
visitors.

Mr. Belcher saw Mrs. Dillingham home. He held her pretty hands at
parting, as if he were an affectionate older brother who was about to
sail on a voyage around the world. At last he hurriedly relinquished her
to the man-servant who had answered her summons, then ran down the steps
and drove to his hotel.

Mounting to his rooms, he lit every burner in his parlor, and then
surveyed himself in the mirror.

"Where did she find it, old boy? Eh? Where did she find it? Was it the
figure? Was it the face? Hang the swallow tails! Must you, sir, come to
such a humiliation? How are the mighty fallen! The lion of Sevenoaks in
the skin of an ass! But it must be. Ah! Mrs. Belcher--Mrs. Belcher--Mrs.
Belcher! You are good, but you are lumpy. You were pretty once, but you
are no Mrs. Dillingham. By the gods! Wouldn't she swim around my house
like a queen! Far in azure depths of space, I behold a star! Its light
shines for me. It doesn't? It must not? Who says that? Did you address
that remark to me, sir? By the way, how do you think you got along? Did
you make a fool of yourself, or did you make a fool of somebody? Honors
are easy. Let Robert Belcher alone! Is Toll making money a little too
fast? What do you think? Perhaps you will settle that question by and
by. You will keep him while you can use him. Then Toll, my boy, you can
drift. In the meantime, splendor! and in the meantime let Sevenoaks
howl, and learn to let Robert Belcher alone."

From these dizzy heights of elation Mr. Belcher descended to his bed and
his heavy dreams, and the next morning found him whirling away at the
rate of thirty miles an hour, but not northward. Whither was he going?




CHAPTER X.

WHICH TELLS HOW A LAWYER SPENT HIS VACATION IN CAMP, AND TOOK HOME A
SPECIMEN OF GAME THAT HE HAD NEVER BEFORE FOUND IN THE WOODS.


It was a bright moonlight night when Mike Conlin and Jim started off
from Sevenoaks for home, leaving Mr. Balfour and his boy to follow. The
old horse had a heavy load, and it was not until an hour past midnight
that Mike's house was reached. There Jim made the new clothes,
comprising a complete outfit for his boarders at Number Ten, into a
convenient package, and swinging it over his shoulders, started for his
distant cabin on foot. Mike, after resting himself and his horse, was to
follow in the morning with the tools and stores, so as to arrive at the
river at as early an hour as Mr. Balfour could complete the journey from
Sevenoaks, with his lighter load and swifter horses.

Jim Fenton, who had lain still for several days, and was full of his
schemes for Mr. Balfour and his proteges in camp, and warm with his
memories of Miss Butterworth, simply gloried in his moonlight tramp. The
accumulated vitality of his days of idleness was quite enough to make
all the fatigues before him light and pleasant. At nine o'clock the next
morning he stood by the side of his boat again. The great stillness of
the woods, responding in vivid color to the first kisses of the frost,
half intoxicated him. No world-wide wanderer, returning after many years
to the home of his childhood, could have felt more exulting gladness
than he, as he shoved his boat from the bank and pushed up the shining
stream in the face of the sun.

Benedict and Harry had not been idle during his absence. A deer had
been shot and dressed; trout had been caught and saved alive; a cave had
been dug for the preservation of vegetables; and when Jim shouted, far
down the stream, to announce his approach, there were three happy
persons on shore, waiting to welcome him--Turk being the third, and
apparently oblivious of the fact that he was not as much a human being
as any of the party. Turk added the "tiger" to Harry's three cheers, and
Jim was as glad as a boy when his boat touched the shore, and he
received the affectionate greetings of the party.

A choice meal was nearly in readiness for him, but not a mouthful would
he taste until he had unfolded his treasures, and displayed to the
astonished eyes of Mr. Benedict and the lad the comfortable clothing he
had brought for them.

"Take 'em to Number Ten and put 'em on," said Jim. "I'm a goin' to eat
with big folks to-day, if clo'es can make 'em. Them's yer stockin's and
them's yer boots, and them's yer indigoes and them's yer clo'es."

Jim's idea of the word "indigoes" was, that it drew its meaning partly
from the color of the articles designated, and partly from their office.
They were blue undergoes--in other words, blue flannel shirts.

Jim sat down and waited. He saw that, while Harry was hilarious over his
good fortune, Mr. Benedict was very silent and humble. It was twenty
minutes before Harry reappeared; and when he came bounding toward Jim,
even Turk did not know him. Jim embraced him, and could not help feeling
that he had acquired a certain amount of property in the lad.

When Mr. Benedict came forth from the little cabin, and found Jim
chaffing and petting his boy, he was much embarrassed. He could not
speak, but walked directly past the pair, and went out upon the bank of
the river, with his eyes averted.

Jim comprehended it all. Leaving Harry, he went up to his guest, and
placed his hand upon his shoulder. "Will ye furgive me, Mr. Benedict? I
didn't go fur to make it hard fur ye."

"Jim," said Mr. Benedict, struggling to retain his composure, "I can
never repay your overwhelming kindness, and the fact oppresses me."

"Well," said Jim, "I s'pose I don't make 'lowance enough fur the
difference in folks. Ye think ye oughter pay fur this sort o' thing, an'
I don't want no pay. I git comfort enough outen it, anyway."

Benedict turned, took and warmly pressed Jim's hand, and then they went
back to their dinner. After they had eaten, and Jim had sat down to his
pipe, he told his guests that they were to have visitors that night--a
man from the city and his little boy--and that they would spend a
fortnight with them. The news alarmed Mr. Benedict, for his nerves were
still weak, and it was a long time before he could be reconciled to the
thought of intrusion upon his solitude; but Jim reassured him by his
enthusiastic accounts of Mr. Balfour, and Harry was overjoyed with the
thought of having a companion in the strange lad.

"I thought I'd come home an' git ye ready," said Jim; "fur I knowed ye'd
feel bad to meet a gentleman in yer old poor-house fixin's. Burn 'em or
bury 'em as soon as I'm gone. I don't never want to see them things
agin."

Jim went off again down the river, and Mr. Benedict and Harry busied
themselves in cleaning the camp, and preparing Number Ten for the
reception of Mr. Balfour and his boy, having previously determined to
take up their abode with Jim for the winter. The latter had a hard
afternoon. He was tired with his night's tramp, and languid with loss of
sleep. When he arrived at the landing he found Mr. Balfour waiting. He
had passed Mike Conlin on the way, and even while they were talking the
Irishman came in sight. After half-an-hour of busy labor, the goods and
passengers were bestowed, Mike was paid for the transportation, and the
closing journeys of the day were begun.

When Jim had made half of the weary row up the river, he ran into a
little cove to rest and wipe the perspiration from his forehead. Then he
informed Mr. Balfour that he was not alone in the camp, and, in his own
inimitable way, having first enjoined the strictest secrecy, he told the
story of Mr. Benedict and his boy.

"Benedict will hunt and fish with ye better nor I can," said he, "an'
he's a better man nor I be any way; but I'm at yer sarvice, and ye shall
have the best time in the woods that I can give ye."

Then he enlarged upon the accomplishments of Benedict's boy.

"He favors yer boy a little," said Jim, eyeing the lad closely. "Dress
'em alike, and they wouldn't be a bad pair o' brothers."

Jim did not recognize the germs of change that existed in his accidental
remark, but he noticed that a shade of pain passed over the lawyer's
face.

"Where is the other little feller that ye used to brag over, Mr.
Balfour?" inquired Jim.

"He's gone, Jim; I lost him. He died a year ago."

Jim had no words with which to meet intelligence of this character, so
he did not try to utter any; but, after a minute of silence, he said:
"That's what floors me. Them dies that's got everything, and them lives
that's got nothin'--lives through thick and thin. It seems sort o'
strange to me that the Lord runs everything so kind o' car'less like,
when there ain't nobody to bring it to his mind."

Mr. Balfour made no response, and Jim resumed his oars. But for the
moon, it would have been quite dark when Number Nine was reached, but,
once there, the fatigues of the journey were forgotten. It was Thede
Balfour's first visit to the woods, and he was wild with excitement. Mr.
Benedict and Harry gave the strangers a cordial greeting. The night was
frosty and crisp, and Jim drew his boat out of the water, and permitted
his stores to remain in it through the night. A hearty supper prepared
them all for sleep, and Jim led his city friends to Number Ten, to enjoy
their camp by themselves. A camp-fire, recently lighted, awaited them,
and, with its flames illuminating the weird scenes around them, they
went to sleep.

The next day was Sunday. To the devoutly disposed, there is no silence
that seems so deeply hallowed as that which pervades the forest on that
holy day. No steamer plows the river; no screaming, rushing train
profanes the stillness; the beasts that prowl, and the birds that fly,
seem gentler than on other days; and the wilderness, with its pillars
and arches, and aisles, becomes a sanctuary. Prayers that no ears can
hear but those of the Eternal; psalms that win no responses except from
the echoes; worship that rises from hearts unencumbered by care, and
undistracted by pageantry and dress--all these are possible in the
woods; and the great Being to whom the temples of the world are reared
cannot have failed to find, in ten thousand instances, the purest
offerings in lonely camps and cabins.

They had a delightful and bountiful breakfast, and, at its close, they
divided themselves naturally into a double group. The two boys and Turk
went off by themselves to watch the living things around them, while the
men remained together by the camp-fire.

Mr. Balfour drew out a little pocket-Testament, and was soon absorbed in
reading. Jim watched him, as a hungry dog watches a man at his meal, and
at last, having grown more and more uneasy, he said:

"Give us some o' that, Mr. Balfour."

Mr. Balfour looked up and smiled, and then read to him the parable of
the talents.

"I don't know nothin' 'bout it," said Jim, at the conclusion, "but it
seems to me the man was a little rough on the feller with one talent.
'Twas a mighty small capital to start with, an' he didn't give 'im any
chance to try it over; but what bothers me the most is about the man's
trav'lin' into a fur country. They hadn't no chance to talk with 'im
about it, and git his notions. It stan's to reason that the feller with
one talent would think his master was stingy, and be riled over it."

"You must remember, Jim, that all he needed was to ask for wisdom in
order to receive it," said Mr. Benedict.

"No; the man that traveled into a fur country stan's for the Almighty,
and he'd got out o' the way. He'd jest gi'n these fellers his capital,
and quit, and left 'em to go it alone. They couldn't go arter 'im, and
he couldn't 'a' hearn a word they said. He did what he thought was all
right, and didn't want to be bothered. I never think about prayin' till
I git into a tight place. It stan's to reason that the Lord don't want
people comin' to him to do things that they can do theirselves. I
shouldn't pray for breath; I sh'd jest h'ist the winder. If I wanted a
bucket o' water, I sh'd go for it. If a man's got common sense, and a
pair o' hands, he hain't no business to be botherin' other folks till he
gits into what he can't git out of. When he's squeezed, then in course
he'll squeal. It seems to me that it makes a sort of a spooney of a man
to be always askin' for what he can git if he tries. If the feller that
only had one talent had brushed round, he could 'a' made a spec on it,
an' had somethin' to show fur it, but he jest hid it. I don't stan' up
for 'im. I think he was meaner nor pusly not to make the best on't, but
he didn't need to pray for sense, for the man didn't want 'im to use no
more nor his nateral stock, an' he knowed if he used that he'd be all
right."

"But we are told to pray, Jim," said Mr. Balfour, "and assured that it
is pleasant to the Lord to receive our petitions. We are even told to
pray for our daily bread."

"Well, it can't mean jest that, fur the feller that don't work for't
don't git it, an' he hadn't oughter git it. If he don't lift his hands,
but jest sets with his mouth open, he gits mostly flies. The old birds,
with a nest full o' howlin' young ones, might go on, I s'pose, pickin'
up grasshoppers till the cows come home, an' feedin' 'em, but they
don't. They jest poke 'em out o' the nest, an' larn 'em to fly an' pick
up their own livin'; an' that's what makes birds on 'em. They pray
mighty hard fur their daily bread, I tell ye, and the way the old birds
answer is jest to poke 'em out, and let 'em slide. I don't see many
prayin' folks, an' I don't see many folks any way; but I have a consait
that a feller can pray so much an' do so little, that he won't be
nobody. He'll jest grow weaker an' weaker all the time."

"I don't see," said Mr. Balfour, laughing, and turning to Mr. Benedict,
"but we've had the exposition of our Scripture."

The former had always delighted to hear Jim talk, and never lost an
opportunity to set him going; but he did not know that Jim's exposition
of the parable had a personal motive. Mr. Benedict knew that it had, and
was very serious over it. His nature was weak in many respects. His will
was weak; he had no combativeness; he had a wish to lean. He had been
baffled and buffeted in the world. He had gone down into the darkness,
praying all the way; and now that he had come out of it, and had so
little society; now that his young life was all behind him, and so few
earthly hopes beckoned him on, he turned with a heart morbidly religious
to what seemed to him the only source of comfort open to him. Jim had
watched him with pain. He had seen him, from day to day, spending his
hours alone, and felt that prayer formed almost the staple of his life.
He had seen him willing to work, but knew that his heart was not in it.
He was not willing to go back into the world, and assert his place among
men. The poverty, disease, and disgrace of his former life dwelt in his
memory, and he shrank from the conflicts and competitions which would be
necessary to enable him to work out better results for himself.

Jim thoroughly believed that Benedict was religiously diseased, and that
he never could become a man again until he had ceased to live so
exclusively in the spiritual world. He contrived all possible ways to
keep him employed. He put responsibility upon him. He stimulated him
with considerations of the welfare of Harry. He disturbed him in his
retirement. He contrived fatigues that would induce sound sleep. To use
his own language, he had tried to cure him of "loppin'," but with very
unsatisfactory results.

Benedict comprehended Jim's lesson, and it made an impression upon him;
but to break himself of his habit of thought and life was as difficult
as the breaking of morbid habits always is. He knew that he was a weak
man, and saw that he had never fully developed that which was manliest
within him. He saw plainly, too, that his prayers would not develop it,
and that nothing but a faithful, bold, manly use of his powers could
accomplish the result. He knew that he had a better brain, and a brain
better furnished, than that of Robert Belcher, yet he had known to his
sorrow, and well-nigh to his destruction, that Robert Belcher could wind
him around his finger. Prayer had never saved him from this, and nothing
could save him but a development of his own manhood. Was he too old for
hope? Could he break away from the delights of his weakness, and grow
into something stronger and better? Could he so change the attitude of
his soul that it should cease to be exigent and receptive, and become a
positive, self-poised, and active force? He sighed when these questions
came to him, but he felt that Jim had helped him in many practical ways,
and could help him still further.

A stranger, looking upon the group, would have found it a curious and
interesting study. Mr. Balfour was a tall, lithe man, with not a
redundant ounce of flesh on him. He was as straight as an arrow, bore on
his shoulders a fine head that gave evidence in its contour of equal
benevolence and force, and was a practical, fearless, straightforward,
true man. He enjoyed humor, and though he had a happy way of evoking it
from others, possessed or exhibited very little himself. Jim was better
than a theater to him. He spent so much of his time in the conflicts of
his profession, that in his vacations he simply opened heart and mind
to entertainment. A shrewd, frank, unsophisticated nature was a constant
feast to him, and though he was a keen sportsman, the woods would have
had few attractions without Jim.

Mr. Benedict regarded him with profound respect, as a man who possessed
the precise qualities which had been denied to himself--self-assertion,
combativeness, strong will, and "push." Even through Benedict's ample
beard, a good reader of the human face would have detected the weak
chin, while admiring the splendid brow, silken curls, and handsome eyes
above it. He was a thoroughly gentle man, and, curiously enough,
attracted the interest of Mr. Balfour in consequence of his gentleness.
The instinct of defense and protection to everything weak and dependent
was strong within the lawyer; and Benedict affected him like a woman. It
was easy for the two to become friends, and as Mr. Balfour grew familiar
with the real excellences of his new acquaintance, with his intelligence
in certain directions, and his wonderful mechanical ingenuity, he
conceived just as high a degree of respect for him as he could entertain
for one who was entirely unfurnished with those weapons with which the
battles of life are fought.

It was a great delight to Jim to see his two friends get along so well
together, particularly as he had pressing employment on his hands, in
preparing for the winter. So, after the first day, Benedict became Mr.
Balfour's guide during the fortnight which he passed in the woods.

The bright light of Monday morning was the signal for the beginning of
their sport, and Thede, who had never thrown a fly, was awake at the
first day-light; and before Jim had the breakfast of venison and cakes
ready, he had strung his tackle and leaned his rod against the cabin in
readiness for his enterprise. They had a day of satisfactory fishing,
and brought home half-a-hundred spotted beauties that would have
delighted the eyes of any angler in the world; and when their golden
flesh stood open and broiling before the fire, or hissed and sputtered
in the frying-pan, watched by the hungry and admiring eyes of the
fishermen, they were attractive enough to be the food of the gods. And
when, at last, the group gathered around the rude board, with appetites
that seemed measureless, and devoured the dainties prepared for them,
the pleasures of the day were crowned.

But all this was comparatively tame sport to Mr. Balfour. He had come
for larger game, and waited only for the nightfall to deepen into
darkness to start upon his hunt for deer. The moon had passed her full,
and would not rise until after the ordinary bed-time. The boys were
anxious to be witnesses of the sport, and it was finally concluded, that
for once, at least, they should be indulged in their desire.

The voice of a hound was never heard in the woods, and even the "still
hunting" practiced by the Indian was never resorted to until after the
streams were frozen.

Jim had been busy during the day in picking up pine knots, and digging
out old stumps whose roots were charged with pitch. These he had
collected and split up into small pieces, so that everything should be
in readiness for the "float." As soon as the supper was finished, he
brought a little iron "Jack," mounted upon a standard, and proceeded to
fix this upright in the bow of the boat. Behind this he placed a square
of sheet iron, so that a deer, dazzled by the light of the blazing pine,
would see nothing behind it, while the occupants of the boat could see
everything ahead without being blinded by the light, of which they could
see nothing. Then he fixed a knob of tallow upon the forward sight of
Mr. Balfour's gun, so that, projecting in front of the sheet iron
screen, it would be plainly visible and render necessary only the
raising of the breech to the point of half-hiding the tallow, in order
to procure as perfect a range as if it were broad daylight.

All these preparations were familiar to Mr. Balfour, and, loading his
heavy shot-gun with a powerful charge, he waited impatiently for the
darkness.

At nine o'clock, Jim said it was time to start, and, lighting his
torch, he took his seat in the stern of the boat, and bade Mr. Balfour
take his place in the bow, where a board, placed across the boat, made
him a comfortable seat. The boys, warmly wrapped, took their places
together in the middle of the boat, and, clasping one another's hands
and shivering with excitement, bade good-night to Mr. Benedict, who
pushed them from the shore.

The night was still, and Jim's powerful paddle urged the little craft up
the stream with a push so steady, strong, and noiseless, that its
passengers might well have imagined that the unseen river-spirits had it
in tow. The torch cast its long glare into the darkness on either bank,
and made shadows so weird and changeful that the boys imagined they saw
every form of wild beast and flight of strange bird with which pictures
had made them familiar. Owls hooted in the distance. A wild-cat screamed
like a frightened child. A partridge, waked from its perch by a flash of
the torch, whirred off into the woods.

At length, after paddling up the stream for a mile, they heard the
genuine crash of a startled animal. Jim stopped and listened. Then came
the spiteful stroke of a deer's forefeet upon the leaves, and a whistle
so sharp, strong and vital, that it thrilled every ear that heard it. It
was a question, a protest, a defiance all in one; but not a sign of the
animal could be seen. He was back in the cover, wary and watching, and
was not to be tempted nearer by the light.

Jim knew the buck, and knew that any delay on his account would be
useless.

"I knowed 'im when I hearn 'im whistle, an' he knowed me. He's been shot
at from this boat more nor twenty times. 'Not any pine-knots on my
plate,' says he. 'I seen 'em afore, an' you can pass.' I used to git
kind o' mad at 'im, an' promise to foller 'im, but he's so 'cute, I sort
o' like 'im. He 'muses me."

While Jim waited and talked in a low tone, the buck was evidently
examining the light and the craft, at his leisure and at a distance.
Then he gave another lusty whistle that was half snort, and bounded off
into the woods by leaps that struck every foot upon the ground at the
same instant, and soon passed beyond hearing.

"Well, the old feller's gone," said Jim, "an' now I know a patch o'
lily-pads up the river where I guess we can find a beast that hasn't had
a public edication."

The tension upon the nerves of the boys was relieved, and they whispered
between themselves about what they had seen, or thought they had seen.

All became still, as Jim turned his boat up the stream again. After
proceeding for ten or fifteen minutes in perfect silence, Jim whispered:

"Skin yer eyes, now, Mr. Balfour; we're comin' to a lick."

Jim steered his boat around a little bend, and in a moment it was
running in shallow water, among grass and rushes. The bottom of the
stream was plainly visible, and Mr. Balfour saw that they had left the
river, and were pushing up the debouchure of a sluggish little affluent.
They brushed along among the grass for twenty or thirty rods, when, at
the same instant, every eye detected a figure in the distance. Two
blazing, quiet, curious eyes were watching them. Jim had an instinct
which assured him that the deer was fascinated by the light, and so he
pushed toward him silently, then stopped, and held his boat perfectly
still. This was the signal for Mr. Balfour, and in an instant the woods
were startled by a discharge that deafened the silence.

There was a violent splash in the water, a scramble up the bank, a bound
or two toward the woods, a pitiful bleat, and then all was still.

"We've got 'im," said Jim. "He's took jest one buckshot through his
heart. Ye didn't touch his head nor his legs. He jest run till the blood
leaked out and he gi'n it up. Now, boys, you set here, and sing
hallelujer till we bring 'im in."

The nose of the little craft was run against the bank, and Mr. Balfour,
seizing the torch, sprang on shore, and Jim followed him into the woods.
They soon found track of the game by the blood that dabbled the bushes,
and stumbled upon the beautiful creature stone dead--fallen prone, with
his legs doubled under him. Jim swung him across his shoulders, and,
tottering behind Mr. Balfour, bore him back to the boat. Placing him in
the bottom, the two men resumed their seats, and Jim, after carefully
working himself out of the inlet into the river, settled down to a long,
swift stroke that bore them back to the camp just as the moon began to
show herself above the trees.

It was a night long to be remembered by the boys, a fitting inauguration
of the lawyer's vacation, and an introduction to woodcraft from which,
in after years, the neophytes won rare stores of refreshment and health.

Mr. Benedict received them with hearty congratulations, and the perfect
sleep of the night only sharpened their desire for further depredations
upon the game that lived around them, in the water and on the land.

As the days passed on, they caught trout until they were tired of the
sport; they floated for deer at night; they took weary tramps in all
directions, and at evening, around the camp-fires, rehearsed their
experiences.

During all this period, Mr. Balfour was watching Harry Benedict. The
contrast between the lad and his own son was as marked as that between
the lad's father and himself, but the positions were reversed. Harry
led, contrived, executed. He was positive, facile, amiable, and the boys
were as happy together as their parents were. Jim had noticed the
remarkable interest that Mr. Balfour took in the boy, and had begun to
suspect that he entertained intentions which would deprive the camp of
one of its chief sources of pleasure.

One day when the lawyer and his guide were quietly eating their lunch in
the forest, Mr. Balfour went to work, in his quiet, lawyer-like way, to
ascertain the details of Benedict's history; and he heard them all.
When he heard who had benefited by his guide's inventions, and learned
just how matters stood with regard to the Belcher rifle, he became, for
the first time since he had been in the woods, thoroughly excited. He
had a law-case before him as full of the elements of romance as any that
he had ever been engaged in. A defrauded inventor, living in the forest
in poverty, having escaped from the insane ward of an alms-house, and
the real owner of patent rights that were a mine of wealth to the man
who believed that death had blotted out all the evidences of his
villainy--this was quite enough to excite his professional interest,
even had he been unacquainted with the man defrauded. But the position
of this uncomplaining, dependent man, who could not fight his own
battles, made an irresistible appeal to his sense of justice and his
manhood.

The moment, however, that the lawyer proposed to assist in righting the
wrong, Mr. Benedict became dangerously excited. He could tell his story,
but the thought of going out into the world again, and, particularly of
engaging in a conflict with Robert Belcher, was one that he could not
entertain. He was happier in the woods than he had been for many years.
The life was gradually strengthening him. He hoped the time would come
when he could get something for his boy, but, for the present, he could
engage in no struggle for reclaiming and maintaining his rights. He
believed that an attempt to do it would again drive him to distraction,
and that, somehow, Mr. Belcher would get the advantage of him. His fear
of the great proprietor had become morbidly acute, and Mr. Balfour could
make no headway against it. It was prudent to let the matter drop for a
while.

Then Mr. Balfour opened his heart in regard to the boy. He told Benedict
of the loss with which he had already acquainted Jim, of the loneliness
of his remaining son, of the help that Harry could afford him, the need
in which the lad stood of careful education, and the accomplishments he
could win among better opportunities and higher society. He would take
the boy, and treat him, up to the time of his majority, as his own. If
Mr. Benedict could ever return the money expended for him, he could have
the privilege of doing so, but it would never be regarded as a debt.
Once every year the lawyer would bring the lad to the woods, so that he
should not forget his father, and if the time should ever come when it
seemed practicable to do so, a suit would be instituted that would give
him the rights so cruelly withheld from his natural protector.

The proposition was one which taxed to its utmost Mr. Benedict's power
of self-control. He loved his boy better than he loved himself. He hoped
that, in some way, life would be pleasanter and more successful to the
lad than it had been to him. He did not wish him to grow up illiterate
and in the woods; but how he was to live without him he could not tell.
The plucking out of an eye would have given him less pain than the
parting with his boy, though he felt from the first that the lad would
go.

Nothing could be determined without consulting Jim, and as the
conversation had destroyed the desire for further sport, they packed
their fishing-tackle and returned to camp.

"The boy was'n't got up for my 'commodation," said Jim, when the
proposition was placed before him. "I seen the thing comin' for a week,
an' I've brung my mind to't. We hain't got no right to keep 'im up here,
if he can do better. Turk ain't bad company fur them as likes dogs, but
he ain't improvin'. I took the boy away from Tom Buffum 'cause I could
do better by 'im nor he could, and when a man comes along that can do
better by 'im nor I can, he's welcome to wade in. I hain't no right to
spile a little feller's life 'cause I like his company. I don't think
much of a feller that would cheat a man out of a jews-harp 'cause he
liked to fool with it. Arter all, this sendin' the boy off is jest
turnin' 'im out to pastur' to grow, an' takin' 'im in in the fall. He
may git his head up so high t'we can't git the halter on 'im again, but
he'll be worth more to somebody that can, nor if we kep 'im in the
stable. I sh'll hate to say good-bye t' the little feller, but I sh'll
vote to have 'im go, unanimous."

Mr. Benedict was not a man who had will enough to withstand the rational
and personal considerations that were brought to bear upon him, and then
the two boys were brought into the consultation. Thede was overjoyed
with the prospect of having for a home companion the boy to whom he had
become so greatly attached, and poor Harry was torn by a conflict of
inclinations. To leave Jim and his father behind was a great sorrow; and
he was half angry with himself to think that he could find any pleasure
in the prospect of a removal. But the love of change, natural to a boy,
and the desire to see the wonders of the great city, with accounts of
which Thede had excited his imagination, overcame his inclination to
remain in the camp. The year of separation would be very short, he
thought, so that, after all, it was only a temporary matter. The moment
the project of going away took possession of him, his regrets died, and
the exit from the woods seemed to him like a journey into dreamland,
from which he should return in the morning.

How to get the lad through Sevenoaks, where he would be sure to be
recognised, and so reveal the hiding-place of his father, became at once
a puzzling question. Mr. Balfour had arranged with the man who brought
him into the woods to return in a fortnight and take him out, and as he
was a man who had known the Benedicts it would not be safe to trust to
his silence.

It was finally arranged that Jim should start off at once with Harry,
and engage Mike Conlin to go through Sevenoaks with him in the night,
and deliver him at the railroad at about the hour when the regular stage
would arrive with Mr. Balfour. The people of Sevenoaks were not
travelers, and it would be a rare chance that should bring one of them
through to that point. The preparations were therefore made at once, and
the next evening poor Benedict was called upon to part with his boy. It
was a bitter struggle, but it was accomplished, and, excited by the
strange life that was opening before him, the boy entered the boat with
Jim, and waved his adieus to the group that had gathered upon the bank
to see them off.

Poor Turk, who had apparently understood all that had passed in the
conversations of the previous day, and become fully aware of the
bereavement that he was about to suffer, stood upon the shore and howled
and whined as they receded into the distance. Then he went up to Thede,
and licked his hand, as if he would say; "Don't leave me as the other
boy has done; if you do, I shall be inconsolable."

Jim effected his purpose, and returned before light the next morning,
and on the following day he took Mr. Balfour and Thede down the river,
and delivered them to the man whom he found waiting for them. The
programme was carried out in all its details, and two days afterward the
two boys were sitting side by side in the railway-car that was hurrying
them toward the great city.




CHAPTER XI.

WHICH RECORDS MR. BELCHER'S CONNECTION WITH A GREAT SPECULATION AND
BRINGS TO A CLOSE HIS RESIDENCE IN SEVENOAKS.


Whither was he going? He had a little fortune in his pockets--more money
than prudent men are in the habit of carrying with them--and a scheme in
his mind. After the purchase of Palgrave's Folly, and the inauguration
of a scale of family expenditure far surpassing all his previous
experience, Mr. Belcher began to feel poor, and to realize the necessity
of extending his enterprise. To do him justice, he felt that he had
surpassed the proprieties of domestic life in taking so important a step
as that of changing his residence without consulting Mrs. Belcher. He
did not wish to meet her at once; so it was easy for him, when he left
New York, to take a wide diversion on his way home.

For several months the reports of the great oil discoveries of
Pennsylvania had been floating through the press. Stories of enormous
fortunes acquired in a single week, and even in a single day, were rife;
and they had excited his greed with a strange power. He had witnessed,
too, the effect of these stories upon the minds of the humble people of
Sevenoaks. They were uneasy in their poverty, and were in the habit of
reading with avidity all the accounts that emanated from the new center
of speculation. The monsters of the sea had long been chased into the
ice, and the whalers had returned with scantier fares year after year;
but here was light for the world. The solid ground itself was echoing
with the cry: "Here she blows!" and "There she blows!" and the long
harpoons went down to its vitals, and were fairly lifted out by the
pressure of the treasure that impatiently waited for deliverance.

Mr. Belcher had long desired to have a hand in this new business. To see
a great speculation pass by without yielding him any return was very
painful to him. During his brief stay in New York he had been approached
by speculators from the new field of promise; and had been able by his
quick wit and ready business instinct to ascertain just the way in which
money was made and was to be made. He dismissed them all, for he had the
means in his hands of starting nearer the sources of profit than
themselves, and to be not only one of the "bottom ring," but to be the
bottom man. No moderate profit and no legitimate income would satisfy
him. He would gather the investments of the multitude into his own
capacious pockets, or he would have nothing to do with the matter. He
would sweep the board, fairly or foully, or he would not play.

As he traveled along westward, he found that the company was made up of
men whose tickets took them to his own destination. Most of them were
quiet, with ears open to the few talkers who had already been there, and
were returning. Mr. Belcher listened to them, laughed at them, scoffed
at their schemes, and laid up carefully all that they said. Before he
arrived at Corry he had acquired a tolerable knowledge of the
oil-fields, and determined upon his scheme of operations.

As he drew nearer the great center of excitement, he came more into
contact with the masses who had gathered there, crazed with the spirit
of speculation. Men were around him whose clothes were shining with
bitumen. The air was loaded with the smell of petroleum. Derricks were
thrown up on every side; drills were at work piercing the earth;
villages were starting among stumps still fresh at the top, as if their
trees were cut but yesterday; rough men in high boots were ranging the
country; the depots were glutted with portable Steam-engines and all
sorts of mining machinery, and there was but one subject of
conversation. Some new well had begun to flow with hundreds of barrels
of petroleum _per diem_. Some new man had made a fortune. Farmers, who
had barely been able to get a living from their sterile acres, had
become millionaires. The whole region was alive with fortune-hunters,
from every quarter of the country. Millions of dollars were in the
pockets of men who were ready to purchase. Seedy, crazy, visionary
fellows were working as middle-men, to talk up schemes, and win their
bread, with as much more as they could lay their hands on. The very air
was charged with the contagion of speculation, and men seemed ready to
believe anything and do anything. It appeared, indeed, as if a man had
only to buy, to double his money in a day; and half the insane multitude
believed it.

Mr. Belcher kept himself quiet, and defended himself from the influences
around him by adopting and holding his scoffing mood. He believed
nothing. He was there simply to see what asses men could make of
themselves; but he kept his ears open. The wretched hotel at which he at
last found accommodations was thronged with fortune-seekers, among whom
he moved self-possessed and quite at home. On the second day his mood
began to tell on those around him. There were men there who knew about
him and his great wealth--men who had been impressed with his sagacity.
He studied them carefully, gave no one his confidence, and quietly laid
his plans. On the evening of the third day he returned to the hotel, and
announced that he had had the good fortune to purchase a piece of
property that he proposed to operate and improve on his own account.

Then he was approached with propositions for forming a company. He had
paid fifty thousand dollars for a farm--paid the money--and before
morning he had sold half of it for what he gave for the whole, and
formed a company with the nominal capital of half a million of dollars,
a moiety of the stock being his own at no cost to him whatever. The
arrangements were all made for the issue of stock and the commencement
of operations, and when, three days afterward, he started from
Titusville on his way home, he had in his satchel blank certificates of
stock, all signed by the officers of the Continental Petroleum Company,
to be limited in its issue to the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. He never expected to see the land again. He did not expect that
the enterprise would be of the slightest value to those who should
invest in it. He expected to do just what others were doing--to sell his
stock and pocket the proceeds, while investors pocketed their losses. It
was all an acute business operation with him; and he intended to take
advantage of the excitement of the time to "clean out" Sevenoaks and all
the region round about his country home, while his confreres operated in
their own localities. He chuckled over his plans as if he contemplated
some great, good deed that would be of incalculable benefit to his
neighbors. He suffered no qualm of conscience, no revolt of personal
honor, no spasm of sympathy or pity.

As soon as he set out upon his journey homeward he began to think of his
New York purchase. He had taken a bold step, and he wished that he had
said something to Mrs. Belcher about his plans, but he had been so much
in the habit of managing everything in his business without consulting
her, that it did not occur to him before he started from home that any
matter of his was not exclusively his own. He would just as soon have
thought of taking Phipps into his confidence, or of deferring to his
wishes in any project, as of extending those courtesies to his wife.
There was another consideration which weighed somewhat heavily upon his
mind. He was not entirely sure that he would not be ashamed of Mrs.
Belcher in the grand home which he had provided for himself. He
respected her, and had loved her in his poor, sensual fashion, some
changeful years in the past; he had regarded her as a good mother, and,
at least, as an inoffensive wife; but she was not Mrs. Dillingham. She
would not be at home in the society of which he had caught a glimpse,
or among the splendors to which he would be obliged to introduce her.
Even Talbot, the man who was getting rich upon the products of his
enterprise, had a more impressive wife than he. And thus, with much
reflection, this strange, easy-natured brute without a conscience,
wrought up his soul into self-pity. In some way he had been defrauded.
It never could have been intended that a man capable of winning so many
of his heart's desires as he had proved himself to be, should be tied to
a woman incapable of illuminating and honoring his position. If he only
had a wife of whose person he could be proud! If he only had a wife
whose queenly presence and manners would give significance to the
splendors of the Palgrave mansion!

There was no way left for him, however, but to make the best of his
circumstances, and put a brave face upon the matter. Accordingly, the
next morning after his arrival, he told, with such display of enthusiasm
as he could assume, the story of his purchase. The children were all
attention, and made no hesitation to express their delight with the
change that lay before them. Mrs. Belcher grew pale, choked over her
breakfast, and was obliged to leave the table. At the close of the meal,
Mr. Belcher followed her to her room, and found her with dry eyes and an
angry face.

"Robert, you have determined to kill me," she said, almost fiercely.

"Oh, no, Sarah; not quite so bad as that."

"How could you take a step which you knew would give me a life-long
pain? Have I not suffered enough? Is it not enough that I have ceased
practically to have a husband?--that I have given up all society, and
been driven in upon my children? Am I to have no will, no consideration,
no part or lot in my own life?"

"Put it through, Sarah; you have the floor, and I'm ready to take it all
now."

"And it is all for show," she went on, "and is disgusting. There is not
a soul in the city that your wealth can bring to me that will give me
society. I shall be a thousand times lonelier there than I have been
here; and you compel me to go where I must receive people whom I shall
despise, and who, for that reason, will dislike me. You propose to force
me into a life that is worse than emptiness. I am more nearly content
here than I can ever be anywhere else, and I shall never leave here
without a cruel sense of sacrifice."

"Good for you, Sarah!" said Mr. Belcher. "You're more of a trump than I
thought you were; and if it will do you any good to know that I think
I've been a little rough with you, I don't mind telling you so. But the
thing is done, and it can't be undone. You can have your own sort of
life there as you do here, and I can have mine. I suppose I could go
there and run the house alone; but it isn't exactly the thing for Mrs.
Belcher's husband to do. People might talk, you know, and they wouldn't
blame me."

"No; they would blame me, and I must go, whether I wish to go or not."

Mrs. Belcher had talked until she could weep, and brushing her eyes she
walked to the window. Mr. Belcher sat still, casting furtive glances at
her, and drumming with his fingers on his knees. When she could
sufficiently command herself, she returned, and said:

"Robert, I have tried to be a good wife to you. I helped you in your
first struggles, and then you were a comfort to me. But your wealth has
changed you, and you know that for ten years I have had no husband. I
have humored your caprices; I have been careful not to cross your will.
I have taken your generous provision, and made myself and my children
what you desired; but I am no more to you than a part of your
establishment. I do not feel that my position is an honorable one. I
wish to God that I had one hope that it would ever become so."

"Well, by-by, Sarah. You'll feel better about it."

Then Mr. Belcher stooped and kissed her forehead, and left her.

That little attention--that one shadow of recognition of the old
relations, that faint show of feeling--went straight to her starving
heart. And then, assuming blame for what seemed, at the moment of
reaction, her unreasonable selfishness, she determined to say no more,
and to take uncomplainingly whatever life her husband might provide for
her.

As for Mr. Belcher, he went off to his library and his cigar with a
wound in his heart. The interview with his wife, while it had excited in
him a certain amount of pity for her, had deepened his pity for himself.
She had ceased to be what she had once been to him; yet his experience
in the city had proved that there were still women in the world who
could excite in him the old passion, and move him to the old
gallantries. It was clearly a case of incipient "incompatibility." It
was "the mistake of a lifetime" just discovered, though she had borne
his children and held his respect for fifteen years. He still felt the
warmth of Mrs. Dillingham's hands within his own, the impression of her
confiding clasp upon his arm, and the magnetic influence of her splendid
presence. Reason as he would, he felt defrauded of his rights; and he
wondered whether any combination of circumstances would ever permit him
to achieve them. As this amounted to wondering whether Mrs. Belcher
would die, he strove to banish the question from his mind; but it
returned and returned again so pertinaciously that he was glad to order
his horses and ride to his factory.

Before night it became noised through the village that the great
proprietor had been to the oil regions. The fact was talked over among
the people in the shops, in the street, in social groups that gathered
at evening; and there was great curiosity to know what he had learned,
and what opinions he had formed. Mr. Belcher knew how to play his cards,
and having set the people talking, he filled out and sent to each of the
wives of the five pastors of the village, as a gift, a certificate of
five shares of the stock of the Continental Petroleum Company. Of
course, they were greatly delighted, and, of course, twenty-four hours
had not passed by when every man, woman and child in Sevenoaks was
acquainted with the transaction. People began to revise their judgments
of the man whom they had so severely condemned. After all, it was the
way in which he had done things in former days, and though they had come
to a vivid apprehension of the fact that he had done them for a purpose,
which invariably terminated in himself, they could not see what there
was to be gained by so munificent a gift. Was he not endeavoring, by
self-sacrifice, to win back a portion of the consideration he had
formerly enjoyed? Was it not a confession of wrong-doing, or wrong
judgment? There were men who shook their heads, and "didn't know about
it;" but the preponderance of feeling was on the side of the proprietor,
who sat in his library and imagined just what was in progress around
him,--nay, calculated upon it, as a chemist calculates the results of
certain combinations in his laboratory. He knew the people a great deal
better than they knew him, or even themselves.

Miss Butterworth called at the house of the Rev. Solomon Snow, who,
immediately upon her entrance, took his seat in his arm-chair, and
adjusted his bridge. The little woman was so combative and incisive that
this always seemed a necessary precaution on the part of that gentleman.

"I want to see it!" said Miss Butterworth, without the slightest
indication of the object of her curiosity.

Mrs. Snow rose without hesitation, and, going to a trunk In her bedroom,
brought out her precious certificate of stock, and placed it in the
hands of the tailoress.

It certainly was a certificate of stock, to the amount of five shares,
in the Continental Petroleum Company, and Mr. Belcher's name was not
among the signatures of the officers.

"Well, that beats me!" exclaimed Miss Butterworth. "What do you suppose
the old snake wants now?"

"That's just what I say--just what I say," responded Mrs. Snow.
Goodness knows, if it's worth anything, we need it; but what _does_ he
want?"

"You'll find out some time. Take my word for it, he has a large axe to
grind."

"I think," said Mr. Snow judicially, "that it is quite possible that we
have been unjust to Mr. Belcher. He is certainly a man of generous
instincts, but with great eccentricities. Before condemning him _in
toto_ (here Mr. Snow opened his bridge to let out the charity that was
rising within him, and closed it at once for fear Miss Butterworth would
get in a protest), let us be sure that there is a possible selfish
motive for this most unexpected munificence. When we ascertain the true
state of the case, then we can take things as they air. Until we have
arrived at the necessary knowledge, it becomes us to withhold all severe
judgments. A generous deed has its reflex influence; and it may be that
some good may come to Mr. Belcher from this, and help to mold his
character to nobler issues. I sincerely hope it may, and that we shall
realize dividends that will add permanently to our somewhat restricted
sources of income."

Miss Butterworth sat during the speech, and trotted her knee. She had no
faith in the paper, and she frankly said so.

"Don't be fooled," she said to Mrs. Snow. "By and by you will find out
that it is all a trick. Don't expect anything. I tell you I know Robert
Belcher, and I know he's a knave, if there ever was one. I can feel
him--I can feel him now--chuckling over this business, for business it
is."

"What would you do if you were in my place?" inquired Mrs. Snow. "Would
you send it back to him?"

"Yes, or I'd take it with a pair of tongs and throw it out of the
window. I tell you there's a nasty trick done up in that paper; and if
you're going to keep it, don't say anything about it."

The family laughed, and even Mr. Snow unbent himself so far as to smile
and wipe his spectacles. Then the little tailoress went away, wondering
when the mischief would reveal itself, but sure that it would appear in
good time. In good time--that is, in Mr. Belcher's good time--it did
appear.

To comprehend the excitement that followed, it must be remembered that
the people of Sevenoaks had the most implicit confidence in Mr.
Belcher's business sagacity. He had been upon the ground, and knew
personally all about the great discoveries. Having investigated for
himself, he had invested his funds in this Company. If the people could
only embark in his boat, they felt that they should be safe. He would
defend their interests while defending his own. So the field was all
ready for his reaping. Not Sevenoaks alone, but the whole country was
open to any scheme which connected them with the profits of these great
discoveries, and when the excitement at Sevenoaks passed away at last,
and men regained their senses, in the loss of their money, they had the
company of a multitude of ruined sympathizers throughout the length and
breadth of the land. Not only the simple and the impressible yielded to
the wave of speculation that swept the country, but the shrewdest
business men formed its crest, and were thrown high and dry beyond all
others, in the common wreck, when it reached the shore.

On the evening of the fourth day after his return, Mr. Belcher was
waited upon at his house by a self-constituted committee of citizens,
who merely called to inquire into the wonders of the region he had
explored. Mr. Belcher was quite at his ease, and entered at once upon a
narrative of his visit. He had supposed that the excitement was without
any good foundation, but the oil was really there; and he did not see
why the business was not as legitimate and sound as any in the world.
The whole world needed the oil, and this was the one locality which
produced it. There was undoubtedly more or less of wild speculation
connected with it, and, considering the value of the discoveries, it was
not to be wondered at. On the whole, it was the biggest thing that had
turned up during his lifetime.

Constantly leading them away from the topic of investment, he regaled
their ears with the stories of the enormous fortunes that had been made,
until there was not a man before him who was not ready to invest half
the fortune he possessed in the speculation. Finally, one of the more
frank and impatient of the group informed Mr. Belcher that they had come
prepared to invest, if they found his report favorable.

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Belcher, "I really cannot take the responsibility
of advising you. I can act for myself, but when it comes to advising my
neighbors, it is another matter entirely. You really must excuse me from
this. I have gone into the business rather heavily, but I have done it
without advice, and you must do the same. It isn't right for any man to
lead another into experiments of this sort, and it is hardly the fair
thing to ask him to do it. I've looked for myself, but the fact that I
am satisfied is no good reason for your being so."

"Very well, tell us how to do it," said the spokesman. "We cannot leave
our business to do what you have done, and we shall be obliged to run
some risk, if we go into it at all."

"Now, look here," said the wily proprietor, "you are putting me in a
hard place. Suppose the matter turns out badly; are you going to come to
me, and charge me with leading you into it?"

"Not at all," was responded, almost in unison.

"If you want to go into the Continental, I presume there is still some
stock to be had. If you wish me to act as your agent, I will serve you
with a great deal of pleasure, but, mark you, I take no responsibility.
I will receive your money, and you shall have your certificates as soon
as the mail will bring them; and, if I can get no stock of the Company,
you shall have some of my own."

They protested that they did not wish to put him to inconvenience, but
quietly placed their money in his hands. Every sum was carefully counted
and recorded, and Mr. Belcher assured them that they should have their
certificates within five days.

As they retired, he confidentially told them that they had better keep
the matter from any but their particular friends. If there was any man
among those friends who would like "a chance in," he might come to him,
and he would do what he could for him.

Each of these men went off down the hill, full of dreams of sudden
wealth, and, as each of them had three or four particular friends to
whom Mr. Belcher's closing message was given, that gentleman was
thronged with visitors the next day, each one of whom he saw alone. All
of these, too, had particular friends, and within ten days Mr. Belcher
had pocketed in his library the munificent sum of one hundred and fifty
thousand dollars. After a reasonable period, each investor received a
certificate of his stock through the mail.

It was astonishing to learn that there was so much money in the village.
It came in sums of one hundred up to five hundred dollars, from the most
unexpected sources--little hoards that covered the savings of many
years. It came from widows and orphans; it came from clergymen; it came
from small tradesmen and farmers; it came from the best business men in
the place and region.

The proprietor was in daily communication with his confederates and
tools, and the investors were one day electrified by the information
that the Continental had declared a monthly dividend of two per cent.
This was what was needed to unload Mr. Belcher of nearly all the stock
he held, and, within one month of his arrival from the oil-fields, he
had realized a sum sufficient to pay for his new purchase in the city,
and the costly furniture with which he proposed to illuminate it.

Sevenoaks was happy. The sun of prosperity had dawned upon the people,
and the favored few who supposed that they were the only ones to whom
the good fortune had come, were surprised to find themselves a great
multitude. The dividend was the talk of the town. Those who had
invested a portion of their small means invested more, and those whose
good angel had spared them from the sacrifice yielded to the glittering
temptation, and joined their lot with their rejoicing neighbors. Mr.
Belcher walked or drove among them, and rubbed his hands over their good
fortune. He knew very well that if he were going to reside longer among
the people, his position would be a hard one; but he calculated that
when the explosion should come, he should be beyond its reach.

It was a good time for him to declare the fact that he was about to
leave them; and this he did. An earthquake would not have filled them
with greater surprise and consternation. The industries of the town were
in his hands. The principal property of the village was his. He was
identified with the new enterprise upon which they had built such high
hope, and they had come to believe that he was a kindlier man than they
had formerly supposed him to be.

Already, however, there were suspicions in many minds that there were
bubbles on their oil, ready to burst, and reveal the shallowness of the
material beneath them; but these very suspicions urged them to treat Mr.
Belcher well, and to keep him interested for them. They protested
against his leaving them. They assured him of their friendship. They
told him that he had grown up among them, and that they could not but
feel that he belonged to them. They were proud of the position and
prosperity he had won for himself. They fawned upon him, and when, at
last, he told them that it was too late--that he had purchased and
furnished a home for himself in the city--they called a public meeting,
and, after a dozen regretful and complimentary speeches, from clergy and
laity, resolved:

"1st. That we have learned with profound regret that our distinguished
fellow-citizen, ROBERT BELCHER, Esq., is about to remove his residence
from among us, and to become a citizen of the commercial emporium of our
country.

"2d. That we recognize in him a gentleman of great business enterprise,
of generous instincts, of remarkable public spirit, and a personal
illustration of the beneficent influence of freedom and of free
democratic institutions.

"3d. That the citizens of Sevenoaks will ever hold in kindly remembrance
a gentleman who has been identified with the growth and importance of
their beloved village, and that they shall follow him to his new home
with heartiest good wishes and prayers for his welfare.

"4th. That whenever in the future his heart and his steps shall turn
toward his old home, and the friends of his youth, he shall be greeted
with voices of welcome, and hearts and homes of hospitality.

"5th. That these resolutions shall be published in the county papers,
and that a copy shall be presented to the gentleman named therein, by a
committee to be appointed by the chairman."

As was quite natural, and quite noteworthy, under the circumstances, the
committee appointed was composed of those most deeply interested in the
affairs of the Continental Petroleum Company.

Mr. Belcher received the committee very graciously, and made them a neat
little speech, which he had carefully prepared for the occasion. In
concluding, he alluded to the great speculation in which they, with so
many of their fellow-citizens, had embarked.

"Gentlemen," said he, "there is no one who holds so large an interest in
the Continental as myself. I have parted with many of my shares to
gratify the desire of the people of Sevenoaks to possess them, but I
still hold more than any of you. If the enterprise prospers, I shall
prosper with you. If it goes down, as I sincerely hope it may not--more
for your sakes, believe me, than my own--I shall suffer with you. Let us
hope for the best. I have already authority for announcing to you that
another monthly dividend of two per cent. will be paid you before I am
called upon to leave you. That certainly looks like prosperity.
Gentlemen, I bid you farewell."

When they had departed, having first heartily shaken the proprietor's
hand, that gentleman locked his door, and gazed for a long time into his
mirror.

"Robert Belcher," said he, "are you a rascal? Who says rascal? Are you
any worse than the crowd? How badly would any of these precious
fellow-citizens of yours feel if they knew their income was drawn from
other men's pockets? Eh? Wouldn't they prefer to have somebody suffer
rather than lose their investments? Verily, verily, I say unto you, they
would. Don't talk to me about being a rascal! You're just a little
sharper than the rest of them--that's all. They wanted to get money
without earning it, and wanted me to help them to do it. I wanted to get
money without earning it, and I wanted them to help me to do it. It
happens that they will be disappointed and that I am satisfied. Don't
say rascal to me, sir. If I ever hear that word again I'll throttle you.
Is that question settled? It is? Very well. Let there be peace between
us.... List! I hear the roar of the mighty city! Who lives in yonder
palace? Whose wealth surrounds him thus with luxuries untold? Who walks
out of yonder door and gets into that carriage, waiting with impatient
steeds? Is that gentleman's name Belcher? Take a good look at him as he
rolls away, bowing right and left to the gazing multitude. He is gone.
The abyss of heaven swallows up his form, and yet I linger. Why
lingerest thou? Farewell! and again I say, farewell!"

Mr. Belcher had very carefully covered all his tracks. He had insisted
on having his name omitted from the list of officers of the Continental
Petroleum Company. He had carefully forwarded the names of all who had
invested in its stock for record, so that, if the books should ever be
brought to light, there should be no apparent irregularity in his
dealings. His own name was there with the rest, and a small amount of
money had been set aside for operating expenses, so that something would
appear to have been done.

The day approached for his departure, and his agent, with his family,
was installed in his house for its protection; and one fine morning,
having first posted on two or three public places the announcement of a
second monthly dividend to be paid through his agent to the stockholders
in the Continental, he, with his family, rode down the hill in his
coach, followed by an enormous baggage-wagon loaded with trunks, and
passed through the village. Half of Sevenoaks was out to witness the
departure. Cheers rent the air from every group; and if a conqueror had
returned from the most sacred patriotic service he could not have
received a heartier ovation than that bestowed upon the graceless
fugitive. He bowed from side to side in his own lordly way, and
flourished and extended his pudgy palm in courtly courtesy.

Mrs. Belcher sat back in her seat, shrinking from all these
demonstrations, for she knew that her husband was unworthy of them. The
carriages disappeared in the distance, and then--sad, suspicious,
uncommunicative--the men went off to draw their last dividend and go
about their work. They fought desperately against their own distrust. In
the proportion that they doubted the proprietor they were ready to
defend him; but there was not a man of them who had not been fairly
warned that he was running his own risk, and who had not sought for the
privilege of throwing away his money.




CHAPTER XII.

IN WHICH JIM ENLARGES HIS PLANS FOR A HOUSE, AND COMPLETES HIS PLANS FOR
A HOUSE-KEEPER.


When, at last, Jim and Mr. Benedict were left alone by the departure of
Mr. Balfour and the two lads, they sat as if they had been stranded by a
sudden squall after a long and pleasant voyage. Mr. Benedict was plunged
into profound dejection, and Jim saw that he must be at once and
persistently diverted.

"I telled Mr. Balfour," said he, "afore he went away, about the house. I
telled him about the stoop, an' the chairs, an' the ladder for posies to
run up on, an' I said somethin' about cubberds and settles, an' other
thingembobs that have come into my mind; an' says he: 'Jim, be ye goin'
to splice?' An' says I: 'If so be I can find a little stick as'll
answer, it wouldn't be strange if I did.' 'Well,' says he, 'now's yer
time, if ye're ever goin' to, for the hay-day of your life is a passin'
away.' An' says I: 'No, ye don't. My hay-day has jest come, and my grass
is dry an' it'll keep. It's good for fodder, an' it wouldn't make a bad
bed.'"

"What did he say to that?" inquired Mr. Benedict.

"Says he: 'I shouldn't wonder if ye was right. Have ye found the woman?'
'Yes,' says I. 'I have found a genuine creetur.' An' says he: 'What is
her name?' An' says I: 'That's tellin'. It's a name as oughter be
changed, an' it won't be my fault if it ain't.' An' then says he: 'Can I
be of any 'sistance to ye?' An' says I: 'No. Courtin' is like dyin'; ye
can't trust it to another feller. Ye've jest got to go it alone.' An'
then he laughed, an' says he: 'Jim, I wish ye good luck, an' I hope
ye'll live to have a little feller o' yer own.' An' says I: 'Old
Jerusalem! If I ever have a little feller o' my own,' says I, 'this
world will have to spread to hold me.'"

Then Jim put his head down between his knees, and thought. When it
emerged from its hiding his eyes were moist, and he said:

"Ye must 'scuse me, Mr. Benedict, for ye know what the feelin's of a pa
is. It never come to me in this way afore."

Benedict could not help smiling at this new exhibition of sympathy; for
Jim, in the comprehension of his feelings in the possible event of
possessing offspring, had arrived at a more vivid sense of his
companion's bereavement.

"Now, I tell ye what it is," said Jim. "You an' me has got to be
brushin' round. We can't set here an' think about them that's gone; an'
now I want to tell ye 'bout another thing that Mr. Balfour said. Says
he: 'Jim, if ye're goin' to build a house, build a big one, an' keep a
hotel. I'll fill it all summer for ye,' says he. 'I know lots o' folks,'
says he, 'that would be glad to stay with ye, an' pay all ye axed 'em.
Build a big house,' says he, 'an' take yer time for't, an' when ye git
ready for company, let a feller know.' I tell ye, it made my eyes stick
out to think on't. 'Jim Fenton's hotel! says I. 'I don't b'lieve I can
swing it.' 'If ye want any more money'n ye've got,' says he, 'call on
me.'"

The idea of a hotel, with all its intrusions upon his privacy and all
its diversions, was not pleasant to Mr. Benedict; but he saw at once
that no woman worthy of Jim could be expected to be happy in the woods
entirely deprived of society. It would establish a quicker and more
regular line of communication with Sevenoaks, and thus make a change
from its life to that of the woods a smaller hardship. But the building
of a large house was a great enterprise for two men to undertake.

The first business was to draw a plan. In this work Mr. Benedict was
entirely at home. He could not only make plans of the two floors, but
an elevation of the front; and when, after two days of work, with
frequent questions and examinations by Jim, his drawings were concluded,
they held a long discussion over them. It was all very wonderful to Jim,
and all very satisfactory--at least, he said so; and yet he did not seem
to be entirely content.

"Tell me, Jim, just what the trouble is," said his architect, "for I see
there's something wanting."

"I don't see," said Jim, "jest where ye're goin' to put 'im."

"Who do you mean? Mr. Balfour?"

"No; I don't mean no man."

"Harry? Thede?"

"No; I mean, s'posin'. Can't we put on an ell when we want it?"

"Certainly."

"An' now, can't ye make yer picter look kind o' cozy like, with a little
feller playin' on the ground down there afore the stoop?"

Mr. Benedict not only could do this, but he did it; and then Jim took
it, and looked at it for a long time.

"Well, little feller, ye can play thar till ye're tired, right on that
paper, an' then ye must come into the house, an' let yer ma wash yer
face;" and then Jim, realizing the comical side of all this charming
dream, laughed till the woods rang again, and Benedict laughed with him.
It was a kind of clearing up of the cloud of sentiment that enveloped
them both, and they were ready to work. They settled, after a long
discussion, upon the site of the new house, which was back from the
river, near Number Ten. There were just three things to be done during
the remainder of the autumn and the approaching winter. A cellar was to
be excavated, the timber for the frame of the new house was to be cut
and hewed, and the lumber was to be purchased and drawn to the river.
Before the ground should freeze, they determined to complete the cellar,
which was to be made small--to be, indeed, little more than a cave
beneath the house, that would accommodate such stores as it would be
necessary to shield from the frost. A fortnight of steady work, by both
the men, not only completed the excavation, but built the wall.

Then came the selection of timber for the frame. It was all found near
the spot, and for many days the sound of two axes was heard through the
great stillness of the Indian summer; for at this time nature, as well
as Jim, was in a dream. Nuts were falling from the hickory-trees, and
squirrels were leaping along the ground, picking up the stores on which
they were to subsist during the long winter that lay before them. The
robins had gone away southward, and the voice of the thrushes was still.
A soft haze steeped the wilderness in its tender hue--a hue that carried
with it the fragrance of burning leaves. At some distant forest shrine,
the priestly winds were swinging their censers, and the whole temple was
pervaded with the breath of worship. Blue-jays were screaming among
leathern-leaved oaks, and the bluer kingfishers made their long diagonal
flights from side to side of the river, chattering like magpies. There
was one infallible sign that winter was close upon the woods. The wild
geese, flying over Number Nine, had called to Jim with news from the
Arctic, and he had looked up at the huge harrow scraping the sky, and
said: "I seen ye, an' I know what ye mean."

The timber was cut of appropriate length and rolled upon low
scaffoldings, where it could be conveniently hewed during the winter;
then two days were spent in hunting and in setting traps for sable and
otter, and then the two men were ready to arrange for the lumber.

This involved the necessity of a calculation of the materials required,
and definite specifications of the same. Not only this, but it required
that Mr. Benedict should himself accompany Jim on the journey to the
mill, three miles beyond Mike Conlin's house. He naturally shrank from
this exposure of himself; but so long as he was not in danger of coming
in contact with Mr. Belcher, or with any one whom he had previously
known, he was persuaded that the trip would not be unpleasant to him. In
truth, as he grew stronger personally, and felt that his boy was out of
harm's way, he began to feel a certain indefinite longing to see
something of the world again, and to look into new faces.

As for Jim, he had no idea of returning to Number Nine again until he
had seen Sevenoaks, and that one most interesting person there with whom
he had associated his future, although he did not mention his plan to
Mr. Benedict.

The ice was already gathering in the stream, and the winter was
descending so rapidly that they despaired of taking their boat down to
the old landing, and permitting it to await their return, as they would
be almost certain to find it frozen in, and be obliged to leave it there
until spring. They were compelled, therefore, to make the complete
journey on foot, following to the lower landing the "tote-road" that
Mike Conlin had taken when he came to them on his journey of discovery.

They started early one morning about the middle of November, and, as the
weather was cold, Turk bore them company. Though Mr. Benedict had become
quite hardy, the tramp of thirty miles over the frozen ground, that had
already received a slight covering of snow, was a cruel one, and taxed
to their utmost his powers of endurance.

Jim carried the pack of provisions, and left his companion without a
load; so by steady, quiet, and almost speechless walking, they made the
entire distance to Mike Conlin's house before the daylight had entirely
faded from the pale, cold sky. Mike was taken by surprise. He could
hardly be made to believe that the hearty-looking, comfortably-dressed
man whom he found in Mr. Benedict was the same whom he had left many
months before in the rags of a pauper and the emaciation of a feeble
convalescent. The latter expressed to Mike the obligations he felt for
the service which Jim informed him had been rendered by the good-natured
Irishman, and Mike blushed while protesting that it was "nothing at
all, at all," and thinking of the hundred dollars that he earned so
easily.

"Did ye know, Jim," said Mike, to change the subject, "that owld Belcher
has gone to New Yorrk to live?"

"No."

"Yis, the whole kit an' boodle of 'em is gone, an' the purty man wid
'em."

"Hallelujer!" roared Jim.

"Yis, and be gorry he's got me hundred dollars," said Mike.

"What did ye gi'en it to 'im for, Mike? I didn't take ye for a fool."

"Well, ye see, I wint in for ile, like the rist of 'em. Och! ye shud
'ave seen the owld feller talk! 'Mike,' says he, 'ye can't afford to
lose this,' says he. 'I should miss me slape, Mike,' says he, 'if it
shouldn't all come back to ye.' 'An' if it don't,' says I, 'there'll be
two uv us lyin' awake, an' ye'll have plinty of company; an' what they
lose in dhraimin' they'll take out in cussin',' says I. 'Mike,' says he,
'ye hadn't better do it, an' if ye do, I don't take no resk;' an' says
I, 'they're all goin' in, an' I'm goin' wid 'em.' 'Very well,' says he,
lookin' kind o' sorry, and then, be gorry, he scooped the whole pile,
an' barrin' the ile uv his purty spache, divil a bit have I seen more
nor four dollars."

"Divil a bit will ye see agin," said Jim, shaking his head. "Mike, ye're
a fool."

"That's jist what I tell mesilf," responded Mike; "but there's betther
music nor hearin' it repaited; an' I've got betther company in it,
barrin' Mr. Benedict's presence, nor I've got here in me own house."

Jim, finding Mike a little sore over his loss, refrained from further
allusion to it; and Mr. Benedict declared himself ready for bed. Jim had
impatiently waited for this announcement, for he was anxious to have a
long talk with Mike about the new house, the plans for which he had
brought with him.

"Clear off yer table," said Jim, "an' peel yer eyes, Mike, for I'm
goin' to show ye somethin' that'll s'prise ye."

When his order was obeyed, he unrolled the precious plans.

"Now, ye must remember, Mike, that this isn't the house; these is plans,
as Mr. Benedict has drawed. That's the kitchen, and that's the
settin'-room, and that's the cubberd, and that's the bedroom for us, ye
know, and on that other paper is the chambers."

Mike looked at it all earnestly, and with a degree of awe, and then
shook his head.

"Jim," said he, "I don't want to bodder ye, but ye've jist been fooled.
Don't ye see that divil a place 'ave ye got for the pig?"

"Pig!" exclaimed Jim, with contempt. "D'ye s'pose I build a house for a
pig? I ain't no pig, an' she ain't no pig."

"The proof of the puddin' is in the atin', Jim; an' ye don't know the
furrst thing about house-kapin'. Ye can no more kape house widout a pig,
nor ye can row yer boat widout a paddle. I'm an owld house-kaper, Jim,
an' I know; an' a man that don't tend to his pig furrst, is no betther
nor a b'y. Ye might put 'im in Number Tin, but he'd go through it
quicker nor water through a baskit. Don't talk to me about house-kapin'
widout a pig. Ye might give 'im that little shtoop to lie on, an' let
'im run under the house to slape. That wouldn't be bad now, Jim?"

The last suggestion was given in a tender, judicial tone, for Mike saw
that Jim was disappointed, if not disgusted. Jim was looking at his
beautiful stoop, and thinking of the pleasant dreams he had associated
with it. The idea of Mike's connecting the life of a pig with that stoop
was more than he could bear.

"Why, Mike," said he, in an injured tone, "that stoop's the place where
she's agoin' to set."

"Oh! I didn't know, Jim, ye was agoin' to kape hins. Now, ef you're
agoin' to kape hins, ye kin do as ye plase, Jim, in coorse; but ye
musn't forgit the pig, Jim. Be gorry, he ates everything that nobody
ilse kin ate, and then ye kin ate him."

Mike had had his expression of opinion, and shown to his own
satisfaction that his judgments were worth something. Having done this,
he became amiable, sympathetic, and even admiring. Jim was obliged to
tell him the same things a great many times, and to end at last without
the satisfaction of knowing that the Irishman comprehended the precious
plans. He would have been glad to make a confidant of Mike, but the
Irishman's obtuseness and inability to comprehend his tenderer
sentiments, repulsed him, and drove him back upon himself.

Then came up the practical question concerning Mike's ability to draw
the lumber for the new house. Mike thought he could hire a horse for his
keeping, and a sled for a small sum, that would enable him to double his
facilities for doing the job; and then a price for the work was agreed
upon.

The next morning, Jim and Mr. Benedict pursued their journey to the
lumber-mill, and there spent the day in selecting their materials, and
filling out their specifications.

The first person Mr. Benedict saw on entering the mill was a young man
from Sevenoaks, whom he had known many years before. He colored as if he
had been detected in a crime, but the man gave him no sign that the
recognition was mutual. His old acquaintance had no memory of him,
apparently; and then he realized the change that must have passed upon
him during his long invalidism and his wonderful recovery.

They remained with the proprietor of the mill during the night.

"I jest call 'im Number Ten," said Jim, in response to the inquiries
that were made of him concerning his companion, "He never telled me his
name, an' I never axed 'im. I'm 'Number Nine,' an' he's 'Number Ten,'
and that's all thar is about it."

Jim's oddities were known, and inquiries were pushed no further, though
Jim gratuitously informed his host that the man had come into the woods
to get well and was willing to work to fill up his time.

On the following morning, Jim proposed to Mr. Benedict to go on to
Sevenoaks for the purchase of more tools, and the nails and hardware
that would be necessary in finishing the house. The experience of the
latter during the previous day showed him that he need not fear
detection, and, now that Mr. Belcher was out of the way, Jim found him
possessed by a strong desire to make the proposed visit. The road was
not difficult, and before sunset the two men found themselves housed in
the humble lodgings that had for many years been familiar to Jim. Mr.
Benedict went into the streets, and among the shops, the next morning,
with great reluctance; but this soon wore off as he met man after man
whom he knew, who failed to recognize him. In truth, so many things had
happened, that the memory of the man who, long ago, had been given up as
dead had passed out of mind. The people would have been no more
surprised to see a sleeper of the village cemetery among them than they
would to have realized that they were talking with the insane pauper who
had fled, as they supposed, to find his death in the forest.

They had a great deal to do during the day, and when night came, Jim
could no longer be restrained from the visit that gave significance, not
only to his journey, but to all his plans. Not a woman had been seen on
the street during the day whom Jim had not scanned with an anxious and
greedy look, in the hope of seeing the one figure that was the desire of
his eyes--but he had not seen it. Was she ill? Had she left Sevenoaks?
He would not inquire, but he would know before he slept.

"There's a little business as must be did afore I go," said Jim, to Mr.
Benedict in the evening, "an' I sh'd like to have ye go with me, if ye
feel up to't." Mr. Benedict felt up to it, and the two went out
together. They walked along the silent street, and saw the great mill,
ablaze with light. The mist from the falls showed white in the frosty
air, and, without saying a word, they crossed the bridge, and climbed a
hill dotted with little dwellings.

Jim's heart was in his mouth, for his fears that ill had happened to the
little tailoress had made him nervous; and when, at length, he caught
sight of the light in her window, he grasped Mr. Benedict by the arm
almost fiercely, and exclaimed:

"It's all right. The little woman's in, an' waitin'. Can you see my
har?"

Having been assured that it was in a presentable condition, Jim walked
boldly up to the door and knocked. Having been admitted by the same girl
who had received him before, there was no need to announce his name.
Both men went into the little parlor of the house, and the girl in great
glee ran upstairs to inform Miss Butterworth that there were two men and
a dog in waiting, who wished to see her. Miss Butterworth came down from
busy work, like one in a hurry, and was met by Jim with extended hand,
and the gladdest smile that ever illuminated a human face.

"How fare ye, little woman?" said he. "I'm glad to see ye--gladder nor I
can tell ye."

There was something in the greeting so hearty, so warm and tender and
full of faith, that Miss Butterworth was touched. Up to that moment he
had made no impression upon her heart, and, quite to her surprise, she
found that she was glad to see him. She had had a world of trouble since
she had met Jim, and the great, wholesome nature, fresh from the woods,
and untouched by the trials of those with whom she was in daily
association, was like a breeze in the feverish summer, fresh from the
mountains. She was, indeed, glad to see him, and surprised by the warmth
of the sentiment that sprang within her heart in response to his
greeting.

Miss Butterworth looked inquiringly, and with some embarrassment at the
stranger.

"That's one o' yer old friends, little woman," said Jim. "Don't give 'im
the cold shoulder. 'Tain't every day as a feller comes to ye from the
other side o' Jordan."

Miss Butterworth naturally suspected the stranger's identity, and was
carefully studying his face to assure herself that Mr. Benedict was
really in her presence. When some look of his eyes, or motion of his
body, brought her the conclusive evidence of his identity, she grasped
both his hands, and said:

"Dear, dear, Mr. Benedict! how much you have suffered! I thank God for
you, and for the good friend He has raised up to help you. It's like
seeing one raised from the dead."

Then she sat down at his side, and, apparently forgetting Jim, talked
long and tenderly of the past. She remembered Mrs. Benedict so well! And
she had so many times carried flowers and placed them upon her grave!
She told him about the troubles in the town, and the numbers of poor
people who had risked their little all and lost it in the great
speculation; of those who were still hoping against hope that they
should see their hard-earned money again; of the execrations that were
already beginning to be heaped upon Mr. Belcher; of the hard winter that
lay before the village, and the weariness of sympathy which had begun to
tell upon her energies. Life, which had been once so full of the
pleasure of action and industry, was settling, more and more, into dull
routine, and she could see nothing but trouble ahead, for herself and
for all those in whom she was interested.

Mr. Benedict, for the first time since Jim had rescued him from the
alms-house, became wholly himself. The sympathy of a woman unlocked his
heart, and he talked in his old way. He alluded to his early trials with
entire freedom, to his long illness and mental alienation, to his hopes
for his boy, and especially to his indebtedness to Jim. On this latter
point he poured out his whole heart, and Jim himself was deeply affected
by the revelation of his gratitude. He tried in vain to protest, for
Mr. Benedict, having found his tongue, would not pause until he had laid
his soul bare before his benefactor. The effect that the presence of the
sympathetic woman produced upon his _protege_ put a new thought into
Jim's mind. He could not resist the conviction that the two were suited
to one another, and that the "little woman," as he tenderly called her,
would be happier with the inventor than she would be with him. It was
not a pleasant thought, but even then he cast aside his selfishness with
a great struggle, and determined that he would not stand in the way of
an event which would crush his fondest hopes. Jim did not know women as
well as he thought he did. He did not see that the two met more like two
women than like representatives of opposite sexes. He did not see that
the sympathy between the pair was the sympathy of two natures which
would be the happiest in dependence, and that Miss Butterworth could no
more have chosen Mr. Benedict for a husband than she could have chosen
her own sister.

Mr. Benedict had never been informed by Jim of the name of the woman
whom he hoped to make his wife, but he saw at once, and with sincere
pleasure, that he was in her presence; and when he had finished what he
had to say to her, and again heartily expressed his pleasure in renewing
her acquaintance, he rose to go.

"Jim, I will not cut your call short, but I must get back, to my room
and prepare for to-morrow's journey. Let me leave you here, and find my
way back to my lodgings alone."

"All right," said Jim, "but we ain't goin' home to-morrer."

Benedict bade Miss Butterworth "good-night," but, as he was passing out
of the room, Jim remembered that there was something that he wished to
say to him, and so passed out with him, telling Miss Butterworth that he
should soon return.

When the door closed behind them, and they stood alone in the darkness,
Jim said, with his hand on his companion's shoulder, and an awful lie in
his throat:

"I brung ye here hopin' ye'd take a notion to this little woman. She'd
do more for ye nor anybody else. She can make yer clo'es, and be good
company for ye, an'--"

"And provide for me. No, that won't do, Jim."

"Well, you'd better think on't."

"No, Jim, I shall never marry again."

"Now's yer time. Nobody knows what'll happen afore mornin'."

"I understand you, Jim," said Mr. Benedict, "and I know what all this
costs you. You are worthy of her, and I hope you'll get her."

Mr. Benedict tore himself away, but Jim said, "hold on a bit."

Benedict turned, and then Jim inquired:

"Have ye got a piece of Indian rubber?"

"Yes."

"Then jest rub out the picter of the little feller in front of the
stoop, an' put in Turk. If so be as somethin' happens to-night, I sh'd
want to show her the plans in the mornin'; an' if she should ax me whose
little feller it was, it would be sort o' cumbersome to tell her, an' I
sh'd have to lie my way out on't."

Mr. Benedict promised to attend to the matter before he slept, and then
Jim went back into the house.

Of the long conversation that took place that night between the woodsman
and the little tailoress we shall present no record. That he pleaded his
case well and earnestly, and without a great deal of bashfulness, will
be readily believed by those who have made his acquaintance. That the
woman, in her lonely circumstances, and with her hungry heart, could
lightly refuse the offer of his hand and life was an impossibility. From
the hour of his last previous visit she had unconsciously gone toward
him in her affections, and when she met him she learned, quite to her
own surprise, that her heart had found its home. He had no culture, but
his nature was manly. He had little education, but his heart was true,
and his arm was strong. Compared with Mr. Belcher, with all his wealth,
he was nobility personified. Compared with the sordid men around her,
with whom he would be an object of supercilious contempt, he seemed like
a demigod. His eccentricities, his generosities, his originalities of
thought and fancy, were a feast to her. There was more of him than she
could find in any of her acquaintances--more that was fresh, piquant,
stimulating, and vitally appetizing. Having once come into contact with
him, the influence of his presence had remained, and it was with a
genuine throb of pleasure that she found herself with him again.

When he left her that night, he left her in tears. Bending over her,
with his strong hands holding her cheeks tenderly, as she looked up into
his eyes, he kissed her forehead.

"Little woman," said he, "I love ye. I never knowed what love was afore,
an' if this is the kind o' thing they have in heaven, I want to go there
when you do. Speak a good word for me when ye git a chance."

Jim walked on air all the way back to his lodgings--walked by his
lodgings--stood still, and looked up at the stars--went out to the
waterfall, and watched the writhing, tumbling, roaring river--wrapped in
transcendent happiness. Transformed and transfused by love, the world
around him seemed quite divine. He had stumbled upon the secret of his
existence. He had found the supreme charm of life. He felt that a new
principle had sprung to action within him, which had in it the power to
work miracles of transformation. He could never be in the future exactly
what he had been in the past. He had taken a step forward and upward--a
step irretraceable.

Jim had never prayed, but there was something about this experience that
lifted his heart upward. He looked up to the stars, and said to himself:
"He's somewhere up thar, I s'pose. I can't seen 'im, an' I must look
purty small to Him if He can seen me; but I hope He knows as I'm
obleeged to 'im, more nor I can tell 'im. When He made a good woman, He
did the biggest thing out, an' when He started a man to lovin' on her,
He set up the best business that was ever did. I hope He likes the
'rangement, and won't put nothin' in the way on't. Amen! I'm goin' to
bed."

Jim put his last determination into immediate execution. He found Mr.
Benedict in his first nap, from which he felt obliged to rouse him, with
the information that it was "all right," and that the quicker the house
was finished the better it would be for all concerned.

The next morning, Turk having been substituted for the child in the
foreground of the front elevation of the hotel, the two men went up to
Miss Butterworth's, and exhibited and talked over the plans. They
received many valuable hints from the prospective mistress of the
prospective mansion. The stoop was to be made broader for the
accommodation of visitors; more room for wardrobes was suggested, with
little conveniences for housekeeping, which complicated the plans not a
little. Mr. Benedict carefully noted them all, to be wrought out at his
leisure.

Jim's love had wrought a miracle in the night. He had said nothing about
it to his architect, but it had lifted him above the bare utilities of a
house, so that he could see the use of beauty. "Thar's one thing," said
he, "as thar hain't none on us thought on; but it come to me last night.
There's a place where the two ruffs come together that wants somethin',
an' it seems to me it's a cupalo--somethin' to stan' up over the whole
thing, and say to them as comes, 'Hallelujer!' We've done a good deal
for house-keepin', now let's do somethin' for glory. It's jest like a
ribbon on a bonnet, or a blow on a potato-vine. It sets it off, an'
makes a kind o' Fourth o' July for it. What do ye say, little woman?"

The "little woman" accepted the suggestion, and admitted that it would
at least make the building look more like a hotel.

All the details settled, the two men went away, and poor Benedict had a
rough time in getting back to camp. Jim could hardly restrain himself
from going through in a single day, so anxious was he to get at his
traps and resume work upon the house. There was no fatigue too great for
him now. The whole world was bright and full of promise; and he could
not have been happier or more excited if he had been sure that at the
year's end a palace and a princess were to be the reward of his
enterprise.




CHAPTER XIII.

WHICH INTRODUCES SEVERAL RESIDENTS OF SEVENOAKS TO THE METROPOLIS AND A
NEW CHARACTER TO THE READER.


Harry Benedict was in the great city. When his story was known by Mrs.
Balfour--a quiet, motherly woman--and she was fully informed of her
husband's plans concerning him, she received him with a cordiality and
tenderness which won his heart and made him entirely at home. The
wonders of the shops, the wonders of the streets, the wonders of the
places of public amusement, the music of the churches, the inspiration
of the great tides of life that swept by him on every side, were in such
sharp contrast to the mean conditions to which he had been accustomed,
that he could hardly sleep. Indeed, the dreams of his unquiet slumbers
were formed of less attractive constituents than the visions of his
waking hours. He had entered a new world, which stimulated his
imagination, and furnished him with marvelous materials for growth. He
had been transformed by the clothing of the lad whose place he had taken
into a city boy, difficult to be recognized by those who had previously
known him. He hardly knew himself, and suspected his own consciousness
of cheating him.

For several days he had amused himself in his leisure hours by watching
a huge house opposite to that of the Balfours, into which was pouring a
stream of furniture. Huge vans were standing in front of it, or coming
and departing, from morning until night, Dressing-cases, book-cases,
chairs, mirrors, candelabra, beds, tables--everything necessary and
elegant in the furniture of a palace, were unloaded and carried in. All
day long, too, he could see through the large windows the active figure
and beautiful face of a woman who seemed to direct and control the
movements of all who were engaged in the work.

The Balfours had noticed the same thing; but, beyond wondering who was
rich or foolish enough to purchase and furnish Palgrave's Folly, they
had given the matter no attention. They were rich, of good family, of
recognized culture and social importance, and it did not seem to them
that any one whom they would care to know would be willing to occupy a
house so pronounced in vulgar display. They were people whose society no
money could buy. If Robert Belcher had been worth a hundred millions
instead of one, the fact would not have been taken into consideration in
deciding any social question relating to him.

Finally the furnishing was complete; the windows were polished, the
steps were furbished, and nothing seemed to wait but the arrival of the
family for which the dwelling had been prepared.

One late afternoon, before the lamps were lighted in the streets, he
could see that the house was illuminated; and just as the darkness came
on, a carriage drove up and a family alighted. The doors were thrown
open, the beautiful woman stood upon the threshold, and all ran up to
enter. She kissed the lady of the house, kissed the children, shook
hands cordially with the gentleman of the party, and then the doors were
swung to, and they were shut from the sight of the street; but just as
the man entered, the light from the hall and the light from the street
revealed the flushed face and portly figure of Robert Belcher.

Harry knew him, and ran down stairs to Mrs. Balfour, pale and agitated
as if he had seen a ghost. "It is Mr. Belcher," he said, "and I must go
back. I know he'll find me; I must go back to-morrow."

It was a long time before the family could pacify him and assure him of
their power to protect him; but they did it at last, though they left
him haunted with the thought that he might be exposed at any moment to
the new companions of his life as a pauper and the son of a pauper. The
great humiliation had been burned into his soul. The petty tyrannies of
Tom Buffum had cowed him, so that it would be difficult for him ever to
emerge from their influence into a perfectly free boyhood and manhood.
Had they been continued long enough, they would have ruined him. Once he
had been entirely in the power of adverse circumstances and a brutal
will, and he was almost incurably wounded.

The opposite side of the street presented very different scenes. Mrs.
Belcher found, through the neighborly services of Mrs. Dillingham, that
her home was all prepared for her, even to the selection and engagement
of her domestic service. A splendid dinner was ready to be served, for
which Mr. Belcher, who had been in constant communication with his
convenient and most officious friend, had brought the silver; and the
first business was to dispose of it. Mrs. Dillingham led the mistress of
the house to her seat, distributed the children, and amused them all by
the accounts she gave them of her efforts to make their entrance and
welcome satisfactory. Mrs. Belcher observed her quietly, acknowledged to
herself the woman's personal charms--her beauty, her wit, her humor, her
sprightliness, and her more than neighborly service; but her quick,
womanly instincts detected something which she did not like. She saw
that Mr. Belcher was fascinated by her, and that he felt that she had
rendered him and the family a service for which great gratitude was due;
but she saw that the object of his admiration was selfish--that she
loved power, delighted in having things her own way, and, more than all,
was determined to place the mistress of the house under obligations to
her. It would have been far more agreeable to Mrs. Belcher to find
everything in confusion, than to have her house brought into habitable
order by a stranger in whom she had no trust, and upon whom she had no
claim. Mr. Belcher had bought the house without her knowledge; Mrs.
Dillingham had arranged it without her supervision. She seemed to
herself to be simply a child, over whose life others had assumed the
offices of administration.

Mrs. Belcher was weary, and she would have been delighted to be alone
with her family, but here was an intruder whom she could not dispose of.
She would have been glad to go over the house alone, and to have had the
privilege of discovery, but she must go with one who was bent on showing
her everything, and giving her reasons for all that had been done.

Mrs. Dillingham was determined to play her cards well with Mrs. Belcher.
She was sympathetic, confidential, most respectful; but she found that
lady very quiet. Mr. Belcher followed them from room to room, with wider
eyes for Mrs. Dillingham than for the details of his new home. Now he
could see them together--the mother of his children, and the woman who
had already won his heart away from her. The shapely lady, with her
queenly ways, her vivacity, her graceful adaptiveness to persons and
circumstances, was sharply contrasted with the matronly figure, homely
manners, and unresponsive mind of his wife. He pitied his wife, he
pitied himself, he pitied his children, he almost pitied the dumb walls
and the beautiful furniture around him.

Was Mrs. Dillingham conscious of the thoughts which possessed him? Did
she know that she was leading him around his house, in her assumed
confidential intimacy with his wife, as she would lead a spaniel by a
silken cord? Was she aware that, as she moved side by side with Mrs.
Belcher, through the grand rooms, she was displaying herself to the best
advantage to her admirer, and that, yoked with the wifehood and
motherhood of the house, she was dragging, while he held, the plow that
was tilling the deep carpets for tares that might be reaped in harvests
of unhappiness? Would she have dropped the chain if she had? Not she.

To fascinate, and make a fool of, a man who was strong and cunning in
his own sphere; to have a hand--gloved in officious friendship--in other
lives, furnished the zest of her unemployed life. She could introduce
discord into a family without even acknowledging to herself that she had
done it wittingly. She could do it, and weep over the injustice that
charged her with it. Her motives were always pure! She had always done
her best to serve her friends! and what were her rewards? So the
victories which she won by her smiles, she made permanent by her tears.
So the woman by whose intrigues the mischief came was transformed into a
victim, from whose shapely shoulders the garment of blame slipped off,
that society might throw over them the robes of its respectful
commiseration, and thus make her more interesting and lovely than
before!

Mrs. Belcher measured very carefully, or apprehended very readily, the
kind of woman she had to deal with, and felt at once that she was no
match for her. She saw that she could not shake her off, so long as it
was her choice to remain. She received from her no direct offense,
except the offense of her uninvited presence; but the presence meant
service, and so could not be resented. And Mrs. Belcher could be of so
much service to her! Her life was so lonely--so meaningless! It would be
such a joy to her, in a city full of shams, to have one friend who would
take her good offices, and so help to give to her life a modicum of
significance!

After a full survey of the rooms, and a discussion of the beauties and
elegancies of the establishment, they all descended to the dining-room,
and, in response to Mrs. Dillingham's order, were served with tea.

"You really must excuse me, Mrs. Belcher," said the beautiful lady
deprecatingly, "but I have been here for a week, and it seems so much
like my own home, that I ordered the tea without thinking that I am the
guest and you are the mistress."

"Certainly, and I am really very much obliged to you;" and then feeling
that she had been a little untrue to herself, Mrs. Belcher added
bluntly: "I feel myself in a very awkward situation--obliged to one on
whom I have no claim, and one whom I can never repay."

"The reward of a good deed is in the doing, I assure you," said Mrs.
Dillingham, sweetly. "All I ask is that you make me serviceable to you.
I know all about the city, and all about its ways. You can call upon me
for anything; and now let's talk about the house. Isn't it lovely?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Belcher, "too lovely. While so many are poor around us,
it seems almost like an insult to them to live in such a place, and
flaunt our wealth in their faces. Mr. Belcher is very generous toward
his family, and I have no wish to complain, but I would exchange it all
for my little room in Sevenoaks."

Mr. Belcher, who had been silent and had watched with curious and
somewhat anxious eyes the introductory passage of this new acquaintance,
was rasped by Mrs. Belcher's remark into saying: "That's Mrs. Belcher,
all over! that's the woman, through and through! As if a man hadn't a
right to do what he chooses with his money! If men are poor, why don't
they get rich? They have the same chance I had; and there isn't one of
'em but would be glad to change places with me, and flaunt his wealth in
my face. There's a precious lot of humbug about the poor which won't
wash with me. We're all alike."

Mrs. Dillingham shook her lovely head.

"You men are so hard," she said; "and Mrs. Belcher has the right
feeling; but I'm sure she takes great comfort in helping the poor. What
would you do, my dear, if you had no money to help the poor with?"

"That's just what I've asked her a hundred times," said Mr. Belcher.
"What would she do? That's something she never thinks of."

Mrs. Belcher shook her head, in return, but made no reply. She knew that
the poor would have been better off if Mr. Belcher had never lived, and
that the wealth which surrounded her with luxuries was taken from the
poor. It was this, at the bottom, that made her sad, and this that had
filled her for many years with discontent.

When the tea was disposed of, Mrs. Dillingham rose to go. She lived a
few blocks distant, and it was necessary for Mr. Belcher to walk home
with her. This he was glad to do, though she assured him that it was
entirely unnecessary. When they were in the street, walking at a slow
pace, the lady, in her close, confiding way, said:

"Do you know, I take a great fancy to Mrs. Belcher?"

"Do you, really?"

"Yes, indeed. I think she's lovely; but I'm afraid she doesn't like me.
I can read--oh, I can read pretty well. She certainly didn't like it
that I had arranged everything and was there to meet her. But wasn't she
tired? Wasn't she very tired? There certainly was something that was
wrong."

"I think your imagination had something to do with it," said Mr.
Belcher, although he knew that she was right.

"No, I can read;" and Mrs. Dillingham's voice trembled. "If she could
only know how honestly I have tried to serve her, and how disappointed I
am that my service has not been taken in good part, I am sure that her
amiable heart would forgive me."

Mrs. Dillingham took out her handkerchief, near a street lamp, and wiped
her eyes.

What could Mr. Belcher do with this beautiful, susceptible, sensitive
creature? What could he do but reassure her? Under the influence of her
emotion, his wife's offense grew flagrant, and he began by apologizing
for her, and ended by blaming her.

"Oh! she was tired--she was very tired. That was all. I've laid up
nothing against her; but you know I was disappointed, after I had done
so much. I shall be all over it in the morning, and she will see it
differently then. I don't know but I should have been troubled to find
a stranger in my house. I think I should. Now, you really must promise
not to say a word of all this talk to your poor wife. I wouldn't have
you do it for the world. If you are my friend (pressing his arm), you
will let the matter drop just where it is. Nothing would induce me to be
the occasion of any differences in your home."

So it was a brave, true, magnanimous nature that was leaning so tenderly
upon Mr. Belcher's arm! And he felt that no woman who was not either
shabbily perverse, or a fool, could misinterpret her. He knew that his
wife had been annoyed at finding Mrs. Dillingham in the house. He dimly
comprehended, too, that her presence was an indelicate intrusion, but
her intentions were so good!

Mrs. Dillingham knew exactly how to manipulate the coarse man at her
side, and her relations to him and his wife. Her bad wisdom was not the
result of experience, though she had had enough of it, but the product
of an instinct which was just as acute, and true, and serviceable, ten
years earlier in her life as it was then. She timed the walk to her
purpose; and when Mr. Belcher parted with her, he went back leisurely to
his great house, more discontented with his wife than he had ever been.
To find such beauty, such helpfulness, such sympathy, charity,
forbearance, and sensitiveness, all combined in one woman, and that
woman kind and confidential toward him, brought back to him the days of
his youth, in the excitement of a sentiment which he had supposed was
lost beyond recall.

He crossed the street on arriving at his house, and took an evening
survey of his grand mansion, whose lights were still flaming through the
windows. The passengers jostled him as he looked up at his dwelling, his
thoughts wandering back to the woman with whom he had so recently
parted.

He knew that his heart was dead toward the woman who awaited his return.
He felt that it was almost painfully alive toward the one he had left
behind him, and it was with the embarrassment of conscious guilt that
he rang the bell at his own door, and stiffened himself to meet the
honest woman who had borne his children. Even the graceless touch of an
intriguing woman's power--even the excitement of something like love
toward one who was unworthy of his love--had softened him, so that his
conscience could move again. He felt that his eyes bore a secret, and he
feared that his wife could read it. And yet, who was to blame? Was
anybody to blame? Could anything that had happened have been helped or
avoided?

He entered, determining to abide by Mrs. Dillingham's injunction of
silence. He found the servants extinguishing the lights, and met the
information that Mrs. Belcher had retired. His huge pile of trunks had
come during his absence, and remained scattered in the hall. The sight
offended him, but, beyond a muttered curse, he said nothing, and sought
his bed.

Mr. Belcher was not in good humor when he rose the next morning. He
found the trunks where he left them on the previous evening; and when he
called for the servants to carry them upstairs, he was met by open
revolt. They were not porters, and they would not lift boxes; that sort
of work was not what they were engaged for. No New York family expected
service of that kind from those who were not hired for it.

The proprietor, who had been in the habit of exacting any service from
any man or woman in his employ that he desired, was angry. He would have
turned every one of them out of the house, if it had not been so
inconvenient for him to lose them then. Curses trembled upon his lips,
but he curbed them, inwardly determining to have his revenge when the
opportunity should arise. The servants saw his eyes, and went back to
their work somewhat doubtful as to whether they had made a judicious
beginning. They were sure they had not, when, two days afterward, every
one of them was turned out of the house, and a new set installed in
their places.

He called for Phipps, and Phipps was at the stable. Putting on his hat,
he went to bring his faithful servitor of Sevenoaks, and bidding him
find a porter in the streets and remove the trunks at Mrs. Belcher's
direction, he sat down at the window to watch for a passing newsboy. The
children came down, cross and half sick with their long ride and their
late dinner. Then it came on to rain in a most dismal fashion, and he
saw before him a day of confinement and ennui. Without mental
resource--unable to find any satisfaction except in action and
intrigue--the prospect was anything but pleasant. The house was large,
and, on a dark day, gloomy. His humor was not sweetened by noticing
evidences of tears on Mrs. Belcher's face. The breakfast was badly
cooked, and he rose from it exasperated. There was no remedy but to go
out and call upon Mrs. Dillingham. He took an umbrella, and, telling his
wife that he was going out on business, he slammed the door behind him
and went down the steps.

As he reached the street, he saw a boy scudding along under an umbrella,
with a package under his arm. Taking him for a newsboy, he called;
"Here, boy! Give me some papers." The lad had so shielded his face from
the rain and the house that he had not seen Mr. Belcher; and when he
looked up he turned pale, and simply said: "I'm not a newsboy;" and then
he ran away as if he were frightened.

There was something in the look that arrested Mr. Belcher's attention.
He was sure he had seen the lad before, but where, he could not
remember. The face haunted him--haunted him for hours, even when in the
cheerful presence of Mrs. Dillingham, with whom he spent a long and
delightful hour. She was rosy, and sweet, and sympathetic in her morning
wrapper--more charming, indeed, than he had ever seen her in evening
dress. She inquired for Mrs. Belcher and the children, and heard with
great good humor his account of his first collision with his New York
servants. When he went out from her inspiring and gracious presence he
found his self-complacency restored. He had simply been hungry for her;
so his breakfast was complete. He went back to his house with a mingled
feeling of jollity and guilt, but the moment he was with his family the
face of the boy returned. Where had he seen him? Why did the face give
him uneasiness? Why did he permit himself to be puzzled by it? No
reasoning, no diversion could drive it from his mind. Wherever he turned
during the long day and evening that white, scared face obtruded itself
upon him. He had noticed, as the lad lifted his umbrella, that he
carried a package of books under his arm, and naturally concluded that,
belated by the rain, he was on his way to school. He determined,
therefore, to watch him on the following morning, his own eyes
reinforced by those of his oldest boy.

The dark day passed away at last, and things were brought into more
homelike order by the wife of the house, so that the evening was cozy
and comfortable; and when the street lamps were lighted again and the
stars came out, and the north wind sounded its trumpet along the avenue,
the spirits of the family rose to the influence.

On the following morning, as soon as he had eaten his breakfast, he,
with his boy, took a position at one of the windows, to watch for the
lad whose face had so impressed and puzzled him. On the other side of
the avenue a tall man came out, with a green bag under his arm, stepped
into a passing stage, and rolled away. Ten minutes later two lads
emerged with their books slung over their shoulders, and crossed toward
them.

"That's the boy--the one on the left," said Mr. Belcher. At the same
moment the lad looked up, and apparently saw the two faces watching him,
for he quickened his pace.

"That's Harry Benedict," exclaimed Mr. Belcher's son and heir. The words
were hardly out of his mouth when Mr. Belcher started from his chair,
ran down-stairs with all the speed possible within the range of safety,
and intercepted the lads at a side door, which opened upon the street
along which they were running.

"Stop, Harry, I want to speak to you," said the proprietor, sharply.

Harry stopped, as if frozen to the spot in mortal terror.

"Come along," said Thede Balfour, tugging at his hand, "you'll be late
at school."

Poor Harry could no more have walked than he could have flown. Mr.
Belcher saw the impression he had made upon him, and became soft and
insinuating in his manner.

"I'm glad to see you, my boy," said Mr. Belcher. "Come into the house,
and see the children. They all remember you, and they are all homesick.
They'll be glad to look at anything from Sevenoaks."

Harry was not reassured: he was only more intensely frightened. A giant,
endeavoring to entice him into his cave in the woods, would not have
terrified him more. At length he found his tongue sufficiently to say
that he was going to school, and could not go in.

It was easy for Mr. Belcher to take his hand, limp and trembling with
fear, and under the guise of friendliness to lead him up the steps, and
take him to his room. Thede watched them until they disappeared, and
then ran back to his home, and reported what had taken place. Mrs.
Balfour was alone, and could do nothing. She did not believe that Mr.
Belcher would dare to treat the lad foully, with the consciousness that
his disappearance within his house had been observed, and wisely
determined to do nothing but sit down at her window and watch the house.

Placing Harry in a chair, Mr. Belcher sat down opposite to him, and
said:

"My boy, I'm very glad to see you. I've wanted to know about you more
than any boy in the world. I suppose you've been told that I am a very
bad man, but I'll prove to you that I'm not. There, put that ten-dollar
gold piece in your pocket. That's what they call an eagle, and I hope
you'll have a great many like it when you grow up."

The lad hid his hands behind his back, and shook his head.

"You don't mean to say that you won't take it!" said the proprietor in
a wheedling tone.

The boy kept his hands behind him, and shook his head.

"Well, I suppose you are not to blame for disliking me; and now I want
you to tell me all about your getting away from the poor-house, and who
helped you out, and where your poor, dear father is, and all about it.
Come, now, you don't know how much we looked for you, and how we all
gave you up for lost. You don't know what a comfort it is to see you
again, and to know that you didn't die in the woods."

The boy simply shook his head.

"Do you know who Mr. Belcher is? Do you know he is used to having people
mind him? Do you know that you're here in my house, and that you _must_
mind me? Do you know what I do to little boys when they disobey me? Now,
I want you to answer my questions, and do it straight. Lying won't go
down with me. Who helped you and your father to get out of the
poor-house?"

Matters had proceeded to a desperate pass with the lad. He had thought
very fast, and he had determined that no bribe and no threat should
extort a word of information from him. His cheeks grew hot and flushed,
his eyes burned, and he straightened himself in his chair as if he
expected death or torture, and was prepared to meet either, as he
replied:

"I won't tell you."

"Is your father alive? Tell me, you dirty little whelp? Don't say that
you won't do what I bid you to do again. I have a great mind to choke
you. Tell me--is your father alive?"

"I won't tell you, if you kill me."

The wheedling had failed; the threatening had failed. Then Mr. Belcher
assumed the manner of a man whose motives had been misconstrued, and who
wished for information that he might do a kind act to the lad's father.

"I should really like to help your father, and if he is poor, money
would do him a great deal of good. And here is the little boy who does
not love his father well enough to get money for him, when he can have
it and welcome! The little boy is taken care of. He has plenty to eat,
and good clothes to wear, and lives in a fine house, but his poor father
can take care of himself. I think such a boy as that ought to be ashamed
of himself. I think he ought to kneel down and say his prayers. If I had
a boy who could do that, I should be sorry that he'd ever been born."

Harry was proof against this mode of approach also, and was relieved,
because he saw that Mr. Belcher was baffled. His instincts were quick,
and they told him that he was the victor. In the meantime Mr. Belcher
was getting hot. He had closed the door of his room, while a huge coal
fire was burning in the grate. He rose and opened the door. Harry
watched the movement, and descried the grand staircase beyond his
persecutor, as the door swung back. He had looked into the house while
passing, during the previous week, and knew the relations of the
staircase to the entrance on the avenue. His determination was
instantaneously made, and Mr. Belcher was conscious of a swift figure
that passed under his arm, and was half down the staircase before he
could move or say a word. Before he cried "stop him!" Harry's hand was
on the fastening of the door, and when he reached the door, the boy was
half across the street.

He had calculated on smoothing over the rough places of the interview,
and preparing a better report of the visit of the lad's friends on the
other side of the avenue, but the matter had literally slipped through
his fingers. He closed the door after the retreating boy, and went back
to his room without deigning to answer the inquiries that were excited
by his loud command to "stop him."

Sitting down, and taking to himself his usual solace, and smoking
furiously for a while, he said: "D---n!" Into this one favorite and
familiar expletive he poured his anger, his vexation, and his fear. He
believed at the moment that the inventor was alive. He believed that if
he had been dead his boy would, in some way, have revealed the fact.
Was he still insane? Had he powerful friends? It certainly appeared so.
Otherwise, how could the lad be where he had discovered him? Was it
rational to suppose that he was far from his father? Was it rational to
suppose that the lad's friends were not equally the friends of the
inventor? How could he know that Robert Belcher himself had not
unwittingly come to the precise locality where he would be under
constant surveillance? How could he know that a deeply laid plot was not
already at work to undermine and circumvent him? The lad's reticence,
determined and desperate, showed that he knew the relations that existed
between his father and the proprietor, and seemed to show that he had
acted under orders.

Something must be done to ascertain the residence of Paul Benedict, if
still alive, or to assure him of his death, if it had occurred.
Something must be done to secure the property which he was rapidly
accumulating. Already foreign Governments were considering the
advantages of the Belcher rifle, as an arm for the military service, and
negotiations were pending with more than one of them. Already his own
Government, then in the first years of its great civil war, had
experimented with it, with the most favorable results. The business was
never so promising as it then appeared, yet it never had appeared so
insecure.

In the midst of his reflections, none of which were pleasant, and in a
sort of undefined dread of the consequences of his indiscretions in
connection with Harry Benedict, the bell rang, and Mr. and Mrs. Talbot
were announced. The factor and his gracious lady were in fine spirits,
and full of their congratulations over the safe removal of the family to
their splendid mansion. Mrs. Talbot was sure that Mrs. Belcher must feel
that all the wishes of her heart were gratified. There was really
nothing like the magnificence of the mansion. Mrs. Belcher could only
say that it was all very fine, but Mr. Belcher, finding himself an
object of envy, took great pride in showing his visitors about the
house.

Mrs. Talbot, who in some way had ascertained that Mrs. Dillingham had
superintended the arrangement of the house, said, in an aside to Mrs.
Belcher: "It must have been a little lonely to come here and find no one
to receive you--no friend, I mean."

"Mrs. Dillingham was here," remarked Mrs. Belcher, quietly.

"But she was no friend of yours."

"No; Mr. Belcher had met her."

"How strange! How very strange!"

"Do you know her well?"

"I'm afraid I do; but now, really, I hope you won't permit yourself to
be prejudiced against her. I suppose she means well, but she certainly
does the most unheard-of things. She's a restless creature--not quite
right, you know, but she has been immensely flattered. She's an old
friend of mine, and I don't join the hue and cry against her at all, but
she does such imprudent things! What did she say to you?"

Mrs. Belcher detected the spice of pique and jealousy in this charitable
speech, and said very little in response--nothing that a mischief-maker
could torture into an offense.

Having worked her private pump until the well whose waters she sought
refused to give up its treasures, Mrs. Talbot declared she would no
longer embarrass the new house-keeping by her presence. She had only
called to bid Mrs. Belcher welcome, and to assure her that if she had no
friends in the city, there were hundreds of hospitable hearts that were
ready to greet her. Then she and her husband went out, waved their
adieus from their snug little coupe, and drove away.

The call had diverted Mr. Belcher from his somber thoughts, and he
summoned his carriage, and drove down town, where he spent his day in
securing the revolution in his domestic service, already alluded to, in
talking business with his factor, and in making acquaintances on
'Change.

"I'm going to be in the middle of this thing, one of those days," said
he to Talbot as they strolled back to the counting-room of the latter,
after a long walk among the brokers and bankers of Wall street. "If
anybody supposes that I've come here to lie still, they don't know me.
They'll wake up some fine morning and find a new hand at the bellows."

Twilight found him at home again, where he had the supreme pleasure of
turning his very independent servants out of his house into the street,
and installing a set who knew, from the beginning, the kind of man they
had to deal with, and conducted themselves accordingly.

While enjoying his first cigar after dinner, a note was handed to him,
which he opened and read. It was dated at the house across the avenue.
He had expected and dreaded it, but he did not shrink like a coward from
its persual. It read thus:

"MR. ROBERT BELCHER: I have been informed of the shameful manner in
which you treated a member of my family this morning--Master Harry
Benedict. The bullying of a small boy is not accounted a dignified
business for a man in the city which I learn you have chosen for your
home, however it may be regarded in the little town from which you came.
I do not propose to tolerate such conduct toward any dependent of mine.
I do not ask for your apology, for the explanation was in my hands
before the outrage was committed. I perfectly understand your relations
to the lad, and trust that the time will come when the law will define
them, so that the public will also understand them. Meantime, you will
consult your own safety by letting him alone, and never presuming to
repeat the scene of this morning.

"Yours, JAMES BALFOUR,

"Counselor-at-Law."

"Hum! ha!" exclaimed Mr. Belcher, compressing his lips, and spitefully
tearing the letter into small strips and throwing them into the fire.
"Thank you, kind sir; I owe you one," said he, rising, and walking his
room. "_That_ doesn't look very much as if Paul Benedict were alive.
He's a counselor-at-law, he is; and he has inveigled a boy into his
keeping, who, he supposes, has a claim on me; and he proposes to make
some money out of it. Sharp game!"

Mr. Belcher was interrupted in his reflections and his soliloquy by the
entrance of a servant, with the information that there was a man at the
door who wished to see him.

"Show him up."

The servant hesitated, and finally said: "He doesn't smell very well,
sir."

"What does he smell of?" inquired Mr. Belcher, laughing.

"Rum, sir, and several things."

"Send him away, then."

"I tried to, sir, but he says he knows you, and wants to see you on
particular business."

"Take him into the basement, and tell him I'll be down soon."

Mr. Belcher exhausted his cigar, tossed the stump into the fire, and,
muttering to himself, "Who the devil!" went down to meet his caller.

As he entered a sort of lobby in the basement that was used as a
servants' parlor, his visitor rose, and stood with great shame-facedness
before him. He did not extend his hand, but stood still, in his seedy
clothes and his coat buttoned to his chin, to hide his lack of a shirt.
The blue look of the cold street had changed to a hot purple under the
influence of a softer atmosphere; and over all stood the wreck of a good
face, and a head still grand in its outline.

"Well, you look as if you were waiting to be damned," said Mr. Belcher,
roughly.

"I am, sir," responded the man solemnly.

"Very well; consider the business done, so far as I am concerned, and
clear out."

"I am the most miserable of men, Mr. Belcher."

"I believe you; and you'll excuse me if I say that your appearance
corroborates your statement."

"And you don't recognize me? Is it possible?" And the maudlin tears came
into the man's rheumy eyes and rolled down his cheeks. "You knew me in
better days, sir;" and his voice trembled with weak emotion.

"No; I never saw you before. That game won't work, and now be off."

"And you don't remember Yates?--Sam Yates--and the happy days we spent
together in childhood?" And the man wept again, and wiped his eyes with
his coat-sleeve.

"Do you pretend to say that you are Sam Yates, the lawyer?"

"The same, at your service."

"What brought you to this?"

"Drink, and bad company, sir."

"And you want money?"

"Yes!" exclaimed the man, with a hiss as fierce as if he were a serpent.

"Do you want to earn money?"

"Anything to get it."

"Anything to get drink, I suppose. You said 'anything.' Did you mean
that?"

The man knew Robert Belcher, and he knew that the last question had a
great deal more in it than would appear to the ordinary listener.

"Lift me out of the gutter," said he, "and keep me out, and--command
me."

"I have a little business on hand," said Mr. Belcher, "that you can do,
provided you will let your drink alone--a business that I am willing to
pay for. Do you remember a man by the name of Benedict--a shiftless,
ingenious dog, who once lived in Sevenoaks?"

"Very well."

"Should you know him again, were you to see him?"

'I think I should."

"Do you know you should? I don't want any thinking about it. Could you
swear to him?"

"Yes. I don't think it would trouble me to swear to him."

"If I were to show you some of his handwriting, do you suppose that
would help you any?"

"It--might."

"I don't want any 'mights.' Do you know it would?"

"Yes."

"Do you want to sell yourself--body, soul, brains, legal knowledge,
everything--for money?"

"I've sold myself already at a smaller price, and I don't mind
withdrawing from the contract for a better."

Mr. Belcher summoned a servant, and ordered something to eat for his
visitor. While the man eagerly devoured his food, and washed it down
with a cup of tea, Mr. Belcher went to his room, and wrote an order on
his tailor for a suit of clothes, and a complete respectable outfit for
the legal "dead beat" who was feasting himself below. When he descended,
he handed him the paper, and gave him money for a bath and a night's
lodging.

"To-morrow morning I want you to come here clean, and dressed in the
clothes that this paper will give you. If you drink one drop before that
time I will strip the clothes from your back. Come to this room and get
a decent breakfast. Remember that you can't fool me, and that I'll have
none of your nonsense. If you are to serve me, and get any money out of
it, you must keep sober."

"I can keep sober--for a while--any way," said the man, hesitatingly and
half despairingly.

"Very well, now be off; and mind, if I ever hear a word of this, or any
of our dealings outside, I'll thrash you as I would a dog. If you are
true to me I can be of use to you. If you are not, I will kick you into
the street."

The man tottered to his feet, and said: "I am ashamed to say that you
may command me. I should have scorned it once, but my chance is gone,
and I could be loyal to the devil himself--for a consideration."

The next morning Mr. Belcher was informed that Yates had breakfasted,
and was awaiting orders. He descended to the basement, and stood
confronted with a respectable-looking gentleman, who greeted him in a
courtly way, yet with a deprecating look in his eyes, which said, as
plainly as words could express; "don't humiliate me any more than you
can help! Use me, but spare the little pride I have, if you can."

The deprecatory look was lost upon Mr. Belcher. "Where did you get your
clothes?" he inquired. "Come, now; give me the name of your tailor. I'm
green in the city, you see."

The man tried to smile, but the effort was a failure.

"What did you take for a night-cap last night, eh?"

"I give you my word of honor, sir, that I have not taken a drop since I
saw you."

"Word of honor! ha! ha! ha! Do you suppose I want your word of honor? Do
you suppose I want a man of honor, anyway? If you have come here to talk
about honor, you are no man for me. That's a sort of nonsense that I
have no use for."

"Very well; my word of dishonor," responded the man, desperately.

"Now you talk. There's no use in such a man as you putting on airs, and
forgetting that he wears my clothes and fills himself at my table."

"I do not forget it, sir, and I see that I am not likely to."

"Not while you do business with me; and now, sit down and hear me. The
first thing you are to do is to ascertain whether Paul Benedict is dead.
It isn't necessary that you should know my reasons. You are to search
every insane hospital, public and private, in the city, and every
alms-house. Put on your big airs and play philanthropist. Find all the
records of the past year--the death records of the city--everything that
will help to determine that the man is dead, as I believe he is. This
will give you all you want to do for the present. The man's son is in
the city, and the boy and the man left the Sevenoaks poor-house
together. If the man is alive, he is likely to be near him. If he is
dead he probably died near him. Find out, too, if you can, when his boy
came to live at Balfour's over the way, and where he came from. You may
stumble upon what I want very soon, or it may take you all winter. If
you should fail then, I shall want you to take the road from here to
Sevenoaks, and even to Number Nine, looking into all the alms-houses on
the way. The great point is to find out whether he is alive or dead, and
to know, if he is dead, where, and exactly when, he died. In the
meantime, come to me every week with a written report of what you have
done, and get your pay. Come always after dark, so that none of
Balfour's people can see you. Begin the business, and carry it on in
your own way. You are old and sharp enough not to need any aid from me,
and now be off."

The man took a roll of bills that Mr. Belcher handed him, and walked out
of the door without a word. As he rose to the sidewalk, Mr. Balfour came
out of the door opposite to him, with the evident intention of taking a
passing stage. He nodded to Yates, whom he had not only known in other
days, but had many times befriended, and the latter sneaked off down the
street, while he, standing for a moment as if puzzled, turned, and with
his latch-key re-entered his house. Yates saw the movement, and knew
exactly what it meant. He only hoped that Mr. Belcher had not seen it,
as, indeed, he had not, having been at the moment on his way upstairs.

Yates knew that, with his good clothes on, the keen lawyer would give
but one interpretation to the change, and that any hope or direct plan
he might have with regard to ascertaining when the boy was received into
the family, and where he came from, was nugatory. He would not tell Mr.
Belcher this.

Mr. Balfour called his wife to the window, pointed out the retreating
form of Yates, gave utterance to his suspicions, and placed her upon her
guard. Then he went to his office, as well satisfied that there was a
mischievous scheme on foot as if he had overheard the conversation
between Mr. Belcher and the man who had consented to be his tool.




CHAPTER XIV.

WHICH TELLS OF A GREAT PUBLIC MEETING IN SEVENOAKS, THE BURNING IN
EFFIGY OF MR. BELCHER, AND THAT GENTLEMAN'S INTERVIEW WITH A REPORTER.


Mr. Balfour, in his yearly journeys through Sevenoaks, had made several
acquaintances among the citizens, and had impressed them as a man of
ability and integrity; and, as he was the only New York lawyer of their
acquaintance, they very naturally turned to him for information and
advice. Without consulting each other, or informing each other of what
they had done, at least half a dozen wrote to him the moment Mr. Belcher
was out of the village, seeking information concerning the Continental
Petroleum Company. They told him frankly about the enormous investments
that they and their neighbors had made, and of their fears concerning
the results. With a friendly feeling toward the people, he undertook, as
far as possible, to get at the bottom of the matter, and sent a man to
look up the property, and to find the men who nominally composed the
Company.

After a month had passed away and no dividend was announced, the people
began to talk more freely among themselves. They had hoped against hope,
and fought their suspicions until they were tired, and then they sought
in sympathy to assuage the pangs of their losses and disappointments.

It was not until the end of two months after Mr. Belcher's departure
that a letter was received at Sevenoaks from Mr. Balfour, giving a
history of the Company, which confirmed their worst fears. This history
is already in the possession of the reader, but to that which has been
detailed was added the information that, practically, the operations of
the Company had been discontinued, and the men who formed it were
scattered. Nothing had ever been earned, and the dividends which had
been disbursed were taken out of the pockets of the principals, from
moneys which they had received for stock. Mr. Belcher had absorbed half
that had been received, at no cost to himself whatever, and had added
the grand total to his already bulky fortune. It was undoubtedly a gross
swindle, and was, from the first, intended to be such; but it was under
the forms of law, and it was doubtful whether a penny could ever be
recovered.

Then, of course, the citizens held a public meeting--the great panacea
for all the ills of village life in America. Nothing but a set of more
or less impassioned speeches and a string of resolutions could express
the indignation of Sevenoaks. A notice was posted for several days,
inviting all the resident stockholders in the Continental to meet in
council, to see what was to be done for the security of their interests.

The little town-hall was full, and, scattered among the boisterous
throng of men, were the pitiful faces and figures of poor women who had
committed their little all to the grasp of the great scoundrel who had
so recently despoiled and deserted them.

The Rev. Mr. Snow was there, as became the pastor of a flock in which
the wolf had made its ravages, and the meeting was opened with prayer,
according to the usual custom. Considering the mood and temper of the
people, a prayer for the spirit of forgiveness and fortitude would not
have been out of place, but it is to be feared that it was wholly a
matter of form. It is noticeable that at political conventions, on the
eve of conflicts in which personal ambition and party chicanery play
prominent parts; on the inauguration of great business enterprises in
which local interests meet in the determined strifes of selfishness, and
at a thousand gatherings whose objects leave God forgotten and right and
justice out of consideration, the blessing of the Almighty is invoked,
while men who are about to rend each other's reputations, and strive,
without conscience, for personal and party masteries, bow reverent heads
and mumble impatient "Amens."

But the people of Sevenoaks wanted their money back, and that,
certainly, was worth praying for. They wanted, also, to find some way to
wreak their indignation upon Robert Belcher; and the very men who bowed
in prayer after reaching the hall walked under an effigy of that person
on their way thither, hung by the neck and dangling from a tree, and had
rare laughter and gratification in the repulsive vision. They were
angry, they were indignant, they were exasperated, and the more so
because they were more than half convinced of their impotence, while
wholly conscious that they had been decoyed to their destruction,
befooled and overreached by one who knew how to appeal to a greed which
his own ill-won successes and prosperities had engendered in them.

After the prayer, the discussion began. Men rose, trying their best to
achieve self-control, and to speak judiciously and judicially, but they
were hurled, one after another, into the vortex of indignation, and
cheer upon cheer shook the hall as they gave vent to the real feeling
that was uppermost in their hearts.

After the feeling of the meeting had somewhat expended itself, Mr. Snow
rose to speak. In the absence of the great shadow under which he had
walked during all his pastorate, and under the blighting influence of
which his manhood had shriveled, he was once more independent. The
sorrows and misfortunes of his people had greatly moved him. A sense of
his long humiliation shamed him. He was poor, but he was once more his
own; and he owed a duty to the mad multitude around him which he was
bound to discharge. "My friends," said he, "I am with you, for better or
for worse. You kindly permit me to share in your prosperity, and now, in
the day of your trial and adversity, I will stand by you. There has gone
out from among us an incarnate evil influence, a fact which calls for
our profound gratitude. I confess with shame that I have not only felt
it, but have shaped myself, though unconsciously, to it. It has vitiated
our charities, corrupted our morals, and invaded even the house of God.
We have worshiped the golden calf. We have bowed down to Moloch. We have
consented to live under a will that was base and cruel, in all its
motives and ends. We have been so dazzled by a great worldly success,
that we have ceased to inquire into its sources. We have done daily
obeisance to one who neither feared God nor regarded man. We have become
so pervaded with his spirit, so demoralized by his foul example, that
when he held out even a false opportunity to realize something of his
success, we made no inquisition of facts or processes, and were willing
to share with him in gains that his whole history would have taught us
were more likely to be unfairly than fairly won. I mourn for your
losses, for you can poorly afford to suffer them; but to have that man
forever removed from us; to be released from his debasing influence; to
be untrammeled in our action and in the development of our resources; to
be free men and free women, and to become content with our lot and with
such gains as we may win in a legitimate way, is worth all that it has
cost us. We needed a severe lesson, and we have had it. It falls heavily
upon some who are innocent. Let us, in kindness to these, find a balm
for our own trials. And, now, let us not degrade ourselves by hot words
and impotent resentments. They can do no good. Let us be men--Christian
men, with detestation of the rascality from which we suffer, but with
pity for the guilty man, who, sooner or later, will certainly meet the
punishment he so richly deserves. 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay,'
saith the Lord."

The people of Sevenoaks had never before heard Mr. Snow make such a
speech as this. It was a manly confession, and a manly admonition. His
attenuated form was straight and almost majestic, his pale face was
flushed, his tones were deep and strong, and they saw that one man, at
least, breathed more freely, now that the evil genius of the place was
gone. It was a healthful speech. It was an appeal to their own conscious
history, and to such remains of manhood as they possessed, and they were
strengthened by it.

A series of the most objurgatory resolutions had been prepared for the
occasion, yet the writer saw that it would be better to keep them in his
pocket. The meeting was at a stand, when little Dr. Radcliffe, who was
sore to his heart's core with his petty loss, jumped up and declared
that he had a series of resolutions to offer. There was a world of
unconscious humor in his freak,--unconscious, because his resolutions
were intended to express his spite, not only against Mr. Belcher, but
against the villagers, including Mr. Snow. He began by reading in his
piping voice the first resolution passed at the previous meeting which
so pleasantly dismissed the proprietor to the commercial metropolis of
the country. The reading of this resolution was so sweet a sarcasm on
the proceedings of that occasion, that it was received with peals of
laughter and deafening cheers, and as he went bitterly on, from
resolution to resolution, raising his voice to overtop the jargon, the
scene became too ludicrous for description. The resolutions, which never
had any sincerity in them, were such a confirmation of all that Mr. Snow
had said, and such a comment on their own duplicity and moral
debasement, that there was nothing left for them but to break up and go
home.

The laugh did them good, and complemented the corrective which had been
administered to them by the minister. Some of them still retained their
anger, as a matter of course, and when they emerged upon the street and
found Mr. Belcher's effigy standing upon the ground, surrounded by
fagots ready to be lighted, they yelled: "Light him up, boys!" and stood
to witness the sham _auto-da-fe_ with a crowd of village urchins dancing
around it.

Of course, Mr. Belcher had calculated upon indignation and anger, and
rejoiced in their impotence. He knew that those who had lost so much
would not care to risk more in a suit at law, and that his property at
Sevenoaks was so identified with the life of the town--that so many were
dependent upon its preservation for their daily bread--that they would
not be fool-hardy enough to burn it.

Forty-eight hours after the public meeting, Mr. Belcher, sitting
comfortably in his city home, received from the postman a large handful
of letters. He looked them over, and as they were all blazoned with the
Sevenoaks post-mark, he selected that which bore the handwriting of his
agent, and read it. The agent had not dared to attend the meeting, but
he had had his spies there, who reported to him fully the authorship and
drift of all the speeches in the hall, and the unseemly proceedings of
the street. Mr. Belcher did not laugh, for his vanity was wounded. The
thought that a town in which he had ruled so long had dared to burn his
effigy in the open street was a humiliation; particularly so, as he did
not see how he could revenge himself upon the perpetrators of it without
compromising his own interests. He blurted out his favorite expletive,
lighted a new cigar, walked his room, and chafed like a caged tiger.

He was not in haste to break the other seals, but at last he sat down to
the remainder of his task, and read a series of pitiful personal appeals
that would have melted any heart but his own. They were from needy men
and women whom he had despoiled. They were a detail of suffering and
disappointment, and in some cases they were abject prayers for
restitution. He read them all, to the last letter and the last word, and
then quietly tore them into strips, and threw them into the fire.

His agent had informed him of the sources of the public information
concerning the Continental Company, and he recognized James Balfour as
an enemy. He had a premonition that the man was destined to stand in his
way, and that he was located just where he could overlook his operations
and his life. He would not have murdered him, but he would have been
glad to hear that he was dead. He wondered whether he was
incorruptible, and whether he, Robert Belcher, could afford to buy
him--whether it would not pay to make his acquaintance--whether, indeed,
the man were not endeavoring to force him to do so. Every bad motive
which could exercise a man, he understood; but he was puzzled in
endeavoring to make out what form of selfishness had moved Mr. Balfour
to take such an interest in the people of Sevenoaks.

At last he sat down at his table and wrote a letter to his agent, simply
ordering him to establish a more thorough watch over his property, and
directing him to visit all the newspaper offices of the region, and keep
the reports of the meeting and its attendant personal indignities from
publication.

Then, with an amused smile upon his broad face, he wrote the following
letter:

"TO THE REVEREND SOLOMON SNOW,

"_Dear Sir_: I owe an apology to the people of Sevenoaks for never
adequately acknowledging the handsome manner in which they endeavored to
assuage the pangs of parting on the occasion of my removal. The
resolutions passed at their public meeting are cherished among my
choicest treasures, and the cheers of the people as I rode through their
ranks on the morning of my departure, still ring in my ears more
delightfully than any music I ever heard. Thank them, I pray you, for
me, for their overwhelming friendliness. I now have a request to make of
them, and I make it the more boldly because, during the past ten years,
I have never been approached by any of them in vain when they have
sought my benefactions. The Continental Petroleum Company is a failure,
and all the stock I hold in it is valueless. Finding that my expenses in
the city are very much greater than in the country, it has occurred to
me that perhaps my friends there would be willing to make up a purse for
my benefit. I assure you that it would be gratefully received; and I
apply to you because, from long experience, I know that you are
accomplished in the art of begging. Your graceful manner in accepting
gifts from me has given me all the hints I shall need in that respect,
so that the transaction will not be accompanied by any clumsy details.
My butcher's bill will be due in a few days, and dispatch is desirable.

"With the most cordial compliments to Mrs. Snow, whom I profoundly
esteem, and to your accomplished daughters, who have so long been spared
to the protection of the paternal roof,

"I am your affectionate parishioner,

"ROBERT BELCHER."

Mr. Belcher had done what he considered a very neat and brilliant thing.
He sealed and directed the letter, rang his bell, and ordered it posted.
Then he sat back in his easy chair, and chuckled over it. Then he rose
and paraded himself before his mirror.

"When you get ahead of Robert Belcher, drop us a line. Let it be brief
and to the point. Any information thankfully received. Are you, sir, to
be bothered by this pettifogger? Are you to sit tamely down and be
undermined? Is that your custom? Then, sir, you are a base coward. Who
said coward? Did you, sir? Let this right hand, which I now raise in
air, and clench in awful menace, warn you not to repeat the damning
accusation. Sevenoaks howls, and it is well. Let every man who stands in
my path take warning. I button my coat; I raise my arms; I straighten my
form, and they flee away--flee like the mists of the morning, and over
yonder mountain-top, fade in the far blue sky. And now, my dear sir,
don't make an ass of yourself, but sit down. Thank you, sir. I make you
my obeisance. I retire."

Mr. Belcher's addresses to himself were growing less frequent among the
excitements of new society. He had enough to occupy his mind without
them, and found sufficient competition in the matter of dress to modify
in some degree his vanity of person; but the present occasion was a
stimulating one, and one whose excitements he could not share with
another.

His missive went to its destination, and performed a thoroughly
healthful work, because it destroyed all hope of any relief from his
hands, and betrayed the cruel contempt with which he regarded his old
townsmen and friends.

He slept as soundly that night as if he had been an innocent infant; but
on the following morning, sipping leisurely and luxuriously at his
coffee, and glancing over the pages of his favorite newspaper, he
discovered a letter with startling headings, which displayed his own
name and bore the date of Sevenoaks. The "R" at its foot revealed Dr.
Radcliffe as the writer, and the peppery doctor had not miscalculated in
deciding that "The New York Tattler" would be the paper most affected by
Mr. Belcher--a paper with more enterprise than brains, more brains than
candor, and with no conscience at all; a paper which manufactured hoaxes
and vended them for news, bought and sold scandals by the sheet as if
they were country gingerbread, and damaged reputations one day for the
privilege and profit of mending them the next.

He read anew, and with marvelous amplification, the story with which the
letter of his agent had already made him familiar. This time he had
received a genuine wound, with poison upon the barb of the arrow that
had pierced him. He crushed the paper in his hand and ascended to his
room. All Wall street would see it, comment upon it, and laugh over it.
Balfour would read it and smile. New York and all the country would
gossip about it. Mrs. Dillingham would peruse it. Would it change her
attitude toward him? This was a serious matter, and it touched him to
the quick.

The good angel who had favored him all his life, and brought him safe
and sound out of every dirty difficulty of his career, was already on
his way with assistance, although he did not know it. Sometimes this
angel had assumed the form of a lie, sometimes that of a charity,
sometimes that of a palliating or deceptive circumstance; but it had
always appeared at the right moment; and this time it came in the form
of an interviewing reporter. His bell rang, and a servant appeared with
the card of "Mr. Alphonse Tibbets of 'The New York Tattler.'"

A moment before, he was cursing "The Tattler" for publishing the record
of his shame, but he knew instinctively that the way out of his scrape
had been opened to him.

"Show him up," said the proprietor at once. He had hardly time to look
into his mirror, and make sure that his hair and his toilet were all
right, before a dapper little fellow, with a professional manner, and a
portfolio under his arm, was ushered into the room. The air of easy
good-nature and good fellowship was one which Mr. Belcher could assume
at will, and this was the air that he had determined upon as a matter of
policy in dealing with a representative of "The Tattler" office. He
expected to meet a man with a guilty look, and a deprecating, fawning
smile. He was, therefore, very much surprised to find in Mr. Tibbets a
young gentleman without the slightest embarrassment in his bearing, or
the remotest consciousness that he was in the presence of a man who
might possibly have cause of serious complaint against "The Tattler." In
brief, Mr. Tibbets seemed to be a man who was in the habit of dealing
with rascals, and liked them. Would Mr. Tibbets have a cup of coffee
sent up to him? Mr. Tibbets had breakfasted, and, therefore, declined
the courtesy. Would Mr. Tibbets have a cigar? Mr. Tibbets would, and, on
the assurance that they were nicer than he would be apt to find
elsewhere, Mr. Tibbets consented to put a handful of cigars into his
pocket. Mr. Tibbets then drew up to the table, whittled his pencil,
straightened out his paper, and proceeded to business, looking much, as
he faced the proprietor, like a Sunday-school teacher on a rainy day,
with the one pupil before him who had braved the storm because he had
his lesson at his tongue's end.

As the substance of the questions and answers appeared in the next
morning's "Tattler," hereafter to be quoted, it is not necessary to
recite them here. At the close of the interview, which was very friendly
and familiar, Mr. Belcher rose, and with the remark: "You fellows must
have a pretty rough time of it," handed the reporter a twenty-dollar
bank-note, which that gentleman pocketed without a scruple, and without
any remarkable effusiveness of gratitude. Then Mr. Belcher wanted him to
see the house, and so walked over it with him. Mr. Tibbets was
delighted. Mr. Tibbets congratulated him. Mr. Tibbets went so far as to
say that he did not believe there was another such mansion in New York.
Mr. Tibbets did not remark that he had been kicked out of several of
them, only less magnificent, because circumstances did not call for the
statement. Then Mr. Tibbets went away, and walked off hurriedly down the
street to write out his report.

The next morning Mr. Belcher was up early in order to get his "Tattler"
as soon as it was dropped at his door. He soon found, on opening the
reeking sheet, the column which held the precious document of Mr.
Tibbets, and read:

                "The Riot at Sevenoaks!!!
       "An interesting Interview with Col. Belcher!
        "The original account grossly Exaggerated!
      "The whole matter an outburst of Personal Envy!
             "The Palgrave Mansion in a fume!
                "Tar, feathers and fagots!
                 "A Tempest in a Tea-pot!
  "Petroleum in a blaze, and a thousand fingers burnt!!!
                 "Stand out from under!!!"

The headings came near taking Mr. Belcher's breath away. He gasped,
shuddered, and wondered what was coming. Then he went on and read the
report of the interview:

"A 'Tattler' reporter visited yesterday the great proprietor of
Sevenoaks, Colonel Robert Belcher, at his splendid mansion on Fifth
Avenue. That gentleman had evidently just swallowed his breakfast, and
was comforting himself over the report he had read in the 'Tattler' of
that morning, by inhaling the fragrance of one of his choice Havanas. He
is evidently a devotee of the seductive weed, and knows a good article
when he sees it. A copy of the 'Tattler' lay on the table, which bore
unmistakable evidences of having been spitefully crushed in the hand.
The iron had evidently entered the Colonel's righteous soul, and the
reporter, having first declined the cup of coffee hospitably tendered to
him and accepted (as he always does when he gets a chance) a cigar,
proceeded at once to business.

"_Reporter_: Col. Belcher, have you seen the report in this morning's
'Tattler' of the riot at Sevenoaks, which nominally had your dealings
with the people for its occasion?

"_Answer_: I have, and a pretty mess was made of it.

"_Reporter:_ Do you declare the report to be incorrect?

"_Answer:_ I know nothing about the correctness or the incorrectness of
the report, for I was not there.

"_Reporter:_ Were the accusations made against yourself correct,
presuming that they were fairly and truthfully reported?

"_Answer:_ They were so far from being correct that nothing could be
more untruthful or more malicious.

"_Reporter:_ Have you any objection to telling me the true state of the
case in detail?

"_Answer:_ None at all. Indeed, I have been so foully misrepresented,
that I am glad of an opportunity to place myself right before a people
with whom I have taken up my residence. In the first place, I made
Sevenoaks. I have fed the people of Sevenoaks for more than ten years. I
have carried the burden of their charities; kept their dirty ministers
from starving; furnished employment for their women and children, and
run the town. I had no society there, and of course, got tired of my
hum-drum life. I had worked hard, been successful, and felt that I owed
it to myself and my family to go somewhere and enjoy the privileges,
social and educational, which I had the means to command. I came to New
York without consulting anybody, and bought this house. The people
protested, but ended by holding a public meeting, and passing a series
of resolutions complimentary to me, of which I very naturally felt
proud; and when I came away, they assembled at the roadside and gave me
the friendliest cheers.

"_Reporter:_ How about the petroleum?

"_Answer:_ Well, that is an unaccountable thing. I went into the
Continental Company, and nothing would do for the people but to go in
with me. I warned them--every man of them--but they would go in; so I
acted as their agent in procuring stock for them. There was not a share
of stock sold on any persuasion of mine. They were mad, they were wild,
for oil. You wouldn't have supposed there was half so much money in the
town as they dug out of their old stockings to invest in oil. I was
surprised, I assure you. Well, the Continental went up, and they had to
be angry with somebody; and although I held more stock than any of them,
they took a fancy that I had defrauded them, and so they came together
to wreak their impotent spite on me. That's the sum and substance of the
whole matter.

"_Reporter:_ And that is all you have to say?

"_Answer:_ Well, it covers the ground. Whether I shall proceed in law
against these scoundrels for maligning me, I have not determined. I
shall probably do nothing about it. The men are poor, and even if they
were rich, what good would it do me to get their money? I've got money
enough, and money with me can never offset a damage to character. When
they get cool and learn the facts, if they ever do learn them, they will
be sorry. They are not a bad people at heart, though I am ashamed, as
their old fellow-townsman, to say that they have acted like children in
this matter. There's a half-crazy, half-silly old doctor there by the
name of Radcliffe, and an old parson by the name of Snow, whom I have
helped to feed for years, who lead them into difficulty. But they're not
a bad people, now, and I am sorry for their sake that this thing has got
into the papers. It'll hurt the town. They have keen badly led,
inflamed over false information, and they have disgraced themselves.

"This closed the interview, and then Col. Belcher politely showed the
'Tattler' reporter over his palatial abode. 'Taken for all in all,' he
does not expect 'to look upon its like again.'

  "None see it but to love it,
  None name it but to praise.

"It was 'linked sweetness long drawn out,' and must have cost the
gallant Colonel a pile of stamps. Declining an invitation to visit the
stables,--for our new millionaire is a lover of horse-flesh, as well as
the narcotic weed--and leaving that gentleman to 'witch the world with
wondrous horsemanship,' the 'Tattler' reporter withdrew, 'pierced
through with Envy's venomed darts,' and satisfied that his courtly
entertainer had been 'more sinned against than sinning.'"

Col. Belcher read the report with genuine pleasure, and then, turning
over the leaf, read upon the editorial page the following:

"COL. BELCHER ALL RIGHT.--We are satisfied that the letter from
Sevenoaks, published in yesterday's 'Tattler,' in regard to our highly
respected fellow-citizen, Colonel Robert Belcher, was a gross libel upon
that gentleman, and intended, by the malicious writer, to injure an
honorable and innocent man. It is only another instance of the
ingratitude of rural communities toward their benefactors. We
congratulate the redoubtable Colonel on his removal from so pestilent a
neighborhood to a city where his sterling qualities will find 'ample
scope and verge enough,' and where those who suffer 'the slings and
arrows of outrageous fortune' will not lay them to the charge of one who
can, with truthfulness, declare 'Thou canst not say I did it.'"

When Mr. Belcher concluded, he muttered to himself, "Twenty
dollars!--cheap enough." He had remained at home the day before; now he
could go upon 'Change with a face cleared of all suspicion. A cloud of
truth had overshadowed him, but it had been dissipated by the genial
sunlight of falsehood. His self-complacency was fully restored when he
received a note, in the daintiest text on the daintiest paper,
congratulating him on the triumphant establishment of his innocence
before the New York public, and bearing as its signature a name so
precious to him that he took it to his own room before destroying it and
kissed it.




CHAPTER XV.

WHICH TELLS ABOUT MRS. DILLINGHAM'S CHRISTMAS AND THE NEW YEAR'S
RECEPTION AT THE PALGRAVE MANSION.


A brilliant Christmas morning shone in at Mrs. Dillingham's window,
where she sat quietly sunning the better side of her nature. Her parlor
was a little paradise, and all things around her were in tasteful
keeping with her beautiful self. The Christmas chimes were deluging the
air with music; throngs were passing by on their way to and from church,
and exchanging the greetings of the day; wreaths of holly were in her
own windows and in those of her neighbors; and the influences of the
hour--half poetical, half religious--held the unlovely and the evil
within her in benign though temporary thrall. The good angel was
dominant within her, while the bad angel slept.

Far down the vista of the ages, she was looking into a stable where a
baby lay, warm in its swaddling-clothes, the mother bending over it. She
saw above the stable a single star, which, palpitating with prophecy,
shook its long rays out into the form of a cross, then drew them in
until they circled into a blazing crown. Far above the star the air was
populous with lambent forms and resonant with shouting voices, and she
heard the words: "Peace on earth, good-will to men!" The chimes melted
into her reverie; the kindly sun encouraged it; the voices of happy
children fed it, and she was moved to tears.

What could she do now but think over her past life--a life that had
given her no children--a life that had been filled neither by peace nor
good-will? She had married an old man for his money; had worried him
out of his life, and he had gone and left her childless. She would not
charge herself with the crime of hastening to the grave her father and
mother, but she knew she had not been a comfort to them. Her
willfulness; her love of money and of power; her pride of person and
accomplishments; her desire for admiration; her violent passions, had
made her a torment to others and to herself. She knew that no one loved
her for anything good that she possessed, and knew that her own heart
was barren of love for others. She felt that a little child who would
call her "mother," clinging to her hand, or nestling in her bosom, could
redeem her to her better self; and how could she help thinking of the
true men who, with their hearts in their fresh, manly hands, had prayed
for her love in the dawn of her young beauty, and been spurned from her
presence--men now in the honorable walks of life with their little ones
around them? Her relatives had forsaken her. There was absolutely no one
to whom she could turn for the sympathy which in that hour she craved.

In these reflections, there was one person of her own blood recalled to
whom she had been a curse, and of whom, for a single moment, she could
not bear to think. She had driven him from her presence--the one who,
through all her childhood, had been her companion, her admirer, her
loyal follower. He had dared to love and marry one whom she did not
approve, and she had angrily banished him from her side. If she only had
him to love, she felt that she should be better and happier, but she had
no hope that he would ever return to her.

She felt now, with inexpressible loathing, the unworthiness of the
charms with which she fascinated the base men around her. The only
sympathy she had was from these, and the only power she possessed was
over them, and through them. The aim of her life was to fascinate them;
the art of her life was to keep them fascinated without the conscious
degradation of herself, and, so, to lead them whithersoever she would.
Her business was the manufacture of slaves--slaves to her personal
charms and her imperious will. Each slave carried around his own secret,
treated her with distant deference in society, spoke of her with
respect, and congratulated himself on possessing her supreme favor. Not
one of them had her heart, or her confidence. With a true woman's
instinct, she knew that no man who would be untrue to his wife would be
true to her. So she played with them as with puppies that might gambol
around her, and fawn before her, but might not smutch her robes with
their dirty feet, or get the opportunity to bite her hand.

She had a house, but she had no home. Again and again the thought came
to her that in a million homes that morning the air was full of
music--hearty greetings between parents and children, sweet prattle from
lips unstained, merry laughter from bosoms without a care. With a heart
full of tender regrets for the mistakes and errors of the past, with
unspeakable contempt for the life she was living, and with vain
yearnings for something better, she rose and determined to join the
throngs that were pressing into the churches. Hastily prepared for the
street, she went out, and soon, her heart responding to the Christmas
music, and her voice to the Christmas utterances from the altar, she
strove to lift her heart in devotion. She felt the better for it. It was
an old habit, and the spasm was over. Having done a good thing, she
turned her ear away from the suggestions of her good angel, and, in
turning away, encountered the suggestions of worldliness from the other
side, which came back to her with their old music. She came out of the
church as one comes out of a theater, where for hours he has sat
absorbed in the fictitious passion of a play, to the grateful rush and
roar of Broadway, the flashing of the lights, and the shouting of the
voices of the real world.

Mr. Belcher called that evening, and she was glad to see him. Arrayed in
all her loveliness, sparkling with vivacity and radiant with health, she
sat and wove her toils about him. She had never seemed lovelier in his
eyes, and, as he thought of the unresponsive and quiet woman he had left
behind him, he felt that his home was not on Fifth Avenue, but in the
house where he then sat. Somehow--he could not tell how--she had always
kept him at a distance. He had not dared to be familiar with her. Up to
a certain point he could carry his gallantries, but no further. Then the
drift of conversation would change. Then something called her away. He
grew mad with the desire to hold her hand, to touch her, to unburden his
heart of its passion for her, to breathe his hope of future possession;
but always, when the convenient moment came, he was gently repelled,
tenderly hushed, adroitly diverted. He knew the devil was in her; he
believed that she was fond of him, and thus knowing and believing, he
was at his wit's end to guess why she should be so persistently
perverse. He had drank that day, and was not so easily managed as usual,
and she had a hard task to hold him to his proprieties. There was only
one way to do this, and that was to assume the pathetic.

Then she told him of her lonely day, her lack of employment, her wish
that she could be of some use in the world, and, finally, she wondered
whether Mrs. Belcher would like to have her, Mrs. Dillingham, receive
with her on New Year's Day. If that lady would not consider it an
intrusion, she should be happy to shut her own house, and thus be able
to present all the gentlemen of the city worth knowing, not only to Mrs.
Belcher, but to her husband.

To have Mrs. Dillingham in the house for a whole day, and particularly
to make desirable acquaintances so easily, was a rare privilege. He
would speak to Mrs. Belcher about it, and he was sure there could be but
one answer. To be frank about it, he did not intend there should be but
one answer; but, for form's sake, it would be best to consult her. Mr.
Belcher did not say--what was the truth--that the guilt in his heart
made him more careful to consult Mrs. Belcher in the matter than he
otherwise would have been; but now that his loyalty to her had ceased,
he became more careful to preserve its semblance. There was a tender
quality in Mrs. Dillingham's voice as she parted with him for the
evening, and a half returned, suddenly relinquished response to the
pressure of his hand, which left the impression that she had checked an
eager impulse. Under the influence of these, the man went out from her
presence, flattered to his heart's core, and with his admiration of her
self-contained and prudent passion more exalted than ever.

Mr. Belcher went directly home, and into Mrs. Belcher's room. That good
lady was alone, quietly reading. The children had retired, and she was
spending her time after her custom.

"Well, Sarah, what sort of a Christmas have you had?"

Mrs. Belcher bit her lip, for there was something in her husband's tone
which conveyed the impression that he was preparing to wheedle her into
some scheme upon which he had set his heart, and which he felt or
feared, would not be agreeable to her. She had noticed a change in him.
He was tenderer toward her than he had been for years, yet her heart
detected the fact that the tenderness was a sham. She could not
ungraciously repel it, yet she felt humiliated in accepting it. So, as
she answered his question with the words: "Oh, much the same as usual,"
she could not look into his face with a smile upon her own.

"I've just been over to call on Mrs. Dillingham," said he.

"Ah?"

"Yes; I thought I would drop in and give her the compliments of the
season. She's rather lonely, I fancy."

"So am I."

"Well now, Sarah, there's a difference; you know there is. You have your
children, and--"

"And she my husband."

"Well, she's an agreeable woman, and I must go out sometimes. My
acquaintance with agreeable women in New York is not very large."

"Why don't you ask your wife to go with you? I'm fond of agreeable
women too."

"You are not fond of her, and I'm afraid she suspects it."

"I should think she would. Women who are glad to receive alone the calls
of married men, always do suspect their wives of disliking them."

"Well, it certainly isn't her fault that men go to see her without their
wives. Don't be unfair now, my dear."

"I don't think I am," responded Mrs. Belcher. "I notice that women never
like other women who are great favorites with men; and there must be
some good reason for it. Women like Mrs. Dillingham, who abound in
physical fascinations for men, have no liking for the society of their
own sex. I have never heard a woman speak well of her, and I have never
heard her speak well of any other woman."

"I have, and, more than that, I have heard her speak well of you. I
think she is shamefully belied. Indeed, I do not think that either of us
has a better friend than she, and I have a proposition to present to you
which proves it. She is willing to come to us on New Year's Day, and
receive with you--to bring all her acquaintances into your house, and
make them yours and mine."

"Is it possible?"

"Yes; and I think we should be most ungrateful and discourteous to her,
as well as impolitic with relation to ourselves and to our social
future, not to accept the proposition."

"I don't think I care to be under obligations to Mrs. Dillingham for
society, or care for the society she will bring us. I am not pleased
with a proposition of this kind that comes through my husband. If she
were my friend it would be a different matter, but she is not. If I were
to feel myself moved to invite some lady to come here and receive with
me, it would be well enough; but this proposition is a stroke of
patronage as far as I am concerned, and I don't like it. It is like Mrs.
Dillingham and all of her kind. Whatever may have been her motives, it
was an indelicate thing to do, and she ought to be ashamed of herself
for doing it"

Mr. Belcher knew in his heart that his wife was right. He knew that
every word she had spoken was the truth. He knew that he should never
call on Mrs. Dillingham with his wife, save as a matter of policy; but
this did not modify his determination to have his own way.

"You place me in a very awkward position, my dear," said he, determined,
as long as possible, to maintain an amiable mood.

"And she has placed me in one which you are helping to fasten upon me,
and not at all helping to relieve me from."

"I don't see how I can, my dear. I am compelled to go back to her with
some answer; and, as I am determined to have my house open, I must say
whether you accept or decline her courtesy; for courtesy it is, and not
patronage at all."

Mrs. Belcher felt the chain tightening, and knew that she was to be
bound, whether willing or unwilling. The consciousness of her impotence
did not act kindly upon her temper, and she burst out:

"I do not want her here. I wish she would have done with her officious
helpfulness. Why can't she mind her own business, and let me alone?"

Mr. Belcher's temper rose to the occasion; for, although he saw in Mrs.
Belcher's petulance and indignation that his victory was half won, he
could not quite submit to the abuse of his brilliant pet.

"I have some rights in this house myself, my dear, and I fancy that my
wishes are deserving of respect, at least."

"Very well. If it's your business, why did you come to me with it? Why
didn't you settle it before you left the precious lady, who is so much
worthier your consideration than your wife? Now go, and tell her that it
is your will that she shall receive with me, and that I tamely submit."

"I shall tell her nothing of the kind."

"You can say no less, if you tell her the truth."

"My dear, you are angry. Let's not talk about it any more to-night. You
will feel differently about it in the morning."

Of course, Mrs. Belcher went to bed in tears, cried over it until she
went to sleep, and woke in the morning submissive, and quietly
determined to yield to her husband's wishes. Of course, Mr. Belcher was
not late in informing Mrs. Dillingham that his wife would be most happy
to accept her proposition. Of course, Mrs. Dillingham lost no time in
sending her card to all the gentlemen she had ever met, with the
indorsement, "Receives on New Year's with Mrs. Col. Belcher, ---- Fifth
Avenue." Of course, too, after the task was accomplished, she called on
Mrs. Belcher to express her gratitude for the courtesy, and to make
suggestions about the entertainment. Was it quite of course that Mrs.
Belcher, in the presence of this facile woman, overflowing with kind
feeling, courteous deference, pleasant sentiment and sparkling
conversation, should feel half ashamed of herself, and wonder how one so
good and bright and sweet could so have moved her to anger?

The day came at last, and at ten Mrs. Dillingham entered the grand
drawing-room in her queenly appareling. She applauded Mrs. Belcher's
appearance, she kissed the children, all of whom thought her the
loveliest lady they had ever seen, and in an aside to Mr. Belcher
cautioned him against partaking too bountifully of the wines he had
provided for his guests. "Let us have a nice thing of it," she said,
"and nothing to be sorry for."

Mr. Belcher was faithfully in her leading. It would have been no
self-denial for him to abstain entirely for her sake. He would do
anything she wished.

There was one thing noticeable in her treatment of the lads of the
family, and in their loyalty to her. She could win a boy's heart with a
touch of her hand, a smile and a kiss. They clung to her whenever in
her presence. They hung charmed upon all her words. They were happy to
do anything she desired; and as children see through shams more quickly
than their elders, it could not be doubted that she had a genuine
affection for them. A child addressed the best side of her nature, and
evoked a passion that had never found rest in satisfaction, while her
heartiness and womanly beauty appealed to the boy nature with charms to
which it yielded unbounded admiration and implicit confidence.

The reception was a wonderful success. Leaving out of the account the
numbers of gentlemen who came to see the revived glories of the Palgrave
mansion, there was a large number of men who had been summoned by Mrs.
Dillingham's cards--men who undoubtedly ought to have been in
better business or in better company. They were men in good
positions--clergymen, merchants, lawyers, physicians, young men of good
families--men whose wives and mothers and sisters entertained an
uncharitable opinion of that lady; but for this one courtesy of a year
the men would not be called to account. Mrs. Dillingham knew them all at
sight, called each man promptly by name, and presented them all to her
dear friend Mrs. Belcher, and then to Col. Belcher, who, dividing his
attention between the drawing-room and the dining-room, played the host
with rude heartiness and large hospitality.

Mrs. Belcher was surprised by the presence of a number of men whose
names were familiar with the public--Members of Congress,
representatives of the city government, clergymen even, who were
generally supposed to be "at home" on that day. Why had these made their
appearance? She could only come to one conclusion, which was, that they
regarded Mrs. Dillingham as a show. Mrs. Dillingham in a beautiful
house, arranged for self-exhibition, was certainly more attractive than
Mary, Queen of Scots, in wax, in a public hall; and she could be seen
for nothing.

It is doubtful whether Mrs. Belcher's estimate of their sex was
materially raised by their tribute to her companion's personal
attractions, but they furnished her with an interesting study. She was
comforted by certain observations, viz., that there were at least twenty
men among them who, by their manner and their little speeches, which
only a woman could interpret, showed that they were entangled in the
same meshes that had been woven around her husband; that they were as
foolish, as fond, as much deceived, and as treacherously entertained as
he.

She certainly was amused. Puffy old fellows with nosegays in their
button-holes grew gallant and young in Mrs. Dillingham's presence,
filled her ears with flatteries, received the grateful tap of her fan,
and were immediately banished to the dining-room, from which they
emerged redder in the face and puffier than ever. Dapper young men
arriving in cabs threw off their overcoats before alighting, and ran up
the steps in evening dress, went through their automatic greeting and
leave-taking, and ran out again to get through their task of making
almost numberless calls during the day. Steady old men like Mr.
Tunbridge and Mr. Schoonmaker, who had had the previous privilege of
meeting Mr. Belcher, were turned over to Mrs. Belcher, with whom they
sat down and had a quiet talk. Mrs. Dillingham seemed to know exactly
how to apportion the constantly arriving and departing guests. Some were
entertained by herself, some were given to Mr. Belcher, some to the
hostess, and others were sent directly to the refreshment tables to be
fed.

Mr. Belcher was brought into contact with men of his own kind, who did
not fail to recognize him as a congenial spirit, and to express the hope
of seeing more of him, now that he had become "one of us." Each one knew
some other one whom he would take an early opportunity of presenting to
Mr. Belcher. They were all glad he was in New York. It was the place for
him. Everything was open to such a man as he, in such a city, and they
only wondered why he had been content to remain so long, shut away from
his own kind.

These expressions of brotherly interest were very pleasant to Mr.
Belcher. They flattered him and paved the way for a career. He would
soon be hand-in-glove with them all. He would soon find the ways of
their prosperity, and make himself felt among them.

The long afternoon wore away, and, just as the sun was setting, Mrs.
Belcher was called from the drawing-room by some family care, leaving
Mr. Belcher and Mrs. Dillingham together.

"Don't be gone long," said the latter to Mrs. Belcher, as she left the
room.

"Be gone till to-morrow morning," said Mr. Belcher, in a whisper at Mrs.
Dillingham's ear.

"You're a wretch," said the lady.

"You're right--a very miserable wretch. Here you've been playing the
devil with a hundred men all day, and I've been looking at you. Is there
any article of your apparel that I can have the privilege of kissing?"

Mrs. Dillingham laughed him in his face. Then she took a wilted rose-bud
from a nosegay at her breast, and gave it to him.

"My roses are all faded," she said--"worth nothing to me--worth nothing
to anybody--except you."

Then she passed to the window; to hide her emotion? to hide her
duplicity? to change the subject? to give Mr. Belcher a glance at her
gracefully retreating figure? to show herself, framed by the window,
into a picture for the delight of his devouring eyes?

Mr. Belcher followed her. His hand lightly touched her waist, and she
struck it down, as if her own were the velvet paw of a lynx.

"You startled me so!" she said.

"Are you always to be startled so easily?"

"Here? yes."

"Everywhere?"

"Yes. Perhaps so."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For the perhaps."

"You are easily pleased and grateful for nothing; and, now, tell me who
lives opposite to you?"

"A lawyer by the name of James Balfour."

"James Balfour? Why, he's one of my old flames. He ought to have been
here to-day. Perhaps he'll be in this evening."

"Not he."

"Why?"

"He has the honor to be an enemy of mine, and knows that I would rather
choke him than eat my dinner."

"You men are such savages; but aren't those nice boys on the steps?"

"I happen to know one of them, and I should like to know why he is
there, and how he came there. Between you and me, now--strictly between
you and me--that boy is the only person that stands between me
and--and--a pile of money."

"Is it possible? Which one, now?"

"The larger."

"But, isn't he lovely?"

"He's a Sevenoaks pauper."

"You astonish me."

"I tell you the truth, and Balfour has managed, in some way, to get hold
of him, and means to make money out of me by it. I know men. You can't
tell me anything about men; and my excellent neighbor will have his
hands full, whenever he sees fit to undertake his job."

"Tell me all about it now," said Mrs. Dillingham, her eyes alight with
genuine interest.

"Not now, but I'll tell you what I would like to have you do. You have a
way of making boys love you, and men too--for that matter--and precious
little do they get for it."

"Candid and complimentary," she sighed.

"Well, I've seen you manage with my boys, and I would like to have you
try it with him. Meet him in the street, manage to speak to him, get him
into your house, make him love you. You can do it. You are bold enough,
ingenious enough, and subtle enough to do anything of that kind you will
undertake. Some time, if you have him under your influence, you may be
of use to me. Some time, he may be glad to hide in your house. No harm
can come to you in making his acquaintance."

"Do you know that you are talking very strangely to me?"

"No. I'm talking business. Is that a strange thing to a woman?"

Mrs. Dillingham made no reply, but stood and watched the boys, as they
ran up and down the steps in play, with a smile of sympathy upon her
face, and genuine admiration of the graceful motions and handsome face
and figure of the lad of whom Mr. Belcher had been talking. Her
curiosity was piqued, her love of intrigue was appealed to, and she
determined to do, at the first convenient opportunity, what Mr. Belcher
desired her to do.

Then Mrs. Belcher returned, and the evening, like the afternoon, was
devoted to the reception of guests, and when, at last, the clock struck
eleven, and Mrs. Dillingham stood bonneted and shawled ready to go home
in the carriage that waited at the door, Mrs. Belcher kissed her, while
Mr. Belcher looked on in triumph.

"Now, Sarah, haven't we had a nice day?" said he.

"Very pleasant, indeed."

"And haven't I behaved well? Upon my word, I believe I shall have to
stand treat to my own abstinence, before I go to bed."

"Yes, you've been wonderfully good," remarked his wife.

"Men are such angels!" said Mrs. Dillingham.

Then Mr. Belcher put on his hat and overcoat, led Mrs. Dillingham to her
carriage, got in after her, slammed the door, and drove away.

No sooner were they in the carriage than Mrs. Dillingham went to
talking about the little boy, in the most furious manner. Poor Mr.
Belcher could not divert her, could not induce her to change the
subject, could not get in a word edgewise, could not put forward a
single apology for the kiss he intended to win, did not win his kiss at
all. The little journey was ended, the carriage door thrown open by her
own hand, and she was out without his help.

"Good-night; don't get out," and she flew up the steps and rang the
bell.

Mr. Belcher ordered the coachman to drive him home, and then sank back
on his seat, and crowding his lips together, and compressing his
disappointment into his familiar expletive, he rode back to his house as
rigid in every muscle as if he had been frozen.

"Is there any such thing as a virtuous devil, I wonder," he muttered to
himself, as he mounted his steps. "I doubt it; I doubt it."

The next day was icy. Men went slipping along upon the side-walks as
carefully as if they were trying to follow a guide through the galleries
of Versailles. And in the afternoon a beautiful woman called a boy to
her, and begged him to give her his shoulder and help her home. The
request was so sweetly made, she expressed her obligations so
courteously, she smiled upon him so beautifully, she praised him so
ingenuously, she shook his hand at parting so heartily; that he went
home all aglow from his heart to his finger's ends.

Mrs. Dillingham had made Harry Benedict's acquaintance, which she
managed to keep alive by bows in the street and bows from the
window,--managed to keep alive until the lad worshiped her as a sort of
divinity and, to win her smiling recognition, would go out of his way a
dozen blocks on any errand about the city.

He recognized her--knew her as the beautiful woman he had seen in the
great house across the street before Mr. Belcher arrived in town.
Recognizing her as such, he kept the secret of his devotion to himself,
for fear that it would be frowned upon by his good friends the Balfours.
Mr. Belcher, however, knew all about it, rejoiced in it, and counted
upon it as a possible means in the accomplishment of his ends.




CHAPTER XVI.

WHICH GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF A VOLUNTARY AND AN INVOLUNTARY VISIT OF SAM
YATES TO NUMBER NINE.


Mr. Belcher followed up the acquaintance which he had so happily made on
New Year's Day with many of the leading operators of Wall street, during
the remainder of the winter, and, by the careful and skillful
manipulation of the minor stocks of the market, not only added to his
wealth by sure and steady degrees, but built up a reputation for
sagacity and boldness. He struck at them with a strong hand, and
gradually became a recognized power on 'Change. He knew that he would
not be invited into any combinations until he had demonstrated his
ability to stand alone. He understood that he could not win a leading
position in any of the great financial enterprises until he had shown
that he had the skill to manage them. He was playing for two
stakes--present profit and future power and glory; and he played with
brave adroitness.

During the same winter the work at Number Nine went on according to
contract. Mike Conlin found his second horse and the requisite sled,
and, the river freezing solidly and continuously, he was enabled not
only to draw the lumber to the river, but up to the very point where it
was to be used, and where Jim and Mr. Benedict were hewing and framing
their timber, and pursuing their trapping with unflinching industry.
Number Ten was transformed into a stable, where Mike kept his horses on
the nights of his arrival. Two trips a week were all that he could
accomplish, but the winter was so long, and he was so industrious, that
before the ice broke up, everything for the construction of the house
had been delivered, even to the bricks for the chimney, the lime for the
plastering, and the last clapboard and shingle. The planning, the
chaffing, the merry stories of which Number Nine was the scene that
winter, the grand, absorbing interest in the enterprise in which these
three men were engaged, it would be pleasant to recount, but they may
safely be left to the reader's imagination. What was Sam Yates doing?

He lived up to the letter of his instructions. Finding himself in the
possession of an assured livelihood, respectably dressed and engaged in
steady employment, his appetite for drink loosened its cruel hold upon
him, and he was once more in possession of himself. All the week long he
was busy in visiting hospitals, alms-houses and lunatic asylums, and in
examining their records and the mortuary records of the city. Sometimes
he presented himself at the doors of public institutions as a
philanthropist, preparing by personal inspection for writing some book,
or getting statistics, or establishing an institution on behalf of a
public benefactor. Sometimes he went in the character of a lawyer, in
search of a man who had fallen heir to a fortune. He had always a
plausible story to tell, and found no difficulty in obtaining an
entrance at all the doors to which his inquisition led him. He was
treated everywhere so courteously that his self-respect was wonderfully
nourished, and he began to feel as if it were possible for him to become
a man again.

On every Saturday night, according to Mr. Belcher's command, he made his
appearance in the little basement-room of the grand residence, where he
was first presented to the reader. On these occasions he always brought
a clean record of what he had done during the week, which he read to Mr.
Belcher, and then passed into that gentleman's hands, to be filed away
and preserved. On every visit, too, he was made to feel that he was a
slave. As his self-respect rose from week to week, the coarse and brutal
treatment of the proprietor was increased. Mr. Belcher feared that the
man was getting above his business, and that, as the time approached
when he might need something very different from these harmless
investigations, his instrument might become too fine for use.

Besides the ministry to his self-respect which his labors rendered,
there was another influence upon Sam Yates that tended to confirm its
effects. He had in his investigations come into intimate contact with
the results of all forms of vice. Idiocy, insanity, poverty, moral
debasement, disease in a thousand repulsive forms, all these had
frightened and disgusted him. On the direct road to one of these
terrible goals he had been traveling. He knew it, and, with a shudder
many times repeated, felt it. He had been arrested in the downward road,
and, God helping him, he would never resume it. He had witnessed brutal
cruelties and neglect among officials that maddened him. The
professional indifference of keepers and nurses towards those who, if
vicious, were still unfortunate and helpless, offended and outraged all
of manhood there was left in him.

One evening, early in the spring, he made his customary call upon Mr.
Belcher, bringing his usual report. He had completed the canvass of the
city and its environs, and had found no testimony to the death or recent
presence of Mr. Benedict. He hoped that Mr. Belcher was done with him,
for he saw that his brutal will was the greatest obstacle to his reform.
If he could get away from his master, he could begin life anew; for his
professional brothers, who well remembered his better days, were ready
to throw business into his hands, now that he had become himself again.

"I suppose this ends it," said Yates, as he read his report, and passed
it over into Mr. Belcher's hands.

"Oh, you do!"

"I do not see how I can be of further use to you."

"Oh, you don't!"

"I have certainly reason to be grateful for your assistance, but I have
no desire to be a burden upon your hands. I think I can get a living now
in my profession."

"Then we've found that we have a profession, have we? We've become
highly respectable."

"I really don't see what occasion you have to taunt me. I have done my
duty faithfully, and taken no more than my just pay for the labor I have
performed."

"Sam Yates, I took you out of the gutter. Do you know that?"

"I do, sir."

"Did you ever hear of my doing such a thing as that before?"

"I never did."

"What do you suppose I did it for?"

"To serve yourself."

"You are right; and now let me tell you that I am not done with you yet,
and I shall not be done with you until I have in my hands a certificate
of the death of Paul Benedict, and an instrument drawn up in legal form,
making over to me all his right, title and interest in every patented
invention of his which I am now using in my manufactures. Do you hear
that?"

"I do."

"What have you to say to it? Are you going to live up to your pledge, or
are you going to break with me?"

"If I could furnish such an instrument honorably, I would do it."

"Hm! I tell you, Sam Yates, this sort of thing won't do."

Then Mr. Belcher left the room, and soon returned with a glass and a
bottle of brandy. Setting them upon the table, he took the key from the
outside of the door, inserted it upon the inside, turned it, and then
withdrew it, and put it in his pocket. Yates rose and watched him, his
face pale, and his heart thumping at his side like a tilt-hammer.

"Sam Yates," said Mr. Belcher, "you are getting altogether too virtuous.
Nothing will cure you but a good, old-fashioned drunk. Dip in, now, and
take your fill. You can lie here all night if you wish to."

Mr. Belcher drew the cork, and poured out a tumblerful of the choice
old liquid. Its fragrance filled the little room. It reached the
nostrils of the poor slave, who shivered as if an ague had smitten him.
He hesitated, advanced toward the table, retreated, looked at Mr.
Belcher, then at the brandy, then walked the room, then paused before
Mr. Belcher, who had coolly watched the struggle from his chair. The
victim of this passion was in the supreme of torment. His old thirst was
roused to fury. The good resolutions of the preceding weeks, the moral
strength he had won, the motives that had come to life within him, the
promise of a better future, sank away into blank nothingness. A patch of
fire burned on either cheek. His eyes were bloodshot.

"Oh God! Oh God!" he exclaimed, and buried his face in his hands.

"Fudge!" said Mr. Belcher. "What do you make an ass of yourself for?"

"If you'll take these things out of the room, and see that I drink
nothing to-night, I'll do anything. They are hell and damnation to me.
Don't you see? Have you no pity on me? Take them away!"

Mr. Belcher was surprised, but he had secured the promise he was after,
and so he coolly rose and removed the offensive temptation.

Yates sat down as limp as if he had had a sunstroke. After sitting a
long time in silence, he looked up, and begged for the privilege of
sleeping in the house. He did not dare to trust himself in the street
until sleep had calmed and strengthened him.

There was a lounge in the room, and, calling a servant, Mr. Belcher
ordered blankets to be brought down. "You can sleep here to-night, and I
will see you in the morning," said he, rising, and leaving him without
even the common courtesy of a "good-night."

Poor Sam Yates had a very bad night indeed. He was humiliated by the
proof of his weakness, and maddened by the outrage which had been
attempted upon him and his good resolutions. In the morning, he met Mr.
Belcher, feeble and unrefreshed, and with seeming acquiescence received
his directions for future work.

"I want you to take the road from here to Sevenoaks, stopping at every
town on the way. You can be sure of this: he is not near Sevenoaks. The
whole county, and in fact the adjoining counties, were all ransacked to
find him. He cannot have found asylum there; so he must be either
between here and Sevenoaks, or must have gone into the woods beyond.
There's a trapper there, one Jim Fenton. He may have come across him in
the woods, alive or dead, and I want you to go to his camp and find out
whether he knows anything. My impression is that he knew Benedict well,
and that Benedict used to hunt with him. When you come back to me, after
a faithful search, with the report that you can find nothing of him, or
with the report of his death, we shall be ready for decisive operations.
Write me when you have anything to write, and if you find it necessary
to spend money to secure any very desirable end, spend it."

Then Mr. Belcher put into the hands of his agent a roll of bank-notes,
and armed him with a check that might be used in case of emergency, and
sent him off.

It took Yates six long weeks to reach Sevenoaks. He labored daily with
the same faithfulness that had characterized his operations in the city,
and, reaching Sevenoaks, he found himself for a few days free from care,
and at liberty to resume the acquaintance with his early home, where he
and Robert Belcher had been boys together.

The people of Sevenoaks had long before heard of the fall of Sam Yates
from his early rectitude. They had once been proud of him, and when he
left them for the city, they expected to hear great things of him. So
when they learned that, after entering upon his profession with
brilliant promise, he had ruined himself with drink, they bemoaned him
for a while, and at last forgot him. His relatives never mentioned him,
and when, well dressed, dignified, self-respectful, he appeared among
them again, it was like receiving one from the dead. The rejoicing of
his relatives, the cordiality of his old friends and companions, the
reviving influences of the scenes of his boyhood, all tended to build up
his self-respect, reinforce his strength, and fix his determinations for
a new life.

Of course he did not make known his business, and of course he heard a
thousand inquiries about Mr. Belcher, and listened to the stories of the
proprietor's foul dealings with the people of his native town. His own
relatives had been straitened or impoverished by the man's rascalities,
and the fact was not calculated to strengthen his loyalty to his
employer. He heard also the whole story of the connection of Mr. Belcher
with Benedict's insanity, of the escape of the latter from the
poor-house, and of the long and unsuccessful search that had been made
for him.

He spent a delightful week among his friends in the old village, learned
about Jim Fenton and the way to reach him, and on a beautiful spring
morning, armed with fishing tackle, started from Sevenoaks for a
fortnight's absence in the woods. The horses were fresh, the air
sparkling, and at mid-afternoon he found himself standing by the
river-side, with a row of ten miles before him in a birch canoe, whose
hiding-place Mike Conlin had revealed to him during a brief call at his
house. To his unused muscles it was a serious task to undertake, but he
was not a novice, and it was entered upon deliberately and with a
prudent husbandry of his power of endurance. Great was the surprise of
Jim and Mr. Benedict, as they sat eating their late supper, to hear the
sound of the paddle down the river, and to see approaching them a city
gentleman, who, greeting them courteously, drew up in front of their
cabin, took out his luggage, and presented himself.

"Where's Jim Fenton?" said Yates.

"That's me. Them as likes me calls me Jim, and them as don't like
me--wall, they don't call."

"Well, I've called, and I call you Jim."

"All right; let's see yer tackle," said Jim.

Jim took the rod that Yates handed to him, looked it over, and then
said: "When ye come to Sevenoaks ye didn't think o' goin' a fishin'.
This 'ere tackle wasn't brung from the city, and ye ain't no old
fisherman. This is the sort they keep down to Sevenoaks."

"No," said Yates, flushing; "I thought I should find near you the tackle
used here, so I didn't burden myself."

"That seems reasomble," said Jim, "but it ain't. A trout's a trout
anywhere, an' ye hain't got no reel. Ye never fished with anything but a
white birch pole in yer life."

Yates was amused, and laughed. Jim did not laugh. He was just as sure
that Yates had come on some errand, for which his fishing tackle was a
cover, as that he had come at all. He could think of but one motive that
would bring the man into the woods, unless he came for sport, and for
sport he did not believe his visitor had come at all. He was not dressed
for it. None but old sportsmen, with nothing else to do, ever came into
the woods at that season.

"Jim, introduce me to your friend," said Yates, turning to Mr. Benedict,
who had dropped his knife and fork, and sat uneasily witnessing the
meeting, and listening to the conversation.

"Well, I call 'im Number Ten. His name's Williams; an' now if ye ain't
too tired, perhaps ye'll tell us what they call ye to home."

"Well, I'm Number Eleven, and my name's Williams, too."

"Then, if yer name's Williams, an' ye're Number 'leven, ye want some
supper. Set down an' help yerself."

Before taking his seat, Yates turned laughingly to Mr. Benedict, shook
his hand, and "hoped for a better acquaintance."

Jim was puzzled. The man was no ordinary man; he was good-natured; he
was not easily perturbed; he was there with a purpose, and that purpose
had nothing to do with sport After Yates had satisfied his appetite
with the coarse food before him, and had lighted his cigar, Jim drove
directly at business.

"What brung ye here?" said he.

"A pair of horses and a birch canoe."

"Oh! I didn't know but 'twas a mule and a bandanner hankercher," said
Jim; "and whar be ye goin' to sleep to-night?"

"In the canoe, I suppose, if some hospitable man doesn't invite me to
sleep in his cabin."

"An' if ye sleep in his cabin, what be ye goin' to do to-morrer?"

"Get up."

"An' clear out?"

"Not a bit of it."

"Well, I love to see folks make themselves to home; but ye don't sleep
in no cabin o' mine till I know who ye be, an' what ye're arter."

"Jim, did you ever hear of entertaining angels unaware?" and Yates
looked laughingly into his face.

"No, but I've hearn of angels entertainin' theirselves on tin-ware, an'
I've had 'em here."

"Do you have tin peddlers here?" inquired Yates, looking around him.

"No, but we have paupers sometimes," and Jim looked Yates directly in
the eye.

"What paupers?"

"From Sevenoaks."

"And do they bring tin-ware?"

"Sartin they do; leastways, one on 'em did, an' I never seen but one in
the woods, an' he come here one night tootin' on a tin horn, an' blowin'
about bein' the angel Gabrel. Do you see my har?"

"Rather bushy, Jim."

"Well, that's the time it come up, an' it's never been tired enough to
lay down sence."

"What became of Gabriel?"

"I skeered 'im, and he went off into the woods pertendin' he was tryin'
to catch a bullet. That's the kind o' ball I allers use when I have a
little game with a rovin' angel that comes kadoodlin' round me."

"Did you ever see him afterward?" inquired Yates.

"Yes, I seen him. He laid down one night under a tree, an' he wasn't
called to breakfast, an' he never woke up. So I made up my mind he'd
gone to play angel somewheres else, an' I dug a hole an' put 'im into
it, an' he hain't never riz, if so be he wasn't Number 'leven, an' his
name was Williams."

Yates did not laugh, but manifested the most eager interest.

"Jim," said he, "can you show me his bones, and swear to your belief
that he was an escaped pauper?"

"Easy."

"Was there a man lost from the poor-house about that time?"

"Yes, an' there was a row about it, an' arterward old Buffum was took
with knowin' less than he ever knowed afore. He always did make a fuss
about breathin', so he give it up."

"Well, the man you buried is the man I'm after."

"Yes, an' old Belcher sent ye. I knowed it. I smelt the old feller when
I heern yer paddle. When a feller works for the devil it ain't hard to
guess what sort of a angel _he_ is. Ye must feel mighty proud o' yer
belongins."

"Jim, I'm a lawyer; it's my business. I do what I'm hired to do."

"Well," responded Jim, "I don't know nothin' about lawyers, but I'd
rather be a natural born cuss nor a hired one."

Yates laughed, but Jim was entirely sober. The lawyer saw that he was
unwelcome, and that the sooner he was out of Jim's way, the better that
freely speaking person would like it. So he said quietly:

"Jim, I see that I am not welcome, but I bear you no ill will. Keep me
to-night, and to-morrow show me this man's bones, and sign a certificate
of the statements you have made to me, and I will leave you at once."

The woodsman made no more objection, and the next morning, after
breakfast, the three men went together and found the place of the
pauper's burial. It took but a few minutes to disinter the skeleton,
and, after a silent look at it, it was again buried, and all returned to
the cabin. Then the lawyer, after asking further questions, drew up a
paper certifying to all the essential facts in the case, and Jim signed
it.

"Now, how be ye goin' to get back to Sevenoaks?" inquired Jim.

"I don't know. The man who brought me in is not to come for me for a
fortnight."

"Then ye've got to huff it," responded Jim.

"It's a long way."

"Ye can do it as fur as Mike's, an' he'll be glad to git back some o'
the hundred dollars that old Belcher got out of him."

"The row and the walk will be too much."

"I'll take ye to the landing," said Jim.

"I shall be glad to pay you for the job," responded Yates.

"An' ef ye do," said Jim, "there'll be an accident, an' two men'll get
wet, an' one on 'em'll stan' a chance to be drownded."

"Well, have your own way," said Yates.

It was not yet noon, and Jim hurried off his visitor. Yates bade
good-bye to Benedict, jumped into Jim's boat, and was soon out of sight
down the stream. The boat fairly leaped through the water under Jim's
strong and steady strokes, and it seemed that only an hour had passed
when the landing was discovered.

They made the whole distance in silence. Jim, sitting at his oars, with
Yates in the stern, had watched the lawyer with a puzzled expression. He
could not read him. The man had not said a word about Benedict. He had
not once pronounced his name. He was evidently amused with something,
and had great difficulty in suppressing a smile. Again and again the
amused expression suffused the lawyer's face, and still, by an effort of
will, it was smothered. Jim was in torture. The man seemed to be in
possession of some great secret, and looked as if he only waited an
opportunity beyond observation to burst into a laugh.

"What the devil ye thinkin' on?" inquired Jim at last.

Yates looked him in the eyes, and replied coolly:

"I was thinking how well Benedict is looking."

Jim stopped rowing, holding his oars in the air. He was dumb. His face
grew almost livid, and his hair seemed to rise and stand straight all
over his head. His first impulse was to spring upon the man and throttle
him, but a moment's reflection determined him upon another course. He
let his oars drop into the water, and then took up the rifle, which he
always carried at his side. Raising it to his eye, he said:

"Now, Number 'leven, come an' take my seat. Ef ye make any fuss, I'll
tip ye into the river, or blow yer brains out. Any man that plays
traitor with Jim Fenton, gits traitor's fare."

Yates saw that he had made a fatal mistake, and that it was too late to
correct it. He saw that Jim was dangerously excited, and that it would
not do to excite him further. He therefore rose, and with feigned
pleasantry, said he should be very glad to row to the landing.

Jim passed him and took a seat in the stern of the boat. Then, as Yates
took up the oars, Jim raised his rifle, and, pointing it directly at the
lawyer's breast, said:

"Now, Sam Yates, turn this boat round."

Yates was surprised in turn, bit his lips, and hesitated.

"Turn this boat round, or I'll fix ye so't I can see through ye plainer
nor I do now."

"Surely, Jim, you don't mean to have me row back. I haven't harmed you."

"Turn this boat round, quicker nor lightnin'."

"There, it's turned," said Yates, assuming a smile.

"Now row back to Number Nine."

"Come, Jim," said Yates, growing pale with vexation and apprehension,
"this fooling has gone far enough."

"Not by ten mile," said Jim.

"You surely don't mean to take me back. You have no right to do it. I
can prosecute you for this."

"Not if I put a bullet through ye, or drown ye."

"Do you mean to have me row back to Number Nine?"

"I mean to have you row back to Number Nine, or go to the bottom
leakin'," responded Jim.

Yates thought a moment, looked angrily at the determined man before him,
as if he were meditating some rash experiment, and then dipped his oars
and rowed up-stream.

Great was the surprise of Mr. Benedict late in the afternoon to see
Yates slowly rowing toward the cabin, and landing under cover of Jim's
rifle, and the blackest face that he had ever seen above his good
friend's shoulders.




CHAPTER XVII.

IN WHICH JIM CONSTRUCTS TWO HAPPY DAVIDS, RAISES HIS HOTEL, AND
DISMISSES SAM YATES.


When the boat touched the bank, Jim, still with his rifle pointed at the
breast of Sam Yates, said:

"Now git out, an' take a bee line for the shanty, an' see how many paces
ye make on't."

Yates was badly blown by his row of ten miles on the river, and could
hardly stir from his seat; but Mr. Benedict helped him up the bank, and
then Jim followed him on shore.

Benedict looked from one to the other with mingled surprise and
consternation, and then said:

"Jim, what does this mean?"

"It means," replied Jim, "that Number 'leven, an' his name is Williams,
forgot to 'tend to his feelin's over old Tilden's grave, an' I've axed
'im to come back an' use up his clean hankerchers. He was took with a
fit o' knowin' somethin', too, an' I'm goin' to see if I can cure 'im.
It's a new sort o' sickness for him, an' it may floor 'im."

"I suppose there is no use in carrying on this farce any longer," said
Yates. "I knew you, Mr. Benedict, soon after arriving here, and it seems
that you recognized me; and now, here is my hand. I never meant you ill,
and I did not expect to find you alive. I have tried my best to make you
out a dead man, and so to report you; but Jim has compelled me to come
back and make sure that you are alive."

"No, I didn't," responded Jim. "I wanted to let ye know that I'm alive,
and that I don't 'low no hired cusses to come snoopin' round my camp,
an' goin' off with a haw-haw buttoned up in their jackets, without a
thrashin'."

Benedict, of course, stood thunderstruck and irresolute. He was
discovered by the very man whom his old persecutor had sent for the
purpose. He had felt that the discovery would be made sooner or
later--intended, indeed, that it should be made--but he was not ready.

They all walked to the cabin in moody silence. Jim felt that he had been
hasty, and was very strongly inclined to believe in the sincerity of
Yates; but he knew it was safe to be on his guard with any man who was
in the employ of Mr. Belcher. Turk saw there was trouble, and whined
around his master, as if inquiring whether there was anything that he
could do to bring matters to an adjustment.

"No, Turk; he's my game," said Jim. "Ye couldn't eat 'im no more nor ye
could a muss rat."

There were just three seats in the cabin--two camp-stools and a chest.

"That's the seat for ye," said Jim to Yates, pointing to the chest.
"Jest plant yerself thar. Thar's somethin' in that 'ere chest as'll make
ye tell the truth."

Yates looked at the chest and hesitated.

"It ain't powder," said Jim, "but it'll blow ye worse nor powder, if ye
don't tell the truth."

Yates sat down. He had not appreciated the anxiety of Benedict to escape
discovery, or he would not have been so silly as to bruit his knowledge
until he had left the woods. He felt ashamed of his indiscretion, but,
as he knew that his motives were good, he could not but feel that he had
been outraged.

"Jim, you have abused me," said he. "You have misunderstood me, and that
is the only apology that you can make for your discourtesy. I was a fool
to tell you what I knew, but you had no right to serve me as you have
served me."

"P'raps I hadn't," responded Jim, doubtfully.

Yates went on:

"I have never intended to play you a trick. It may be a base thing for
me to do, but I intended to deceive Mr. Belcher. He is a man to whom I
owe no good will. He has always treated me like a dog, and he will
continue the treatment so long as I have anything to do with him; but he
found me when I was very low, and he has furnished me with the money
that has made it possible for me to redeem myself. Believe me, the
finding of Mr. Benedict was the most unwelcome discovery I ever made."

"Ye talk reasonable," said Jim; "but how be I goin' to know that ye're
tellin' the truth?"

"You cannot know," replied Yates. "The circumstances are all against me,
but you will be obliged to trust me. You are not going to kill me; you
are not going to harm me; for you would gain nothing by getting my ill
will. I forgive your indignities, for it was natural for you to be
provoked, and I provoked you needlessly--childishly, in fact; but after
what I have said, anything further in that line will not be borne."

"I've a good mind to lick ye now," said Jim, on hearing himself defied.

"You would be a fool to undertake it," said Yates.

"Well, what be ye goin' to tell old Belcher, anyway?" inquired Jim.

"I doubt whether I shall tell him anything. I have no intention of
telling him that Mr. Benedict is here, and I do not wish to tell him a
lie. I have intended to tell him that in all my journey to Sevenoaks I
did not find the object of my search, and that Jim Fenton declared that
but one pauper had ever come into the woods and died there."

"That's the truth," said Jim. "Benedict ain't no pauper, nor hain't been
since he left the poor-house."

"If he knows about old Tilden," said Yates, "and I'm afraid he does,
he'll know that I'm on the wrong scent. If he doesn't know about him,
he'll naturally conclude that the dead man was Mr. Benedict. That will
answer his purpose."

"Old Belcher ain't no fool," said Jim.

"Well," said Yates, "why doesn't Mr. Benedict come out like a man and
claim his rights? That would relieve me, and settle all the difficulties
of the case."

Benedict had nothing to say for this, for there was what he felt to be a
just reproach in it.

"It's the way he's made," replied Jim--"leastways, partly. When a man's
ben hauled through hell by the har, it takes 'im a few days to git over
bein' dizzy an' find his legs ag'in; an' when a man sells himself to old
Belcher, he mustn't squawk an' try to git another feller to help 'im out
of 'is bargain. Ye got into't, an' ye must git out on't the best way ye
can."

"What would you have me do?" inquired Yates.

"I want to have ye sw'ar, an' sign a Happy David."

"A what?"

"A Happy David. Ye ain't no lawyer if ye don't know what a Happy David
is, and can't make one."

Yates recognized, with a smile, the nature of the instrument disguised
in Jim's pronunciation and conception, and inquired:

"What would you have me to swear to?"

"To what I tell ye."

"Very well. I have pen and paper with me, and am ready to write. Whether
I will sign the paper will depend upon its contents."

"Be ye ready?"

"Yes."

"Here ye have it, then. 'I solem-ny sw'ar, s'welp me! that I hain't seen
no pauper, in no woods, with his name as Benedict.'"

Jim paused, and Yates, having completed the sentence, waited. Then Jim
muttered to himself:

"With his name _as_ Benedict--with his name _is_ Benedict--with his name
_was_ Benedict."

Then with a puzzled look, he said:

"Yates, can't ye doctor that a little?"

"Whose name was Benedict," suggested Yates.

"Whose name was Benedict," continued Jim. "Now read it over, as fur as
ye've got."

"'I solemnly swear that I have seen no pauper in the woods whose name
was Benedict.'"

"Now look a here, Sam Yates! That sort o' thing won't do. Stop them
tricks. Ye don't know me, an' ye don't know whar ye're settin' if you
think that'll go down."

"Why, what's the matter?"

"I telled ye that Benedict was no pauper, an' ye say that ye've seen no
pauper whose name was Benedict. That's jest tellin' that he's here. Oh,
ye can't come that game! Now begin agin, an' write jest as I give it to
ye. 'I solem-ny sw'ar, s'welp me! that I hain't seen no pauper, in no
woods, whose name was Benedict.'"

"Done," said Yates, "but it isn't grammar."

"Hang the grammar!" responded Jim; "what I want is sense. Now jine this
on: 'An' I solem-ny sw'ar, s'welp me! that I won't blow on Benedict, as
isn't a pauper--no more nor Jim Fenton is--an' if so be as I do blow on
Benedict--I give Jim Fenton free liberty, out and out--to lick
me--without goin' to lor--but takin' the privlidge of self-defense.'"

Jim thought a moment. He had wrought out a large phrase.

"I guess," said he, "that covers the thing. Ye understand, don't ye,
Yates, about the privlidge of self-defense?"

"You mean that I may defend myself if I can, don't you?"

"Yes. With the privlidge of self-defense. That's fair, an' I'd give it
to a painter. Now read it all over."

Jim put his head down between his knees, the better to measure every
word, while Yates read the complete document. Then Jim took the paper,
and, handing it to Benedict, requested him to see if it had been read
correctly. Assured that it was all right, Jim turned his eyes severely
on Yates, and said:

"Sam Yates, do ye s'pose ye've any idee what it is to be licked by Jim
Fenton? Do ye know what ye're sw'arin' to? Do ye reelize that I wouldn't
leave enough on ye to pay for havin' a funeral?"

Yates laughed, and said that he believed he understood the nature of an
oath.

"Then sign yer Happy David," said Jim.

Yates wrote his name, and passed the paper into Jim's hands.

"Now," said Jim, with an expression of triumph on his face, "I s'pose ye
don't know that ye've be'n settin' on a Bible; but it's right under ye,
in that chest, an' it's hearn and seen the whole thing. If ye don't
stand by yer Happy David, there'll be somethin' worse nor Jim Fenton
arter ye, an' when that comes, ye can jest shet yer eyes, and gi'en it
up."

This was too much for both Yates and Benedict. They looked into each
other's eyes, and burst into a laugh. But Jim was in earnest, and not a
smile crossed his rough face.

"Now," said he, "I want to do a little sw'arin' myself, and I want ye to
write it."

Yates resumed his pen, and declared himself to be in readiness.

"I solem-ny sw'ar," Jim began, "s'welp me! that I will lick Sam
Yates--as is a lawyer--with the privlidge of self-defense--if he ever
blows on Benedict--as is not a pauper--no more nor Jim Fenton is--an' I
solem-ny sw'ar, s'welp me! that I'll foller 'im till I find 'im, an'
lick 'im--with the privlidge of self-defense."

Jim would have been glad to work in the last phrase again, but he seemed
to have covered the whole ground, and so inquired whether Yates had got
it all down.

Yates replied that he had.

"I'm a goin' to sign that, an' ye can take it along with ye. Swap
seats."

Yates rose, and Jim seated himself upon the chest.

"I'm a goin' to sign this, settin' over the Bible. I ain't goin' to
take no advantage on ye. Now we're squar'," said he, as he blazoned the
document with his coarse and clumsy sign-manual. "Put that in yer
pocket, an' keep it for five year."

"Is the business all settled?" inquired Yates.

"Clean," replied Jim.

"When am I to have the liberty to go out of the woods?"

"Ye ain't goin' out o' the woods for a fortnight. Ye're a goin' to stay
here, an' have the best fishin' ye ever had in yer life. It'll do ye
good, an' ye can go out when yer man comes arter ye. Ye can stay to the
raisin', an' gi'en us a little lift with the other fellers that's
comin'. Ye'll be as strong as a hoss when ye go out."

An announcement more welcome than this could not have been made to Sam
Yates; and now that there was no secrecy between them, and confidence
was restored, he looked forward to a fortnight of enjoyment. He laid
aside his coat, and, as far as possible, reduced his dress to the
requirements of camp life. Jim and Mr. Benedict were very busy, so that
he was obliged to find his way alone, but Jim lent him his
fishing-tackle, and taught him how to use it; and, as he was an apt
pupil, he was soon able to furnish more fish to the camp than could be
used.

Yates had many a long talk with Benedict, and the two men found many
points of sympathy, around which they cemented a lasting friendship.
Both, though in different ways, had been very low down in the valley of
helpless misfortune; both had been the subjects of Mr. Belcher's brutal
will; and both had the promise of a better life before them, which it
would be necessary to achieve in opposition to that will. Benedict was
strengthened by this sympathy, and became able to entertain plans for
the assertion and maintenance of his rights.

When Yates had been at the camp for a week and had taken on the color
and the manner of a woodsman, there came one night to Number Nine a
dozen men, to assist in the raising of Jim's hotel. They were from the
mill where he had purchased his lumber, and numbered several neighbors
besides, including Mike Conlin. They came up the old "tote-road" by the
river side, and a herd of buffaloes on a stampede could hardly have made
more noise. They were a rough, merry set, and Jim had all he could do to
feed them. Luckily, trout were in abundant supply, and they supped like
kings, and slept on the ground. The following day was one of the
severest labor, but when it closed, the heaviest part of the timber had
been brought and put up, and when the second day ended, all the timbers
were in their place, including those which defined the outlines of Jim's
"cupalo."

When the frame was at last complete, the weary men retired to a
convenient distance to look it over; and then they emphasized their
approval of the structure by three rousing cheers.

"Be gorry, Jim, ye must make us a spache," said Mike Conlin. "Ye've
plenty iv blarney; now out wid it."

But Jim was sober. He was awed by the magnitude of his enterprise. There
was the building in open outline. There was no going back. For better or
for worse, it held his destiny, and not only his, but that of one
other--perhaps of others still.

"A speech! a speech!" came from a dozen tongues.

"Boys," said Jim, "there's no more talk in me now nor there is in one o'
them chips. I don't seem to have no vent. I'm full, but it don't run. If
I could stick a gimblet in somewhere, as if I was a cider-barrel, I
could gi'en ye enough; but I ain't no barrel, an' a gimblet ain't no
use. There's a man here as can talk. That's his trade, an' if he'll say
what I ought to say, I shall be obleeged to 'im. Yates is a lawyer, an'
it's his business to talk for other folks, an' I hope he'll talk for
me."

"Yates! Yates!" arose on all sides.

Yates was at home in any performance of this kind, and, mounting a low
stump, said:

"Boys, Jim wants me to thank you for the great service you've rendered
him. You have come a long distance to do a neighborly deed, and that
deed has been generously completed. Here, in these forest shades, you
have reared a monument to human civilization. In these old woods you
have built a temple to the American household gods. The savage beasts of
the wilderness will fly from it, and the birds will gather around it.
The winter will be the warmer for the fire that will burn within it, and
the spring will come earlier in prospect of a better welcome. The river
that washes its feet will be more musical in its flow, because finer
ears will be listening. The denizens of the great city will come here,
year after year, to renew their wasted strength, and they will carry
back with them the sweetest memories of these pure solitudes.

"To build a human home, where woman lives and little children open their
eyes upon life, and grow up and marry and die--a home full of love and
toil, of pleasure and hope and hospitality, is to do the finest thing
that a man can do. I congratulate you on what you have done for Jim, and
what so nobly you have done for yourselves. Your whole life will be
sweeter for this service, and when you think of a lovely woman presiding
over this house, and of all the comfort it will be to the gentle folk
that will fill it full, you will be glad that you have had a hand in
it."

Yates made his bow and stepped down. His auditors all stood for a
moment, under an impression that they were in church and had heard a
sermon. Their work had been so idealized for them--it had been endowed
with so much meaning--it seemed so different from an ordinary
"raising"--that they lost, momentarily, the consciousness of their own
roughness and the homeliness of their surroundings.

"Be gorry!" exclaimed Mike, who was the first to break the silence, "I'd
'a' gi'en a dollar if me owld woman could 'a' heard that. Divil a bit
does she know what I've done for her. I didn't know mesilf what a purty
thing it was whin I built me house. It's betther nor goin' to the
church, bedad."

Three cheers were then given to Yates and three to Jim, and, the spell
once dissolved, they went noisily back to the cabin and their supper.

That evening Jim was very silent. When they were about lying down for
the night, he took his blankets, reached into the chest, and withdrew
something that he found there and immediately hid from sight, and said
that he was going to sleep in his house. The moon was rising from behind
the trees when he emerged from his cabin. He looked up at the tall
skeleton of his future home, then approached it, and swinging himself
from beam to beam, did not pause until he had reached the cupola. Boards
had been placed across it for the convenience of the framers, and on
these Jim threw his blankets. Under the little package that was to serve
as his pillow he laid his Bible, and then, with his eyes upon the stars,
his heart tender with the thoughts of the woman for whom he was rearing
a home, and his mind oppressed with the greatness of his undertaking, he
lay a long time in a waking dream. "If so be He cares," said Jim to
himself--"if so be He cares for a little buildin' as don't make no show
'longside o' His doin's up thar an' down here, I hope He sees that I've
got this Bible under my head, an' knows what I mean by it. I hope the
thing'll strike 'im favorable, an' that He knows, if He cares, that I'm
obleeged to 'im."

At last, slumber came to Jim--the slumber of the toiler, and early the
next morning he was busy in feeding his helpers, who had a long day's
walk before them. When, at last, they were all ferried over the river,
and had started on their homeward way, Jim ascended to the cupola again,
and waved his bandanna in farewell.

Two days afterward, Sam Yates left his host, and rowed himself down to
the landing in the same canoe by which he had reached Number Nine. He
found his conveyance waiting, according to arrangement, and before night
was housed among his friends at Sevenoaks.

While he had been absent in the woods, there had been a conference
among his relatives and the principal men of the town, which had
resulted in the determination to keep him in Sevenoaks, if possible, in
the practice of his profession.

To Yates, the proposition was the opening of a door into safety and
peace. To be among those who loved him, and had a certain pride in him;
to be released from his service to Mr. Belcher, which he felt could go
no farther without involving him in crime and dishonor; to be sustained
in his good resolutions by the sympathy of friends, and the absence of
his city companions and temptations, gave him the promise of perfect
reformation, and a life of modest prosperity and genuine self-respect.

He took but little time in coming to his conclusion, and his first
business was to report to Mr. Belcher by letter. He informed that
gentleman that he had concluded to remain in Sevenoaks; reported all his
investigations on his way thither from New York; inclosed Jim's
statement concerning the death of a pauper in the woods; gave an account
of the disinterment of the pauper's bones in his presence; inclosed the
money unused in expenses and wages, and, with thanks for what Mr.
Belcher had done in helping him to a reform, closed his missive in such
a manner as to give the impression that he expected and desired no
further communication.

Great was Mr. Belcher's indignation when he received this letter. He had
not finished with Yates. He had anticipated exactly this result from the
investigations. He knew about old Tilden, for Buffum had told him; and
he did not doubt that Jim had exhibited to Yates the old man's bones. He
believed that Benedict was dead, but he did not know. It would be
necessary, therefore, to prepare a document that would be good in any
event.

If the reader remembers the opening chapter of this story, he will
recall the statement of Miss Butterworth, that Mr. Belcher had followed
Benedict to the asylum to procure his signature to a paper. This paper,
drawn up in legal form, had been preserved, for Mr. Belcher was a
methodical, business man; and when he had finished reading Yates's
letter, and had exhausted his expletives after his usual manner, he
opened a drawer, and, extracting the paper, read it through. It was more
than six years old, and bore its date, and the marks of its age. All it
needed was the proper signatures.

He knew that he could trust Yates no longer. He knew, too, that he could
not forward his own ends by appearing to be displeased. The reply which
Yates received was one that astonished him by its mildness, its
expression of satisfaction with his faithful labor, and its record of
good wishes. Now that he was upon the spot, Mr. Yates could still serve
him, both in a friendly and in a professional way. The first service he
could render him was to forward to him autograph letters from the hands
of two men deceased. He wished to verify the signatures of these men, he
said, but as they were both dead, he, of course, could not apply to
them.

Yates did not doubt that there was mischief in this request. He guessed
what it was, and he kept the letter; but after a few days he secured the
desired autographs, and forwarded them to Mr. Belcher, who filed them
away with the document above referred to. After that, the great
proprietor, as a relief from the severe pursuits of his life, amused
himself by experiments with inks and pens, and pencils, and with writing
in a hand not his own, the names of "Nicholas Johnson" and "James
Ramsey."




CHAPTER XVIII.

IN WHICH MRS. DILLINGHAM MAKES SOME IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES, BUT FAILS TO
REVEAL THEM TO THE READER.


Mrs. Dillingham was walking back and forth alone through her long
drawing-room. She was revolving in her mind a compliment, breathed into
her ear by her friend Mrs. Talbot that day. Mrs. Talbot had heard from
the mouth of one of Mrs. Dillingham's admirers the statement, confirmed
with a hearty, good-natured oath, that he considered the fascinating
widow "the best groomed woman in New York."

The compliment conveyed a certain intimation which was not pleasant for
her to entertain. She was indebted to her skill in self-"grooming" for
the preservation of her youthful appearance. She had been conscious of
this, but it was not pleasant to have the fact detected by her friends.
Neither was it pleasant to have it bruited in society, and reported to
her by one who rejoiced in the delicacy of the arrow which, feathered by
friendship, she had been able to plant in the widow's breast.

She walked to her mirror and looked at herself. There were the fine,
familiar outlines of face and figure; there were the same splendid eyes;
but a certain charm beyond the power of "grooming" to restore was gone.
An incipient, almost invisible, brood of wrinkles was gathering about
her eyes; there was a loss of freshness of complexion, and an expression
of weariness and age, which, in the repose of reflection and
inquisition, almost startled her.

Her youth was gone, and, with it, the most potent charms of her person.
She was hated and suspected by her own sex, and sought by men for no
reason honorable either to her or to them. She saw that it was all, at
no distant day, to have an end, and that when the end should come, her
life would practically be closed. When the means by which she had held
so many men in her power were exhausted, her power would cease. Into the
blackness of that coming night she could not bear to look. It was full
of hate, and disappointment, and despair. She knew that there was a
taint upon her--the taint that comes to every woman, as certainly as
death, who patently and purposely addresses, through her person, the
sensuous element in men. It was not enough for her to remember that she
despised the passion she excited, and contemned the men whom she
fascinated. She knew it was better to lead even a swine by a golden
chain than by the ears.

She reviewed her relations to Mr. Belcher. That strong, harsh, brutal
man, lost alike to conscience and honor, was in her hands. What should
she do with him? He was becoming troublesome. He was not so easily
managed as the most of her victims. She knew that, in his heart, he was
carrying the hope that some time in the future, in some way, she would
become his; that she had but to lift her finger to make the Palgrave
mansion so horrible a hell that the wife and mother would fly from it in
indignant despair. She had no intention of doing this. She wished for no
more intimate relation with her victim than she had already established.

There was one thing in which Mr. Belcher had offended and humiliated
her. He had treated her as if he had fascinated her. In his stupid
vanity, he had fancied that his own personal attractions had won her
heart and her allegiance, and that she, and not himself, was the victim.
He had tried to use her in the accomplishment of outside purposes; to
make a tool of her in carrying forward his mercenary or knavish ends.
Other men had striven to hide their unlovely affairs from her, but the
new lover had exposed his, and claimed her assistance in carrying them
forward. This was a degradation that she could not submit to. It did
not natter her, or minister to her self-respect.

Again and again had Mr. Belcher urged her to get the little Sevenoaks
pauper into her confidence, and to ascertain whether his father were
still living. She did not doubt that his fear of a man so poor and
powerless as the child's father must be, was based in conscious knavery;
and to be put to the use of deceiving a lad whose smile of affectionate
admiration was one of the sweetest visions of her daily life, disgusted
and angered her. The thought, in any man's mind, that she could be so
base, in consideration of a guilty affection for him, as to betray the
confidence of an innocent child on his behalf, disgraced and degraded
her.

And still she walked back and forth in her drawing-room. Her thoughts
were uneasy and unhappy; there was no love in her life. That life was
leading to no satisfactory consummation. How could it be changed? What
could she do?

She raised her eyes, looked across the street, and there saw, loitering
along and casting furtive glances at her window, the very lad of whom
she had been thinking. He had sought and waited for her recognition, and
instead of receiving it in the usual way, saw a beckoning finger. He
waited a moment, to be sure that he had not misunderstood the sign, and
then, when it was repeated, crossed over, and stood at the door. Mrs.
Dillingham admitted the boy, then called the servant, and told him that,
while the lad remained, she would not be at home to any one. As soon as
the pair were in the drawing-room she stooped and kissed the lad,
warming his heart with a smile so sweet, and a manner so cordial and
gracious, that he could not have told whether his soul was his own or
hers.

She led him to her seat, giving him none, but sitting with her arm
around him, as he stood at her side.

"You are my little lover, aren't you?" she said, with an embrace.

"Not so very little!" responded Harry, with a flush.

"Well, you love me, don't you?"

"Perhaps I do," replied he, looking smilingly into her eyes.

"You are a rogue, sir."

"I'm not a bad rogue."

"Kiss me."

Harry put his arms around Mrs. Dillingham's neck and kissed her, and
received a long, passionate embrace in return, in which her starved
heart expressed the best of its powerful nature.

Nor clouds nor low-born vapors drop the dew. It only gathers under a
pure heaven and the tender eyes of stars. Mrs. Dillingham had always
held a heart that could respond to the touch of a child. It was dark,
its ways were crooked, it was not a happy heart, but for the moment her
whole nature was flooded with a tender passion. A flash of lightning
from heaven makes the darkest night its own, and gilds with glory the
uncouth shapes that grope and crawl beneath its cover.

"And your name is Harry?" she said.

"Yes."

"Do you mind telling me about yourself?"

Harry hesitated. He knew that he ought not to do it. He had received
imperative commands not to tell anybody about himself; but his
temptation to yield to the beautiful lady's wishes was great, for he was
heart-starved like herself. Mrs. Balfour was kind, even affectionate,
but he felt that he had never filled the place in her heart of the boy
she had lost. She did not take him into her embrace, and lavish caresses
upon him. He had hungered for just this, and the impulse to show the
whole of his heart and life to Mrs. Dillingham was irresistible.

"If you'll never tell."

"I will never tell, Harry."

"Never, never tell?"

"Never."

"You are Mr. Belcher's friend, aren't you?"

"I know Mr. Belcher."

"If Mr. Belcher should tell you that he would kill you if you didn't
tell, what would you do?"

"I should call the police," responded Mrs. Dillingham, with a smile.

Then Harry, in a simple, graphic way, told her all about the hard,
wretched life in Sevenoaks, the death of his mother, the insanity of his
father, the life in the poor-house, the escape, the recovery of his
father's health, his present home, and the occasion of his own removal
to New York. The narrative was so wonderful, so full of pathos, so
tragic, so out of all proportion in its revelation of wretchedness to
the little life at her side, that the lady was dumb. Unconsciously to
herself--almost unconsciously to the boy--her arms closed around him,
and she lifted him into her lap. There, with his head against her
breast, he concluded his story; and there were tears upon his hair,
rained from the eyes that bent above him. They sat for a long minute in
silence. Then the lady, to keep herself from bursting into hysterical
tears, kissed Harry again and again, exclaiming:

"My poor, dear boy! My dear, dear child! And Mr. Belcher could have
helped it all! Curse him!"

The lad jumped from her arms as if he had received the thrust of a
dagger, and looked at her with great, startled, wondering eyes. She
recognized in an instant the awful indiscretion into which she had been
betrayed by her fierce and sudden anger, and threw herself upon her
knees before the boy, exclaiming:

"Harry, you must forgive me. I was beside myself with anger. I did not
know what I was saying. Indeed, I did not. Come to my lap again, and
kiss me, or I shall be wretched."

Harry still maintained his attitude and his silence. A furious word from
an angel would not have surprised or pained him more than this
expression of her anger, that had flashed upon him like a fire from
hell.

Still the lady knelt, and pleaded for his forgiveness.

"No one loves me, Harry. If you leave me, and do not forgive me, I shall
wish I were dead. You cannot be so cruel."

"I didn't know that ladies ever said such words," said Harry.

"Ladies who have little boys to love them never do," responded Mrs.
Dillingham.

"If I love you, shall you ever speak so again?" inquired Harry.

"Never, with you and God to help me," she responded.

She rose to her feet, led the boy to her chair, and once more held him
in her embrace.

"You can do me a great deal of good, Harry--a great deal more good than
you know, or can understand. Men and women make me worse. There is
nobody who can protect me like a child that trusts me. You can trust
me."

Then they sat a long time in a silence broken only by Harry's sobs, for
the excitement and the reaction had shaken his nerves as if he had
suffered a terrible fright.

"You have never told me your whole name, Harry," she said tenderly, with
the design of leading him away from the subject of his grief.

"Harry Benedict."

He felt the thrill that ran through her frame, as if it had been a shock
of electricity. The arms that held him trembled, and half relaxed their
hold upon him. Her heart struggled, intermitted its beat, then throbbed
against his reclining head as if it were a hammer. He raised himself,
and looked up at her face. It was pale and ghastly; and her eyes were
dimly looking far off, as if unconscious of anything near.

"Are you ill?"

There was no answer.

"Are you ill?" with a voice of alarm.

The blood mounted to her face again.

"It was a bad turn," she said. "Don't mind it. I'm better now."

"Isn't it better for me to sit in a chair?" he inquired, trying to
rise.

She tightened her grasp upon him.

"No, no. I am better with you here. I wish you were never to leave me."

Again they sat a long time in silence. Then she said:

"Harry, can you write?"

"Yes."

"Well, there is a pencil on the table, and paper. Go and write your
father's name. Then come and give me a kiss, and then go home. I shall
see you again, perhaps to-night. I suppose I ought to apologize to Mrs.
Balfour for keeping you so long."

Harry did her bidding. She did not look at him, but turned her eyes to
the window. There she saw Mr. Belcher, who had just been sent away from
the door. He bowed, and she returned the bow, but the smile she summoned
to her face by force of habit, failed quickly, for her heart had learned
to despise him.

Harry wrote the name, left it upon the table, and then came to get his
kiss. The caress was calmer and tenderer than any she had given him. His
instinct detected the change; and, when he bade her a good night, it
seemed as if she had grown motherly,--as if a new life had been
developed in her that subordinated the old,--as if, in her life, the sun
had set, and the moon had risen.

She had no doubt that as Harry left the door Mr. Belcher would see him,
and seek admission at once on his hateful business, for, strong as his
passion was for Mrs. Dillingham, he never forgot his knavish affairs, in
which he sought to use her as a tool. So when she summoned the servant
to let Harry out, she told him that if Mr. Belcher should call, he was
to be informed that she was too ill to see him.

Mr. Belcher did call within three minutes after the door closed on the
lad. He had a triumphant smile on his face, as if he did not doubt that
Mrs. Dillingham had been engaged in forwarding his own dirty work. His
face blackened as he received her message, and he went wondering home,
with ill-natured curses on his lips that will not bear repeating.

Mrs. Dillingham closed the doors of her drawing-room, took the paper on
which Harry had written, and resumed her seat. For the hour that lay
between her and her dinner, she held the paper in her cold, wet hand.
She knew the name she should find there, and she determined that before
her eye should verify the prophecy of her heart, she would achieve
perfect self-control.

Excited by the interview with the lad, and the prescience of its waiting
_denouement_, her mind went back into his and his father's history. Mr.
Belcher could have alleviated that history; nay, prevented it
altogether. What had been her own responsibility in the case? She could
not have foreseen all the horrors of that history; but she, too, could
have prevented it. The consciousness of this filled her with
self-condemnation; yet she could not acknowledge herself to be on a
level with Mr. Belcher. She was ready and anxious to right all the
wrongs she had inflicted; he was bent on increasing and confirming them.
She cursed him in her heart for his Injustice and cruelty, and almost
cursed herself.

But she dwelt most upon the future which the discoveries of the hour had
rendered possible to herself. She had found a way out of her hateful
life. She had found a lad who admired, loved, and trusted her, upon whom
she could lavish her hungry affections--one, indeed, upon whom she had a
right to lavish them. The life which she had led from girlhood was like
one of those deep canons in the far West, down which her beautiful boat
had been gliding between impassable walls that gave her only here and
there glimpses of the heaven above. The uncertain stream had its
fascinations. There were beautiful shallows over which she had glided
smoothly and safely, rocks and rapids over which she had shot swiftly
amid attractive dangers, crooked courses that led she did not know
whither, landing-places where she could enjoy an hour of the kindly
sun. But all the time she knew she was descending. The song of the
waterfalls was a farewell song to scenes that could never be witnessed
again. Far away perhaps, perhaps near, waited the waters of the gulf
that would drink the sparkling stream into its sullen depths, and steep
it in its own bitterness. It was beautiful all the way, but it was going
down, down, down. It was seeking the level of its death; and the little
boat that rode so buoyantly over the crests which betrayed the hidden
rocks, would be but a chip among the waves of the broad, wild sea that
waited at the end.

Out of the fascinating roar that filled her ears; out of the sparkling
rapids and sheeny reaches, and misty cataracts that enchanted her eyes;
and out of the relentless drift toward the bottomless sea, she could be
lifted! The sun shone overhead. There were rocks to climb where her
hands would bleed; there were weary heights to scale; but she knew that
on the top there were green pastures and broad skies, and the music of
birds--places where she could rest, and from which she could slowly find
her way back, in loving companionship, to the mountains of purity from
which she had come.

She revolved the possibilities of the future; and, provided the little
paper in her hand should verify her expectations, she resolved to
realize them. During the long hour in which she sat thinking, she
discounted the emotion which the little paper in her hand held for her,
so that, when she unfolded it and read it, she only kissed it, and
placed it in her bosom.

After dinner, she ordered her carriage. Then, thinking that it might be
recognized by Mr. Belcher, she changed her order, and sent to a public
stable for one that was not identified with herself; and then, so
disguising her person that in the evening she would not be known, she
ordered the driver to take her to Mr. Balfour's.

Mrs. Dillingham had met Mr. Balfour many times, but she had never,
though on speaking terms with her, cultivated Mrs. Balfour's
acquaintance, and that lady did not fail to show the surprise she felt
when her visitor was announced.

"I have made the acquaintance of your little ward," said Mrs.
Dillingham, "and we have become good friends. I enticed him into my
house to-day, and as I kept him a long time, I thought I would come over
and apologize for his absence."

"I did not know that he had been with you," said Mrs. Balfour, coolly.

"He could do no less than come to me when I asked him to do so," said
Mrs. Dillingham; "and I was entirely to blame for his remaining with me
so long. You ladies who have children cannot know how sweet their
society sometimes is to those who have none."

Mrs. Balfour was surprised. She saw in her visitor's eyes the evidence
of recent tears, and there was a moisture in them then, and a subdued
and tender tone to her voice which did not harmonize at all with her
conception of Mrs. Dillingham's nature and character. Was she trying her
arts upon her? She knew of her intimacy with Mr. Belcher, and naturally
connected the visit with that unscrupulous person's schemes.

Mrs. Balfour was soon relieved by the entrance of her husband, who
greeted Mrs. Dillingham in the old, stereotyped, gallant way in which
gentlemen were accustomed to address her. How did she manage to keep
herself so young? Would she be kind enough to give Mrs. Balfour the name
of her hair-dresser? What waters had she bathed in, what airs had she
breathed, that youth should clothe her in such immortal fashion?

Quite to his surprise, Mrs. Dillingham had nothing to say to this
badinage. She seemed either not to hear it at all, or to hear it with
impatience. She talked in a listless way, and appeared to be thinking of
anything but what was said.

At last, she asked Mr. Balfour if she could have the liberty to obtrude
a matter of business upon him. She did not like to interfere with his
home enjoyments, but he would oblige her much by giving her half an hour
of private conversation. Mr. Balfour looked at his wife, received a
significant glance, and invited the lady into his library.

It was a long interview. Nine o'clock, ten o'clock, eleven o'clock
sounded, and then Mrs. Balfour went upstairs. It was nearly midnight
when Mrs. Dillingham emerged from the door. She handed a bank-note to
the impatient coachman, and ordered him to drive her home. As she passed
Mr. Belcher's corner of the street, she saw Phipps helping his master to
mount the steps. He had had an evening of carousal among some of his new
acquaintances. "Brute!" she said to herself, and withdrew her head from
the window.

Admitted at her door, she went to her room in her unusual wrappings,
threw herself upon her knees, and buried her face in her bed. She did
not pray; she hardly lifted her thoughts. She was excessively weary. Why
she knelt she did not know; but on her knees she thought over the
occurrences of the evening. Her hungry soul was full--full of hopes,
plans, purposes. She had found something to love.

What is that angel's name who, shut away from ten thousand selfish,
sinful lives, stands always ready, when the bearers of those lives are
tired of them, and are longing for something better, to open the door
into a new realm? What patience and persistence are his! Always waiting,
always prepared, cherishing no resentments, willing to lead, anxious to
welcome, who is he, and whence came he? If Mrs. Dillingham did not pray,
she had a vision of this heavenly visitant, and kissed the hem of his
garments.

She rose and walked to her dressing-table. There she found a note in
Mrs. Belcher's handwriting, inviting her to a drive in the Park with her
and Mr. Belcher on the following afternoon. Whether the invitation was
self-moved, or the result of a suggestion from Mr. Belcher, she did not
know. In truth, she did not care. She had wronged Mrs. Belcher in many
ways, and she would go.

Why was it that when the new and magnificent carriage rolled up to her
door the next afternoon, with its wonderful horses and showy equipage,
and appointments calculated to attract attention, her heart was smitten
with disgust? She was to be stared at; and, during all the drive, she
was to sit face to face with a man who believed that he had fascinated
her, and who was trying to use her for all the base purposes in which it
was possible for her to serve his will. What could she do with him? How,
in the new relations of her life to him, should she carry herself?

The drive was a quiet one. Mr. Belcher sat and feasted his greedy,
exultant eyes on the woman before him, and marveled at the adroitness
with which, to use his own coarse phrase, she "pulled the wool" over the
eyes of his wife. In what a lovely way did she hide her passion for him!
How sweetly did she draw out the sympathy of the deceived woman at her
side! Ah! he could trust her! Her changed, amiable, almost pathetic
demeanor was attributed by him to the effect of his power upon her, and
her own subtle ingenuity in shielding from the eyes of Mrs. Belcher a
love that she deemed hopeless. In his own mind it was not hopeless. In
his own determination, it should not be!

As for Mrs. Belcher, she had never so much enjoyed Mrs. Dillingham's
society before. She blamed herself for not having understood her better;
and when she parted with her for the day, she expressed in hearty terms
her wish that she might see more of her in the future.

Mrs. Dillingham, on the return, was dropped at her own door first. Mr.
Belcher alighted, and led her up the steps. Then, in a quiet voice, he
said:

"Did you find out anything of the boy?"

"Yes, some things, but none that it would be of advantage to you to
know."

"Well, stick to him, now that you have got hold of him."

"I intend to."

"Good for you!"

"I imagine that he has been pretty well drilled," said Mrs. Dillingham,
"and told just what he may and must not say to any one."

"You can work it out of him. I'll risk you."

Mrs. Dillingham could hardly restrain her impatience, but said quietly:

"I fancy I have discovered all the secrets I shall ever discover in him.
I like the boy, and shall cultivate his acquaintance; but, really, it
will not pay you to rely upon me for anything. He is under Mr. Balfour's
directions, and very loyal."

Mr. Belcher remembered his own interview with the lad, and recognized
the truth of the statement. Then he bade her good-bye, rejoined his
wife, and rode home.




CHAPTER XIX.

IN WHICH MR. BELCHER BECOMES PRESIDENT OF THE CROOKED VALLEY RAILROAD,
WITH LARGE "TERMINAL FACILITIES," AND MAKES AN ADVENTURE INTO A
LONG-MEDITATED CRIME.


Mr. Belcher had never made money so rapidly as during the summer
following his removal to New York. The tides of wealth rolled in faster
than he could compute them. Twenty regiments in the field had been armed
with the Belcher rifle, and the reports of its execution and its
popularity among officers and men, gave promise of future golden
harvests to the proprietor. Ten thousand of them had been ordered by the
Prussian Government. His agents in France, Russia, Austria, and Italy,
all reported encouragingly concerning their attempts to introduce the
new arm into the military service of those countries. The civil war had
advanced the price of, and the demand for, the products of his mills at
Sevenoaks. The people of that village had never before received so good
wages, or been so fully employed. It seemed as if there were work for
every man, woman and child, who had hands willing to work. Mr. Belcher
bought stocks upon a rising market, and unloaded again and again,
sweeping into his capacious coffers his crops of profits. Bonds that
early in the war could be bought for a song, rose steadily up to par.
Stocks that had been kicked about the market for years, took on value
from day to day, and asserted themselves as fair investments. From
these, again and again, he harvested the percentage of advance, until
his greed was gorged.

That he enjoyed his winnings, is true; but the great trouble with him
was that, beyond a certain point, he could show nothing for them. He
lived in a palace, surrounded by every appointment of luxury that his
wealth could buy. His stables held the choicest horse-flesh that could
be picked out of the whole country, from Maine to Kentucky. His diamond
shirt-studs were worth thousands. His clothes were of the most expensive
fabrics, made at the top of the style. His wife and children had money
lavished upon them without stint. In the direction of show, he could do
no more. It was his glory to drive in the Park alone, with his servants
in livery and his four horses, fancying that he was the observed of all
observers, and the envied of all men.

Having money still to spend, it must find a market in other directions.
He gave lavish entertainments at his club, at which wine flowed like
water, and at which young and idle men were gathered in and debauched,
night after night. He was surrounded by a group of flatterers who
laughed at his jokes, repeated them to the public, humored his caprices,
and lived upon his hospitalities. The plain "Colonel Belcher" of his
first few months in New York, grew into the "General," so that Wall
street knew him, at last, by that title, without the speaking of his
name. All made way for "the General" whenever he appeared. "The General"
was "bulling" this stock, and "bearing" that. All this was honey to his
palate, and he was enabled to forget something of his desire for show in
his love of glory. Power was sweet, as well as display.

Of course, "the General" had forsaken, somewhat, his orderly habits of
life--those which kept him sound and strong in his old country home. He
spent few evenings with his family. There was so genuine a passion in
his heart for Mrs. Dillingham, that he went into few excesses which
compromised a fair degree of truthfulness to her; but he was in the
theaters, in the resorts of fast men, among the clubs, and always late
in his bed. Phipps had a hard time in looking after and waiting upon
him, but had a kind of sympathetic enjoyment in it all, because he knew
there was more or less of wickedness connected with it.

Mr. Belcher's nights began to tell upon his days. It became hard for him
to rise at his old hours; so, after a while, he received the calls of
his brokers in bed. From nine to ten, Mr. Belcher, in his embroidered
dressing-gown, with his breakfast at his side, gave his orders for the
operations of the day. The bedroom became the General's headquarters,
and there his staff gathered around him. Half a dozen cabs and carriages
at his door in the morning became a daily recurring vision to residents
and habitual passengers.

Mr. Talbot, not a regular visitor at this hour, sometimes mingled with
the brokers, though he usually came late for the purpose of a private
interview. He had managed to retain the General's favor, and to be of
such use to him that that gentleman, in his remarkable prosperity, had
given up the idea of reducing his factor's profits.

One morning, after the brokers and the General's lawyer were gone,
Talbot entered, and found his principal still in bed.

"Toll, it's a big thing," said Mr. Belcher.

"I believe you."

"Toll, what did I tell you? I've always worked to a programme, and
exactly this was my programme when I came here. How's your wife?"

"Quite well."

"Why don't we see more of her?"

"Well, Mrs. Talbot is a quiet woman, and knows her place. She isn't
quite at home in such splendors as yours, you know, and she naturally
recognizes my relations to you."

"Oh, nonsense, nonsense, Toll! She mustn't feel that way. I like her.
She is a devilish handsome woman."

"I shall tell her that you say so," said the obsequious Mr. Talbot.

"Toll, my boy, I've got an idea."

"Cherish it, General; you may never have another."

"Good for you. I owe you one."

"Not at all, General. I'm only paying off old debts."

"Toll, how are you doing now? Getting a living?"

"Thanks to you, General, I am thriving in a modest way. I don't aspire
to any such profits as you seem to win so easily, so I have no fault to
find."

"The General has been a godsend to you, hasn't he, eh? Happy day when
you made his acquaintance, eh? Well, go ahead; it's all right. Pile it
up while you can."

"But you haven't told me about your idea," Mr. Talbot suggested.

"Well, Toll, I'm pining for a railroad. I'm crying nights for a
railroad. A fellow must have amusements you know. Health must be taken
care of, eh? All the fellows have railroads. It's well enough to keep
horses and go to the theater. A steamship line isn't bad, but the
trouble is, a man can't be captain of his own vessels. No, Toll; I need
a railroad. I'm yearning for engines, and double tracks, and running
over my own line."

"You might buy up a European kingdom or two, at a pinch, General."

"Yes; but, Toll, you don't know what terminal facilities I've got for a
railroad."

"Your pocket will answer for one end," said Talbot, laughing.

"Right, the first time," responded the General, "and glory will answer
for the other. Toll, do you know what I see at the other end?"

"No."

"I see a man of about the size of Robert Belcher in the chair of an
Alderman. I see him seated on a horse, riding down Broadway at the head
of a regiment. I see him Mayor of the City of New York. I see him
Governor of the State. I see him President of the United States. I see
no reason why he cannot hold any one, or all these offices. All doors
yield to a golden key. Toll, I haven't got to go as far as I have come,
to reach the top. Do you know it? Big thing! Yes, Toll, I must have a
railroad."

"Have you selected the toy you propose to purchase?" inquired Talbot.

"Well, I've looked about some; but the trouble is, that all the best of
'em are in hands that can hold them. I must buy a poor one and build it
up, or make it build me up."

"That's a pity."

"I don't know about that. The big ones are hard to handle, and I'm not
quite big enough for them yet. What do you say to the Crooked Valley?"

"Poor road, and wants connections."

"Those are exactly the points. I can buy it for a song, issue bonds, and
build the connections--issue plenty of bonds, and build plenty of
connections. Terminal facilities large--? do you understand? Eh, Toll?"

Mr. Talbot laughed.

"I don't think you need any suggestions from me," he said.

"No; the General can manage this thing without help. He only wanted to
open your eyes a little, and get you ready for your day's work. You
fellows who fiddle around with a few goods need waking up occasionally.
Now, Toll, go off and let the General get up. I must have a railroad
before night, or I shall not be able to sleep a wink. By-by!"

Talbot turned to leave the room, when Mr. Belcher arrested him with the
question:

"Toll, would you like an office in the Crooked Valley corporation?"

Talbot knew that the corporation would have a disgraceful history, and a
disastrous end--that it would be used by the General for the purposes of
stealing, and that the head of it would not be content to share the
plunder with others. He had no wish to be his principal's cat's-paw, or
to be identified with an enterprise in which, deprived of both will and
voice, he should get neither profit nor credit. So he said:

"No, I thank you; I have all I can do to take care of your goods, and I
am not ambitious."

"There'll be nothing for you to do, you know. I shall run the whole
thing."

"I can serve you better, General, where I am."

"Well, by-by; I won't urge you."

After Talbot left, Mr. Belcher rose and carefully dressed himself.
Phipps was already at the door with the carriage, and, half an hour
afterward, the great proprietor, full of his vain and knavish projects,
took his seat in it, and was whirled off down to Wall street. His
brokers had already been charged with his plans, and, before he reached
the ground, every office where the Crooked Valley stock was held had
been visited, and every considerable deposit of it ascertained, so that,
before night, by one grand swoop, the General had absorbed a controlling
interest in the corporation.

A few days afterward, the annual meeting was held, Mr. Belcher was
elected President, and every other office was filled by his creatures
and tools. His plans for the future of the road gradually became known,
and the stock began to assume a better position on the list. Weak and
inefficient corporations were already in existence for completing the
various connections of the road, and of these he immediately, and for
moderate sums, bought the franchises. Within two months, bonds were
issued for building the roads, and the roads themselves were put under
contract. The "terminal facilities" of one end of every contract were
faithfully attended to by Mr. Belcher. His pockets were still capacious
and absorbent. He parted with so much of his appreciated stock as he
could spare without impairing his control, and so at the end of a few
months, found himself in the possession of still another harvest. Not
only this, but he found his power increased. Men watched him, and
followed him into other speculations. They hung around him, anxious to
get indications of his next movement. They flattered him; they fawned
upon him; and to those whom he could in any way use for his own
purposes, he breathed little secrets of the market from which they won
their rewards. People talked about what "the General" was doing, and
proposed to do, as if he were a well-recognized factor in the financial
situation.

Whenever he ran over his line, which he often did for information and
amusement, and for the pleasure of exercising his power, he went in a
special car, at break-neck speed, by telegraph, always accompanied by a
body of friends and toadies, whom he feasted on the way. Everybody
wanted to see him. He was as much a lion as if he had been an Emperor or
a murderer. To emerge upon a platform at a way-station, where there were
hundreds of country people who had flocked in to witness the exhibition,
was his great delight. He spoke to them familiarly and good-naturedly;
transacted his business with a rush; threw the whole village into
tumult; waved his hand; and vanished in a cloud of dust. Such
enterprise, such confidence, such strength, such interest in the local
prosperities of the line, found their natural result in the absorption
of the new bonds. They were purchased by individuals and municipal
corporations. Freight was diverted from its legitimate channels, and
drawn over the road at a loss; but it looked like business. Passes were
scattered in every direction, and the passenger traffic seemed to double
at once. All was bustle, drive, business. Under a single will, backed by
a strong and orderly executive capacity, the dying road seemed to leap
into life. It had not an _employe_ who did not know and take off his hat
to the General. He was a kind of god, to whom they all bowed down; and
to be addressed or chaffed by him was an honor to be reported to
friends, and borne home with self-gratulations to wives and children.

The General, of course, had moments of superlative happiness. He never
had enjoyed anything more than he enjoyed his railroad. His notoriety
with the common people along the line--the idea which they cherished
that he could do anything he wished to do; that he had only to lift his
hand to win gold to himself or to bear it to them--these were pleasant
in themselves; but to have their obeisance witnessed by his city friends
and associates, while they discussed his champagne and boned turkey from
the abounding hampers which always furnished "the President's car"--this
was the crown of his pleasure. He had a pleasure, too, in business. He
never had enough to do, and the railroad which would have loaded down an
ordinary man with an ordinary conscience, was only a pleasant diversion
to him. Indeed, he was wont to reiterate, when rallied upon his new
enterprise: "The fact was, I had to do something for my health, you
know."

Still, the General was not what could be called a thoroughly happy man.
He knew the risks he ran on Change. He had been reminded, by two or
three mortifying losses, that the sun did not always shine on Wall
street. He knew that his railroad was a bubble, and that sooner or later
it would burst. Times would change, and, after all, there was nothing
that would last like his manufactures. With a long foresight, he had
ordered the funds received from the Prussian sales of the Belcher rifle
to be deposited with a European banking house at interest, to be drawn
against in his foreign purchases of material; yet he never drew against
this deposit. Self-confident as he was, glutted with success as he was,
he had in his heart a premonition that some time he might want that
money just where it was placed. So there it lay, accumulating interest.
It was an anchor to windward, that would hold him if ever his bark
should drift into shallow or dangerous waters.

The grand trouble was, that he did not own a single patent by which he
was thriving in both branches of his manufactures. He had calculated
upon worrying the inventor into a sale, and had brought his designs very
nearly to realization, when he found, to his surprise and discomfiture,
that he had driven him into a mad-house. Rich as he was, therefore,
there was something very unsubstantial in his wealth, even to his own
apprehension. Sometimes it all seemed like a bubble, which a sudden
breath would wreck. Out of momentary despondencies, originating in
visions like these, he always rose with determinations that nothing
should come between him and his possessions and prosperities which his
hand, by fair means or foul, could crush.

Mr. Balfour, a lawyer of faultless character and undoubted courage, held
his secret. He could not bend him or buy him. He was the one man in all
the world whom he was afraid of. He was the one man in New York who knew
whether Benedict was alive or not. He had Benedict's heir in his house,
and he knew that by him the law would lay its hand on him and his
possessions. He only wondered that the action was delayed. Why was it
delayed? Was he, Mr. Belcher, ready for it? He knew he was not, and he
saw but one way by which he could become so. Over this he hesitated,
hoping that some event would occur which would render his projected
crime unnecessary.

Evening after evening, when every member of his family was in bed, he
shut himself in his room, looked behind every article of furniture to
make himself sure that he was alone, and then drew from its drawer the
long unexecuted contract with Mr. Benedict, with the accompanying
autograph letters, forwarded to him by Sam Yates. Whole quires of paper
he traced with the names of "Nicholas Johnson" and "James Ramsey." After
he had mastered the peculiarities of their signs manual, he took up that
of Mr. Benedict. Then he wrote the three names in the relations in which
he wished them to appear on the document. Then he not only burned all
the paper he had used, in the grate, but pulverized its ashes.

Not being able to ascertain whether Benedict were alive or dead, it
would be necessary to produce a document which would answer his purpose
in either case. Of course, it would be requisite that its date should
anticipate the inventor's insanity. He would make one more effort to
ascertain a fact that had so direct a relation to his future security.

Accordingly, one evening after his railroad scheme was fairly
inaugurated, he called on Mrs. Dillingham, determined to obtain from her
what she knew. He had witnessed for months her fondness for Harry
Benedict. The boy had apparently with the consent of the Balfours, been
frequently in her house. They had taken long drives together in the
Park. Mr. Belcher felt that there was a peculiar intimacy between the
two, yet not one satisfactory word had he ever heard from the lady about
her new pet. He had become conscious, too, of a certain change in her.
She had been less in society, was more quiet than formerly, and more
reticent in his presence, though she had never repulsed him. He had
caught fewer glimpses of that side of her nature and character which he
had once believed was sympathetic with his own. Misled by his own vanity
into the constant belief that she was seriously in love with himself, he
was determined to utilize her passion for his own purposes. If she would
not give kisses, she should give confidence.

"Mrs. Dillingham," he said, "I have been waiting to hear something about
your pauper _protege_, and I have come to-night to find out what you
know about him and his father."

"If I knew of anything that would be of real advantage to you, I would
tell you, but I do not," she replied.

"Well, that's an old story. Tell that to the marines. I'm sick of it."

Mrs. Dillingham's face flushed.

"I prefer to judge for myself, if it's all the same to you," pursued the
proprietor. "You've had the boy in your hands for months, and you know
him, through and through, or else you are not the woman I have taken you
for."

"You have taken me for, Mr. Belcher?"

"Nothing offensive. Don't roll up your pretty eyes in that way."

Mrs. Dillingham was getting angry.

"Please don't address me in that way again," she said.

"Well, what the devil have you to do with the boy any way, if you are
not at work for me? That's what I'd like to know."

"I like him, and he is fond of me."

"I don't see how that helps me," responded Mr. Belcher.

"It is enough for me that I enjoy it."

"Oh, it is!"

"Yes, it is," with an emphatic nod of the head.

"Perhaps you think that will go down with me. Perhaps you are not
acquainted with my way of doing business."

"Are you doing business with me, Mr. Belcher? Am I a partner of yours?
If I am, perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me--business-like
enough to tell me--why you wish me to worm secrets out of this boy."

It was Mr. Belcher's turn to color.

"No, I will not. I trust no woman with my affairs. I keep my own
councils."

"Then do your own business," snappishly.

"Mrs. Dillingham, you and I are friends--destined, I trust, to be better
friends--closer friends--than we have ever been. This boy is of no
consequence to you, and you cannot afford to sacrifice a man who can
serve you more than you seem to know, for him."

"Well," said the lady, "there is no use in acting under a mask any
longer. I would not betray the confidence of a child to serve any man I
ever saw. You have been kind to me, but you have not trusted me. The lad
loves me, and trusts me, and I will never betray him. What I tell you is
true. I have learned nothing from him that can be of any genuine
advantage to you. That is all the answer you will ever get from me. If
you choose to throw away our friendship, you can take the
responsibility," and Mrs. Dillingham hid her face in her handkerchief.

Mr. Belcher had been trying an experiment, and he had not
succeeded--could not succeed; and there sat the beautiful, magnanimous
woman before him, her heart torn as he believed with love for him, yet
loyal to her ideas of honor as they related to a confiding child! How
beautiful she was! Vexed he certainly was, but there was a balm for his
vexation in these charming revelations of her character.

"Well," he said rising, and in his old good-natured tone, "there's no
accounting for a woman. I'm not going to bother you."

He seized her unresisting hand, pressed it to his lips, and went away.
He did not hear the musical giggle that followed him into the street,
but, absorbed by his purpose, went home and mounted to his room. Locking
the door, and peering about among the furniture, according to his
custom, he sat down at his desk, drew out the old contract, and started
at his usual practice. "Sign it," he said to himself, "and then you can
use it or not--just as you please. It's not the signing that will
trouble you; it's the using."

He tried the names all over again, and then, his heart beating heavily
against the desk, he spread the document and essayed his task. His heart
jarred him. His hand trembled. What could he do to calm himself? He rose
and walked to his mirror, and found that he was pale. "Are you afraid?"
he said to himself. "Are you a coward? Ha! ha! ha! ha! Did I laugh? My
God! how it sounded! Aren't you a pretty King of Wall Street! Aren't you
a lovely President of the Crooked Valley Railroad! Aren't you a sweet
sort of a nabob! You _must_ do it! Do you hear? You _must_ do it! Eh? do
you hear? Sit down, sir! Down with you, sir! and don't you rise again
until the thing is done."

The heart-thumping passed away. The reaction, under the strong spur and
steady push of will, brought his nerves up to steadiness, and he sat
down, took his pencils and pens that had been selected for the service,
and wrote first the name of Paul Benedict, and then, as witnesses, the
names of Nicholas Johnson and James Ramsey.

So the document was signed, and witnessed by men whom he believed to be
dead. The witnesses whose names he had forged he knew to be dead. With
this document he believed he could defend his possession of all the
patent rights on which the permanence of his fortune depended. He
permitted the ink to dry, then folded the paper, and put it back in its
place. Then he shut and opened the drawer, and took it out again. It had
a genuine look.

Then he rang his bell and called for Phipps. When Phipps appeared, he
said:

"Well, Phipps, what do you want?"

"Nothing, sir," and Phipps smiled.

"Very well; help yourself."

"Thank you, sir," and Phipps rubbed his hands.

"How are you getting along in New York, Phipps?"

"Very well, sir."

"Big thing to be round with the General, isn't it? It's a touch above
Sevenoaks, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Get enough to eat down-stairs?"

"Plenty."

"Good clothes to wear?"

"Very good," and Phipps looked down upon his toilet with great
satisfaction.

"Stolen mostly from the General, eh?"

Phipps giggled.

"That's all; you can go. I only wanted to see if you were in the house,
and well taken care of."

Phipps started to go. "By the way, Phipps, have you a good
memory?--first-rate memory?"

"Yes, sir."

"Can you remember everything that happened, a--say, six years ago?"

"I can try," said Phipps, with an intelligent glance into Mr. Belcher's
eyes.

"Do you remember a day, about six years ago, when Paul Benedict came
into my house at Sevenoaks, with Nicholas Johnson and James Ramsey, and
they all signed a paper together?"

"Very well," replied Phipps.

"And do you remember that I said to you, after they were gone, that that
paper gave me all of Benedict's patent rights?"

Phipps looked up at the ceiling, and then said:

"Yes, sir, and I remember that I said, 'It will make you very rich,
won't it, Mr. Belcher?'"

"And what did I reply to you?"

"You said, 'That remains to be seen.'"

"All right. Do you suppose you should know that paper if you were to see
it?"

"I think I should--after I'd seen it once."

"Well, there it is--suppose you take a look at it."

"I remember it by two blots in the corner, and the red lines down the
side."

"You didn't write your own name, did you?"

"It seems to me I did."

"Suppose you examine the paper, under James Ramsey's name, and see
whether yours is there."

Mr. Felcher walked to his glass, turning his back upon Phipps. The
latter sat down, and wrote his name upon the spot thus blindly
suggested.

"It is here, sir."

"Ah! So you have found it! You distinctly remember writing it on that
occasion, and can swear to it, and to the signatures of the others?"

"Oh yes, sir."

"And all this was done in my library, wasn't it?"

"Yes, sir."

"How did you happen to be there when these other men were there?"

"You called me in, sir."

"All right! You never smoke, Phipps?"

"Never in the stable, sir."

"Well, lay these cigars away where you have laid the rest of 'em, and go
to bed."

Phipps took the costly bundle of cigars that was handed to him, carried
them by habit to his nose, said "Thank you, sir," and went off down the
stairs, felicitating himself on the ease with which he had won so choice
a treasure.

The effect of Phipps' signature on Mr. Belcher's mind was a curious
illustration of the self-deceptions in which a human heart may indulge.
Companionship in crime, the sharing of responsibility, the fact that the
paper was to have been signed at the time it was drawn, and would have
been signed but for the accident of Benedict's insanity; the fact that
he had paid moneys with the expectation of securing a title to the
inventions he was using--all these gave to the paper an air of
genuineness which surprised even Mr. Belcher himself.

When known evil seems absolutely good to a man, and conscious falsehood
takes on the semblance and the authority of truth, the Devil has him
fast.




CHAPTER XX.

IN WHICH "THE LITTLE WOMAN" ANNOUNCES HER ENGAGEMENT TO JIM FENTON AND
RECEIVES THE CONGRATULATIONS OF HER FRIENDS.


After the frame of Jim's hotel was up, at Number Nine, and those who had
assisted in its erection were out of the woods, he and his architect
entered with great industry upon the task of covering it. Under Mr.
Benedict's direction, Jim became an expert in the work, and the sound of
two busy hammers kept the echoes of the forest awake from dawn until
sunset, every day. The masons came at last and put up the chimneys; and
more and more, as the days went on, the building assumed the look of a
dwelling. The grand object was to get their enterprise forwarded to a
point that would enable them to finish everything during the following
winter, with such assistance as it might be necessary to import from
Sevenoaks. The house needed to be made habitable for workmen while their
work was progressing, and to this end Mr. Benedict and Jim pushed their
efforts without assistance.

Occasionally, Jim found himself obliged to go to Sevenoaks for supplies,
and for articles and tools whose necessity had not been anticipated. On
these occasions, he always called Mike Conlin to his aid, and always
managed to see "the little woman" of his hopes. She was busy with her
preparations, carried on in secret; and he always left her with his head
full of new plans and his heart brimming with new satisfactions. It was
arranged that they should be married in the following spring, so as to
be ready for city boarders; and all his efforts were bent upon
completing the house for occupation.

During the autumn, Jim took from the Sevenoaks Post-Office a letter for
Paul Benedict, bearing the New York post mark, and addressed in the
handwriting of a lady. The letter was a great puzzle to Jim, and he
watched its effect upon his companion with much curiosity. Benedict wept
over it, and went away where he could weep alone. When he came back, he
was a transformed man. A new light was in his eye, a new elasticity in
all his movements.

"I cannot tell you about it, Jim," he said; "at least I cannot tell you
now; but a great burden has been lifted from my life. I have never
spoken of this to you, or to anybody; but the first cruel wound that the
world ever gave me has been healed by a touch."

"It takes a woman to do them things," said Jim. "I knowed when ye gin up
the little woman, as was free from what happened about an hour arter,
that ye was firm' low an' savin' yer waddin'. Oh, ye can't fool me, not
much!"

"What do you think of that, Jim?" said Benedict, smiling, and handing
him a check for five hundred dollars that the letter had inclosed.

Jim looked it over and read it through with undisguised astonishment.

"Did she gin it to ye?" he inquired.

"Yes."

"An' be ye a goin' to keep it?"

"Yes, I'm going to keep it."

Jim was evidently doubtful touching the delicacy both of tendering and
receiving such a gift.

"If that thing had come to me from the little woman," said he, "I should
think she was gittin' oneasy, an' a little dubersome about my comin' to
time. It don't seem jest the thing for a woman to shell out money to a
man. My nater goes agin it. I feel it all over me, an' I vow, I b'lieve
that if the little woman had did that thing to me, I sh'd rub out my
reckonin' an' start new."

"It's all right, though, Jim," responded Benedict,
good-naturedly--"right for the woman to give it, and right for me to
receive it. Don't trouble yourself at all about it."

Benedict's assurance did little to relieve Jim's bewilderment, who still
thought it a very improper thing to receive money from a woman. He did
not examine himself far enough to learn that Benedict's independence of
his own care and provision was partly the cause of his pain. Five
hundred dollars in the woods was a great deal of money. To Jim's
apprehension, the man had become a capitalist. Some one beside
himself--some one richer and more powerful than himself--had taken the
position of benefactor toward his friend. He was glad to see Benedict
happy, but sorry that he could not have been the agent in making him so.

"Well, I can't keep ye forever'n' ever, but I was a hopin' ye'd hang by
till I git hold of the little woman," said Jim.

"Do you suppose I would leave you now, Jim?"

"Well, I knowed a yoke o' cattle couldn't start ye, with a hoss ahead on
'em; but a woman, Mr. Benedict "--and Jim's voice sunk to a solemn and
impressive key--"a woman with the right kind of an eye, an' a takin'
way, is stronger nor a steam Injun. She can snake ye 'round anywhere;
an' the queerest thing about it is that a feller's willin' to go, an'
thinks it's purty. She tells ye to come, an' ye come smilin'; and then
she tells ye to go, an' ye go smilin'; and then she winds ye 'round her
finger, and ye feel as limber an' as willin' as if ye was a whip-lash,
an' hadn't nothin' else to do."

"Nevertheless, I shall stay with you, Jim."

"Well, I hope ye will; but don't ye be too sartin; not that I'm goin' to
stan' atween ye an' good luck, but if ye cal'late that a woman's goin'
to let ye do jest as ye think ye will--leastways a woman as has five
hundred dollars in yer pocket--yer eddication hasn't been well took care
on. If I was sitooated like you, I'd jest walk up to the pastur'-bars
like a hoss, an' whinner to git in, an' expect to be called with a
corn-cob when she got ready to use me."

"Still, I shall stay with you, Jim."

"All right; here's hopin', an' here's my hand."

Benedict's letter, besides the check, held still another inclosure--a
note from Mr. Balfour. This he had slipped into his pocket, and, in the
absorption of his attention produced by the principal communication,
forgotten. At the close of his conversation with Jim, he remembered it,
and took it out and read it. It conveyed the intelligence that the
lawyer found it impossible to leave the city according to his promise,
for an autumn vacation in the woods. Still, he would find some means to
send up Harry if Mr. Benedict should insist upon it. The boy was well,
and progressing satisfactorily in his studies. He was happy, and found a
new reason for happiness in his intimacy with Mrs. Dillingham, with whom
he was spending a good deal of his leisure time. If Mr. Benedict would
consent to a change of plans, it was his wish to keep the lad through
the winter, and then, with all his family, to go up to Number Nine in
the spring, be present at Jim's wedding, and assist in the inauguration
of the new hotel.

Mr. Benedict was more easily reconciled to this change of plan than he
would have believed possible an hour previously. The letter, whose
contents had so mystified and disturbed Jim, had changed the whole
aspect of his life. He replied to this letter during the day, and wrote
another to Mr. Balfour, consenting to his wishes, and acquiescing in his
plans. For the first time in many years, he could see through all his
trials, into the calm daylight. Harry was safe and happy in a new
association with a woman who, more than any other, held his life in her
hands. He was getting a new basis for life in friendship and love.
Shored up by affection and sympathy, and with a modest competence in his
hands for all present and immediately prospective needs, his dependent
nature could once more stand erect.

Henceforward he dropped his idle dreaming and became interested in his
work, and doubly efficient in its execution. Jim once more had in
possession the old friend whose cheerfulness and good-nature had
originally won his affection; and the late autumn and winter which lay
before them seemed full of hopeful and happy enterprise.

Miss Butterworth, hearing occasionally through Jim of the progress of
affairs at Number Nine, began to think it about time to make known her
secret among her friends. Already they had begun to suspect that the
little tailoress had a secret, out of which would grow a change in her
life. She had made some astonishing purchases at the village shops,
which had been faithfully reported. She was working early and late in
her little room. She was, in the new prosperity of the villagers,
collecting her trifling dues. She had given notice of the recall of her
modest loans. There were many indications that she was preparing to
leave the town.

"Now, really," said Mrs. Snow to her one evening, when Miss Butterworth
was illuminating the parsonage by her presence--"now, really, you must
tell us all about it. I'm dying to know."

"Oh, it's too ridiculous for anything," said Miss Butterworth, laughing
herself almost into hysterics.

"Now, what, Keziah? What's too ridiculous? You _are_ the most provoking
person!"

"The idea of my getting married!"

Mrs. Snow jumped up and seized Miss Butterworth's hands, and said:

"Why, Keziah Butterworth! You don't tell me! You wicked, deceitful
creature!"

The three Misses Snow all jumped up with their mother, and pressed
around the merry object of their earnest congratulations.

"So unexpected and strange, you know," said the oldest.

"So very unexpected!" said the second.

"And so very strange, too!" echoed Number Three.

"Well, it _is_ too ridiculous for anything," Miss Butterworth repeated.
"The idea of my living to be an old maid, and, what's more, making up my
mind to it, and then"--and then Miss Butterworth plunged into a new fit
of merriment.

"Well, Keziah, I hope you'll be very happy. Indeed I do," said Mrs.
Snow, becoming motherly.

"Happy all your life," said Miss Snow.

"Very happy," said Number Two.

"All your life long," rounded up the complement of good wishes from the
lips of the youngest of the trio.

"Well, I'm very much obliged to you--to you all "--said Miss
Butterworth, wiping her eyes; "but it certainly is the most ridiculous
thing. I say to myself sometimes: 'Keziah Butterworth! You little old
fool! What _are_ you going to do with that man? How _are_ you going to
live with him?' Goodness knows that I've racked my brain over it until
I'm just about crazy. Don't mention it, but I believe I'll use him for a
watch-dog--tie him up daytimes, and let him out nights, you know!"

"Why, isn't he nice?" inquired Mrs. Snow.

"Nice! He's as rough as a hemlock tree."

"What do you marry him for?" inquired Mrs. Snow in astonishment.

"I'm sure I don't know. I've asked myself the question a thousand
times."

"Don't you want to marry him?"

"I don't know. I guess I do."

"My dear," said Mrs. Snow, soberly, "This is a very solemn thing."

"I don't see it in that light," said Miss Butterworth, indulging in a
new fit of laughter. "I wish I could, but it's the funniest thing. I
wake up laughing over it, and I go to sleep laughing over it, and I say
to myself, 'what are you laughing at, you ridiculous creature?'"

"Well, I believe you are a ridiculous creature," said Mrs. Snow.

"I know I am, and if anybody had told me a year ago that I should ever
marry Jim Fenton, I--"

"Jim Fenton!" exclaimed the whole Snow family.

"Well, what is there so strange about my marrying Jim Fenton?" and the
little tailoress straightened in her chair, her eyes flashing, and the
color mounting to her face.

"Oh, nothing; but you know--it's such a surprise--he's so--he's so--well
he's a--not cultivated--never has seen much society, you know; and lives
almost out of the world, as it were."

"Oh, no! He isn't cultivated! He ought to have been brought up in
Sevenoaks and polished! He ought to have been subjected to the
civilizing and refining influences of Bob Belcher!"

"Now, you mustn't be offended, Keziah. We are all your friends, and
anxious for your welfare."

"But you think Jim Fenton is a brute."

"I have said nothing of the kind."

"But you think so."

"I think you ought to know him better than I do."

"Well, I do, and he is just the loveliest, manliest, noblest,
splendidest old fellow that ever lived. I don't care if he does live out
of the world. I'd go with him, and live with him, if he used the North
Pole for a back log. Fah! I hate a slick man. Jim has spoiled me for
anything but a true man in the rough. There's more pluck in his old
shoes than you can find in all the men of Sevenoaks put together. And
he's as tender--Oh, Mrs. Snow! Oh, girls! He's as tender as a baby--just
as tender as a baby! He has said to me the most wonderful things! I wish
I could remember them. I never can, and I couldn't say them as he does
if I could. Since I became acquainted with him, it seems as if the world
had been made all over new. I'd become kind o' tired of human nature,
you know. It seemed sometimes as if it was just as well to be a cow as a
woman; but I've become so much to him, and he has become so much to me,
that all the men and women around me have grown beautiful. And he loves
me in a way that is so strong--and so protecting--and so sweet and
careful--that--now don't you laugh, or you'll make me angry--I'd feel
safer in his arms than I would in a church."

"Well, I'm sure!" exclaimed Mrs. Snow.

"Isn't it remarkable!" said Miss Snow.

"Quite delightful!" exclaimed the second sister, whose enthusiasm could
not be crammed into Miss Snow's expression.

"Really charming," added Number Three.

"You are quite sure you don't know what you want to marry him for?" said
Mrs. Snow, with a roguish twinkle in her eye. "You are quite sure you
don't love him?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Miss Butterworth. "It's something. I wish you
could hear him talk. His grammar would kill you. It would just kill you.
You'd never breathe after it. Such awful nominative cases as that man
has! And you can't beat him out of them. And such a pronunciation! His
words are just as rough as he is, and just like him. They seem to have a
great deal more meaning in them than they do when they have good clothes
on. You don't know how I enjoy hearing him talk."

"I'm inclined to think you love him," said Mrs. Snow, smiling.

"I don't know. Isn't it the most ridiculous thing, now?"

"No; it isn't ridiculous at all," said Mrs. Snow, soberly.

Miss Butterworth's moon was sailing high that evening. There were but
few clouds in her heaven, but occasionally a tender vapor passed across
the silver disk, and one passed at this moment. Her eyes were loaded
with tears as she looked up in Mrs. Snow's face, and said:

"I was very lonely, you know. Life had become very tame, and I saw
nothing before me different from my daily experience, which had grown to
be wearisome. Jim came and opened a new life to me, offered me
companionship, new circumstances, new surroundings. It was like being
born again. And, do you know, I don't think it is natural for a woman to
carry her own life. I got very tired of mine, and when this strong man
came, and was willing to take it up, and bear it for me as the greatest
pleasure I could bestow upon him, what could I do--now, what could I do?
I don't think I'm proud of him, but I belong to him, and I'm glad; and
that's all there is about it;" and Miss Butterworth sprang to her feet
as if she were about to leave the house.

"You are not going," said Mrs. Snow, catching her by both shoulders, "so
sit down."

"I've told you the whole: there's nothing more. I suppose it will be a
great wonder to the Sevenoaks people, and that they'll think I'm
throwing myself away, but I do hope they will let me alone."

"When are you to be married?"

"In the spring."

"Where?"

"Oh! anywhere. No matter where. I haven't thought about that part of
it."

"Then you'll be married right here, in this house. You shall have a nice
little wedding."

"Oh! and orange-blossoms!" exclaimed Miss Snow, clapping her hands.

"And a veil!" added Number Two.

"And a--" Number Three was not so familiar with such occasions as to be
able to supply another article, so she clapped her hands.

They were all in a delicious flutter. It would be so nice to have a
wedding in the house! It was a good sign. Did the young ladies think
that it might break a sort of electric spell that hung over the
parsonage, and result in a shower which would float them all off?
Perhaps so. They were, at least, very happy about it.

Then they all sat down again, to talk over the matter of clothes. Miss
Butterworth did not wish to make herself ridiculous.

"I've said a thousand times, if I ever said it once," she remarked,
"that there's no fool like an old fool. Now, I don't want to hear any
nonsense about orange-blossoms, or about a veil. If there's anything
that I do despise above board, it's a bridal veil on an old maid. And
I'm not going to have a lot of things made up that I can't use. I'm just
going to have a snug, serviceable set of clothes, and in three days I'm
going to look as if I'd been married ten years."

"It seems to me," said Miss Snow, "that you ought to do something. I'm
sure, if I were in your place, that I should want to do something."

The other girls tittered.

"Not that I ever expect to be in your place, or anything like it," she
went on, "but it does seem to me as if something extra ought to be
done--white kid gloves or something."

"And white satin gaiters," suggested the youngest sister.

"I guess you'd think Jim Fenton was extra enough if you knew him," said
Miss Butterworth, laughing. "There's plenty that's extra, goodness
knows! without buying anything."

"Well," persisted the youngest Miss Snow, "I'd have open-worked
stockings, and have my hair frizzed, any way."

"Oh, I speak to do your hair," put in the second daughter.

"You're just a lot of chickens, the whole of you," said the tailoress.

Miss Snow, whose age was hovering about the confines of mature
maidenhood, smiled a deprecating smile, and said that she thought she
was about what they sold for chickens sometimes, and intimated that she
was anything but tender.

"Well, don't be discouraged; that's all I have to say," remarked Miss
Butterworth. "If I can get married, anybody can. If anybody had told me
that--well isn't it too ridiculous for anything? Now, isn't it?" And the
little tailoress went off into another fit of laughter. Then she jumped
up and said she really must go.

The report that Jim Fenton was soon to lead to the hymeneal altar the
popular village tailoress, spread with great rapidity, and as it started
from the minister's family, it had a good send-off, and was accompanied
by information that very pleasantly modified its effect upon the public
mind. The men of the village who knew Jim a great deal better than the
women, and who, in various ways, had become familiar with his plans for
a hotel, and recognized the fact that his enterprise would make
Sevenoaks a kind of thoroughfare for his prospective city-boarders,
decided that she had "done well." Jim was enterprising, and, as they
termed it, "forehanded." His habits were good, his industry
indefatigable, his common sense and good nature unexampled. Everybody
liked Jim. To be sure, he was rough and uneducated, but he was honorable
and true. He would make a good "provider." Miss Butterworth might have
gone further and fared worse. On the whole, it was a good thing; and
they were glad for Jim's sake and for Miss Butterworth's that it had
happened.

The women took their cue from the men. They thought, however, that Miss
Butterworth would be very lonesome, and found various pegs on which to
hang out their pity for a public airing. Still, the little tailoress was
surprised at the heartiness of their congratulations, and often melted
to tears by the presents she received from the great number of families
for whom, every year, she had worked. No engagement had occurred in
Sevenoaks for a long time that created so much interest, and enlisted so
many sympathies. They hoped she would be very happy. They would be
exceedingly sorry to lose her. Nobody could ever take her place. She had
always been one whom they could have in their families "without making
any difference," and she never tattled.

So Miss Butterworth found herself quite a heroine, but whenever Jim
showed himself, the women all looked out of the windows, and made their
own comments. After all, they couldn't see exactly what Miss Butterworth
could find to like in him. They saw a tall, strong, rough,
good-natured-looking man, whom all the men and all the boys greeted with
genuine heartiness. They saw him pushing about his business with the
air of one who owned the whole village; but his clothes were rough, and
his boots over his trowsers. They hoped it would all turn out well.
There was "no doubt that he needed a woman badly enough."

Not only Miss Butterworth but Jim became the subject of congratulation.
The first time he entered Sevenoaks after the announcement of his
engagement, he was hailed from every shop, and button-holed at every
corner. The good-natured chaffing to which he was subjected he met with
his old smile.

"Much obleeged to ye for leavin' her for a man as knows a genuine
creetur when he sees her," he said, to one and another, who rallied him
upon his matrimonial intentions.

"Isn't she rather old?" inquired one whose manners were not learned of
Lord Chesterfield.

"I dunno," he replied; "she's hearn it thunder enough not to be skeered,
an' she's had the measles an' the whoopin' cough, an' the chicken pox,
an' the mumps, an' got through with her nonsense."




CHAPTER XXI.

IN WHICH JIM GETS THE FURNITURE INTO HIS HOUSE, AND MIKE CONLIN GETS
ANOTHER INSTALLMENT OF ADVICE INTO JIM.


Jim had a weary winter. He was obliged to hire and to board a number of
workmen, whom it was necessary to bring in from Sevenoaks, to effect the
finishing of his house. His money ran low at last, and Mr. Benedict was
called upon to write a letter to Mr. Balfour on his behalf, accepting
that gentleman's offer of pecuniary assistance. This was a humiliating
trial to Jim, for he had hoped to enter upon his new life free from the
burden of debt; but Mr. Balfour assured him that he did not regard his
contribution to the building-fund as a loan--it was only the payment for
his board in advance.

Jim was astonished to learn the extent of Miss Butterworth's resources.
She proposed to furnish the house from the savings of her years of
active industry. She had studied it so thoroughly during its progress,
though she had never seen it, that she could have found every door and
gone through every apartment of it in the dark. She had received from
Mr. Benedict the plan and dimensions of every room. Carpets were made,
matting was purchased, sets of furniture were procured, crockery, glass,
linen, mirrors, curtains, kitchen-utensils, everything necessary to
housekeeping, were bought and placed in store, so that, when the spring
came, all that remained necessary was to give her order to forward them,
and write her directions for their bestowal in the house.

The long-looked for time came at last. The freshets of spring had passed
away; the woods were filling with birds; the shad-blossoms were reaching
their flat sprays out over the river, and looking at themselves in the
sunny waters; and the thrush, standing on the deck of the New Year, had
piped all hands from below, and sent them into the rigging to spread the
sails.

Jim's heart was glad. His house was finished, and nothing remained but
to fill it with the means and appliances of life, and with that precious
life to which they were to be devoted. The enterprise by which it was to
be supported lay before him, and was a burden upon him; but he believed
in himself, and was not afraid.

One morning, after he had gone over his house for the thousandth time,
and mounted to the cupola for a final survey, he started for Sevenoaks
to make his arrangements for the transportation of the furniture. Two
new boats had been placed on the river by men who proposed to act as
guides to the summer visitors, and these he engaged to aid in the water
transportation of the articles that had been provided by "the little
woman."

After his arrival in Sevenoaks, he was in consultation with her every
day; and every day he was more impressed by the method which she had
pursued in the work of furnishing his little hotel.

"I knowed you was smarter nor lightnin'," he said to her; "but I didn't
know you was smarter nor a man."

In his journeys, Jim was necessarily thrown into the company of Mike
Conlin, who was officiously desirous to place at his disposal the wisdom
which had been acquired by long years of intimate association with the
feminine element of domestic life, and the duties and practices of
housekeeping. When the last load of furniture was on its way to Number
Nine, and Jim had stopped at Mike's house to refresh his weary team,
Mike saw that his last opportunity for giving advice had come, and he
determined to avail himself of it.

"Jim," he said, "ye're jist nothing but a babby, an' ye must ax me some
quistions. I'm an owld housekaper, an' I kin tell ye everything, Jim."

Jim was tired with his work, and tired of Mike. The great event of his
life stood so closely before him, and he was so much absorbed by it,
that Mike's talk had a harsher effect upon his sensibilities than the
grating of a saw-mill.

"Ah! Mike! shut up, shut up!" he said. "Ye mean well, but ye're the
ignorantest ramus I ever seen. Ye know how to run a shanty an' a
pig-pen, but what do ye know about keepin' a hotel?"

"Bedad, if that's where ye are, what do ye know about kapin' a hotel
yersilf? Ye'll see the time, Jim, when ye'll be sorry ye turned the cold
shoolder to the honest tongue of Mike Conlin."

"Well, Mike, ye understand a pig-pen better nor I do. I gi'en it up,"
said Jim, with a sigh that showed how painfully Mike was boring him.

"Yes, Jim, an' ye think a pig-pen is benathe ye, forgittin' a pig is the
purtiest thing in life. Ah, Jim! whin ye git up in the marnin', a falin'
shtewed, an' niver a bit o' breakfast in ye, an' go out in the djew
barefut, as ye was borrn, lavin' yer coat kapin' company wid yer ugly
owld hat, waitin' for yer pork and pertaties, an' see yer pig wid his
two paws an' his dirty nose rachin' oover the pin, an sayin'
'good-marnin' to ye,' an' squalin' away wid his big v'ice for his
porridge, ye'll remimber what I say. An', Jim, whin ye fade 'im, ah!
whin ye fade 'im! an' he jist lays down continted, wid his belly full,
an' ye laugh to hear 'im a groontin' an' a shwearin' to 'imself to think
he can't ate inny more, an' yer owld woman calls ye to breakfast, ye'll
go in jist happy--jist happy, now. Ah, ye can't tell me! I'm an owld
housekaper, Jim."

"Ye're an old pig-keeper; that's what you be," said Jim. "Ye're a
reg'lar Paddy, Mike. Ye're a good fellow, but I'd sooner hearn a loon
nor a pig."

"Divil a bit o' raison have ye got in ye, Jim. Ye can't ate a loon no
more nor ye can ate a boot."

Mike was getting impatient with the incorrigible character of Jim's
prejudices, and Jim saw chat he was grieving him.

"Well, I persume I sh'll have to keep pigs, Mike," he said, in a
compromising tone; "but I shan't dress 'em in calliker, nor larn 'em to
sing Old Hundred. I sh'll jest let 'em rampage around the woods, an'
when I want one on 'em, I'll shoot'im."

"Yis, bedad, an' thin ye'll shkin 'im, an' throw the rist of 'im intil
the river," responded Mike, contemptuously.

"No, Mike; I'll send for ye to cut 'im up an' pack 'im."

"Now ye talk," said Mike; and this little overture of friendly
confidence became a door through which he could enter a subject more
profoundly interesting to him than that which related to his favorite
quadruped.

"What kind of an owld woman have ye got, Jim? Jist open yer heart like a
box o' tobacky, Jim, an' lit me hilp ye. There's no man as knows more
about a woman nor Mike Conlin. Ah, Jim! ye ought to 'ave seed me wid the
girrls in the owld counthry! They jist rin afther me as if I'd been
stalin' their little hearrts. There was a twilve-month whin they tore
the very coat tails aff me back. Be gorry I could 'ave married me whole
neighborhood, an' I jist had to marry the firrst one I could lay me
honest hands on, an' take mesilf away wid her to Ameriky."

This was too much for Jim. His face broadened into his old smile.

"Mike," said he, "ye haven't got an old towel or a hoss blanket about
ye, have ye? I feel as if I was a goin' to cry."

"An' what the divil be ye goin' to cry for?"

"Well, Mike, this is a world o' sorrer, an' when a feller comes to think
of a lot o' women as is so hard pushed that they hanker arter Mike
Conlin, it fetches me. It's worse nor bein' without victuals, an' beats
the cholery out o' sight."

"Oh, ye blaggard! Can't ye talk sinse whin yer betthers is thryin' to
hilp ye? What kind of an owld woman have ye got, now?"

"Mike," said Jim, solemnly, "ye don't know what ye're talkin' about. If
ye did, ye wouldn't call her an old woman. She's a lady, Mike. She isn't
one o' your kind, an' I ain't one o' your kind, Mike. Can't ye see
there's the difference of a pig atween us? Don't ye know that if I was
to go hazin' round in the mornin' without no clo'es to speak on, an'
takin' comfort in a howlin' pig, that I shouldn't be up to keepin' a
hotel? Don't be unreasomble; and, Mike, don't ye never speak to me about
my old woman. That's a sort o' thing that won't set on her."

Mike shook his head in lofty pity.

"Ah, Jim, I can see what ye're comin' to."

Then, as if afraid that his "owld woman" might overhear his confession,
he bent toward Jim, and half whispered:

"The women is all smarter nor the men, Jim; but ye mustn't let 'em know
that ye think it. Ye've got to call 'em yer owld women, or ye can't keep
'em where ye want 'em. Be gorry! I wouldn't let me owld woman know what
I think of 'er fur fifty dollars. I couldn't kape me house over me head
inny time at all at all, if I should whishper it. She's jist as much of
a leddy as there is in Sivenoaks, bedad, an' I have to put on me big
airs, an' thrash around wid me two hands in me breeches pockets, an'
shtick out me lips like a lorrd, an' promise to raise the divil wid her
whiniver she gits a fit o' high flyin', an' ye'll have to do the same,
Jim, or jist lay down an' let 'er shtep on ye. Git a good shtart, Jim.
Don't ye gin 'er the bit for five minutes. She'll rin away wid ye. Ye
can't till me anything about women."

"No, nor I don't want to. Now you jest shut up, Mike. I'm tired a
hearin' ye. This thing about women is one as has half the fun of it in
larnin' it as ye go along. Ye mean well enough, Mike, but yer eddication
is poor; an' if it's all the same to ye, I'll take my pudden straight
an' leave yer sarse for them as likes it."

Jim's utter rejection of the further good offices of Mike, in the
endeavor to instruct him in the management of his future relations with
the little woman, did not sink very deep into the Irishman's
sensibilities. Indeed, it could not have done so, for their waters were
shallow, and, as at this moment Mike's "owld woman" called both to
dinner, the difference was forgotten in the sympathy of hunger and the
satisfactions of the table.

Jim felt that he was undergoing a change--had undergone one, in fact. It
had never revealed itself to him so fully as it did during his
conversation with Mike. The building of the hotel, the study of the
wants of another grade of civilization than that to which he had been
accustomed, the frequent conversations with Miss Butterworth, the
responsibilities he had assumed, all had tended to lift him; and he felt
that Mike Conlin was no longer a tolerable companion. The shallowness of
the Irishman's mind and life disgusted him, and he knew that the time
would soon come when, by a process as natural as the falling of the
leaves in autumn, he should drop a whole class of associations, and
stand where he could look down upon them--where they would look up to
him. The position of principal, the command of men, the conduct of, and
the personal responsibility for, a great enterprise, had given him
conscious growth. His old life and his old associations were
insufficient to contain him.

After dinner they started on, for the first time accompanied by Mike's
wife. Before her marriage she had lived the life common to her
class--that of cook and housemaid in the families of gentlemen. She knew
the duties connected with the opening of a house, and could bring its
machinery into working order. She could do a thousand things that a man
either could not do, or would not think of doing; and Jim had arranged
that she should be housekeeper until the mistress of the establishment
should be installed in her office.

The sun had set before they arrived at the river, and the boats of the
two guides, with Jim's, which had been brought down by Mr. Benedict,
were speedily loaded with the furniture, and Mike, picketing his horses
for the night, embarked with the rest, and all slept at Number Nine.

In three days Jim was to be married, and his cage was ready for his
bird. The stoop with its "settle," the ladder for posies, at the foot
of which the morning-glories were already planted, and the "cupalo," had
ceased to be dreams, and become realities. Still, it all seemed a dream
to Jim. He waked in the morning in his own room, and wondered whether he
were not dreaming. He went out upon his piazza, and saw the cabin in
which he had spent so many nights in his old simple life, then went off
and looked up at his house or ranged through the rooms, and experienced
the emotion of regret so common to those in similar circumstances, that
he could never again be what he had been, or be contented with what he
had been--that he had crossed a point in his life which his retiring
feet could never repass. It was the natural reaction of the long strain
of expectation which he had experienced, and would pass away; but while
it was upon him he mourned over the death of his old self, and the
hopeless obliteration of his old circumstances.

Mr. Balfour had been written to, and would keep his promise to be
present at the wedding, with Mrs. Balfour and the boys. Sam Yates, at
Jim's request, had agreed to see to the preparation of an appropriate
outfit for the bridegroom. Such invitations had been given out as Miss
Butterworth dictated, and the Snow family was in a flutter of
expectation. Presents of a humble and useful kind had been pouring in
upon Miss Butterworth for days, until, indeed, she was quite
overwhelmed. It seemed as if the whole village were in a conspiracy of
beneficence.

In a final conference with Mrs. Snow, Miss Butterworth said:

"I don't know at all how he is going to behave, and I'm not going to
trouble myself about it; he shall do just as he pleases. He has made his
way with me, and if he is good enough for me, he is good enough for
other people. I'm not going to badger him into nice manners, and I'm
going to be just as much amused with him as anybody is. He isn't like
other people, and if he tries to act like other people, it will just
spoil him. If there's anything that I do despise above board, it's a
woman trying to train a man who loves her. If I were the man, I should
hate her."




CHAPTER XXII.

IN WHICH JIM GETS MARRIED, THE NEW HOTEL RECEIVES ITS MISTRESS, AND
BENEDICT CONFERS A POWER OF ATTORNEY.


There was great commotion in the little Sevenoaks tavern. It was Jim's
wedding morning, and on the previous evening there had been a sufficient
number of arrivals to fill every room. Mr. and Mrs. Balfour, with the
two boys, had come in in the evening stage; Jim and Mr. Benedict had
arrived from Number Nine. Friends of Miss Butterworth from adjoining
towns had come, so as to be ready for the ceremony of the morning.
Villagers had thronged the noisy bar-room until midnight, scanning and
discussing the strangers, and speculating upon the event which had
called them together. Jim had moved among them, smiling, and returning
their good-natured badinage with imperturbable coolness, so far as
appearances went, though he acknowledged to Mr. Balfour that he felt
very much as he did about his first moose.

"I took a good aim," said he, "restin' acrost a stump, but the stump was
oneasy like; an' then I blazed away, an' when I obsarved the moose
sprawlin', I was twenty feet up a tree, with my gun in the snow; an' if
they don't find me settin' on the parson's chimbly about nine o'clock
to-morrer mornin', it won't be on account o' my not bein' skeered."

But the wedding morning had arrived. Jim had had an uneasy night, with
imperfect sleep and preposterous dreams. He had been pursuing game.
Sometimes it was a bear that attracted his chase, sometimes it was a
deer, sometimes it was a moose, but all the time it was Miss
Butterworth, flying and looking back, with robes and ribbons vanishing
among the distant trees, until he shot and killed her, and then he woke
in a great convulsion of despair, to hear the singing of the early
birds, and to the realization of the fact that his days of bachelor life
were counted.

Mr. Benedict, with his restored boy in his arms, occupied the room next
to his, a door opening between them. Both were awake, and were busy with
their whispered confidences, when they became aware that Jim was roused
and on his feet. In a huge bundle on the table lay Jim's wedding
garments, which he eyed from time to time as he busied himself at his
bath.

"Won't ye be a purty bird with them feathers on! This makin' crows into
bobolinks'll do for oncet, but, my! won't them things spin when I git
into the woods agin?"

Benedict and Harry knew Jim's habit, and the measure of excitement that
was upon him, and lay still, expecting to be amused by his soliloquies.
Soon they heard him say:

"Oh, lay down, lay down, lay _down_, ye misable old mop!"

It was an expression of impatience and disgust.

"What's the matter, Jim?" Mr. Benedict called.

"Here's my har," responded Jim, "actin' as if it was a piece o' woods or
a hay-lot, an' there ain't no lodgin' it with nothin' short of a
harricane. I've a good mind to git it shingled and san'-papered."

Then, shifting his address to the object of his care and anxiety, he
went on:

"Oh, stick up, stick up, if you want to! Don't lay down on my 'count.
P'rhaps ye want to see what's goin' on. P'rhaps ye're goin' to stand up
with me. P'rhaps ye want to skeer somebody's hosses. If I didn't look no
better nor you, I sh'd want to lay low; an', if I'd 'a slep as poor as
ye did last night, I'd lop down in the fust bed o' bear's grease I could
find. _Hain't_ ye got no manners?"

This was too much for Harry, who, in his happy mood burst into the
merriest laughter.

This furnished Jim with just the apology he wanted for a frolic, and
rushing into the adjoining bedroom, he pulled Harry from his bed, seated
him on the top of his head, and marched with him struggling and laughing
about the room. After he had performed sundry acrobatic feats with him,
he carried him back to his bed. Then he returned to his room, and
entered seriously upon the task of arraying himself in his wedding
attire. To get on his collar and neck-tie properly, he was obliged to
call for Mr. Benedict's assistance.

Jim was already getting red in the face.

"What on arth folks want to tie theirselves up in this way for in hot
weather, is more nor I know," he said. "How do ye s'pose them Mormons
live, as is doin' this thing every three days?"

Jim asked this question with his nose in the air, patiently waiting the
result of Mr. Benedict's manipulations at his throat. When he could
speak again, he added:

"I vow, if I was doin' a big business in this line, I'd git some tin
things, an' have 'em soddered on, an' sleep in 'em."

This sent Harry into another giggle, and, with many soliloquies and much
merriment, the dressing in both rooms went on, until, in Jim's room, all
became still. When Benedict and his boy had completed their toilet, they
looked in upon Jim, and found him dressed and seated on his trunk.

"Good morning, Mr. Fenton," said Benedict, cheerfully.

Jim, who had been in deep thought, looked up, and said:

"Do ye know that that don't seem so queer to me as it used to? It seems
all right fur pertickler friends to call me Jim, but clo'es is what puts
the Mister into a man. I felt it comin' when I looked into the glass.
Says I to myself: 'Jim, that's Mr. Fenton as is now afore ye. Look at
'im sharp, so that, if so be ye ever seen 'im agin' ye'll know 'im.' I
never knowed exactly where the Mister come from afore. Ye have to be
measured for't. A pair o' shears, an' a needle an' thread, an' a hot
goose is what changes a man into a Mister. It's a nice thing to find
out, but it's uncomf'table. It ain't so bad as it would be if ye
couldn't strip it off when ye git tired on't, an' it's a good thing to
know."

"Do clothes make Belcher a gentleman?" inquired Mr. Benedict.

"Well, it's what makes him a Mister, any way. When ye git his clo'es off
thar ain't nothin' left of 'im. Dress 'im up in my old clo'es, as has
got tar enough on 'em to paint a boat, an' there wouldn't be enough man
in 'im to speak to."

How long Jim would have indulged in his philosophy of the power of dress
had he not been disturbed will never be known, for at this moment Mr.
Balfour knocked at his door, and was admitted. Sam Yates followed, and
both looked Jim over and pronounced him perfect. Even these familiar
friends felt the power of dress, and treated Jim in a way to which he
had been unaccustomed. The stalwart figure, developed in every muscle,
and becomingly draped, was well calculated to excite their admiration.
The refractory hair which had given its possessor so much trouble,
simply made his head impressive and picturesque. There was a man before
them--humane, brave, bright, original. All he wanted was culture.
Physical and mental endowments were in excess, and the two men, trained
in the schools, had learned to love--almost to revere him. Until he
spoke, they did not feel at home with him in his new disguise.

They all descended to breakfast together. Jim was quiet under the
feeling that his clothes were an unnatural expression of himself, and
that his words would make them a mockery. He was awed, too, by the
presence of Mrs. Balfour, who met him at the table for the first time in
her life. The sharp-eyed, smiling Yankee girls who waited at the meal,
were very much devoted to Jim, who was ashamed to receive so much
attention. On the whole, it was the most uncomfortable breakfast he had
ever eaten, but his eyes were quick to see all that was done, for he was
about to open a hotel, and wished particularly to learn the details of
the table service.

There was great excitement, too, at the parsonage that morning. The
Misses Snow were stirred by the romance of the occasion. They had little
enough of this element in their lives, and were disposed to make the
most of it when it came. The eldest had been invited to accompany the
bride to Number Nine, and spend a few weeks with her there. As this was
accounted a great privilege by the two younger sisters, they quietly
shelved her, and told her that they were to have their own way at home;
so Miss Snow became ornamental and critical. Miss Butterworth had spent
the night with her, and they had talked like a pair of school-girls
until the small hours of the morning. The two younger girls had slept
together, and discussed at length the duties of their respective
offices. One was to do the bride's hair and act as the general
supervisor of her dress, the other was to arrange the flowers and take
care of the guests. Miss Butterworth's hair was not beautiful, and how
it was to be made the most of was the great question that agitated the
hair-dresser. All the possibilities of braid and plait and curl were
canvassed. If she only had a switch, a great triumph could be achieved,
but she had none, and, what was worse, would have none. A neighbor had
sent in a potted white rose, full of buds and bloom, and over this the
sisters quarreled. The hair would not be complete without the roses, and
the table would look "shameful" if the pot did not stand upon it,
unshorn of a charm. The hair-dresser proposed that the stems which she
was bent on despoiling should have some artificial roses tied to them,
but the disgraceful project was rejected with scorn. They wrangled over
the dear little rose-bush and its burden until they went to sleep--the
one to dream that Miss Butterworth had risen in the morning with a new
head of hair that reached to her knee, in whose luxuriance she could
revel with interminable delight, and the other that the house was filled
with roses; that they sprouted out of the walls, fluttered with beads of
dew against the windows, strewed the floor, and filled the air with
odor.

Miss Butterworth was not to step out of the room--not be seen by any
mortal eye--until she should come forth as a bride. Miss Snow was
summarily expelled from the apartment, and only permitted to bring in
Miss Butterworth's breakfast, while her self-appointed lady's maid did
her hair, and draped her in her new gray silk.

"Make just as big a fool of me, my dear, as you choose," said the
prospective bride to the fussy little girl who fluttered about her.
"It's only for a day, and I don't care."

Such patient manipulation, such sudden retirings for the study of
effects, such delicious little experiments with a curl, such shifting of
hair-pins, such dainty adjustments of ruffles and frills as were
indulged in in that little room can only be imagined by the sex familiar
with them. And then, in the midst of it all, came a scream of delight
that stopped everything. Mrs. Balfour had sent in a great box full of
the most exquisite flowers, which she had brought all the way from the
city. The youngest Miss Snow was wild with her new wealth, and there
were roses for Miss Butterworth's hair, and her throat, and a bouquet
for her hand. And after this came wonderful accessions to the
refreshment table. Cake, with Miss Butterworth's initials; tarts, marked
"Number Nine," and Charlotte de Russe, with a "B" and an "F" hopelessly
twisted together in a monogram. The most excited exclamations reached
Miss Butterworth's ears in her imprisonment:

"Goodness, gracious me!"

"If there isn't another cake as big as a flour barrel!"

"Tell your mother she's an angel. She's coming down to help us eat it, I
hope."

"Just look at this basket of little cakes! I was saying to mother this
minute that that was all we wanted."

So the good things came, and the cheerful givers went, and Miss
Butterworth took an occasional sip at her coffee, with a huge napkin at
her throat, and tears in her eyes, not drawn forth by the delicate
tortures in progress upon her person. She thought of her weary years of
service, her watchings by sick-beds, her ministry to the poor, her long
loneliness, and acknowledged to herself that her reward had come. To be
so loved and petted, and cared for, and waited upon, was payment for
every sacrifice and every service, and she felt that she and the world
were at quits.

Before the finishing touches to her toilet were given, there was a
tumult at the door. She could hear new voices. The guests were arriving.
She heard laughter and merry greetings; and still they poured in, as if
they had come in a procession. Then there was a hush, followed by the
sound of a carriage, the letting down of steps, and a universal murmur.
Jim had arrived, with Mr. and Mrs. Balfour and the boys. They had had
great difficulty in getting him into the one hackney coach which the
village possessed, on account of his wish to ride with the driver, "a
feller as he knowed;" but he was overruled by Mrs. Balfour, who, on
alighting, took his arm. He came up the garden walk, smiling in the
faces and eyes of those gathered around the door and clustered at the
windows. In his wedding dress, he was the best figure in the crowd, and
many were the exclamations of feminine admiration.

On entering the door, he looked about him, saw the well-dressed and
expectant company, the dainty baskets of flowers, the bountifully loaded
table in the little dining-room, all the preparations for his day of
happiness, but he saw nowhere the person who gave to him the
significance of the occasion.

Mr. Snow greeted him cordially, and introduced him to those who stood
near.

"Well, parson, where's the little woman?" he said, at last, in a voice
so loud that all heard the startling question. Miss Butterworth heard
him, and laughed.

"Just hear him!" she exclaimed to the busy girl, whose work was now
hurrying to a close. "If he doesn't astonish them before he gets
through, I shall be mistaken. I do think it's the most ridiculous thing.
Now isn't it! The idea!"

Miss Snow, in the general character of outside manager and future
companion of the bride, hurried to Jim's side at once, and said:

"Oh, Mr. Fenton!"

"Jest call me Jim."

"No, no, I won't. Now, Mr. Fenton, really! you can't see her until she
is ready!"

"Oh can't I!" and Jim smiled.

Miss Snow had the impression, prevalent among women, that a bridegroom
has no rights so long as they can keep him out of them, and that it is
their privilege to fight him up to the last moment.

"Now, really, Mr. Fenton, you _must_ be patient," she said, in a
whisper. "She is quite delicate this morning, and she's going to look so
pretty that you'll hardly know her."

"Well," said Jim, "if you've got a ticket into the place whar she's
stoppin', tell her that kingdom-come is here an' waitin'."

A ripple of laughter went around the circle, and Jim, finding the room
getting a little close, beckoned Mr. Snow out of the doors. Taking him
aside and removing his hat, he said:

"Parson, do you see my har?"

"I do," responded the minister, good-naturedly.

"That riz last night," said Jim, solemnly.

"Is it possible?" and Mr. Snow looked at the intractable pile with
genuine concern.

"Yes, riz in a dream. I thought I'd shot 'er. I was follerin' 'er all
night. Sometimes she was one thing, an' sometimes she was another, but I
drew a bead on 'er, an' down she went, an' up come my har quicker nor
lightnin'. I don't s'pose it looks very purty, but I can't help it."

"Have you tried anything on it?" inquired Mr. Snow with a puzzled look.

"Yis, everything but a hot flat iron, an' I'm a little afraid o' that.
If wust comes to wust, it'll have to be did, though. It may warm up my
old brains a little, but if my har is well sprinkled, and the thing is
handled lively, it'll pay for tryin'."

The perfect candor and coolness of Jim's manner were too much for the
unsuspicious spirit of the minister, who thought it all very strange. He
had heard of such things, but this was the first instance he had ever
seen.

"Parson," said Jim, changing the topic, "what's the damage for the sort
o' thing ye're drivin' at this mornin'?"

"The what?"

"The damage--what's the--well--damage? What do ye consider a fa'r
price?"

"Do you mean the marriage fee?"

"Yes, I guess that's what ye call it."

"The law allows us two dollars, but you will permit me to perform the
ceremony for nothing. It's a labor of love, Mr. Fenton. We are all very
much interested in Miss Butterworth, as you see."

"Well, I'm a little interested in 'er myself, an' I'm a goin' to pay for
the splice. Jest tuck that X into yer jacket, an' tell yer neighbors as
ye've seen a man as was five times better nor the law."

"You are very generous."

"No; I know what business is, though. Ye have to get somethin' to square
the buryins an' baptizins with. When a man has a weddin', he'd better
pay the whole thing in a jump. Parsons have to live, but how the devil
they do it in Sevenoaks is more nor I know."

"Mr. Fenton! excuse me!" said Mr. Snow, coloring, "but I am not
accustomed to hearing language of that kind."

"No, I s'pose not," said Jim, who saw too late that he had made a
mistake. "Your sort o' folks knuckle to the devil more nor I do. A good
bein' I take to, but a bad bein' I'm careless with; an' I don't make no
more o' slingin' his name round nor I do kickin' an old boot."

Mr. Snow was obliged to laugh, and half a dozen others, who had gathered
about them, joined in a merry chorus.

Then Miss Snow came out and whispered to her father, and gave a roguish
glance at Jim. At this time the house was full, the little yard was
full, and there was a crowd of boys at the gate. Mr. Snow took Jim by
the arm and led him in. They pressed through the crowd at the door, Miss
Snow making way for them, and so, in a sort of triumphal progress, they
went through the room, and disappeared in the apartment where "the
little woman," flushed and expectant, waited their arrival.

It would be hard to tell which was the more surprised as they were
confronted by the meeting. Dress had wrought its miracle upon both of
them, and they hardly knew each other.

"Well, little woman, how fare ye?" said Jim, and he advanced, and took
her cheeks tenderly between his rough hands, and kissed her.

"Oh, don't! Mr. Fenton! You'll muss her hair!" exclaimed the nervous
little lady's maid of the morning, dancing about the object of her
delightful toils and anxieties, and readjusting a rose, and pulling out
the fold of a ruffle.

"A purty job ye've made on't! The little woman'll never look so nice
again," said Jim.

"Perhaps I shall--when I'm married again," said Miss Butterworth,
looking up into Jim's eyes, and laughing.

"Now, ain't that sassy!" exclaimed Jim, in a burst of admiration.
"That's what took me the first time I seen 'er."

Then Miss Snow Number Two came in, and said it really was time for the
ceremony to begin. Such a job as she had had in seating people!

Oh, the mysteries of that little room! How the people outside wondered
what was going on there! How the girls inside rejoiced in their official
privileges!

Miss Snow took Jim by the button-hole:

"Mr. Fenton, you must take Miss Butterworth on your arm, you know, and
lead her in front of the sofa, and turn around, and face father, and
then do just what he tells you, and remember that there's nothing for
you to say."

The truth was, that they were all afraid that Jim would not be able to
hold his tongue.

"Are we all ready?" inquired Mr. Snow, in a pleasant, official tone.

All were ready, and then Mr. Snow, going out with a book in his hand,
was followed by Jim and his bride, the little procession being completed
by the three Misses Snow, who, with a great deal of care upon their
faces, slipped out of the door, one after another, like three white
doves from a window. Mr. Snow took his position, the pair wheeled and
faced him, and the three Misses Snow supported Miss Butterworth as
impromptu bridesmaids. It was an impressive tableau, and when the good
pastor said: "Let us pray," and raised his thin, white hands, a painter
in search of a subject could have asked for nothing better.

When, at the close of his prayer, the pastor inquired if there were any
known obstacles to the union of the pair before him in the bonds of holy
matrimony, and bade all objectors to speak then, or forever after hold
their peace, Jim looked around with a defiant air, as if he would like
to see the man who dared to respond to the call. No one did respond, and
the ceremony proceeded.

"James," said Mr. Snow.

"Jest call me--"

Miss Butterworth pinched Jim's arm, and he recalled Miss Snow's
injunction in time to arrest his sentence in midpassage.

"James," the pastor repeated, and then went on to ask him, in accordance
with the simple form of his sect, whether he took the woman whom he was
holding by the hand to be his lawful and wedded wife, to be loved and
cherished in sickness and health, in prosperity and adversity, cleaving
to her, and to her only.

"Parson," said Jim, "that's jest what I'm here for."

There would have been a titter if any other man had said it, but it was
so strong and earnest, and so much in character, that hardly a smile
crossed a face that fronted him.

Then "Keziah" was questioned in the usual form, and bowed her response,
and Jim and the little woman were declared to be one. "What God hath
joined together, let not man put asunder."

And then Mr. Snow raised his white hands again, and pronounced a formal
benediction. There was a moment of awkwardness, but soon the pastor
advanced with his congratulations, and Mrs. Snow came up, and the three
Misses Snow, and the Balfours, and the neighbors; and there were kisses
and hand-shakings, and good wishes. Jim beamed around upon the
fluttering and chattering groups like a great, good-natured mastiff upon
a playful collection of silken spaniels and smart terriers. It was the
proudest moment of his life. Even when standing on the cupola of his
hotel, surveying his achievements, and counting his possessions, he had
never felt the thrill which moved him then. The little woman was his,
and his forever. His manhood had received the highest public
recognition, and he was as happy as if it had been the imposition of a
crown.

"Ye made purty solemn business on't, Parson," said Jim.

"It's a very important step, Mr. Fenton," responded the clergyman.

"Step!" exclaimed Jim. "That's no name for't; it's a whole trip. But I
sh'll do it. When I said it I meaned it. I sh'll take care o' the little
woman, and atween you an' I, Parson, it's about the best thing as a man
can do. Takin' care of a woman is the nateral thing for a man, an' no
man ain't much as doesn't do it, and glad o' the job."

The capacity of a country assembly for cakes, pies, and lemonade, is
something quite unique, especially at a morning festival. If the table
groaned at the beginning, it sighed at the close. The abundance that
asserted itself in piles of dainties was left a wreck. It faded away
like a bank of snow before a drift of southern vapor. Jim, foraging
among the solids, found a mince pie, to which he devoted himself.

"This is the sort o' thing as will stan' by a man in trouble," said he,
with a huge piece in his hand.

Then, with a basket of cake, he vanished from the house, and
distributed his burden among the boys at the gate.

"Boys, I know ye're hungry, 'cause ye've left yer breakfast on yer
faces. Now git this in afore it rains."

The boys did not stand on the order of the service, but helped
themselves greedily, and left his basket empty in a twinkling.

"It beats all nater," said Jim, looking at them sympathetically, "how
much boys can put down when they try. If the facks could be knowed,
without cuttin' into 'em, I'd be willin' to bet somethin' that their
legs is holler."

While Jim was absent, the bride's health was drunk in a glass of
lemonade, and when he returned, his own health was proposed, and Jim
seemed to feel that something was expected of him.

"My good frens," said he, "I'm much obleeged to ye. Ye couldn't 'a'
treated me better if I'd 'a' been the president of this country. I ain't
used to yer ways, but I know when I'm treated well, an' when the little
woman is treated well. I'm obleeged to ye on her 'count. I'm a goin' to
take 'er into the woods, an' take care on 'er. We are goin' to keep a
hotel--me and the little woman--an' if so be as any of ye is took sick
by overloadin' with cookies 'arly in the day, or bein' thinned out with
lemonade, ye can come into the woods, an' I'll send ye back happy."

There was a clapping of hands and a flutter of handkerchiefs, and a
merry chorus of laughter, and then two vehicles drove up to the door.
The bride bade a tearful farewell to her multitude of friends, and
poured out her thanks to the minister's family, and in twenty minutes
thereafter, two happy loads of passengers went pounding over the bridge,
and off up the hill on the way to Number Nine. The horses were strong,
the morning was perfect, and Jim was in possession of his bride. They,
with Miss Snow, occupied one carriage, while Mr. Benedict and the
Balfours filled the other. Not a member of the company started homeward
until the bridal party was seen climbing the hill in the distance, but
waited, commenting upon the great event of the morning, and speculating
upon the future of the pair whose marriage they had witnessed. There was
not a woman in the crowd who did not believe in Jim; and all were glad
that the little tailoress had reached so pleasant and stimulating a
change in her life.

When the voyagers had passed beyond the scattered farm-houses into the
lonely country, Jim, with his wife's help, released himself from the
collar and cravat that tormented him, and once more breathed freely. On
they sped, shouting to one another from carriage to carriage, and Mike
Conlin's humble house was reached in a two hours' drive. There was
chaffing at the door and romping among the trees while the horses were
refreshed, and then they pushed on again with such speed as was possible
with poorer roads and soberer horses; and two hours before sunset they
were at the river. The little woman had enjoyed the drive. When she
found that she had cut loose from her old life, and was entering upon
one unknown and untried, in pleasant companionship, she was thoroughly
happy. It was all like a fairy story; and there before her rolled the
beautiful river, and, waiting on the shore, were the trunks and remnants
of baggage that had been started for their destination before daylight,
and the guides with their boats, and with wild flowers in their
hat-bands.

The carriages were dismissed to find their way back to Mike Conlin's
that night, while Jim, throwing off his coat, assisted in loading the
three boats. Mr. Balfour had brought along with him, not only a large
flag for the hotel, but half a dozen smaller ones for the little fleet.
The flags were soon mounted upon little rods, and set up at either end
of each boat, and when the luggage was all loaded, and the passengers
were all in their places--Jim taking his wife and Miss Snow in his own
familiar craft--they pushed out into the stream, and started for a race.
Jim was the most powerful man of the three, and was aching for work. It
was a race all the way, but the broader chest and harder muscles won. It
was a regatta without spectators, but as full of excitement as if the
shores had been fringed with a cheering crowd.

The two women chatted together in the stern of Jim's boat, or sat in
silence, as if they were enchanted, watching the changing shores, while
the great shadows of the woods deepened upon them. They had never seen
anything like it. It was a new world--God's world, which man had not
marred.

At last they heard the barking of a dog, and, looking far up among the
woods, they caught the vision of a new building. The boys in the boats
behind yelled with delight. Ample in its dimensions and fair in its
outlines, there stood the little woman's home. Her eyes filled with
tears, and she hid them on Miss Snow's shoulder.

"Be ye disap'inted, little woman?" inquired Jim, tenderly.

"Oh, no."

"Feelin's a little too many fur ye?"

The little woman nodded, while Miss Snow put her arm around her neck and
whispered.

"A woman is a curi's bein'," said Jim. "She cries when she's tickled,
an' she laughs when she's mad."

"I'm not mad," said the little woman, bursting into a laugh, and lifting
her tear-burdened eyes to Jim.

"An' then," said Jim, "she cries and laughs all to oncet, an'a feller
don't know whether to take off his jacket or put up his umberell."

This quite restored the "little woman," and her eyes were dry and merry
as the boat touched the bank, and the two women were helped on shore.
Before the other boats came up, they were in the house, with the
delighted Turk at their heels, and Mike Conlin's wife courtseying before
them.

It was a merry night at Number Nine. Jim's wife became the mistress at
once. She knew where everything was to be found, as well as if she had
been there for a year, and played the hostess to Mr. and Mrs. Balfour as
agreeably as if her life had been devoted to the duties of her
establishment.

Mr. Balfour could not make a long stay in the woods, but had determined
to leave his wife there with the boys. His business was pressing at
home, and he had heard something while at Sevenoaks that made him uneasy
on Mr. Benedict's account. The latter had kept himself very quiet while
at the wedding, but his intimacy with one of Mr. Balfour's boys had been
observed, and there were those who detected the likeness of this boy,
though much changed by growth and better conditions, to the little Harry
Benedict of other days. Mr. Balfour had overheard the speculations of
the villagers on the strange Mr. Williams who had for so long a time
been housed with Jim Fenton, and the utterance of suspicions that he was
no other than their old friend, Paul Benedict. He knew that this
suspicion would be reported by Mr. Belcher's agent at once, and that Mr.
Belcher would take desperate steps to secure himself in his possessions.
What form these measures would take--whether of fraud or personal
violence--he could not tell.

He advised Mr. Benedict to give him a power of attorney to prosecute Mr.
Belcher for the sum due him on the use of his inventions, and to procure
an injunction on his further use of them, unless he should enter into an
agreement to pay such a royalty as should be deemed equitable by all the
parties concerned. Mr. Benedict accepted the advice, and the papers were
executed at once.

Armed with this document, Mr. Balfour bade good-bye to Number Nine and
its pleasant company, and hastened back to the city, where he took the
first opportunity to report to his friends the readiness of Jim to
receive them for the summer.

It would be pleasant to follow them into their forest pastimes, but more
stirring and important matters will hold us to the city.




CHAPTER XXIII.

IN WHICH MR. BELCHER EXPRESSES HIS DETERMINATION TO BECOME A "FOUNDER,"
BUT DROPS HIS NOUN IN FEAR OF A LITTLE VERB OF THE SAME NAME.


Mrs. Dillingham had a difficult role to play. She could not break with
Mr. Belcher without exposing her motives and bringing herself under
unpleasant suspicion and surveillance. She felt that the safety of her
protege and his father would be best consulted by keeping peace with
their enemy; yet every approach of the great scoundrel disgusted and
humiliated her. That side of her nature which had attracted and
encouraged him was sleeping, and, under the new motives which were at
work within her, she hoped that it would never wake. She looked down the
devious track of her past, counted over its unworthy and most unwomanly
satisfactions, and wondered. She looked back to a great wrong which she
had once inflicted on an innocent man, with a self-condemnation so deep
that all the womanhood within her rose into the purpose of reparation.

The boy whom she had called to her side, and fastened by an impassioned
tenderness more powerful even than her wonderful art, had become to her
a fountain of pure motives. She had a right to love this child. She owed
a duty to him beyond any woman living. Grasping her right, and
acknowledging her duty--a right and duty accorded to her by his nominal
protector--she would not have forfeited them for the world. They soon
became all that gave significance to her existence, and to them she
determined that her life should be devoted. To stand well with this
boy, to be loved, admired and respected by him, to be to him all that a
mother could be, to be guided by his pure and tender conscience toward
her own reformation, to waken into something like life and nourish into
something like strength the starved motherhood within her--these became
her dominant motives.

Mr. Belcher saw the change in her, but was too gross in his nature, too
blind in his passion, and too vain in his imagined power, to comprehend
it. She was a woman, and had her whims, he thought. Whims were
evanescent, and this particular whim would pass away. He was vexed by
seeing the boy so constantly with her. He met them walking together in
the street, or straying in the park, hand in hand, or caught the lad
looking at him from her window. He could not doubt that all this
intimacy was approved by Mr. Balfour. Was she playing a deep game? Could
she play it for anybody but himself--the man who had taken her heart by
storm? Her actions, however, even when interpreted by his self-conceit,
gave him uneasiness. She had grown to be very kind and considerate
toward Mrs. Belcher. Had this friendship moved her to crush the passion
for her husband? Ah! if she could only know how true he was to her in
his untruthfulness!--how faithful he was to her in his perjury!--how he
had saved himself for the ever-vanishing opportunity!

Many a time the old self-pity came back to the successful scoundrel.
Many a time he wondered why the fate which had been so kind to him in
other things would not open the door to his wishes in this. With this
unrewarded passion gnawing at his heart, and with the necessity of
treating the wife of his youth with constantly increasing consideration,
in order to cover it from her sight, the General was anything but a
satisfied and happy man. The more he thought upon it, the more morbid he
grew, until it seemed to him that his wife must look through his
hypocritical eyes into his guilty heart. He grew more and more guarded
in his speech. If he mentioned Mrs. Dillingham's name, he always did it
incidentally, and then only for the purpose of showing that he had no
reason to avoid the mention of it.

There was another thought that preyed upon him. He was consciously a
forger. He had not used the document he had forged, but he had
determined to do so. Law had not laid its finger upon him, but its
finger was over him. He had not yet crossed the line that made him
legally a criminal, but the line was drawn before him, and only another
step would be necessary to place him beyond it. A brood of fears was
gathering around him. They stood back, glaring upon him from the
distance; but they only waited another act in his career of dishonor to
crowd in and surround him with menace. Sometimes he shrank from his
purpose, but the shame of being impoverished and beaten spurred him
renewedly to determination. He became conscious that what there was of
bravery in him was sinking into bravado. His self-conceit, and what
little he possessed of self-respect, were suffering. He dimly
apprehended the fact that he was a rascal, and it made him
uncomfortable. It ceased to be enough for him to assure himself that he
was no more a rascal than those around him. He reached out on every side
for means to maintain his self-respect. What good thing could he do to
counterbalance his bad deeds? How could he shore himself up by public
praise, by respectable associations, by the obligations of the public
for deeds of beneficence? It is the most natural thing in the world for
the dishonest steward, who cheats his lord, to undertake to win
consideration against contingencies with his lord's money.

On the same evening in which the gathering at the Sevenoaks tavern
occurred, preceding Jim's wedding, Mr. Belcher sat in his library,
looking over the document which nominally conveyed to him the right and
title of Paul Benedict to his inventions. He had done this many times
since he had forged three of the signatures, and secured a fraudulent
addition to the number from the hand of Phipps. He had brought himself
to believe, to a certain extent, in their genuineness, and was wholly
sure that they were employed on behalf of justice. The inventions had
cost Benedict little or no money, and he, Mr. Belcher, had developed
them at his own risk. Without his money and his enterprise they would
have amounted to nothing. If Benedict had not lost his reason, the
document would have been legally signed. The cause of Benedict's lapse
from sanity did not occur to him. He only knew that if the inventor had
not become insane, he should have secured his signature at some wretched
price, and out of this conviction he reared his self-justification.

"It's right!" said Mr. Belcher. "The State prison may be in it, but it's
right!"

And then, confirming his foul determination by an oath, he added:

"I'll stand by it."

Then he rang his bell, and called for Phipps.

"Phipps," said he, as his faithful and plastic servitor appeared, "come
in, and close the door."

When Phipps, with a question in his face, walked up to where Mr. Belcher
was sitting at his desk, with the forged document before him, the latter
said:

"Phipps, did you ever see this paper before?"

"Yes, sir."

"Now, think hard--don't be in a hurry--and tell me when you saw it
before. Take it in your hand, and look it all over, and be sure."

"I can't tell, exactly," responded Phipps, scratching his had; "but I
should think it might have been six years ago, or more. It was a long
time before we came from Sevenoaks."

"Very well; is that your signature?"

"It is, sir."

"Did you see Benedict write his name? Did you see Johnson and Ramsey
write their names?"

"I did, sir."

"Do you remember all the circumstances--what I said to you, and what you
said to me--why you were in the room?"

"Yes, sir."

"Phipps, do you know that if it is ever found out that you have signed
that paper within a few weeks, you are as good as a dead man?"

"I don't know what you mean, sir," replied Phipps, in evident alarm.

"Do you know that that signature is enough to send you to the State
prison?"

"No, sir."

"Well, Phipps, it is just that, provided it isn't stuck to. You will
have to swear to it, and stand by it. I know the thing is coming. I can
feel it in my bones. Why it hasn't come before, the Lord only knows."

Phipps had great faith in the might of money, and entire faith in Mr.
Belcher's power to save him from any calamity. His master, during all
his residence with and devotion to him, had shown himself able to secure
every end he had sought, and he believed in him, or believed in his
power, wholly.

"Couldn't you save me, sir, if I were to get into trouble?" he inquired,
anxiously.

"That depends upon whether you stand by me, Phipps. It's just here, my
boy. If you swear, through thick and thin, that you saw these men sign
this paper, six years ago or more, that you signed it at the same time,
and stand by your own signature, you will sail through all right, and do
me a devilish good turn. If you balk, or get twisted up in your own
reins, or thrown off your seat, down goes your house. If you stand by
me, I shall stand by you. The thing is all right, and just as it ought
to be, but it's a little irregular. It gives me what belongs to me, but
the law happens to be against it."

Phipps hesitated, and glanced suspiciously, and even menacingly, at the
paper. Mr. Belcher knew that he would like to tear it in pieces, and so,
without unseemly haste, he picked it up, placed it in its drawer, locked
it in, and put the key in his pocket.

"I don't want to get into trouble," said Phipps.

"Phipps," said Mr. Belcher, in a conciliatory tone, "I don't intend
that you shall get into trouble."

Then, rising, and patting his servant on the shoulder, he added:

"But it all depends on your standing by me, and standing by yourself.
You know that you will lose nothing by standing by the General, Phipps;
you know me."

Phipps was not afraid of crime; he was only afraid of its possible
consequences; and Mr. Belcher's assurance of safety, provided he should
remember his story and adhere to it, was all that he needed to confirm
him in the determination to do what Mr. Belcher wished him to do.

After Phipps retired, Mr. Belcher took out his document again, and
looked it over for the hundredth time. He recompared the signatures
which he had forged with their originals. Consciously a villain, he
regarded himself still as a man who was struggling for his rights. But
something of his old, self-reliant courage was gone. He recognized the
fact that there was one thing in the world more powerful than himself.
The law was against him. Single-handed, he could meet men; but the great
power which embodied the justice and strength of the State awed him, and
compelled him into a realization of his weakness.

The next morning Mr. Belcher received his brokers and operators in bed
in accordance with his custom. He was not good-natured. His operations
in Wall street had not been prosperous for several weeks. In some way,
impossible to be foreseen by himself or his agents, everything had
worked against him He knew that if he did not rally from this passage of
ill-luck, he would, in addition to his loss of money, lose something of
his prestige. He had a stormy time with his advisers and tools, swore a
great deal, and sent them off in anything but a pleasant frame of mind.

Talbot was waiting in the drawing-room when the brokers retired, and
followed his card upstairs, where he found his principal with an ugly
frown upon his face.

"Toll," he whimpered, "I'm glad to see you. You're the best of 'em all,
and in the long run, you bring me the most money."

"Thank you," responded the factor, showing his white teeth in a
gratified smile.

"Toll, I'm not exactly ill, but I'm not quite myself. How long it will
last I don't know, but just this minute the General is devilish unhappy,
and would sell himself cheap. Things are not going right. I don't sleep
well."

"You've got too much money," suggested Mr. Talbot.

"Well, what shall I do with it?"

"Give it to me."

"No, I thank you; I can do better. Besides, you are getting more than
your share of it now."

"Well, I don't ask it of you," said Talbot, "but if you wish to get rid
of it, I could manage a little more of it without trouble."

"Toll, look here! The General wants to place a little money where it
will bring him some reputation with the highly respectable old
dons,--our spiritual fathers, you know--and the brethren. Understand?"

"General, you are deep; you'll have to explain."

"Well, all our sort of fellows patronize something or other. They cheat
a man out of his eye-teeth one day, and the next, you hear of them
endowing something or other, or making a speech to a band of old women,
or figuring on a top-lofty list of directors. That's the kind of thing I
want."

"You can get any amount of it, General, by paying for it. All they want
is money; they don't care where it comes from."

"Toll, shut up. I behold a vision. Close your eyes now, and let me paint
it for you. I see the General--General Robert Belcher, the
millionaire--in the aspect of a great public benefactor. He is dressed
in black, and sits upon a platform, in the midst of a lot of seedy men
in white chokers. They hand him a programme. There is speech-making
going on, and every speech makes an allusion to 'our benefactor,' and
the brethren and sisters cheer. The General bows. High old doctors of
divinity press up to be introduced. They are all after more. They
flatter the General; they coddle him. They give him the highest seat.
They pretend to respect him. They defend him from all slanders. They are
proud of the General. He is their man. I look into the religious
newspapers, and in one column I behold a curse on the stock-jobbing of
Wall street, and in the next, the praise of the beneficence of General
Robert Belcher. I see the General passing down Wall street the next day.
I see him laughing out of the corner of his left eye, while his friends
punch him in the ribs. Oh, Toll! it's delicious! Where are your
feelings, my boy? Why don't you cry?"

"Charming picture, General! Charming! but my handkerchief is fresh, and
I must save it. I may have a cold before night."

"Well, now, Toll, what's the thing to be done?"

"What do you say to soup-kitchens for the poor? They don't cost so very
much, and you get your name in the papers."

"Soup-kitchens be hanged! That's Mrs. Belcher's job. Besides, I don't
want to get up a reputation for helping the poor. They're a troublesome
lot and full of bother; I don't believe in 'em. They don't associate you
with anybody but themselves. What I want is to be in the right sort of a
crowd."

"Have you thought of a hospital?"

"Yes, I've thought of a hospital, but I don't seem to hanker after it.
To tell the truth, the hospitals are pretty well taken up already. I
might work into a board of directors by paying enough, I suppose, but it
is too much the regular thing. What I want is ministers--something
religious, you know."

"You might run a church-choir," suggested Talbot, "or, better than that,
buy a church, and turn the crank."

"Yes, but they are not quite large enough. I tell you what it is, Toll,
I believe I'm pining for a theological seminary. Ah, my heart! my heart!
If I could only tell you, Toll, how it yearns over the American people!
Can't you see, my boy, that the hope of the nation is in educated and
devoted young men? Don't you see that we are going to the devil with our
thirst for filthy lucre? Don't you understand how noble a thing it would
be for one of fortune's favorites to found an institution with his
wealth, that would bear down its blessings to unborn millions? What if
that institution should also bear his name? What if that name should be
forever associated with that which is most hallowed in our national
history? Wouldn't it pay? Eh, Toll?"

Mr. Talbot laughed.

"General, your imagination will be the death of you, but there is really
nothing impracticable in your plan. All these fellows want is your
money. They will give you everything you want for it in the way of
glory."

"I believe you; and wouldn't it be fun for the General? I vow I must
indulge. I'm getting tired of horses; and these confounded suppers don't
agree with me. It's a theological seminary or nothing. The tides of my
destiny, Toll--you understand--the tides of my destiny tend in that
direction, and I resign my bark to their sway. I'm going to be a
founder, and I feel better already."

It was well that he did, for at this moment a dispatch was handed in
which gave him a shock, and compelled him to ask Talbot to retire while
he dressed.

"Don't go away, Toll," he said; "I want to see you again."

The dispatch that roused the General from his dream of beneficence was
from his agent at Sevenoaks, and read thus: "Jim Fenton's wedding
occurred this morning. He was accompanied by a man whom several old
citizens firmly believe to be Paul Benedict, though he passed under
another name. Balfour and Benedict's boy were here, and all are gone up
to Number Nine. Will write particulars."

The theological seminary passed at once into the realm of dimly
remembered dreams, to be recalled or forgotten as circumstances should
determine. At present, there was some thing else to occupy the General's
mind.

Before he had completed his toilet, he called for Talbot.

"Toll," said he, "if you were in need of legal advice of the best kind,
and wanted to be put through a thing straight, whether it were right or
not, to whom would you apply? Now mind, I don't want any milksops."

"I know two or three lawyers here who have been through a theological
seminary," Talbot responded, with a knowing smile.

"Oh, get out! There's no joke about this. I mean business now."

"Well, I took pains to show you your man, at my house, once. Don't you
remember him?"

"Cavendish?"

"Yes."

"I don't like him."

"Nor do I. He'll bleed you; but he's your man."

"All right; I want to see him."

"Get into my coupe, and I'll take you to his office."

Mr. Belcher went to the drawer that contained his forged document. Then
he went back to Talbot, and said:

"Would Cavendish come here?"

"Not he! If you want to see him, you must go where he is. He wouldn't
walk into your door to accommodate you if he knew it."

Mr. Belcher was afraid of Cavendish, as far as he could be afraid of any
man. The lawyer had bluffed everybody at the dinner-party, and, in his
way, scoffed at everybody. He had felt in the lawyer's presence the
contact of a nature which possessed more self-assertion and
self-assurance than his own. Be had felt that Cavendish could read him,
could handle him, could see through his schemes. He shrank from exposing
himself, even to the scrutiny of this sharp man, whom he could hire for
any service. But he went again to the drawer, and, with an excited and
trembling hand, drew forth the accursed document. With this he took the
autographs on which his forgeries were based. Then he sat down by
himself, and thought the matter all over, while Talbot waited in another
room. It was only by a desperate determination that he started at last,
called Talbot down stairs, put on his hat, and went out.

It seemed to the proprietor, as he emerged from his house, that there
was something weird in the morning light. He looked up, and saw that the
sky was clear. He looked down, and the street was veiled in a strange
shadow. The boys looked at him as if they were half startled.
Inquisitive faces peered at him from a passing omnibus. A beggar laughed
as he held out his greasy hat. Passengers paused to observe him. All
this attention, which he once courted and accepted as flattery and fame,
was disagreeable to him.

"Good God! Toll, what has happened since last night?" he said, as he
sank back upon the satin cushions of the coupe.

"General, I don't think you're quite well. Don't die now. We can't spare
you yet."

"Die? Do I look like it?" exclaimed Mr. Belcher, slapping his broad
chest. "Don't talk to me about dying. I haven't thought about that yet."

"I beg your pardon. You know I didn't mean to distress you."

Then the conversation dropped, and the carriage wheeled on. The roll of
vehicles, the shouting of drivers, the panoramic scenes, the flags
swaying in the morning sky, the busy throngs that went up and down
Broadway, were but the sights and sounds of a dimly apprehended dream.
He was journeying toward guilt. What would be its end? Would he not be
detected in it at the first step? How could he sit before the hawk-eyed
man whom he was about to meet without in some way betraying his secret?

When the coupe stopped, Talbot roused his companion with difficulty.

"This can't be the place, Toll. We haven't come half a mile."

"On the contrary, we have come three miles."

"It can't be possible, Toll. I must look at your horse. I'd no idea you
had such an animal."

Then Mr. Belcher got out, and looked the horse over. He was a
connoisseur, and he stood five minutes on the curb-stone, expatiating
upon those points of the animal that pleased him.

"I believe you came to see Mr. Cavendish," suggested Talbot with a
laugh.

"Yes, I suppose I must go up. I hate lawyers, anyway."

They climbed the stairway. They knocked at Mr. Cavendish's door. A boy
opened it, and took in their cards. Mr. Cavendish was busy, but would
see them in fifteen minutes. Mr. Belcher sat down in the ante-room, took
a newspaper from his pocket, and began to read. Then he took a pen and
scribbled, writing his own name with three other names, across which he
nervously drew his pen. Then he drew forth his knife, and tremblingly
dressed his finger-nails. Having completed this task, he took out a
large pocket-book, withdrew a blank check, filled and signed it, and put
it back. Realizing, at last, that Talbot was waiting to go in with him,
he said:

"By the way, Toll, this business of mine is private."

"Oh, I understand," said Talbot; "I'm only going in to make sure that
Cavendish remembers you."

What Talbot really wished to make sure of was, that Cavendish should
know that he had brought him his client.

At last they heard a little bell which summoned the boy, who soon
returned to say that Mr. Cavendish would see them. Mr. Belcher looked
around for a mirror, but discovering none, said:

"Toll, look at me! Am I all right? Do you see anything out of the way?"

Talbot having looked him over, and reported favorably they followed the
boy into the penetralia of the great office, and into the presence of
the great man. Mr. Cavendish did not rise, but leaned back in his huge,
carved chair, and rubbed his hands, pale in their morning whiteness, and
said, coldly:

"Good morning, gentlemen; sit down."

Mr. Talbot declined. He had simply brought to him his friend, General
Belcher, who, he believed, had a matter of business to propose. Then,
telling Mr. Belcher that he should leave the coupe at his service, he
retired.

Mr. Belcher felt that he was already in court. Mr. Cavendish sat behind
his desk in a judicial attitude, with his new client fronting him. The
latter fell, or tried to force himself, into a jocular mood and bearing,
according to his custom on serious occasions.

"I am likely to have a little scrimmage," said he, "and I shall want
your help, Mr. Cavendish."

Saying this, he drew forth a check for a thousand dollars, which he had
drawn in the ante-room, and passed it over to the lawyer. Mr. Cavendish
took it up listlessly, held it by its two ends, read its face, examined
its back, and tossed it into a drawer, as if it were a suspicious
sixpence.

"It's a thousand dollars," said Mr. Belcher, surprised that the sum had
apparently made no impression.

"I see--a retainer--thanks!"

All the time the hawk-eyes were looking into Mr. Belcher. All the time
the scalp was moving backward and forward, as if he had just procured a
new one, that might be filled up before night, but for the moment was a
trifle large. All the time there was a subtle scorn upon the lips, the
flavor of which the finely curved nose apprehended with approval.

"What's the case, General?"

The General drew from his pocket his forged assignment, and passed it
into the hand of Mr. Cavendish.

"Is that a legally constructed document?" he inquired.

Mr. Cavendish read it carefully, every word. He looked at the
signatures. He looked at the blank page on the back. He looked at the
tape with which it was bound. He fingered the knot with which it was
tied. He folded it carefully, and handed it back.

"Yes--absolutely perfect," he said. "Of course I know nothing about the
signatures. Is the assignor living?"

"That is precisely what I don't know," replied Mr. Belcher. "I supposed
him to be dead for years. I have now reason to suspect that he is
living."

"Have you been using these patents?

"Yes, and I've made piles of money on them."

"Is your right contested?"

"No; but I have reason to believe that it will be."

"What reason?" inquired Mr. Cavendish, sharply.

Mr. Belcher was puzzled.

"Well, the man has been insane, and has forgotten, very likely, what he
did before his insanity. I have reason to believe that such is the case,
and that he intends to contest my right to the inventions which this
paper conveys to me."

"What reason, now?"

Mr. Belcher's broad expanse of face crimsoned into a blush, and he
simply answered:

"I know the man."

"Who is his lawyer?"

"Balfour."

Mr. Cavendish gave a little start.

"Let me see that paper again," said he.

After looking it through again, he said, dryly:

"I know Balfour. He is a shrewd man, and a good lawyer: and unless he
has a case, or thinks he has one, he will not fight this document. What
deviltry there is in it, I don't know, and I don't want you to tell me.
I can tell you that you have a hard man to fight. Where are these
witnesses?"

"Two of them are dead. One of them is living, and is now in the city."

"What can he swear to?"

"He can swear to his own signature, and to all the rest. He can relate
and swear to all the circumstances attending the execution of the
paper."

"And you know that these rights were never previously conveyed."

"Yes, I know they never were."

"Then, mark you, General, Balfour has no case at all--provided this
isn't a dirty paper. If it is a dirty paper, and you want me to serve
you, keep your tongue to yourself. You've recorded it, of course."

"Recorded it?" inquired Mr. Belcher in an alarm which he did not attempt
to disguise.

"You don't mean to tell me that this paper has been in existence more
than six years, and has not been recorded?"

"I didn't know it was necessary."

Mr. Cavendish tossed the paper back to the owner of it with a sniff of
contempt.

"It isn't worth that!" said he, snapping his fingers.

Then he drew out the check from his drawer, and handed it back to Mr.
Belcher.

"There's no case, and I don't want your money," said he.

"But there is a case!" said Mr. Belcher, fiercely, scared out of his
fear. "Do you suppose I am going to be cheated out of my rights without
a fight? I'm no chicken, and I'll spend half a million before I'll give
up my rights."

Mr. Cavendish laughed.

"Well, go to Washington," said he, "and if you don't find that Balfour
or somebody else has been there before you, I shall be mistaken. Balfour
isn't very much of a chicken, and he knows enough to know that the first
assignment recorded there holds. Why has he not been down upon you
before this? Simply because he saw that you were making money for his
client, and he preferred to take it all out of you in a single slice. I
know Balfour, and he carries a long head. Chicken!"

Mr. Belcher was in distress. The whole game was as obvious and real to
him as if he had assured himself of its truth. He staggered to his feet.
He felt the hand of ruin upon him. He believed that while he had been
perfecting his crime he had been quietly overreached. He lost his
self-command, and gave himself up to profanity and bluster, at which Mr.
Cavendish laughed.

"There's no use in that sort of thing, General," said he. "Go to
Washington. Ascertain for yourself about it, and if you find it as I
predict, make the best of it. You can make a compromise of some sort. Do
the best you can."

There was one thing that Mr. Cavendish had noticed. Mr. Belcher had made
no response to him when he told him that if the paper was a dirty one he
did not wish to know it. He had made up his mind that there was mischief
in it, somewhere. Either the consideration had never been paid, or the
signatures were fraudulent, or perhaps the paper had been executed when
the assignor was demonstrably of unsound mind. Somewhere, he was
perfectly sure, there was fraud.

"General," said he, "I have my doubts about this paper. I'm not going to
tell you why. I understand that there is one witness living who will
swear to all these signatures."

"There is."

"Is he a credible witness? Has he ever committed a crime? Can anything
wrong be proved against him?"

"The witness," responded Mr. Belcher, "is my man Phipps; and a more
faithful fellow never lived. I've known him for years, and he was never
in an ugly scrape in his life."

"Well, if you find that no one is before you on the records, come back;
and when you come you may as well multiply that check by ten. When I
undertake a thing of this kind, I like to provide myself against all
contingencies."

Mr. Belcher groaned, and tore up the little check that seemed so large
when he drew it, and had shrunk to such contemptible dimensions in the
hands of the lawyer.

"You lawyers put the lancet in pretty deep."

"Our clients never do!" said Mr. Cavendish through his sneering lips.

Then the boy knocked, and came in. There was another gentleman who
wished to see the lawyer.

"I shall go to Washington to-day, and see you on my return," said Mr.
Belcher.

Then, bidding the lawyer a good-morning, he went out, ran down the
stairs, jumped into Mr. Talbot's waiting coupe, and ordered himself
driven home. Arriving there, he hurriedly packed a satchel, and,
announcing to Mrs. Belcher that he had been unexpectedly called to
Washington, went out, and made the quickest passage possible to Jersey
City. As he had Government contracts on hand, his wife asked no
questions, and gave the matter no thought.

The moment Mr. Belcher found himself on the train, and in motion, he
became feverishly excited. He cursed himself that he had not attended to
this matter before. He had wondered why Balfour was so quiet. With
Benedict alive and in communication, or with Benedict dead, and his heir
in charge, why had he made no claim upon rights which were the basis of
his own fortune? There could be but one answer to these questions, and
Cavendish had given it!

He talked to himself, and attracted the attention of those around him.
He walked the platforms at all the stations where the train stopped. He
asked the conductor a dozen times at what hour the train would arrive in
Washington, apparently forgetting that he had already received his
information. He did not reach his destination until evening, and then,
of course, all the public offices were closed. He met men whom he knew,
but he would not be tempted by them into a debauch. He went to bed
early, and, after a weary night of sleeplessness, found himself at the
Patent Office before a clerk was in his place.

When the offices were opened, he sought his man, and revealed his
business. He prepared a list of the patents in which he was interested,
and secured a search of the records of assignment. It was a long time
since the patents had been issued, and the inquisition was a tedious
one; but it resulted, to his unspeakable relief, in the official
statement that no one of them had ever been assigned. Then he brought
out his paper, and, with a blushing declaration that he had not known
the necessity of its record until the previous day, saw the assignment
placed upon the books.

Then he was suddenly at ease. Then he could look about him. A great
burden was rolled from his shoulders, and he knew that he ought to be
jolly; but somehow his spirits did not rise. As he emerged from the
Patent Office, there was the same weird light in the sky that he had
noticed the day before, on leaving his house with Talbot. The great dome
of the Capitol swelled in the air like a bubble, which seemed as if it
would burst. The broad, hot streets glimmered as if a volcano were
breeding under them. Everything looked unsubstantial. He found himself
watching for Balfour, and expecting to meet him at every corner. He was
in a new world, and had not become wonted to it--the world of conscious
crime--the world of outlawry. It had a sun of its own, fears of its own,
figures and aspects of its own. There was a new man growing up within
him, whom he wished to hide. To this man's needs his face had not yet
become hardened, his words had not yet been trained beyond the danger of
betrayal, his eyes had not adjusted their pupils for vision and
self-suppression.

He took the night train home, breakfasted at the Astor, and was the
first man to greet Mr. Cavendish when that gentleman entered his
chambers. Mr. Cavendish sat listlessly, and heard his story. The
lawyer's hands were as pale, his scalp as uneasy, and his lips as
redolent of scorn as they were two days before, while his nose bent to
sniff the scorn with more evident approval than then. He apprehended
more thoroughly the character of the man before him, saw more clearly
the nature of his business, and wondered with contemptuous incredulity
that Balfour had not been sharper and quicker.

After Mr. Belcher had stated the facts touching the Washington records,
Mr. Cavendish said:

"Well, General, as far as appearances go, you have the lead. Nothing but
the overthrow of your assignment can damage you, and, as I told you the
day before yesterday, if the paper is dirty, don't tell me of it--that
is, if you want me to do anything for you. Go about your business, say
nothing to anybody, and if you are prosecuted, come to me."

Still Mr. Belcher made no response to the lawyer's suggestion touching
the fraudulent nature of the paper; and the latter was thoroughly
confirmed in his original impression that there was something wrong
about it.

Then Mr. Belcher went out upon Wall street, among his brokers, visited
the Exchange, visited the Gold Room, jested with his friends, concocted
schemes, called upon Talbot, wrote letters, and filled up his day. Going
home to dinner, he found a letter from his agent at Sevenoaks, giving in
detail his reasons for supposing not only that Benedict had been in the
village, but that, from the time of his disappearance from the Sevenoaks
poor-house, he had been living at Number Nine with Jim Fenton. Balfour
had undoubtedly found him there, as he was in the habit of visiting the
woods. Mike Conlin must also have found him there, and worst of all, Sam
Yates must have discovered him. The instruments that he had employed, at
a considerable cost, to ascertain whether Benedict were alive or dead
had proved false to him. The discovery that Sam Yates was a traitor made
him tremble. It was from him that he had procured the autographs on
which two of his forgeries were based. He sat down immediately, and
wrote a friendly letter to Yates, putting some business into his hands,
and promising more. Then he wrote to his agent, telling him of his
interest in Yates, and of his faithful service, and directing him to
take the reformed man under his wing, and, as far as possible, to
attach him to the interests of the concern.

Two days afterward, he looked out of his window and saw Mr. Balfour
descending the steps of his house with a traveling satchel in his hand.
Calling Phipps, he directed him to jump into the first cab, or carriage,
pay double price, and make his way to the ferry that led to the
Washington cars, see if Balfour crossed at that point, and learn, if
possible, his destination. Phipps returned in an hour and a half with
the information that the lawyer had bought a ticket for Washington.

Then Mr. Belcher knew that trouble was brewing, and braced himself to
meet it. In less than forty-eight hours, Balfour would know, either that
he had been deceived by Benedict, or that a forgery had been committed.
Balfour was cautious, and would take time to settle this question in his
own mind.




CHAPTER XXIV.

WHEREIN THE GENERAL LEAPS THE BOUNDS OF LAW, FINDS HIMSELF IN A NEW
WORLD, AND BECOMES THE VICTIM OF HIS FRIENDS WITHOUT KNOWING IT.


For several weeks the General had been leading a huge and unscrupulous
combination for "bearing" International Mail. The stock had ruled high
for a long time--higher than was deemed legitimate by those familiar
with its affairs--and the combination began by selling large blocks of
the stock for future delivery, at a point or two below the market. Then
stories about the corporation began to be circulated upon the street, of
the most damaging character--stories of fraud, peculation, and rapidly
diminishing business--stories of maturing combinations against the
company--stories of the imminent retirement of men deemed essential to
the management. The air was full of rumors. One died only to make place
for another, and men were forced to believe that where there was so much
smoke there must be some fire. Still the combination boldly sold. The
stock broke, and went down, down, down, day after day, and still there
were strong takers for all that offered. The operation had worked like a
charm to the point where it was deemed prudent to begin to re-purchase,
when there occurred one of those mysterious changes in the market which
none could have foreseen. It was believed that the market had been
oversold, and the holders held. The combination was short, and up went
the stock by the run. The most frantic efforts were made to cover, but
without avail, and as the contracts matured, house after house went down
with a crash that startled the country. Mr. Belcher, the heaviest man
of them all, turned the cold shoulder to his confreres in the stupendous
mischief, and went home to his dinner one day, conscious that half a
million dollars had slipped through his fingers. He ate but little,
walked his rooms for an hour like a caged tiger, muttered and swore to
himself, and finally went off to his club. There seemed to be no way in
which he could drown his anger, disappointment, and sense of loss,
except by a debauch, and he was brought home by his faithful Phipps at
the stage of confidential silliness.

When his brokers appeared at ten the next morning, he drove them from
the house, and then, with such wits as he could muster, in a head still
tortured by his night's excesses, thought over his situation. A heavy
slice of his ready money had been practically swept out of existence. If
he was not crippled, his wings were clipped. His prestige was departed.
He knew that men would thereafter be wary of following him, or trusting
to his sagacity. Beyond the power of his money, and his power to make
money, he knew that he had no consideration on 'Change--that there were
five hundred men who would laugh to see the General go down--who had
less feeling for him, personally, than they entertained toward an
ordinary dog. He knew this because so far, at least, he understood
himself. To redeem his position was now the grand desideratum. He would
do it or die!

There was one direction in which the General had permitted himself to be
shortened in, or, rather, one in which he had voluntarily crippled
himself for a consideration. He had felt himself obliged to hold large
quantities of the stock of the Crooked Valley Railroad, in order to
maintain his seat at the head of its management. He had parted with
comparatively little of it since his first huge purchase secured the
place he sought, and though the price he gave was small, the quantity
raised the aggregate to a large figure. All this was unproductive. It
simply secured his place and his influence.

No sooner had he thoroughly realized the great loss he had met with, in
connection with his Wall street conspiracy, than he began to revolve in
his mind a scheme which he had held in reserve from the first moment of
his control of the Crooked Valley Road. He had nourished in every
possible way the good-will of those who lived along the line. Not only
this, but he had endeavored to show his power to do anything he pleased
with the stock.

The people believed that he only needed to raise a finger to carry up
the price of the stock in the market, and that the same potent finger
could carry it down at will. He had already wrought wonders. He had
raised a dead road to life. He had invigorated business in every town
through which it passed. He was a king, whose word was law and whose
will was destiny. The rumors of his reverses in Wall street did not
reach them, and all believed that, in one way or another, their fortunes
were united with his.

The scheme to which he reverted in the first bitter moments of his loss
could have originated in no brain less unscrupulous than his own. He
would repeat the game that had been so successful at Sevenoaks. To do
this, he only needed to call into action his tools on the street and in
the management.

In the midst of his schemes, the bell rang at the door, and Talbot was
announced. Mr. Belcher was always glad to see him, for he had no
association with his speculations. Talbot had uniformly been friendly
and ready to serve him. In truth, Talbot was almost his only friend.

"Toll, have you heard the news?"

"About the International Mail?"

"Yes."

"I've heard something of it, and I've come around this morning to get
the facts. I shall be bored about them all day by your good friends, you
know."

"Well, Toll, I've had a sweat."

"You're not crippled?"

"No, but I've lost every dollar I have made since I've been in the city.
Jones has gone under; Pell has gone under. Cramp & Co. will have to
make a statement, and get a little time, but they will swim. The General
is the only man of the lot who isn't shaken. But, Toll, it's devilish
hard. It scares me. A few more such slices would spoil my cheese."

"Well, now, General, why do you go into these things at all? You are
making money fast enough in a regular business."

"Ah, but it's tame, tame, tame! I must have excitement. Theatres are
played out, horses are played out, and suppers raise the devil with me."

"Then take it easy. Don't risk so much. You used to do this sort of
thing well--used to do it right every time. You got up a good deal of
reputation for foresight and skill."

"I know, and every man ruined in the International Mail will curse me. I
led them into it. I shall have a sweet time in Wall street when I go
there again. But it's like brandy; a man wants a larger dose every time,
and I shall clean them out yet."

Talbot's policy was to make the General last. He wanted to advise him
for his good, because his principal's permanent prosperity was the basis
of his own. He saw that he was getting beyond control, and, under an
exterior of compliance and complaisance, he was genuinely alarmed.

"Toll," said Mr. Belcher, "you are a good fellow."

"Thank you, General," said the factor, a smile spreading around his
shining teeth. "My wife will be glad to know it."

"By the way--speaking of your wife--have you seen anything of Mrs.
Dillingham lately?"

"Nothing. She is commonly supposed to be absorbed by the General."

"Common Supposition is a greater fool than I wish it were."

"That won't do, General. There never was a more evident case of killing
at first sight than that."

"Well, Toll, I believe the woman is fond of me, but she has a queer way
of showing it. I think she has changed. It seems so to me, but she's a
devilish fine creature. Ah, my heart! my heart! Toll."

"You were complaining of it the other day. It was a theological seminary
then. Perhaps that is the name you know her by."

"Not much theological seminary about her!" with a laugh.

"Well, there's one thing that you can comfort yourself with, General;
she sees no man but you."

"Is that so?" inquired Mr. Belcher, eagerly.

"That is what everybody says."

Mr. Belcher rolled this statement as a sweet morsel under his tongue.
She must be hiding her passion from him under an impression of its
hopelessness! Poor woman! He would see her at the first opportunity.

"Toll," said Mr. Belcher, after a moment of delicious reflection,
"you're a good fellow."

"I think I've heard that remark before."

"Yes, you're a good fellow, and I'd like to do something for you."

"You've done a great deal for me already, General."

"Yes, and I'm going to do something more."

"Will you put it in my hand or my hat?" inquired Talbot, jocularly.

"Toll, how much Crooked Valley stock have you?"

"A thousand shares."

"What did you buy it for?"

"To help you."

"What have you kept it for?"

"To help keep the General at the head of the management."

"Turn about is fair play, isn't it?"

"That's the adage," responded Talbot.

"Well, I'm going to put that stock up; do you understand?"

"How will you do it?"

"By saying I'll do it. I want it whispered along the line that the
General is going to put that stock up within a week. They're all greedy.
They are all just like the rest of us. They know it isn't worth a
continental copper, but they want a hand in the General's speculations,
and the General wants it understood that he would like to have them
share in his profits."

"I think I understand," said Talbot.

"Toll, I've got another vision. Hold on now! I behold a man in the
General's confidence--a reliable, business man--who whispers to his
friend that he heard the General say that he had all his plans laid for
putting up the Crooked Valley stock within a week. This friend whispers
it to another friend. No names are mentioned. It goes from friend to
friend. It is whispered through every town along the line. Everybody
gets crazy over it, and everybody quietly sends in an order for stock.
In the meantime the General and his factor, yielding to the
pressure--melted before the public demand--gently and tenderly unload!
The vision still unrolls. Months later I behold the General buying back
the stock at his own price, and with it maintaining his place in the
management. Have you followed me?"

"Yes, General, I've seen it all. I comprehend it, and I shall unload
with all the gentleness and tenderness possible."

Then the whimsical scoundrel and his willing lieutenant laughed a long,
heartless laugh.

"Toll, I feel better, and I believe I'll get up," said the General. "Let
this vision sink deep into your soul. Then give it wings, and speed it
on its mission. Remember that this is a vale of tears, and don't set
your affections on things below. By-by!"

Talbot went down stairs, drawing on his gloves, and laughing. Then he
went out into the warm light, buttoned up his coat instinctively, as if
to hide the plot he carried, jumped into his coupe, and went to his
business.

Mr. Belcher dressed himself with more than his usual care, went to Mrs.
Belcher's room and inquired about his children, then went to his
library, and drew forth from a secret drawer a little book. He looked it
over for a few minutes, then placed it in his packet, and went out. The
allusion that had been made to Mrs. Dillingham, and the assurance that
he was popularly understood to be her lover, and the only man who was
regarded by her with favor, intoxicated him, and his old passion came
back upon him.

It was a strange manifestation of his brutal nature that at this moment
of his trouble, and this epoch of his cruelty and crime, he longed for
the comfort of a woman's sympathy. He was too much absorbed by his
affairs to be moved by that which was basest in his regard for his
beautiful idol. If he could feel her hand upon his forehead; if she
could tell him that she was sorry for him; if he could know that she
loved him; ay, if he could be assured that this woman, whom he had
believed to be capable of guilt, had prayed for him, it would have been
balm to his heart. He was sore with struggle, and guilt, and defeat. He
longed for love and tenderness. As if he were a great bloody dog, just
coming from the fight of an hour, in which he had been worsted, and
seeking for a tender hand to pat his head, and call him "poor, good old
fellow," the General longed for a woman's loving recognition. He was in
his old mood of self-pity. He wanted to be petted, smoothed,
commiserated, reassured; and there was only one woman in all the world
from whom such ministry would be grateful.

He knew that Mrs. Dillingham had heard of his loss, for she heard of and
read everything. He wanted her to know that it had not shaken him. He
would not for the world have her suppose that he was growing poor. Still
to appear to her as a person of wealth and power; still to hold her
confidence as a man of multiplied resources, was, perhaps, the deepest
ambition that moved him. He had found that he could not use her in the
management of his affairs. Though from the first, up to the period of
her acquaintance with Harry Benedict, she had led him on to love her by
every charm she possessed, and every art she knew, she had always
refused to be debased by him in any way.

When he went out of his house, at the close of his interviews with
Talbot and Mrs. Belcher, it was without a definitely formed purpose to
visit the charming widow. He simply knew that his heart was hungry. The
sun-flower is gross, but it knows the sun as well as the morning-glory,
and turns to it as naturally. It was with like unreasoning instinct that
he took the little book from its drawer, put on his hat, went down his
steps, and entered the street that led him toward Mrs. Dillingham's
house. He could not keep away from her. He would not if he could, and
so, in ten minutes, he was seated with her, _vis a vis_.

"You have been unfortunate, Mr. Belcher," she said, sympathetically. "I
am very sorry for you. It is not so bad as I heard, I am sure. You are
looking very well."

"Oh! it is one of those things that may happen any day, to any man,
operating as I do," responded Mr. Belcher, with a careless laugh. "The
General never gets in too deep. He is just as rich to-day as he was when
he entered the city."

"I'm so glad to hear it--gladder than I can express," said Mrs.
Dillingham, with heartiness.

Her effusiveness of good feeling and her evident relief from anxiety,
were honey to him.

"Don't trouble yourself about me," said he, musingly. "The General knows
what he's about, every time. He has the advantage of the rest of them,
in his regular business."

"I can't understand how it is," responded Mrs. Dillingham, with fine
perplexity. "You men are so different from us. I should think you would
be crazy with your losses."

Now, Mr. Belcher wished to impress Mrs. Dillingham permanently with a
sense of his wisdom, and to inspire in her an inextinguishable faith in
his sagacity and prudence. He wanted her to believe in his power to
retain all the wealth he had won. He would take her into his
confidence. He had never done this with relation to his business, and
under that treatment she had drifted away from him. Now that he found
how thoroughly friendly she was, he would try another method, and bind
her to him. The lady read him as plainly as if he had been a book, and
said:

"Oh, General! I have ascertained something that may be of use to you.
Mr. Benedict is living. I had a letter from his boy this morning--dear
little fellow--and he tells me how well his father is, and how pleasant
it is to be with him again."

Mr. Belcher frowned.

"Do you know I can't quite stomach your whim--about that boy? What under
heaven do you care for him?"

"Oh, you mustn't touch that whim, General," said Mrs. Dillingham,
laughing. "I am a woman, and I have a right to it. He amuses me, and a
great deal more than that. I wouldn't tell you a word about him, or what
he writes to me, if I thought it would do him any harm. He's my pet.
What in the world have I to do but to pet him? How shall I fill my time?
I'm tired of society, and disgusted with men--at least, with my old
acquaintances--and I'm fond of children. They do me good. Oh, you
mustn't touch my whim!"

"There is no accounting for tastes!" Mr. Belcher responded, with a laugh
that had a spice of scorn and vexation in it.

"Now, General, what do you care for that boy? If you are a friend to me,
you ought to be glad that he interests me."

"I don't like the man who has him in charge. I believe Balfour is a
villain."

"I'm sure I don't know," said the lady. "He never has the courtesy to
darken my door. I once saw something of him. He is like all the rest, I
suppose; he is tired of me."

Mrs. Dillingham had played her part perfectly, and the man before her
was a blind believer in her loyalty to him.

"Let the boy go, and Balfour too," said the General. "They are not
pleasant topics to me, and your whim will wear out. When is the boy
coming back?"

"He is to be away all summer, I believe."

"Good!"

Mrs. Dillingham laughed.

"Why, I am glad of it, if you are," she said.

Mr. Belcher drew a little book from his pocket.

"What have you there?" the lady inquired.

"Women have great curiosity," said Mr. Belcher, slapping his knee with
the little volume.

"And men delight to excite it," she responded.

"The General is a business man, and you want to know how he does it,"
said he.

"I do, upon my word," responded the lady.

"Very well, the General has two kinds of business, and he never mixes
one with the other."

"I don't understand."

"Well, you know he's a manufacturer--got his start in that way. So he
keeps that business by itself, and when he operates in Wall street, he
operates outside of it. He never risks a dollar that he makes in his
regular business in any outside operation."

"And you have it all in the little book?"

"Would you like to see it?"

"Yes."

"Very well, you shall, when I've told you all about it. I suppose that
it must have been ten years ago that a man came to Sevenoaks who was
full of all sorts of inventions. I tried some of them, and they worked
well; so I went on furnishing money to him, and, at last, I furnished so
much that he passed all his rights into my hands--sold everything to me.
He got into trouble, and lost his head--went into an insane hospital,
where I supported him for more than two years. Then he was sent back as
incurable, and, of course, had to go to the poor house. I couldn't
support him always, you know. I'd paid him fairly, run all the risk,
and felt that my hands were clean."

"He had sold everything to you, hadn't he?" inquired Mrs. Dillingham,
sympathetically.

"Certainly, I have the contract, legally drawn, signed, and delivered."

"People couldn't blame you, of course."

"But they did."

"How could they, if you paid him all that belonged to him?"

"That's Sevenoaks. That's the thing that drove me away. Benedict
escaped, and they all supposed he was dead, and fancied that because I
had made money out of him, I was responsible for him in some way. But I
punished them. They'll remember me."

And Mr. Belcher laughed a brutal laugh that rasped Mrs. Dillingham's
sensibilities almost beyond endurance.

"And, now," said the General, resuming, "this man Balfour means to get
these patents that I've owned and used for from seven to ten years out
of me. Perhaps he will do it, but it will be after the biggest fight
that New York ever saw."

Mrs. Dillingham eyed the little book. She was very curious about it. She
was delightfully puzzled to know how these men who had the power of
making money managed their affairs. Account-books were such conundrums
to her!

She took a little hassock, placed it by Mr. Belcher's chair, and sat
down, leaning by the weight of a feather against him. It was the first
approach of the kind she had ever made, and the General appreciated it.

"Now you shall show me all about it," she said.

The General opened the book. It contained the results, in the briefest
space, of his profits from the Benedict inventions. It showed just how
and where all those profits had been invested and re-invested. Her
admiration of the General's business habits and methods was unbounded.
She asked a thousand silly questions, with one, occasionally, which
touched an important point. She thanked him for the confidence he
reposed in her. She was delighted to know his system, which seemed to
her to guard him from the accidents so common to those engaged in great
enterprises; and Mr. Belcher drank in her flatteries with supreme
satisfaction. They comforted him. They were balm to his disappointments.
They soothed his wounded vanity. They assured him of perfect trust where
he most tenderly wanted it.

In the midst of these delightful confidences, they were interrupted. A
servant appeared who told Mr. Belcher that there was a messenger at the
door who wished to see him on urgent business. Mrs. Dillingham took the
little book to hold while he went to the door. After a few minutes, he
returned. It seemed that Phipps, who knew his master's habits, had
directed the messenger to inquire for him at Mrs. Dillingham's house,
and that his brokers were in trouble and desired his immediate presence
in Wall street. The General was very much vexed with the interruption,
but declared that he should be obliged to follow the messenger.

"Leave the little book until you come back," insisted Mrs. Dillingham,
sweetly. "It will amuse me all day."

She held it to her breast with both hands, as if it were the sweetest
treasure that had ever rested there.

"Will you take care of it?"

"Yes."

He seized her unresisting hand and kissed it.

"Between this time and dinner I shall be back. Then I must have it
again," he said.

"Certainly."

Then the General retired, went to his house and found his carriage
waiting, and, in less than an hour, was absorbed in raveling the snarled
affairs connected with his recent disastrous speculation. The good
nature engendered by his delightful interview with Mrs. Dillingham
lasted all day, and helped him like a cordial.

The moment he was out of the house, and had placed himself beyond the
possibility of immediate return, the lady called her servant, and told
him that she should be at home to nobody during the day. No one was to
be admitted but Mr. Belcher, on any errand whatsoever.

Then she went to her room, and looked the little book over at her
leisure. There was no doubt about the business skill and method of the
man who had made every entry. There was no doubt in her own mind that it
was a private book, which no eye but that of its owner had ever seen,
before it had been opened to her.

She hesitated upon the point of honor as to what she would do with it.
It would be treachery to copy it, but it would be treachery simply
against a traitor. She did not understand its legal importance, yet she
knew it contained the most valuable information. It showed, in
unmistakable figures, the extent to which Benedict had been wronged.
Perfectly sure that it was a record of the results of fraud against a
helpless man and a boy in whom her heart was profoundly interested, her
hesitation was brief. She locked her door, gathered her writing
materials, and, by an hour's careful and rapid work, copied every word
of it.

After completing the copy, she went over it again and again, verifying
every word and figure. When she had repeated the process to her entire
satisfaction, and even to weariness, she took her pen, and after
writing: "This is a true copy of the records of a book this day lent to
me by Robert Belcher," she affixed the date and signed her name.

Then she carefully wrapped Mr. Belcher's book in a sheet of scented
paper, wrote his name and the number and street of his residence upon
it, and placed it in her pocket. The copy was consigned to a drawer and
locked in, to be recalled and re-perused at pleasure.

She understood the General's motives in placing these records and
figures in her hands. The leading one, of course, related to his
standing with her. He wanted her to know how rich he was, how prudent
he was, how invincible he was. He wanted her to stand firm in her belief
in him, whatever rumors might be afloat upon the street. Beyond this,
though he had made no allusion to it, she knew that he wanted the use of
her tongue among his friends and enemies alike. She was a talking woman,
and it was easy for her, who had been so much at home in the General's
family, to strengthen his reputation wherever she might touch the
public. He wanted somebody to know what his real resources
were--somebody who could, from personal knowledge of his affairs, assert
their soundness without revealing their details. He believed that Mrs.
Dillingham would be so proud of the possession of his confidence, and so
prudent in showing it, that his general business reputation, and his
reputation for great wealth, would be materially strengthened by her.
All this she understood, because she knew the nature of the man, and
appreciated the estimate which he placed upon her.

Nothing remained for her that day but the dreaded return of Mr. Belcher.
She was now more than ever at a loss to know how she should manage him.
She had resumed, during her interview with him, her old arts of
fascination, and seen how easily she could make him the most troublesome
of slaves. She had again permitted him to kiss her hand. She had asked a
favor of him and he had granted it. She had committed a breach of trust;
and though she justified herself in it, she felt afraid and half ashamed
to meet the man whom she had so thoroughly befooled. She was disgusted
with the new intimacy with him which her own hand had invited, and
heartily wished that the long game of duplicity were concluded.

The General found more to engage his attention than he had anticipated,
and after a few hours' absence from the fascinations of his idol, he
began to feel uneasy about his book. It was the first time it had ever
left his hands. He grew nervous about it at last, and was haunted by a
vague sense of danger. As soon, therefore, as it became apparent to him
that a second call upon Mrs. Dillingham that day would be
impracticable, he sent Phipps to her with a note apprising her of the
fact, and asking her to deliver to him the little account-book he had
left with her.

It was with a profound sense of relief that she handed it to the
messenger, and realized that, during that day and evening at least, she
should be free, and so able to gather back her old composure and
self-assurance. Mr. Belcher's note she placed with her copy of the book,
as her authority for passing it into other hands than those of its
owner.

While these little things, which were destined to have large
consequences, were in progress in the city, an incident occurred in the
country, of no less importance in the grand out come of events relating
to Mr. Belcher and his victim.

It will be remembered that after Mr. Belcher had been apprised by his
agent at Sevenoaks that Mr. Benedict was undoubtedly alive, and that he
had lived, ever since his disappearance, at Number Nine, he wrote to Sam
Yates, putting profitable business into his hands, and that he also
directed his agent to attach him, by all possible means, to the
proprietor's interests. His motive, of course, was to shut the lawyer's
mouth concerning the autograph letters he had furnished. He knew that
Yates would remember the hints of forgery which he had breathed into his
ear during their first interview in the city, and would not be slow to
conclude that those autographs were procured for some foul purpose. He
had been careful, from the first, not to break up the friendly relations
that existed between them, and now that he saw that the lawyer had
played him false, he was more anxious than ever to conciliate him.

Yates attended faithfully to the business intrusted to him, and, on
reporting results to Mr. Belcher's agent, according to his client's
directions, was surprised to find him in a very friendly and
confidential mood, and ready with a proposition for further service.
There were tangled affairs in which he needed the lawyer's assistance,
and, as he did not wish to have the papers pertaining to them leave his
possession, he invited Yates to his house, where they could work
together during the brief evenings, when he would be free from the cares
of the mill.

So, for two or three weeks, Sam Yates occupied Mr. Belcher's
library--the very room in which that person was first introduced to the
reader. There, under the shade of the old Seven Oaks, he worked during
the day, and there, in the evening, he held his consultations with the
agent.

One day, during his work, he mislaid a paper, and in his search for it,
had occasion to examine the structure of the grand library table at
which he wrote. The table had two sides, finished and furnished exactly
alike, with duplicate sets of drawers opposite to each other. He pulled
out one of these drawers completely, to ascertain whether his lost paper
had not slipped through a crack and lodged beyond it. In reaching in, he
moved, or thought he moved, the drawer that met him from the opposite
side. On going to the opposite side, however, he found that he had not
moved the drawer at all. He then pulled that out, and, endeavoring to
look through the space thus vacated by both drawers, found that it was
blocked by some obstacle that had been placed between them. Finding a
cane in a corner of the room, he thrust it in, and pushed through to the
opposite side a little secret drawer, unfurnished with a knob, but
covered with a lid.

He resumed his seat, and held the little box in his hand. Before he had
time to think of what he was doing, or to appreciate the fact that he
had no right to open a secret drawer, he had opened it. It contained but
one article, and that was a letter directed to Paul Benedict. The letter
was sealed, so that he was measurably relieved from the temptation to
examine its contents. Of one thing he felt sure: that if it contained
anything prejudicial to the writer's interests--and it was addressed in
the handwriting of Robert Belcher--it had been forgotten. It might be of
great importance to the inventor. The probabilities were, that a letter
which was deemed of sufficient importance to secrete in so remarkable a
manner was an important one.

To Sam Yates, as to Mrs. Dillingham, with the little book in her hand,
arose the question of honor at once. His heart was with Benedict. He was
sure that Belcher had some foul purpose in patronizing himself, yet he
went through a hard struggle before he could bring himself to the
determination that Benedict and not Belcher should have the first
handling of the letter. Although the latter had tried to degrade him,
and was incapable of any good motive in extending patronage to him, he
felt that he had unintentionally surrounded him with influences which
had saved him from the most disgraceful ruin. He was at that very moment
in his employ. He was eating every day the bread which his patronage
provided.

After all, was he not earning his bread? Was he under any obligation to
Mr. Belcher which his honest and faithful labor did not discharge? Mr.
Belcher had written and addressed the letter. He would deliver it, and
Mr. Benedict should decide whether, under all the circumstances, the
letter was rightfully his. He put it in his pocket, placed the little
box back in its home, replaced the drawers which hid it, and went on
with his work.

Yates carried the letter around in his pocket for several days. He did
not believe the agent knew either of the existence of the letter or the
drawer in which it was hidden. There was, in all probability, no man but
himself in the world who knew anything of the letter. If it was a paper
of no importance to anybody, of course Mr. Belcher had forgotten it. If
it was of great importance to Mr. Benedict, Mr. Belcher believed that it
had been destroyed.

He had great curiosity concerning its contents, and determined to
deliver it into Mr. Benedict's hand; so, at the conclusion of his
engagement with Mr. Belcher's agent, he announced to his friends that he
had accepted Jim Fenton's invitation to visit the new hotel at Number
Nine, and enjoy a week of sport in the woods.

Before he returned, he became entirely familiar with the contents of
the letter, and, if he brought it back with him on his return to
Sevenoaks, it was for deposit in the post-office, directed to James
Balfour in the handwriting of Paul Benedict.

The contents of this note were of such importance in the establishment
of justice that Yates, still doubtful of the propriety of his act, was
able to justify it to his conscience. Under the circumstances, it
belonged to the man to whom it was addressed, and not to Mr. Belcher at
all. His own act might be doubtful, but it was in the interest of fair
dealing, and in opposition to the schemes of a consummate rascal, to
whom he owed neither respect nor good-will. He would stand by it, and
take the consequences of it.

Were Mrs. Dillingham and Sam Yates justifiable in their treachery to Mr.
Belcher? A nice question this, in casuistry! Certainly they had done as
they would have been done by, had he been in their circumstances and
they in his. He, at least, who had tried to debauch both of them, could
reasonably find no fault with them. Their act was the natural result of
his own influence. It was fruit from seeds of his own sowing. Had he
ever approached them with a single noble and unselfish motive, neither
of them could have betrayed him.




CHAPTER XXV.

IN WHICH THE GENERAL GOES THROUGH A GREAT MANY TRIALS AND MEETS AT LAST
THE ONE HE HAS SO LONG ANTICIPATED.


The fact that the General had deposited the proceeds of his foreign
sales of arms with a European banking house, ostensibly subject to draft
for the materials of his manufactures, has already been alluded to. This
deposit had been augmented by subsequent sales, until it amounted to an
imposing sum, which Mrs. Dillingham ascertained, from the little
account-book, to be drawing a low rate of interest. With the proprietor,
this heavy foreign deposit was partly a measure of personal safety, and
partly a measure of projected iniquity. He had the instinct to provide
against any possible contingencies of fortune or crime.

Two or three days after his very agreeable call upon Mrs. Dillingham, he
had so far mastered his difficulties connected with the International
Mail that he could find time for another visit, to which he had looked
forward with eager anticipation.

"I was very much interested in your little book, Mr. Belcher," said the
lady, boldly.

"The General is one of the ablest of our native authors, eh?" responded
that facetious person, with a jolly laugh.

"Decidedly," said Mrs. Dillingham, "and so very terse and statistical."

"Interesting book, wasn't it?"

"Very! And it was so kind of you, General, to let me see how you men
manage such things!"

"We men!" and the General shrugged his shoulders.

"One man, then," said the lady, on seeing that he was disposed to claim
a monopoly in the wisdom of business.

"Do you remember one little item--a modest little item--concerning my
foreign deposits? Eh?"

"Little item, General! What are you doing with so much money over
there?"

"Nothing, or next to nothing. That's my anchor to windward."

"It will hold," responded the lady, "if weight is all that's needed."

"I intend that it shall hold, and that it shall be larger before it is
smaller."

"I don't understand it;" and Mrs. Dillingham shook her pretty head.

Mr. Belcher sat and thought. There was a curious flush upon his face, as
he raised his eyes to hers, and looked intensely into them, in the
endeavor to read the love that hid behind them. He was desperately in
love with her. The passion, a thousand times repelled by her, and a
thousand times diverted by the distractions of his large affairs, had
been raised to new life by his last meeting with her; and the
determinations of his will grew strong, almost to fierceness. He did not
know what to say, or how to approach the subject nearest to his heart.
He had always frightened her so easily; she had been so quick to resent
any approach to undue familiarity; she had so steadily ignored his
insinuations, that he was disarmed.

"What are you thinking about, General?"

"You've never seen me in one of my trances, have you?" inquired Mr.
Belcher, with trembling lips and a forced laugh.

"No! Do you have trances?"

"Trances? Yes; and visions of the most stunning character. Talbot has
seen me in two or three of them."

"Are they dangerous?"

"Not at all. The General's visions are always of a celestial
character,--warranted not to injure the most delicate constitution! I
feel one of them coming on now. Don't disturb me."

"Shall I fan you?"

"Do, please!"

The General closed his eyes. He had never before betrayed such
excitement in her presence, and had never before appeared so dangerous.
While she determined that this should be her last exposure to his
approaches, she maintained her brave and unsuspecting demeanor, and
playfully waved her fan toward him.

"I behold," said the General, "a business man of great ability and great
wealth, who discovers too late that his wife is unequally yoked with an
unbeliever. Love abides not in his home, and his heart is afloat on the
fierce, rolling sea. He leaves his abode in the country, and seeks in
the tumultuous life of the metropolis to drown his disappointments. He
there discovers a beautiful woman, cast in Nature's finest mould, and
finds himself, for the first time, matched. Gently this heavenly
creature repels him, though her heart yearns toward him with
unmistakable tenderness. She is a prudent woman. She has a position to
maintain. She is alone. She is a friend to the wife of this unfortunate
gentleman. She is hindered in many ways from giving rein to the impulses
of her heart. This man of wealth deposits a magnificent sum in Europe.
This lady goes thither for health and amusement, and draws upon this sum
at will. She travels from capital to capital, or hides herself in Alpine
villages, but is found at last by him who has laid his wealth at her
feet."

The General revealed his vision with occasional glances through
half-closed eyes at the face that hung bowed before him. It was a
desperate step, but he had determined to take it when he entered the
house. Humiliated, tormented, angry, Mrs. Dillingham sat before him,
covering from his sight as well as she could the passion that raged
within her. She knew that she had invited the insult. She was conscious
that her treatment of him, from the first, though she had endeavored to
change her relations with him without breaking his friendship, had
nursed his base passion and his guilty purpose. She was undergoing a
just punishment, and acknowledged to herself the fact. Once she would
have delighted in tormenting him. Once she would not have hesitated to
drive him from her door. Once--but she was changed. A little boy who had
learned to regard her as a mother, was thinking of her in the distant
woods. She had fastened to that childish life the hungry instincts of
her motherly nature. She had turned away forever from all that could
dishonor the lad, or hinder her from receiving his affection without an
upbraiding conscience.

Mr. Belcher's instincts were quick enough to see that his vision had not
prospered in the mind to which he had revealed it; and yet, there was a
hesitation in the manner of the woman before him which he could not
explain to himself, if he admitted that his proposition had been wholly
offensive. Mrs. Dillingham's only wish was to get him out of the house.
If she could accomplish this without further humiliation, it was all she
desired.

"General," she said, at last, "You must have been drinking. I do not
think you know what you have said to me."

"On the contrary, I am perfectly sober," said he, rising and approaching
her.

"You must not come near me. Give me time! give me time!" she exclaimed,
rising and retreating.

Mr. Belcher was startled by the alarmed and angry look in her eyes.
"Time!" he said, fiercely; "Eternity, you mean."

"You pretend to care for me, and yet you disobey what you know to be my
wish. Prove your friendship by leaving me. I wish to be alone."

"Leave you, with not so much as the touch of your hand?" he said.

"Yes."

The General turned on his heel, took up his hat, paused at the door as
if hesitating what to do; then, without a word, he went down stairs and
into the street, overwhelmed with self-pity. He had done so much, risked
so much, and accomplished so little! That she was fond of him there was
no question in his own mind; but women were so different from men! Yet
the villain knew that if she had been easily won his heart would have
turned against her. The prize grew more precious, through the obstacles
that came between him and its winning. The worst was over, at least; she
knew his project; and it would all come right in time!

As soon as he was out of the house, Mrs. Dillingham burst into a fit of
uncontrollable weeping. She had passed through the great humiliation of
her life. The tree which she had planted and nursed through many years
of unworthy aims had borne its natural fruit. She groaned under the
crushing punishment. She almost cursed herself. Her womanly instincts
were quick to apprehend the fact that only by her own consent or
invitation, could any man reach a point so near to any woman that he
could coolly breathe in her ear a base pro position. Yet, with all her
self-loathing and self-condemnation, was mingled a hatred of the vile
man who had insulted her, which would have half killed him had it been
possible for him to know and realize it.

After her first passion had passed away, the question concerning her
future came up for settlement. She could not possibly remain near Mr.
Belcher. She must not be exposed to further visits from him. The thought
that in the little account-book which she had copied there was a record
that covered a design for her own destruction, stung her to the quick.
What should she do? She would consult Mr. Balfour.

She knew that on that evening Mr. Belcher would not be at home, that
after the excitements and disappointments of that day he would seek for
solace in any place but that which held his wife and children. So,
muffled in a slight disguise, and followed by her servant, she stole out
of her house during the evening, and sought the house of the lawyer. To
him she poured out her heart. To him she revealed all that had passed
between her and the proprietor, and to him she committed the care of the
precious document of which she had possessed herself, and the little
note that accompanied it.

Mr. Balfour advised her to leave the city at once, and to go to some
place where Mr. Belcher would not be able to find her. He knew of no
place so fit for her in every respect as Number Nine, with his own
family and those most dear to her. Her boy and his father were there; it
was health's own home; and she could remain away as long as it might be
necessary. She would be wanted as a witness in a few months, at
furthest, in a suit which he believed would leave her persecutor in a
position where, forgetting others, he would be absorbed in the effort to
take care of himself.

Her determination was taken at once. Mr. Balfour accompanied her home,
and gave her all the necessary directions for her journey; and that
night she packed a single trunk in readiness for it. In the morning,
leaving her house to the care of trusty servants, she rode to the
station, while Mr. Belcher was lolling feverishly in his bed, and in an
hour was flying northward toward the place that was to be her summer
home, and into a region that was destined to be associated with her
future life, through changes and revolutions of which she did not dream.

After her thirty-six hours of patient and fatiguing travel the company
at Jim Fenton's hotel, eager for letters from the city, stood on the
bank of the river, waiting the arrival of the guide who had gone down
for the mail, and such passengers as he might find in waiting. They saw,
as he came in sight, a single lady in the stern of the little boat,
deeply veiled, whose name they could not guess. When she debarked among
them, and looked around upon the waiting and curious group, Harry was
the first to detect her, and she smothered him with kisses. Mr. Benedict
stood pale and trembling. Harry impulsively led her toward him, and in a
moment they were wrapped in a tender embrace. None but Mrs. Balfour, of
all who were present, understood the relation that existed between the
two, thus strangely reunited; but it soon became known, and the little
romance added a new charm to the life in the woods.

It would be pleasant to dwell upon the happy days and the pleasant
doings of the summer that followed--the long twilights that Mr. Benedict
and Mrs. Dillingham spent upon the water, their review of the events of
the past, the humble confessions of the proud lady, the sports and
diversions of the wilderness, and the delights of society brought by
circumstances into the closest sympathy. It would be pleasant to remain
with Jim and "the little woman," in their new enterprise and their new
house-keeping; but we must return to the city, to follow the fortunes of
one who, if less interesting than those we leave behind, is more
important in the present stage and ultimate resolution of our little
drama.

Soon after Mrs. Dillingham's departure from the city, Mr. Belcher missed
her. Not content with the position in which he had left his affairs with
her, he called at her house three days after her disappearance, and
learned that the servants either did not know or would not tell whither
she had gone. In his blind self-conceit, he could not suppose that she
had run away from him. He could not conclude that she had gone to
Europe, without a word of her purpose breathed to him. Still, even that
was possible. She had hidden somewhere, and he should hear from her. Had
he frightened her? Had he been too precipitate? Much as he endeavored to
explain her sudden disappearance to his own advantage, he was left
unsatisfied and uneasy.

A few days passed away, and then he began to doubt. Thrown back upon
himself, deprived of the solace of her society, and released from a
certain degree of restraint that she had always exercised upon him, he
indulged more freely in drink, and entered with more recklessness upon
the excitements of speculation.

The General had become conscious that he was not quite the man that he
had been. His mind was darkened and dulled by crime. He was haunted by
vague fears and apprehensions. With his frequent and appalling losses of
money, he had lost a measure of his faith in himself. His coolness of
calculation had been diminished; he listened with readier credulity to
rumors, and yielded more easily to the personal influences around him.
Even the steady prosperity which attended his regular business became a
factor in his growing incapacity for the affairs of the street. His
reliance on his permanent sources of income made him more reckless in
his speculations.

His grand scheme for "gently" and "tenderly" unloading his Crooked
Valley stock upon the hands of his trusting dupes along the line,
worked, however, to perfection. It only required rascality, pure and
simple, under the existing conditions, to accomplish this scheme, and he
found in the results nothing left to be desired. They furnished him with
a capital of ready money, but his old acquaintances discovered the foul
trick he had played, and gave him a wide berth. No more gigantic
combinations were possible to him, save with swindlers like himself, who
would not hesitate to sacrifice him as readily and as mercilessly as he
had sacrificed his rural victims.

Mrs. Dillingham had been absent a month when he one day received a
polite note from Mr. Balfour, as Paul Benedict's attorney, requesting
him, on behalf of his principal, to pay over to him an equitable share
of the profits upon his patented inventions, and to enter into a
definite contract for the further use of them.

The request came in so different a form from what he had anticipated,
and was so tamely courteous, that he laughed over the note in derision.
"Milk for babes!" he exclaimed, and laughed again. Either Balfour was a
coward, or he felt that his case was a weak one. Did he think the
General was a fool?

Without taking the note to Cavendish, who had told him to bring ten
thousand dollars when he came again, and with' out consulting anybody,
he wrote the following note in answer:--

    "_To James Balfour, Esq._:

    "Your letter of this date received, and contents noted. Permit me to
    say in reply:

    "1st. That I have no evidence that you are Paul Benedict's attorney.

    "2d. That I have no evidence that Paul Benedict is living, and that
    I do not propose to negotiate in any way, on any business, with a
    fraud, or a man of straw.

    "3d. That I am the legal assignee of all the patents originally
    issued to Paul Benedict, which I have used and am now using. I hold
    his assignment in the desk on which I write this letter, and it
    stands duly recorded in Washington, though, from my ignorance of the
    law, it has only recently been placed upon the books in the Patent
    Office.

    "Permit me to say, in closing, that, as I bear you no malice, I will
    show you the assignment at your pleasure, and thus relieve you from
    the danger of entering upon a conspiracy to defraud me of rights
    which I propose, with all the means at my disposal, to defend.

    "Yours, ROBERT BELCHER."

Mr. Belcher read over this letter with great satisfaction. It seemed to
him very dignified and very wise. He had saved his ten thousand dollars
for a while, at least, and bluffed, as he sincerely believed, his
dreaded antagonist.

Mr. Balfour did more than to indulge in his professional smile, over the
frank showing of the General's hand, and the voluntary betrayal of his
line of defence. He filed away the note among the papers relating to the
case, took his hat, walked across the street, rang the bell, and sent up
his card to Mr. Belcher. That self-complacent gentleman had not expected
this visit, although he had suggested it. Instead, therefore, of
inviting Mr. Balfour to his library, he went down to the drawing-room,
where he found his visitor, quietly sitting with his hat in his hand.
The most formal of courtesies opened the conversation, and Mr. Balfour
stated his business at once. "You were kind enough to offer to show me
the assignment of Mr. Benedict's patents," he said. "I have called to
see it."

"I've changed my mind," said the General.

"Do you suspect me of wishing to steal it?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"No, but the fact is, I wrote my note to you without consulting my
lawyer."

"I thought so," said Mr. Balfour. "Good-day, sir."

"No offence, I hope," said Mr. Belcher, with a peculiar toss of the
head, and a laugh.

"Not the least," said the lawyer, passing out of the door.

The General felt that he had made a mistake. He was in the habit of
making mistakes in those days. The habit was growing upon him. Indeed,
he suspected that he had made a mistake in not boldly exhibiting his
assignment. How to manage a lie, and not be managed by it, was a
question that had puzzled wiser heads than that of the General. He found
an egg in his possession that he was not ready to eat, though it was too
hot to be held long in either hand, and could not be dropped without
disaster.

For a week, he was haunted with the expectation of a suit, but it was
not brought, and then he began to breathe easier, and to feel that
something must be done to divert his mind from the subject. He drank
freely, and was loud-mouthed and blustering on the street. Poor Talbot
had a hard time, in endeavoring to shield him from his imprudences. He
saw that his effort to make his principal "last" was not likely to be
successful.

Rallied by his "friends" on his ill luck, the General declared that he
only speculated for fun. He knew what he was about. He never risked any
money that he could not afford to lose. Everybody had his amusement,
and this was his.

He was secure for some months in his seat as President of the Crooked
Valley Railroad, and calculated, of course, on buying back his stock in
his own time, at his own price. In the meantime, he would use his
position for carrying on his private schemes.

The time came at last when he wanted more ready money. A grand
combination had been made, among his own unprincipled set, for working
up a "corner" in the Muscogee Air Line, and he had been invited into it.
He was flattered by the invitation, and saw in it a chance for redeeming
his position, though, at bottom, the scheme was one for working up a
corner in Robert Belcher.

Under the plea that he expected, at no distant day, to go to Europe, for
rest and amusement, he mortgaged his house, in order, as he declared,
that he might handle it the more easily in the market. But Wall street
knew the fact at once, and made its comments. Much to the proprietor's
disgust, it was deemed of sufficient importance to find mention in the
daily press.

But even the sum raised upon his house, united with that which he had
received from unloading his Crooked Valley stock, was not sufficient to
give him the preponderance in the grand combination which he desired.

He still held a considerable sum in Crooked Valley bonds, for these were
valuable. He had already used these as collaterals, in the borrowing of
small sums at short time, to meet emergencies in his operations. It was
known by money-lenders that he held them. Now the General was the
manufacturer of these bonds. The books of the corporation were under his
control, and he intended that they should remain so. It was very easy
for him to make an over-issue, and hard for him to be detected in his
fraud, by any one who would be dangerous to him. The temptation to make
this issue was one which better men than he had yielded to in a weak
moment, and, to the little conscience which he possessed, the requisite
excuses were ready. He did not intend that any one should lose money by
these bonds. He only proposed a temporary relief to himself. So he
manufactured the bonds, and raised the money he wanted.

Meantime, the members of the very combination in which he had engaged,
having learned of his rascally operation with the stock, were secretly
buying it back from the dupes along the road, at their own figures, with
the purpose of ousting him from the management, and taking the road to
themselves. Of this movement he did not learn, until it was too late to
be of use to him.

It was known, in advance, by the combination, that the working up of the
corner in Muscogee Air Line would be a long operation. The stock had to
be manipulated with great care, to avoid exciting a suspicion of the
nature of the scheme, and the General had informed the holders of his
notes that it might be necessary for him to renew them before he should
realize from his operations. He had laid all his plans carefully, and
looked forward with an interest which none but he and those of his kind
could appreciate, to the excitements, intrigues, marches and
counter-marches of the mischievous campaign.

And then came down upon him the prosecution which he had so long
dreaded, and for which he had made the only preparation consistent with
his greedy designs. Ten thousand dollars of his ready money passed at
once into the hands of Mr. Cavendish, and Mr. Cavendish was satisfied
with the fee, whatever may have been his opinion of the case. After a
last examination of his forged assignment, and the putting of Phipps to
an exhaustive and satisfactory trial of his memory with relation to it,
he passed it into the lawyer's hands, and went about his business with
uncomfortable forebodings of the trial and its results.

It was strange, even to him, at this point of his career, that he felt
within himself no power to change his course. No one knew better than
he, that there was money enough in Benedict's inventions for both
inventor and manufacturer. No one knew better than he, that there was a
prosperous course for himself inside the pale of equity and law, yet he
found no motive to walk there. For the steps he had taken, there seemed
no retreat. He must go on, on, to the end. The doors that led back to
his old life had closed behind him. Those which opened before were not
inviting, but he could not stand still. So he hardened his face, braced
his nerves, stiffened his determination, and went on.

Of course he passed a wretched summer. He had intended to get away for
rest, or, rather, for an exhibition of himself and his equipage at
Newport, or Saratoga, or Long Branch; but through all the burning days
of the season he was obliged to remain in the city, while other men were
away and off their guard, to watch his Wall street operations, and
prepare for the _coup de grace_ by which he hoped to regain his lost
treasure and his forfeited position. The legal trial that loomed up
before him, among the clouds of autumn, could not be contemplated
without a shiver, and a sinking of the heart. His preparations for it
were very simple, as they mainly related to the establishment of the
genuineness of his assignment.

The months flew away more rapidly with the proprietor than with any of
the other parties interested in the suit, and when, at last, only a
fortnight was wanting to the time of the expected trial, Mr. Balfour
wrote to Number Nine, ordering his family home, and requiring the
presence of Mr. Benedict, Mrs. Dillingham, Harry and Jim.

Just at this time, the General found himself in fresh difficulty. The
corner in Muscogee Air Line, was as evasive as a huckleberry in a mouth
bereft of its armament. Indeed, to use still further the homely but
suggestive figure, the General found that his tongue was in more danger
than his huckleberry. His notes, too, secured by fraudulent collaterals,
were approaching a second and third maturity. He was without ready
money for the re-purchase of his Crooked Valley stock, and had learned,
in addition, that the stock had already changed hands, in the execution
of a purpose which he more than suspected. Large purchases of material
for the execution of heavy contracts in his manufactures had drained his
ready resources, in the department of his regular business. He was
getting short, and into a tight place. Still he was desperate, and
determined to sacrifice nothing.

Mr. Benedict and Jim, on their arrival in the city, took up their
residence in Mrs. Dillingham's house, and the landlord of Number Nine
spent several days in making the acquaintance of the city, under the
guidance of his old companion, who was at home. Jim went through a great
mental convulsion. At first, what seemed to him the magnitude of the
life, enterprise and wealth of the city, depressed him. He declared that
he "had ben growin' smaller an' smaller every minute" since he left
Sevenoaks. "I felt as if I'd allers ben a fly, crawlin' 'round on the
edge of a pudden," he said, when asked whether he enjoyed the city. But
before the trial came on, he had fully recovered his old equanimity. The
city grew smaller the more he explored it, until, when compared with the
great woods, the lonely rivers, and the broad solitudes in which he had
spent his life, it seemed like a toy; and the men who chaffered in the
market, and the women who thronged the avenues, or drove in the park, or
filled the places of amusement, came to look like children, engaged in
frolicsome games. He felt that people who had so little room to breathe
in must be small; and before the trial brought him into practical
contact with them, he was himself again, and quite ready to meet them in
any encounter which required courage or address.




CHAPTER XXVI.

IN WHICH THE CASE OF "BENEDICT _VS._ BELCHER" FINDS ITSELF IN COURT, AN
INTERESTING QUESTION OF IDENTITY IS SETTLED, AND A MYSTERIOUS
DISAPPEARANCE TAKES PLACE.


"OYEZ! _Oyez_! _All-persons-having-business-to-do-with-the
-Circuit-Court-of-the-United-States-for-the-Southern-District-of
-New-York,-draw-near,-give-your-attention,-and-you-shall-be-heard."_

"That's the crier," whispered Mr. Benedict to Jim.

"What's the matter of 'im?" inquired the latter.

"That's the way they open the court."

"Well, if he opens it with cryin', he'll have a tough time a shuttin' on
it," responded Jim, in a whisper so loud that he attracted attention.

There within the bar sat Mr. Balfour, calmly examining his papers. He
looked up among the assembled jurors, witnesses and idlers, and beckoned
Benedict to his side. There sat Robert Belcher with his counsel. The
great rascal was flashily dressed, with a stupendous show of
shirt-front, over which fell, down by the side of the diamond studs, a
heavy gold chain. Brutality, vulgarity, self-assurance and an
over-bearing will, all expressed themselves in his broad face, bold eyes
and heavy chin. Mr. Cavendish, with his uneasy scalp, white hands, his
scornful lips and his thin, twitching nostrils, looked the very
impersonation of impatience and contempt. If the whole court-room had
been thronged with vermin instead of human beings, among which he was
obliged to sit, he could not have appeared more disgusted. Quite retired
among the audience, and deeply veiled, sat Mrs. Dillingham. Mr. Belcher
detected her, and, though he could not see her face, felt that he could
not be mistaken as to her identity. Why was she there? Why, but to
notice the progress and issue of the trial, in her anxiety for him? He
was not glad to see her there.

He beckoned for Phipps, who sat uneasily, with a scared look upon his
face, among the crowd.

"Is that Mrs. Dillingham?" he asked in a whisper.

Phipps assured him that it was. Then Mr. Belcher wrote upon his card the
words: "Do not, for my sake, remain in this room."

"Give this to her," he said to his servant.

The card was delivered, but the lady, quite to his surprise, did not
stir. He thought of his little book, but it seemed impossible that his
idol, who had so long been hidden from his sight and his knowledge,
could betray him.

A jury was empanneled, the case of Benedict _vs._ Belcher was called,
and the counsel of both parties declared themselves ready for the trial.

The suit was for damages, in the sum of half a million dollars, for the
infringement of patents on machines, implements and processes, of which
it was declared that the plaintiff was the first and only inventor. The
answer to the complaint alleged the disappearance and death of Benedict,
and declared the plaintiff to be an impostor, averred the assignment of
all the patents in question to the defendant, and denied the profits.

The judge, set somewhat deep in his shirt-collar, as if his head and his
heart were near enough together to hold easy communication, watched the
formal proceedings listlessly, out of a pair of pleasant eyes, and when
they were completed, nodded to Mr. Balfour, in indication that he was
ready to proceed.

Mr. Balfour, gathering his papers before him, rose to make the opening
for the prosecution.

"May it please the Court," he said, "and gentlemen of the jury, I have
to present to you a case, either issue of which it is not pleasant for
me to contemplate. Either my client or the defendant will go out of this
court, at the conclusion of this case, a blackened man; and, as I have a
warm friendship for one of them, and bear no malice to the other, I am
free to confess that, while I seek for justice, I shrink from the
results of its vindication."

Mr. Cavendish jumped up and interjected spitefully: "I beg the gentleman
to spare us his hypothetical sentiment. It is superfluous, so far as my
client is concerned, and offensive."

Mr. Balfour waited calmly for the little explosion and the clearing away
of the smoke, and then resumed. "I take no pleasure in making myself
offensive to the defendant and his counsel," said he, "but, if I am
interrupted, I shall be compelled to call things by their right names,
and to do some thing more than hint at the real status of this case. I
see other trials, in other courts, at the conclusion of this
action,--other trials with graver issues. I could not look forward to
them with any pleasure, without acknowledging myself to be a knave. I
could not refrain from alluding to them, without convicting myself of
carelessness and frivolity. Something more than money is involved in the
issue of this action. Either the plaintiff or the defendant will go out
of this court wrecked in character, blasted in reputation, utterly
ruined. The terms of the bill and the answer determine this result."

Mr. Cavendish sat through this exordium as if he sat on nettles, but
wisely held his tongue, while the brazen-faced proprietor leaned
carelessly over, and whispered to his counsel. Phipps, on his distant
seat, grew white around the lips, and felt that he was on the verge of
the most serious danger of his life.

"The plaintiff, in this case," Mr. Balfour went on, "brings an action
for damages for the infringement of various patent rights. I shall prove
to you that these patents were issued to him, as the first and only
inventor; that he has never assigned them to any one; that they have
been used by the defendant for from seven to ten years, to his great
profit; that he is using them still without a license, and without
rendering a just consideration for them. I shall prove to you that the
defendant gained his first possession of these inventions by a series of
misrepresentations, false promises, oppressions and wrongs, and has used
them without license in consequence of the weakness, illness, poverty
and defencelessness of their rightful owner. I shall prove to you that
their owner was driven to insanity by these perplexities and the
persecutions of the defendant, and that even after he became insane, the
defendant tried to secure the execution of the assignment which he had
sought in vain during the sanity of the patentee.

"I will not characterize by the name belonging to it the instrument
which is to be presented in answer to the bill filed in this case,
further than to say that it has no legal status whatsoever. It is the
consummate fruit of a tree that was planted in fraud; and if I do not
make it so to appear, before the case is finished, I will beg pardon of
the court, of you, gentlemen of the jury, and especially of the
defendant and his honorable counsel. First, therefore, I offer in
evidence certified copies of the patents in question."

Mr. Balfour read these documents, and they were examined both by Mr.
Cavendish and the court.

The name of Paul Benedict was then called, as the first witness.

Mr. Benedict mounted the witness stand. He was pale and quiet, with a
pink tinge on either cheek. He had the bearing and dress of a gentleman,
and contrasted strangely with the coarse, bold man to whom he had been
indebted for so many wrongs and indignities. He was at last in the place
to which he had looked forward with so much dread, but there came to him
a calmness and a self-possession which he had not anticipated. He was
surrounded by powerful friends. He was menaced, too, by powerful
enemies, and all his manhood was roused.

"What is your name?" asked Mr. Balfour.

"Paul Benedict."

"Where were you born?"

"In the city of New York."

"Are you the inventor of the machines, implements and processes named in
the documents from the Patent Office which have just been read in your
hearing?"

"I am, sir."

"And you are the only owner of all these patent rights?"

"I am, sir."

"What is your profession?"

"I was trained for a mechanical engineer."

"What has been your principal employment?"

"Invention."

"When you left New York, whither did you go?"

"To Sevenoaks."

"How many years ago was that?"

"Eleven or twelve, I suppose."

"Now I want you to tell to the Court, in a plain, brief way, the history
of your life in Sevenoaks, giving with sufficient detail an account of
all your dealings with the defendant in this case, so that we may
perfectly understand how your inventions came into Mr. Belcher's hands,
and why you have never derived any benefit from them."

It was a curious illustration of the inventor's nature that, at this
moment, with his enemy and tormentor before him, he shrank from giving
pain. Mr. Cavendish noticed his hesitation, and was on his feet in an
instant. "May it please the court," said he, "there is a question
concerning identity that comes up at this point, and I beg the privilege
of asking it here."

The judge looked at Mr. Balfour, and the latter said: "Certainly."

"I would like to ask the witness," said Mr. Cavendish, "whether he is
the Paul Benedict who left the city about the time at which he testifies
that he went away, in consequence of his connection with a band of
counterfeiters. Did you, sir, invent their machinery, or did you not?"

"I did not," answered the witness--his face all aflame. The idea that
he could be suspected, or covertly charged, with crime, in the presence
of friends and strangers, was so terrible that the man tottered on his
feet.

Mr. Cavendish gave a significant glance at his client, whose face
bloomed with a brutal smile, and then sat down.

"Is that all?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"All, for the present," responded Mr. Cavendish, sneeringly, and with
mock courtesy.

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Balfour, "I hope I may be permitted
to say that the tactics of the defendant are worthy of his cause." Then
turning to Mr. Benedict, he said, "I trust the witness will not be
disturbed by the insult that has been gratuitously offered him, and will
tell the history which I have asked him to tell."

Mr. Cavendish had made a mistake. At this insult, and the gratification
which it afforded Mr. Belcher, the inventor's pity died out of him, and
he hardened to his work.

"When I went to Sevenoaks," said he, "I was very poor, as I have always
been since. I visited Mr. Belcher's mill, and saw how great improvements
could be made in his machines and processes; and then I visited him, and
told him what I could do for him. He furnished me with money for my
work, and for securing the patents on my inventions, with the verbal
promise that I should share in such profits as might accrue from their
use. He was the only man who had money; he was the only man who could
use the inventions; and he kept me at work, until he had secured
everything that he wished for. In the meantime, I suffered for the lack
of the necessaries of life, and was fed from day to day, and month to
month, and year to year, on promises. He never rendered me any returns,
declared that the patents were nearly useless to him, and demanded, as a
consideration for the money he had advanced to me, the assignment of all
my patents to him. My only child was born in the midst of my early
trouble, and such were the privations to which my wife was subjected
that she never saw a day of health after the event. She died at last,
and in the midst of my deepest troubles, Mr. Belcher pursued me with his
demands for the assignment of my patents. He still held me to him by the
bestowal of small sums, which necessity compelled me to accept. He
always had a remarkable power over me, and I felt that he would lead me
to destruction. I saw the hopes of years melting away, and knew that in
time he would beat down my will, and, on his own terms, possess himself
of all the results of my years of study and labor. I saw nothing but
starvation before me and my child, and went down into a horror of great
darkness."

A cold shiver ran over the witness, and his face grew pale and pinched,
at this passage of his story. The court-house was as still as midnight.
Even the General lost his smile, and leaned forward, as if the narration
concerned some monster other than himself.

"What then?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"I hardly know. Everything that I remember after that was confused and
terrible. For years I was insane. I went to the hospital, and was there
supported by Mr. Belcher. He even followed me there, and endeavored to
get my signature to an assignment, but was positively forbidden by the
superintendent of the asylum. Then, after being pronounced incurable, I
was sent back to the Sevenoaks alms-house, where, for a considerable
time, my boy was also kept; and from that horrible place, by the aid of
a friend, I escaped. I remember it all as a long dream of torture. My
cure came in the woods, at Number Nine, where I have ever since lived,
and where twice I have been sought and found by paid emissaries of Mr.
Belcher, who did not love him well enough to betray me. And, thanks to
the ministry of the best friends that God ever raised up to a man, I am
here to-day to claim my rights."

"These rights," said Mr. Balfour, "these rights which you hold in your
patented inventions, for all these years used by the defendant, you say
you have never assigned."

"Never."

"If an assignment executed in due form should be presented to you, what
should you say?"

"I object to the question," said Mr. Cavendish, leaping to his feet.
"The document has not yet been presented to him."

"The gentleman is right," said Mr. Balfour; "the witness has never seen
it. I withdraw the question; and now tell me what you know about Mr.
Belcher's profits on the use of these inventions."

"I cannot tell much," replied Mr. Benedict. "I know the inventions were
largely profitable to him; otherwise he would not have been so anxious
to own them. I have never had access to his books, but I know he became
rapidly rich on his manufactures, and that, by the cheapness with which
he produced them, he was able to hold the market, and to force his
competitors into bankruptcy."

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Balfour, "I am about done with this
witness, and I wish to say, just here, that if the defendant stands by
his pleadings, and denies his profits, I shall demand the production of
his books in Court. We can get definite information from them, at
least." Then bowing to Mr. Benedict, he told him that he had no further
questions to ask.

The witness was about to step down, when the Judge turned to Mr.
Cavendish, with the question: "Does the counsel for the defendant wish
to cross-examine the witness?"

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Cavendish rising, "the counsel for
the defense regards the examination so far simply as a farce. We do not
admit that the witness is Paul Benedict, at all--or, rather, the Paul
Benedict named in the patents, certified copies of which are in
evidence. The Paul Benedict therein named, has long been regarded as
dead. This man has come and gone for months in Sevenoaks, among the
neighbors of the real Paul Benedict, unrecognized. He says he has lived
for years within forty miles of Sevenoaks, and at this late day puts
forward his claims. There is nobody in Court, sir. We believe the
plaintiff to be a fraud, and this prosecution a put-up job. In saying
this, I would by no means impugn the honor of the plaintiff's counsel.
Wiser men than he have been deceived and duped, and he may be assured
that he is the victim of the villainies or the hallucinations of an
impostor. There are men in this room, ready to testify in this case, who
knew Paul Benedict during all his residence in Sevenoaks; and the
witness stands before them at this moment unrecognized and unknown. I
cannot cross-examine the witness, without recognizing his identity with
the Paul Benedict named in the patents. There is nothing but a pretender
in Court, may it please your honor, and I decline to have anything to do
with him."

Mr. Cavendish sat down, with the air of a man who believed he had
blasted the case in the bud, and that there was nothing left to do but
to adjourn.

"It seems to the Court, gentlemen," said the judge in a quiet tone,
"that this question of identity should be settled as an essential
preliminary to further proceedings."

"May it please your honor," said Mr. Balfour, rising, "I did not suppose
it possible, after the plaintiff had actually appeared in court, and
shown himself to the defendant, that this question of identity would be
mooted or mentioned. The defendant must know that I have witnesses
here--that I would not appear here without competent witnesses--who will
place his identity beyond question. It seems, however, that this case is
to be fought inch by inch, on every possible ground. As the first
witness upon this point, I shall call for James Fenton."

"Jest call me Jim," said the individual named, from his distant seat.

"James Fenton" was called to the stand, and Mr. Benedict stepped down.
Jim advanced through the crowd, his hair standing very straight in the
air, and his face illumined by a smile that won every heart in the
house, except those of the defendant and his counsel. A war-horse going
into battle, or a hungry man going to his dinner, could not have
manifested more rampant alacrity.

"Hold up your right hand," said the clerk.

"Sartin," said Jim. "Both on 'em if ye say so."

"You solemnly swear m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-so help you God!"

"I raally wish, if ye ain't too tired, that ye'd say that over agin,"
said Jim. "If I'm a goin' to make a Happy David, I want to know what it
is."

The clerk hesitated, and the judge directed him to repeat the form of
the oath distinctly. When this was done, Jim said: "Thank ye; there's
nothin' like startin' squar."

"James Fenton," said Mr. Balfour, beginning a question.

"Jest call me Jim: I ain't no prouder here nor I be at Number Nine,"
said the witness.

"Very well, Jim," said Mr. Balfour smiling, "tell us who you are."

"I'm Jim Fenton, as keeps a hotel at Number Nine. My father was an
Englishman, my mother was a Scotchman, I was born in Ireland, an' raised
in Canady, an' I've lived in Number Nine for more nor twelve year,
huntin', trappin' an' keepin' a hotel. I hain't never ben eddicated, but
I can tell the truth when it's necessary, an' I love my friends an' hate
my enemies."

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Cavendish with a sneer, "I beg to
suggest to the plaintiff's counsel that the witness should be required
to give his religious views."

Mr. Belcher laughed, and Mr. Cavendish sniffed his lips, as if they had
said a good thing.

"Certainly," responded Mr. Balfour. "What are your religious views,
Jim?"

"Well," said Jim, "I hain't got many, but I sh'd be s'prised if there
wasn't a brimstone mine on t'other side, with a couple o' picks in it
for old Belcher an' the man as helps 'im."

The laugh was on Mr. Cavendish. The Court smiled, the audience roared,
and order was demanded.

"That will do," said Mr. Cavendish. "The religious views of the witness
are definite and satisfactory."

"Jim, do you know Paul Benedict?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"Well, I do," said Jim. "I've knowed 'im ever sence he come to
Sevenoaks."

"How did you make his acquaintance?"

"He used to come into the woods, fishin' an' huntin'. Him an' me was
like brothers. He was the curisest creetur I ever seen, an' I hope he
takes no 'fense in hearin' me say so. Ye've seen his tackle, Mr.
Balfour, an' that split bamboo o' his, but the jedge hasn't seen it. I
wish I'd brung it along. Fond of fishin', sir?" And Jim turned blandly
and patronizingly to the Court.

The Judge could not repress a little ripple of amusement, which, from a
benevolent mouth, ran out over his face. Biting his lips, he said: "The
witness had better be confined to the matter in hand."

"An' Jedge--no 'fense--but I like yer looks, an' if ye'll come to Number
Nine--it's a little late now--I'll"--

Mr. Cavendish jumped up and said fiercely: "I object to this trifling."

"Jim," said Mr. Balfour, "the defendant's counsel objects to your
trifling. He has a right to do so, particularly as he is responsible for
starting it. Now tell me whether the Paul Benedict you knew was the only
man of the name who has lived in Sevenoaks since you have lived in
Number Nine?"

"He was the only one I ever hearn on. He was the one as invented
Belcher's machines, any way. He's talked about 'em with me a thousand
times."

"Is he in the room?"

"Mostly," said Jim, with his bland smile.

"Give me a direct answer, now."

"Yis, he's in this room, and he's a settin' there by you, an' he's been
a stannin' where I stan' now."

"How do you know that this is the same man who used to visit you in the
woods, and who invented Mr. Belcher's machines?"

"Well, it's a long story. I don't mind tellin' on it, if it wouldn't be
too triflin'," with a comical wink at Mr. Cavendish.

"Go on and tell it," said Mr. Balfour.

"I knowed Benedict up to the time when he lost his mind, an' was packed
off to the 'Sylum, an' I never seen 'im agin till I seen 'im in the
Sevenoaks' poor-house. I come acrost his little boy one night on the
hill, when I was a trampin' home. He hadn't nothin' on but rags, an' he
was as blue an' hungry as a spring bar. The little feller teched me ye
know--teched my feelins--an' I jest sot down to comfort 'im. He telled
me his ma was dead, and that his pa was at old Buffum's, as crazy as a
loon. Well, I stayed to old Buffum's that night, an' went into the
poor-house in the mornin', with the doctor. I seen Benedict thar, an'
knowed him. He was a lyin' on the straw, an' he hadn't cloes enough on
'im to put in tea. An', says I, 'Mr. Benedict, give us your
benediction;' an', says he, 'Jim!' That floored me, an' I jest cried and
swar'd to myself. Well, I made a little 'rangement with him an' his boy,
to take 'im to Abram's bosom. Ye see he thought he was in hell, an' it
was a reasomble thing in 'im too; an' I telled 'im that I'd got a
settlement in Abram's bosom, an' I axed 'im over to spend the day. I
took 'im out of the poor-house an' carried 'im to Number Nine, an' I
cured 'im. He's lived there ever sence, helped me build my hotel, an' I
come down with 'im, to 'tend this Court, an' we brung his little boy
along too, an' the little feller is here, an' knows him better nor I
do."

"And you declare, under oath, that the Paul Benedict whom you knew in
Sevenoaks, and at Number Nine--before his insanity--the Paul Benedict
who was in the poor-house at Sevenoaks and notoriously escaped from that
institution--escaped by your help, has lived with you ever since, and
has appeared here in Court this morning," said Mr. Balfour.

"He's the same feller, an' no mistake, if so be he hain't slipped his
skin," said Jim, "an' no triflin'. I make my Happy David on't."

"Did Mr. Belcher ever send into the woods to find him?'"

"Yis," said Jim, laughing, "but I choked 'em off."

"How did you choke them off?"

"I telled 'em both I'd lick 'em if they ever blowed. They didn't want to
blow any, to speak on, but Mike Conlin come in with a hundred dollars of
Belcher's money in his jacket, an' helped me nuss my man for a week; an'
I got a Happy David out o' Sam Yates, an' ther's the dockyment;" and Jim
drew from his pocket the instrument with which the reader is already
familiar.

Mr. Balfour had seen the paper, and told Jim that it was not necessary
in the case. Mr. Belcher looked very red in the face, and leaned over
and whispered to his lawyer.

"That is all," said Mr. Balfour.

Mr. Cavendish rose. "You helped Mr. Benedict to escape, did you, Jim?"

"I said so," replied Jim.

"Did you steal the key when you were there first?"

"No; I borrered it, an' brung it back an left it in the door."

"Did you undo the fastenings of the outside door?"

"Yis, an' I did 'em up agin."

"Did you break down the grated door?"

"I remember about somethin' squeakin' an' givin' 'way," replied Jim,
with a smile. "It was purty dark, an' I couldn't see 'xactly what was a
goin' on."

"Oh you couldn't! We have your confession, then, that you are a thief
and a burglar, and that you couldn't see the man you took out."

"Well, now, Squar, that won't help ye any. Benedict is the man as got
away, an' I saved the town the board of two paupers an' the cost of two
pine coffins, an' sent old Buffum where he belonged, an' nobody cried
but his pertickler friend as sets next to ye."

"I beg the Court's protection for my client, against the insults of
this witness," said Mr. Cavendish.

"When a man calls Jim Fenton a thief an' a buggler, he must take what
comes on't," said Jim. "Ye may thank yer everlastin' stars that ye
didn't say that to me in the street, for I should 'a licked ye. I should
'a fastened that slippery old scalp o' yourn tighter nor a drum-head."

"Witness," said the Judge, peremptorily, "you forget where you are, sir.
You must stop these remarks."

"Jedge look 'ere! When a man is insulted by a lawyer in court, what can
he do? I'm a reasomble man, but I can't take anybody's sarse. It does
seem to me as if a lawyer as snubs a witness an calls 'im names, wants
dressin' down too. Give Jim Fenton a fair shake, an' he's all right."

Jim's genial nature and his irrepressible tongue were too much for the
court and the lawyers together. Mr. Cavendish writhed in his seat. He
could do nothing with Jim. He could neither scare nor control him, and
saw that the witness was only anxious for another encounter. It was too
evident that the sympathy of the jury and the increasing throng of
spectators was with the witness, and that they took delight in the
discomfiture of the defendant's counsel.

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Cavendish, "after the disgraceful
confessions of the witness, and the revelation of his criminal
character, it will not comport with my own self-respect to question him
further."

"Paddlin' off, eh?" said Jim, with a comical smile.

"Witness," said the Judge, "be silent and step down."

"No 'fense, Jedge, I hope?"

"Step down, sir."

Jim saw that matters were growing serious. He liked the Judge, and had
intended, in some private way, to explain the condition of his hair as
attributable to his fright on being called into Court as a witness, but
he was obliged to relinquish his plan, and go back to his seat. The
expression of his face must have been most agreeable to the spectators,
for there was a universal giggle among them which called out the
reproof of the Court.

"Helen Dillingham" was next called for. At the pronunciation of her
name, and her quiet progress through the court-room to the stand, there
was a hush in which nothing was heard but the rustle of her own drapery.
Mr. Belcher gasped, and grew pale. Here was the woman whom he madly
loved. Here was the woman whom he had associated with his scheme of
European life, and around whom, more and more, as his difficulties
increased and the possibilities of disaster presented themselves, he had
grouped his hopes and gathered his plans. Had he been the dupe of her
cunning? Was he to be the object of her revenge? Was he to be betrayed?
Her intimacy with Harry Benedict began to take on new significance. Her
systematic repulses of his blind passion had an explanation other than
that which he had given them. Mr. Belcher thought rapidly while the
formalities which preceded her testimony were in progress.

Every man in the court-room leaned eagerly forward to catch her first
word. Her fine figure, graceful carriage and rich dress had made their
usual impression.

"Mrs. Dillingham," said the Judge, with a courteous bow and gesture,
"will you have the kindness to remove your veil?"

The veil was quietly raised over her hat, and she stood revealed. She
was not pale; she was fresh from the woods, and in the glory of renewed
health. A murmur of admiration went around the room like the stirring of
leaves before a vagrant breeze.

"Mrs. Dillingham," said Mr. Balfour, "where do you reside?"

"In this city, sir."

"Have you always lived here?"

"Always."

"Do you know Paul Benedict?"

"I do, sir."

"How long have you known him?"

"From the time I was born until he left New York, after his marriage."

"What is his relation to you?"

"He is my brother, sir."

Up to this answer, she had spoken quietly, and in a voice that could
only be heard through the room by the closest attention; but the last
answer was given in a full, emphatic tone.

Mr. Belcher entirely lost his self-possession. His face grew white, his
eyes were wild, and raising his clenched fist he brought it down with a
powerful blow upon the table before him, and exclaimed: "My God!"

The court-room became in an instant as silent as death. The Judge
uttered no reprimand, but looked inquiringly, and with unfeigned
astonishment, at the defendant.

Mr. Cavendish rose and begged the Court to overlook his client's
excitement, as he had evidently been taken off his guard.

"Paul Benedict is your brother, you say?" resumed Mr. Balfour.

"He is, sir."

"What was his employment before he left New York?"

"He was an inventor from his childhood, and received a careful education
in accordance with his mechanical genius."

"Why did he leave New York?"

"I am ashamed to say that he left in consequence of my own unkindness."

"What was the occasion of your unkindness?"

"His marriage with one whom I did not regard as his own social equal or
mine."

"What was her name?"

"Jane Kendrick."

"How did you learn that he was alive?"

"Through his son, whom I invited into my house, after he was brought to
this city by yourself."

"Have you recently visited the cemetery at Sevenoaks?"

"I have, sir."

"Did you see the grave of your sister-in-law?"

"I did."

"Was there a headstone upon the grave?"

"There was a humble one."

"What inscription did it bear?"

"Jane Kendrick, wife of Paul Benedict."

"When and where did you see your brother first, after your separation?"

"Early last summer at a place called Number Nine."

"Did you recognise him?"

"I did, at once."

"Has anything occurred, in the intercourse of the summer, to make you
suspect that the man whom you recognised as your brother was an
impostor?"

"Nothing. We have conversed with perfect familiarity on a thousand
events and circumstances of our early life. I know him to be my brother
as well as I know my own name, and my own identity."

"That is all," said Mr. Balfour.

"Mrs. Dillingham," said Mr. Cavendish after holding a long whispered
conversation with his client, "you were glad to find your brother at
last, were you not?"

"Very glad, sir."

"Why?"

"Because I was sorry for the misery which I had inflicted upon him, and
to which I had exposed him."

"You were the victim of remorse, as I understand you?"

"Yes, sir; I suppose so."

"Were you conscious that your condition of mind unfitted you to
discriminate? Were you not so anxious to find your brother, in order to
quiet your conscience, that you were easily imposed upon."

"No, sir, to both questions."

"Well, madam, such things have happened. Have you been in the habit of
receiving Mr. Belcher at your house?"

"I have."

"You have been in the habit of receiving gentlemen rather
indiscriminately at your house, haven't you?"

"I object to the question," said Mr. Balfour quickly. "It carries a
covert insult to the witness."

Mrs. Dillingham bowed to Mr. Balfour in acknowledgment of his courtesy,
but answered the question. "I have received you, sir, and Mr. Belcher. I
may have been indiscriminate in my courtesies. A lady living alone
cannot always tell."

A titter ran around the court-room, in which Mr. Belcher joined. His
admiration was too much at the moment for his self-interest.

"Did you know before you went to Number Nine, that your brother was
there?" inquired Mr. Cavendish.

"I did, and the last time but one at which Mr. Belcher called upon me I
informed him of the fact."

"That your brother was there?"

"No, that Paul Benedict was there."

"How did you know he was there?"

"His little boy wrote me from there, and told me so."

Mr. Cavendish had found more than he sought. He want' ed to harass the
witness, but he had been withheld by his client. Baffled on one hand and
restrained on the other--for Mr. Belcher could not give her up, and
learn to hate her in a moment--he told the witness he had no more
questions to ask.

Mrs. Dillingham drew down her veil again, and walked to her seat.

Harry Benedict was next called, and after giving satisfactory answers to
questions concerning his understanding of the nature of an oath, was
permitted to testify.

"Harry," said Mr. Balfour, "were you ever in Mr. Belcher's house?"

"Yes, sir."

"Tell us how it happened that you were there."

"Mr. Belcher stopped me in the street, and led me up the steps, and then
up stairs into his room."

"What question did he ask you?"

"He wanted to know whether my father was alive."

"Did he offer you money if you would tell?"

"Yes, sir; he offered me a great gold piece of money, and told me it was
an eagle."

"Did you take it?"

"No, sir."

"Did he threaten you?"

"He tried to scare me, sir."

"Did he tell you that he should like to give your father some money?"

"Yes, sir."

"And did you tell him that your father was alive?"

"No, sir, I ran away;" and Harry could not restrain a laugh at the
remembrance of the scene.

"Harry, is your father in this room?"

Harry looked at his father with a smile, and answered, "Yes, sir."

"Now, Harry, I want you to pick him out from all these people. Be sure
not to make any mistake. Mr. Belcher has been so anxious to find him,
that I presume he will be very much obliged to you for the information.
Go and put your hand on him."

Harry started at a run, and, dodging around the end of the bar, threw
himself into his father's arms. The performance seemed so comical to the
lad, that he burst into a peal of boyish laughter, and the scene had
such a pretty touch of nature in it, that the spectators cheered, and
were only checked by the stern reprimand of the judge, who threatened
the clearing of the room if such a demonstration should again be
indulged in.

"Does the counsel for the defence wish to cross-examine the witness?"
inquired the judge.

"I believe not," said Mr. Cavendish, with a nod; and then Harry went to
his seat, at the side of Jim Fenton, who hugged him so that he almost
screamed. "Ye're a brick, little feller," Jim whispered. "That was a
Happy David, an' a Goliar into the bargin. You've knocked the Ph'listine
this time higher nor a kite."

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Cavendish, "I have witnesses here
who knew Paul Benedict during all his residence in Sevenoaks, and who
are ready to testify that they do not know the person who presents
himself here to-day, as the plaintiff in this case. I comprehend the
disadvantage at which I stand, with only negative testimony at my
command. I know how little value it has, when opposed to such as has
been presented here; and while I am convinced that my client is wronged,
I shall be compelled, in the end, to accept the identity of the
plaintiff as established. If I believed the real Paul Benedict, named in
the patents in question, in this case, to be alive, I should be
compelled to fight this question to the end, by every means in my power,
but the main question at issue, as to whom the title to these patents
rests in, can be decided between my client and a man of straw, as well
as between him and the real inventor. That is the first practical issue,
and to save the time of the Court, I propose to proceed to its trial;
and first I wish to cross-examine the plaintiff."

Mr. Benedict resumed the stand.

"Witness, you pretend to be the owner of the patents in question, in
this case, and the inventor of the machines, implements and processes
which they cover, do you?" said Mr. Cavendish.

"I object to the form of the question," said Mr. Balfour. "It is an
insult to the witness, and a reflection upon the gentleman's own
sincerity, in accepting the identity of the plaintiff."

"Very well," said Mr. Cavendish, "since the plaintiff's counsel is so
difficult to please! You are the owner of these patents, are you?"

"I am, sir."

"You have been insane, have you sir?"

"I suppose I have been, sir. I was very ill for a long time, and have no
doubt that I suffered from mental alienation."

"What is your memory of things that occurred immediately preceding your
insanity?"

Mr. Benedict and his counsel saw the bearings of this question, at once,
but the witness would no more have lied than he would have stolen, or
committed murder. So he answered: "It is very much confused, sir."

"Oh, it is! I thought so! Then you cannot swear to the events
immediately preceding your attack?"

"I am afraid I cannot, sir, at least, not in their order or detail."

"No! I thought so!" said Mr. Cavendish, in his contemptuous manner, and
rasping voice. "I commend your prudence. Now, witness, if a number of
your neighbors should assure you that, on the day before your attack,
you did a certain thing, which you do not remember to have done, how
should you regard their testimony?"

"If they were credible people, and not unfriendly to me, I should be
compelled to believe them."

"Why, sir! you are an admirable witness! I did not anticipate such
candor. We are getting at the matter bravely. We have your confession,
then, that you do not remember distinctly the events that occurred the
day before your attack, and your assertion that you are ready to believe
and accept the testimony of credible witnesses in regard to those
events."

"Yes, sir."

"Did you ever know Nicholas Johnson and James Ramsey?"

"Yes, sir."

"Where did you see them last?"

"In Mr. Belcher's library."

"On what occasion, or, rather, at what time?"

"I have sad reason to remember both the occasion and the date, sir. Mr.
Belcher had determined to get my signature to an assignment, and had
brought me to his house on another pretext entirely. I suppose he had
summoned these men as witnesses."

"Where are these men now?"

"Unhappily, they are both dead."

"Yes, unhappily indeed--unhappily for my client. Was there anybody else
in the room?"

"I believe that Phipps, Mr. Belcher's man, was coming and going."

"Why, your memory is excellent, is it not? And you remember the date of
this event too! Suppose you tell us what it was."

"It was the 4th of May, 1860."

"How confused you must have been!" said Mr. Cavendish.

"These are things that were burnt into my memory," responded the
witness. "There were other occurrences that day, of which I have been
informed, but of which I have no memory."

"Ah, there are! Well, I shall have occasion to refresh your mind upon
still another, before I get through with you. Now, if I should show you
an assignment, signed by yourself on the very day you have designated,
and also signed by Johnson, Ramsey and Phipps as witnesses, what should
you say to it?"

"I object to the question. The counsel should show the document to the
witness, and then ask his opinion of it," said Mr. Balfour.

The Court coincided with Mr. Balfour's view, and ruled accordingly.

"Very well," said Mr. Cavendish, "we shall get at that in good time.
Now, witness, will you be kind enough to tell me how you remember that
all this occurred on the 4th of May, 1860?"

"It happened to be the first anniversary of my wife's death. I went
from her grave to Mr. Belcher's house. The day war associated with the
saddest and most precious memories of my life."

"What an excellent memory!" said Mr. Cavendish; rubbing his white hands
together. "Are you familiar with the signatures of Nicholas Johnson and
James Ramsey?"

"I have seen them many times."

"Would you recognize them, if I were to show them to you?"

"I don't know sir."

"Oh! your memory begins to fail now, does it? How is it that you cannot
remember things with which you were familiar during a series of years,
when you were perfectly sane, and yet can remember things so well that
happened when your mind was confused?"

Mr. Benedict's mind was getting confused again, and he began to stammer.
Mr. Cavendish wondered that, in some way, Mr. Balfour did not come to
the relief of his witness, but he sat perfectly quiet, and apparently
unconcerned. Mr. Cavendish rummaged among his papers, and withdrew two
letters. These he handed to the witness. "Now," said he, "will the
witness examine these letters, and tell us whether he recognizes the
signatures as genuine?"

Mr. Benedict took the two letters, of which he had already heard through
Sam Yates, and very carefully read them. His quick, mechanical eye
measured the length and every peculiarity of the signatures. He spent so
much time upon them that even the court grew impatient.

"Take all the time you need, witness," said Mr. Balfour.

"All day, of course, if necessary," responded Mr. Cavendish raspingly.

"I think these are genuine autograph letters, both of them," said Mr.
Benedict.

"Thank you: now please hand them back to me."

"I have special reasons for requesting the Court to impound these
letters," said Mr. Balfour. "They will be needed again in the case."

"The witness will hand the letters to the clerk," said the judge.

Mr. Cavendish was annoyed, but acquiesced gracefully. Then he took up
the assignment, and said: "Witness, I hold in my hand a document signed,
sealed and witnessed on the 4th day of May, 1860, by which Paul Benedict
conveys to Robert Belcher his title to the patents, certified copies of
which have been placed in evidence. I want you to examine carefully your
own signature, and those of Johnson and Ramsey. Happily, one of the
witnesses is still living, and is ready, not only to swear to his own
signature, but to yours and to those of the other witnesses."

Mr. Cavendish advanced, and handed Benedict the instrument. The inventor
opened it, looked it hurriedly through, and then paused at the
signatures. After examining them long, with naked eyes, he drew a glass
from his pocket, and scrutinized them with a curious, absorbed look,
forgetful, apparently, where he was.

"Is the witness going to sleep?" inquired Mr. Cavendish; but he did not
stir. Mr. Belcher drew a large handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped
his red, perspiring face. It was an awful moment to him. Phipps, in his
seat, was as pale as a ghost, and sat watching his master.

At last Mr. Benedict looked up. He seemed as if he had been deprived of
the power of speech. His face was full of pain and fright. "I do not
know what to say to this," he said.

"Oh, you don't! I thought you wouldn't! Still, we should like to know
your opinion of the instrument," said Mr. Cavendish.

"I don't think you would like to know it, sir," said Benedict, quietly.

"What does the witness insinuate?" exclaimed the lawyer, jumping to his
feet. "No insinuations, sir!"

"Insinuations are very apt to breed insinuations," said the Judge,
quietly. "The witness has manifested no disinclination to answer your
direct questions."

"Very well," said Mr. Cavendish. "Is your signature at the foot of that
assignment?"

"It is not, sir."

"Perhaps those are not the signatures of the witnesses," said Mr.
Cavendish, with an angry sneer.

"Two of them, I have no doubt, are forgeries," responded Mr. Balfour,
with an excited voice.

Mr. Cavendish knew that it would do no good to manifest anger; so he
laughed. Then he sat down by the side of Mr. Belcher, and said something
to him, and they both laughed together.

"That's all," he said, nodding to the witness.

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Balfour, "we got along so well with
the question of identity that, with the leave of the defendant's
counsel, I propose, in order to save the time of the Court, that we push
our inquiries directly into the validity of this assignment. This is the
essential question, and the defendant has only to establish the validity
of the instrument to bring the case to an end at once. This done, the
suit will be abandoned."

"Certainly," said Mr. Cavendish, rising. "I agree to the scheme with the
single provision on behalf of the defendant, that he shall not be
debarred from his pleading of a denial of profits, in any event."

"Agreed," said Mr. Balfour.

"Very well," said Mr. Cavendish. "I shall call Cornelius Phipps, the
only surviving witness of the assignment."

But Cornelius Phipps did not appear when he was called. A second call
produced the same result. He was not in the house. He was sought for in
every possible retreat about the house, but could not be found.
Cornelius Phipps had mysteriously disappeared.

After consulting Mr. Belcher, Mr. Cavendish announced that the witness
who had been called was essential at the present stage of the case. He
thought it possible that in the long confinement of the court-room,
Phipps had become suddenly ill, and gone home. He hoped, for the honor
of the plaintiff in the case, that nothing worse had happened, and
suggested that the Court adjourn until the following day.

And the Court adjourned, amid tumultuous whispering. Mr. Belcher was
apparently oblivious of the fact, and sat and stared, until touched upon
the shoulder by his counsel, when he rose and walked out upon a world
and into an atmosphere that had never before seemed so strange and
unreal.




CHAPTER XXVII.

IN WHICH PHIPPS IS NOT TO BE FOUND, AND THE GENERAL IS CALLED UPON TO DO
HIS OWN LYING.


At the appointed hour on the following morning, the Court resumed its
session. The plaintiff and defendant were both in their places, with
their counsel, and the witnesses of the previous day were all in
attendance. Among the little group of witnesses there were two or three
new faces--a professional-looking gentleman with spectacles; a
thin-faced, carefully-dressed, slender man, with a lordly air, and the
bearing of one who carried the world upon his shoulders and did not
regard it as much of a burden; and, last, our old friend Sam Yates.

There was an appearance of perplexity and gloom on the countenances of
Mr. Cavendish and his client. They were in serious conversation, and it
was evident that they were in difficulty. Those who knew the occasion of
the abrupt adjournment of the Court on the previous day looked in vain
among the witnesses for the face of Phipps. He was not in the room, and,
while few suspected the real state of the case, all understood how
essential he was to the defendant, in his attempt to establish the
genuineness of the assignment.

At the opening of the Court, Mr. Cavendish rose to speak. His bold,
sharp manner had disappeared. The instrument which he had expected to
use had slipped hopelessly out of his hand. He was impotent. "May it
please the Court," he said, "the defendant in this case finds himself in
a very embarrassing position this morning. It was known yesterday that
Cornelius Phipps, the only surviving witness of the assignment,
mysteriously disappeared at the moment when his testimony was wanted.
Why and how he disappeared, I cannot tell. He has not yet been found.
All due diligence has been exercised to discover him, but without
success. I make no charges of foul play, but it is impossible for me,
knowing what I know about him--his irreproachable character, his
faithfulness to my client, and his perfect memory of every event
connected with the execution of the paper in question--to avoid the
suspicion that he is by some means, and against his will, detained from
appearing here this morning. I confess, sir, that I was not prepared for
this. It is hard to believe that the plaintiff could adopt a measure so
desperate as this for securing his ends, and I will not criminate him;
but I protest that the condition in which the defendant is left by this
defection, or this forcible detention--call it what you will--demands
the most generous consideration, and compels me to ask the Court for
suggestions as to the best course of proceeding. There are now but two
men in Court who saw the paper executed, namely, the assignor and the
assignee. The former has declared, with an effrontery which I have never
seen equalled, that he never signed the document which so unmistakably
bears his signature, and that the names of two of the witnesses are
forgeries. I do not expect that, in a struggle like this, the testimony
of the latter will be accepted, and I shall not stoop to ask it."

Mr. Cavendish hesitated, looked appealingly at the Judge, and then
slowly took his seat, when Mr. Balfour, without waiting for any
suggestions from the Court, rose and said:

"I appreciate the embarrassment of the defense, and am quite willing to
do all I can to relieve it. His insinuations of foul dealing toward his
witness are absurd, of course, and, to save any further trouble, I am
willing to receive as a witness, in place of Mr. Phipps, Mr. Belcher
himself, and to pledge myself to abide by what he establishes. I can do
no more than this, I am sure, and now I challenge him to take the
stand."

The Judge watched the defendant and his counsel in their whispered
consultation for a few minutes, and then said: "It seems to the Court
that the defense can reasonably ask for nothing more than this."

Mr. Belcher hesitated. He had not anticipated this turn of the case.
There appeared to be no alternative, however, and, at last, he rose with
a very red face, and walked to the witness-stand, placing himself just
where Mr. Balfour wanted him--in a position to be cross-examined.

It is useless to rehearse here the story which had been prepared for
Phipps, and for which Phipps had been prepared. Mr. Belcher swore to all
the signatures to the assignment, as having been executed in his
presence, on the day corresponding with the date of the paper. He was
permitted to enlarge upon all the circumstances of the occasion, and to
surround the execution of the assignment with the most ingenious
plausibilities. He told his story with a fine show of candor, and with
great directness and clearness, and undoubtedly made a profound
impression upon the Court and the jury. Then Mr. Cavendish passed him
into the hands of Mr. Balfour.

"Well, Mr. Belcher, you have told us a very straight story, but there
are a few little matters which I would like to have explained," said Mr.
Balfour. "Why, for instance, was your assignment placed on record only a
few months ago?"

"Because I was not a lawyer, sir," replied Mr. Belcher, delighted that
the first answer was so easy and so plausible. "I was not aware that it
was necessary, until so informed by Mr. Cavendish."

"Was Mr. Benedict's insanity considered hopeless from the first?"

"No," replied Mr. Belcher, cheerfully; "we were quite hopeful that we
should bring him out of it."

"He had lucid intervals, then."

"Yes, sir."

"Was that the reason why, the next day after the alleged assignment, you
wrote him a letter, urging him to make the assignment, and offering him
a royalty for the use of his patents?"

"I never wrote any such letter, sir. I never sent him any such letter,
sir."

"You sent him to the asylum, did you?"

"I co-operated with others, sir, and paid the bills," said Mr. Belcher,
with emphasis.

"Did you ever visit the asylum when he was there?"

"I did, sir."

"Did you apply to the superintendent for liberty to secure his signature
to a paper?"

"I do not remember that I did. It would have been an unnatural thing for
me to do. If I did, it was a paper on some subordinate affair. It was
some years ago, and the details of the visit did not impress themselves
upon my memory."

"How did you obtain the letters of Nicholas Johnson and James Ramsey? I
ask this, because they are not addressed to you."

"I procured them of Sam Yates, in anticipation of the trial now in
progress here. The witnesses were dead, and I thought they would help me
in establishing the genuineness of their signatures."

"What reason had you to anticipate this trial?"

"Well, sir, I am accustomed to providing for all contingencies. That is
the way I was made, sir. It seemed to me quite probable that Benedict,
if living, would forget what he had done before his insanity, and that,
if he were dead, some friend of his boy would engage in the suit on his
behalf. I procured the autographs after I saw his boy in your hands,
sir."

"So you had not seen these particular signatures at the time when the
alleged assignment was made."

"No, sir, I had not seen them."

"And you simply procured them to use as a defense in a suit which seemed
probable, or possible, and which now, indeed, is in progress of trial?"

"That is about as clear a statement of the fact as I can make, sir;"
and Mr. Belcher bowed and smiled.

"I suppose, Mr. Belcher," said Mr. Balfour, "that it seems very strange
to you that the plaintiff should have forgotten his signature."

"Not at all, sir. On the contrary, I regard it as the most natural thing
in the world. I should suppose that a man who had lost his mind once
would naturally lose his memory of many things."

"That certainly seems reasonable, but how is it that he does not
recognize it, even if he does not remember the writing of it?"

"I don't know; a man's signature changes with changing habits, I
suppose," responded the witness.

"You don't suppose that any genuine signature of yours could pass under
your eye undetected, do you?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"No, sir, I don't. I'll be frank with you, sir."

"Well, now, I'm going to test you. Perhaps other men, who have always
been sane, do sometimes forget their own signatures."

Mr. Balfour withdrew from his papers a note. Mr. Belcher saw it in the
distance, and made up his mind that it was the note he had written to
the lawyer before the beginning of the suit. The latter folded over the
signature so that it might be shown to the witness, independent of the
body of the letter, and then he stepped to him holding it in his hand,
and asked him to declare it either a genuine signature or a forgery.

"That's my sign manual, sir."

"You are sure?"

"I know it, sir."

"Very well," said Mr. Balfour, handing the letter to the clerk to be
marked. "You are right, I have no doubt, and I believe this is all I
want of you, for the present."

"And now, may it please the Court," said Mr. Balfour, "I have some
testimony to present in rebuttal of that of the defendant. I propose,
practically, to finish up this case with it, and to show that the story
to which you have listened is false in every particular.

"First, I wish to present the testimony of Dr. Charles Barhydt." At the
pronunciation of his name, the man in spectacles arose, and advanced to
the witness-stand.

"What is your name?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"Charles Barhydt."

"What is your profession?"

"I am a physician."

"You have an official position, I believe."

"Yes, sir; I have for fifteen years been the superintendent of the State
Asylum for the insane."

"Do you recognize the plaintiff in this case, as a former patient in the
asylum?"

"I do, sir."

"Was he ever visited by the defendant while in your care?"

"He was, sir."

"Did the defendant endeavor to procure his signature to any document
while he was in the asylum?"

"He did, sir."

"Did he apply to you for permission to get this signature, and did he
importunately urge you to give him this permission?"

"He did, sir."

"Did you read this document?"

"I did, sir."

"Do you remember what it was?"

"Perfectly, in a general way. It was an assignment of a number of patent
rights and sundry machines, implements and processes."

Mr. Balfour handed to the witness the assignment, and then said: "Be
kind enough to look that through, and tell us whether you ever saw it
before."

After reading the document through, the Doctor said:

"This is the identical paper which Mr. Belcher showed me or a very
close copy of it. Several of the patents named here I remember
distinctly, for I read the paper carefully, with a professional purpose.
I was curious to know what had been the mental habits of my patient."

"But you did not give the defendant liberty to procure the signature of
the patentee?"

"I did not. I refused to do so on the ground that he was not of sound
mind--that he was not a responsible person."

"When was this?"

"I have no record of the date, but it was after the 12th of May,
1860--the date of Mr. Benedict's admission to the asylum."

"That is all," said Mr. Balfour. Mr. Cavendish tried to cross-examine,
but without any result, except to emphasize the direct testimony, though
he tried persistently to make the witness remember that, while Mr.
Belcher might have shown him the assignment, and that he read it for the
purpose which he had stated, it was another paper to which he had wished
to secure the patient's signature.

Samuel Yates was next called.

"You are a member of our profession, I believe," said Mr. Balfour.

"I am, sir."

"Have you ever been in the service of the defendant in this case?"

"Yes, sir."

"What have you done for him?"

"I worked many months in the endeavor to ascertain whether Paul Benedict
was living or dead."

"It isn't essential that we should go into that; and as the defendant
has testified that he procured the autograph letters which are in the
possession of the Court from you, I presume you will corroborate his
testimony."

"He did procure them of me, sir."

"Did he inform you of the purpose to which he wished to put them?"

"He did, sir. He said that he wished to verify some signatures."

"Were you ever employed in his library at Sevenoaks, by his agent?"

"Yes, sir, I wrote there for several weeks."

"May it please the Court, I have a letter in my hand, the genuineness of
whose signature has been recognized by the defendant, written by Robert
Belcher to Paul Benedict, which, as it has a direct bearing upon the
case, I beg the privilege of placing in evidence. It was written the
next day after the date of the alleged assignment, and came inclosed
from Benedict's hands to mine."

Mr. Belcher evidently recalled the letter, for he sat limp in his chair,
like a man stunned. A fierce quarrel then arose between the counsel
concerning the admission of the letter. The Judge examined it, and said
that he could see no reason why it should not be admitted. Then Mr.
Balfour read the following note:

"SEVENOAKS, May 5, 1860.

"_Dear Benedict:_--I am glad to know that you are better. Since you
distrust my pledge that I will give you a reasonable share of the
profits on the use of your patents, I will go to your house this
afternoon, with witnesses, and have an independent paper prepared, to be
signed by myself, after the assignment is executed, which will give you
a definite claim upon me for royalty. We will be there at four o'clock.

"Yours, ROBERT BELCHER."

"Mr. Yates," said Mr. Balfour, "have you ever seen this letter before?"

Yates took the letter, looked it over, and then said: "I have, sir. I
found the letter in a drawer of the library-table, in Mr. Belcher's
house at Sevenoaks. I delivered it unopened to the man to whom it was
addressed, leaving him to decide the question as to whether it belonged
to him or the writer. I had no idea of its contents at the time, but
became acquainted with them afterwards, for I was present at the opening
of the letter."

"That is all," said Mr. Balfour.

"So you stole this letter, did you?" inquired Mr. Cavendish.

"I found it while in Mr. Belcher's service, and took it personally to
the man to whom it was addressed, as he apparently had the best right to
it. I am quite willing to return it to the writer, if it is decided that
it belongs to him. I had no selfish end to serve in the affair."

Here the Judge interposed. "The Court," said he, "finds this letter in
the hands of the plaintiff, delivered by a man who at the time was in
the employ of the defendant, and had the contents of the room in his
keeping. The paper has a direct bearing on the case, and the Court will
not go back of the facts stated."

Mr. Cavendish sat down and consulted his client. Mr. Belcher was afraid
of Yates. The witness not only knew too much concerning his original
intentions, but he was a lawyer who, if questioned too closely and
saucily, would certainly manage to bring in facts to his disadvantage.
Yates had already damaged him sadly, and Mr. Belcher felt that it would
not do to provoke a re-direct examination. So, after a whispered
colloquy with his counsel, the latter told the witness that he was done
with him. Then Mr. Belcher and his counsel conversed again for some
time, when Mr. Balfour rose and said, addressing the Court:

"The defendant and his counsel evidently need time for consultation,
and, as there is a little preliminary work to be done before I present
another witness, I suggest that the Court take a recess of an hour. In
the meantime, I wish to secure photographic copies of the signatures of
the two autograph letters, and of the four signatures of the assignment.
I ask the Court to place these documents in the keeping of an officer,
to be used for this purpose, in an adjoining room, where I have caused a
photographic apparatus to be placed, and where a skillful operator is
now in waiting. I ask this privilege, as it is essential to a perfect
demonstration of the character of the document on which the decision of
this case must turn."

The Judge acceded to Mr. Balfour's request, both in regard to the recess
and the use of the paper, and the assembly broke up into little knots of
earnest talkers, most of whom manifested no desire to leave the
building.

Mr. Cavendish approached Mr. Balfour, and asked for a private interview.
When they had retired to a lobby, he said: "You are not to take any
advantage of this conversation. I wish to talk in confidence."

"Very well," said Mr. Balfour.

"My client," said Cavendish, "is in a devilish bad box. His principal
witness has run away, his old friends all turn against him, and
circumstantial evidence doesn't befriend him. I have advised him to stop
this suit right here, and make a compromise. No one wants to kill the
General. He's a sharp man, but he is good-natured, and a useful citizen.
He can handle these patents better than Benedict can, and make money
enough for both of them. What could Benedict do if he had the patents in
his hands? He's a simpleton. He's a nobody. Any man capable of carrying
on his business would cheat him out of his eye-teeth."

"I am carrying on his business, myself, just at this time," remarked Mr.
Balfour, seriously.

"That's all right, of course; but you know that you and I can settle
this business better for these men than they can settle it for
themselves."

"I'll be frank with you," said Mr. Balfour. "I am not one who regards
Robert Belcher as a good-natured man and a useful citizen, and I, for
one--to use your own phrase--want to kill him. He has preyed upon the
public for ten years, and I owe a duty not only to my client but to
society I understand how good a bargain I could make with him at this
point, but I will make no bargain with him. He is an unmitigated
scoundrel, and he will only go out of this Court to be arrested for
crime; and I do not expect to drop him until I drop him into a
Penitentiary, where he can reflect upon his forgeries at leisure."

"Then you refuse any sort of a compromise."

"My dear sir," said Mr. Balfour, warmly, "do you suppose I can give a
man a right to talk of terms who is in my hands? Do you suppose I can
compromise with crime? You know I can't."

"Very well--let it go. I suppose I must go through with it. You
understand that this conversation is confidential."

"I do: and you?"

"Oh, certainly!"




CHAPTER XXVIII.

IN WHICH A HEAVENLY WITNESS APPEARS WHO CANNOT BE CROSS-EXAMINED, AND
BEFORE WHICH THE DEFENSE UTTERLY BREAKS DOWN.


At the re-assembling of the Court, a large crowd had come in. Those who
had heard the request of Mr. Balfour had reported what was going on,
and, as the promised testimony seemed to involve some curious features,
the court-room presented the most crowded appearance that it had worn
since the beginning of the trial.

Mr. Belcher had grown old during the hour. His consciousness of guilt,
his fear of exposure, the threatened loss of his fortune, and the
apprehension of a retribution of disgrace were sapping his vital forces,
minute by minute. All the instruments that he had tried to use for his
own base purposes were turned against himself. The great world that had
glittered around the successful man was growing dark, and, what was
worse, there were none to pity him. He had lived for himself; and now,
in his hour of trouble, no one was true to him, no one loved him--not
even his wife and children!

He gave a helpless, hopeless sigh, as Mr. Balfour called to the witness
stand Prof. Albert Timms.

Prof. Timms was the man already described among the three new witnesses,
as the one who seemed to be conscious of bearing the world upon his
shoulders, and to find it so inconsiderable a burden. He advanced to the
stand with the air of one who had no stake in the contest. His
impartiality came from indifference. He had an opportunity to show his
knowledge and his skill, and he delighted in it.

"What is your name, witness?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"Albert Timms, at your service."

"What is your calling, sir?"

"I have at present the charge of a department in the School of Mines. My
specialties are chemistry and microscopy."

"You are specially acquainted with these branches of natural science,
then."

"I am, sir."

"Have you been regarded as an expert in the detection of forgery?"

"I have been called as such in many cases of the kind, sir."

"Then you have had a good deal of experience in such things, and in the
various tests by which such matters are determined?"

"I have, sir."

"Have you examined the assignment and the autograph letters which have
been in your hands during the recess of the Court?"

"I have, sir."

"Do you know either the plaintiff or the defendant in this case?"

"I do not, sir. I never saw either of them until to-day."

"Has any one told you about the nature of these papers, so as to
prejudice your mind in regard to any of them?"

"No, sir. I have not exchanged a word with any one in regard to them."

"What is your opinion of the two letters?"

"That they are veritable autographs."

"How do you judge this?"

"From the harmony of the signatures with the text of the body of the
letters, by the free and natural shaping and interflowing of the lines,
and by a general impression of truthfulness which it is very difficult
to communicate in words."

"What do you think of the signatures to the assignment?"

"I think they are all counterfeits but one."

"Prof. Timms, this is a serious matter. You should be very sure of the
truth of a statement like this. You say you think they are counterfeits:
why?"

"If the papers can be handed to me," said the witness, "I will show what
leads me to think so."

The papers were handed to him, and, placing the letters on the bar on
which he had been leaning, he drew from his pocket a little rule, and
laid it lengthwise along the signature of Nicholas Johnson. Having
recorded the measurement, he next took the corresponding name on the
assignment.

"I find the name of Nicholas Johnson of exactly the same length on the
assignment that it occupies on the letter," said he.

"Is that a suspicious circumstance?"

"It is, and, moreover," (going on with his measurements) "there is not
the slightest variation between the two signatures in the length of a
letter. Indeed, to the naked eye, one signature is the counterpart of
the other, in every characteristic."

"How do you determine, then, that it is anything but a genuine
signature?"

"The imitation is too nearly perfect."

"How can that be?"

"Well; no man writes his signature twice alike. There is not one chance
in a million that he will do so, without definitely attempting to do so,
and then he will be obliged to use certain appliances to guide him."

"Now will you apply the same test to the other signature?"

Prof. Timms went carefully to work again with his measure. He examined
the form of every letter in detail, and compared it with its twin, and
declared, at the close of his examination, that he found the second name
as close a counterfeit as the first.

"Both names on the assignment, then, are exact fac-similes of the names
on the autograph letters," said Mr. Balfour.

"They are, indeed, sir--quite wonderful reproductions."

"The work must have been done, then, by a very skillful man," said Mr.
Balfour.

The professor shook his head pityingly. "Oh, no, sir," he said. "None
but bunglers ever undertake a job like this. Here, sir, are two forged
signatures. If one genuine signature, standing alone, has one chance in
a million of being exactly like any previous signature of the writer,
two standing together have not one chance in ten millions of being exact
fac-similes of two others brought together by chance.

"How were these fac-similes produced?" inquired Mr. Balfour.

"They could only have been produced by tracing first with a pencil,
directly over the signature to be counterfeited."

"Well, this seems very reasonable, but have you any further tests?"

"Under this magnifying glass," said the professor, pushing along his
examination at the same time, "I see a marked difference between the
signatures on the two papers, which is not apparent to the naked eye.
The letters of the genuine autograph have smooth, unhesitating lines;
those of the counterfeits present certain minute irregularities that are
inseparable from pains-taking and slow execution. Unless the Court and
the jury are accustomed to the use of a glass, and to examinations of
this particular character, they will hardly be able to see just what I
describe, but I have an experiment which will convince them that I am
right."

"Can you perform this experiment here, and now?"

"I can, sir, provided the Court will permit me to establish the
necessary conditions. I must darken the room, and as I notice that the
windows are all furnished with shutters, the matter may be very quickly
and easily accomplished."

"Will you describe the nature of your experiment?"

"Well, sir, during the recess of the Court, I have had photographed upon
glass all the signatures. These, with the aid of a solar microscope, I
can project upon the wall behind the jury, immensely enlarged, so that
the peculiarities I have described may be detected by every eye in the
house, with others, probably, if the sun remains bright and strong, that
I have not alluded to."

"The experiment will be permitted," said the judge, "and the officers
and the janitor will give the Professor all the assistance he needs."

Gradually, as the shutters were closed, the room grew dark, and the
faces of Judge, Jury and the anxious-looking parties within the bar grew
weird and wan among the shadows. A strange silence and awe descended
upon the crowd. The great sun in heaven was summoned as a witness, and
the sun would not lie. A voice was to speak to them from a hundred
millions of miles away--a hundred millions of miles near the realm
toward which men looked when they dreamed of the Great White Throne.

They felt as a man might feel, were he conscious, in the darkness of the
tomb, when waiting for the trump of the resurrection and the breaking of
the everlasting day. Men heard their own hearts beat, like the tramp of
trooping hosts; yet there was one man who was glad of the darkness. To
him the judgment day had come; and the closing shutters were the rocks
that covered him. He could see and not be seen. He could behold his own
shame and not be conscious that five hundred eyes were upon him.

All attention was turned to the single pair of shutters not entirely
closed. Outside of these, the professor had established his heliostat,
and then gradually, by the aid of drapery, he narrowed down the entrance
of light to a little aperture where a single silver bar entered and
pierced the darkness like a spear. Then this was closed by the insertion
of his microscope, and, leaving his apparatus in the hands of an
assistant, he felt his way back to his old position.

"May it please the Court, I am ready for the experiment," he said.

"The witness will proceed," said the judge.

"There will soon appear upon the wall, above the heads of the Jury,"
said Prof. Timms, "the genuine signature of Nicholas Johnson, as it has
been photographed from the autograph letter. I wish the Judge and Jury
to notice two things in this signature--the cleanly-cut edges of the
letters, and the two lines of indentation produced by the two prongs of
the pen, in its down-stroke. They will also notice that, in the
up-stroke of the pen, there is no evidence of indentation whatever. At
the point where the up-stroke begins, and the down-stroke ends, the
lines of indentation will come together and cease."

As he spoke the last word, the name swept through the darkness over an
unseen track, and appeared upon the wall, within a halo of amber light.
All eyes saw it, and all found the characteristics that had been
predicted. The professor said not a word. There was not a whisper in the
room. When a long minute had passed, the light was shut off.

"Now," said the professor, "I will show you in the same place, the name
of Nicholas Johnson, as it has been photographed from the signatures to
the assignment. What I wish you to notice particularly in this signature
is, first, the rough and irregular edges of the lines which constitute
the letters. They will be so much magnified as to present very much the
appearance of a Virginia fence. Second, another peculiarity which ought
to be shown in the experiment--one which has a decided bearing upon the
character of the signature. If the light continues strong, you will be
able to detect it. The lines of indentation made by the two prongs of
the pen will be evident, as in the real signature. I shall be
disappointed if there do not also appear a third line, formed by the
pencil which originally traced the letters, and this line will not only
accompany, in an irregular way, crossing from side to side, the two
indentations of the down-strokes of the pen, but it will accompany
irregularly the hair-lines. I speak of this latter peculiarity with some
doubt, as the instrument I use is not the best which science now has at
its command for this purpose, though competent under perfect
conditions."

He paused, and then the forged signatures appeared upon the wall. There
was a universal burst of admiration, and then all grew still--as if
those who had given way to their feelings were suddenly stricken with
the consciousness that they were witnessing a drama in which divine
forces were playing a part. There were the ragged, jagged edges of the
letters; there was the supplementary line, traceable in every part of
them. There was man's lie--revealed, defined, convicted by God's truth!

The letters lingered, and the room seemed almost sensibly to sink in the
awful silence. Then the stillness was broken by a deep voice. What lips
it came from, no one knew, for all the borders of the room were as dark
as night. It seemed, as it echoed from side to side, to come from every
part of the house: "_Mene, mene, tekel upharsin!_" Such was the effect
of these words upon the eager and excited, yet thoroughly solemnized
crowd, that when the shutters were thrown open, they would hardly have
been surprised to see the bar covered with golden goblets and bowls of
wassail, surrounded by lordly revellers and half-nude women, with the
stricken Belshazzar at the head of the feast. Certainly Belshazzar, on
his night of doom, could hardly have presented a more pitiful front than
Robert Belcher, as all eyes were turned upon him. His face was haggard,
his chin had dropped upon his breast, and he reclined in his chair like
one on whom the plague had laid its withering hand.

There stood Prof. Timms in his triumph. His experiment had proved to be
a brilliant success, and that was all he cared for.

"You have not shown us the other signatures," said Mr. Balfour.

"False in one thing, false in all," responded the professor, shrugging
his shoulders. "I can show you the others; they would be like this; you
would throw away your time."

Mr. Cavendish did not look at the witness, but pretended to write.

"Does the counsel for the defense wish to question the witness?"
inquired Mr. Balfour, turning to him.

"No," very sharply.

"You can step down," said Mr. Balfour. As the witness passed him, he
quietly grasped his hand and thanked him. A poorly suppressed cheer ran
around the court-room as he resumed his seat. Jim Fenton, who had never
before witnessed an experiment like that which, in the professor's
hands, had been so successful, was anxious to make some personal
demonstration of his admiration. Restrained from this by his
surroundings, he leaned over and whispered: "Perfessor, you've did a big
thing, but it's the fust time I ever knowed any good to come from
peekin' through a key-hole."

"Thank you," and the professor nodded sidewise, evidently desirous of
shutting Jim off, but the latter wanted further conversation.

"Was it you that said it was mean to tickle yer parson?" inquired Jim.

"What?" said the astonished professor, looking round in spite of
himself.

"Didn't you say it was mean to tickle yer parson? It sounded more like a
furriner," said Jim.

When the professor realized the meaning that had been attached by Jim to
the "original Hebrew," he was taken with what seemed to be a nasal
hemorrhage that called for his immediate retirement from the court-room.

What was to be done next? All eyes were turned upon the counsel who were
in earnest conversation. Too evidently the defense had broken down
utterly. Mr. Cavendish was angry, and Mr. Belcher sat beside him like a
man who expected every moment to be smitten in the face, and who would
not be able to resent the blow.

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Cavendish, "it is impossible, of
course, for counsel to know what impression this testimony has made upon
the Court and the jury. Dr. Barhydt, after a lapse of years, and
dealings with thousands of patients, comes here and testifies to an
occurrence which my client's testimony makes impossible; a sneak
discovers a letter which may have been written on the third or the fifth
of May, 1860--it is very easy to make a mistake in the figure, and this
stolen letter, never legitimately delivered,--possibly never intended to
be delivered under any circumstances--is produced here in evidence; and,
to crown all, we have had the spectacular drama in a single act by a man
who has appealed to the imaginations of us all, and who, by his skill in
the management of an experiment with which none of us are familiar, has
found it easy to make a falsehood appear like the truth. The counsel for
the plaintiff has been pleased to consider the establishment or the
breaking down of the assignment as the practical question at issue. I
cannot so regard it. The question is, whether my client is to be
deprived of the fruits of long years of enterprise, economy and
industry; for it is to be remembered that, by the plaintiff's own
showing, the defendant was a rich man when he first knew him. I deny the
profits from the use of the plaintiff's patented inventions, and call
upon him to prove them. I not only call upon him to prove them, but I
defy him to prove them. It will take something more than superannuated
doctors, stolen letters and the performances of a mountebank to do
this."

This speech, delivered with a sort of frenzied bravado, had a wonderful
effect upon Mr. Belcher. He straightened in his chair, and assumed his
old air of self-assurance. He could sympathize in any game of "bluff,"
and when it came down to a square fight for money his old self came back
to him. During the little speech of Mr. Cavendish, Mr. Balfour was
writing, and when the former sat down, the latter rose, and, addressing
the Court, said: "I hold in my hand a written notice, calling upon the
defendant's counsel to produce in Court a little book in the possession
of his client entitled 'Records of profits and investments of profits
from manufactures under the Benedict patents,' and I hereby serve it
upon him."

Thus saying, he handed the letter to Mr. Cavendish, who received and
read it.

Mr. Cavendish consulted his client, and then rose and said: "May it
please the Court, there is no such book in existence."

"I happen to know," rejoined Mr. Balfour, "that there is such a book in
existence, unless it has recently been destroyed. This I stand ready to
prove by the testimony of Helen Dillingham, the sister of the
plaintiff."

"The witness can be called," said the judge.

Mrs. Dillingham looked paler than on the day before, as she voluntarily
lifted her veil, and advanced to the stand. She had dreaded the
revelation of her own treachery toward the treacherous proprietor, but
she had sat and heard him perjure himself, until her own act, which had
been performed on behalf of justice, became one of which she could
hardly be ashamed.

"Mrs. Dillingham," said Mr. Balfour, "have you been on friendly terms
with the defendant in this case?"

"I have, sir," she answered. "He has been a frequent visitor at my
house, and I have visited his family at his own."

"Was he aware that the plaintiff was your brother?"

"He was not."

"Has he, from the first, made a confidant of you?"

"In some things--yes."

"Do you know Harry Benedict--the plaintiff's son?"

"I do, sir."

"How long have you known him?"

"I made his acquaintance soon after he came to reside with you, sir, in
the city."

"Did you seek his acquaintance?"

"I did, sir."

"From what motive?"

"Mr. Belcher wished me to do it, in order to ascertain of him whether
his father were living or dead."

"You did not then know that the lad was your nephew?"

"I did not, sir.'

"Have you ever told Mr. Belcher that your brother was alive?"

"I told him that Paul Benedict was alive, at the last interview but one
that I ever had with him."

"Did he give you at this interview any reason for his great anxiety to
ascertain the facts as to Mr. Benedict's life or death?"

"He did, sir."

"Was there any special occasion for the visit you allude to?"

"I think there was, sir. He had just lost heavily in International Mail,
and evidently came in to talk about business. At any rate, he did talk
about it, as he had never done before."

"Can you give us the drift or substance of his conversation and
statements?"

"Well, sir, he assured me that he had not been shaken by his losses,
said that he kept his manufacturing business entirely separate from his
speculations, gave me a history of the manner in which my brother's
inventions had come into his hands, and, finally, showed me a little
account book, in which he had recorded his profits from manufactures
under what he called the Benedict Patents."

"Did you read this book, Mrs. Dillingham?"

"I did, sir."

"Every word?"

"Every word."

"Did you hear me serve a notice on the defendant's counsel to produce
this book in Court?"

"I did, sir."

"In that notice did I give the title of the book correctly?"

"You did, sir."

"Was this book left in your hands for a considerable length of time?"

"It was, sir, for several hours."

"Did you copy it?"

"I did, sir, every word of it."

"Are you sure that you made a correct copy?"

"I verified it, sir, item by item, again and again."

"Can you give me any proof corroborative of your statement that this
book has been in your hands?"

"I can, sir."

"What is it?"

"A letter from Mr. Belcher, asking me to deliver the book to his man
Phipps."

"Is that the letter?" inquired Mr. Balfour, passing the note into her
hands.

"It is, sir."

"May it please the Court," said Mr. Balfour, turning to the Judge, "the
copy of this account-book is in my possession, and if the defendant
persists in refusing to produce the original, I shall ask the privilege
of placing it in evidence."

During the examination of this witness, the defendant and his counsel
sat like men overwhelmed. Mr. Cavendish was angry with his client, who
did not even hear the curses which were whispered in his ear. The latter
had lost not only his money, but the woman whom he loved. The
perspiration stood in glistening beads upon his forehead. Once he put
his head down upon the table before him, while his frame was convulsed
with an uncontrollable passion. He held it there until Mr. Cavendish
touched him, when he rose and staggered to a pitcher of iced water upon
the bar, and drank a long draught. The exhibition of his pain was too
terrible to excite in the beholders any emotion lighter than pity.

The Judge looked at Mr. Cavendish who was talking angrily with his
client. After waiting for a minute or two, he said: "Unless the original
of this book be produced, the Court will be obliged to admit the copy.
It was made by one who had it in custody from the owner's hands."

"I was not aware," said Mr. Cavendish fiercely, "that a crushing
conspiracy like this against my client could be carried on in any court
of the United States, under judicial sanction."

"The counsel must permit the Court," said the Judge calmly, "to remind
him that it is so far generous toward his disappointment and discourtesy
as to refrain from punishing him for contempt, and to warn him against
any repetition of his offense."

Mr. Cavendish sneered in the face of the Judge, but held his tongue,
while Mr. Balfour presented and read the contents of the document. All
of Mr. Belcher's property at Sevenoaks, his rifle manufactory, the goods
in Talbot's hands, and sundry stocks and bonds came into the
enumeration, with the enormous foreign deposit, which constituted the
General's "anchor to windward." It was a handsome showing. Judge, jury
and spectators were startled by it, and were helped to understand,
better than they had previously done, the magnitude of the stake for
which the defendant had played his desperate game, and the stupendous
power of the temptation before which he had been led to sacrifice both
his honor and his safety.

Mr. Cavendish went over to Mr. Balfour, and they held a long
conversation, _sotto voce_. Then Mrs. Dillingham was informed that she
could step down, as she would not be wanted for cross-examination. Mr.
Belcher had so persistently lied to his counsel, and his case had become
so utterly hopeless, that even Cavendish practically gave it up.

Mr. Balfour then addressed the Court, and said that it had been agreed
between himself and Mr. Cavendish, in order to save the time of the
Court, that the case should be given to the jury by the Judge, without
presentation or argument of counsel.

The Judge occupied a few minutes in recounting the evidence, and
presenting the issue, and without leaving their seats the jury rendered
a verdict for the whole amount of damages claimed.

The bold, vain-glorious proprietor was a ruined man. The consciousness
of power had vanished. The law had grappled with him, shaken him once,
and dropped him. He had had a hint from his counsel of Mr. Balfour's
intentions, and knew that the same antagonist would wait but a moment to
pounce upon him again, and shake the life out of him. It was curious to
see how, not only in his own consciousness, but in his appearance, he
degenerated into a very vulgar sort of scoundrel. In leaving the
Court-room, he skulked by the happy group that surrounded the inventor,
not even daring to lift his eyes to Mrs. Dillingham. When he was rich
and powerful, with such a place in society as riches and power
commanded, he felt himself to be the equal of any woman; but he had been
degraded and despoiled in the presence of his idol, and knew that he was
measurelessly and hopelessly removed from her. He was glad to get away
from the witnesses of his disgrace, and the moment he passed the door,
he ran rapidly down the stairs, and emerged upon the street.




CHAPTER XXIX.

WHEREIN MR. BELCHER, HAVING EXHIBITED HIS DIRTY RECORD, SHOWS A CLEAN
PAIR OF HEELS.


The first face that Mr. Belcher met upon leaving the Court-House was
that of Mr. Talbot.

"Get into my coupe," said Talbot. "I will take you home."

Mr. Belcher got into the coupe quickly, as if he were hiding from some
pursuing danger. "Home!" said he, huskily, and in a whimpering voice.
"Home! Good God! I wish I knew where it was."

"What's the matter, General? How has the case gone?"

"Gone? Haven't you been in the house?"

"No; how has it gone?"

"Gone to hell," said Mr. Belcher, leaning over heavily upon Talbot, and
whispering it in his ear.

"Not so bad as that, I hope," said Talbot, pushing him off.

"Toll," said the suffering man, "haven't I always used you well? You are
not going to turn against the General? You've made a good thing out of
him, Toll."

"What's happened, General? Tell me."

"Toll, you'll be shut up to-morrow. Play your cards right. Make friends
with the mammon of unrighteousness."

Talbot sat and thought very fast. He saw that there was serious trouble,
and questioned whether he were not compromising himself. Still, the fact
that the General had enriched him, determined him to stand by his old
principal as far as he could, consistently with his own safety.

"What can I do for you, General?" he said.

"Get me out of the city. Get me off to Europe. You know I have funds
there."

"I'll do what I can, General."

"You're a jewel, Toll."

"By the way," said Talbot, "the Crooked Valley corporation held its
annual meeting to-day. You are out, and they have a new deal."

"They'll find out something to-morrow, Toll. It all comes together."

When the coupe drove up at Palgrave's Folly, and the General alighted,
he found one of his brokers on the steps, with a pale face. "What's the
matter?" said Mr. Belcher.

"The devil's to pay."

"I'm glad of it," said he. "I hope you'll get it all out of him."

"It's too late for joking," responded the man seriously. "We want to see
you at once. You've been over-reached in this matter of the Air Line,
and you've got some very ugly accounts to settle."

"I'll be down to-morrow early," said the General.

"We want to see you to-night," said the broker.

"Very well, come here at nine o'clock."

Then the broker went away, and Mr. Belcher and Mr. Talbot went in. They
ascended to the library, and there, in a few minutes, arranged their
plans. Mrs. Belcher was not to be informed of them, but was to be left
to get the news of her husband's overthrow after his departure. "Sarah's
been a good wife, Toll," he said, "but she was unequally yoked with an
unbeliever and hasn't been happy for a good many years. I hope you'll
look after her a little, Toll. Save something for her, if you can. Of
course, she'll have to leave here, and it won't trouble her much."

At this moment the merry voices of his children came through an opening
door.

The General gave a great gulp in the endeavor to swallow his emotion.
After all, there was a tender spot in him.

"Toll, shut the door; I can't stand that. Poor little devils! What's
going to become of them?"

The General was busy with his packing. In half an hour his arrangements
were completed. Then Talbot went to one of the front rooms of the house,
and, looking from the window, saw a man talking with the driver of his
coupe. It was an officer. Mr. Belcher peeped through the curtain, and
knew him. What was to be done? A plan of escape was immediately made and
executed. There was a covered passage into the stable from the rear of
the house, and through that both the proprietor and Talbot made their
way. Now that Phipps had left him, Mr. Belcher had but a single servant
who could drive. He was told to prepare the horses at once, and to make
himself ready for service. After everything was done, but the opening of
the doors, Talbot went back through the house, and, on appearing at the
front door of the mansion, was met by the officer, who inquired for Mr.
Belcher. Mr. Talbot let him in, calling for a servant at the same time,
and went out and closed the door behind him.

Simultaneously with this movement, the stable-doors flew open, and the
horses sprang out upon the street, and were half a mile on their way to
one of the upper ferries, leading to Jersey City, before the officer
could get an answer to his inquiries for Mr. Belcher. Mr. Belcher had
been there only five minutes before, but he had evidently gone out. He
would certainly be back to dinner. So the officer waited until convinced
that his bird had flown, and until the proprietor was across the river
in search of a comfortable bed among the obscure hotels of the town.

It had been arranged that Talbot should secure a state-room on the
Aladdin to sail on the following day, and make an arrangement with the
steward to admit Mr. Belcher to it on his arrival, and assist in keeping
him from sight.

Mr. Belcher sent back his carriage by the uppermost ferry, ate a
wretched dinner, and threw himself upon his bed, where he tossed his
feverish limbs until day-break. It was a night thronged with nervous
fears. He knew that New York would resound with his name on the
following day. Could he reach his state-room on the Aladdin without
being discovered? He resolved to try it early the next morning, though
he knew the steamer would not sail until noon. Accordingly, as the day
began to break, he rose and looked out of his dingy window. The milk-men
only were stirring. At the lower end of the street he could see masts,
and the pipes of the great steamers, and a ferry-boat crossing to get
its first batch of passengers for an early train. Then a wretched man
walked under his window, looking for something,--hoping, after the
accidents of the evening, to find money for his breakfast. Mr. Belcher
dropped him a dollar, and the man looked up and said feebly: "May God
bless you, sir!"

This little benediction was received gratefully. It would do to start
on. He felt his way down stairs, called for his reckoning, and when,
after an uncomfortable and vexatious delay, he had found a sleepy,
half-dressed man to receive his money, he went out upon the street,
satchel in hand, and walked rapidly toward the slip where the Aladdin
lay asleep.

Talbot's money had done its work well, and the fugitive had only to make
himself known to the officer in charge to secure an immediate entrance
into the state-room that had been purchased for him. He shut to the door
and locked it; then he took off his clothes and went to bed.

Mr. Belcher's entrance upon the vessel had been observed by a policeman,
but, though it was an unusual occurrence, the fact that he was received
showed that he had been expected. As the policeman was soon relieved
from duty, he gave the matter no farther thought, so that Mr. Belcher
had practically made the passage from his library to his state-room
unobserved.

After the terrible excitements of the two preceding days, and the
sleeplessness of the night, Mr. Belcher with the first sense of security
fell into a heavy slumber. All through the morning there were officers
on the vessel who knew that he was wanted, but his state-room had been
engaged for an invalid lady, and the steward assured the officers that
she was in the room, and was not to be disturbed.

The first consciousness that came to the sleeper was with the first
motion of the vessel as she pushed out from her dock. He rose and
dressed, and found himself exceedingly hungry. There was nothing to do,
however, but to wait. The steamer would go down so as to pass the bar at
high tide, and lay to for the mails and the latest passengers, to be
brought down the bay by a tug. He knew that he could not step from his
hiding until the last policeman had left the vessel, with the casting
off of its tender, and so sat and watched from the little port-hole
which illuminated his room the panorama of the Jersey and the Staten
Island shores.

His hard, exciting life was retiring. He was leaving his foul
reputation, his wife and children, his old pursuits and his fondly
cherished idol behind him. He was leaving danger behind. He was leaving
Sing Sing behind! He had all Europe, with plenty of money, before him.
His spirits began to rise. He even took a look into his mirror, to be a
witness of his own triumph.

At four o'clock, after the steamer had lain at anchor for two or three
hours, the tug arrived, and as his was the leeward side of the vessel,
she unloaded her passengers upon the steamer where he could see them.
There were no faces that he knew, and he was relieved. He heard a great
deal of tramping about the decks, and through the cabin. Once, two men
came into the little passage into which his door opened. He heard his
name spoken, and the whispered assurance that his room was occupied by a
sick woman; and then they went away.

At last, the orders were given to cast off the tug. He saw the anxious
looks of officers as they slid by his port-hole, and then he realized
that he was free.

The anchor was hoisted, the great engine lifted itself to its mighty
task, and the voyage was begun. They had gone down a mile, perhaps,
when Mr. Belcher came out of his state-room. Supper was not ready--would
not be ready for an hour. He took a hurried survey of the passengers,
none of whom he knew. They were evidently gentle-folk, mostly from
inland cities, who were going to Europe for pleasure. He was glad to see
that he attracted little attention. He sat down on deck, and took up a
newspaper which a passenger had left behind him.

The case of "Benedict _vs._ Belcher" absorbed three or four columns,
besides a column of editorial comment, in which the General's character
and his crime were painted with a free hand and in startling colors.
Then, in the financial column, he found a record of the meeting of the
Crooked Valley Corporation, to which was added the statement that
suspicions were abroad that the retiring President had been guilty of
criminal irregularities in connection with the bonds of the
Company--irregularities which would immediately become a matter of
official investigation. There was also an account of his operations in
Muscogee Air Line, and a rumor that he had fled from the city, by some
of the numerous out-going lines of steamers, and that steps had already
been taken to head him off at every possible point of landing in this
country and Europe.

This last rumor was not calculated to increase his appetite, or restore
his self-complacency and self-assurance. He looked all these accounts
over a second time, in a cursory way, and was about to fold the paper,
so as to hide or destroy it, when his eye fell upon a column of foreign
despatches. He had never been greatly interested in this department of
his newspaper, but now that he was on his way to Europe, they assumed a
new significance; and, beginning at the top, he read them through. At
the foot of the column, he read the words: "Heavy Failure of a Banking
House;" and his attention was absorbed at once by the item which
followed:

"The House of Tempin Brothers, of Berlin, has gone down. The failure is
said to be utterly disastrous, even the special deposits in the hands
of the house having been used. The House was a favorite with Americans,
and the failure will inevitably produce great distress among those who
are traveling for pleasure. The house is said to have no assets, and the
members are not to be found."

Mr. Belcher's "Anchor to windward" had snapped its cable, and he was
wildly afloat, with ruin behind him, and starvation or immediate arrest
before. With curses on his white lips, and with a trembling hand, he cut
out the item, walked to his state-room, and threw the record of his
crime and shame out of the port-hole. Then, placing the little excerpt
in the pocket of his waistcoat, he went on deck.

There sat the happy passengers, wrapped in shawls, watching the setting
sun, thinking of the friends and scenes they had left behind them, and
dreaming of the unknown world that lay before. Three or four elderly
gentlemen were gathered in a group, discussing Mr. Belcher himself; but
none of them knew him. He had no part in the world of honor and of
innocence in which all these lived. He was an outlaw. He groaned when
the overwhelming consciousness of his disgrace came upon him--groaned to
think that not one of all the pleasant people around could know him
without shrinking from him as a monster.

He was looking for some one. A sailor engaged in service passed near
him. Stepping to his side, Mr. Belcher asked him to show him the
captain. The man pointed to the bridge. "There's the Cap'n, sir--the man
in the blue coat and brass buttons." Then he went along.

Mr. Belcher immediately made his way to the bridge. He touched his hat
to the gruff old officer, and begged his pardon for obtruding himself
upon him, but he was in trouble, and wanted advice.

"Very well, out with it: what's the matter?" said the Captain.

Mr. Belcher drew out the little item he had saved, and said: "Captain, I
have seen this bit of news for the first time since I started. This
firm held all the money I have in the world. Is there any possible way
for me to get back to my home?"

"I don't know of any," said the captain.

"But I must go back."

"You'll have to swim for it, then."

Mr. Belcher was just turning away in despair, with a thought of suicide
in his mind, when the captain said: "There's Pilot-boat Number 10. She's
coming round to get some papers. Perhaps I can get you aboard of her,
but you are rather heavy for a jump."

The wind was blowing briskly off shore, and the beautiful pilot-boat,
with her wonderful spread of canvass, was cutting the water as a bird
cleaves the air. She had been beating toward land, but, as she saw the
steamer, she rounded to, gave way before the wind, worked toward the
steamer's track on the windward side, and would soon run keel to keel
with her.

"Fetch your traps," said the captain. "I can get you on board, if you
are in time."

Mr. Belcher ran to his state-room, seized his valise, and was soon again
on deck. The pilot-boat was within ten rods of the steamer, curving in
gracefully toward the monster, and running like a race-horse. The
Captain had a bundle of papers in his hand. He held them while Mr.
Belcher went over the side of the vessel, down the ladder, and turned
himself for his jump. There was peril in the venture, but desperation
had strung his nerves. The captain shouted, and asked the bluff fellows
on the little craft to do him the personal favor to take his passenger
on shore, at their convenience. Then a sailor tossed them the valise,
and the captain tossed them the papers. Close in came the little boat.
It was almost under Mr. Belcher. "Jump!" shouted half a dozen voices
together, and the heavy man lay sprawling upon the deck among the
laughing crew. A shout and a clapping of hands was heard from the
steamer, "Number 10" sheered off, and continued her cruise, and,
stunned and bruised, the General crawled into the little cabin, where it
took only ten minutes of the new motion to make him so sick that his
hunger departed, and he was glad to lie where, during the week that he
tossed about in the cruise for in-coming vessels, he would have been
glad to die.

One, two, three, four steamers were supplied with pilots, and an
opportunity was given him on each occasion to go into port, but he would
wait. He had told the story of his bankers, given a fictitious name to
himself, and managed to win the good will of the simple men around him.
His bottle of brandy and his box of cigars were at their service, and
his dress was that of a gentleman. His natural drollery took on a very
amusing form during his sickness, and the men found him a source of
pleasure rather than an incumbrance.

At length the last pilot was disposed of, and "Number 10" made for home;
and on a dark midnight she ran in among the shipping above the Battery,
on the North River, and was still.

Mr. Belcher was not without ready money. He was in the habit of carrying
a considerable sum, and, before leaving Talbot, he had drained that
gentleman's purse. He gave a handsome fee to the men, and, taking his
satchel in his hand, went on shore. He was weak and wretched with long
seasickness and loss of sleep, and staggered as he walked along the
wharf like a drunken man. He tried to get one of the men to go with him,
and carry his burden, but each wanted the time with his family, and
declined to serve him at any price. So he followed up the line of
shipping for a few blocks, went by the dens where drunken sailors and
river-thieves were carousing, and then turned up Fulton Street toward
Broadway. He knew that the city cars ran all night, but he did not dare
to enter one of them. Reaching the Astor, he crossed over, and, seeing
an up-town car starting off without a passenger, he stepped upon the
front platform, where he deposited his satchel, and sat down upon it.
People came into the car and stepped off, but they could not see him.
He was oppressed with drowsiness, yet he was painfully wide awake.

At length he reached the vicinity of his old splendors. The car was
stopped, and, resuming his burden, he crossed over to Fifth Avenue, and
stood in front of the palace which had been his home. It was dark at
every window. Where were his wife and children? Who had the house in
keeping? He was tired, and sat down on the curb-stone, under the very
window where Mr. Balfour was at that moment sleeping. He put his dizzy
head between his hands, and whimpered like a sick boy. "Played out!"
said he; "played out!"

He heard a measured step in the distance. He must not be seen by the
watch; so he rose and bent his steps toward Mrs. Dillingham's. Opposite
to her house, he sat down upon the curb-stone again, and recalled his
old passion for her. The thought of her treachery and of his own
fatuitous vanity--the reflection that he had been so blind in his
self-conceit that she had led him to his ruin, stung him to the quick.
He saw a stone at his feet. He picked it up, and, taking his satchel in
one hand, went half across the street, and hurled the little missile at
her window. He heard the crash of glass and a shrill scream, and then
walked rapidly off. Then he heard a watchman running from a distance;
for the noise was peculiar, and resounded along the street. The watchman
met him and made an inquiry, but passed on without suspecting the
fugitive's connection with the alarm.

As soon as he was out of the street, he quickened his pace, and went
directly to Talbot's. Then he rang the door-bell, once, twice, thrice.
Mr. Talbot put his head out of the window, looked down, and, in the
light of a street lamp, discovered the familiar figure of his old
principal. "I'll come down," he said, "and let you in."

The conference was a long one, and it ended in both going into the
street, and making their way to Talbot's stable, two or three blocks
distant. There the coachman was roused, and there Talbot gave Mr.
Belcher the privilege of sleeping until he was wanted.

Mr. Talbot had assured Mr. Belcher that he would not be safe in his
house, that the whole town was alive with rumors about him, and that
while some believed he had escaped and was on his way to Europe, others
felt certain that he had not left the city.

Mr. Belcher had been a railroad man, and Mr. Talbot was sure that the
railroad men would help him. He would secure a special car at his own
cost, on a train that would leave on the following night. He would see
that the train should stop before crossing Harlem Bridge. At that moment
the General must be there. Mr. Talbot would send him up, to sit in his
cab until the train should stop, and then to take the last car, which
should be locked after him; and he could go through in it without
observation.

A breakfast was smuggled into the stable early, where Mr. Belcher lay
concealed, of which he ate greedily. Then he was locked into the room,
where he slept all day. At eight o'clock in the evening, a cab stood in
the stable, ready to issue forth on the opening of the doors. Mr.
Belcher took his seat in it, in the darkness, and then the vehicle was
rapidly driven to Harlem. After ten minutes of waiting, the dazzling
head-light of a great train, crawling out of the city, showed down the
Avenue. He unlatched the door of his cab, took his satchel in his hand,
and, as the last car on the train came up to him, he leaped out, mounted
the platform, and vanished in the car, closing the door behind him. "All
right!" was shouted from the rear; the conductor swung his lantern, and
the train thundered over the bridge and went roaring off into the night.

The General had escaped. All night he traveled on, and, some time during
the forenoon, his car was shunted from the Trunk line upon the branch
that led toward Sevenoaks. It was nearly sunset when he reached the
terminus. The railroad sympathy had helped and shielded him thus far,
but the railroad ended there, and its sympathy and help were cut off
short with the last rail.

Mr. Belcher sent for the keeper of a public stable whom he knew, and
with whom he had always been in sympathy, through the love of
horse-flesh which they entertained in common. As he had no personal
friendship to rely on in his hour of need, he resorted to that which had
grown up between men who had done their best to cheat each other by
systematic lying in the trading of horses.

"Old Man Coates," for that was the name by which the stable keeper was
known, found his way to the car where Mr. Belcher still remained hidden.
The two men met as old cronies, and Mr. Belcher said: "Coates, I'm in
trouble, and am bound for Canada. How is Old Calamity?"

Now in all old and well regulated stables there is one horse of
exceptional renown for endurance. "Old Calamity" was a roan, with one
wicked white eye, that in his best days had done a hundred miles in ten
hours. A great deal of money had been won and lost on him, first and
last, but he had grown old, and had degenerated into a raw-boned, tough
beast, that was resorted to in great emergencies, and relied upon for
long stretches of travel that involved extraordinary hardship.

"Well, he's good yet," replied Old Man Coates.

"You must sell him to me, with a light wagon," said Mr. Belcher.

"I could make more money by telling a man who is looking for you in the
hotel that you are here," said the old man, with a wicked leer.

"But you won't do it," responded the General. "You can't turn on a man
who has loved the same horse with you, old man; you know you can't."

"Well, I can, but in course I won't;" and the stable-keeper went into a
calculation of the value of the horse and harness, with a wagon "that
couldn't be broke down."

Old Man Coates had Belcher at a disadvantage, and, of course, availed
himself of it, and had no difficulty in making a bargain which reduced
the fugitive's stock of ready money in a fearful degree.

At half-past nine, that night, "Old Calamity" was driven down to the
side of the car by Coates' own hands, and in a moment the old man was
out of the wagon and the new owner was in it. The horse, the moment Mr.
Belcher took the reins, had a telegraphic communication concerning the
kind of man who was behind him, and the nature of the task that lay
before him, and struck off up the road toward Sevenoaks with a long,
swinging trot that gave the driver a sense of being lifted at every
stride.

It was a curious incident in the history of Mr. Belcher's flight to
Canada, which practically began when he leaped upon the deck of
Pilot-Boat Number 10, that he desired to see every spot that had been
connected with his previous life. A more sensitive man would have
shunned the scenes which had been associated with his prosperous and
nominally respectable career, but he seemed possessed with a morbid
desire to look once more upon the localities in which he had moved as
king.

He had not once returned to Sevenoaks since he left the village for the
metropolis; and although he was in bitter haste, with men near him in
pursuit, he was determined to take the longer road to safety, in order
to revisit the scene of his early enterprise and his first successes. He
knew that Old Calamity would take him to Sevenoaks in two hours, and
that then the whole village would be in its first nap. The road was
familiar, and the night not too dark. Dogs came out from farm-houses as
he rattled by, and barked furiously. He found a cow asleep in the road,
and came near being upset by her. He encountered one or two tramps, who
tried to speak to him, but he flew on until the spires of the little
town, where he had once held the supreme life, defined themselves
against the sky, far up the river. Here he brought his horse down to a
walk. The moment he was still, for he had not yet reached the roar of
the falls, he became conscious that a wagon was following him in the
distance. Old Man Coates had not only sold him his horse, but he had
sold his secret!

Old Calamity was once more put into a trot, and in ten minutes he was by
the side of his mill. Seeing the watchman in front, he pulled up, and,
in a disguised voice, inquired the way to the hotel. Having received a
rough answer, he inquired of the man whose mill he was watching.

"I don't know," responded the man. "It's stopped now. It was old
Belcher's once, but he's gone up, they say."

Mr. Belcher started on. He crossed the bridge, and drove up the steep
hill toward his mansion. Arriving at the hight, he stood still by the
side of the Seven Oaks, which had once been the glory of his country
home. Looking down into the town, he saw lights at the little tavern,
and, by the revelations of the lantern that came to the door, a horse
and wagon. At this moment, his great Newfoundland dog came bounding
toward him, growling like a lion. He had alighted to stretch his limbs,
and examine into the condition of his horse. The dog came toward him
faster and faster, and more and more menacingly, till he reached him,
and heard his own name called. Then he went down into the dust, and
fawned upon his old master pitifully. Mr. Belcher caressed him. There
was still one creature living that recognized him, and acknowledged him
as his lord. He looked up at his house and took a final survey of the
dim outlines of the village. Then he mounted his wagon, turned his horse
around, and went slowly down the hill, calling to his dog to follow. The
huge creature followed a few steps, then hesitated, then, almost
crawling, he turned and sneaked away, and finally broke into a run and
went back to the house, where he stopped and with a short, gruff bark
scouted his retiring master.

Mr. Belcher looked back. His last friend had left him. "Blast the
brute!" he exclaimed. "He is like the rest of 'em."

As he came down the road to turn into the main highway, a man stepped
out from the bushes and seized Old Calamity by the bridle. Mr. Belcher
struck his horse a heavy blow, and the angry beast, by a single leap,
not only shook himself clear of the grasp upon his bit, but hurled the
intercepting figure upon the ground. A second man stood ready to deal
with Mr. Belcher, but the latter in passing gave him a furious cut with
his whip, and Old Calamity was, in twenty seconds, as many rods away
from both of them, sweeping up the long hill at a trot that none but
iron sinews could long sustain.

The huge pile that constituted the Sevenoaks poor-house was left upon
his right, and in half an hour he began a long descent, which so far
relieved his laboring horse, that when he reached the level he could
hardly hold him. The old fire of the brute was burning at its hottest.
Mr. Belcher pulled him in, to listen for the pursuit. Half a mile
behind, he could hear wheels tearing madly down the hill, and he
laughed. The race had, for the time, banished from his mind the history
of the previous week, banished the memory of his horrible losses,
banished his sense of danger, banished his nervous fears. It was a stern
chase, proverbially a long one, and he had the best horse, and knew that
he could not be overtaken. The sound of the pursuing wheels grew fainter
and fainter, until they ceased altogether.

Just as the day was breaking, he turned from the main road into the
woods, and as the occupants of a cabin were rising, he drove up and
asked for shelter and a breakfast.

He remained there all day, and, just before night, passed through the
forest to another road, and in the early morning was driving quietly
along a Canadian highway, surveying his "adopted country," and assuming
the character of a loyal subject of the good Queen of England.




CHAPTER XXX.

WHICH GIVES THE HISTORY OF AN ANNIVERSARY, PRESENTS A TABLEAU, AND DROPS
THE CURTAIN.


Three months after Mr. Belcher's escape, the great world hardly
remembered that such a man as he had ever lived. Other rascals took his
place, and absorbed the public attention, having failed to learn--what
even their betters were slow to apprehend--that every strong, active,
bad man is systematically engaged in creating and shaping the
instruments for his own destruction. Men continued to be dazzled by
their own success, until they could see neither the truth and right that
lay along their way, nor the tragic end that awaited them.

The execution in satisfaction of the judgment obtained against Mr.
Belcher was promptly issued and levied; claimants and creditors of
various sorts took all that the execution left; Mrs. Belcher and her
children went to their friends in the country; the Sevenoaks property
was bought for Mr. Benedict, and a thousand lives were adjusted to the
new circumstances; but narrative palls when its details are anticipated.
Let us pass them, regarding them simply as memories coming up--sometimes
faintly, sometimes freshly--from the swiftly retiring years, and close
the book, as we began it, with a picture.

Sevenoaks looks, in its main features, as it looked when the reader
first saw it. The river rolls through it with the old song that the
dwellers upon its banks have heard through all these changing years. The
workmen and workwomen come and go in the mill, in their daily round of
duty, as they did when Phipps, and the gray trotters, and the great
proprietor were daily visions of the streets. The little tailoress
returns twice a year with her thrifty husband, to revisit her old
friends; and she brings at last a little one, which she shows with great
pride. Sevenoaks has become a summer thoroughfare to the woods, where
Jim receives the city-folk in incredible numbers.

We look in upon the village on a certain summer evening, at five years'
remove from the first occupation of the Belcher mansion by Mr. Benedict.
The mist above the falls cools the air and bathes the trees as it did
when Robert Belcher looked upon it as the incense which rose to his
lordly enterprise. The nestling cottages, the busy shops, the
fresh-looking spires, the distant woods, the more distant mountain, the
old Seven Oaks upon the Western plateau and the beautiful residence
behind them, are the same to-day that they were when we first looked
upon them; but a new life and a new influence inform them all. Nature
holds her unvarying frame, but the life upon the canvas is what we paint
from year to year. The river sings to vice as it sings to virtue. The
birds carol the same, whether selfishness or love be listening. The
great mountains rejoice in the sun, or drape their brows in clouds,
irrespective of the eyes that regard them.

This one fact remains good in Sevenoaks, and the world over. The man who
holds the financial power and the social throne of a town, makes that
town, in a good degree, what he is. If he is virtuous, noble, unselfish,
good, the elements beneath him shape themselves, consciously or
unconsciously, to his character. Vice shrinks into disgrace, or flies to
more congenial haunts. The greed for gold which grasps and over-reaches,
becomes ashamed, or changes to neighborly helpfulness. The discontent
that springs up in the shadow of an unprincipled and boastful worldly
success, dies; and men become happy in the toil that wins a comfortable
shelter and daily bread, when he to whom all look up, looks down upon
them with friendly and sympathetic eyes, and holds his wealth and power
in service of their good.

Paul Benedict is now the proprietor of Sevenoaks; and from the happy day
in which he, with his sister and child, came to the occupation of the
mansion which his old persecutor had built for himself, the fortunes and
character of the town have mended. Even the poor-house has grown more
comfortable in its apartments and administration, while year by year its
population has decreased. Through these first years, the quiet man has
moved around his mill and his garden, his mind teeming with suggestions,
and filling with new interest in their work the dull brains that had
been worn deep and dry with routine. All eyes turn upon him with
affection. He is their brother as well as their master.

In the great house, there is a happy woman. She has found something to
love and something to do. These were all she needed to make her
supremely self-respectful, happy, and, in the best degree, womanly.
Willful, ambitious, sacrificing her young affections to gold at the
first, and wasting years in idleness and unworthy intrigue, for the lack
of affection and the absence of motive to usefulness and industry, she
has found, at last, the secret of her woman's life, and has accepted it
with genuine gratitude. In ministering to her brother and her brother's
child, now a stalwart lad, in watching with untiring eyes and helping
with ready wit the unused proprietor in his new circumstances, and in
assisting the poor around her, she finds her days full of toil and
significance, and her nights brief with grateful sleep. She is the great
lady of the village, holding high consideration from her relationship to
the proprietor, and bestowing importance upon him by her revelation of
his origin and his city associations.

The special summer evening to which we allude is one which has long been
looked forward to by all the people in whom our story has made the
reader sympathetically interested. It is an anniversary--the fifth since
the new family took up their residence in the grand house. Mr. and Mrs.
Balfour with their boy are there. Sam Yates is there--now the agent of
the mill--a trusty, prosperous man; and by a process of which we have
had no opportunity to note the details, he has transformed Miss Snow
into Mrs. Yates. The matter was concluded some years ago, and they seem
quite wonted to each other. The Rev. Mr. Snow, grown thinner and grayer,
and a great deal happier, is there with his wife and his two unmarried
daughters. He finds it easier to "take things as they air," than
formerly, and, by his old bridge, holds them against all comers. And who
is this, and who are these? Jim Fenton, very much smoothed exteriorly,
but jolly, acute, outspoken, peculiar as ever. He walks around the
garden with a boy on his shoulder. The "little feller" that originally
appeared in Mr. Benedict's plans of the new hotel is now in his
hands--veritable flesh and blood; and "the little woman," sitting with
Mrs. Snow, while Mrs. Dillingham directs the arrangement of the banquet
that is being spread in the pagoda, watches the pair, and exclaims:
"Look at them! now isn't it ridiculous?"

The warm sun hides himself behind the western hill, though still an hour
above his setting. The roar of the falling river rises to their ears,
the sound of the factory bell echoes among the hills, and the crowd of
grimy workmen and workwomen pours forth, darkening the one street that
leads from the mill, and dissipating itself among the waiting cottages.
All is tranquillity and beauty, while the party gather to their out-door
feast.

It is hardly a merry company, though a very happy one. It is the latest
issue of a tragedy in which all have borne more or less important parts.
The most thoughtless of them cannot but feel that a more powerful hand
than their own has shaped their lives and determined their destinies.

The boys are called in, and the company gather to their banquet, amid
conversation and laughter.

Mr. Balfour turns to Jim and says: "How does this compare with Number
Nine, Jim? Isn't this better than the woods?"

Jim has been surveying the preparations with a critical and
professional eye, for professional purposes. The hotel-keeper keeps
himself constantly open to suggestions, and the table before him
suggests so much, that his own establishment seems very humble and
imperfect.

"I ben thinkin' about it," Jim responds. "When a man has got all he
wants, he's brung up standin' at the end of his road. If thar ain't
comfort then, then there ain't no comfort. When he's got more nor he
wants, then he's got by comfort, and runnin' away from it. I hearn the
women talk about churnin' by, so that the butter never comes, an' a man
as has more money nor he wants churns by his comfort, an' spends his
life swashin' with his dasher, and wonderin' where his butter is. Old
Belcher's butter never come, but he worked away till his churn blowed
up, an' he went up with it."

"So you think our good friend Mr. Benedict has got so much that he has
left comfort behind," says Mr. Balfour with a laugh.

"I should be afeard he had, if he could reelize it was all his'n, but he
can't. He hain't got no more comfort here, no way, nor he used to have
in the woods." Then Jim leans over to Mr. Balfour's ear, and says: "It's
the woman as does it. It's purty to look at, but it's too pertickler for
comfort."

Mr. Balfour sees that he and Jim are observed, and so speaks louder.
"There is one thing," he says: "that I have learned in the course of
this business. It does not lie very deep, but it is at least worth
speaking of. I have learned how infinitely more interesting and
picturesque vulgar poverty is than vulgar riches. One can find more
poetry in a log cabin than in all that wealth ever crowded into
Palgrave's Folly. If poor men and poor women, honest and patient
workers, could only apprehend the poetical aspects of their own lives
and conditions, instead of imagining that wealth holds a monopoly of the
poetry of life, they would see that they have the best of it, and are
really enviable people."

Jim knows, of course, that his old cabin in the woods is in Mr.
Balfour's mind, and feels himself called upon to say something in
response. "If so be as ye're 'ludin' at me," says he, "I'm much obleeged
to ye, but I perfer a hotel to a log cabin, pertickler with a little
woman and a little feller in it, Paul B., by name."

"That's all right, Jim," says Mr. Balfour, "but I don't call that vulgar
wealth which is won slowly, by honest industry. A man who has more money
than he has brains, and makes his surroundings the advertisement of his
possessions, rather than the expression of his culture, is a vulgar man,
or a man of vulgar wealth."

"Did ye ever think," says Jim, "that riches rots or keeps accordin' to
their natur?--rots or keeps," he goes on, "accordin' to what goes into
'em when a man is gitten' 'em together? Blood isn't a purty thing to mix
with money, an' I perfer mine dry. A golden sweetin' grows quick an'
makes a big show, but ye can't keep it through the winter."

"That's true, Jim," responds Mr. Balfour. "Wealth takes into itself the
qualities by which it is won. Gathered by crime or fraud, and gathered
in haste, it becomes a curse to those who hold it, and falls into ruin
by its own corruptions. Acquired by honest toil, manly frugality,
patient endurance, and patient waiting, it is full of good, and holds
together by a force within itself."

"Poor Mrs. Belcher!" exclaims Mrs. Dillingham, as the reflection comes
to her that that amiable lady was once the mistress of the beautiful
establishment over which she has been called upon to preside.

"They say she is living nicely," says Mr. Snow, "and that somebody sends
her money, though she does not know where it comes from. It is supposed
that her husband saved something, and keeps himself out of sight, while
he looks after his family."

Mr. Benedict and Mrs. Dillingham exchange significant glances. Jim is a
witness of the act, and knows what it means. He leans over to Mr.
Benedict, and says: "When I seen sheet-lightnin', I know there's a
shower where it comes from. Ye can't fool me about ma'am Belcher's
money."

"You will not tell anybody, Jim," says Mr. Benedict, in a low tone.

"Nobody but the little woman," responds Jim; and then, seeing that his
"little feller," in the distance, is draining a cup with more than
becoming leisure, he shouts down the table: "Paul B! Paul B! Ye can't
git that mug on to yer head with the brim in yer mouth. It isn't yer
size, an' it doesn't look purty on ye."

"I should like to know where the old rascal is," says Mrs. Snow, going
back to the suggestion that Mr. Belcher was supplying his family with
money.

"Well, I can tell ye," replies Jim. "I've been a keepin' it in for this
very meetin'."

"Oh Jim!" exclaim half a dozen voices, which means: "we are dying to
hear all about it."

"Well," says Jim, "there was a feller as come to my hotel a month ago,
and says he: 'Jim, did ye ever know what had become of old Belcher?'
'No,' says I, 'I only knowed he cut a big stick, an' slid.' 'Well,' says
he, 'I seen 'im a month ago, with whiskers enough on 'is ugly face to
set up a barberry-bush.' Says I, 'Where did ye seen 'im?' 'Where do ye
guess', says he?' 'Swoppin' a blind hoss', says I, 'fur a decent one,
an' gettin' boot.' 'No,' says he, 'guess agin.' 'Preachin' at a
camp-meetin',' says I, 'an' passin' round a hat arter it.' 'No,' says
he, 'I seen 'im jest where he belonged. He was tendin' a little bar, on
a S'n' Lor'nce steamboat. He was settin' on a big stool in the middle of
'is bottles, where he could reach 'em all without droppin' from his
roost, an' when his customers was out he was a peekin' into a little
lookin'-glass, as stood aside of 'im, an' a combin' out his baird.'
'That settles it,' says I, 'you've seen 'im, an no mistake.' 'Then,'
says he, 'I called 'im 'General,' an' he looked kind a skeered, an' says
'e to me, 'Mum's the word! Crooked Valley an' Air Line is played out,
an' I'm workin' up a corner in Salt River,'--laughin', an' offerin' to
treat.'

"I wonder how he came in such a place as that," says Mrs. Snow.

"That's the funniest part on't," responds Jim. "He found an old friend
on the boat, as was much of a gentleman,--an old friend as was dressed
within an inch of his life, an' sold the tickets."

"Phipps!" "Phipps!" shout half a dozen voices, and a boisterous laugh
goes around the group.

"Ye've guessed right the fust time," Jim continues, "an' the
gentlemanlest clerk, an' the poplarest man as ever writ names in a book,
an' made change on a counter, with no end o' rings an' hankercher-pins,
an' presents of silver mugs, an' rampin' resolootions of admirin'
passingers. An' there the two fellers be, a sailin' up an' down the
S'n.' Lor'nce, as happy as two clams in high water, workin' up corners
in their wages, an' playin' into one another's hands like a pair of
pickpockets; and what do ye think old Belcher said about Phipps?"

"What did he say?" comes from every side.

"Well, I can't tell percisely," responds Jim. "Fust he said it was
proverdential, as Phipps run away when he did; an' then he put in
somethin' that sounded as if it come from a book,--somethin' about
tunin' the wind to the sheared ram."

Jim is very doubtful about his quotation, and actually blushes scarlet
under the fire of laughter that greets him from every quarter.

"I'm glad if it 'muses ye," says Jim, "but it wasn't anything better nor
that, considerin' the man as took it to himself."

"Jim, you'll be obliged to read up," says "the little woman," who still
stands by her early resolutions to take her husband for what he is, and
enjoy his peculiarities with her neighbors.

"I be as I be," he responds. "I can keep a hotel, an' make money on it,
an' pervide for my own, but when it comes to books ye can trip me with a
feather."

The little banquet draws to a close, and now two or three inquire
together for Mr. Yates. He has mysteriously disappeared! The children
have already left the table, and Paul B. is romping with a great show of
equine spirit about the garden paths, astride of a stick. Jim is looking
at him in undisguised admiration. "I do believe," he exclaims, "that the
little feller thinks he's a hoss, with a neck more nor three feet long.
See 'im bend it over agin the check-rein he's got in his mind! Hear 'im
squeal! Now look out for his heels!"

At this moment, there rises upon the still evening air a confused murmur
of many voices. All but the children pause and listen. "What is coming?"
"Who is coming?" "What is it?" break from the lips of the listeners.
Only Mrs. Yates looks intelligent, and she holds her tongue, and keeps
her seat. The sound comes nearer, and breaks into greater confusion. It
is laughter, and merry conversation, and the jar of tramping feet. Mr.
Benedict suspects what it is, and goes off among his vines, in a state
of painful unconcern! The boys run out to the brow of the hill, and come
back in great excitement, to announce that the whole town is thronging
up toward the house. Then all, as if apprehending the nature of the
visit, gather about their table again, that being the place where their
visitors will expect to find them.

At length, Sam. Yates comes in sight, around the corner of the mansion,
followed closely by all the operatives of the mill, dressed in their
holiday attire. Mrs. Dillingham has found her brother, and with her hand
upon his arm she goes out to meet his visitors. They have come to crown
the feast, and signalize the anniversary, by bringing their
congratulations to the proprietor, and the beautiful lady who presides
over his house. There is a great deal of awkwardness among the young
men, and tittering and blushing among the young women, with side play
of jest and coquetry, as they form themselves in a line, preparatory to
something formal, which presently appears.

Mr. Yates, the agent of the mill, who has consented to be the spokesman
of the occasion, stands in front, and faces Mr. Benedict and Mrs.
Dillingham.

"Mr. Benedict," says he, "this demonstration in your honor is not one
originated by myself, but, in some way, these good people who serve you
learned that you were to have a formal celebration of this anniversary,
and they have asked me to assist them in expressing the honor in which
they hold you, and the sympathy with which they enter into your
rejoicing. We all know your history. Many of those who now stand before
you, remember your wrongs and your misfortunes; and there is not one who
does not rejoice that you have received that which your own genius won
in the hands of another. There is not one who does not rejoice that the
evil influence of this house is departed, and that one now occupies it
who thoroughly respects and honors the manhood and womanhood that labor
in his service. We are glad to acknowledge you as our master, because we
know that we can regard you as our friend. Your predecessor despised
poverty--even the poverty into which he was born--and forgot, in the
first moment of his success, that he had ever been poor, while your own
bitter experiences have made you brotherly. On behalf of all those who
now stand before you, let me thank you for your sympathy, for your
practical efforts to give us a share in the results of your prosperity,
and for the purifying influences which go out from this dwelling into
all our humble homes. We give you our congratulations on this
anniversary, and hope for happy returns of the day, until, among the
inevitable changes of the future, we all yield our places to those who
are to succeed us."

Mr. Benedict's eyes are full of tears. He does not turn, however, to Mr.
Balfour, for help. The consciousness of power, and, more than this, the
consciousness of universal sympathy, give him self-possession and the
power of expression.

"Mr. Yates," says Mr. Benedict, "when you call me master, you give me
pain. When you speak of me as your brother, and the brother of all those
whom you represent, you pay me the most grateful compliment that I have
ever received. It is impossible for me to regard myself as anything but
the creature and the instrument of a loving Providence. It is by no
power of my own, no skill of my own, no providence of my own, that I
have been carried through the startling changes of my life. The power
that has placed me where I am, is the power in which, during all my
years of adversity, I firmly trusted. It was that power which brought me
my friends--friends to whose good will and efficient service I owe my
wealth and my ability to make life profitable and pleasant to you. Fully
believing this, I can in no way regard myself as my own, or indulge in
pride and vain glory. You are all my brothers and sisters, and the dear
Father of us all has placed the power in my hands to do you good. In the
patient and persistent execution of this stewardship lies the duty of my
life. I thank you all for your good will. I thank you all for this
opportunity to meet you, and to say to you the words which have for five
years been in my heart, waiting to be spoken. Come to me always with
your troubles. Tell me always what I can do for you, to make your way
easier. Help me to make this village a prosperous, virtuous and happy
one--a model for all its neighbors. And now I wish to take you all by
the hand, in pledge of our mutual friendship and of our devotion to each
other."

Mr. Benedict steps forward with Mrs. Dillingham, and both shake hands
with Mr. Yates. One after another--some shyly, some confidently--the
operatives come up and repeat the process, until all have pressed the
proprietor's hand, and have received a pleasant greeting and a cordial
word from his sister, of whom the girls are strangely afraid. There is a
moment of awkward delay, as they start on their homeward way, and then
they gather in a group upon the brow of the hill, and the evening air
resounds with "three cheers" for Mr. Benedict. The hum of voices begins
again, the tramp of a hundred feet passes down the hill, and our little
party are left to themselves.

They do not linger long. The Snows take their leave. Mr. and Mrs. Yates
retire, with a lingering "good-night," but the Balfours and the Fentons
are guests of the house. They go in, and the lamps are lighted, while
the "little feller--Paul B. by name"--is carried on his happy father's
shoulder to his bed up stairs.

Finally, Jim comes down, having seen his pet asleep, and finds the
company talking about Talbot. He and his pretty, worldly wife, finding
themselves somewhat too intimately associated with the bad fame of
Robert Belcher, had retired to a country seat on the Hudson--a nest
which they feathered well with the profits of the old connection.

And now, as they take leave of each other for the night, and shake hands
in token of their good-will, and their satisfaction with the pleasures
of the evening, Jim says: "Mr. Benedict, that was a good speech o'
yourn. It struck me favorble an' s'prised me some considable. I'd no
idee ye could spread so afore folks. I shouldn't wonder if ye was right
about Proverdence. It seems kind o' queer that somebody or somethin'
should be takin keer o' you an' me, but I vow I don't see how it's all
ben did, if so be as nobody nor nothin' has took keer o' me, an' you
too. It seems reasomble that somethin's ben to work all the time that I
hain't seed. The trouble with me is that I can't understand how a bein'
as turns out worlds as if they was nothin' more nor snow-balls would
think o' stoppin' to pay 'tention to sech a feller as Jim Fenton."

"You are larger than a sparrow, Jim," says Mr. Benedict with a smile.

"That's so."

"Larger than a hair."

Jim puts up his hand, brushes down the stiff crop that crowns his head,
and responds with a comical smile, "I don' know 'bout that."

Jim pauses as if about to make some further remark, thinks better of it,
and then, putting his big arm around his little wife, leads her off, up
stairs.

The lights of the great house go out one after another, the cataracts
sing the inmates to sleep, the summer moon witches with the mist, the
great, sweet heaven bends over the dreaming town, and there we leave our
friends at rest, to take up the burden of their lives again upon the
happy morrow, beyond our feeble following, but still under the loving
eye and guiding hand to which we confidently and gratefully commit them.



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