Infomotions, Inc.A Certain Rich Man / White, William Allen, 1868-1944



Author: White, William Allen, 1868-1944
Title: A Certain Rich Man
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): barclay; hendricks; culpepper; john barclay; dolan; sycamore ridge; molly; watts; watts mchurdie; sycamore; martin culpepper; bob hendricks; bob; colonel; ward; ridge; lige bemis; john; jake dolan; colonel culpepper; gabriel carnine; neal ward; philemon w
Contributor(s): Mellin, Robert, 1826-1880 [Translator]
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Identifier: etext18684
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Title: A Certain Rich Man


Author: William Allen White



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Language: English

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A CERTAIN RICH MAN

by

WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE

Author of "Stratagems and Spoils,"
"The Court of Boyville," etc.







The MacMillan Company
New York . Boston . Chicago
Atlanta . San Francisco

MacMillan & Co., Limited
London . Bombay . Calcutta
Melbourne

The Macmillan Co. Of Canada, Ltd.
Toronto

A Certain Rich Man

New York
The MacMillan Company
1909
All rights reserved
Copyright, 1909,
By The MacMillan Company.
Set up and electrotyped. Published July, 1909.
Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.




CONTENTS

CHAPTER I                                       1
CHAPTER II                                     15
CHAPTER III                                    30
CHAPTER IV                                     51
CHAPTER V                                      59
CHAPTER VI                                     72
CHAPTER VII                                    84
CHAPTER VIII                                   95
CHAPTER IX                                    105
CHAPTER X                                     118
CHAPTER XI                                    135
CHAPTER XII                                   150
CHAPTER XIII                                  165
CHAPTER XIV                                   176
CHAPTER XV                                    193
CHAPTER XVI                                   206
CHAPTER XVII                                  227
CHAPTER XVIII                                 243
CHAPTER XIX                                   262
CHAPTER XX                                    275
CHAPTER XXI                                   294
CHAPTER XXII                                  304
CHAPTER XXIII                                 319
CHAPTER XXIV                                  334
CHAPTER XXV                                   339
CHAPTER XXVI                                  355
CHAPTER XXVII                                 365
CHAPTER XXVIII                                382
CHAPTER XXIX                                  405
CHAPTER XXX                                   428






BOOK I

A CERTAIN RICH MAN

CHAPTER I


The woods were as the Indians had left them, but the boys who were
playing there did not realize, until many years afterwards, that they
had moved in as the Indians moved out. Perhaps, if these boys had
known that they were the first white boys to use the Indians'
playgrounds, the realization might have added zest to the make-believe
of their games; but probably boys between seven and fourteen, when
they play at all, play with their fancies strained, and very likely
these little boys, keeping their stick-horse livery-stable in a
wild-grape arbour in the thicket, needed no verisimilitude. The long
straight hickory switches--which served as horses--were arranged
with their butts on a rotting log, whereon some grass was spread for
their feed. Their string bridles hung loosely over the log. The
horsemen swinging in the vines above, or in the elm tree near by, were
preparing a raid on the stables of other boys, either in the native
lumber town a rifle-shot away or in distant parts of the woods. When
the youngsters climbed down, they straddled their hickory steeds and
galloped friskily away to the creek and drank; this was part of the
rites, for tradition in the town of their elders said that whoever
drank of Sycamore Creek water immediately turned horse thief. Having
drunk their fill at the ford, they waded it and left the stumpy road,
plunging into the underbrush, snorting and puffing and giggling and
fussing and complaining--the big ones at the little ones and the
little ones at the big ones--after the manner of mankind.

When they had gone perhaps a half-mile from the ford, one of the
little boys, feeling the rag on his sore heel slipping and letting the
rough woods grass scratch his raw flesh, stopped to tie up the rag. He
was far in the rear of the pack when he stopped, and the boys, not
heeding his blat, rushed on and left him at the edge of a thicket near
a deep-rutted road. His cry became a whimper and his whimper a sniffle
as he worked with the rag; but the little fingers were clumsy, and a
heel is a hard place to cover, and the sun was hot on his back; so he
took the rag in one hand and his bridle in the other, and limped on
his stick horse into the thick shade of a lone oak tree that stood
beside the wide dusty road. His sore did not bother him, and he sat
with his back against the tree for a while, flipping the rag and
making figures in the dust with the pronged tail of his horse. Then
his hands were still, and as he ran from tune to tune with improvised
interludes, he droned a song of his prowess. Sometimes he sang words
and sometimes he sang thoughts. He sank farther and farther down and
looked up into the tree and ceased his song, chirping instead a
stuttering falsetto trill, not unlike a cricket's, holding his breath
as long as he could to draw it out to its finest strand; and thus with
his head on his arm and his arm on the tree root, he fell asleep.

The noon sun was on his legs when he awoke, and a strange dog was
sniffing at him. As he started up, he heard the clatter of a horse's
feet in the road, and saw an Indian woman trotting toward him on a
pony. In an instant he was a-wing with terror, scooting toward the
thick of the woods. He screamed as he ran, for his head was full of
Indian stories, and he knew that the only use Indians had for little
boys was to steal them and adopt them into the tribe. He heard the
brush crackling behind him, and he knew that the woman had turned off
the road to follow him. A hundred yards is a long way for a
terror-stricken little boy to run through tangled underbrush, and when
he had come to the high bank of the stream, he slipped down among the
tree roots and tried to hide. His little heart beat so fast that he
could not keep from panting, and the sound of breaking brush came
nearer and then stopped, and in a moment he looked up and saw the
squaw leaning over the bank, holding to the tree above him. She smiled
kindly at him and said:--

"Come on, boy--I won't hurt you. I as scared of you as you are of
me."

She bent over and took him by the arm and lifted him to her. She got
on her pony and put him on before her and soothed his fright, as they
rode slowly through the wood to the road, where they came to a great
band of Indians, all riding ponies.

It seemed to the boy that he had never imagined there were so many
people in the whole world; there was some parley among them, and the
band set out on the road again, with the squaw in advance. They were
but a few yards from the forks of the road, and as they came to it she
said:--

"Boy--which way to town?"

He pointed the way and she turned into it, and the band followed. They
crossed the ford, climbed the steep red clay bank of the creek, and
filed up the hill into the unpainted group of cabins and shanties
cluttered around a well that men, in 1857, knew as Sycamore Ridge. The
Indians filled the dusty area between the two rows of gray houses on
either side of the street, and the town flocked from its ten front
doors before half the train had arrived. The last door of them all to
open was in a slab house, nearly half a mile from the street. A
washing fluttered on the clothes-line, and the woman who came out of
the door carried a round-bottomed hickory-bark basket, such as might
hold clothes-pins. Seeing the invasion, she hurried across the
prairie, toward the town. She was a tall thin woman, not yet thirty,
brown and tanned, with a strong masculine face, and as she came nearer
one could see that she had a square firm jaw, and great kind gray eyes
that lighted her countenance from a serene soul. Her sleeves rolled
far above her elbows revealed arms used to rough hard work, and her
hands were red from the wash-tub. As she came into the street, she saw
the little boy sitting on the horse in front of the squaw. Walking to
them quickly, and lifting her arms, as she neared the squaw's pony,
the white woman said:--

"Why, Johnnie Barclay, where have you been?"

The boy climbed from the pony, and the two women smiled at each other,
but exchanged no words. And as his feet touched the ground, he became
conscious of the rag in his hand, of his bleeding heel, of his cramped
legs being "asleep"--all in one instant, and went limping and whining
toward home with his mother, while the Indians traded in the store and
tried to steal from the other houses, and in a score of peaceful ways
diverted the town's attention from the departing figures down the
path.

That was the first adventure that impressed itself upon the memory of
John Barclay. All his life he remembered the covered wagon in which
the Barclays crossed the Mississippi; but it is only a curious memory
of seeing the posts of the bed, lying flat beside him in the wagon,
and of fingering the palm leaves cut in the wood. He was four years
old then, and as a man he remembered only as a tale that is told the
fight at Westport Landing, where his father was killed for preaching
an abolition sermon from the wagon tongue. The man remembered nothing
of the long ride that the child and the mother took with the father's
body to Lawrence, where they buried it in a free-state cemetery. But
he always remembered something of their westward ride, after the
funeral of his father. The boy carried a child's memory of the
prairie--probably his first sight of the prairie, with the vacant
horizon circling around and around him, and the monotonous rattle of
the wagon on the level prairie road, for hours keeping the same rhythm
and fitting the same tune. Then there was a mottled memory of the
woods--woods with sunshine in them, and of a prairie flooded with
sunshine on which he played, now picking flowers, now playing house
under the limestone ledges, now, after a rain, following little rivers
down rocky draws, and finding sunfish and silversides in the deeper
pools. But always his memory was of the sunshine, and the open sky, or
the deep wide woods all unexplored, save by himself.

The great road that widened to make the prairie street, and wormed
over the hill into the sunset, always seemed dusty to the boy, and
although in after years he followed that road, over the hills and far
away, when it was rutty and full of clods, as a child he recalled it
only as a great bed of dust, wherein he and other boys played, now
battling with handfuls of dust, and now running races on some level
stretch of it, and now standing beside the road while a passing
movers' wagon delayed their play. The movers' wagon was never absent
from the boy's picture of that time and place. Either the
canvas-covered wagon was coming from the ford of Sycamore Creek, or
disappearing over the hill beyond the town, or was passing in front of
the boys as they stopped their play. Being a boy, he could not know,
nor would he care if he did know, that he was seeing one of God's
miracles--the migration of a people, blind but instinctive as that of
birds or buffalo, from old pastures into new ones. All over the plains
in those days, on a hundred roads like that which ran through Sycamore
Ridge, men and women were moving from east to west, and, as often has
happened since the beginning of time, when men have migrated, a great
ethical principle was stirring in them. The pioneers do not go to the
wilderness always in lust of land, but sometimes they go to satisfy
their souls. The spirit of God moves in the hearts of men as it moves
on the face of the waters.

Something of this moving spirit was in John Barclay's mother. For
often she paused at her work, looking up from her wash-tub toward the
highway, when a prairie schooner sailed by, and lifting her face
skyward for an instant, as her lips moved in silence. As a man the boy
knew she was thinking of her long journey, of the tragedy that came of
it, and praying for those who passed into the West. Then she would
bend to her work again; and the washerwoman's child who took the
clothes she washed in his little wagon with the cottonwood log wheels,
across the commons into the town, was not made to feel an inferior
place in the social system until he was in his early teens. For all
the Sycamore Ridge women worked hard in those days. But there were
Sundays when the boy and his mother walked over the wide prairies
together, and she told him stories of Haverhill--of the wonderful
people who lived there, of the great college, of the beautiful women
and wise men, and best of all of his father, who was a student in the
college, and they dreamed together--mother and child--about how he
would board at Uncle Union's and work in the store for Uncle
Abner--when the boy went back to Haverhill to school when he grew up.

On these excursions the mother sometimes tried to interest him in Mr.
Beecher's sermons which she read to him, but his eyes followed the
bees and the birds and the butterflies and the shadows trailing across
the hillside; so the seed fell on stony ground. One fine fall day they
went up the ridge far above the town where the court-house stands now,
and there under a lone elm tree just above a limestone ledge, they
spread their lunch, and the mother sat on the hillside, almost hidden
by the rippling prairie grass, reading the first number of the
_Atlantic Monthly_, while the boy cleared out a spring that bubbled
from beneath a rock in the shade, and after running for a few feet
sank under a great stone and did not appear again. As the mother read,
the afternoon waned, and when she looked up, she was astonished to see
John standing beside the rock, waist deep in a hole, trying to back
down into it. His face was covered with dirt, and his clothes were wet
from the falling water of the spring that was flowing into the hole he
had opened. In a jiffy she pulled him out, and looking into the hole,
saw by the failing sunlight which shone directly into the place that
the child had uncovered the opening of a cave. But they did not
explore it, for the mother was afraid, and the two came down the hill,
the child's head full of visions of a pirate's treasure, and the
mother's full of the whims of the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.

The next day school began in Sycamore Ridge,--for the school and the
church came with the newspaper, _Freedom's Banner_,--and a new world
opened to the boy, and he forgot the cave, and became interested in
Webster's blue-backed speller. And thus another grown-up person, "Miss
Lucy," came into his world. For with children, men and women
generically are of another order of beings. But Miss Lucy, being John
Barclay's teacher, grew into his daily life on an equality with his
dog and the Hendricks boys, and took a place somewhat lower than his
mother in his list of saints. For Miss Lucy came from Sangamon County,
Illinois, and her father had fought the Indians, and she told the
school as many strange and wonderful things about Illinois as John had
learned from his mother about Haverhill. But his allegiance to the
teacher was only lip service. For at night when he sat digging the
gravel and dirt from the holes in the heels of his copper-toed boots,
that he might wad them with paper to be ready for his skates on the
morrow, or when he sat by the wide fireplace oiling the runners with
the steel curly-cues curving over the toes, or filing a groove in the
blades, the boy's greatest joy was with his mother. Sometimes as she
ironed she told him stories of his father, or when the child was sick
and nervous, as a special favour, on his promise to take the medicine
and not ask for a drink, she would bring her guitar from under the bed
and tune it up and play with a curious little mouse-like touch. And on
rare occasions she would sing to her own shy maidenly accompaniment,
her voice rising scarcely higher than the wind in the sycamore at the
spring outside. The boy remembered only one line of an old song she
sometimes tried to sing: "Sleeping, I dream, love, dream, love, of
thee," but what the rest of it was, and what it was all about, he
never knew; for when she got that far, she always stopped and came to
the bed and lay beside him, and they both cried, though as a child he
did not know why.

So the winter of 1857 wore away at Sycamore Ridge, and with the coming
of the spring of '58, when the town was formally incorporated, even into
the boy world there came the murmurs of strife and alarms. The games the
boys played were war games. They had battles in the woods, between the
free-state and the pro-slavery men, and once--twice--three times there
marched by on the road real soldiers, and it was no unusual thing to see
a dragoon dismount at the town well and water his horse. The big boys in
school affected spurs, and Miss Lucy brought to school with her one
morning a long bundle, which, when it was unwrapped, disclosed the sword
of her father, Captain Barnes, presented to him by his admiring soldiers
at the close of the "Black Hawk War." John traded for a tin fife and
learned to play "Jaybird" upon it, though he preferred the jew's-harp,
and had a more varied repertory with it. Was it an era of music, or is
childhood the period of music? Perhaps this land of ours was younger
than it is now and sang more lustily, if not with great precision; for
to the man who harks back over the years, those were days of song. All
the world seemed singing--men in their stores and shops, women at their
work, and children in their schools. And a freckled, barefooted little
boy with sunburned curly hair, in home-made clothes, and with brown bare
legs showing through the rips in his trousers, used to sit alone in the
woods breathing his soul into a mouth-organ--a priceless treasure for
which he had traded two raccoons, an owl, and a prairie dog. But he
mastered the mouth-organ,--it was called a French harp in those
days,--and before he had put on his first collar, Watts McHurdie had
taught the boy to play the accordion. The great heavy bellows was half
as large as he was, but the little chap would sit in McHurdie's harness
shop of a summer afternoon and swing the instrument up and down as the
melody swelled or died, and sway his body with the time and the tune, as
Watts McHurdie, who owned the accordion, swayed and gyrated when he
played. Mrs. Barclay, hearing her son, smiled and shook her head and
knew him for a Thatcher; "No Barclay," she said, "ever could carry a
tune." So the mother brought out from the bottom of the trunk her
yellow-covered book, "Winner's Instructor on the Guitar," and taught the
child what she could of notes. Thus music found its way out of the boy's
soul.

One day in the summer of 1860, as he and his fellows were filing down
the crooked dusty path that led from the swimming hole through the dry
woods to the main road, they came upon a group of horsemen scanning
the dry ford of the Sycamore. That was the first time that John
Barclay met the famous Captain Lee. He was a great hulk of a man who,
John thought, looked like a pirate. The boys led the men and their
horses up the dry limestone bed of the stream to the swimming hole--a
deep pool in the creek. The coming of the soldiers made a stir in the
town. For they were not "regulars"; they were known as the Red Legs,
but called themselves "The Army of the Border." Under Captain J. Lord
Lee--whose life afterwards touched Barclay's sometimes--"The Army of
the Border," being about forty in number, came to Sycamore Ridge that
night, and greatly to the scandal of the decent village, there
appeared with the men two women in short skirts and red leggins, who
were introduced at Schnitzler's saloon as Happy Hally and Lady Lee.
"The Army of the Border," under J. Lord and Lady Lee,--as they were
known,--proceeded to get bawling drunk, whereupon they introduced to
the town the song which for the moment was the national hymn of
Kansas:--

    "Am I a soldier of the boss,
      A follower of Jim Lane?
    Then should I fear to steal a hoss,
      Or blush to ride the same."

As the night deepened and Henry Schnitzler's supply of liquor seemed
exhaustless, the Army of the Border went from song to war and wandered
about banging doors and demanding to know if any white-livered
Missourian in the town was man enough to come out and fight. At
half-past one the Army of the Border had either gone back to camp, or
propped itself up against the sides of the buildings in peaceful
sleep, when the screech of the brakes on the wheels of the stage was
heard half a mile away as it lumbered down the steep bank of the
Sycamore, and then the town woke up. As the stage rolled down Main
Street, the male portion of Sycamore Ridge lined up before the Thayer
House to see who would get out and to learn the news from the
gathering storm in the world outside. As the crowd stood there, and
while the driver was climbing from his box, little John Barclay,
white-faced, clad in his night drawers, came flying into the crowd
from behind a building.

"Mother--" he gasped, "mother--says--come--mother says some one
come quick--there's a man there--trying to break in!" And finding
that he had made himself understood, the boy darted back across the
common toward home. The little white figure kept ahead of the men, and
when they arrived, they found Mrs. Barclay standing in the door of her
house, with a lantern in one hand and a carbine in the crook of her
arm. In the dark, somewhere over toward the highway, but in the
direction of the river, the sound of a man running over the ploughed
ground might be heard as he stumbled and grunted and panted in fear.
She shook her head reassuringly as the men from the town came into the
radius of the light from her lantern, and as they stepped on the hard
clean-swept earth of her doorway, she said, smiling:

"He won't come back. I'm sorry I bothered you. Only--I was frightened
a little at first--when I sent Johnnie out of the back door." She
paused a moment, and answered some one's question about the man, and
went on, "He was just drunk. He meant no harm. It was Lige Bemis--"

"Oh, yes," said Watts McHurdie, "you know--the old gang that used to
be here before the town started. He's with the Red Legs now."

"Well," continued Mrs. Barclay, "he said he wanted to come over and
visit the sycamore tree by the spring."

The crowd knew Lige and laughed and turned away. The men trudged
slowly back to the cluster of lights that marked the town, and the
woman closed her door, and she and the child went to bed. Instead of
sleeping, they talked over their adventure. He sat up in bed, big-eyed
with excitement, while his mother told him that the drunken visitor
was Lige Bemis, who had come to revisit a cave, a horse thief's cave,
he had said, back of the big rock that seemed to have slipped down
from the ledge behind the house, right by the spring. She told the boy
that Bemis had said that the cave contained a room wherein they used
to keep their stolen horses, and that he tried to move the great slab
door of stone and, being drunk, could not do so.

When the men of Sycamore Ridge who left the stage without waiting to
see what human seed it would shuck out arrived at Main Street, the
stage was in the barn, the driver was eating his supper, and the
passenger was in bed at the Thayer House. But his name was on the
dog-eared hotel register, and it gave the town something to talk about
as Martin Culpepper was distributing the mail. For the name on the
book was Philemon R. Ward, and the town after his name, Cambridge,
Massachusetts. Every man and woman and most of the children in
Sycamore Ridge knew who Philemon Ward was. He had been driven out of
Georgia in '58 for editing an abolition newspaper; he had been mobbed
in Ohio for delivering abolition lectures; he had been led out of
Missouri with a rope around his neck, and a reward was on his head in
a half-dozen Southern states for inciting slaves to rebellion. His
picture had been in _Harper's Weekly_ as a General Passenger Agent of
the Underground Railway. Naturally to Sycamore Ridge, where more than
one night the town had sat up all night waiting for the stage to bring
the _New York Tribune_, Philemon R. Ward was a hero, and his presence
in the town was an event. When the little Barclay boy heard it at the
store that morning before sunrise, he ran down the path toward home to
tell his mother and had to go back to do the errand on which he was
sent. By sunrise every one in town had the news; men were shaken out
of their morning naps to hear, "Philemon Ward's in town--wake up,
man; did you hear what I say? Philemon Ward came to town last night on
the stage." And before the last man was awake, the town was startled
by the clatter of horses' hoofs on the gravel road over the hill south
of town, and Gabriel Carnine and Lycurgus Mason of Minneola came
dashing into the street and yelling, "The Missourians are coming, the
Missourians are coming!"

The little boy, who had just turned into Main Street for the second
time, remembered all his life how the news that the Minneola men
brought, thrilled Sycamore Ridge. It seemed to the boy but an instant
till the town was in the street, and then he and a group of boys were
running to the swimming hole to call the Army of the Border. The horse
weeds scratched his face as he plunged through the timber cross-lots
with his message. He was the first boy to reach the camp. What they
did or what he did, he never remembered. He has heard men say many
times that he whispered his message, grabbed a carbine, and came
tearing through the brush back to the town.

All that is important to know of the battle of Sycamore Ridge is that
Philemon Ward, called out of bed with the town to fight that summer
morning, took command before he had dressed, and when the town was
threatened with a charge from a second division of the enemy, Bemis
and Captain Lee of the Red Legs, Watts McHurdie, Madison Hendricks,
Oscar Fernald, and Gabriel Carnine, under the command of Philemon
Ward, ran to the top of the high bank of the Sycamore, and there held
a deep cut made for the stage road,--held it as a pass against a
half-hundred horsemen, floundering under the bank, in the underbrush
below, who dared not file up the pass.

The little boy standing at the window of his mother's house saw this.
But all the firing in the town, all the forming and charging and
skirmishing that was done that hot August day in '60, either he did
not see, or if he saw it, the memory faded under the great terror that
gripped his soul when he saw his mother in danger. Ward in his
undershirt was standing by a tree near the stage road above the bank.
The firing in the creek bed had stopped. His back was toward the town,
and then, out of some place dim in the child's mind--from the troop
southwest of town perhaps--came a charge of galloping horsemen,
riding down on Ward. The others with him had found cover, and he,
seeing the enemy before him and behind him, pistol in hand, alone
charged into the advancing horsemen. It was all confused in the
child's mind, though the histories say that the Sycamore Ridge people
did not know Ward was in danger, and that when he fell they did not
understand who had fallen. But the boy--John Barclay--saw him fall,
and his mother knew who had fallen, and the wife of the Westport
martyr groaned in anguish as she saw Freedom's champion writhing in
the dust of the road like a dying snake, after the troop passed over
him. And even when he was a man, the boy could remember the woe in her
face, as she stooped to kiss her child, and then huddling down to
avoid the bullets, ran across the field to the wounded man, with dust
in his mouth, twitching in the highway. Bullets were spitting in the
dust about her as the boy saw his mother roll the bleeding man over,
pick him up, get him on her back with his feet trailing on the earth
beside her, and then rising to her full height, stagger under her limp
burden back to the house. When she came in the door, her face and
shoulders were covered with blood and her skirt ripped with a bullet.

That is all of the battle that John Barclay ever remembered. After
that it seemed to end, though the histories say that it lasted all the
long day, and that the fire of the invaders was so heavy that no one
from the Ridge dared venture to the Barclay home. The boy saw his
mother lay the unconscious man on the floor, while she opened the back
door, and without saying a word, stepped to the spring, which was
hidden from the road. She put her knee, her broad chest, and her
strong red hand to the rock and shoved until her back bowed and the
cords stood out on her neck; then slowly the rock moved till she could
see inside the cave, could put her leg in, could squirm her body in.
The morning light flooded in after her, and in the instant that she
stood there she saw dimly a great room, through which the spring
trickled. There were hay inside, and candles and saddles; in another
minute she had the wounded man in the cave and was washing the dirt
from him. A bullet had ploughed its way along his scalp, his body was
pierced through the shoulder, and his leg was broken by a horse's
hoof. She did what she could while the shooting went on outside, and
then slipped out, tugged at the great rock again until it fell back in
its place, and knowing that Philemon Ward was safe from the
Missourians if they should win the day, she came into the house. Then
as the mocking clouds of the summer drouth rolled up at night, and
belched forth their thunder in a tempest of wind, the besiegers passed
as a dream in the night. And in the morning they were not.




CHAPTER II


And so on the night of the battle of Sycamore Ridge, John Barclay
closed the door of his childhood and became a boy. He did not remember
how Ward's wounds were dressed, nor how the town made a hero of the
man; but he did remember Watts McHurdie and Martin Culpepper and the
Hendricks boys tramping through the cave that night with torches, and
he was the hero of that occasion because he was the smallest boy there
and they put him up through the crack in the head of the cave, and he
saw the stars under the elm tree far above the town, where he and his
mother had spent a Sunday afternoon three years before. He called to
the men below and told them where he was, and slipped down through,
the hole again with an elm sprout in his hand to prove that he had
been under the elm tree at the spring. But he remembered nothing of
the night--how the men picketed the town; how he sat up with them
along with the other boys; how the women, under his mother's direction
and Miss Lucy's, cared for the wounded man, who lapsed into delirium
as the night wore on, and gibbered of liberty and freedom as another
man would go over his accounts in his dreams.

His mother and Miss Lucy took turns nursing Ward night after night
during the hot dry summer. As the sick man grew better, many men came
to the house, and great plans were afloat. Philemon Ward, sitting up
in bed waiting for his leg to heal, talked much of the cave as a
refuge for fugitive slaves. There was some kind of a military
organization; all the men in town were enlisted, and Ward was their
captain, drums were rattling and men were drilling; the dust clouds
rose as they marched across the drouth-blighted fields. One night they
marched up to the Barclay home, and Ward with a crutch under his arm,
and with Mrs. Barclay and Miss Lucy beside him, stood in the door and
made a speech to the men. And then there were songs. Watts McHurdie
threw back his head and sang "Scots wha ha' wi' Wallace bled,"
following it with some words of his own denouncing slavery and calling
down curses upon the slaveholders; so withal it was a martial
occasion, and the boy's heart swelled with patriotic pride. But for a
vague feeling that Miss Lucy was neglecting him for her patient, John
would have begun making a hero of Philemon R. Ward. As it was, the boy
merely tolerated the man and silently suspected him of intentions and
designs.

But when school opened, Philemon Ward left Sycamore Ridge and John
Barclay made an important discovery. It was that Ellen Culpepper had
eyes. In Sycamore Ridge with its three hundred souls, only fifteen of
them were children, and five of them were ten years old, and John had
played with those five nearly all his life. But at ten sometimes the
scales drop from one's eyes, and a ribbon or a bead or a pair of new
red striped yarn stockings or any other of the embellishments which
nature teaches little girls to wear casts a sheen over all the world
for a boy. The magic bundle that charmed John Barclay was a scarlet
dress, "made over," that came in an "aid box" from the Culpeppers in
Virginia. And when the other children in Miss Lucy's school made fun
of John and his _amour_, the boy fought his way through it all--where
fighting was the better part of valour--and made horsehair chains for
Ellen and cut lockets for her out of coffee beans, and with a red-hot
poker made a ring for her from a rubber button as a return for the
smile he got at the sly twist he gave her hair as he passed her desk
on his way to the spelling class. As for Miss Lucy, who saw herself
displaced, she wrote to Philemon Ward, and told him of her jilting,
and railed at the fickleness and frailty of the sex.

And by that token an envelope in Ward's handwriting came to Miss Lucy
every week, and Postmaster Martin Culpepper and Mrs. Martin Culpepper
and all Sycamore Ridge knew it. And loyal Southerner though he was,
Martin Culpepper's interest in the affair between Ward and Miss Lucy
was greater than his indignation over the fact that Ward had carried
his campaign even into Virginia; nothing would have tempted him to
disclose to his political friends at home the postmarks of Ward's
letters. That was the year of the great drouth of '60, remembered all
over the plains. And as the winter deepened and the people of Sycamore
Ridge were without crops, and without money to buy food, they bundled
up Martin Culpepper and sent him back to Ohio seeking aid. He was a
handsome figure the day he took the stage in his high hat and his
ruffled shirt and broad coat tails, a straight lean figure of a man in
his early thirties, with fine black eyes and a shocky head of hair,
and when he pictured the sufferings of the Kansas pioneers to the
people of the East, the state was flooded with beans and flour, and
sheeted in white muslin. For Martin Culpepper was an orator, and
though he is in his grave now, the picture he painted of bleeding
Kansas nearly fifty years ago still hangs in many an old man's memory.
And after all, it was only a picture. For they were all young out here
then, and through all the drouth and the hardship that followed--and
the hardship was real--there was always the gayety of youth. The
dances on Deer Creek and at Minneola did not stop for the drouth, and
many's the night that Mrs. Mason, the tall raw-boned wife of Lycurgus,
wrapped little Jane in a quilt and came over to the Ridge from
Minneola to take part in some social affair. And while Martin
Culpepper was telling of the anguish of the famine, Watts McHurdie and
his accordion and Ezra Lane's fiddle were agitating the heels of the
populace. And even those pioneers who were moved to come into the
wilderness by a great purpose--and they were moved so--to come into
the new territory and make it free, nevertheless capered and romped
through the drouth of '60 in the cast-off garments of their kinsmen
and were happy; for there were buffalo meat and beans for the needy,
the aid room had flour, and God gave them youth.

Not drouth, nor famine, nor suffering, nor zeal of a great purpose can
burn out the sparkle of youth in the heart. Only time can do that, and
so John Barclay remembered the famous drouth of '60, not by his
mother's tears, which came as she bent over his little clothes, before
the aid box came from Haverhill, not by the long days of waiting for
the rain that never came, not even by the sun that lapped up the
swimming hole before fall, and left no river to freeze for their
winter's skating, not even by his mother's anguish when she had to go
to the aid store for flour and beans, though that must have been a
sorry day for a Thatcher; but he remembers the great drouth by Ellen
Culpepper's party, where they had a frosted cake and played kissing
games, and--well, fifty years is along time for two brown eyes to
shine in the heart of a boy and a man. It is strange that they should
glow there, and all memory of the runaway slaves who were sheltered in
the cave by the sycamore tree should fade, and be only as a tale that
is told. Yet, so memory served the boy, and he knew only at second
hand how his mother gave her widow's mite to the cause for which she
had crossed the prairies as of old her "fathers crossed the sea."

Before the rain came in the spring of '61 Martin Culpepper came back
from the East an orator of established reputation. The town was proud
of him, and he addressed the multitude on various occasions and wept
many tears over the sad state of the country. For in the nation, as
well as in Sycamore Ridge, great things were stirring. Watts McHurdie
filled _Freedom's Banner_ with incendiary verse, always giving the
name of the tune at the beginning of each contribution, by which it
might be sung, and the way he clanked Slavery's chains and made love
to Freedom was highly disconcerting; but the town liked it.

In April Philemon R. Ward came back to Sycamore Ridge, and there was a
great gathering to hear his speech. Ward's soul was aflame with anger.
There were no Greek gods and Roman deities in what Ward said, as there
were in Martin Culpepper's addresses. Ward used no figures of speech
and exercised no rhetorical charms; but he talked with passion in his
voice and the frenzy of a cause in his eyes. Martin Culpepper was in
the crowd, and as Ward lashed the South, every heart turned in
interrogation to Culpepper. They knew what his education had been.
They understood his sentiments; and yet because he was one of them,
because he had endured with them and suffered with them and ministered
to them, the town set him apart from its hatred. And Martin Culpepper
was sensitive enough to feel this. It came over him with a wave of
joy, and as Ward talked, Culpepper expanded. Ward closed in a low
tone, and his face was white with pent-up zeal as he asked some one to
pray. There was a silence, and then a woman's voice, trembling and
passionate, arose, and Sycamore Ridge knew that Mrs. Barclay, the
widow of the Westport martyr, was giving sound to a voice that had
long been still. It was a simple halting prayer, and not all those in
the room heard it clearly. The words were not always fitly chosen; but
as the prayer neared its close,--and it was a short prayer at the
most,--there came strength and courage into the voice as it asked for
grace for "the brother among us who has shared our sufferings and
lightened our burdens, and who has cleaved to us as a brother, but
whose heart is drawn away from us by ties of blood and kinship"; and
then the voice sank lower and lower as though in shame at its
boldness, and hushed in a tremulous Amen.

No one spoke for a moment, and as Sycamore Ridge looked up from the
floor, its eyes turned instinctively toward Martin Culpepper. He felt
the question that was in the hearts about him, and slowly, to the
wonder of all, he rose. He had a beautiful deep purring voice, and
when he opened his eyes, they seemed to look into every pair of eyes
in the throng. There were tears on his face and in his voice as he
spoke. "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following
after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest,
I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where
thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to
me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me." And then he
sank to his chair and hid his face, and for a moment a hundred
wet-eyed men were still.

Though John Barclay was at the meeting, he remembered only his
mother's prayer, but in his heart there was always a picture of a
little boy trying to walk home with a little girl, and when he came up
with her she darted ahead or dropped back. At the Culpepper gate she
stood waiting fully a minute for him to catch her, and when he came up
to her, she laughed, "Huh, Mr. Smarty, you didn't, did you?" and ran
up the walk, scooted into the house, and slammed the door. But he
understood and went leaping down the hill toward home with happiness
tingling in his very finger-tips. He seemed to be flying rather than
walking, and his toes touched the dirt path so lightly that he rounded
the corner and ran plump into Miss Lucy and Philemon Ward standing at
the gate. And what he saw surprised him so that he let out a great
"haw-haw-haw" and ran, trying to escape his shame and fear at his
behaviour. But the next morning Miss Lucy smiled so sweetly at him as
he came into the schoolroom, that he knew he was forgiven, and that
thrill was lost by the thump of joy that startled his heart when he
saw a bunch of dog-tooth violets in his ink bottle, and in his
geography found a candy heart with a motto on it so fervent that he
did not eat it for three long abstemious days of sheer devotion, in
which there were eyes and eyes and eyes from the little girl in the
scarlet gown.

It is strange that the boy did not remember how Sycamore Ridge took
the call to arms for the war between the states. All he remembered of
the great event in our history as it touched the town was that one day
he heard there was going to be a war. And then everything seemed to
change. A dread came over the people. It fell upon the school, where
every child had a father who was going away.

And it was because Madison Hendricks, the first man to leave for the
war, was father of Bob and Elmer Hendricks that John's first
associations of the great Civil War go back to the big black-bearded
man. For Madison Hendricks, who was a graduate of West Point, and a
veteran of the Mexican War, was called to Washington in May, and his
boys acquired a prestige that was not accorded to them by the mere
fact that their father was president of the town company, and was
accounted the first citizen of the town. Madison Hendricks, who owned
the land on which the town was built, Madison Hendricks, scholar and
gentleman, veteran of the Mexican War, first mayor of Sycamore Ridge
upon its incorporation,--his sons had no standing. But Madison
Hendricks, formally summoned to go to Washington to put down the
rebellion, and leaving on the stage with appropriate ceremonies,
--there was a man who could bequeath to his posterity in the boy
world something of his consequence.

So in the pall that came upon the school in Sycamore Ridge that spring
of '61, Bob and Elmer Hendricks were heroes, and their sister--who
was their only guardian in their father's absence--had to put them in
her dresses and send them to bed, and punish them in all the shameful
ways that she knew to take what she called "the tuck out of them." And
the boy of all the boys who gave the Hendricks boys most homage was
little Johnnie Barclay. There was no dread in his hero-worship. He had
no father to go to the war. But the other children and all the women
were under a great cloud of foreboding, and for them the time was one
of tension and hoping against hope that the war would soon pass.

How the years gild our retrospect. It was in 1903 that Martin
Culpepper, a man in his seventies, collected and published "The
Complete Poetical and Philosophical Works of Watts McHurdie, together
with Notes and a Biographical Appreciation by Martin F. Culpepper."
One of the earlier chapters, which tells of the enlistment of the
volunteer soldiers for the Civil War in '61, devotes some space to the
recruiting and enlistment in Sycamore Ridge. The chapter bears the
heading "The Large White Plumes," and in his "introductory remarks"
the biographer says, "To him who looks back to those golden days of
heroic deeds only the lines of Keats will paint the picture in his
soul:--

"'Lo, I must tell a tale of chivalry,
For large white plumes are dancing in mine eyes.'"

And so the "large white plumes" blinded his eyes to the fear and the
dread that were in the hearts of the people, and he tells his readers
nothing of the sadness that men felt who put in crops knowing that
their wives must cultivate and harvest them. He sees only the glory of
it; for we read: "Hail to the spirit of mighty Mars. When he strode
through our peaceful village, he awoke many a war song in our breasts.
As for our hero, Mars, the war god forged iron reeds for his lute, and
he breathed into it the spirit of the age, and all the valour, all the
chivalry of a golden day came pouring out of his impassioned reeds."
Such is the magic of those large white plumes on Martin Culpepper's
memory. Although John Barclay in that latter day bought a thousand
copies of the Biography and sent them to public libraries all over the
world, he smiled as he read that paragraph referring to Watts
McHurdie's accordion as the "impassioned reeds." When he read it, John
Barclay, grown to a man of fifty-three, sitting at a great mahogany
table, with a tablet of white paper on a green blotting pad before
him, and a gorgeous rose rising from a tall graceful green vase on the
shining table, looked out over a brown wilderness of roofs and
chimneys across a broad river into the hills that were green afar off,
and there, rising out of yesterday, he saw, not the bent little old
man in the harness shop with steel-rimmed spectacles and greasy cap,
whom you may see to-day; but instead, the boy in John Barclay's soul
looked through his eyes, and he saw another Watts McHurdie,--a dapper
little fellow under a wide slouch hat, with a rolling Byronic collar,
and fancy yellow waistcoat of the period, in exceedingly tight
trousers. And then, flash! the picture changed, and Barclay saw Watts
McHurdie under his mushroom hat; Martin Culpepper in his long-tailed
coat; Philemon Ward, tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, slim, and sturdy;
skinny, nervous Lycurgus Mason and husky Gabriel Carnine from
Minneola; Jake Dolan in his shirt sleeves, without adornment of any
kind, except the gold horseshoe pinned on his shirt bosom; Daniel
Frye, the pride of an admiring family, in his best home-made clothes;
Henry Schnitzler, Oscar Fernald, and nearly a hundred other men, to
the boy's eyes so familiar then, now forgotten, and all their faces
blurred in the crowd that stood about the recruiting officer by the
town pump in Sycamore Ridge that summer day of '61. A score or so of
men had passed muster. The line on the post at the wooden awning in
front of Schnitzler's saloon was marked at five feet six. All had
stood by it with their heads above the line. It was Watts McHurdie's
turn. He wore high-heeled boots for the occasion, but strut as he
would, his roached hair would not touch the stick that came over the
line. "Stretch your neck--ye bantam," laughed Jake Dolan. "Walk
turkey fashion, Watts," cried Henry Schnitzler, rushing up behind
Watts and grabbing his waistband. The crowd roared. Watts looked
imploringly at the recruiting officer and blubbered in wrath: "Yes,
damn you--yea; that's right. Of course; you won't let me die for my
bleedin' country because I ain't nine feet tall." And the little man
turned away trying to choke his tears and raging at his failure. And
because the recruiting officer was considerable of a man, Watts
McHurdie's name was written in the muster roll, and he went out.

Many days must have passed between the time when the men were mustered
in and the day they went away to the war. But to the man who saw those
times through the memory of the boy in blue jeans forever playing
bugle-calls upon his fife, it was all one day. For that crowd
dissolved, and another picture appeared upon the sensitized plate of
his memory. There is a crowd in the post-office--mostly men who are
going away to war. The stage has come in, and a stranger, better
dressed than the men of Sycamore Ridge, is behind the letter-boxes of
the post-office. The boy is watching his box; for it is the day when
the _Springfield Republican_ is due. Gradually the hum in front of the
boxes quiets, and two loud voices have risen behind the screen. Then
out walks great Martin Culpepper, white of face, with pent-up fury.
His left hand is clutched like a talon in the shoulder of the
stranger, whom Martin is holding before him. "Gentlemen, your
attention," demands Culpepper. The stranger swallows his Adam's apple
as if to speak; Martin turns to him with, "Don't you say that word
again, sir, or I'll wring your neck." Then he proceeds:--

"Gentlemen, this busybody has come all the way from Washington here to
tell me I'm a thief. I wrote to his damn Yankee government that I was
needing the money last winter to go East on the aid committee and
would replace it, and now that I'm going out to-morrow to die for his
damn Yankee government, he has the impertinence to come in here and
say I stole that money. Now what I want to ask you, gentlemen, is
this: Do I go out to-morrow to die on the field of glory for my
country, or does this here little contemptible whippersnapper take me
off to rot in some Yankee jail? I leave it to you, gentlemen. Settle
it for yourselves." And with that Culpepper throws the man into the
crowd and walks behind the screen in solemn state.

The boy never knew how it was settled. But Martin Culpepper went to
"the field of glory," and all the boy knew of the incident is here
recorded. However, in the Biography of Watts McHurdie above-mentioned
and aforesaid occur these words, in the same chapter--the one
entitled "The Large White Plumes": "Let memory with gentle hand cover
with her black curtain of soft oblivion all that was painful on that
glorious day. Let us not recall the bickerings and the strifes, let
the grass watered by Lethe's sweet spring creep over the scars in the
bright prospect which lies under our loving gaze. Let us hold in our
heart the tears in beauty's eyes; the smile that curls her crimson
lips, and the hope that burns upon her brow. Let us fondle the sacred
memory of every warm hand clasp of comrade and take to the silent
grave the ever green garland of love that adorned our hearts that day.
For the sordid thorns that pierced our bleeding hearts--what are they
but ashes to-day, blown on the winds of yesterday?"

What indeed, Martin Culpepper--what indeed, smiled John Barclay as he
reached for the rose on his broad mahogany desk across forty long
years, and looking through a wide window, saw on the blank wall of a
great hulk of a building half a mile away, the fine strong figure of a
man with black shaggy hair on his young leonine head rise and wave his
handkerchief to a woman with tears running down her face and anguish
in her eyes, standing in a swarm of children. What indeed are sordid
thorns when the "large white plumes are dancing"--what indeed?

That was a busy night in Sycamore Ridge--the night before the men
left for war in the summer of '61. And the busiest man in all the town
was Philemon R. Ward. Every man in the town was going, and most of the
men were going who lived in the county--an area as large as a New
England state, and yet when they were all gathered in Main Street,
there were less than fivescore of them. They had agreed to elect Ward
captain, Martin Culpepper first lieutenant, Jake Dolan second
lieutenant. It was one of the diversions of the occasion to call out
"Hello, Cap," when Ward hustled by a loitering crowd. But his pride
was in his work, and before sundown he had it done. The Yankee in him
gave him industry and method and foresight. At sunset the last of the
twenty teams and wagons he had ordered came rattling down the hill
west of town, driven by Gabriel Carnine of Minneola, with Mrs.
Lycurgus Mason sitting like a war goddess on the back seat holding
Lycurgus, a spoil of battle, while he held their daughter on his lap,
withal a martial family party. Mrs. Barclay and Miss Lucy went to the
aid store-room and worked the long night through, getting breakfast
for the men. Mary Murphy and Nellie Logan came from the Thayer House
to the aid room when the hotel dishes were washed, and helped with the
work. And while they were there the Culpeppers walked in, returning
from a neighbourly visit to Miss Hendricks; John Barclay in an apron,
stirring a boiling pot of dried apples, turned his back on the eyes
that charmed him, but when the women sent him for a bucket of water,
he shook the handle at Ellen Culpepper and beckoned her with a finger,
and they slipped out into the moonlight together. She had hold of the
handle of the bucket with him, and they pulled and hauled and laughed
as boy and girl will laugh so long as the world turns round. The
street was deserted, and only the bar of light that fell across the
sidewalk from Schnitzler's saloon indicated the presence of human
beings in the little low buildings that pent in the highway. The boy
and the girl stood at the pump, and the boy stuck a foot in the horse
trough. He made a wet silhouette of it on the stone beneath him, and
reached for the handle of the pump. Then he said, "I got somepin I
won't tell."

"Three little niggers in a peanut shell," replied the girl.

"All right, Miss Cuteness. All right for you; I was going to tell you
somepin, but I won't now." He gave the pump-handle a pull. It was limp
and did not respond with water. "Ellen--" the boy repeated as he
worked the handle, "I got somepin to tell you. Honest I have."

"I don't care, Mr. Smarty," the girl replied; she made a motion as if
to walk away, but did not. The boy noticed it and said, "Yes,
sir--it's somepin you'd like to know." The girl did not turn round.
The boy, who had been working with the wheezy pump, was holding the
handle up, and water was gurgling down the well. And before she could
answer he said, "Say, Ellen--don't be mad; honest I got somepin."

"Who's it about?" she asked over her shoulder.

"Me."

"That's not much--who else?"

"Elmer Hendricks!"

"Who else?" The girl was halfway turned around when she spoke.

"Bob--Bob Hendricks," replied the boy.

"Aw--Bob Hendricks--" returned the girl, in contempt. Then she faced
the boy and said, "What is it?"

"Come here 'n' I'll tell you."

"I'll come this far." The girl took two steps.

"I got to whisper it, and you can't hear."

"Well, 'tain't much." The girl dangled one bare foot hesitatingly.

"I'll come halfway," she added.

The boy made a mark in the dust of the road a few feet from him with
his toe, and said, "Come to there."

The girl shook her head, and spoke. "Tell me part--'n' I'll see if
it's good."

"Me and Elmer an' Bob are goin' to run away!" The girl stepped to the
toe mark and cried, "What?"

"Yes, sir--in the mornin'." He caught hold of the girl's arm
awkwardly and swung her around to the opposite side of the
pump-handle, and put her hands on it and began to pump. She pumped
with him as he puffed between the strokes, "Um' huh--we're going to
hide in the provision wagons, under some saddles they is there and
go--to--war!" The water was pouring into the bucket by the time he
had got this out. Their hands touched on the pump-handle. It was the
boy who drew his hand away. The girl gasped:--

"Why, John Barclay,--it ain't no such thing--does your ma know it?"

He told her that no one knew it but her, and they pumped in silence
until the bucket was full, and walking back carrying the bucket
between them, he told her another secret: that Watts McHurdie had
asked John to get his guitar after midnight, and play an accompaniment
to the accordion, and that Watts and Ward and Jake Dolan and Gabriel
Carnine were going out serenading. Further he told her that Watts was
going to serenade Nellie Logan at the Thayer House, and that Gabriel
Carnine was going to serenade Mary Murphy, and that Philemon Ward was
going to serenade Miss Lucy, and that he, John Barclay, had suggested
that it would be fine to serenade Mrs. Culpepper, because she was such
a nice woman, and they agreed that if he would bring his guitar, they
would!

When the boy and girl returned to the store, Ward and Miss Lucy went
to the Barclay home for the guitar. When they came back, Mrs. Barclay
noted a pink welt on one of Ward's fingers where his cameo ring had
been, and she observed that from time to time Miss Lucy kept feeling
of her hair as if to smooth it. It was long after midnight before the
girls from the hotel went home, and Miss Lucy and Mrs. Barclay lay on
the counter in the store, trying to sleep. They awoke with the sound
of music in their ears, and Miss Lucy said, "It's Captain Ward--and
the other boys, serenading us." They heard the high tenor voice of
Watts McHurdie and the strong clear voice of Ward rising above the
accordion and guitar:--

    "For her voice is on the breeze,
      Her spirit comes at will,
    At midnight on the seas
      Her bright smile haunts me still."

And underneath these high voices was the gruff bass voice of Gabriel
Carnine and the baritone of Jake Dolan. And when Mrs. Barclay heard
the piping treble of her son, and the tinkle of his guitar, her eyes
filled with tears of pride.

The serenaders waked the chickens, and the crowing roosters roused
Mrs. Barclay, and in the hurry of the hour she forgot to look for her
son. As "the gray dawn was breaking," a hundred men came into the
room, and found the smoking breakfast on the table. It was a good
breakfast as breakfasts go when men are hungry. But they sat in
silence that morning. The song was all out of them; the spring of
youth was crushed under the weight of great events. And as they
rose--they who had been so merry the day before, and had joked of the
things the soldier fears, they were all but mute, and left their
breakfasts scarcely tasted.

The women remember this,--the telltale sign of the untouched
breakfast,--and their memory is better than that of Martin Culpepper,
who wrote in that plumy chapter of the Biography, before mentioned:--

"The soldiers left their homes that beautiful August morning as the
sun was kissing the tips of the sycamore that gave the magnificent
little city its name. They had partaken abundantly of a bountiful
breakfast, and as they satisfied their inner man from a table groaning
with good things prepared by the fair hands of the gentler sex, the
gallant men rose with song and cheer, and went on their happy way
where duty and honour called them."

But the women who scraped the plates that morning knew the truth. One
wonders how much of history would be thrown out as worthless, like
Martin Culpepper's fine writing, if the women who scraped the plates
might testify. For those "large white plumes" do not dance in women's
eyes!

After breakfast the men tumbled into the wagons, and as one wagon
after another rattled out of Fernald's feed lot and came down the
street, the men waved their hats and the women waved their aprons, and
a great cloud of dust rose on the highway, and as the wagons ducked
down the bank to the river, only the tall figure of Martin Culpepper,
waving his handkerchief, rose above the cloud. At the end of the line
was a provision wagon, and on it rode Philemon Ward--Yankee in his
greatest moment, scorning the heroic place in the van, and looking
after the substantials. In the feed lot, just as the reins were in his
hands, Ward saw Elmer Hendricks' foot peeping from under a saddle.
Ward dragged the boy out, spanking him as he came over the end gate,
and noted the sheepish smile on his face. Ten days later, as Ward,
marching in the infantry, was going up a hill through the timber at
the battle of Wilson's Creek, that same boy rode by with the cavalry,
and seeing Ward, waved a carbine and smiled as he charged the brow of
the hill. That night, going back under the stars, Ward stumbled over a
body, and stooping, saw the smile still on the boy's face, and the
carbine clutched in his hand. But for the hole through the boyish
brow, the eyes might still have been laughing.




CHAPTER III


A few years ago, in the room of the great mahogany table, with its
clean blotting pad, its writing tablet, and its superb rose rising
from a green vase in the midst of the shining unlittered expanse,
there was a plain, heavy mahogany wainscoting reaching chin-high to
the average man. A few soft-toned pictures adorned the dull gray walls
above the wainscoting, and directly over a massive desk that never was
seen open hung a framed letter. The letter was written on blue-lined
paper in red pokeberry ink. At the top of the letter was the
advertisement of a hotel, done in quaint, old-fashioned, fancy script
with many curly-cues and printers' ornaments. The advertisement set
forth that the Thayer House at Sycamore Ridge was "First class in
every particular," and that "Especial attention was paid to transient
custom." On a line in the right-hand corner the reader was notified
that the tavern was founded by the Emigrant Aid Society, and balancing
this line, in the left-hand corner, were these words: "The only
livery-stable west of Lawrence." John Barclay's eyes have read it a
thousand times, and yet he always smiled when he scanned the letter
that followed the advertisement. The letter read:--

"Dear Ma I am going to war. Doan crye. Iff father was here he wood go;
so why should not I. I will be very caerfull not to get hurt & stay by
Cap Ward all the time. So godby yours truly J. Barclay Jr."

It was five hours after the soldiers had gone when Mrs. Barclay came
home from her work in the aid room, and the first thing that attracted
her attention was her son's letter, lying folded on the table. When
she read it, she ran with the open letter across the common to the
town. It was a woman's town that morning,--not a man was left in
it,--for Ezra Lane, the only old man living in the Ridge, had left
_Freedom's Banner_ to shift for itself while he rode to Leavenworth
with the soldiers to bring back the teams; and when Mrs. Barclay came
into the street, she found some small stir there, made by Miss
Hendricks--the only mother the Hendricks boys remembered--who was
inquiring for her lost boys. Mrs. Barclay displayed her note, and in a
moment the whole population of Sycamore Ridge, with hands under its
aprons, was standing in front of the post-office. Then Ellen Culpepper
found her tongue, and Mrs. Barclay began to look for a horse. Elmer
Hendricks' pony in the pasture was the only horse Ward had left within
twenty miles. When Ellen Culpepper and her little sister Molly came
back from the pasture and announced that Elmer's pony was gone also,
the women surmised that he had taken it with him, for they could not
know that after he was spanked from the provision wagon, he had
slipped out to the pasture and ridden by a circuitous route to the
main road.

It was Captain Ward, dismounting from his driver's seat on the
provision wagon at noon, who discovered two boys: a little boy eleven
years old in a dead faint, and a bigger boy panting with the heat.
They threw cold spring water on John Barclay's face, and finally his
eyes opened, and he grinned as he whispered, "Hullo, Captain," to the
man bending over him. The man held water to the boy's lips, and he
sipped a little and swam out into the blackness again, and then the
man reappeared and the boy tried to smile and whispered, "Aw--I'm all
right." They saw he was coming out of his faint, and one by one the
crowd dropped away from him; but Ward stayed, and when the child could
speak, he replied to Ward's question, "'Cause I wanted to." And then
again when the question was repeated, the boy said, "I tell you 'cause
I wanted to." He shook his head feebly and grinned again and tried to
rise, but the man gently held him down, and kept bathing his temples
with cold water from the spring beside them. Finally, when the man
seemed a little harsh in his questions, the boy's eyes brimmed and he
said: "Whur'd my pa be if he was alive to-day? I just guess I got as
much right here as you have." He made a funny little picture lying on
the lush grass by the spring in the woods; his browned face, washed
clean on the forehead and temples, showed almost white under the dirt.
There were tear-stained rings about the eyes, and his pink shirt and
blue trousers were grimy with dust, and the red clay of the Sycamore
still was on the sides of his dust-brown bare feet. Around a big toe
was a rag which showed a woman's tying--neat and firm, but red with
clay.

Ward left, and Bob Hendricks came and stood over the prostrate boy.
Bob was carrying a bucket of water to the cook as a peace offering.

"What did they do?" asked the boy on the ground.

"Just shook me--and then said father'd tend to me for this." The boys
exchanged comments on the situation without words, and then Bob said
as he drew the dripping bucket from the spring, "We're going clear on
to Leavenworth, and they say then we've got to come back with Ezra
Lane and the teams."

The boy on the ground raised himself by rolling over and catching hold
of a sapling. He panted a moment, and "I'll bet y' I don't." The other
boy went away with a weak "Me neither," thrown over his shoulder.

During that long afternoon, and all the next day and the next, the
boys ran from wagon to wagon, climbing over end gates, wriggling among
the men, running with the horses through the shady woods, paddling in
the fords, and only refusing to move when the men got out of the
wagons and walked up the long clay hills that rise above the Kaw
River. At night they camped by the prairie streams, and the men sang
and wondered what they were doing at home, and Philemon Ward took John
Barclay out into the silence of the woods and made him say his
prayers. And Ward would look toward the west and say, "Well,
Johnnie,--there's home," and once they stood in an open place in the
timber, and Ward gazed at a bright star sinking in the west, and said,
"I guess that's about over Sycamore Ridge." They went on, and the boy,
looking back to see why the man had stopped, caught him throwing a
kiss at the star. And they could not know, as they walked back
together through the woods abashed, that two women sitting before a
cabin door under a sycamore tree were looking at an eastern star, and
one threw kisses at it unashamed while the other wept. And on other
nights, many other nights, the two, Miss Lucy and Mrs. Barclay, sat
looking at their star while the terror in their hearts made their lips
mute. God makes men brave who stand where bullets fly, yet always they
can run away. But God seems to give no alternative to women at home
who have to wait and dread.

Forty years later John Barclay took from a box in a safety vault back
of his office in the city a newspaper. It was the Sycamore Ridge
_Banner_, yellow and creased and pungent with age. "This," he said to
Senator Myton, spreading the wrinkled sheet out on the mahogany table,
"this is my enlistment paper." He smiled as he read aloud:--

"At noon of our first day out we came across two stowaways. Hendricks,
aged twelve, son of our well-known and popular Mayor, and J. Barclay,
aged eleven, son of Mrs. M. Barclay, who, owing to the suddenness of
the departure of our troops for the seat of war in Missouri, and
certain business delays made necessary in ye editor's return, were
slipped out with our company rather than left in the rough and
uncertain city of Leavenworth. They are called by the boys of 'C'
company respectively 'the little sergeant and the little corporal,
Good Luck boys.'"

A little farther down the column was this paragraph:

"Aug. 2nd we went into camp on Sugar Creek, and some sport was had by
the men who went in bathing, taking the horses with them."

"Ever go in swimming with the horses, Senator?" asked Barclay. The
senator shook his head doubtfully.

"Well--you haven't. For if you had you'd remember it," answered
Barclay, and a hundred naked young men and two skinny, bony boys
splashed and yelled and ducked and wrestled and locked their strong
wet arms about the necks of the plunging horses and dived under them,
and rolled across them and played with them like young satyrs in the
cool water under the overhanging elms with the stars twinkling in the
shining mahogany as Barclay folded the paper and put it away. He
thrummed the polished surface a moment and looked back into the past
to see Philemon Ward straight, lean, and glistening like a god
standing on a horse ready to dive, and as he huddled, crouched for the
leap, Barclay said, "Well, come on, Senator, we must go to lunch now."

It was late in the afternoon of their third day's journey that the men
from Sycamore Ridge rode in close order, singing, through the streets
of Leavenworth. Watts McHurdie was playing his accordion, and the
people turned to look at the uncouth crowd in civilian's clothes that
went bellowing "O My Darling Nellie Gray," across the town and out to
the Fort. Ezra Lane promised to call at the Fort for the two boys and
with drivers for the teams early the next morning--but to Sycamore
Ridge, Leavenworth in those days was the great city with its pitfalls,
and when Ezra Lane, grizzled though he was, came to a realizing sense
of his responsibilities, the next day was gone and the third was
waning. When he went to the Fort, he found the Sycamore Ridge men had
been hurried into Missouri to meet General Price, who was threatening
Springfield, and no word had been left for him about the boys. As he
left the gate at the Fort, a troop of cavalry rode by gaily, and a
boy, a big overgrown fourteen-year-old boy in a blue uniform, passed
and waved his hand at the befuddled old man, and cried, "Good-by, Mr.
Lane,--tell 'em you saw me." He knew the boy was from Sycamore Ridge,
but he knew also that he was not one of the boys who had come with the
soldiers; and being an old man, far removed from the boy world, he
could not place the child in his blue uniform, so he drove away
puzzled.

The afternoon the men from Sycamore Ridge came to Leavenworth they
were hurriedly examined again, signed the muster rolls, and were sent
away without uniforms all in twenty-four hours. But not before they
had found time to have their pictures taken in borrowed regimentals.
For twenty years after the war the daguerreotypes of the soldiers
taken at Leavenworth that day were the proudest adornments of the
centre-tables of Sycamore Ridge, and even now on Lincoln Avenue, in a
little white cottage with green blinds, that sits in a broad smooth
lawn with elm trees on it, stands an easel. On the easel is a
picture--an enlarged crayon drawing of a straight, handsome young
fellow in a captain's uniform. One hand is in his coat, and the other
at his hip. His head is thrown back with a fierce determination into
the photographer's iron rest and all together the picture is marked
with the wrinkled front of war. For over one corner of the easel hangs
a sword with an ivory handle, and upon it is an inscription
proclaiming the fact that the sword was presented to Captain Philemon
R. Ward by his company for gallant conduct on the field of battle on
the night of August 4, 1861. Above the easel in the corner hangs
another picture--that of a sweet-faced old man of seventy, beaming
rather benignly over his white lawn necktie. The forty-five years that
have passed between the two faces have trimmed the hair away from the
temples and the brow, have softened the mouth, and have put patience
into the eyes--the patience of a great faith often tried but never
broken. The five young women of the household know that the crayon
portrait on the bamboo easel is highly improper as a parlour
ornament--for do they not teach school, and do they not take all the
educational journals and the crafty magazines of art? But the hand
that put it there was proud of its handiwork, and she who hung the
sword upon the easel is gone away, so the girls smile at the fierce
young boyish face in the picture as they pass it, and throw a kiss at
the face above it, and the easel is not moved.

And the man,--the tall old man with a slight stoop in his shoulders,
the old man who wears the alpaca coat and the white lawn tie seen in
the upper picture,--sometimes he wanders into the stately front room
with a finger in a census bulletin as a problem in his head creases
his brow--and the sight of the sword always makes him smile, and
sometimes the smile is a chuckle that stirs the cockles of his heart.

For his mind goes back to that summer night of August 4, 1861, and he
sees himself riding on a horse with a little boy behind with his arms
in the soldier's belt. It is dusk, and "C" Company on foot is filing
down a Missouri hill. It is a muddy road, and the men are tired and
dirty. There is no singing now. A man driving an ox team has turned
out of the road to let the soldiers pass. Some one in the line asks
the man, "Where's Price?"

"Over the hill yonder," replies the man, pointing with his hickory
whip-stock. The word buzzes up and down the line. The captain on his
horse with the boy clutching at his belt does not hear it. But the
line lags and finally halts. The men have been only two days under
military discipline. That day last week Phil Ward--who was he,
anyway? Henry Schnitzler and Oscar Fernald could have bought him and
sold him twice over. So the line halted. Then the captain halted. Then
he called Second Lieutenant Dolan and asked to know what was the
matter. "They say they are going to camp," responded Dolan, touching
his cap. Captain Ward's face flushed. He told Dolan to give the order
to march. There were shouts and laughter, and Gabriel Carnine cried,
"Say, Phil, this here Missourian we passed says old General Price is
over that hill." The boys laughed again, and Ward saw that trouble was
before him. The men stood waiting while he controlled his rage before
he spoke. Dolan said under his breath from the ground beside the
horse, "They're awful tired, Cap, and they don't want to tackle
Price's army all by their lonelies." Some one in the company called
out, "We've voted on this thing, Cap. Don't the majority rule in this
country?"

A smile twitched at Ward's mouth and the boy in him pricked a twinkle
in his eyes, for he was only twenty-six, and he laughed--threw his
head back and then leaned over and slapped the horse's neck and
finally straightened up and said, "Gentlemen, I bow to the will of the
people."

And so it happened that when they drew their first month's pay, Martin
Culpepper and Jake Dolan suggested to the company that they buy Ward a
sword to commemorate the victory of the people. And Martin Culpepper
made a great presentation speech in which he said that to the
infantry, cavalry, and artillery arms of military service, "C" Company
had added the "vox populi." But the night after the presentation Oscar
Fernald and Watts McHurdie crawled under the captain's tent and stole
the sword and pawned it for beer, and there was a sound of revelry by
night.

When they found the great camp near Springfield, it seemed to John
Barclay that all the soldiers in the world were gathered. It is
difficult for a boy under a dozen years to remember things
consecutively; because boys do not do things consecutively. They flit
around like butterflies, and so the picture that they make of events
jumps from scene to scene. One film on a roll of John's memory showed
a hot August day in the camp of "C" Company; the men are hurrying
about the place. The tents are down; the boys--John and Bob--are
kicking around the vacant camp looking for trophies. But there the
film broke and did not record the fact that Captain Ward put Bob and
John on a commissary wagon that stood in a side street as the soldiers
moved out. John remembered looking into a street filled with marching
soldiers. First the regulars and the artillery came swinging down the
street. At their head the boy saw General Lyon, the commanding
officer, and around him was a bodyguard whose plumed hats, with the
left brim pinned up, caught the boys' eyes. The regulars marched by
silently. It was part of their day's work; but following them came a
detachment of Germans singing "Marchen Rote," and then the battery of
six guns and then the Kansans. Small wonder Captain Gordon Granger
told Colonel Mitchel that the Kansas soldiers were only an armed mob.
They filed out of Springfield, some in rags and some in tags and some
in velvet gowns. They carried guns; but they looked like delegates to
a convention, and as the boys saw their own company, they waved their
hands, but they were almost ashamed of the shabby clothes of the men
from Sycamore Ridge; for a boy always notices clothes on others. When
the Germans stopped singing "Marchen Rote," the boys heard Watts
McHurdie's high tenor voice start up "The Dutch Companee," and the
crowd that was lining the street cheered and cheered. A Missouri
regiment followed and more regulars, and then a battery of four guns
passed, and then came more Kansans still going to that everlasting
convention. And a band came roaring by,--with its crashing brass and
rumbling drums,--and then after the band had turned the corner, came
Iowa in gray blouses and such other garments as the clothes-lines of
the country afforded. They were singing as they passed--a song the
boy had never heard, being all about the "happy land of Canaan." And
before the sun had set again, after that night, hundreds of those who
sang of the happy land were there. In the rear were the ambulances and
the ammunition and the hospital vans, and the wagon which held the
boys wheeled into the line. After they had passed, the streets were
clogged with carts and drays and wagons of all sorts, for the citizens
were moving to places of safety.

As a man, the boy's memory did not tell him how the boys fared, but he
does remember that it was dark in the timber where they camped that
night, and that they slipped away into the woods to lie down together.
The chirping of the birds at dawn wakened them, and as John sat up
rubbing his eyes, he heard a rifle's crack. They were at the edge of a
field, and half a mile from him, troops were marching by columns
across a clearing. The rifle-shot was followed by another, and
another, and then by a half-dozen. "Wake up, Bob--wake up--they's a
battle," he cried, and the two boys stumbled to their feet. The shots
were far in front of the marching soldiers, and the boys could not
make out what the firing meant. The line formed and ran up the hill,
and the boys saw the morning sun flashing on the guns of the enemy.
The battery roared, and the boys were filled with terror. They ran
through the woods like dogs until they came to the soldiers from
Sycamore Ridge. The boys crawled on their bellies to their friends,
and lay with their faces all but buried in the ground. The men were
lying at the edge of the timber talking, and Watts McHurdie was on his
back.

"What's the matter with you, Watts?" asked Oscar Fernald.

"Os," replied Watts, "I got a presentiment I'm goin' to be shot in the
rear. It will kill me to be shot in the back, and I've got a notion
that's how I am goin' to die."

The line laughed. Captain Ward, who was sitting a few paces in the
rear of the men, went over to Watts, and scuffled the man over with
his foot. A bullet went through Ward's hat before he got back to his
place. The men were sticking up ramrods and betting on the number of
minutes they would last. No ramrod stood more than ten minutes. Martin
Culpepper threw up his hat five times before a bullet hit it; but he
went bareheaded the rest of the day, and John Barclay, in sheer fear,
began to dig a hole under him. After he had been on his belly for an
hour, Henry Schnitzler got tired and rose. The men begged him to lie
down. But his only reply when they told him he was a fool was, "Vell,
vot of it?" And when they said he would be shot, he answered again,
"Vell, vot of it?" And when Jake Dolan cried, "You pot-gutted
Dutchman, sit down or there'll be a sauer-kraut shower in hell pretty
quick," Henry shook his fat sides a moment and laughed, "Vell, vot of
dot--altzo!" For an hour, that seemed ten, he moved back and forth on
the line, firing and joking, and then the spell broke and a bullet
took part of his jaw. As he dropped to his position, with the blood
gushing from his face, his eyes blazed, and he spat out, "By hell-tam,
now I vos mad," and he fought the day out and died that night. But as
he sank to his place when the bullet hit him, Watts McHurdie saw
Schnitzler stagger, and through the smoke, knew that he was wounded.
Watts rushed to Schnitzler and bent over him, when a ball hit Watts
and went ripping through the fleshy part of his hip. "Shot in the
back--damn it, shot in the back!" he screamed, as he jumped into the
air. "What did I tell you, boys, I'm shot in the back." And he crawled
bleeding to the rear.

All the long forenoon the camp of the enemy continued to belch out
men. The battery mowed them down, and once the Kansans were ordered to
charge the hill, and the boys were left alone. It was there that the
two were separated. John saw men sink in awful silence, and the blood
ooze from their heads. He saw men cramp in agony and choke with blood,
and he saw Martin Culpepper, perhaps with the large white plumes still
dancing in his eyes, dash out of the line and pick up a Union banner
that Sigel's men had lost, and that the enemy was flaunting just
before the artillery mowed the gray line down. He heard the hoarse men
cheer Martin, and as the tall swart figure came running back waving
the flag, the boy prayed to his father's God to save the man.

When the battle lulled, the boy found himself parted from "C" Company,
and fled back through the woods to the rear. There he came upon a
smell that was familiar. He had known it in the slaughter-house at
home. It was the smell of fresh blood, and with it came the sickening
drone of flies. In an instant he stood under a tree where men were
working smeared with blood. He stumbled over a little pile of
dismembered legs and hands. A man with a bloody knife was bending over
a human form stretched on a bloody and, it seemed to the boy, a greasy
table. Another was helping the big man. They were cutting the bullet
out of Watts McHurdie, who was lying white and unconscious and with
flies crawling over him, half naked and blood-smeared, on the table.
The boy screamed, and the man turned his head and snarled through his
clenched teeth that held the knife, "Get out of here--no--go get me
a bucket of water from the creek." Some one handed the boy a bucket,
and he ran where he was told to go, with the awful sight burned on his
brain, with the sickening smell in his nose, and with the drone of
flies in his ears. When he came back the firing had begun again. The
surgeon was saying, "Well, that's all that's waiting--now I'm going
for a minute." He grabbed a gun standing by the table and ran toward
the front; he did not take off his blood-splotched apron, and the boy
fled from the place in terror. In a few moments the firing ceased; but
the boy ran on, hunting for a hiding-place. He saw a troop of
Alabamians plunge over a log in a charge, and roll in an awful,
writhing, screaming pile of dying men and horses, and in the heap he
saw the terror-stricken face of a youth, who was shrieking for help;
John carried that fear-distorted face in his memory for years, until
long afterwards it appeared in Sycamore Ridge.

But that day John fled from the death-trap almost mad with fear.
Rushing farther into the woods, he came upon General Lyon and his
staff. The plumed hats of the bodyguard told the boy that the
sandy-haired man before him was in command, though the man's face was
bloody from a wound in his head, and though his clothes were stained
with blood and he was hatless. He sat upright on his horse, and as the
boy turned, he heard the voices of Captain Ward and his soldiers,
begging to be sent into the fight. It was a clamour fierce and
piteous, and the general had turned his head to the Kansans, when
something at the left startled him. There was no firing, and a column
of soldiers was approaching. Doubt paralyzed the group around Lyon for
a moment. The men wore gray blouses strangely like those the Iowans
wore. The men might be Sigel's men, coming back from their artillery
duel. The general plainly was puzzled. He rode out from the bodyguard
a few paces. The boy was staring at him, when the bodyguard with their
gay plumed hats came up, and he saw wrath flash into the general's
face as he recognized the enemy. "Shoot them--shoot them--" he
shouted. But the gray line vomited its smoke first, and the boy felt
his foot afire. The general dropped from his horse, and as the boy
looked down, he saw a red blot coming out on his instep. In the same
instant he saw Captain Ward rush to the falling general, and saw the
bodyguard gather about him, and then the blackness came over the child
and he fell. He did not see them bear General Lyon's body into the
brush, nor hear Ward moan his sorrow. But when Ward returned from the
thicket, he saw the child lying limp on the grass.

As Ward ran toward the hospital van carrying the limp little body, he
could see that a ball had pierced the boy's foot. Also he saw the men
in retreat who had shot Lyon, and all over the field the firing had
ceased. As he hurried through the underbrush, Ward ran into Bob
Hendricks hiding in the thicket. Ward took the child's hand and he
began to sob: "I saw Elmer go up that hill, Captain; I saw him go up
with the horses and he ain't come back." But Ward did not understand
him, and hurried the little fellow along with John to the surgeon.

Then Ward left them, and when John Barclay opened his eyes, Bob
Hendricks was sitting beside him. A great lint bandage was about
John's foot, and they were in a wagon jolting over a rutty road. He
did not speak for a long time, and then he asked, "Did we whip 'em?"

And Bob nodded and said, "Cap says so!"

The children clasped hands and talked of many things that passed from
the boy's mind. But his mind recorded that the next day in the
hospital Martin Culpepper said, "Bob can't come to-day, Johnnie; you
know he's tendin' Elmer's funeral." The boy must have opened his eyes,
for the man said, "Why, Johnnie, I thought you knew; yes; they found
him dead that night--right under the reb--under the enemies' guns on
the brink of the hill."

The child's eyes filled with tears, but he did not cry. His emotion
was spent. The two sat together for a time, and the little boy said,
"Why didn't you go, Mr. Culpepper?" And the man replied: "Me?
Oh--why--Oh, yes, I got a little scratch here in my leg, and they
won't let me out of here. There's Watts over there in the next cot; he
got a little scratch too--didn't you, Watts?" Watts and the boy
smiled at each other, but John did not see Bob again for years. Miss
Hendricks came and took him to their father's people in Ohio.

One day some one came in the hospital where John and Watts and Martin
Culpepper were lying, and began to call out mail for the men, and the
third name the corporal called was "Captain Martin Culpepper"; and
when they brought him a long official envelope with General Fremont's
name on it, Martin Culpepper held it in his hands, looked at the
inscription, read the word "captain" again and again, and could not
speak for choked joy. And tears so dimmed his eyes that he could not
see the "large white plumes" of chivalry, but the men in the beds
cheered as they heard the words the corporal read.

With such music as that in his ears, and with his soul stirred by the
events about him, Watts McHurdie, lying in the hospital, wrote the
song that made him famous. They know in Sycamore Ridge that Watts is
not much of a poet, that his rhymes are sometimes bad and his metre
worse. But once his heart took fire and burned for a day sheer white,
and in that day he wrote words that a nation sang, and now all the
world is singing. And they are proud of him, and when people come to
Sycamore Ridge on pilgrimages to see the author of the song, men do
not smile in wonder; they show the visitors his shop, and point out
the bowed little man bending over his bench, stretching his arms out
as he sews, and they point him out with pride. Not even John Barclay
with all his millions, or Bob Hendricks, who once refused a place in
the President's cabinet, are more esteemed in Sycamore Ridge than the
little harness maker who set the world to singing.

And curiously enough, John Barclay was with Watts McHurdie when he
wrote the song. They brought him an accordion one day while he was
getting well, and the two sat together. Watts droned along and shut
his eyes and mumbled some words, and then burst out with the chorus.
Over and over he sang it and exclaimed between breaths: "Say--ain't
that fine? I just made it up." He was exalted with his performance,
and some women came loitering down the corridor where the wounded man
and the boy were lying. The visitors gazed compassionately at
them--little Watts not much larger than the boy. A woman asked, "And
where were you wounded, son?" looking at Watts with his accordion. His
face flushed up at the thought of his shame, and he could not keep
back the tears that always betrayed him when he was deeply moved.
"Ten--ten miles from Springfield, madam, ten miles from Springfield."
And to hide his embarrassment he began sawing at his accordion,
chanting his famous song. But being only a little boy, John Barclay
tittered.

A few days after the battle Captain Ward wrote to Miss Lucy telling
her that some soldiers slightly wounded would go home on a furlough to
Lawrence, and that they would take John with them and put him on the
stage at Lawrence for Sycamore Ridge. Then Ward's letter continued:
"It is all so horrible--this curse of war; sometimes I think it is
worse than the curse of slavery. There is no 'pomp and circumstance of
glorious war.' Men died screaming in agony, or dumb with fear. They
were covered with dirt, and when they were dead they merged into the
landscape like inanimate things. What vital difference is there
between a living man and a dead man, that one stands out in a scene
big and obtrusive, and the other begins to fade into the earth as soon
as death touches the body? The horror of death is upon me, and I
cannot shake it off. It is a fearful thing to see a human soul pass
'in any shape, in any mood.' And I have seen so many deaths--we lost
one man out of every three--that I am all unnerved. I saw General
Lyon die--the only abolitionist in the regular army, they say. He
died like a soldier--but not as the soldiers die in pictures. He sank
off his horse so limp, and so like an animal with its death wound, and
gasped so weakly, 'I'm killed--take care of my body,' that when we
covered his face and bore him away, we could not realize we were
carrying a man's body. And now, my dear, if I should go as these men
go, I have neither kith nor kin to mourn me--only you, and you must
not mourn, for I shall be near you always and always, without sign or
token, and when you feel my presence near, know that it is real, and
not a seeming. For the great force of life that moves events in this
world has but one symbol, but one vital manifestation, and that is
love, and when a soul is touched with that, it is immortal."

But Martin Culpepper, with his dancing plumes, saw things in another
light. Perhaps we always see things in another light when forty years
have passed over them. But in his chapter "The Shrill Trump," in the
Biography, he writes: "'O you mortal engines, whose rude throats the
immortal Jove's dread clamours counterfeit,' O for the 'spirit-stirring
drum, and the ear-splitting fife' 'in these piping times of peace.'
Small wonder it was that with the clang and clank of sabre and artillery
in his ears, with the huzzas of comrades and the sparkle of the wine of
war in his eyes, our hero wrote the never dying words that made him
famous. How the day comes back with all its pageantry, the caparisoned
horses, the handsome men stepping to the music of inspiring melody, the
clarion commands of the officers, and the steady rumble of a thousand
feet upon the battle ground, going careless whether to death or
immortality in deathless fame."

A curious thing is that deathless fame which Martin speaks of--a
passing curious thing; for when word came of Henry Schnitzler's death,
Mary Murphy, of the Thayer House, put off Gabriel Carnine's ring, and
wept many tears in the stage driver's coffee and wore black in her hat
for a year, and when Gabriel came home, she married him and all went
as merrily as a wedding-bell. What covert tenderness or dream of gauzy
romance was in her memory, the town could never know; but the
Carnines' first boy was named Henry, and for many years after the war,
she was known among the men, who do not understand a woman's heart, as
the "War widow by brevet." Yet that was Henry's "deathless fame" in
Sycamore Ridge, for the town has long since forgotten him, and even
his name means nothing to our children, who see it on the bronze
statue set up by the rich John Barclay to commemorate our soldier
dead.

But John was our first war hero. And when he brought his battle scars
home that September night in '61, for hours before the stage drove
across Sycamore Creek the boy was filled with a nameless dread that he
might be spanked.

They carried him on a cot to his mother's house, and put him in the
great carved four-poster bed, and in the morning Miss Lucy came and
hovered over him, and they talked of Captain Ward to her heart's
content, and the boy told Miss Lucy the gossip of the hospital,--that
Captain Ward was to be made a major,--and she kissed him and petted
him until he was glad none of the boys was around to see the sickening
spectacle. And then Miss Lucy and Mrs. Barclay told the child of their
plans,--that Miss Lucy was going to war as a nurse, and that Mrs.
Barclay was to teach the Sycamore Ridge school during the winter. And
in a few weeks John was out of the hero business, working in
Culpepper's store after school, and getting used to a limp that stayed
with him all his life.

The next spring he traded a carbine that he brought home from the army
for an Indian pony, and then he began business for himself. He organized
the cows of the town into a town herd and took them every morning to
pasture on the prairie. All day he rode in the open air, and the town
boys came out to play with him, and they explored the cave by his
mother's house, and with their sling-shots killed quails and prairie
chickens and cooked them, and they played war through the long summer
days. But John did not grow as the other boys grew; he remained
undersized, and his limp put him at a disadvantage; so he had few
fights, but he learned cunning, and got his way by strategy rather than
by force--but he always had his way. He was strong; the memory of what
he had seen and what he had been that one awful day in the battle made
lines on his face; sometimes at night he would wake screaming, when he
dreamed he was running away from the surgeon with the bloody knife in
his teeth and that the man was going to throw an arm at him. And when he
wished to bring Ellen Culpepper to time he would begin in a low
terrorful voice, "And I saw--the man--take--a--g-r-e-a-t l-o-n-g knife
d-r-i-p-p-i-n-g with r-e-d-b-l-o-o-d out of his t-e-e-t-h and go slish,
k-slish," but he never got farther than this, for the girl would begin
shaking, and if they were alone, would run to him and grab him and put
her hand to his mouth to make him stop.

And so his twelfth year passed under the open sky in the sunshine in
summer and in winter working after school in town where men were
wanting, and where a boy could always find work. He grew brown and
lean, and as his voice grew squeaky and he sang alto in the school, he
became more and more crafty and masterful. The fact that his mother
was the teacher, did not give him more rights in school than other
boys, for she was a sensible woman, but it gave him a prestige on the
playground that he was not slow to take. He was a born trader; and he
kept what he got and got more. His weakness was music. He kept two
cows in his herd in the summer time in return for the use of the
melodeon at the Thayer House, and moved it to his own home and put it
in the crowded little room, and practised on it at night when the
other boys were loafing at the town pump. For a consideration in
marbles he taught Buck Culpepper the chords in "G" on the guitar, and
for further consideration taught him the chords in "D" and "C," and
with the aid of Jimmy Fernald, aged nine, and Molly Culpepper, aged
eleven, one with a triangle and the other with a pumpkin reed pipe,
John organized his Band, which he led with his mouth-organ, and
exhibited in Culpepper's barn, appropriating to himself as the
director the pins charged at the door. Forty years afterward, when
Molly called his attention to his failure to divide with the children,
John Barclay smiled as he lifted his lame foot to a fat leather chair
in front of him and said, "That was what we call the promoter's
profit." And then the talk ran to Ellen, and John opened his great
desk and from a box without a mark on it he brought out a tintype
picture of Ellen at fourteen, a pink-cheeked child in short sleeves,
with the fringe of her pantalets showing above her red striped
stockings and beneath her bulging skirts, and with a stringy, stiff
feather rising from the front of her narrow-rimmed hat.

During the time when he was going to school by day and working
evenings and caring for the town herd through the summer, the war was
dragging wearily on. Sometimes a soldier came home on a furlough and
there was news of the Sycamore Ridge men, but oftener it was a season
of waiting and working. The women and children cared for the farms and
the stores as best they could and lived, heaven only knows how, and
opened every newspaper with horror and dread, and glanced down the
long list of names of the dead, the missing and the wounded, fearful
of what they might see. Mrs. Barclay heard from Miss Lucy and through
her kept track of Philemon Ward, who was transferred to another
regiment after he was made major. And when he was made a colonel at
Shiloh, there were tear blots on Miss Lucy's letter that told of it,
and after Appomattox he was brevetted a general. As for Captain
Culpepper, he came home a colonel, and Jake Dolan came home a first
lieutenant. But Watts McHurdie came home with a letter from Lincoln
about his song, and he was the greatest man of all of them.

It is odd that Sycamore Ridge grew during the war. Where the people
came from, no one could say--yet they came, and young Barclay
remembered even during the war of playing in the foundations and
running over the rafters of new houses. But when the war closed, the
great caravan that had lagged while the war was raging, began to trail
itself steadily in front of Mrs. Barclay's door, through the streets
of Sycamore Ridge and out over the western hills. Soldiers with their
families passed, going to the free homesteads, and the line of movers'
wagons began with daybreak and rumbled by far into the night. But
hundreds of wagons stopped in Sycamore Ridge, and the stage came
crowded every night. Brick buildings, the town's mortal pride, began
showing their fronts on Main Street, and other streets in the town
began to assert themselves. Mrs. Barclay's school grew from a score of
children in 1864 to three rooms full in '65, and in '66 the whole town
turned out to welcome General and Mrs. Ward, she that was Miss Lucy
Barnes, and there was a reunion of "C" Company that night, and a
camp-fire in Culpepper Hall, and the next day Lige Bemis was painting
a sign which read "Philemon R. Ward, Attorney-at-Law, Pension Matters
Promptly Attended To." And the first little Ward was born at the
Thayer House and named Eli Thayer Ward.

The spring that found John Barclay sixteen years old found him a
browned, gray-eyed, lumpy sort of a boy, big at the wrong places, and
stunted at the wrong places, with a curious, uneven sort of an
education. He knew all about Walden Pond; and he knew his
Emerson--and was mad with passion to see the man; he had travelled
over the world with Scott; had crossed the bridge with Caesar in his
father's books; had roamed the prairie and the woods with Cooper's
Indians; had gone into the hearts of men with Thackeray and Dickens,
holding his mother's hand and listening to her voice; but he knew
algebra only as a name, and rhetoric was a dictionary word with him.
Of earthly possessions he had two horses, a bill of sale for his
melodeon, a saddle, a wagon, a set of harness; four mouth-organs, one
each in "A," "D," "E," and "C," all carefully rolled in Canton flannel
on a shelf above his bed; one concertina,--a sort of German
accordion,--five pigs, a cow, and a bull calf. Moreover, there were
_two_ rooms in the Barclay home; and the great rock was gone from the
door of the cave, and a wooden door was in its place and the Barclays
were using it for a spring-house. The boy had a milk route and sold
butter to the hotel. But the chiefest treasure of the household was
John's new music book. And while he played on his melodeon, Ellen
Culpepper's eyes smiled from the pages and her voice moved in the
melodies, and his heart began to feel the first vague vibration with
the great harmony of life. And so the pimples on his chin reddened,
and the squeak in his voice began to squawk, and his big milky eyes
began to see visions wherein a man was walking through this vain
world. As for Ellen Culpepper, her shoe tops were tiptoeing to her
skirts, and her eyes were full of dreams of the warrior bold, "with
spurs of gold," who "sang merrily his lay." And rising from these
dreams, she always stepped on her feet. But that was a long time ago,
and men and women have been born and loved, and married and brought
children into the world since then. For it was a long time ago.




CHAPTER IV


The changes of time are hard to realize. One knows, of course, that
the old man once was young. One understands that the tree once was a
sapling, and conversely we know that the child will be a man and the
gaunt sapling stuck in the earth in time will become a great spreading
tree. But the miracle of growth passes not merely our understanding,
but our imagination.

So though men tell us, and grow black in the face with the vehemence
of telling, that the Sycamore Ridge of the sixties--a gray smudge of
unpainted wooden houses bordering the Santa Fe trail, with the street
merging into the sunflowers a block either way from the pump,--is the
town that now lies hidden in the elm forest, with its thirty miles of
paving and its scores of acres of wide velvet lawns, with its parks
wherein fountains play, guarded by cannon discarded by the pride of
modern war, with the court-house on the brink of the hill that once
was far west of the town and with twenty-two thousand people whizzing
around in trolleys, rattling about in buggies or scooting down the
shady avenues in motor-cars--whatever the records may show, the real
truth we know; the towns are not the same; the miracle of growth
cannot fool us. And yet here is the miracle in the making. Always in
John Barclay's eyes when he closed them to think of the first years
that followed the war between the states, rose visions of yellow pine
and red bricks and the litter and debris of building; always in his
ears as he remembered those days were the confused noises of wagons
whining and groaning under their heavy loads, of gnawing saws and
rattling hammers, of the clink of trowels on stones, of the swish of
mortar in boxes, and of the murmur of the tide of hurrying feet over
board sidewalks, ebbing and flowing night and morning. In those days
new boys came to town so rapidly that sometimes John met a boy in
swimming whom he did not know, and, even in 1866, when Ellen and Molly
Culpepper were giving a birthday party for Ellen, she declared that
she "simply couldn't have all the new people there."

And so in the sixties the boy and the town went through their raw,
gawky, ugly adolescence together. As streets formed in the town, ideas
took shape in the boy's mind. As Lincoln Avenue was marked out on the
hill, where afterward the quality of the town came to live, so in the
boy's heart books that told him of the world outlined vague visions.
Boy fashion he wrote to Bob Hendricks once or twice a month or a
season, as the spirit moved him, and measured everything with the eyes
of his absent friend. For he came to idealize Bob, who was out in the
wonderful world, and their letters in those days were curious
compositions--full of adventures by field and wood, and awkward
references to proper books to read, and cures for cramps and bashfully
expressed aspirations of the soul. Bob's father had become a general,
and when the war closed, he was sent west to fight the Indians, and he
took Lieutenant Jacob Dolan with him, and Bob sent to John news of the
Indian fighting that glorified Bob further.

And when a letter came to the Ridge from Dolan announcing that he and
the Hendricks family were coming back to the Ridge to live,--the
general to look after his neglected property, and Dolan to start a
livery-stable,--John heard the news with a throb of great joy. When a
letter from Bob confirmed the news, John began to count the days. For
the love of boys is the most unselfish thing in a selfish world. They
met awkwardly and sheepishly at the stage, and greeted each other with
grunts, and became inseparable. Bob came back tall, lanky, grinny, and
rather dumb, and he found John undersized, wiry, masterful, and rather
mooney, but strong and purposeful, for a boy. But each accepted the
other as perfect in every detail.

Nothing Bob did changed John's attitude, and nothing John did made Bob
waver in his faith in John. Did the boys come to John with a sickening
story that Bob's sister made him bring a towel to the swimming hole,
John glared at them a moment and then waved them aside with, "Well,
you big brutes,--didn't you know what it was for?" When they reported
to John that Bob's father was making him tip his hat to the girls,
they got, instead of the outbreak of scorn they expected, "Well--did
the girls tip back?" And when Bob's sister said that the Barclay
boy--barefooted, curly-headed, dusty, and sunburned--looked like
something the old cat had dragged into the house, the boy-was impudent
to his sister and took a whipping from his father.

That fall the children of Sycamore Ridge assembled for the first time
in their new seven-room stone schoolhouse, and the two boys were in
the high school. The board hired General Philemon Ward to teach the
twenty high school pupils, and it was then he first began to wear the
white neckties which he never afterwards abandoned. Ward's first clash
with John Barclay occurred when Ward organized a military company.
John's limp kept him out of it, so he broke up the company and
organized a literary society, of which he was president and Ellen
Culpepper secretary, and a constitution was adopted exempting the
president and secretary from work in the society. It was natural
enough that Bob Hendricks should be made treasurer, and that these
three officers should be the programme committee, and then a long line
of vice-presidents and assistant secretaries and treasurers and
monitors was elected by the society.

So John became the social leader of the group of boys and girls who
were just coming out of kissing games into dances at one another's
homes in the town. John decided who should be in the "crowd" and who
might be invited only when a mixed crowd was expected. Fathers
desiring trade, and mothers faithful to church ties, protested; but
John Barclay had his way. It was his crowd. They called themselves the
"Spring Chickens," and as John had money saved to spend as he pleased,
he dictated many things; but he did not spend his money, he lent it,
and his barn was stored with, skates and sleds and broken guns and
scrap-iron held as security, while his pockets bulged with knives
taken as interest.

As the winter waned and the Spring Chickens waxed fat in social
honours, Bob Hendricks glanced up from his algebra one day, and
discovered that little Molly Culpepper had two red lips and two
pig-tail braids of hair that reached below her waist. Then and there
he shot her deftly with a paper wad, chewed and fired through a cane
pipe-stem, and waited till she wiped it off her cheek with her apron
and made a face at him, before he plunged into the mysteries of _x_2 +
2_xy_ + _y_2. And thus another old story began, as new and as fresh as
when Adam and Eve walked together in the garden.

John Barclay was so busy during his last year in the Sycamore Ridge
school that he often fancied afterwards that the houses on Lincoln
Avenue in Culpepper addition must have come with the grass in the
spring, for he has no memory of their building. Neither does he
remember when General Madison Hendricks built the brick building on
the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue, in which he opened the
Exchange National Bank of Sycamore Ridge. Yet John remembered that his
team and wagon were going all winter, hauling stone for the foundation
of the Hendricks home on the hill--a great brick structure, with
square towers and square "ells" rambling off on the prairie, and
square turrets with ornate cornice pikes pricking the sky. For years
the two big houses standing side by side--the Hendricks house and the
Culpepper house, with its tall white pillars reaching to the roof, its
double door and its two white wings spreading over the wide green
lawn--were the show places of Sycamore Ridge, and the town was always
divided in its admiration for them. John's heart was sadly torn
between them. Yet he was secretly glad to learn from his mother that
his Uncle Union's house in Haverhill had tall columns, green blinds on
the white woodwork, and a wide hall running down the centre. For it
made him feel more at home at the Culpeppers'. But when the Hendricks'
piano came, after they moved into the big house, the boy's heart was
opened afresh; and he spent hours with Bob Hendricks at the piano,
when he knew he would be welcome at the Culpeppers'. He leased his
town herd in the summer to Jimmie Fernald--giving him the right to
take the cows to the commons around town upon the payment of five
dollars a month to John for keeping out of the business, and passing
Jimmie good-will. In the meantime, by day, John worked his team, and
hired two others and took contracts for digging cellars. At nights he
went to the country with his concertina and played for dances, making
two dollars a night, and General Hendricks for years pointed with
pride to the fact that when the Exchange National Bank of Sycamore
Ridge opened for business the first morning, standing at the head of
the line of depositors was John Barclay, with his concertina under his
arm, just as he had returned from a country dance at daylight, waiting
to be first in line, with $178.53 in his pocket to deposit. That
deposit slip, framed, still hangs over the desk in the office of the
president of the bank, and when John Barclay became famous, it was
always a part of the "Art Loan Exhibit," held by the women in Barclay
Memorial Hall.

That summer of '67 John capitulated to life, held his hands up for the
shackles and put on shoes in summer for the first time. Also, he only
went swimming twice--both times at night, and he bought his first box
of paper collars and his mother tried to make his neckties like those
in Dorman's store; but some way she did not get the hang of it, and
John bought a Sunday necktie of great pride, and he and his mother
agreed that it was off the tail of Joseph's coat of many colours. But
he wore it only on state occasions. At work, he made an odd figure
limping over the dirt heaps and into the excavations bossing men old
enough to be his father. He wore a serious face in those days,--for a
boy,--and his mouth was almost hard, but something burned in his eyes
that was more than ambition, though that lighted his face like a
flame, and he was always whistling or singing. At night he and Bob
Hendricks wandered away together, and sometimes they walked out under
the stars and talked as boys will talk of their little world and the
big world about them, or sometimes they sat reading at one or the
other's home, and one would walk home with the other, and the other
walk a piece of the way back. They read poetry and mooned; "Lalla
Rookh" appealed to John because of its music and melody, and both boys
devoured Byron, and gobbled over the "Corsair" and the "Giaour" and
"Childe Harold" with the book above the table, and came back from the
barn on Sundays licking their chops after surreptitiously nibbling
"Don Juan." But they had Captain Mayne Reid and Kingsley as an
antidote, and they soon got enough of Byron.

The two boys persuaded each other to go away to school, and John chose
the state university because it was cheap and because he heard he
could get work in Lawrence to carry him through. He did not recollect
that his mother had any influence in the matter; but in those days she
always seemed to be sitting by the lamp in their little home, sewing,
with his shirts and underwear strewn about her. She had a permanent
place in the town schools, and the Barclay home had grown to a kitchen
and two bedrooms as well as the big room with its fireplace. His
mother's hair was growing gray at the temples, but her clear, firm,
unwrinkled skin and strong broad jaw kept youth in her countenance,
and as Martin Culpepper wrote in the Biography, where he names the
pioneers of Sycamore Ridge whose lives influenced Watts McHurdie's,
"the three graces, Faith, Hope, and Charity, were mirrored in her
smile."

One night when the boy came in tired after his night's ramble, he left
his mother, as he often did those last nights before he went away to
school, bending over her work, humming a low happy-noted song, even
though the hour was late. He lay in his bed beside the open window
looking out into the night, dreaming with open eyes about life.
Perhaps he actually dreamed a moment, for he did not hear her come
into the room; but he felt her bend over him, and a tear dropped on
his face from hers. He turned toward her, and she put her arms about
his neck. Then she sobbed: "Oh, good-by, my little boy--good-by. I am
coming here to bid you good-by, every night now." He kissed her hand,
and she was silent a moment, and then she spoke: "I know this is the
last of it all, John. You will never come back to me again--not you,
but a man. And you will seem strange, and I will seem strange." She
paused a moment to let the cramp in her throat leave, then she went
on: "I was going to say so many things--when this time came, but
they're all gone. But oh, my boy, my little tender-hearted boy--be a
good man--just be a good man, John." And then she sobbed for an
unrestrained minute: "O God, when you take my boy away, keep him
clean, and brave, and kind, and--O God, make him--make him a good
man." And with a pat and a kiss she rose and said as she left him,
"Now good night, Johnnie, go to sleep."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Sycamore Ridge _Banner_ for September 12, 1867, appeared some
verses by Watts McHurdie, beginning:--

    "Hail and farewell to thee, friend of my youth,
    Pilgrim who seekest the Fountain of Truth,
    Hail and farewell to thy innocent pranks,
    No more can I send thee for left-handed cranks.
    Farewell, and a tear laves the ink on my pen,
    For ne'er shall I 'noint thee with strap-oil again."

It was a noble effort, and in his notes to the McHurdie poems
following the Biography published over thirty years after those lines
were written, Colonel Culpepper writes: "This touching, though
somewhat humorous, poem was written on the occasion of the departure
for college of one who since has become listed with the world's great
captains of finance--none other than Honourable John Barclay, whose
fame is too substantial to need encomium in these humble pages.
Suffice it to say that between these two men, our hero, the poet, and
the great man of affairs, there has always remained the closest
friendship, and each carries in his bosom, wrapped in the myrrh of
fond memory, the deathless blossom of friendship, that sweetest flower
in the conservatory of the soul."

The day before John left for Lawrence he met Lieutenant Jacob Dolan.

"So ye're going to college--ay, Johnnie?"

"Yes, Mr. Dolan," replied the boy.

"Well, they're all givin' you somethin', Johnnie: Watts here has given
a bit of a posey in verse; and my friend, General Hendricks, I'm told,
has given you a hundred-dollar note; and General Philemon Ward has
given you Wendell Phillips' orations; and your sweetheart--God bless
her, whoever she is--will be givin' ye the makins' of a broken heart;
and your mother'll be givin' you her blessin'--and the saints'
prayers go with 'em; and me, havin' known your father before you and
the mother that bore you, and seein' her rub the roses off her cheeks
tryin' to keep your ornery little soul in your worthless little body,
I'll give you this sentiment to put in your pipe and smoke: John
Barclay, man--if they ever be's a law agin damn fools, the first raid
the officers should make is on the colleges. And now may ye be struck
blind before ye get your education and dumb if it makes a fool of ye."
And so slapping the boy on the back, Jake Dolan went down the street
winding in and out among the brick piles and lumber and mortar boxes,
whistling "Tread on the Tail of me Coat."

For life was all so fine and gay with Lieutenant Dolan in those days.
And he whistled and sang, and thought what he pleased, and said what
he pleased, and did what he pleased, and if the world didn't like it,
the world could picket its horses and get out of Jacob Dolan's livery
barn. For Mr. Dolan was thinking that from the livery-stable to the
office of sheriff is but a step in this land of the free and home of
the brave; so he carried his head back and his chest out and invited
insult in the fond hope of provoking assault. He was the flower of the
times,--effulgent, rather gaudy, and mostly red!




CHAPTER V


Good times came to Sycamore Ridge in the autumn. The dam across the
creek was furnishing power for a flour-mill and a furniture factory.
The endless worm of wagons that was wriggling through the town
carrying movers to the West, was sloughing many of its scales in
Sycamore Ridge. Martin Culpepper had been East with circulars
describing the town and adjacent country. He had brought back three
stage loads of settlers, and was selling lots in Culpepper's addition
faster than they could be surveyed. The Frye blacksmith shop had
become a wagon shop, and then a hardware store was added; the flag
fluttered from the high flagstaff over the Exchange National Bank
building, and all day long farmers were going from the mill to the
bank. General Philemon Ward gave up school-teaching and went back to
his law office; but he was apt to take sides with President Andrew
Johnson too vigorously for his own good, and clients often avoided his
office in fear of an argument. Still he was cheerful, and being only
in his early thirties, looked at the green hills afar from his pasture
and was happy. The Thayer House was filled with guests, and the
Fernalds had money in the bank; Mary Murphy and Gabriel Carnine were
living happily ever after, and Nellie Logan was clerking in Dorman's
Dry Goods store and making Watts McHurdie understand that she had her
choice between a preacher and a drummer. Other girls in the dining
room of the Thayer House were rattling the dinner dishes and singing
"Sweet Belle Mahone" and "Do you love me, Molly Darling?" to ensnare
the travelling public that might be tilted back against the veranda in
a mood for romance. And as John and Bob that hot September afternoon
made the round of the stores and offices bidding the town good-by, it
seemed to them that perhaps they were seizing the shadow and letting
the substance fade. For it was such a good-natured busy little place
that their hearts were heavy at leaving it.

But that evening John in his gorgeous necktie, his clean paper collar,
his new stiff hat, his first store clothes, wearing proudly his
father's silver watch and chain, set out to say good-by to Ellen
Culpepper, and his mother, standing in the doorway of their home,
sighed at his limp and laughed at his strut--the first laugh she had
enjoyed in a dozen days.

John and Bob together went up the stone walk leading across a yard,
still littered with the debris of building, to the unboxed steps that
climbed to the veranda of the Culpepper house. There they met Colonel
Culpepper in his shirt-sleeves, walking up and down the veranda
admiring the tall white pillars. When he had greeted the boys, he put
his thumbs in his vest holes and continued his parade in some pomp.
The boys were used to this attitude of the colonel's toward themselves
and the pillars. It always followed a hearty meal. So they sat
respectfully while he marched before them, pointing occasionally, when
he took his cigar from his mouth and a hand from his vest, to some
feature of the landscape in the sunset light that needed emphatic
attention.

"Yes, sir, young gentlemen," expanded the colonel, "you are doing the
right and proper thing--the right and proper thing. Of all the
avocations of youth, I conceive the pursuit of the sombre goddess of
learning to be the most profitable--entirely the most profitable. I
myself, though a young man,--being still on the right side of
forty,--have reaped the richest harvest from my labours in the
classic shades. Twenty years ago, young gentlemen, I, like you, left
my ancestral estates to sip at the Pierian spring. In point of fact, I
attended the institution founded by Thomas Jefferson, the father of
the American democracy--yes, sir." He put his cigar back in his mouth
and added, "Yes, sir, you are certainly taking a wise and, I may say,
highly necessary step--"

Mrs. Culpepper, small, sprightly, blue-eyed, and calm, entered the
veranda, and cut the colonel off with: "Good evening, boys. So you are
going away. Well--we'll miss you. The girls will be right out."

But the colonel would not be quenched; his fires were burning deeply.
"As I was saying, Mrs. Culpepper," he went on, "the classic training
obtained from a liberal education such as it was my fortune--"

Mrs. Culpepper smiled blandly as she put in, "Now, pa, these boys
don't care for that."

"But, my dear, let me finish. As I started to say: the flowers of
poetry, Keats and his large white plumes, the contemplation of
nature's secrets, the reflective study of--"

"Yes,--here's your coat now, pa," said the wife, returning from a
dive into the hall. "John, how's your ma going to get on without you?
And, pa, be sure don't forget the eggs for breakfast. I declare since
we've moved up here so far from the stores, we nearly starve."

The colonel waited a second while a glare melted into a smile, and
then backed meekly into the arms stretched high to hold his alpaca
coat. As he turned toward the group, he was beaming. "If it were not,"
exclaimed the colonel, addressing the young men with a quizzical
smile, "that there is a lady present--a very important lady in point
of fact,--I might be tempted to say, 'I will certainly be damned!'"
And with that the colonel lifted Mrs. Culpepper off her feet and
kissed her, then lumbered down the steps and strode away. He paused at
the gate to gaze at the valley and turned to look back at the great
unfinished house, then swung into the street and soon his hat
disappeared under the hill.

As he went Mrs. Culpepper said, "Let them say what they will about
Mart Culpepper, I always tell the girls if they get as good a man as
their pa, they will be doing mighty well."

Then the girls appeared bulging in hoops, and ruffles, with elbow
sleeves, with a hint of their shoulders showing and with pink ribbons
in their hair. Clearly it was a state occasion. The mother beamed at
them a moment, and walked around Molly, saying, "I told you that was
all right," and tied Ellen's hair ribbon over, while the young people
were chattering, and before the boys knew it, she had faded into the
dusk of the hall, and the clattering of dishes came to them from the
rear of the house. John fancied he felt the heavy step of Buchanan
Culpepper, and then he heard: "Don't you talk to me, Buck Culpepper,
about woman's work. You'll do what I tell you, and if I say wipe
dishes--" the voice was drowned by the rattle of a passing wagon. And
soon the young people on the front porch were so busy with their
affairs that the house behind them and its affairs dropped to another
world. They say, who seem to know, that when any group of boys and
girls meet under twenty-five serious years, the recording angel puts
down his pen with, a sigh and takes a needed nap. But when the group
pairs off, then Mr. Recorder pricks up his ears and works with both
hands, one busy taking what the youngsters say, and the other busy
with what they would like to say. And shame be it upon the courage of
youth that what they would like to say fills the larger book. And
marvel of marvels, often the book that holds what the boys would say
is merely a copy of what the girls would like to hear, and so much of
the work is saved to the angel.

It was nine o'clock when the limping boy and the slender girl followed
the tall youth and the plump little girl down the walk from the
Culpepper home through the gate and into the main road. And the couple
that walked behind took the opposite direction from that which they
took who walked ahead. Yet when John and Ellen reached the river and
were seated on the mill-dam, where the roar of the falling water
drowned their voices, Ellen Culpepper spoke first: "That looks like
them over on the bridge. I can see Molly, and Bob's hat about three
feet above her."

"I guess so," returned the boy. He was reaching behind him for clods
and pebbles to toss into the white foaming flood below them. The girl
reached back and got one, then another, then their hands met, and she
pulled hers away and said, "Get me some stones." He gave her a
handful, and she threw the pebbles away slowly and awkwardly, one at a
time. There was a long gap in their talk while they threw the pebbles.
The girl closed it with, "Ma made old Buck wipe the dishes." Then she
giggled, "Poor Buckie."

John managed to say, "Yes, I heard him." Then he added, "What does
your mother think of Bob?"

"Oh, she likes him fine. But she's glad you're all going away."

The boy asked why and the girl returned, "Watch me hit that log." She
threw, and missed the water.

"Why?" persisted the boy.

The girl was digging in a crevice for a stone and said, "Can you get
that out?"

John worked at it a moment and handed it to her with, "Why?"

She threw it, standing up to give her arm strength. She sat down and
folded her hands and waited for another "why." When it came she said,
"Oh, you know why." When he protested she answered, "Ma thinks Molly's
too young."

"Too young for what?" demanded the boy, who knew.

"Too young to be going with boys."

There was a long pause, then he managed to say it, "She's no younger
than you were--nor half as old."

"When?" returned the girl, giving him the broadside of her eyes for a
second, and letting them droop. The eyes bewitched the boy, and he
could not speak. At length the girl shivered, "It's getting cold--I
must go home."

The boy found voice. "Aw no, Bob and Molly are still up there."

She started to rise, he caught her hand, but she pulled it away and
resigned herself for a moment. Then she looked at him a long second
and said, "Do you remember years ago at the Frye boy's party--when we
were little tots, and I chose you?"

The boy nodded his head and turned full toward her with serious eyes.
He devoured her feature by feature with his gaze in the starlight. The
moon was just rising at the end of the mill-dam behind them, and its
light fell on her profile. He cried out, "Yes, Ellen, do you--do
you?"

She nodded her head and spoke quickly, "That was the time you got your
hands stuck in the taffy and had to be soaked out."

They laughed. John tried to get the moment back. "Do you remember the
rubber ring I gave you?"

She grew bold and turned to him with her heart in her face:
"Yes--yes, John, and the coffee-bean locket. I've got them both in a
little box at home." Then, scampering back to her reserve, she added,
"You know ma says I'm a regular rat to store things away." She felt
that the sudden reserve chilled him, for in a minute or two she said,
looking at the bridge: "They're going now. We mustn't stay but a
minute." She put her hand on the rock between them, and said, "You
remember that night when you went away before?" Before he answered she
went on: "I was counting up this afternoon, and it's six years ago. We
were just children then."

Again the boy found his voice: "Ellen Culpepper, we've been going
together seven years. Don't you think that's long enough?"

"We were just children then," she replied.

The boy leaned awkwardly toward her and their hands met on the rock,
and he withdrew his as he asked, "Do you--do you?"

She bent toward him, and looked at him steadily as she nodded her head
again and again. She rose to go, saying, "We mustn't stay here any
longer."

He caught her hand to stop her, and said, "Ellen--Ellen, promise me
just one thing." She looked her question. He cried, "That you won't
forget--just that you won't forget."

She took his hand and stood before him as he sat, hoping to stay her.
She answered: "Not as long as I live, John Barclay. Oh, not as long as
I live." Then she exclaimed: "Now--" and her voice changed, "we just
must go, John; Molly's gone, and it's getting late." She helped him
limp over the rocks and up the steep road, but when they reached the
level, she dropped his hand, and they walked home slowly, looking back
at the moon, so that they might not overtake the other couple. Once or
twice they stopped and sat on lumber piles in the street, talking of
nothing, and it was after ten o'clock when they came to the gate. The
girl looked anxiously up the walk toward the house. "They've come and
gone," she said. She moved as if to go away.

"I wish you wouldn't go right in," he begged.

"Oh--I ought to," she replied. They were silent. The roar of the
water over the dam came to them on the evening breeze. She put out her
hand.

"Well," he sighed as he rested his lame foot, and started,
"well--good-by."

She turned to go, and then swiftly stepped toward him, and kissed him,
and ran gasping and laughing up the walk.

The boy gazed after her a moment, wondering if he should follow her,
but while he waited she was gone, and he heard her lock the door after
her. Then he limped down the road in a kind of swoon of joy. Sometimes
he tried to whistle--he tried a bar of Schubert's "Serenade," but
consciously stopped. Again and again under his breath as loud as he
dared, he called the name "Ellen" and stood gazing at the moon, and
then tried to hippety-hop, but his limp stopped that. Then he tried
whistling the "Miserere," but he pitched it too high, and it ran out,
so he sang as he turned across the commons toward home, and that
helped a little; and he opened the door of his home singing, "How can
I leave thee--how can I bear to part?" The light was burning in the
kitchen, and he went to his mother and kissed her. His face was aglow,
and she saw what had happened to him. She put him aside with, "Run on
to bed now, sonny; I've got a little work out here." And he left her.
In the sitting room only the moon gave light. He stood at the window a
moment, and then turned to his melodeon. His hands fell on the major
chord of "G," and without knowing what he was playing he began
"Largo." He played his soul into his music, and looking up, whispered
the name "Ellen" rapturously over and over, and then as the music
mounted to its climax the whole world's mystery, and his personal
thought of the meaning of life revelled through his brain, and he
played on, not stopping at the close but wandering into he knew not
what mazes of harmony. When his hands dropped, he was playing "The
Long and Weary Day," and his mother was standing behind him humming
it. When he rose from the bench, she ran her fingers through his hair
and spoke the words of the song, "'My lone watch keeping,' John, 'my
lone watch keeping.' But I think it has been worth while."

Then she left him and he went to bed, with the moon in his room, and
the murmur of waters lulling him to sleep. But he looked out into the
sky a long time before his dream came, and then it slipped in gently
through the door of a nameless hope. For he wished to meet her in the
moon that night, but when they did meet, the white veil of the falling
waters of the dam blew across her face and he could not brush it away.
For one is bold in dreams.

A little after sunrise the next morning John rode away from his
mother's door, on one of his horses, leading the other one. He was
going up the hill to get Bob Hendricks, and the two were to ride to
Lawrence. He had been promised work, carrying newspapers, and the
Yankee in him made him believe he could find work for the other horse.
As the boy turned into Main Street waving his mother good-by, he saw
the places where he and Ellen Culpepper had stopped the night before,
and they looked different some way, and he could not realize that he
was in the same street.

As he climbed the hill, he passed General Ward, working in his flower
garden, and the man sprang over the fence and came into the road, and
put his hand on the horse's bridle, saying, "Stop a minute, John: I
just wanted to say something." He hesitated a moment before going on:
"You know back where I came from--back in New England--the name of
John Barclay stands for a good deal--more than you can realize, John.
Your father was one of the first martyrs of our cause. I guess your
mother never has told you, but I'm going to--your father gave up a
business career for this cause. His father was rich--very rich, and
your grandfather was set on your father going into business." John
looked up the hill toward the Hendricks home, and Ward saw it, and
mistook the glance for one of impatience. "Johnnie," said the man, his
fine thin, features glowing with earnestness, "Johnnie--I wish I
could get to your heart, boy. I want to make you hear what I have to
say with your soul and not with your ears, and I know youth is so
deaf. Your grandfather was angry when your father entered the ministry
and came out here. He thought it was folly. The old man offered to
give fifty thousand dollars to the Kansas-Nebraska cause, and that
would have sent a good many men out here. But your father said no. He
said money wouldn't win this cause. He said personal sacrifice was all
that would win it. He said men must give up themselves, not their
money, to make this cause win--and so he came; and there was a
terrible quarrel, and that is why your mother has stayed. She had
faith in God, too--faith that her life some way in His Providence
would prove worth something. Your father and mother, John, believed in
God--they believed in a God, not a Moloch; your father's faith has
been justified. The death he died was worth millions to the cause of
liberty. It stirred the whole North, as the miserable little fifty
thousand dollars that Abijah Barclay offered never could have done.
But your mother's sacrifice must find its justification in you. And
she, not your father, made the final decision to give up everything
for human freedom. She has endured poverty, Johnnie--" the man's
voice was growing tense, and his eyes were ablaze; "you know how she
worked, and if you fail her, if you do not live a consecrated life,
John, your mother's life has failed. I don't mean a pious life; God
knows I hate sanctimony. But I mean a life consecrated to some
practical service, to an ideal--to some actual service to your
fellows--not money service, but personal service. Do you understand?"
Ward leaned forward and looked into the boy's face. He took hold of
John's arm as he pleaded, "Johnnie--boy--Johnnie, do you
understand?"

The boy answered, "Yes, General--I think I get your meaning." He
picked up his bridle, and Ward relaxed his hold on the boy's arm. The
man's hand dropped and he sighed, for he saw only a boy's face, and
heard a boy's politeness in the voice that went on, "Thank you,
General, give my love to Miss Lucy." And the youth rode on up the
hill.

In a few minutes the boys were riding down the steep clay bank that
led to the new iron bridge across the ford of the Sycamore, and for
half an hour they rode chattering through the wood before they came
into the valley and soon were Climbing the bluff which they had seen
the night before from the Culpepper home. On the brow of the bluff Bob
said, "Hold on--" He turned his horse and looked back. The sun was on
the town, and across on the opposite hill stood the colonel's big
house with its proud pillars. No trees were about it in those days,
and it and the Hendricks house stood out clearly on the horizon. But
on the top of the Culpepper home were two little figures waving
handkerchiefs. The boys waved back, and John thought he could tell
Ellen from her sister, and the night and its joy came back to him, and
he was silent.

They had ridden half an hour without speaking when Bob Hendricks said,
"Awful fine girls--aren't they?"

"That's what I've always told you," returned John.

After another quarter of a mile Bob tried it again. "The colonel's a
funny old rooster--isn't he?"

"Well, I don't know. That day at the battle of Wilson's Creek when he
walked out in front of a thousand soldiers and got a Union flag and
brought it back to the line, he didn't look very funny. But he's windy
all right."

Again, as they crossed a creek and the horses were drinking, Bob said:
"Father thinks General Ward's a crank. He says Ward will keep harping
on about those war bonds, and quarrelling because the soldiers got
their pay in paper money and the bondholders in gold, until people
will think every one in high places is a thief."

"Oh, Ward's all right," answered John. "He's just talking; he likes an
argument, I guess. He's kind of built that way."

It was a poor starved-to-death school that the boys found at Lawrence
in those days; with half a dozen instructors--most of whom were still
in their twenties; with books lent by the instructors, and with
appliances devised by necessity. But John was happy; he was making
money with his horses, doing chores for his board, and carrying papers
night and morning besides. The boy's industry was the marvel of the
town. His limp got him sympathy, and he capitalized the sympathy.
Indeed, he would have capitalized his soul, if it had been necessary.
For his Yankee blood was beginning to come out. Before he had been in
school a year he had swapped, traded, and saved until he had two
teams, and was working them with hired drivers on excavation
contracts. In his summer vacations he went to Topeka and worked his
two teams, and by some sharp practice got the title to a third. He was
rollicking, noisy, good-natured, but under the boyish veneer was a
hard indomitable nature. He was becoming a stickler for his rights in
every transaction.

"John," said Bob, one day after John had cut a particularly lamentable
figure, gouging a driver in a settlement, "don't you know that your
rights are often others' wrongs?"

John was silent a moment. He looked at the driver moving away, and
then the boy's face set hard and he said: "Well--what's the use of
blubbering over him? If I don't get it, some one else will. I'm no
charitable institution for John Walruff's brewery!" And he snapped the
rubber band on his wallet viciously, and turned to his books.

But on the other hand he wrote every other day to his mother and every
other day to Ellen Culpepper with unwavering precision. He told his
mother the news, and he told Ellen Culpepper the news plus some
Emerson, something more of "Faust," with such dashes of Longfellow and
Ruskin as seemed to express his soul. He never wrote to Ellen of
money, and so strong was her influence upon him that when he had
written to her after his quarrel with the driver, he went out in the
night, hunted the man up, and paid him the disputed wages. Then he
mailed Ellen Culpepper's letter, and was a lover living in an ethereal
world as he walked home babbling her name in whispers to the stars.
Often when this mood was not upon him, and a letter was due to Ellen,
he went downstairs in the house where he lived and played the piano to
bring her near to him. That never failed to change his face as by a
miracle. "When John comes upstairs," wrote Bob Hendricks to Molly, "he
is as one in a dream, with the mists of the music in his eyes. I never
bother him then. He will not speak to me, nor do a thing in the world,
until that letter is written, sealed, and stamped. Then he gets up,
yawns and smiles sheepishly and perhaps hits me with a book or punches
me with his fist, and then we wrestle over the room and the bed like
bear cubs. After the wrestle he comes back to himself. I wonder why?"

And Ellen Culpepper read those letters from John Barclay over and
over, and curiously enough she understood them; for there is a
telepathy between spirits that meet as these two children's souls had
met, and in that concord words drop out and only thoughts are
merchandized. Her spirit grew with his, and so "through all the world
she followed him."

But there came a gray dawn of a May morning when John Barclay clutched
his bedfellow and whispered, "Bob, Bob--look, look." When the
awakened one saw nothing, John tried to scream, but could only gasp,
"Don't you see Ellen--there--there by the table?" But whatever it
was that startled him fluttered away on a beam of sunrise, and Bob
Hendricks rose with the frightened boy, and went to his work with him.

Two days later a letter came telling him that Ellen Culpepper was
dead.

Now death--the vast baffling mystery of death--is Fate's strongest
lever to pry men from their philosophy. And death came into this boy's
life before his creed was set and hard, and in those first days while
he walked far afield, he turned his face to the sky in his lonely
sorrow, and when he cried to Heaven there was a silence.

So his heart curdled, and you kind gentlemen of the jury who are to
pass on the case of John Barclay in this story, remember that he was
only twenty years old, and that in all his life there was nothing to
symbolize the joy of sacrifice except this young girl. All his boyish
life she had nurtured the other self in his soul,--the self that
might have learned to give and be glad in the giving. And when she
went, he closed his Emerson and opened his Trigonometry, and put money
in his purse.[1]

There came a time when Ellen Culpepper was to him as a dream. But she
lived in her mother's eyes, and through all the years that followed
the mother watched the little girl grow to maturity and into middle
life with the other girls of her age. And even when the little
headstone on the Hill slanted in sad neglect, Mrs. Culpepper's old
eyes still saw Ellen growing old with her playmates. And she never saw
John Barclay that she did not think of Ellen--and and what she would
have made of him.

And what would she have made of him? Maybe a poet, maybe a dreamer of
dreams--surely not the hard, grinding, rich man that he became in
this world.


FOOTNOTE:

[1] To the Publisher.--"In returning the Mss. of the life of John
    Barclay, which you sent for my verification as to certain dates and
    incidents, let me first set down, before discussing matters pertaining
    to his later life, my belief that your author has found in the death
    of Ellen Culpepper an incident, humble though it is, that explains
    much in the character of Mr. Barclay. The incident probably produced a
    mental shock like that of a psychological earthquake, literally
    sealing up the spring of his life as it was flowing into consciousness
    at that time, and the John Barclay of his boyhood and youth became
    subterranean, to appear later in life after the weakening of his
    virility under the strain of the crushing events of his fifties. Yet
    the subterranean Barclay often appeared for a moment in his life,
    glowed in some kind act and sank again. Ellen Culpepper explains it
    all. How many of our lives are similarly divided, forced upward or
    downward by events, Heaven only knows. We do not know our own souls. I
    am sure John never knew of the transformation. Surely 'we are
    fearfully and wonderfully made.'... The other dates and incidents are
    as I have indicated.... Allow me to thank you for your kindness in
    sending me the Mss., and permit me to subscribe myself,

                                                 "Yours faithfully,

                                                       "Philemon R. Ward."




CHAPTER VI


John Barclay returned to Sycamore Ridge in 1872 a full-fledged young
man. He was of a slight build and rather pale of face, for five years
indoors had rubbed the sunburn off. During the five years he had been
absent from Sycamore Ridge he had acquired a master's degree from the
state university, and a license to practise law. He was distinctly
dapper, in the black and white checked trousers, the flowered cravat,
and tight-fitting coat of the period; and the first Monday after he
and his mother went to the Congregational Church, whereat John let out
his baritone voice, he was invited to sing in the choir. Bob Hendricks
came home a year before John, and with Bob and Watts McHurdie singing
tenor at one end of the choir, and John and Philemon Ward holding down
the other end of the line, with Mrs. Ward, Nellie Logan, Molly
Culpepper, and Jane Mason of Minneola,--grown up out of short dresses
in his absence,--all in gay colours between the sombre clothes of the
men, the choir in the Congregational Church was worth going miles to
see--if not to hear.

Now you know, of course,--or if you do not know, it is high time you
were learning,--that when Fate gives a man who can sing a head of
curly hair, the devil, who is after us all, quits worrying about that
young person. For the Old Boy knows that a voice and curly hair are
mortgages on a young man's soul that few young fellows ever pay off.
Now there was neither curly head nor music in all the Barclay tribe,
and when John sang "Through the trees the night winds murmur, murmur
low and sweet," his mother could shut her eyes and hear Uncle Leander,
the black sheep of three generations of Thatchers. So that the fact
that John had something over a thousand dollars to put in General
Hendricks' bank, and owned half a dozen town lots in the various
additions to the town, made the mother thankful for the Grandfather
Barclay's blood in him. But she saw a soul growing into the boy's face
that frightened her. What others admired as strength she feared, for
she knew it was ruthlessness. What others called shrewdness she,
remembering his Grandfather Barclay, knew might grow into blind, cruel
greed, and when she thought of his voice and his curly hair, and
recalled Uncle Leander, the curly-headed, singing ne'er-do-well of her
family, and then in the boy's hardening mouth and his canine jaw saw
Grandfather Barclay sneering at her, she was uncertain which blood she
feared most. So she managed it that John should go into partnership
with General Ward, and Bob Hendricks managed it that the firm should
have offices over the bank, and also that the firm was made attorneys
for the bank,--the highest mark of distinction that may come to a law
firm in a country town. The general realized it and was proud. But he
thought the young man took it too much as a matter of course.

"John," said the general, one day, as they were dividing their first
five-hundred-dollar fee, "you're a lucky dog. Everything comes so
easily with you. Let me tell you something; I've figured this out: if
you don't give it back some way--give it back to the world, or
society, or your fellows,--or God, if you like to bunch your good
luck under one head,--you're surely going to suffer for it. There is
no come-easy-go-easy in this world. I've learned that much of the
scheme of things."

"You mean that I've got to pay as I go, or Providence will keep books
on me and foreclose?" asked John, as he stood patting the roll of
bills in his trousers pocket.

"That's the idea, son," smiled the elder man.

The younger man put his hand to his chin and grinned. "I suppose," he
replied, "that's why so many men keep the title to their religious
proclivities in their wife's name." He went out gayly, and the elder
man heard the boyish limp almost tripping down the stairs. Ward walked
to the window, straightening his white tie, and stood looking into the
street at the young man shaking hands and bowing and raising his hat
as he went. Ward's hair was graying at the temples, and his thin
smooth face was that of a man who spends many hours considering many
things, and he sighed as he saw John turn a corner and disappear.

"No, Lucy, that's not it exactly," said the general that afternoon, as
he brought the sprinkler full of water to the flower bed for the
eighth time, and picketed little Harriet Beecher Ward out of the
watermelon patch, and wheeled the baby's buggy to the four-o'clocks,
where Mrs. Ward was working. "It isn't that he is conceited--the boy
isn't that at all. He just seems to have too little faith in God and
too much in the ability of John Barclay. He thinks he can beat the
game--can take out more happiness for himself than he puts in for
others."

The wife looked up and put back her sunbonnet as she said, "Yes, I
believe his mother thinks something of the kind."

One of the things that surprised John when he came home from the
university was the prominence of Lige Bemis in the town. When John
left Sycamore Ridge to go to school, Bemis was a drunken sign-painter
married to a woman who a few years before had been the scandal of half
a dozen communities. And now though Mrs. Bemis was still queen only of
the miserable unpainted Bemis domicile in the sunflowers at the edge
of town, Lige Bemis politically was a potentate of some power. General
Hendricks consulted Bemis about politics. Often he was found in the
back room of the bank, and Colonel Culpepper, although he was an
unterrified Democrat, in his campaign speeches referred to Bemis as "a
diamond in the rough." John was sitting on a roll of leather one day
in Watts McHurdie's shop talking of old times when Watts recalled the
battle of Sycamore Ridge, and the time when Bemis came to town with
the Red Legs and frightened Mrs. Barclay.

"Yes--and now look at him," exclaimed John, "dressed up like a
gambler, and referred to in the _Banner_ as 'Hon. E. W. Bemis'! How
did he do it?"

McHurdie sewed two or three long stitches in silence. He leaned over
from his bench to throw his tobacco quid in the sawdust box under the
rusty stove, then the little man scraped his fuzzy jaw reflectively
with his blackened hand as if about to speak, but he thought better of
it and waxed his thread. He showed his yellow teeth in a smile, and
motioned John to come closer. Then he put his head forward, and
whispered confidentially:--

"What'd you ruther do or go a-fishing?"

"But why?" persisted the young man.

"Widder who?" returned Watts, grinning and putting his hand to his
ear.

When John repeated his question the third time, McHurdie said:--

"I know a way you can get rich mighty quick, sonny." And when the boy
refused to "bite," Watts went on: "If any one asks you what Watts
McHurdie thinks about politics so long as he is in the harness
business, you just take the fellow upstairs, and pull down the
curtain, and lock the door, and tell him you don't know, and not to
tell a living soul."

With Bob Hendricks, John had little better success in solving the
mystery of the rise of Bemis. "Father says he's effective, and he
would rather have him for him than against him," was the extent of
Bob's explanation.

Ward's answer was more to the point. He said: "Lige Bemis is a living
example of the power of soft soap in politics. We know--every man in
this county knows--that Lige Bemis was a horse thief before the war,
and that he was a cattle thief and a camp-follower during the war; and
after the war we know what he was--he and the woman he took up with.
Yet here he has been a member of the legislature and is beginning to
be a figure in state politics,--at least the one to whom the governor
and all the fellows write when they want information about this
county. Why? I'll tell you: because he's committed every crime and
can't denounce one and goes about the country extenuating things and
oiling people up with his palaver. Now he says he is a lawyer--yes,
sir, actually claims to be a lawyer, and brought his diploma into
court two years ago, and they accepted it. But I know, and the court
knows, and the bar knows it was forged; it belonged to his dead
brother back in Hornellsville, New York. But Hendricks downstairs said
we needed Lige in the county-seat case, so he is a member of the bar,
taking one hundred per cent for collecting accounts for Eastern
people, and giving the country a black eye. A man told me he was on
over fifty notes for people at the bank; he signs with every one, and
Hendricks never bothers him. He managed to get into all the lodges,
right after the war when they were reorganized, and he sits up with
the sick, and is pall-bearer--regular professional pall-bearer, and I
don't doubt gets a commission for selling coffins from Livingston."
Ward rose from the table his full six feet and put his hands in his
pocket and stretched his legs as he added, "And when you think how
many Bemises in the first, second, or third degree there are in this
government, you wonder if the Democrats weren't right when they
declared the war was a failure."

The general spoke as he did to John partly in anger and partly because
he thought the youth needed the lesson he was trying to implant. "You
know, Martin," explained the general, a few days later, to Colonel
Culpepper, "John has come home a Barclay--not a Barclay of his
father's stripe. He has taken back, as they say. It's old
Abijah--with the mouth and jaw of a wolf. I caught him palavering
with a juror the other day while we had a case trying."

The colonel rested his hands on his knees a moment in meditation and
smiled as he replied: "Still, there's his mother, General. Don't ever
forget that the boy's mother is Mary Barclay; she has bred most of the
wolf out of him. And in the end her blood will tell."

And now observe John Barclay laying the footing stones of his fortune.
He put every dollar he could get into town lots, paying for all he
bought and avoiding mortgages. Also he joined Colonel Culpepper in
putting the College Heights upon the market. "For what," explained the
colonel, when the propriety of using the name for his addition was
questioned, when no college was there nor any prospect of a college
for years to come--"what is plainer to the prophetic eye than that
time will bring to this magnificent city an institution of learning
worthy of our hopes? I have noticed," added the colonel, waving his
cigar broadly about him, "that learning is a shy goddess; she has to
be coaxed--hence on these empyrean heights we have provided for a
seat of learning; therefore College Heights. Look at the splendid
vista, the entrancing view, in point of fact." It was the large white
plumes dancing in the colonel's prophetic eyes. So it happened that
more real estate buyers than clients came to the office of Ward and
Barclay. But as the general that fall had been out of the office
running for Congress on the Greeley ticket, still protesting against
the crime of paying the soldiers in paper and the bondholders in gold,
he did not miss the clients, and as John saw to it that there was
enough law business to keep Mrs. Ward going, the general returned from
the canvass overwhelmingly beaten, but not in the least dismayed; and
as Jake Dolan put it, "The general had his say and the people had
their choice--so both are happy."

As the winter deepened John and Colonel Culpepper planted five hundred
elm trees on the campus on College Heights, lining three broad avenues
leading from the town to the campus with the trees. John rode into the
woods and picked the trees, and saw that each one was properly set.
And the colonel noticed that the finest trees were on Ellen Avenue and
spoke of it to Mrs. Culpepper, who only said, "Yes, pa--that's just
like him." And the colonel looked puzzled. And when the colonel added,
"They say he is shining up to that Mason girl from Minneola, that
comes here with Molly," his wife returned, "Yes, I expected that
sooner than now." The colonel gave the subject up. The ways of women
were past his finding out. But Mrs. Culpepper had heard Jane Mason
sing a duet in church with John Barclay, and the elder woman had heard
in the big contralto voice of the girl something not meant for the
preacher. And Mrs. Culpepper heard John answer it, so she knew what he
did not know, what Jane Mason did not know, and what only Molly
Culpepper suspected, and Bob Hendricks scoffed at.

As for John, he said to Bob: "I know why you always want me to go over
with you and Molly to get the Mason girl--by cracky, I'm the only
fellow in town that will let you and Molly have the back seat coming
home without a fuss! No, Robbie--you don't fool your Uncle John." And
so when there was to be special music at the church, or when any other
musical event was expected, John and Bob would get a two-seated buggy,
and drive to Minneola and bring the soloist back with them. And there
would be dances and parties, and coming from Minneola and going back
there would be much singing. "The fox is on the hill, I hear him
calling still," was a favourite, but "Come where the lilies bloom"
rent the midnight air between the rival towns many times that winter
and spring of '73. And never once did John try to get the back seat.
But there came a time when Bob Hendricks told him that Molly told him
that Jane had said that Molly and Bob were pigs--never to do any of
the driving. And the next time there was a trip to Minneola, John said
as the young people were seated comfortably for the return trip,
"Molly, I heard you said that I was a pig to do all the driving, and
not let you and Bob have a chance. Was that true?"

"No--but do you want to know who did say it?" answered Molly, and
Jane Mason looked straight ahead and cut in with, "Molly Culpepper, if
you say another word, I'll never speak to you as long as I live." But
she glanced down at Barclay, who caught her eye and saw the smile she
was swallowing, and he cried: "I don't believe you ever said it,
Molly,--it must have been some one else." And when they had all had
their say,--all but Jane Mason,--John saw that she was crying, and
the others had to sing for ten minutes without her, before they could
coax away her temper. And crafty as he was, he did not know it was
temper--he thought it was something entirely different.

For the craft of youth always is clumsy. The business of youth is to
fight and to mate. Wherever there is young blood, there is "boot and
horse," and John Barclay in his early twenties felt in him the call
for combat. It came with the events that were forming about him. For
the war between the states had left the men restless and unsatisfied
who had come into the plain to make their homes. They had heard and
followed in their youth the call John Barclay was hearing, and after
the war was over, they were still impatient with the obstacles they
found in their paths. So Sycamore Ridge and Minneola, being rival
towns, had to fight. The men who made these towns knew no better
settlement than the settlement by force. And even during his first six
months at home from school, when John sniffed the battle from afar, he
was glad in his soul that the fight was coming. Sycamore Ridge had the
county-seat; but Minneola, having a majority of the votes in the
county, was trying to get the county-seat, and the situation grew so
serious for Sycamore Ridge that General Hendricks felt it necessary to
defeat Philemon Ward for the state senate so that Sycamore Ridge could
get a law passed that would prevent Minneola's majority from changing
the county-seat. This was done by a law which Hendricks secured,
giving the county commissioners the right to build a court-house by
direct levy, without a vote of the people,--a court-house so large
that it would settle the county-seat matter out of hand.

The general, however, took no chances even with his commissioners. For
he had his son elected as one, and with the knowledge that John was
investing in real estate in the Ridge and had an eye for the main
chance, the general picked John for the other commissioner. The place
was on the firing-line of the battle, and John took it almost
greedily. As the spring of '73 opened, there were alarms and rumours
of strife on every breeze, and youth was happy and breathed the fight
into its nostrils like a balsam. For all the world of Sycamore Ridge
was young then, and all the trees were green in the eyes of the men
who kept up the town. Each town had its hired desperadoes, and there
were pickets about each village, and drills in the streets of the two
towns, and a martial spirit all over the county. And as John limped
about his tasks in those stirring spring days, he felt that he was
coming into his own. But it was all a curious mock combat,--that
between the towns,--for though the pickets drilled, and the bad men
swaggered on the streets, and the bullies roared their anathemas, the
social relations between the towns were not seriously disturbed.
Youths and maidens came from Minneola to the Ridge for parties and
dances, and from the Ridge young men went to Minneola to weddings and
festivals of a social nature unmolested, for it takes a real war--and
sometimes more than that--to put a bar across the mating ground of
youth. So Bob and Molly and John drove to Minneola time and again for
Jane Mason, and other boys and girls came and went from town to town,
while the bitterness and the bickering and the mimic war between the
rival communities went on.

Dolan was made sheriff, and Bemis county attorney, and with those two
officers and a majority of the county commissioners the Ridge had the
forces of administration with her. And so one night Minneola came with
her wrinkled front of war; viz., forty fighting men under Gabriel
Carnine and an ox team, prepared to take the county records by force
and haul them home by main strength. But Lycurgus Mason, whose wife
had locked him in the cellar that night to keep him from danger, was
the cackling goose that saved Rome; for when, having escaped his
wife's vigilance, he came riding down the wind from Minneola to catch
up with his fellow-townsmen, his clatter aroused the men of the Ridge,
and they hurried to the court-house and greeted the invaders with half
a thousand armed men in the court-house yard. And in a crisis where
craft and cunning would not help him, courage came out of John
Barclay's soul for the first time and into his life as he limped
through the guns into the open to explain to the men from Minneola
when they finally arrived that Lycurgus Mason had not betrayed them,
but had rushed into the town, thinking his friends were there ahead of
him. It was a plucky thing for John to do, considering that his death
would stop the making of the levy for the court-house that was to be
recorded in a few days. But the young man's blood tingled with joy as
he jumped the court-house fence and went back to his men. There was
something like a smile from Jane Mason in his joy, but chiefly it was
the joy that youth has in daring, that thrilled him. And the next day,
or perhaps it was the next,--at any rate, it was a Sunday late in
June,--when an armed posse from Minneola came charging down on the
town at noon, John ran from his office unseen, over the roofs of
buildings upon which as a boy he had romped, and ducking through a
second-story window in Frye's store, got two kegs of powder, ran out
of the back door, under the exposed piling supporting the building,
put the two kegs of powder in a wooden culvert under the ammunition
wagons of the Minneola men, who were battling with the town in the
street, and taking a long fuse in his teeth, crawled back to the
alley, lit the fuse, and ran into the street to look into the revolver
of J. Lord Lee--late of the Red Legs--and warn him to run or be
blown up with the wagons. And when the explosion came, knocking him
senseless, he woke up a hero, with the town bending over him, and
Minneola's forces gone.

And so John and the town had their fling together. And we who sit
among our books or by our fire--or if not that by our iron radiator
exuding its pleasance and comfort--should not sniff at that day when
blood pulsed quicker and joy was keener, and life was more vivid than
it is to-day.

Thirty-five years later--in August, 1908, to be exact--the general,
in his late seventies, sat in McHurdie's harness shop while the poet
worked at his bench. On the floor beside the general was the
historical edition of the Sycamore Ridge _Banner_--rather an
elaborate affair, printed on glossy paper and bedecked with many
photogravures of old scenes and old faces. A page of the paper was
devoted to the County Seat War of '73. The general had furnished the
material for most of the article,--though he would not do the
writing,--and he held the sheet with the story upon it in his hand.
As he read it in the light of that later day, it seemed a sordid story
of chicanery and violence--the sort of an episode that one would
expect to find following a great war. The general read and reread the
old story of the defeat of Minneola, and folded his paper and rolled
it into a wand with which he conjured up his spirit of philosophy.
"Heigh-ho," he sighed. "We don't know much, do we?"

McHurdie made no reply. He bent closely over his work, and the general
went on: "I was mighty mad when Hendricks defeated me for the state
senate in '72, just to get that law passed cheating Minneola out of a
fair vote on the court-house question. But it's come out all right."

The harness maker sewed on, and the general reflected. Finally the
little man at the bench turned his big dimmed eyes on his visitor, and
asked, "Did you think, General, that you knew more than the Lord about
making things come out right?" There was no reply and McHurdie
continued, "Well, you don't--I've got that settled in my mind."

There was silence for a time, and Ward kept beating his leg with the
paper wand in his hand. "Watts," said the general, finally, "I know
what it was--it was youth. John Barclay had to go through that
period. He had to fight and wrangle and grapple with life as he did.
Do you remember that night the Minneola fellows came up with their ox
team and their band of killers to take the county records--" and
there was more of it--the old story of the town's wild days that need
not be recorded, and in the end, in answer to some query from the
general on John's courage, Watts replied, "John was always a bold
little fice--he never lacked brass."

"Was he going with Jane Mason then, Watts,--I forget?" queried the
general.

"Yes--yes," replied McHurdie. "Don't you remember that very next
night she sang in the choir--well, John had brought her over from
Minneola two days before, and that Sunday when the little devil went
in the culvert across Main Street and blew up the Minneola wagons,
Jane was in town that day--I remember that; and man--man--I heard
her voice say things to him in the duet that night that she would have
been ashamed to put in words."

The two old men were silent. "That was youth, too, Watts,--fighting
and loving, and loving and fighting,--that's youth," sighed the
general.

"Well, Johnnie got his belly full of it in his day, as old Shakespeare
says, Phil--and in your day you had yours, too. Every dog,
General--every dog--you know." The two voices were silent, as two
old men looked back through the years.

McHurdie put the strap he was working upon in the water, and turned
with his spectacles in his hands to his comrade. "Maybe it's this way:
with a man, it's fighting and loving before we get any sense; and with
a town it's the same way, and I guess with the race it's the same
way--fighting and loving and growing sensible after it's over. Maybe
so--maybe so, Phil, comrade, but man, man," he said as he climbed on
his bench, "it's fine to be a fool!"




CHAPTER VII


In Sycamore Ridge every one knows Watts McHurdie, and every one takes
pride in the fact that far and wide the Ridge is known as Watts
McHurdie's town, and this too in spite of the fact that from Sycamore
Ridge Bob Hendricks gained his national reputation as a reformer and
the further fact that when the Barclays went to New York or Chicago or
to California for the winter in their private car, they always
registered from Sycamore Ridge at the great hotels. One would think
that the town would be known more as Hendricks' town or Barclay's
town; but no--nothing of the kind has happened, and when the rich and
the great go forth from the Ridge, people say: "Oh, yes, Sycamore
Ridge--that's Watts McHurdie's town, who wrote--" but people from
the Ridge let the inquirers get no farther; they say: "Exactly--it's
Watts McHurdie's town--and you ought to see him ride in the open
hack with the proprietor of a circus when it comes to the Ridge and
all the bands and the calliope are playing Watts' song. The way the
people cheer shows that it is really Watts McHurdie's town." So when
Colonel Martin Culpepper wrote the "Biography of Watts McHurdie" which
was published together with McHurdie's "Complete Poetical and
Philosophical Works," there was naturally much discussion, and the
town was more or less divided as to what part of the book was the
best. But the old settlers,--those who, during the drouth of '60, ate
mince pies with pumpkins as the fruit and rabbit meat as the filling
and New Orleans black-strap as the sweetening, the old settlers who
knew Watts before he became famous,--they like best of all the
chapters in the colonel's Biography the one entitled "At Hymen's
Altar." And here is a curious thing about it: in that chapter there is
really less of Watts and considerably more of Colonel Martin Culpepper
than in any other chapter.

But the newcomers, those who came in the prosperous days of the 70's
or 80's, never could understand the partiality of the old settlers for
the "Hymen's Altar" chapter. Lycurgus Mason also always took the view
that the "Hymen" chapter was drivel.

"Now, John, be sensible--" Lycurgus insisted one night in 1903 when
the two were eating supper in Barclay's private car on a side-track in
Arizona; "don't be like my wife--she always drools over that chapter,
too. But you know my wife--" Lycurgus always referred to Mrs. Mason
with a grand gesture as to his dog or his horse, which were especially
desirable chattels. "My wife,--it's just like a woman,--she sits and
reads that, and laughs and weeps, and giggles and sniffs, and I say,
'What's the matter with you, anyway?'"

John Barclay pushed a button. To the porter he said, "Bring me that
little red book in my satchel." The book had been published but a few
weeks, and John always carried a copy around with him in those days to
give to a friend. When the porter brought the book, Barclay read
aloud, "Ah, truly hath the poet said, 'Marriages are made in heaven.'"

But Lycurgus Mason pulled his napkin from under his chin and moved
back from the table, dusting the crumbs from his obviously Sunday
clothes. "There you go--that's it; 'as the poet says.' John, if you
heard that 'as the poet says' as often as I do--" He could not finish
the figure. But he sniffed out his disgust with "as the poet says."
"It wasn't so bad when we were in the hotel, and she was busy with
something else. But now--but now--" he repeated it the third time,
"but now--honest, every time that woman goes to get up a paper for
the Hypatia Club, she gets me in the parlour, and rehearses it to me,
and the dad-binged thing is simply packed full of 'as the poet
sayses.' And about that marriages being made in heaven, I tell my wife
this: I say, 'Maybe so, but if they are, I know one that was made on a
busy day when the angels were thinking of something else.'"

And John Barclay, who knew Mrs. Mason and knew Lycurgus, knew that he
would as soon think of throwing a bomb at the President as to say such
a thing to her; so John asked credulously: "You did? Well, well! Say,
what did she say to that?"

"That's it--" responded Lycurgus. "That's it. What could she say? I
had her." He walked the length of the room proudly, with his hands
thrust into his pockets.

Barclay moved his chair to the rear of the car, where he sat smoking
and looking into the clear star-lit heavens above the desert. And his
mind went back thirty years to the twilight in June after he had set
off the powder keg in the culvert under Main Street in Sycamore Ridge,
and he tried to remember how Jane Mason got over from Minneola--did
he bring her over the day before, or was she visiting at the
Culpeppers', or did she come over that day? It puzzled him, but he
remembered well that in the Congregational choir he and Jane sang a
duet in an anthem, "He giveth his beloved sleep." And he hummed the
old aria, a rather melancholy tune, as he sat on the car platform in
Arizona that night, and her voice came back--a deep sweet contralto
that took "G" below middle "C" as clearly as a tenor, and in her lower
register there was a passion and a fire that did not blaze in the
higher notes. For those notes were merely girlish and untrained. That
June night in '73 was the first night that he and Jane Mason ever had
lagged behind as they walked up the hill with Bob and Molly. And what
curious things stick in the memory! The man on the rear of the car
remembered that as they left the business part of Main Street behind
and walked up the hill, they came to a narrow cross-walk, a single
stone in width, and that they tried to walk upon it together, and that
his limp made him jostle her, and she said, "We mustn't do that."

"What?" he inquired.

"Oh--you know--walk on one stone. You know what it's a sign of."

"Do you believe in signs?" he asked. She kept hold of his arm, and
kept him from leaving the stone. She was taller than he by a head, and
he hated himself for it. They managed to keep together until they
crossed the street and came into the broader walk. Then she drew a
relieved breath and answered: "Oh, I don't know. Sometimes I do." They
were lagging far behind their friends, and the girl hummed a tune,
then she said, "You know I've always believed in my 'Star light--star
bright--first star I've seen to-night,' just as I believe in my
prayers." And she looked up and said, "Oh, I haven't said it yet." She
picked out her star and said the rhyme, closing with, "I wish I may, I
wish I might, have the wish I wish to-night."

And sitting on the car end in Arizona thirty years after, he tried to
find her star in the firmament above him. He was a man in his fifties
then, and the night she showed him her star was more than thirty years
gone by. But he remembered. We are curious creatures, we men, and we
remember much more than we pretend to. For our mothers in many cases
were women, and we take after them.

As Barclay stood in the door of his car debating whether or not to go
in, the light from the chimney of the sawmill on the hill attracted
his attention, and because he was in a mood for it, the flying sparks
trailing across the night sky reminded him of the fireworks that
Fourth of July in 1873, when he and Jane Mason and Bob and Molly spent
the day together, picnicking down in the timber and coming home to
dance on the platform under the cottonwood-bough pavilion in the
evening. It was a riotous day, and Bob and Molly being lovers of long
acceptance assumed a paternal attitude to John and Jane that was
charming in the main, but sometimes embarrassing. And of all the
chatter he only remembered that Jane said: "Think how many years these
old woods have been here--how many hundred years--maybe when the
mound-builders were here! Don't you suppose that they are used to--to
young people--oh, maybe Indian lovers, and all that, and don't you
suppose the trees see these young people loving and marrying, and
growing old and ugly and unhappy, and that they some way feel that
they are just a little tired of it all?"

If any one replied to her, he had no recollection of it, for after
that he saw the dance and heard the music, and then events seemed to
slip along without registering in his memory. There must have been the
fifth and the sixth of July in 1873, for certainly there was the
seventh, and that was Sunday; he remembered that well enough, for in
the morning there was a council in his office to discuss ways and
means for the week's work in the county-seat trouble. Tuesday was the
day which the new law designated as the one when the levy must be made
for the court-house improvements that would hold the county-seat in
Sycamore Ridge. At four o'clock, after the Sunday council, John and
Bob drove out of Sheriff Jake Dolan's stable with his best two-seated
buggy, and told him they would be back from Minneola at midnight or
thereabout after taking Jane Mason home, and the two boys drove down
Main Street with the girls, waving to every one with their hats, while
the girls waved their parasols, and the town smiled; for though all
the world loves a lover, in Sycamore Ridge it has been the custom,
since the days when Philemon Ward first took Miss Lucy out to drive,
for all the town to jeer at lovers as they pass down street in buggies
and carriages! And so thirty years slipped from Barclay as he stood in
the doorway of his car looking at the Arizona stars. A flicker of
light high up in the sky-line seemed to move. It was the headlight of
a train coming over the mountain. A switchman with a lantern was
passing near the car, and Barclay called to him, "Is that headlight
No. 2?" And when the man affirmed Barclay's theory, he asked, "How
long does it take it to get down here?"

"Oh, she comes a-humming," replied the man. "If she doesn't jump the
track, she'll be down in eight minutes."

Inside the car Barclay heard a watch snap, and knew that Lycurgus
Mason didn't believe anything of the kind and proposed to get at the
facts. So Barclay sat down on the platform; but his mind went back to
the old days, and the ride through the woods along the Sycamore that
Sunday night in July came to him, with all its fragrance and stillness
and sweetness. He recalled that they came into the prairie just as the
meadow-lark was crying its last plaintive twilight trill, and the
western sky was glowing with a rim of gold upon the tips of the
clouds. The beauty of the prairie and the sky and the calm of the
evening entered into their hearts, and they were silent. Then they
left the prairie and went into the woods again, on the river road. And
before they came out of that road into the upland, Fate turned a screw
that changed the lives of all of them. For in a turn of the road, in a
deep cut made by a ravine, Gabriel Carnine, making the last stand for
Minneola, stepped into the path and took the horses by the bridles.
The shock that John felt that night when he realized what had happened
came back even across the years. And as the headlight far up in the
mountain above the desert slipped into a tunnel, though it flashed out
again in a few seconds, while it was gone, all the details of the
kidnapping of the young people in the buggy hurried across his mind.
Even the old anxiety that he felt lest Sycamore Ridge would think him
a traitor to their cause, when they should find that he was not there
to sign the tax levy and save the court-house and the county-seat,
came back to him as he gazed at the mountain, waiting for the
headlight, and he remembered how he made a paper trail of torn bits
from a Congregational hymn-book, left in Bob's pocket from the morning
service, dropping the bits under the buggy wheels in the dust so that
the men from the Ridge would see the trail and follow the captives. In
his memory he saw Jake Dolan, who had followed the trail where it led
to Carnine's farm, come stumbling into the farm-house Tuesday where
they were hidden, and John, in memory, heard Jake whisper that he had
left his dog with the rescuing party to lead the rescuers to him if he
was on the right trail and did not return.

And then as Barclay's mind went back to the long Tuesday, when he
should have been at the Ridge to sign the tax levy, the headlight
flashed out of the tunnel. But these were fading pictures. The one
image that was in his mind--clear through all the years--was of a
wood and a tree,--a great, spreading, low-boughed elm, near Carnine's
house where the young people were held prisoners, and Jane Mason
sitting with her back against the tree, and lying on the dry grass at
her feet his own slight figure; sometimes he was looking up at her
over his brow, and sometimes his head rested on the roots of the tree
beside her, and she looked down at him and they talked, and no one was
near. For through youth into middle life, and into the dawn of old
age, That Day was marked in his life. The day of the month--he forgot
which it was. The day of the week--that also left him, and there came
a time when he had to figure back to recall the year; but for all
that, there was a radiance in his life, an hour of calm joy that never
left him, and he called it only--That Day. That Day is in every
heart; in yours, my dear fat Mr. Jones, and in yours, my good dried-up
Mrs. Smith; and in yours, Mrs. Goodman, and in yours, Mr. Badman;
maybe it is upon the sea, or in the woods, or among the noises of some
great city--but it is That Day. And no other day of all the thousands
that have come to you is like it.

Why should he remember the ugly farm-yard, the hard faces of the men,
the straw-covered frame they called a barn, and the unpainted house?
All these things passed by him unrecorded, as did the miserable fare
of the table, the hard bed at night, and the worry that must have
gnawed at his nerves to know that perhaps the town was thinking him
false to it, or that his mother, guessing the truth, was in pain with
terror, or to feel that a rescuing party coming at the wrong time
would bring on a fight in which the girls would be killed. Only the
picture of Jane Mason, fine and lithe and strong, with the pink cheeks
of twenty, and the soft curves of childhood still playing about her
chin and throat as he saw it from the ground at her feet,--that
picture was etched into his heart, and with it the recollection of her
eyes when she said, "John,--you don't think I--I knew of
this--beforehand, do you?" Just that sentence--those were the only
words left in his memory of a day's happiness. And he never heard a
locust whirring in a tree that it did not bring back the memory of the
spreading tree and the touch--the soft, quick, shy touch of her
fingers in his hair, and the fire that was in her eyes.

It was in the dusk of Tuesday evening that Jake Dolan's dog came into
the yard where the captives were, and Jake disowned him, and joined
the men who stoned the faithful creature out to the main road. But the
prisoners knew that their rescuers would follow the dog, so at supper
the three men from the Ridge sat together on a bench at the table
while Mrs. Carnine and the girls waited on the men--after the fashion
of country places in those days. Dolan managed to say under his breath
to Barclay, "It's all right--but the girls must stay in the house
to-night." And John knew that if he and Bob escaped with horses before
ten o'clock, they could reach the Ridge in time to sign the levy
before midnight. Darkness fell at eight, and a screech-owl in the wood
complained to the night. Dolan rose and stretched and yawned, and then
began to talk of going to bed, and Gabriel Carnine, whose turn it was
to sleep because he had been up two nights, shuffled off to the
straw-covered stable to lie down with the Texan who was his bunk mate,
leaving half a dozen men to guard the prisoners. An hour later the
screech-owl in the wood murmured again, this time much closer, and
Dolan rose and took off his hat and threw it in the straw beside him.
He was looking at the time anxiously toward the wood. But the next
moment from behind the barn in the opposite direction something
attracted them. It was a glare of light, and the guards noticed it at
the same time. A last year's straw stack next to the barn was afire.
Jane Mason was standing in the back door of the house, and in the
hurried blur of moving events John divined that she had slipped out
and fired the stack. In an instant there was confusion. The men were
on their feet. They must fight fire, or the barn would go. Dolan ran
with the men to the straw stack. "We'll help you," he cried. "I'll
wake Gabe." There was hurrrying for water pails. The women appeared,
crying shrilly, and in the glare that reddened the sky the yard
seemed, full of mad men racing heedlessly.

"John," whispered Jane, coming up to him as he drew water from the
well, "let me do this. There are two horses in the pasture. You and
Bob go--fly--fly." The Texan came running from the barn, which was
beginning to blaze. Dolan and Carnine still were in it. Then from the
wood back of the camp fifty men appeared, riding at a gallop. Lige
Bemis and General Ward rode in front of the troop of horsemen. Carnine
was still in the burning barn asleep, and there was no leader to give
command to the dazed guards. Ward and Bemis ran up, motioning the men
back, and Ward cried, "Shall we help you save your stock and barn, or
must we fight?" It was addressed to the crowd, but before they could
answer, Dolan stumbled out of the barn through the smoke and flames
crying, "Boys,--boys,--I can't find him." He saw the rescuing party
and shouted, "Boys,--Gabe's in there asleep and I can't find him."
The wind had suddenly veered, and the crackling flames had reached the
straw roof of the barn. The fire was gaining headway, and the three
buckets that were coming from the well had no effect on it. As the
last horse was pulled out of the door, one side of the straw wall of
the barn fell away on fire and showed Gabriel Carnine sleeping not ten
feet from the flames. Lige Bemis soused his handkerchief in water,
tied it over his mouth, and ran in. He grabbed the sleeping man and
dragged him through, the flames; but both were afire as they came into
the open.

Now in this story Elijah Westlake Bemis is not shown often in a heroic
light. Yet he had in his being the making of a hero, for he was brave.
And heroism, after all, is only effective reliance on some virtue in a
crisis, in spite of temptations to do the easy excusable thing. And
when Lige Bemis sneaks through this story in unlovely guise, remember
that he has a virtue that once exalted even him.

"Gabe Carnine," said Ward, as the barn fell and there was nothing more
to fear, "we didn't fire your haystack; I give you my word on that.
But we are going to take these boys home now. And you better let us
alone."

That John Barclay remembered, and then he remembered being in the
front yard of the farm-house a moment--alone with Jane Mason, his
bridle rein over his arm. Her hair was down, and she looked wild and
beautiful. The straw was still burning back of the house, and the glow
was everywhere. He always remembered that she held his hand and would
not let him go, and there two memories are different; for she always
maintained that he did, right there and then, and he recollected that
as he mounted his horse he tried to kiss her and failed. Perhaps both
are right--who knows? But both agree that as he sat there an instant
on his horse, she threw kisses at him and he threw them back. And when
the men rode away, she stood in the road, and he could see her in the
light of the waning fire, and thirty years passed and still he saw
her.

As the headlight of the train lit up the cinder yard, and brought the
glint of the rails out of the darkness, John Barclay, a thousand miles
away and thirty years after, fancied he could see her there in the
railroad yards beside him waving her hands at him, smiling at him with
the new-found joy in her face. For there is no difference between
fifty-three and twenty-three when men are in love, and if they are in
love with the same woman in both years, her face will never change,
her smile will always seem the same. And to John Barclay there on the
rear platform of the car, with the crash of the great train in his
ears, the same face looked out of the night at him that he saw back in
his twenties, and he knew that the same prayer to the same God would
go up that night for him that went up from the same lips so long ago.
The man on the car platform rose from his chair, and went into the
car.

"Well," he said to Lycurgus Mason as the old man reached for his
watch, "how about it?"

Lycurgus replied as he put it back in his pocket, "Just seven minutes
and a half. She's covered a lot of track in those seven minutes!"

And John Barclay looked back over the years, and saw a boy riding like
the wind through the night, changing horses every half-hour, and
trying to tell time from his watch by a rising moon, but the moon was
blown with clouds like a woman's hair, and he could not see the hands
on the watch face. So as he looked at the old man sitting crooked over
in the great leather chair, John Barclay only grunted, "Yes--she's
covered a long stretch of country in those seven minutes." And he
picked the Biography off the table and read to himself: "I sometimes
think that only that part of the soul that loves is saved. The rest is
dross and perishes in the fire. Whether the love be the love of woman
or the love of kind, or the love of God that embraces all, it matters
not. That sanctifies; that purifies--that marks the way of the only
salvation the soul can know, and he who does not love with the fervour
of a passionate heart some of God's creatures, cannot love God, and
not loving Him, is lost in spite of all his prayers, in spite of all
his aspirations. Therefore, if you would live you must love, for when
love dies the soul shrivels. And if God takes what you love--love on;
for only love will make you immortal, only love will cheat death of
its victory."

And looking at Lycurgus Mason fidgeting in his chair, John Barclay
wondered when he would die the kind of a death that had come to the
little old man before him, and then he felt the car move under him,
and knew they were going back to Sycamore Ridge.

"Day after to-morrow," said Barclay, meditatively, as he heard the
first faint screaming of the heavily laden wheels under him, "day
after to-morrow, Daddy Mason, we will be home with Colonel Culpepper
and his large white plumes."




CHAPTER VIII


This chapter might have had in it "all the quality, pride, pomp, and
circumstance of glorious war" if it had not been for the matters that
came up for discussion at the meeting of the Garrison County Old
Settlers' Association this year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred and
Eight. For until that meeting the legend of the last hour of the
County-seat War of '73 had flourished unmolested; but there General
Philemon Ward rose and laid an axe at the root of the legend, and
while of course he did not destroy it entirely, he left it scarred and
withered on one side and therefore entirely unfitted for historical
purposes. It seems that Gabriel Carnine was assigned by President John
Barclay of the Association to prepare and read a paper on "The Rise,
Decline, and Fall of Minneola." Certainly that was a proper subject
considering the fact that corn has been growing over the site of
Minneola for twenty years. And surely Gabriel Carnine, whose black
beard has whitened in thirty years' faithful service to Sycamore
Ridge, whose wife lies buried on the Hill, and whose children read the
Sycamore Ridge _Banner_ in the uttermost parts of the earth,--surely
Gabriel Carnine might have been trusted to tell the truth of the
conflict waged between the towns a generation ago. But men have
curious works in them, and unless one has that faith in God that gives
him unbounded faith in the goodness of man, one should not open men up
in the back and watch the wheels go 'round. For though men are good,
and in the long run what they do is God's work and is therefore
acceptable, no man is perfect. There goes Lige Bemis past the
post-office, now, for instance; when he was in the legislature in the
late sixties, every one knows that Minneola raised twenty thousand
dollars in cash and offered it to Lige if he would pretend to be sick
and quit work on the Sycamore Ridge county-seat bill. He could have
fooled us, and could have taken the money, which was certainly more
than he could expect to get from Sycamore Ridge. Did he take it? Not
at all. A million would not have tempted him. He was in that game; yet
ten days after he refused the offer of Minneola, he tried to blackmail
his United States senator out of fifty dollars, and sold his vote to a
candidate for state printer for one hundred dollars and flashed the
bill around Sycamore Ridge proudly for a week before spending it.

So Gabriel Carnine must not be blamed if in that paper on Minneola,
before the Old Settlers' Association, he let out the pent-up wrath of
thirty years; and also if in the discussion General Ward unsealed his
lips for the first time and blighted the myth that told how a hundred
Minneola men had captured the court-house yard on the night that John
Barclay and Bob Hendricks rode home from their captivity to sign the
tax levy. Legend has always said that Lige Bemis, riding half a mile
ahead of the others that night, came to the courtyard; found it
guarded by Minneola men, rode back, met John and Bob and the general
crossing the bridge over the old ford of the Sycamore, and told them
that they could not get into the court-house until the men came up who
had ridden out to rescue the commissioners,--perhaps a quarter of an
hour behind the others,--and that even then there must be a fight of
doubtful issue; and further that it was after eleven o'clock, and soon
would be too late to sign the levy. The forty thousand people in
Garrison County have believed for thirty years that finding the
court-house yard in possession of the enemy, Bemis suggested going
through the cave by the Barclays' home, which had its west opening in
the wall of the basement of the court-house; and furthermore,
tradition has said that Bemis led John and Bob through the cave, and
with crowbars and hammers they made a man-sized hole in the wall,
crawled through it, mounted the basement stairs, unlocked the
commissioners' room, held their meeting in darkness, and five minutes
before twelve o'clock astonished the invading forces by lighting a
lamp in their room, signing the levy that Bemis, as county attorney,
had prepared the Sunday before, and slipping with it into the
basement, through the cave and back to the troop of horsemen as they
were jogging across the bridge on their way back from Carnine's farm.
And here are the marks of General Ward's axe--verified by Gabriel
Carnine: first, that there were no Minneola invaders in possession of
the court-house, but only a dozen visitors loafing about town that
night to watch developments; second, that the regular pickets were out
as usual, and an invading force could not have stolen in; and third,
that Bemis knew it, but as his political fortunes were low, he rode
ahead of the others, hatched up the cock-and-bull story about the
guarded court-house, and persuaded the boys to let him lead them into
a romantic adventure that would sound well in the campaign and help to
insure his reelection the following year. In view of the general's
remarks and Gabriel Carnine's corroborative statement, and in view of
the bitterness with which Carnine assailed the whole Sycamore Ridge
campaign, how can a truthful chronicler use the episode at all?
History is a fickle goddess, and perhaps Pontius Pilate, being human
and used to human errors and human weakness, is not so much to blame
for asking, "What is truth?" and then turning away before he had the
answer.

Walking home from the meeting through Mary Barclay Park, Barclay's
mind wandered back to the days when he won his first important
lawsuit--the suit brought by Minneola to prevent the collection of
taxes under the midnight levy to build the court-house. It was that
lawsuit which brought him to the attention of the legal department of
the Fifth Parallel Railroad Company, and his employment by that
company to defeat the bonds of its narrow-gauged competitor, that was
seeking entrance into Garrison County, was the beginning of his
career. And in that fight to defeat the narrow-gauged railroad, the
people of Garrison County learned something of Barclay as well. He and
Bemis went over the county together,--the little fox and the old
coyote, the people called them,--and where men were for sale, Bemis
bought them, and where they were timid, John threatened them, and
where they were neither, both John and Bemis fought with a ferocity
that made men hate but respect the pair. And so though the Fifth
Parallel Railroad never came to the Ridge, its successor, the Corn
Belt Road, did come, and in '74 John spoke in every schoolhouse in the
county, urging the people to vote the bonds for the Corn Belt Road,
and his employment as local attorney for the company marked his first
step into the field of state politics. For it gave him a railroad
pass, and brought him into relations with the men who manipulated
state affairs; also it made him a silent partner of Lige Bemis in
Garrison County politics.

But even when he was county commissioner, less than two dozen years
old, he was a force in Sycamore Ridge, and there were days when he had
four or five thousand dollars to his credit in General Hendricks'
bank. The general used to look over the daily balances and stroke his
iron-gray beard and say: "Robert, John is doing well to-day. Son, I
wish you had the acquisitive faculty. Why don't you invest something
and make something?" But Bob Hendricks was content to do his work in
the bank, and read at home one night and slip over to the Culpeppers'
the next night, and so long as the boy was steady and industrious and
careful, his father had no real cause for complaint, and he knew it.
But the town knew that John was getting on in the world. He owned half
of Culpepper's second addition, and his interest in College Heights
was clear; he never dealt in equities, but paid cash and gave warranty
deeds for what he sold. It was believed around the Ridge that he could
"clean up," for fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, and when he called
Mrs. Mason of the Mason House, Minneola, into the dining room one
afternoon to talk over a little matter with her, he found her most
willing. It was a short session. After listening and punctuating his
remarks with "of courses" and "yeses" and "so's," Mrs. Mason's reply
was:--

"Of course, Mr. Barclay,"--the Mr. Barclay he remembered as the only
time in his life he ever had it from her,--"of course, Mr. Barclay,
that is a matter rather for you and Mr. Mason to settle. You know,"
she added, folding her hands across her ample waist, "Mr. Mason is the
head of the house!" Then she lifted her voice, perhaps fearing that
matters might be delayed. "Oh, pa!" she cried. "Pa! Come in here,
please. There's a gentleman to see you."

Lycurgus Mason came in with a tea towel in his hands and an apron on.
He heard John through in a dazed way, his hollow eyes blinking with
evident uncertainty as to what was expected of him. When Barclay was
through, the father looked at the mother for his cue, and did not
speak for a moment. Then he faltered: "Why, yes,--yes,--I see! Well,
ma, what--" And at the cloud on her brow Lycurgus hesitated again,
and rolled his apron about his hands nervously and finally said,
"Oh--well--whatever you and her ma think will be all right with me,
I guess." And having been dismissed telepathically, Lycurgus hurried
back to his work.

It was when John Barclay was elected President of the Corn Belt
Railway, in the early nineties, that Lycurgus told McHurdie and Ward
and Culpepper and Frye, as the graybeards wagged around the big brown
stove in the harness shop one winter day: "You know ma, she never saw
much in him, and when I came in the room she was about to tell him he
couldn't have her. Now, isn't that like a woman?--no sense about men.
But I says: 'Ma, John Barclay's got good blood in him. His grandpa
died worth a million,--and that was a pile of money for them days;'
so I says, 'If Jane Mason wants him, ma,' I says, 'let her have him.
Remember what a fuss your folks made over me getting you,' I says;
'and see how it's turned out.' Then I turned to John--I can see the
little chap now a-standing there with his dicky hat in his hand and
his pipe-stem legs no bigger than his cane, and his gray eyes lookin'
as wistful as a dog's when you got a bone in your hand, and I says,
'Take her along, John; take her along and good luck go with you,' I
says; 'but,' I says, 'John Barclay, I want you always to remember Jane
Mason has got a father.' Just that way I says. I tell you, gentlemen,
there's nothing like having a wife that respects you." The crowd in
the harness shop wagged their heads, and Lycurgus went on: "Now, they
ain't many women that would just let a man stand up like that and, as
you may say, give her daughter right away under her nose. But my wife,
she's been well trained."

In the pause that followed, Watts McHurdie's creaking lever was the
only sound that broke the silence. Then Watts, who had been sewing
away at his work with waving arms, spoke, after clearing his throat,
"I've heard many say that she was sich." And the old man cackled, and
it became a saying-among them and in the town.

One who goes back over the fifty years that have passed since Sycamore
Ridge became a local habitation and a name finds it difficult to
realize that one-third of its life was passed before the panic of '78,
which closed the Hendricks' bank. For those first nineteen years
passed as the life of a child passes, so that they seem only sketched
in; yet to those who lived at all, to those like Watts McHurdie and
Philemon Ward, who now pass their happiest moments mooning over tilted
headstones in the cemetery on the Hill, those first nineteen years
seem the longest and the best. And that fateful year of '73 to them
seems the most portentous. For then, perhaps for the first time, they
realized the cruel uncertainty of the struggle for existence. With the
terrible drouth of '60 this realization did not come; for the town was
young, and the people were young; only Ezra Lane was a graybeard in
all the town in the sixties; and youth is so sure; there is no hazard
under thirty. In the war they fought and marched and sang and starved
and died, and were still young. But when the financial panic of '73
spread its dread and its trouble over the land, youth in Sycamore
Ridge was gone; it was manhood that faced these things in the Ridge,
and manhood had cares, had given hostages to fortune, and life was
serious and hard; and big on the horizon was the fear of failure.
General Hendricks swayed in the panic of '73; and the time marked him,
took the best of the light from his eye, and put the slightest
perceptible hobble on his feet. To Martin Culpepper and Watts McHurdie
and Philemon Ward and Jacob Dolan and Oscar Fernald, the panic came in
their late thirties and early forties, a flash of lightning that
prophesied the coming of the storm and stress of an inexorable fate.

The wedding of John Barclay and Jane Mason occurred in September,
1873, two days after he had stood on the high stone steps of the
Exchange National Bank and made a speech to the crowd, telling them he
was the largest depositor in the bank, and begging them to stop the
run. But the run did not stop, and the day before John's wedding the
bank did not open; the short crop and the panic in the East were more
than Garrison County people could stand. But all the first day of the
bank's closing and all the next day John worked among the people,
reassuring them. So that it was five o'clock in the evening before he
could start to Minneola for his wedding.

And such a wedding! One would say that when hard times were staring
every one in the face, social forms would be observed most simply. But
one would say so without reckoning with Mrs. Lycurgus Mason. As the
groom and the bridesmaid and best man rode up from Sycamore Valley,
two miles from Minneola, in the early falling dusk that night, the
Mason House loomed through the darkness, lighted up like a steamboat.
"You'll have to move along, John," said Bob Hendricks; "I think I
heard her whistle."

On the sidewalk in front of the hotel they met Mrs. Mason in her black
silk with a hemstitched linen apron over it. She ushered them into the
house, took them to their rooms, and whirled John around on a pivot,
it seemed to him, with her interminable directions. His mother, who
had come over to Minneola the day before, came to his room and quieted
her son, and as he got ready for what he called the "ordeal," he could
hear Mrs. Mason swinging doors below stairs, walking on her heels
through the house, receiving belated guests from Sycamore Ridge and
the country,--for the whole county had been invited,--and he heard
her carrying out a dog that had sneaked into the dining room.

The groom missed the bride, and as he was tying his necktie,--which
reminded him of General Ward by its whiteness,--he wondered why she
did not come to him. He did not know that she was a prisoner in her
room, while all the young girls in Sycamore Ridge and Minneola were
looking for pins and hooking her up and stepping on each other's
skirts. For one wedding is like all weddings--whether it be in the
Mason House, Minneola, or in Buckingham Palace. And some there are who
marry for love in Minneola, and some for money, and some for a home,
and some for Heaven only knows what, just as they do in the chateaux
and palaces and mansions. And the groom is nobody and the bride is
everything, as it was in the beginning and as it shall be ever after.
Probably poor Adam had to stand behind a tree neglected and alone,
while Lilith and girls from the land of Nod bedecked Eve for the
festivities. Men are not made for ceremonies. And so at all the formal
occasions of this life--whether it be among the great or among the
lowly, in the East or the West, at weddings, christenings, and
funerals--man hides in shame and leaves the affairs to woman, who
leads him as an ox, even a muzzled ox, that treadeth out the corn.
"The doomed man," whispered John to Bob as the two in their black
clothes stood at the head of the stair that led into the parlour of
the Mason House that night, waiting for the wedding march to begin on
the cabinet organ, "ate a hearty supper, consisting of beefsteak and
eggs, and after shaking hands with his friends he mounted the gallows
with a firm step!"

Then he heard the thud of the music book on the organ, the creak of
the treadle,--and when he returned to consciousness he was Mrs.
Mason's son-in-law, and proud of it. And she,--bless her heart and
the hearts of all good women who give up the joy of their lives to us
poor unworthy creatures,--she stood by the wax-flower wreath under
the glass case on the whatnot in the corner, and wept into her real
lace handkerchief, and wished with all the earnestness of her soul
that she could think of some way to let John know that his trousers
leg was wrinkled over his left shoe top. But she could not solve the
problem, so she gave herself up to the consolation of her tears. Yet
it should be set down to her credit that when the preacher's amen was
said, hers was the first head up, and while the others were rushing
for the happy pair she was in the kitchen with her apron on dishing up
the wedding supper. Well might the Sycamore Ridge _Weekly Banner_
declare that the "tables groaned with good things." There were not
merely a little piddling dish of salad, a bite of cake, and a dab of
ice-cream. There were turkey and potatoes and vegetables and fruit and
bread and cake and pudding and pie--four kinds of pie, mark you--and
preserves, and "Won't you please, Mrs. Culpepper, try some of that
piccalilli?" and "Oh, Mrs. Ward, if you just would have a slice of
that fruit cake," and "Now, General,--a little more of the gravy for
that turkey dressing--it is such a long ride home," or "Colonel, I
know you like corn bread, and I made this myself as a special
compliment to Virginia."

And through it all the bride sat watching the door--looking always
through the crowd for some one. Her face was anxious and her heart was
clouded, and when the guests had gone and the house was empty, she
left her husband and slipped out of the back door. There, after the
glare of the lamps had left her eyes, she saw a little man walking
with his head down, out near the barn, and she ran to him and threw
her arms about him and kissed him, and when she led Lycurgus Mason,
who was all washed and dressed, back through the kitchen to her
husband, John saw that the man's eyelids were red, and that on the
starched cuffs were the marks of tears. For to him she was only his
little girl, and John afterward knew that she was the only friend he
had in the world. "Oh, father, why didn't you come in?" cried the
daughter. "I missed you so!" The man blinked a moment at the lights
and looked toward his wife, who was busy at a table, as he said: "Who?
Me?" and then added: "I was just lookin' after their horses. I was
coming in pretty soon. You oughtn't to bother about me. Well, John,"
he smiled, as he put out his hand, "the seegars seems to be on
you--as the feller says." And John put his arm about Lycurgus Mason,
as they walked out of the kitchen, and Jane reached for her gingham
apron. Then life began for Mr. and Mrs. John Barclay in earnest.




CHAPTER IX


Forty thousand words--and that is the number we have piled up in this
story--is a large number of words to string together without a
heroine. That is almost as bad as the dictionary, in which He and She
are always hundreds of pages apart and never meet,--not even in the
"Z's" at the end,--which is why the dictionary is so unpopular,
perhaps. But this is the story of a man, and naturally it must have
many heroines. For you know men--they are all alike! First, Mrs. Mary
Barclay was a heroine--you saw her face, strong and clean and sharply
chiselled with a great purpose; then Miss Lucy--black-eyed,
red-cheeked, slender little Miss Lucy--was a heroine, but she married
General Ward; and then Ellen Culpepper was a heroine, but she
fluttered out of the book into the sunlight, and was gone; and then
came Jane Mason,--and you have seen her girlish beauty, and you will
see it develop into gentle womanhood; but the real heroine,--of the
real story,--you have not seen her face. You have heard her name, and
have seen her moving through these pages with her back consciously
turned to you--for being a shy minx, she had no desire to intrude
until she was properly introduced. And now we will whirl her around
that you may have a good look at her.

Let us begin at the ground: as to feet--they are not too small--say
three and a half in size. And they support rather short legs--my
goodness, of course she has legs--did you think her shoes were pinned to
her over-skirt? Her legs carry around a plump body,--not fat--why,
certainly not--who ever heard of a fat heroine (the very best a heroine
can do for comfort is to be plump)--and so beginning the sentence over
again, being a plump little body, there is a neck to account for--a neck
which we may look at, but which is so exquisite that it would be hardly
polite to consider it in terms of language. Only when we come to the
chin that tips the oval of the face may we descend to language, and even
then we must rise and flick the red mouth with, but a passing word. But
this much must be plainly spoken. The nose does turn up--not much--but a
little (Bob used to say, just to be good and out of the way)! That,
however, is mere personal opinion, and of little importance here. But
the eyes are brown--reddish brown, with enough white at the corners to
make them seem liquid; only liquid is not the word. For they are
radiant--remember that word, for we may come back to it, after we are
done with the brow--a wide brow--low enough for Dickens and Thackeray
and Charlotte Bronte, and for Longfellow and Whittier and Will Carleton
in his day, and high enough for Tennyson at the temples, but not so high
but that the gate of the eyes has to shut wearily when Browning would
sail through the current of her soul. As to hair--Heaven knows there is
plenty of that, but it had rather a checkered career. As she clung to
her mother's apron and waved her father away to war, she was a
tow-headed little tot, and when he came back from the field of glory he
thought he could detect a tendency to red in it, but the fire smouldered
and went out, and the hair turned brown--a dark brown with the glint of
the quenched fires in it when it blew in the sun. Now frame a glowing
young face in that soft waving hair, and you have a picture that will
speak, and if the picture should come to life and speak as it was in the
year of our Lord 1873, the first word of all the words in the big fat
dictionary it would utter would be Bob. And so you may lift up your face
and take your name and place in this story--Molly Culpepper, heroine.
And when you lift your face, we may see something more than its pretty
features: we shall see a radiant soul. For scientists have found out
that every material thing in this universe gives off atomic particles of
itself, and some elements are more radiant than others. And there is a
paralleling quality in the spiritual world, and some souls give off more
of their colour and substance than others, though what it is they
radiate we do not know. Even the scientists do not know the material
things that the atoms radiate, so why should we be asked to define the
essence of souls? Yet from the soul of Molly Culpepper, in joy and in
sorrow, in her moments of usefulness and in her deepest woe, her soul
glowed and shed its glory, and she grew even as she gave her substance
to the world about her. For that is the magic of God's mystery of life.

And now having for the moment finished our discussion on the
radio-activity of souls, let us go back to the story.

Mary Barclay rode home from her son's wedding that night with Bob
Hendricks and Molly Culpepper. They were in a long line of buggies
that began to scatter out and roam across fields to escape the dust of
the roads. "Well," said Mrs. Barclay, as they pulled up the bank of
the Sycamore for home, "I suppose it will be you and Molly next, Bob?"

It was Molly who replied: "Yes. It is going to be Thanksgiving."

"Well, why not?" asked Mrs. Barclay.

"Oh--they all seem to think we shouldn't, don't you know, Mrs.
Barclay--with all this hard times--and the bank closing. And hasn't
John told you of the plan he's worked out for Bob to go to New York
this winter?"

The buggy was nearing the Barclay home. Mrs. Barclay answered, "No,"
and the girl went on.

"Well, it's a big wheat land scheme--and Bob's to go East and sell
the stock. They worked it out last night after the bank closed. He'll
tell you all about it."

Mrs. Barclay was standing by the buggy when the girl finished. The
elder woman bade the young people good night, and turned and went into
the yard and stood a moment looking at the stars before going into her
lonely house. The lovers let the tired horses lag up the hill, and as
they turned into Lincoln Avenue the girl was saying: "A year's so
long, Bob,--so long. And you'll be away, and I'm afraid." He tried to
reassure her; but she protested: "You are all my life,--big
boy,--all my life. I was only fourteen, just a little girl, when you
came into my life, and all these long seven years you are the only
human being that has been always in my heart. Oh, Bob, Bob,--always."

What a man says to his sweetheart is of no importance. Men are so
circumscribed in their utterances--so tongue-tied in love. They all
say one thing; so it need not be set down here what Bob Hendricks
said. It was what the king said to the queen, the prince to the
princess, the duke to the lady, the gardener to the maid, the
troubadour to his dulcinea. And Molly Culpepper replied, "When are you
going, Bob?"

The young man picked up the sagging lines to turn out for Watts
McHurdie's buggy. He had just let Nellie Logan out at the Wards',
where she lived. After a "Hello, Watts; getting pretty late for an old
man like you," Hendricks answered: "Well, you know John--when he gets
a thing in his head he's a regular tornado. There was an immense crowd
in town to-day--depositors and all that. And do you know, John went
out this afternoon with a paper in his hand, and five hundred dollars
he dug out of his safe over in the office, and he got options to lease
their land for a year signed up by the owners of five thousand acres
of the best wheat land in Garrison County. He wants twenty thousand
acres, and pretty well bunched down in Pleasant and Spring townships,
and I'm going in four days." The young man was full of the scheme. He
went on: "John's a wonder, Molly,--a perfect wonder. He's got grit.
Father wouldn't have been able to stand up under this--but John has
braced him, and has cheered up the people, and I believe, before the
week is out, we will be able to get nearly all the depositors to agree
to leave their money alone for a year, and then only take it out on
thirty days' notice. And if we can get that, we can open up by the
first of the month. But I've got to go on to Washington to see if I
can arrange that with the comptroller of the currency."

They were standing at the Culpepper gate as he spoke. A light in the
upper windows showed that the parents were in. Buchanan came ambling
along the walk and went through the gate between them without
speaking. When he had closed the door, the girl came close to her
lover. He took her in his arms, and cried, "Oh, darling,--only four
more days together." He paused, and in the starlight she saw on his
face more than words could have told her of his love for her. He was a
silent youth; the spoken word came haltingly to his lips, and as often
happens, words were superfluous to him in his moments of great
emotion. He put her hands to his lips, and moaned, for the hour of
parting seemed to be hurrying down upon him. Finally his tongue found
liberty. "Oh, sweetheart--sweetheart," he cried, "always remember
that you are bound in my soul with the iron of youth's first love--my
only love. Oh, I never could again, dear,--only you--only you. After
this it would be a sacrilege."

They stood silent in the joy of their ecstacy for a long minute, then
he asked gently: "Do you understand, Molly,--do you understand? this
is forever for us, Molly,--forever. When one loves as we love--with
our childhood and youth welded into it all--whom God hath joined--"
he stammered; "oh, Molly, whom God hath joined," he whispered, and his
voice trembled as he sighed again, and kissed her, "whom God hath
joined. Oh, God--God, God!" cried the lover, as he closed his eyes
with his lips against her hair.

The restless horses recalled the lovers to the earth. It was Molly who
spoke. "Bob--Bob--I can't let you go!"

Molly Culpepper had no reserves with her lover. She went on
whispering, with, her face against his heart: "Bob--Bob, big boy, I
am going to tell you something truthy true, that I never breathed to
any one. At night--to-night, in just a few minutes--when I go up to
my room--all alone--I get your picture and hold it to me close, and
holding it right next to my very heart, Bob, I pray for you." She
paused a moment, and then continued, "Oh, and--I pray for
us--Bob--I pray for us." Then she ran up the stone walk, and on the
steps she turned to throw kisses at him, but he did not move until he
heard the lock click in the front door.

At the livery-stable he found Watts McHurdie bending over some break
in his buggy. They walked up the street together. At the corner where
they were about to part the little man said, as he looked into the
rapturous face of the lanky boy, "Well, Bob,--it's good-by, John, for
you, I suppose?"

"Oh--I don't know," replied the other from his enchanted world and
then asked absently, "Why?"

"Well, it's nature, I guess. She'll take all his time now." He rubbed
his chin reflectively, and as Bob turned to go Watts said: "My
Heavens, how time does fly! It just seems like yesterday that all you
boys were raking over the scrap-pile back of my shop, and slipping in
and nipping leather strands and braiding them into whips, and I'd have
to douse you with water to get rid of you. I got a quirt hanging up in
the shop now that Johnnie Barclay dropped one day when I got after him
with a pan of water. It's a six-sided one, with eight strands down in
the round part. I taught him how to braid it." He chewed a moment and
spat before going on: "And now look at him. He's little, but oh my."
Something was working under McHurdie's belt, for Bob could hear it
chuckling as he chewed: "Wasn't she a buster? It's funny, ain't
it--the way we all pick big ones--we sawed-offs"? The laugh came--a
quiet, repressed gurgle, and he added: "Yes--by hen, and you
long-shanks always pick little dominickers. Eh?" He chewed a
meditative cud before venturing, "That's what I told her comin' home
to-night." Bob knew whom he meant. The man went on: "But when she saw
them--him so little she'll have to shake the sheet to find him--and
her so big and busting, I seen _her_--you know," he nodded his head
wisely to indicate which "her" he meant. "I saw her a-eying me, out of
the corner of her eye, and looking at him, and then looking at the
girl, and looking at herself, and on the way home to-night I'm damned
if I didn't have to put off asking her another six months." He sighed
and continued, "And the first thing I know the drummer or the
preacher'll get her." He chewed for a minute in peace and chuckled,
"Well--Bob, I suppose you'll be next?" He did not wait for an answer,
but spoke up quickly, "Well, Bob, good night--good night," and
hurried to his shop.

The next day the people that blackened Main Street in Sycamore Ridge
talked of two things--the bank failure and the new Golden Belt Wheat
Company. Barclay enlisted Colonel Culpepper, and promised him two
dollars for every hundred-acre option to lease that he secured at
three dollars an acre--the cash on the lease to be paid March first.
Barclay's plan was to organize a stock company and to sell his stock
in the East for enough to raise eight dollars an acre for every acre
he secured, and to use the five dollars for making the crop. He
believed that with a good wheat crop the next year he could make money
and buy as much land as he needed. But that year of the panic John
capitalized the hardship of his people, and made terms for them, which
they could not refuse. He literally sold them their own want. For the
fact that he had a little ready money and could promise more before
harvest upon which the people might live--however miserably was no
concern of his--made it possible for him to drive a bargain little
short of robbery. It was Bob's part of the business to float the stock
company in the East among his father's rich friends. John was to
furnish the money to keep Bob in New York, and the Hendricks'
connections in banking circles were to furnish the cash to float the
proposition, and the Hendricks' bank--if John could get it opened
again--was to guarantee that the stock subscribed would pay six per
cent interest. So there was no honeymoon for John Barclay. When he
dropped the reins and helped his bride out of the buggy the next
morning in front of the Thayer House, he hustled General Ward's little
boy into the seat, told him to drive the team to Dolan's stable, and
waving the new Mrs. Barclay good-by, limped in a trot over to the
bank. In five minutes he was working in the crowd, and by night had
the required number of the depositors ready to agree to let their
money lie a year on deposit, and that matter was closed. He was a
solemn-faced youth in those days, with a serious air about him, and
something of that superabundance of dignity little men often think
they must assume to hold their own. The town knew him as a trim little
man in a three-buttoned tail-coat, with rather extraordinary neckties,
a well-brushed hat, and shiny shoes. To the country people he was
"limping Johnnie," and General Ward, watching Barclay hustle his way
down Main Street Saturday afternoons, when the sidewalk and the
streets were full of people, used to say, "Busier 'n a tin pedler."
And he said to Mrs. Ward, "Lucy, if it's true that old Grandpa Barclay
got his start carrying a pack, you can see him cropping out in John,
bigger than a wolf."

But the general had little time to devote to John, for he was state
organizer of a movement that had for its object the abolition of
middlemen in trade, and he was travelling most of the time. The dust
gathered on his law-books, and his Sunday suit grew frayed at the
edges and shiny at the elbows, but his heart was in the cause, and his
blue eyes burned with joy when he talked, and he was happy, and had to
travel two days and nights when the fourth baby came, and then was too
late to serve on the committee on reception, and had to be satisfied
with a minor place on the committee on entertainment and amusements of
which Mrs. Culpepper was chairman. But John turned in half of a fee
that came from the East for a lawsuit that both he and Ward had
forgotten, and Miss Lucy would have named the new baby Mary Ward, but
the general stood firm for Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Sitting at Sunday
dinner with the Wards on the occasion of Elizabeth Cady Stanton Ward's
first monthly birthday, John listened to the general's remarks on the
iniquity of the money power, and the wickedness of the national banks,
and kept respectful and attentive silence. The worst the young man did
was to wink swiftly across the table at Watts McHurdie, who had been
invited by Mrs. Ward with malice prepense and seated by Nellie Logan.
The wink came just as the general, waving the carving knife, was
saying: "Gentlemen, it's the world-old fight--the fight of might
against right. When I was a boy like you, John, the fight was between
brute strength and the oppressed; between slaves and masters. Now it
is between weakness and cunning, between those who would be
slaveholders if they could be, and those who are fighting the
shackles." And Mrs. Ward saw the wink, and John saw that she saw it,
and he was ashamed.

So before the afternoon was over, Mr. and Mrs. John Barclay went over
to Hendricks's, picking up Molly Culpepper on the way, and the three
spent the evening with the general and Miss Hendricks--a faded mousy
little woman in despairing thirties; and before the open fire they sat
and talked, and John played the piano for an hour, and thought out an
extra kink for the Golden Belt Wheat Company's charter. He jabbered
about it to Jane as they walked home, and the next day it became a
fact.

"That boy," said the colonel to his assembled family one evening as
they dined on mush and dried peaches, and coffee made of parched corn,
"that John Barclay certainly and surely is a marvel. Talk about
drawing blood from a turnip,--why, he can strike an artery in a
pumpkin." The colonel smiled reflectively as he proceeded: "Chicago
lawyer came in on the stage this afternoon,--kinder getting uneasy
about a little interest I owed to an Ohio man on that College Heights
property, and John took that Chicago lawyer up to his office, and
talked him into putting the interest in a second mortgage with all the
interest that will fall due till next spring, and then traded him
Golden Belt Wheat Company stock for the mortgage and a thousand
dollars besides."

"Well, did John give you back the mortgage, father?" asked Molly.

"No, sis,--that wouldn't be business," replied the colonel, as he
stirred his dried peaches into his third dish of mush for dessert;
"business is business, you know. John took the mortgage over to the
bank and discounted it for some money to buy more options with. John
surely does make things hum."

"Yes, and he's made Bob resign from the board of commissioners, and
won't let him come home Christmas, and keeps him on fifty dollars a
month there in New York--all the same," returned the girl.

The colonel looked at his daughter a moment in sympathetic silence;
then he put his thumbs in the armholes of his vest and tilted back in
his chair and answered: "Oh, well, my dear,--when you are living in a
brown-stone house on Fifth Avenue down in New York, stepping on a
nigger every which way you turn, you'll thank John that he did keep
Bob at work, and not bring him back here to pin on a buffalo tail,
drink crick water, eat tumble weeds, and run wild. I say, and I fear
no contradiction when I say it, that John Barclay is a marvel--a
living wonder in point of fact. And if Bob Hendricks wants to come
back here and live on the succulent and classic bean and the luscious,
and I may say tempting, flapjack, let him come, Molly Farquhar
Culpepper, let him come." The colonel, proud of his language, looked
around the family circle. "And we at our humble board, with our plain
though--shall I say nutritive--yes, nutritive and wholesome fare,
should thank our lucky stars that John Barclay keeps the Golden Belt
Wheat Company going, and your husband and father can make a more or
less honest dollar now and then to supply your simple wants."

The colonel had more in his mind, for he rose and began to pace the
floor in a fine frenzy. But Mrs. Culpepper looked up for an instant
from her tea, and said, "You know you forgot the mail to-day, father,"
and he replied, "Yes, that's so." Then added: "Molly dear, will you
bring me my overcoat--please?"

The girl bundled her father into his threadbare blue army overcoat
with the cape. He stood for a moment absently rattling some dimes in
his pocket. Then the faintness of their jingle must have appealed to
him, for he drew a long breath and walked majestically away. He was a
tall stout man in the midst of his forties, with a military goatee and
black flowing mustaches, and he wore his campaign hat pinned up at the
side with the brass military pin and swayed with some show of swagger
as he walked. His gift of oratory he did not bring to the flower of
its perfection except at lodge. He was always sent as a delegate to
Grand Lodge, and when he came home men came from all over the county
to see the colonel exemplify the work. But as he marched to funerals
under his large white plume and with his sword dangling at his side,
Colonel Martin Culpepper, six feet four one way and four feet two the
other, was a regal spectacle, and it will be many years before the
town will see his like again.

The colonel walked over to the post-office box and got his mail, then
took a backless chair and drew it up to the sand box in which the
stove sat, and the conversation became general in its nature, ranging
from Emerson's theory of the cosmos and the whiskey ring to the
efficacy of a potato in the pocket for rheumatism. Finally when they
had come to their "don't you remembers" about the battle of Wilson's
Creek, General Ward, with his long coat buttoned closely about him,
came shivering into the store to get some camphor gum and stood
rubbing his cold hands by the stove while the clerk was wrapping up
the package. His thin nose was red and his eyes watered, and he had
little to say. When he went out the colonel said, "What's he going to
run for this year?"

"Haven't you heard?" replied McHurdie, and to the colonel's negative
Watts replied, "Governor--the uprising's going to nominate him."

"Yes," said Frye, "and he'll go off following that foolishness and
leave his wife and children to John or the neighbours."

"Do you suppose he thinks he'll win?" asked the Colonel.

"Naw," put in McHurdie; "I was talking to him only last week in the
shop, and he says, 'Watts, you boys don't understand me.' He says, 'I
don't want their offices. What I want is to make them think. I'm
sowing seed. Some day it will come to a harvest--maybe long after I'm
dead and gone.' I asked him if a little seed wouldn't help out some
for breakfast, and he didn't answer. Then he said: 'Watts--what you
need is faith--faith in God and not in money. There are no
Christians; they don't believe in God, or they'd trust Him more. They
don't trust God; they trust money. Yet I tell you it will work. Go
ahead--do your work in the world, and you won't starve nor your
children beg in the streets.'" McHurdie stopped a moment to gnaw his
plug of tobacco. "The general's gitting kind of a crank--and I told
him so."

"What did he say?" inquired the colonel.

"Oh, he just laughed," replied McHurdie; "he just laughed and said if
he was a crank I was a poet, and neither was much good at the note
window of the bank, and we kind of made it up."

And so the winter evening grew old, and one by one the cronies rose
and yawned and went their way. Evening after evening went thus, and
was it strange that in the years that came, when the sunset of life
was gilding things for Watts McHurdie, he looked through the golden
haze and saw not the sand in the pit under the stove, not the rows of
drugs on the wall, not the patent medicine bottles in their faded
wrappers, but as he wrote many years after in "Autumn Musing":--

    "Those nights when Wisdom was our guide
      And Friendship was the glow,
    That warmed our souls like living coals,
      Those nights of long ago."

Nor is it strange that Martin Culpepper, his commentator, conning
those lines through the snows of many winters, should be a little
misty as to details, and having taken his pen in hand to write, should
set down this note:--

"These lines probably refer to the evenings which the poet passed in a
goodly company of choice spirits during the early seventies. E'en as I
write, Memory, with tender hand, pushes back the sombre curtain, and I
see them now--that charmed circle; the poet with the brow of Jove and
Minerva's lips; the rugged warrior at his side, with the dignity of
Mars himself; perhaps some Croesus with his gold, drawn by the spell
of Wisdom's enchantment into the magic circle; and this your humble
disciple of Thucydides, sitting spellbound under the drippings of the
sacred font, getting the material for these pages. That was the Golden
Age; there were giants in those days."

And so there were, Colonel Martin Culpepper of the Great Heart and the
"large white plumes"--so there were.




CHAPTER X


It was a cold raw day in March, 1874. Colonel Culpepper was sitting in
the office of Ward and Barclay over the Exchange National Bank waiting
for the junior member of the firm to come in; the senior member of the
firm, who had just brought up an arm load of green hickory and dry
hackberry stove wood, was standing beside the box-shaped stove,
abstractedly brushing the sawdust and wormwood from his sleeves and
coat front. The colonel was whistling and whittling, and the general
kept on brushing after the last speck of dust had gone from his shiny
coat. He walked to the window and stared into the ugly brown street.

Two or three minutes passed, and Colonel Culpepper, anxious for the
society of his kind, spoke. "Well, General, what's the trouble?"

"Nothing in particular, Martin. I was just questioning the reality of
matter and the existence of the universe as you spoke; but it's not
important." The general shivered, and turned his kind blue eyes on his
friend in a smile, and then bethought him to put the wood in the
stove.

While he was jamming in a final stick, Colonel Culpepper inquired,
"Well, am I an appearance or an entity?"

The general put the smoking poker on the floor, and turned the damper
in the pipe as he answered: "That's what I can't seem to make out. You
know old Emerson says a man doesn't amount to much as a thinker until
he has doubted the existence of matter. And I just got to thinking
about it, and wondering if this was a real world after all--or just
my idea of one." The two men smiled at the notion, and Ward went on:
"All right, laugh if you want to, but if this is a real world, whose
world is it, your world or my world? Here is John Barclay, for
instance. Sometimes I get a peek at his world." Ward picked up the
poker and sat down and hammered the toe of a boot with it as he went
on: "John's world is the Golden Belt Wheat Company, wheat pouring a
steady stream into boundless bins, and money flowing in golden ripples
over it all. Sometimes Bob Hendricks' head rises above the tide long
enough to gasp or cry for help and beg to come home, but John's golden
flood sweeps over him again, and he's gone. And here's your world,
Martin, wherein every one is kind and careless, and generous and good,
and full of smiles and gayety. And there's Lige Bemis' world, full of
cunning and hypocrisy, and meanness and treachery and plotting--a
hell of a world it is, with its foundations on hate and deceit--but
it's his world, and he has the same right to it that I have to mine.
And there's old Watts' world--" The general sighted along the poker
over his toe to the stove side whereon a cornucopia wriggled out of
nothing and poured its richness of fruit and grain into nothing.
"There's Watts' world, full of stuffed Personifications, Virtue,
Pleasure, Happiness, Sin, Sorrow, and God knows what of demigods, with
the hay of his philosophy sticking out of their eyeholes. You know
about his maxims, Mart; he actually lives by 'em, and no matter how
common sense yells at him to get off the track, old Watts just goes on
following his maxims, and gets butted into the middle of next week."

The colonel was making a hole in the stick in his hands, and his
attention was fixed on the whittling, but he added, "And your own
world, General--how about your own world?"

"My world," replied the general, as he pulled at the bows of his
rather soiled white tie, and evened them, "My world--" the general
jabbed the poker spear-like into the floor, "I guess I'm a kind of a
transcendentalist!"

The colonel blew the chips through the hole in his stick; he bored it
round in the pause that followed before he spoke.

"A transcendentalist, eh? Well, pintedly, General, that is what I may
call a soft impeachment, as the poet says--a mighty soft impeachment.
I've heard you called a lot worse names than that--and I may say,"
here the crow's-feet began scratching for a smile around the colonel's
eyes, "proved, sir, with you as the prosecuting witness."

The two men chuckled. Then the general, balancing himself, with the
poker point on the floor, as he tilted back went on: "My world, Mart
Culpepper, is a world in which the ideal is real--a world in a state
of flux with thoughts of to-day the matter of to-morrow; my world is a
world of faith that God will crystallize to-day's aspirations into
to-morrow's justice; my world," the general rose and waved his poker
as if to beat down the forces of materialism about him, "my world is
the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not
seen." He paused. "As I was saying," he continued at last, "if this is
a real world, if matter actually exists and this world is not a dream
of my consciousness, whose world is it, my world, your world, Watts
McHurdie's world, Lige's world, or John's world? It can't be all of
'em." He put the poker across the stove hearth, and sank his hands
deeply into his pockets as he continued: "The question that philosophy
never has answered is this: Am I a spectre and you an essence, or are
you a spectre and am I an essence? Is it your world or mine?"

The two men looked instinctively at the rattling doorknob, and John
Barclay limped into the room. His face was red with the cold and the
driving mist. He walked to the stove and unbuttoned his ulster, while
the colonel put the subject of the debate before him. The general
amended the colonel's statement from time to time, but the young man
only smiled tolerantly and shook his head. Then he went to his desk
and pulled a letter from a drawer.

"Colonel, I've got a letter here from Bob. The thing doesn't seem to
be moving. He only sold about a thousand dollars' worth of stock last
month--a falling off of forty per cent, and we must have more or we
can't take up our leases. He's begging like a dog to come home for a
week, but I can't let him. We need that week." He limped over to the
elder and put his hand on the tall man's arm as he said: "Now,
Colonel, that was what I sent for you about. You kind of speak to
Molly and have her write him and tell him to hold on a little while.
It's business, you know, and we can't afford to have sentiment
interfere with business."

The colonel, standing by the window, replied, after a pause: "I can
see where you are right, John. Business is business. You got to
consider that." He looked into the street below and saw General
Hendricks come shuddering into the cold wind. "How's he getting on?"
asked Culpepper, nodding towards Hendricks, who seemed unequal to the
gale.

"Oh, I don't know, Colonel,--times are hard."

"My, how he's aging!" said the colonel, softly.

After a silence Barclay said: "There's one thing sure--I've got it
into his hard old head that Bob is doing something back there, and he
couldn't earn his salt here. Besides," added Barclay, as if to justify
himself against an accusing conscience, "the old man does all the work
in the bank now, with time to spare."

It was the day of army overcoats, and the hard times had brought
hundreds of them from closets and trunks. General Hendricks,
fluttering down the street in his faded blue, made a rather pathetic
figure. The winter had whitened his hair and withered his ruddy face.
His unequal struggle with the wind seemed some way symbolical of his
life, and the two men watched him out of sight without a word. The
colonel turned toward his own blue overcoat which lay sprawling in a
chair, and Barclay said as he helped the elder man squeeze into it,
"Don't forget to speak to Molly, Colonel," and then ushered him to the
door. For a moment Colonel Culpepper stood at the bottom of the
stairs, partly hesitating to go into the windy street, and partly
trying to think of some way in which he could get the subject on his
mind before his daughter in the right way. Then as he stood on the
threshold with his nose in the storm, he recalled General Ward's
discourse about the different worlds, and he thought of Molly's world
of lovers' madness, and that brought up his own youth and its
day-dreams, and Molly flew out of his mind and her mother came in, and
he saw her blue-eyed and fair as she stood before him on their
wedding-day. With that picture in his heart he breasted the storm and
went home whistling cheerfully, walking through his world like a
prince.

When the colonel left the office of Ward and Barclay, the partners
retired into their respective worlds and went sailing through space,
each world upon its own axis. The general in a desultory way began
writing letters to reformers urging them to prepare for the coming
struggle; but John was head over heels in the business of the Golden
Belt Wheat Company, and in an hour had covered two sheets of foolscap
with figures and had written a dozen letters. The scratch, scratch of
his pen was as regular as the swish of a piston. On the other hand,
the general often stopped and looked off into space, and three times
he got up to mend the fire. At the end of the afternoon Mrs. Ward came
in, her cheeks pink with the cold; she had left the seven-year-old to
care for the one-year-old, and the five-year-old to look after the
three-year-old, and had come scurrying through the streets in a brown
alpaca dress with a waterproof cape over her shoulders. She and the
general spoke for a few moments in their corner, and she hurried out
again. The general finished the letter he was writing and wrote
another, and then backed up to the stove with his coat tails in front
of him and stood benignly watching Barclay work. Barclay felt the
man's attention, and whirling about in his chair licking an envelope
flap, he said, "Well, General--what's on your mind?"

"I was just thinking of Lucy--that's all," replied the general.
Barclay knew that the Wards had gone through the winter on less than
one hundred dollars, and it occurred to the younger man that times
might be rather hard in the Ward household. So he asked, "Are you
worried about money matters, General?"

The general's smile broadened to a grin. "Well, to be exact, Lucy and
I just counted cash--it's in her pocketbook, and we find our total
cash assets are eight dollars and thirty-nine cents, and it's got to
tide us over till grass." He stroked his lean chin, and ran his hands
through his iron-gray hair and went on, "That's plenty, the way we've
figured it out--Lucy and I only eat one meal a day anyway, and the
children seem to eat all the time and that averages it up." He smiled
deprecatingly and added: "But Lucy's got her heart set on a little
matter, and we've decided to spend eighty-seven cents, as you might
say riotously, and get it. That's what we were talking about."

Barclay entered into the spirit of Ward's remarks and put in: "But the
National debt, General--if you have all that money to spare, why
don't you pay it off? Practise what you preach, General."

The smile faded from Ward's face. He was not a man to joke on what he
regarded as sacred things. He replied: "Yes, yes, that's just it. My
share of the interest on that debt this winter was just seventy-five
cents, and if it wasn't for that, we would have had enough to get
them; as it is, we are going to cut out meat for a week--we figured
it all out just now--and get them anyway. She's down at the store
buying them."

"Buying what?" asked Barclay.

The general's face lighted up again with a grin, and he replied: "Now
laugh--dog-gone you--buying flower seeds!" They heard a step at the
bottom of the stairs, and the general strode to the door, opened it,
and called down, "All right, Lucy--I'm coming," and buttoning up his
coat, he whisked himself from the room, and Barclay, looking out of
the window, watched the two forms as they disappeared in the dusk. But
appearances are so deceptive. The truth is that what he saw was not
there at all, but only appeared on his retina; the two forms that he
seemed to see were not shivering through the twilight, but were
walking among dahlias and coxcombs and four-o'clocks and petunias and
poppies and hollyhocks on a wide lawn whereon newly set elm trees were
fluttering their faint green foliage in the summer breeze. Yet John
Barclay would have sworn he saw them there in the cold street, with
the mist beating upon them, and curiously corroborative of this
impression is a memory he retained of reflecting that since the
general's blue overcoat had disappeared the winter before, he had
noticed that little Thayer had a blue Sunday suit and little Elizabeth
Cady Stanton had appeared wrapped in a blue baby coat. But that only
shows how these matter-of-fact people are fooled. For though the
little Wards were caparisoned in blue, and though the general's blue
overcoat did disappear about that time, the general and Lucy Ward have
no recollection of shivering home that night, but instead they know
that they walked among the flowers.

And John, looking into the darkening street, must have seen something
besides the commonplace couple that he thought he saw; for as he
turned away to light his lamp and go to work again, he smiled. Surely
there was nothing to smile at in the thing he saw. Perhaps God was
trying to make him see the flowers. But he did not see them, and as it
was nearly an hour before six o'clock, he turned to his work under the
lamp and finished his letter to Bob Hendricks. When it was written, he
read it over carefully, crossing his "t's" and dotting his "i's," and
as no one was in the room he mumbled it aloud, thus:--

    "DEAR BOB:--Don't get blue; it will be all right. Stick to it. I am
    laying a wire that will get you an audience with Jay Gould. Make the
    talk of your life there. You may be able to interest him--if just
    for a few dollars. Offer him anything. Give him the stock if he will
    let us use his name.

    "Don't get uneasy about Molly, Bob. Jane and I see that she goes to
    everything, and we've scared her up a kind of brevet beau--an old
    rooster named Brownwell--Adrian Pericles Brownwell, who has blown in
    here and bought the _Banner_ from Ezra Lane. Brownwell is from
    Alabama. Do you remember, Bob, that day at Wilson's Creek after we
    got separated in the Battle I ran into a pile of cavalry writhing in
    a road? Well, there was one face in that awful struggling mass that
    I always remembered--and I never expect to see such a look of fear
    on a man's face again--he was a young fellow then, but now he's
    thirty-five or so. Well--that was this man Brownwell. I asked him
    about it the other day. How he ever got out alive, I don't know; but
    the fact that he should turn up here proves that this is a small
    world. Brownwell also is a writer from Writersville. You should see
    the way he paints the lily in the _Banner_ every week. You remember
    old Cap Lee--J. Lord Lee of the Red Legs--and Lady Lee, as they
    called her when she was a sagebrush siren with the 'Army of the
    Border' before the War? Well, read this clipping from the _Banner_
    of this week: 'The wealth, beauty, and fashion of Minneola--fairest
    village of the plain--were agog this week over the birth of a
    daughter to Lord and Lady Lee, whose prominence in our social
    circles makes the event one of first importance in our week's
    annals. Little Beatrix, for so they have decided to christen her,
    will some day be a notable addition to our refined and gracious
    circles. Welcome to you, little stranger.'

    "Now you know the man! You needn't be jealous of him. However, he
    has frozen to the Culpeppers because they are from the South, and
    clearly he thinks they are the only persons of consequence in town.
    So he beaus Molly around with Jane and me to the concerts and
    sociables and things. He is easily thirty-five, walks with a cane,
    struts like a peacock, and Molly and Jane are having great sport
    with him. Also he is the only man in town with any money. He brought
    five thousand dollars in gold, real money,--his people made it on
    contraband cotton contracts during the War, they say,--and he has
    been the only visible means of support the town has had for three
    months. But in the meantime don't worry about Molly, Bob, she's all
    right, and business is business, you know, and you shouldn't let
    such things interfere with it. But in another six months we'll be
    out of the woods and on our way to big money."

Now another strange thing happened to John Barclay that evening, and
this time it was what he saw, not what he failed to see, that puzzled
him. For just as he sealed the letter to his friend, and thumped his
lean fist on it to blot the address on the envelope and press the
mucilage down, he looked around suddenly, though he never knew why,
and there, just outside the rim of light from his lampshade, trembled
the image of Ellen Culpepper with her red and black checked flannel
dress at her shoe tops and his rubber button ring upon her finger. She
smiled at him sweetly for a moment and shook her head sadly, and her
curls fluttered upon her shoulders, and then she seemed to fade into
the general's desk by the opposite wall. John was pallid and
frightened for a moment; then as he looked at the great pile of
letters before him he realized how tired and worn he was. But the face
and the eyes haunted him and brought back old memories, and that night
he and Jane and Molly Culpepper went to Hendricks', and he played the
piano for an hour in the firelight, and dreamed old dreams. And his
hands fell into the chords of a song that he sang as a boy, and Molly
came from the fire and stood beside him while they hummed the words in
a low duet:--

    "Let me believe that you love as you loved
    Long, long ago--long ago."

But when he went out into the drizzling night, and he and Jane left
Molly at home, he stepped into the whirling yellow world of gold and
grain, and drafts and checks, and leases and mortgages, and Heaven
knows what of plots and schemes and plans. So he did not heed Jane
when she said, "Poor--poor little Molly," but replied as he latched
the Culpepper gate, "Oh, Molly'll be all right. You can't mix business
and pleasure, you know. Bob must stay."

And when Molly went into the house, she found her mother waiting for
her. The colonel's courage had failed him. The mother took her
daughter's hand, and the two walked up the broad stairs together.

"Molly," said the mother, as the girl listlessly went about her
preparations for bed, "don't grieve so about Bob. Father and John need
him there. It's business, you know."

The daughter answered, "Yes, I know, but I'm so lonesome--so
lonesome." Then she sobbed, "You know he hasn't written for a whole
week, and I'm afraid--afraid!"

When the paroxysm had passed, the mother said: "You know, my dear,
they need him there a little longer, and he wants to come back. Your
father told me that John sent word to-day that you must not let him
come." The girl's face looked the pain that struck her heart, and she
did not answer. "Molly dear," began the mother again, "can't you write
to Bob to-morrow and urge him to stay--for me? For all of us? It is
so much to us now--for a little while--to have Bob there, sending
back money for the company. I don't know what father would do if it
wasn't for the company--and John."

The daughter held her mother's hand, and after gasping down a sob,
promised, and then as the sob kept tilting back in her throat, she
cried: "But oh, mother, it's such a big world--so wide, and I am so
afraid--so afraid of something--I don't know what--only that I'm
afraid."

But the mother soothed her daughter, and they talked of other things
until she was quiet and drowsy.

But when she went to sleep, she dreamed a strange dream. The next day
she could not untangle it, save that with her for hours as she went
about her duties was the odour of lilacs, and the face of her lover,
now a young eager face in pain, and then, by the miracle of dreams,
grown old, bald at the temples and brow, but fine and strong and
clean--like a boy's face. The face soon left her, but the smell of
the lilacs was in her heart for days--they were her lilacs, from the
bushes in the garden. As days and weeks passed, the dream blurred into
the gray of her humdrum life and was gone. And so that day and that
night dropped from time into eternity, and who knows of all the
millions of stars that swarmed the heavens, what ones held the
wandering souls of the simple people of that bleak Western town as
they lay on their pillows and dreamed. For if our waking hours are
passed in worlds so wide apart, who shall know where we walk in
dreams?

It is thirty years and more now since John Barclay dreamed of himself
as the Wheat King of the Sycamore Valley, and in that thirty years he
had considerable time to reflect upon the reasons why pride always
goeth before destruction. And he figured it out that in his particular
case he was so deeply engrossed in the money he was going to make that
first year, that he did not study the simple problem of wheat-growing
as he should have studied it. In those days wheat-growing upon the
plains had not yet become the science it is to-day, and many Sycamore
Valley farmers planted their wheat in the fall, and failed to make it
pay, and many other Sycamore Valley farmers planted their wheat in the
spring, and failed, while many others succeeded. The land had not been
definitely staked off and set apart by experience as a winter wheat
country, and so the farmers operating under the Golden Belt Wheat
Company, in the spring of 1874, planted their wheat in March.

That was a beautiful season on the plains. April rains came, and the
great fields glowed green under the mild spring sun. And Bob
Hendricks, collecting the money from his stock subscriptions, poured
it into the treasury of the company, and John Barclay spent the money
for seed and land and men to work the land, and so confident was he of
the success of the plan that he borrowed every dollar he could lay his
hands on, and got leases on more land and bought more seed and hired
more men, in the belief that during the summer Hendricks could sell
stock enough to pay back the loans. To Colonel Culpepper, Barclay gave
a block of five thousand dollars' worth of the stock as a bonus in
addition to his commission for his work in securing options, and the
colonel, feeling himself something of a capitalist, and being in funds
from the spring sale of lots in College Heights addition, invested in
new clothes, bought some farm products in Missouri, and went up and
down the earth proclaiming the glories of the Sycamore Valley, and in
May brought two car-loads of land seekers by stages and wagons and
buggies to Sycamore Ridge, and located them in Garrison County. And in
his mail when he came home he found a notice indicating that he had
overdrawn his account in the bank five hundred dollars, and that his
note was due for five hundred more on the second mortgage which he had
given the previous fall.

For two days he was plunged in gloom, and Barclay, observing his
depression and worming out of the colonel the cause, persuaded General
Hendricks to put the overdraft and the second mortgage note into one
note for a thousand dollars plus the interest for sixty days until the
colonel could make a turn, and after that the colonel was happy again.
He forgot for a moment the responsibility of wealth and engaged
himself in the task of making the Memorial Day celebration in Sycamore
Ridge the greatest event in the history of the town. Though there were
only five soldiers' graves to decorate, the longest procession
Garrison County had ever known wound up the hill to the cemetery, and
Colonel Martin Culpepper in his red sash, with his Knights Templar hat
on, riding up and down the line on an iron-gray stallion, was easily
the most notable figure in the spectacle. Even General Hendricks,
revived by the pomp of the occasion, heading the troop of ten veterans
of the Mexican War, and General Ward, in his regimentals, were
inconsequential compared with the colonel. And his oration at the
graves, after the bugles had blown taps, kept the multitude in tears
for half an hour. John Barclay's address at the Opera House that
afternoon--the address on "The Soldier and the Scholar"--was so
completely overshadowed by the colonel's oratorical flight that Jane
teased her husband about the eclipse for a month, and never could make
him laugh. Moreover, the _Banner_ that week printed the colonel's
oration in full and referred to John's address as "a few sensible
remarks by Hon. John Barclay on the duty of scholarship in times of
peace." But here is the strange thing about it--those who read the
colonel's oration were not moved by it; the charm of the voice and the
spell of the tall, handsome, vigorous man and the emotion of the
occasion were needed to make the colonel's oratory move one. Still,
opinions differ even about so palpable a proposition as the ephemeral
nature of the colonel's oratory. For the _Banner_ that week pronounced
it one of the classic oratorical gems of American eloquence, and the
editor thereof brought a dozen copies of the paper under his arm when
he climbed the hill to Lincoln Avenue the following Sunday night, and
presented them to the women of the Culpepper household, whom he was
punctilious to call "the ladies," and he assured Miss Molly and
Mistress Culpepper--he was nice about those titles also--that their
father and husband had a great future before him in the forum.

It may be well to pause here and present so punctilious a gentleman as
Adrian Pericles Brownwell to the reader somewhat more formally than he
has been introduced. For he will appear in this story many times. In
the first place he wore mustaches--chestnut-coloured mustaches--that
drooped rather gracefully from his lip to his jaw, and thence over his
coat lapels; in the second place he always wore gloves, and never was
without a flower in his long frock-coat; and thirdly he clicked his
cane on the sidewalk so regularly that his approach was heralded, and
the company was prepared for the coming of a serious, rather nervous,
fiery man, a stickler for his social dues; and finally in those days,
those sombre days of Sycamore Ridge after the panic of '73, when men
had to go to the post-office to get their ten-dollar bills changed,
Brownwell had the money to support the character he assumed. He had
come to the Ridge from the South,--from that part of the South that
carried its pistol in its hip pocket and made a large and serious
matter of its honour,--that was obvious; he had paid Ezra Lane two
thousand dollars for the _Banner_, that was a matter of record; and he
had marched with some grandeur into General Hendricks' bank one
Saturday and had clinked out five thousand dollars in gold on the
marble slab at the teller's window, and that was a matter attested to
by a crowd of witnesses. Watts McHurdie used to say that more people
saw that deposit than could be packed into the front room of the bank
with a collar stuffer.

But why Adrian Brownwell had come to the Ridge, and where he had made
his money--there myth and fable enter into the composition of the
narrative, and one man's opinion is as good as another's. Curiously
enough, all who testify claim that they speak by the authority of Mr.
Brownwell himself. But he was a versatile and obliging gentleman
withal, so it is not unlikely that all those who assembled him from
the uttermost parts of the earth into Sycamore Ridge for all the
reasons in the longer catechism, were telling the simple truth as they
have reason to believe it. What men know of a certainty is that he
came, that he hired the bridal chamber of the Thayer House for a year,
and that he contested John Barclay's right to be known as the glass of
fashion and the mould of form in Garrison County for thirty long
years, and then--but that is looking in the back of the book, which
is manifestly unfair.

It is enough to know now that on that Sunday evening after Memorial
Day, in 1874, Adrian P. Brownwell sat on the veranda of the Culpepper
home slapping his lavender gloves on his knee by way of emphasis, and
told the company what he told General Beauregard and what General
Beauregard told him, at the battle of Shiloh; also what his maternal
grandfather, Governor Papin, had said to General Jackson, when his
grandmother, then Mademoiselle Dulangpre, youngest daughter of the
refugee duke of that house, had volunteered to nurse the American
soldiers in Jackson's hospital after the battle of New Orleans; also,
and with detail, what his father, Congressman Brownwell, had said on
the capitol steps in December, 1860, before leaving for Washington to
resign his seat in Congress; and also with much greater detail he
recounted the size of his ancestral domain, the number of the
ancestral slaves and the royal state of the ancestral household, and
then with a grand wave of his gloves, and a shrug of which Madam Papin
might well have been proud, "But 'tis all over; and we are
brothers--one country, one flag, one God, one very kind but very busy
God!" And he smiled so graciously through his great mustaches, showing
his fine even teeth, that Mrs. Culpepper, Methodist to the heart,
smiled back and was not so badly shocked as she knew she should have
been.

"Is it not so?" he asked with his voice and his hands at once. "Ah,"
he exclaimed, addressing Mrs. Culpepper dramatically, "what better
proof would you have of our brotherhood than our common bondage to
you? However dark the night of our national discord--to-day, North,
South, East, West, we bask in the sunrise of some woman's eyes." He
fluttered his gloves gayly toward Molly and continued:--

    "'O when did morning ever break,
    And find such beaming eyes awake.'"

And so he rattled on, and the colonel had to poke his words into the
conversation in wedge-shaped queries, and Mrs. Culpepper, being in due
and proper awe of so much family and such apparent consequence, spoke
little and smiled many times. And if it was "Miss Molly" this and
"Miss Molly" that, when the colonel went into the house to lock the
back doors, and "Miss Molly" the other when Mrs. Culpepper went in to
open the west bedroom windows; and even if it was "Miss Molly, shall
we go down town and refresh ourselves with a dish of ice-cream?" and
even if still further a full-grown man standing at the gate under the
May moon deftly nips a rose from Miss Molly's hair and holds the rose
in both hands to his lips as he bows a good night--what then? What
were roses made for and brown eyes and long lashes and moons and May
winds heavy with the odour of flowers and laden with the faint sounds
of distant herd bells tinkling upon the hills? For men are bold at
thirty-five, and maidens, the best and sweetest, truest, gentlest
maidens in all the world, are shy at twenty-one, and polite to their
elders and betters of thirty-five--even when those elders and betters
forget their years!

As for Adrian P. Brownwell, he went about his daily task, editing the
_Banner_, making it as luscious and effulgent as a seed catalogue,
with rhetorical pictures about as florid and unconvincing. To him the
town was a veritable Troy--full of heroes and demigods, and
honourables and persons of nobility and quality. He used no adjective
of praise milder than superb, and on the other hand, Lige Bemis once
complained that the least offensive epithet he saw in the _Banner_
tacked after his name for two years was miscreant. As for John
Barclay, he once told General Ward that a man could take five dollars
in to Brownwell and come out a statesman, a Croesus or a scholar, as
the exigencies of the case demanded, and for ten dollars he could
combine the three.

Yet for all that Brownwell ever remained a man apart. No one thought
of calling him "Ade." Sooner would one nickname a gargoyle on a tin
cornice. So the editor of the _Banner_ never came close to the real
heart of Sycamore Ridge, and often for months at a time he did not
know what the people were thinking. And that summer when General
Hendricks was walking out of the bank every hour and looking from
under his thin, blue-veined hand at the strange cloud of insects
covering the sky, and when Martin Culpepper was predicting that the
plague of grasshoppers would leave the next day, and when John Barclay
was getting that deep vertical crease between his eyes that made him
look forty while he was still in his twenties, Adrian P. Brownwell was
chirping cheerfully in the _Banner_ about the "salubrious climate of
Garrison County," and writing articles about "our phenomenal prospects
for a bumper crop." And when in the middle of July the grasshoppers
had eaten the wheat to the ground and had left the corn stalks
stripped like beanpoles, and had devoured every green thing in their
path, the _Banner_ contained only a five-line item referring to the
plague and calling it a "most curious and unusual visitation." But
that summer the _Banner_ was filled with Brownwell's editorials on
"The Tonic Effect of the Prairie Ozone," "Turn the Rascals Out," "Our
Duty to the South," and "The Kingdom of Corn." As a writer Brownwell
was what is called "fluent" and "genial." And he was fond of copying
articles from the Topeka and Kansas City papers about himself, in
which he was referred to as "the gallant and urbane editor of the
_Banner_."

But then we all have our weaknesses, and be it said to the everlasting
credit of Adrian Brownwell that he understood and appreciated Watts
McHurdie and Colonel Culpepper better than any other man in town, and
that he printed Watts' poems on all occasions, and never referred to
him as anything less than "our honoured townsman," or as "our talented
and distinguished fellow-citizen," and he never laughed at General
Ward. But the best he could do for John Barclay--even after John had
become one of the world's great captains--was to wave his gloves
resignedly and exclaim, "Industry, thy name is Barclay." And Barclay
in return seemed never to warm up to Brownwell. "Colonel," replied
John to some encomium of his old friend's upon the new editor, "I'll
say this much. Certainly your friend is a prosperous talker!"




CHAPTER XI


The twenty-fifth of July, 1874, is a memorable day in the life of John
Barclay. For on that day the grasshoppers which had eaten off the
twenty thousand acres of wheat in the fields of the Golden Belt Wheat
Company, as though it had been cropped, rose and left the Missouri
Valley. They will never come back, for they are ploughed under in the
larva every year by the Colorado farmers who have invaded the plains
where once the "hoppers" had their nursery; but all this, even if he
had known it, would not have cheered up John that day. For he knew
that he owed one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to Eastern
stockholders of the company, and he had not a dollar to show for it.
He had expected to borrow the money needed for the harvesting in the
fall, and over and over and over again he had figured with paper and
pencil the amount of his debt, and again and again he had tried to
find some way to pay even the interest on the debt at six per cent,
which the bank had guaranteed. While the locusts were devouring the
vegetation, he walked the hemp carpet that ran diagonally across his
office, and chased phantom after phantom of hope that lured him up to
the rim of a solution of the problem, only to push him back into the
abyss. He walked with his hands deep in his trousers pockets and his
head down, and as General Ward was out organizing the farmers in a
revolt against the dominant party in the state, Barclay was alone most
of the time. The picture of that barren office, with its insurance
chromos, with its white, cobweb-marked walls, with its dirty floor
partly covered with an "X" of red-bordered hemp carpet reaching from
the middle to the four corners, the picture of the four tall unwashed
windows letting in the merciless afternoon sun to fade the grimy black
and white lithograph of William Lloyd Garrison above the general's
desk, never left John Barclay's memory. It was like a cell on a
prisoner's mind.

As he paced the room that last day of the visit of the grasshoppers,
General Hendricks came in. His hair had whitened in the summer. The
panic and the plague of the locusts had literally wrung the sap out of
his nerves. Old age was pressing inexorably upon him, palsying his
hands on its rack, tripping his feet in its helpless mazes. His dimmed
eyes could see only ruin coming, coming slowly and steadily toward
him. In the panic, it came suddenly and inspired fight in him. But
this year there was something diabolical in its resistless approach.
So he shrank from his impending fate as a child trembles at some
unknown terror. But Barclay did not swerve. He knew the affairs of the
bank fairly well. He was a director who never signed the quarterly
statement without verifying every item for himself. He had dreaded the
general's visit, yet he knew that it must come, and he pulled toward
the general a big hickory chair. The old man sank into it and looked
helplessly into the drawn hard face of the younger man and sighed,
"Well, John?"

Barclay stood before him a second and then walked down one arm of the
"X" of the carpet and back, and up another, and then turned to
Hendricks with: "Now, don't lose your nerve, General. You've got to
keep your nerve. That's about all the asset we've got now, I guess."

The general replied weakly: "I--I, I--I guess you're right, John. I
suppose that's about it."

"How do you figure it out, General?" asked Barclay, still walking the
carpet.

The general fumbled for a paper in his pocket and handed it to
Barclay. He took it, glanced at it a moment, and then said: "I'm no
good at translating another man's figures--how is it in
short?--Right down to bed-rock?"

Hendricks seemed to pull himself together and replied: "Well,
something like ten thousand in cash against seventy thousand in
deposits, and fifty thousand of that time deposits, due next October,
you know, on the year's agreement. Of the ten thousand cash, four
thousand belongs to Brownwell, and is on check, and you have two
thousand on check."

"All right. Now, General, what do you owe?"

"Well, you know that guarantee of your and Bob's business--that nine
thousand. It's due next week."

"And it will gut you?" asked Barclay.

The old man nodded and sighed. Barclay limped carefully all over his
"X," swinging himself on his heels at the turns; his mouth was
hardening, and his eyes were fixed on the old man without blinking as
he said: "General--that's got to come. If it busts you--it will save
us, and we can save you after. That has just absolutely got to be
paid, right on the dot."

The old man could not have turned paler than he was when he entered
the room, but he rose halfway in his chair and shook his leonine head,
and then let his hands fall limply on his knees as he cried: "No--no,
John--I can't. I can't."

Barclay put his hand on the back of the old man's chair, and he could
feel the firm hard grip of the boy through his whole frame. Then after
a moment's pause Barclay said: "General, I'm in earnest about that.
You will either mail those dividend certificates according to your
guarantee on the first, or as sure as there is a God in heaven I'll
see that you won't have a dollar in your bank on the night of the
second."

The old man stood gasping. The eyes of the two men met. Barclay's were
bold and green and blazing.

"Boy! Boy! Boy!--" the old man faltered. "Don't ruin me! Don't ruin
me--" he did not finish the sentence, but sank into his chair, and
dropped his face to his breast and repeated, "Don't, don't, don't,"
feebly for a few times, without seeming to realize what he was saying.
From some outpost of his being reinforcements came. For he rose
suddenly, and shaking his haggard fist at the youth, exclaimed in a
high, furious, cracking voice as he panted and shook his great hairy
head: "No--by God, no, by God, no! You damned young cut-throat--you
can break my bank, but you can't bulldoze me. No, by God--no!" He
started to leave the room. Barclay caught the old man and swung him
into a chair. The flint that Barclay's nature needed had been struck.
His face was aglow as with an inspiration.

"Listen, man, listen!" Barclay cried. "I'm not going to break your
bank, I'm trying to save it." He knew that the plan was ripe in his
head, and as he talked it out, something stood beside him and
marvelled at its perfection. As its inherent dishonesty revealed
itself, the old man's face flinched, but Barclay went on unfolding his
scheme. It required General Hendricks to break the law half a dozen
ways, and to hazard all of the bank's assets, and all of its cash. And
it required him to agree not to lend a dollar to any man in the county
except as he complied with the demands of the Golden Belt Wheat
Company and mortgaged his farm to Barclay. The plan that Barclay set
forth literally capitalized the famine that had followed the
grasshopper invasion, and sold the people their own need at Barclay's
price. Then for an hour the two men fought it out, and at the end
Barclay was saying: "I am glad you see it that way, and I believe, as
you do, that they will take it a little better if we also agree to pay
this year's taxes on the land they put under the mortgage. It would be
a great sweetener to some of them, and I can slip in an option to sell
the land to us outright as a kind of a joker in small type." His
brassy eyes were small and beady as his brain worked out the details
of his plan. He put his hands affectionately on General Hendricks'
shoulders as he added, "You mustn't forget to write to Bob, General;
hold him there whatever comes."

At the foot of the stairs the two men could hear the heavy tread of
Colonel Culpepper. As Hendricks went down the stairs John heard the
colonel's "Mornin', General," as the two men passed in the hallway.

"Mornin', Johnnie--how does your corporocity sagashiate this
mornin'?" asked the colonel.

Barclay looked at the colonel through little beady green eyes and
replied,--he knew not what. He merely dipped an oar into the talk
occasionally, he did not steer it, and not until he emerged from his
calculations twenty minutes after the colonel's greeting did Barclay
realize that the colonel was in great pain. He was saying when
Barclay's mind took heed: "And now, sir, I say, now, having forced his
unwelcome and, I may say, filthy lucre upon me, the impudent scalawag
writes me to-day to say that I must liquidate, must--liquidate, sir;
in short, pay up. I call that impertinence. But no matter what I call
it, he's going to foreclose." Barclay's eyes opened to attention. The
colonel went on. "The original indebtedness was a matter of ten
thousand--you will remember, John, that's what I paid for my share of
the College Heights property, and while I have disposed of some,--in
point of fact sold it at considerable profit,--yet, as you know, and
as this scoundrel knows, for I have written him pointedly to that
effect, I have been temporarily unable to remit any sum substantial
enough to justify bothering him with it. But now the scamp, the
grasping insulting brigand, notifies me that unless I pay him when the
mortgage is due,--to be plain, sir, next week,--he proposes to
foreclose on me."

The colonel's brows were knit with trouble. His voice faltered as he
added: "And, John--John Barclay, my good friend--do you realize that
that little piece of property out on the hill is all I have on earth
now, except the roof over my head? And may--" here his voice slid
into a tenor with pent-up emotion--"maybe the contemptible
rapscallion will try to get that." The colonel had risen and was
pacing the floor. "What a damn disreputable business your commerce is,
anyway! John, I can't afford to lose that property--or I'd be a
pauper, sir, a pauper peddling organs and sewing-machines and maybe
teaching singing-school." The colonel's face caught a rift of sunshine
as he added, "You know I did that once before I was married and came
West--taught singing-school."

"Well, Colonel--let's see about it," said Barclay, absently. And the
two men sat at the table and figured up that the colonel's liabilities
were in the neighbourhood of twelve thousand, of which ten thousand
were pressing and the rest more or less imminent. At the end of their
conference, Barclay's mind was still full of his own affairs. But he
said, after looking a moment at the troubled face of the big
black-eyed man whose bulk towered above him, "Well, Colonel, I don't
know what under heavens I can do--but I'll do what I can."

The colonel did not feel Barclay's abstraction. But the colonel's face
cleared like a child's, and he reached for the little man and hugged
him off his feet. Then the colonel broke out, "May the Lord, who
heedeth the sparrow's fall and protects all us poor blundering
children, bless you, John Barclay--bless you and all your household."
There were tears in his eyes as he waved a grand adieu at the door,
and he whistled "Gayly the Troubadour" as he tripped lightly down the
stairs. And in another moment the large white plumes were dancing in
his eyes again. This time they waved and beckoned toward a
subscription paper which the colonel had just drawn up when the
annoying letter came from Chicago, reminding him of his debt. The
paper was for the relief of a farmer whose house and stock had been
burned. The colonel brought from his hip pocket the carefully folded
sheet of foolscap which he had put away when duty called him to
Barclay. He paused at the bottom of the stair, backed the paper on the
wall, and wrote under the words setting forth the farmer's
destitution, "Martin Culpepper--twenty-five dollars." He stood a
moment in the stairway looking into the street; the day was fair and
beautiful; the grasshoppers were gone, and with them went all the
vegetation in the landscape; but the colonel in his nankeen trousers
and his plaited white shirt and white suspenders, under his white
Panama hat, felt only the influence of the genial air. So he drew out
the subscription paper again and erased the twenty-five dollars and
put down thirty-five dollars. Then as Oscar Fernald and Daniel Frye
came by with long faces the colonel hailed them.

"Boys," he said, "fellow named Haskins down in Fairview, with nine
children and a sick wife, got burnt out last night, and I'm kind of
seeing if we can't get him some lumber and groceries and things. I
want you boys," the colonel saw the clouds gathering and smiled to
brush them away, "yes, I want you boys to give me ten dollars apiece."

"Ten dollars!" cried Fernald.

"Ten dollars!" echoed Frye. "My Lord, man, there isn't ten dollars in
cash between here and the Missouri River!"

"But the man and his children will starve, and his wife will die of
neglect."

"That's the Lord's affair--and yours, Mart," returned Fernald, as he
broke away from the colonel's grasp; "you and He brought them here."
Frye went with Oscar, and they left the colonel with his subscription
paper in his hand. He looked up and down the street and then drew a
long breath, and put the paper against the wall again and sighed as he
erased the thirty-five dollars and put down fifty dollars after his
name. Then he started for the bank to see General Hendricks. The large
white plumes were still dancing in his eyes.

But so far as Barclay is concerned the colonel never reached the
bottom of the stairs, for Barclay had his desk covered with law-books
and was looking up contracts. In an hour he had a draft of a mortgage
and option to buy the mortgaged land written out, and was copying it
for the printer. He took it to the _Banner_ office and asked Brownwell
to put two men on the job, and to have the proof ready by the next
morning.

Brownwell waved both hands magnificently and with much grace, and
said: "Mr. Barclay, we will put three men on the work, sir, and if you
will do me the honour, I will be pleased to bring the proof up Lincoln
Avenue to the home of our mutual friend, Colonel Culpepper, where you
may see it to-night." Barclay fancied that a complacent smile wreathed
Brownwell's face at the prospect of going to the Culpeppers', and the
next instant the man was saying: "Charming young lady, Miss Molly! Ah,
the ladies, the ladies--they will make fools of us. We can't resist
them." He shrugged and smirked and wiggled his fingers and played with
his mustaches. "Wine and women and song, you know--they get us all.
But as for me--no wine, no song--but--" he finished the sentence
with another flourish.

Barclay did what he could to smile good-naturedly and assent in some
sort of way as he got out of the room. That night, going up the hill,
he said to Jane: "Brownwell is one of those fellows who regard all
women--all females is better, probably--as a form of vice. He's the
kind that coos like a pouter pigeon when he talks to a woman."

Jane replied: "Yes, we women know them. They are always claiming that
men like you are not gallant!" She added, "You know, John, he's the
jealous, fiendish kind--with an animal's idea of honour." They walked
on in silence for a moment, and she pressed his arm to her side and
their eyes met in a smile. Then she said: "Doubtless some women like
that sort of thing, or it would perish, but I don't like to be treated
like a woman--a she-creature. I like to be thought of as a human
being with a soul." She shuddered and continued: "But the soul doesn't
enter even remotely into his scheme of things. We are just bodies."

The Barclays did not stay late at the Culpeppers' that night, but took
the proofs at early bedtime and went down the hill. An hour later they
heard Molly Culpepper and Brownwell loitering along the sidewalk.
Brownwell was saying:--

"Ah, but you, Miss Molly, you are like the moon, for--

    "'The moon looks on many brooks,
    The brook can see no moon but this.'

"And I--I am--"

The Barclays did not hear what he was; however, they guessed, and they
guessed correctly--so far as that goes. But Molly Culpepper did hear
what he was and what he had been and what he would be, and the more
she parried him, the closer he came. There were times when he forgot
the "Miss" before the "Molly," and there were other times when she had
to slip her hand from his ever so deftly. And once when they were
walking over a smooth new wooden sidewalk coming home, he caught her
swiftly by the waist and began waltzing and humming "The Blue Danube."
And at the end of the smooth walk, she had to step distinctly away
from him to release his arm. But she was twenty-one, and one does not
always know how to do things at twenty-one--even when one intends to
do them, and intends strongly and earnestly--that one would do at
forty-one, and so as they stood under the Culpepper elm by the gate
that night,--under the elm, stripped gaunt and naked by the
locusts,--and the July moon traced the skeleton of the tree upon the
close-cropped sod, we must not blame Molly Culpepper too much even if
she let him, hold her hand a moment too long after he had kissed it a
formal good night; for twenty-one is not as strong as its instincts.
It is such a little while to learn all about a number of important
things in a big and often wicked world that when a little man or a
little woman, so new to this earth as twenty-one years, gets a finger
pinched in the ruthless machinery, it is a time for tears and
mothering and not for punishment. And so when Adrian Brownwell pulled
the little girl off her feet and kissed her and asked her to marry him
all in a second, and she could only struggle and cry "No, no!" and beg
him to let her go--it is not a time to frown, but instead a time to
go back to our twenty-ones and blush a little and sigh a little, and
maybe cry and lie a little, and in the end thank God for the angel He
sent to guard us, and if the angel slept--thank God still for the
charity that has come to us.

The next day John Barclay had Colonel Martin Culpepper and Lige Bemis
in his office galvanizing them with his enthusiasm and coaching them
in their task. They were to promise three dollars an acre, August 15,
to every farmer who would put a mortgage on his land for six dollars
an acre. The other three dollars was to cover the amount paid by
Barclay as rent for the land the year before. They were also to offer
the landowner a dollar and a half an acre to plough and plant the land
by September 15, and another dollar to cultivate it ready for the
harvest, and the company was to pay the taxes on the land and furnish
the seed. Barclay had figured out the seed money from the sale of the
mortgages. The man was a dynamo of courage and determination, and he
charged the two men before him until they fairly prickled with the
scheme. He talked in short hard sentences, going over and over his
plan, drilling them to bear down on the hard times and that there
would be no other buyers or renters for the land, and to say that the
bank would not lend a dollar except in this way. Long after they had
left his office, Barclay's voice haunted them. His face was set and
his eyes steady and small, and the vertical wrinkle in his brow was as
firm as an old scar. He limped about the room quickly, but his strong
foot thumped the floor with a thud that punctuated his words.

They left, and he sat down to write a letter to Bob Hendricks telling
him the plan. He had finished two pages when General Hendricks came in
a-tremble and breathless. The eyes of the two men met, and Hendricks
replied:--

"It's Brownwell--the fat's in the fire, John. Brownwell's going!"

"Going--going where?" asked the man at the desk, blankly.

"Going to leave town. He's been in and given notice that he wants his
money in gold day after to-morrow."

"Well--well!" exclaimed Barclay, with his eyes staring dumbly at
nothing on the dingy white wall before him. "Well--don't that beat
the Jews? Going to leave town!" He pulled himself together and gripped
his chair as he said, "Not by a damn sight he ain't. He's going to
stay right here and sweat it out. We need that four thousand dollars
in our business. No, you don't, Mr. Man--" he addressed a
hypothetical Brownwell. "You're roped and tied and bucked and gagged,
and you stay here." Then he said, "You go on over to the bank,
General, and I'll take care of Brownwell." Barclay literally shoved
the older man to the door. As he opened it he said, "Send me up a boy
if you see one on the street."

In ten minutes Brownwell was running up the stairs to Barclay's office
in response to his note. He brought a copy of the mortgage with, him,
and laid it before Barclay, who went over it critically. He found a
few errors and marked them, and holding it in his hands turned to the
editor.

"Hendricks says you are going to leave town. Why?" asked Barclay,
bluntly. He had discovered even that early in life that a circuitous
man is generally knocked off his guard by a rush. Brown well blinked
and sputtered a second or two, scrambling to his equilibrium. Before
he could parry Barclay assaulted him again with: "Starving to death,
eh? Lost your grip--going back to Alabama with the banjo on your
knee, are you?"

"No, sir--no, sir, you are entirely wrong, sir--entirely wrong, and
scarcely more polite, either." Brown well paused a minute and added:
"Business is entirely satisfactory, sir--entirely so. It is another
matter." He hesitated a moment and added, with the ghost of a smirk,
"A matter of sentiment--for--

    "'The heart that is soonest awake to the flowers,
    Is always the first to be touched by the thorns.'"

Brownwell sat there flipping his gloves, exasperatingly; Barclay
screwed up his eyes, put his head on one side, and suddenly a flash
came into his face and he exclaimed, "Come off, you don't mean
it--not Molly!"

The rejected one inclined his head. Barclay was about to laugh, but
instead he said, "Well, you are not a quitter; why don't you go ahead
and get her?" He glanced instinctively at his letter to Bob Hendricks,
and as if to shield what he was going to say, put a paper over the
page, and then the seriousness of the situation came over him. "You
know women; cheer up, man--try again. Stick to it--you'll win,"
cried Barclay. The fool might go for so small a reason. It was no time
for ribaldry. "Let me tell you something," he went on. His eyes opened
again with a steady ruthless purpose in them, that the man before him
was too intent on his own pose to see. Barclay put a weight upon the
white sheet of paper that he had spread over his letter to Bob
Hendricks and then went on. "Say, Brownwell, let me tell you
something. This town is right in the balance; you can help." Something
seemed to hold Barclay back, but he took the plunge. "You can stay
here and help. We need men like you." Then he took a blind shot in the
dark before going on--perhaps to give himself another chance. "Have
you got any more of that buried money--I mean more than you gave
General Hendricks--the kind that you dug up after the war and
scratched the mould off the eagles?"

Brownwell flushed and replied, as he put one hand in his coat and the
other, with his stick and hat and gloves, behind him: "That is my
affair, sir. However, I will say that I have."

"I thought so," retorted Barclay. "Now look here, bring it to the
Ridge. Here's the place to invest it and now's the everlasting time.
You jump in here and help us out, help build up the town, and there's
nothing too good for you." Barclay was ready for it now. He did not
flinch, but went on: "Also here's your chance to help Colonel
Culpepper. He's to be closed out, and ten thousand would save him. You
know the kind of a man the colonel is. Stay with the game, Mr. Man,
stay with the game." He saw Brownwell's eyes twitch. Barclay knew he
had won. He added slowly, "You understand?"

Brownwell smiled benignly. Barclay looked nervously at the unfinished
letter on the table. Brownwell waved his arms again dramatically, and
replied: "Ah, thank you--thank you. I shall play my hand out--and
hearts are trumps--are they not?" And he went out almost dancing for
joy.

When the man was gone Barclay shuddered; his contempt for Brownwell
was one of the things he prided himself on, and the intrigue revolted
him. He stood a moment at the window looking into the street absently.
He became conscious that some one was smiling at him on the crossing
below. Then automatically he heard himself say, "Oh, Molly, can you
run up a minute?" And a moment later she was in the room. She was a
bewitching little body in her wide skirts and her pancake of a hat
with a feather in it as she sat there looking at her toes that
morning, with her bright eyes flashing up into his like rockets. But
there were lines under the eyes, and the rims of the eyelids were
almost red--as red as pretty eyelids ever may be. Barclay went right
to the midst of the matter at once. He did not patronize her, but told
her in detail just the situation--how the Golden Belt Wheat Company's
interest must be met by the bank under its guarantee, or Bob and his
father would be worse than bankrupts, they would be criminals. He put
Bob always in the foreground. Barclay unfolded to her all the plans
for going ahead with the work, and he told her what they were doing
for her father by giving him employment. He marched straight up to the
matter in hand without flinching.

"Molly," he began without batting his eyes, "here is where you come
in. That fellow Brownwell was up here this morning. Oh, you needn't
shiver--I know all about it. You had the honour of refusing him last
night." To her astonished, hurt face he paid no heed, but went on:
"Now he's going to leave town on account of you and pull out four
thousand dollars he's got in the bank. If he does that, we can't pay
our guarantee. You've got to call him back." She flared up as if to
stop him, but he went on: "Oh, I know, Molly Culpepper--but this is
no game of London Bridge. It's bad enough, but it's business--cold
clammy business, and sometimes we have to do things in this world for
the larger good. That roan simply can't leave this town and you must
bold him. It's ruin and perhaps prison to Bob and his father if he
goes; and as for your own father and mother--it makes them paupers,
Molly. There's no other way out of it." He paused a moment.

The girl's face blanched, and she looked at the floor and spoke, "And
Bob--when can he come back?"

"I don't know, Molly--but not now--he never was needed there as he
is now. It's a life-and-death matter, Molly Culpepper, with every
creature on earth that's nearest and dearest to you--it makes or
breaks us. It's a miserable business, I know well--but your duty is
to act for the larger good. You can't afford to send Bob to jail and
your people to the poorhouse just because--"

The girl looked up piteously and then cried out: "Oh, John--don't,
don't--I can't. It's awful, John--I can't."

"But, Molly," he replied as gently as he could, "you must. You can't
afford to be squeamish about this business. This is a woman's job,
Molly, not a child's."

She rose and looked at him a fleeting moment as if in search of some
mercy in his face. Then she looked away. He stood beside her, barring
her way to the door. "But you'll try, Molly, won't you--you'll try?"
he cried. She looked at him again with begging eyes and stepped around
him, and said breathlessly as she reached the door: "Oh, I don't know,
John--I don't know. I must think about it."

She felt her way down the stairs, and stopped a minute to compose
herself before she crossed the street and walked wearily up the hill.

That night at supper Colonel Culpepper addressed the assembled family
expansively. "The ravens, my dears, the ravens. Behold Elijah fed by
the sacred birds. By Adrian P. Brownwell, to be exact. This morning I
went down town with the sheriff selling the roof over our heads. This
afternoon who should come to me soliciting the pleasure of lending, me
money--who, I say, but Adrian P. Brownwell?"

"Well, I hope you didn't keep him standing," put in Buchanan.

"My son," responded the colonel, as he whetted the carving knife on
the steel--a form which was used more for rhetorical effect than,
culinary necessity, as there were pork chops on the platter, "my son,
no true gentleman will rebuke another who is trying to lend him money.
Always remember that." And the colonel's great body shook with
merriment, as he proceeded to fill up the plates. But one plate went
from the table untouched, and Molly Culpepper went about her work with
a leaden heart. For the world had become a horrible phantasm to her, a
place of longing and of heartache, a place of temptation and trial,
lying under the shadow of tragedy. And whose world was it that night,
as she sat chattering with her father and the man she feared, whose
world was it that night, if this is a real world, and not the shadow
of a dream? Was it the colonel's gay world, or John's golden world, or
Ward's harmonious world, or poor little Molly's world--all askew with
miserable duties and racking heartaches, and grinning sneering fears,
with the relentless image of the Larger Good always before her? Surely
it was not all their worlds, for there is only one world. Then whose
was it? God who made it and set it in the heavens in His great love
and mercy only knows. Watts McHurdie once wrote some query like this,
and the whole town smiled at his fancy. In that portion of his
"Complete Poetical and Philosophical Works" called "Fragments" occur
these lines:--

        "The wise men say
    This world spins 'round the universe of which it is a part;
        But anyway--
    The only world I know about is spun from out my heart."

And perhaps Watts, sewing away in his harness shop, had deciphered one
letter in the riddle of the Sphinx.




CHAPTER XII


"If I ever get to be a Turk or anything like that," said Watts
McHurdie, in October, two months after the events recorded in the last
chapter had occurred, as he sat astraddle of his bench, sewing on a
bridle, "I'm going to have one red-headed wife--but not much more'n
one."

Colonel Culpepper dropped a "Why?" into the reflections of the poet.

Watts replied, "Oh, just to complete the set!"

The colonel did not answer and Watts chuckled: "I figure out that
women are a study. You learn this one and pat yourself on the
breast-bone and say, 'Behold me, I'm on to women.' But you ain't.
Another comes along and you have to begin at the beginning and learn
'em all over. I wonder if Solomon who had a thousand--more or
less--got all his wisdom from them."

The colonel shook his head, and said sententiously, "Watts--they
hain't a blame thing in it--not a blame thing." The creaking of the
treadle on Watt's bench slit the silence for a few moments, and the
colonel went on: "There can be educated fools about women, Watts
McHurdie, just as there are educated fools about books. There's
nothing in your theory of a liberal education in women. On the
contrary, in all matters relating to and touching on affairs of the
heart--beware of the man with one wife."

McHurdie flashed his yellow-toothed smile upon his friend and replied,
"Or less than one?"

"No, sir, just one," answered Colonel Culpepper. "A man with a raft of
wives, first and last, is like a fellow with good luck--the Lord
never gives him anything else. And I may say in point of fact, that
the man with no wife is like a man with bad luck--the Lord never
gives him anything else, either!" The colonel slapped his right hand
on his knee and exclaimed: "Watts McHurdie--what's the matter with
you, man? Don't you see Nellie's all ready and waitin'--just fairly
honin', and longin', I may say, for a home and a place to begin to
live?"

McHurdie gave his treadle a jam and swayed forward over his work and
answered, "Marry in haste--repent at leisure."

But nevertheless that night Watts sat with Nellie Logan on the front
porch of the Wards' house, watching the rising harvest moon, while
Mrs. Ward, inside, was singing to her baby. Nellie Logan roomed with
the Wards, and was bookkeeper in Dorman's store. It was nearly ten
o'clock and the man rose to go. "Well," he said, and hesitated a
moment, "well, Nellie, I suppose you're still waiting?" It was a
question rather than an assertion.

The woman put her hands gently on the man's arms and sighed. "I just
can't--not yet, Watts."

"Well, I thought maybe you'd changed your mind." He smiled as he
continued, "You know they say women do change sometimes."

She looked down at him sadly. "Yes, I know they do, but some way I
don't."

There was a long pause while Watts screwed up his courage to say,
"Still kind of thinking about that preacher?"

The woman had no animation in her voice as she replied, "You know that
by now--without asking."

The man sat down on the step, and she sat on a lower step. He was
silent for a time. Then he said, "Funny, ain't it?" She knew she was
not to reply; for in a dozen years she had learned the man's moods. In
a minute, during which he looked into his hat absent-mindedly, he went
on: "As far as I've been able to make it out, love's a kind of a
grand-right-and-left. I give my right hand to you, and you give yours
to the preacher, and he gives his to some other girl, and she gives
hers to some one else, like as not, who gives his to some one else,
and the fiddle and the horn and the piano and the bass fid screech and
toot and howl, and away we go and sigh under our breaths and break our
hearts and swing our partners, and it's everybody dance." He looked up
at her and smiled at his fancy. For he was a poet and thought his
remarks had some artistic value.

She smiled back at him, and he leaned on his elbows and looked up at
her as he said quietly: "I'd like awful well, Nellie--awful well if
you'd be my partner for the rest of this dance. It's lonesome down
there in the shop."

The woman patted his hand, and they sat quietly for a while and then
she said, "Maybe sometime, Watts, but not to-night."

He got up, and stood for a moment beside her on the walk. "Well," he
said at length, "I suppose I must be moving along--as the wandering
Jew said." He smiled and their eyes met in the moonlight. Watts
dropped his instantly, and exclaimed, "You're a terrible handsome
girl, Nellie--? did you know it?" He repeated it and added, "And the
Lord knows I love you, Nellie, and I've said it a thousand times." He
found her hand again, and said as he put on his hat, "Well, good-by,
Nellie--good-by--if you call that gone." His handclasp tightened and
hers responded, and then he dropped her hand and turned away.

The woman felt a desire to scream; she never knew how she choked her
desire. But she rushed after him and caught him tightly and sobbed,
"Oh, Watts--Watts--Watts McHurdie--are you never going to have any
more snap in you than that?"

As he kicked away the earth from under him, Watts McHurdie saw the
light in a window of the Culpepper home, and when he came down to
earth again five minutes later, he said, "Well, I was just a-thinking
how nice it would be to go over to Culpeppers' and kind of tell them
the news!"

"They'll have news of their own pretty soon, I expect," replied
Nellie. And to Watts' blank look she replied: "The way that man
Brownwell keeps shining around. He was there four nights last week,
and he's been there two this week already. I don't see what Molly
Culpepper can be thinking of."

So they deferred the visit to the Culpeppers', and in due time Watts
McHurdie flitted down Lincoln Avenue and felt himself wafted along
Main Street as far in the clouds as a mortal may be. And though it was
nearly midnight, he brought out his accordion and sat playing it,
beating time with his left foot, and in his closed eyes seeing visions
that by all the rights of this game of life should come only to youth.
And the guests in the Thayer House next morning asked, "Well, for
heaven's sake, who was that playing 'Silver Threads among the Gold'
along there about midnight?--he surely must know it by this time."

And Adrian Brownwell, sitting on the Culpepper veranda the next night
but one, said: "Colonel, your harness-maker friend is a musical
artist. The other night when I came in I heard him twanging his
lute--'The Harp that once through Tara's Hall'; you know, Colonel."

And John Barclay closed his letter to Bob Hendricks: "Well, Bob, as I
sit here with fifty letters written this evening and ready to mail,
and the blessed knowledge that we have 18,000 acres of winter wheat
all planted if not paid for, I can hear old Watts wheezing away on his
accordion in his shop down street. Poor old Watts, it's a pity that
man hasn't the acquisitive faculty--he could turn that talent into
enough to keep him all his days. Poor old Watts!"

And Molly Culpepper, sitting in her bedroom chewing her penholder,
finally wrote this: "Watts McHurdie went sailing by the house
to-night, coming home from the Wards', where he was making his regular
call on Nellie. You know what a mouse-like little walk he has,
scratching along the sidewalk so demurely; but to-night, after he
passed our place I heard him actually break into a hippety-hop, and as
I was sitting on the veranda, I could hear him clicking clear down to
the new stone walk in front of the post-office." Oho, Molly Culpepper,
you said "as I was sitting on the veranda"; that is of course the
truth, but not the whole truth; what you might have said was "as we
were sitting on the veranda," and "as we were talking of what I like"
and "what you like," and of "what I think" and "what you think," and
as "I was listening to war tales from a Southern soldier," and as "I
was finding it on the whole rather a tiresome business "; those things
you might have written, Molly Culpepper, but you did not. And was it a
twinge or a prick or a sharp reproachful stab of your conscience that
made you chew the tip of your penholder into shreds and then madly
write down this:--

"Bob, I don't know what is coming over me; but some way your letters
seem so far away, and it has been such a long time since I saw you, a
whole lonesome year, and Bob dear, I am so weak and so unworthy of
you; I know it, oh, I know it. But I feel to-night that I must tell
you something right from my heart. It is this, dear: no matter what
may happen, I want you to know that I must always love you better than
any one else in all the world. I seem so young and foolish, and life
is so long and the world is so big--so big and you are so far away.
But, Bob dear, my good true boy, don't forget this that I tell you
to-night, that through all time and all eternity the innermost part of
my heart must always be yours. No matter what happens to you and me in
the course of life in the big world--you must never forget what I
have written here to-night."

And these words, for some strange reason, were burned on the man's
soul; though she had written him fonder ones, which passed from him
with the years. The other words of the letter fell into his eyes and
were consumed there, so he does not remember that she also wrote that
night: "I have just been standing at my bedroom window, looking out
over the town. It is quiet as the graveyard, save for the murmur of
the waters falling over the dam. And I cannot tell whether it is fancy
or whether it is real, but now and then there comes to me a faint hint
of music,--it sounds almost like Watts' accordion, but of course it
cannot be at this unholy hour, and the tune it makes me think of some
way is 'Silver Threads among the Gold.' Isn't it odd that I should
hear that song, and yet not hear it, and have it running through my
mind?"

And thus the town heard Watts McHurdie's song of triumph--the chortle
that every male creature of the human kind instinctively lets out when
he has found favour in some woman's eyes, that men have let out since
Lemech sang of victory over the young man to Adah and Zillah! And in
all the town no one knew what it meant. For the accordion is not
essentially an instrument of passion. So the episode ended, and
another day came in. And all that is left to mark for this world that
night of triumph--and that mark soon will bleach into oblivion--are
the verses entitled "Love at Sunset," of which Colonel Martin
Culpepper, the poet's biographer, writes in that chapter "At Hymen's
Altar," referred to before: "This poem was written October 14, 1874,
on the occasion of the poet's engagement to Miss Nellie Logan, who
afterward became his wife. By many competent critics, including no
less a personage than Hon. John Barclay, president of the National
Provisions Company, this poem is deemed one of Mr. McHurdie's noblest
achievements, ranking second only to the great song that gave him
national fame."

And it should be set down as an integral part of this narrative that
John Barclay first read the verses "Love at Sunset" in the _Banner_,
two weeks after the night of their composition, as he was finishing a
campaign for the Fifth Parallel bonds. He picked up the _Banner_ one
evening at twilight in a house in Pleasant township, and seeing Watts'
initials under some verses, read them at first mechanically, and then
reread them with real zest, and so deeply did they move the man from
the mooring of the campaign that seeing an accordion on the table of
the best room in which he was waiting for supper, Barclay picked it up
and fooled with it for half an hour. It had been a dozen years since
he had played an accordion, and the tunes that came into his fingers
were old tunes in vogue before the war, and he thought of himself as
an old man, though he was not yet twenty-five. But the old tunes
brought back his boyhood from days so remote that they seemed a long
time past. And that night when he addressed the people in the Pleasant
Valley schoolhouse, he was half an hour getting on to the subject of
the bonds; he dwelt on the old days and spoke of the drouth of '60 and
of the pioneers, and preached a sermon, with their lives for texts, on
the value of service without thought of money or hope of other reward
than the joy one has in consecrated work. Then he launched into the
bond proposition, and when the votes were counted Pleasant township
indorsed Barclay's plan overwhelmingly. For he was a young man of
force, if not of eloquence. His evident sincerity made up for what he
lacked in oratorical charm, and he left an impression on those about
him. So when the bonds carried in Garrison County, the firm of Ward
and Barclay was made local attorneys for the road, and General Ward,
smarting under the defeat of his party in the state, refused to accept
the railroad's business, and the partnership was dissolved.

"John," said Ward, as he put his hands on the young man's shoulders
and looked at him a kindly moment, before picking up his bushel basket
of letters and papers, to move them into another room and dissolve the
partnership, "John," the elder man repeated, "if I could always
maintain such a faith in God as you maintain in money and its power, I
could raise the dead."

Barclay blinked a second and replied, "Well, now, General, look
here--what I don't understand is how you expect to accomplish
anything without money."

"I can't tell you, John--but some way I have faith that I can--can
do more real work in this world without bothering to get money, than I
can by stopping to get money with which to do good."

"But if you had a million, you could do more good with it than you are
doing now, couldn't you?" asked Barclay.

"Yes, perhaps I could," admitted the general, as he eyed his miserable
little pile of worldly goods in the basket. "I suppose I could," he
repeated meditatively.

"All right then, General," cut in Barclay. "I have no million, any
more than you have; but I'm going to get one--or two, maybe a dozen
if I can, and I want to do good with it just as much as you do. When I
get it I'll show you." Barclay rose to lend the general a hand with
his basket. As they went awkwardly through the door with the load, the
general stopping to get a hold on the basket that would not twist his
hand, he put the load down in the hall and said: "But while you're
getting that million, you're wasting God's ten talents, boy. Can't you
see that if you would use your force, your keenness, and persistence
helping mankind in some way--teaching, preaching, lending a hand to
the poor, or helping to fight organized greed, you would get more of
God's work done than you will by squeezing the daylights out of your
fellow-men, making them hate money because of your avarice, and end by
doling it out to them in charity? That's my point, boy. That's why I
don't want your railroad job."

They had dropped the basket in the bare room. The general had not so
much as a chair or a desk. He looked it over, and Barclay's eyes
followed his. "What are you going to do for furniture?" asked the
younger man.

The general's thin face wrinkled into a smile. "Well," he replied, "I
suppose that if a raven can carry dry-goods, groceries, boots and
shoes and drugs, paints and oils,--and certainly the ravens have been
bringing those things to the Wards for eight years now, and they're
all paid for,--the blessed bird can hump itself a little and bring
some furniture, stoves, and hardware."

Barclay limped into his room, while the general rubbed the dust off
the windows. In a minute John came stumbling in with a chair, and as
he set it down he said, "Here comes the first raven, General, and now
if you'll kindly come and give the ravens a lift, they'll bring you a
table." And so the two men dragged the table into the office, and as
they finished, Ward saw General Hendricks coming up the stairs, and
when the new room had been put in order,--a simple operation,
--General Ward hurried home to help Mrs. Ward get in their dahlia
roots for the winter.

As they were digging in the garden, covering the ferns and wrapping
the magnolia tree they had lately acquired, and mulching the
perennials, Mrs. Mary Barclay came toward them buffeting the wind. She
wore the long cowlish waterproof cloak and hood of the period--which
she had put on during the cloudy morning. Her tall strong figure did
not bend in the wind, and the schoolbooks she carried in her hand
broke the straight line of her figure only to heighten the priestess
effect that her approaching presence produced.

"Well, children," she said, as she stood by the Wards at their work,
"preparing your miracles?" She looked at the bulbs and roots, and
smiled. "How wonderful that all the beauty of the flowers should be in
those scrawny brown things; and," she added as she brushed away the
brown hair of her forties from her broad brow, "God probably thinks
the same thing when He considers men and their souls."

"And when the gardener puts us away for our winter's sleep?" Ward
asked.

She turned her big frank blue eyes upon him as she took the words from
his mouth, "'And the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.'" Then
she smiled sadly and said, "But it is the old Adam himself that I seem
to be wrestling with just now."

"In the children--at school?" asked the Wards, one after the other.
She sighed and looked at the little troopers straggling along the
highway, and replied, "Yes, partly that, too," and throwing her
unnecessary hood back, turned her face into the wind and walked
quickly away. The Wards watched her as she strode down the hill, and
finally as he bent to his work the general asked:--

"Lucy, what does she think of John?"

Mrs. Ward, who was busy with a geranium, did not reply at once. But in
a moment she rose and, putting the plant with some others that were to
go to the cellar, replied: "Oh, Phil--you know a mother tries to hope
against hope. She teaches her school every day, and keeps her mind
busy. But sometimes, when she stops in here after school or for lunch,
she can't help dropping things that let me know. I think her heart is
breaking, Phil."

"Does she know about the wheat deal--I mean about the way he has
made the farmers sign that mortgage by cutting them off from borrowing
money at the bank?"

"Not all of it--but I think she suspects," replied the wife.

"Did you know, dear," said the general, as he put the plants in the
barrow to wheel them to the cellar, "that I ran across something
to-day--it may be all suspicion, and I don't want to wrong
John--but Mart Culpepper, God bless his big innocent heart, let
something slip--well, it was John, I think, who arranged for that
loan of ten thousand from Brownwell to Mart. Though why he didn't get
it at the bank, I don't know. But John had some reason. Things look
mighty crooked there at the bank. I know this--Mart says that
Brownwell lent him the money, and Mart lent it to the bank for a month
there in August, while he was holding the Chicago fellow in the air."

Mrs. Ward sat down on the front steps of the porch, and exclaimed:--

"Well, Phil Ward--that's why the Culpeppers are so nice to Brownwell.
Honestly, Phil, the last time I was over Mrs. Culpepper nearly talked
her head off to me and at Molly about what a fine man he is, and told
all about his family, and connections--he's related to the angel
Gabriel on his mother's side," she laughed, "and he's own cousin to
St. Peter through the Brownwells."

"Oh, I guess they're innocent enough about it--they aren't
mercenary," interrupted the general.

"Oh, no," replied Mrs Ward, "never in the world; but he's been good to
them and he's of their stock--and it's only natural."

"Yes, probably," replied the general, and asked, "Does she intend to
marry him, do you think?" Mrs. Ward was sorting some dahlia roots on
the wheelbarrow and did not reply at once. "Do you suppose they're
engaged?" repeated the general.

"I often wonder," she returned, still at her task. Then she rose,
holding a bulb in her hands, and said: "It's a funny kind of relation.
Her father and mother egging her on--and you know that kind of a man;
give him an inch and he'll take an ell. I wonder how far he has got."
She took the bulb to a pile near the rear of the house. "Those are the
nice big yellow ones I'm saving for Mrs. Barclay. But I'm sure of one
thing, Molly has no notion of marrying Brownwell." She continued:
"Molly is still in love with Bob. She was over here last week and had
a good cry and told me so."

"Well, why doesn't she send this man about his business?" exclaimed
the general.

Mrs. Ward sighed a little and replied, "Because--there is only one
perfect person in all the world, and that's you." She smiled at him
and continued: "The rest of us, dear, are just flesh and blood. So we
make mistakes. Molly knows she should; she told me so the other day.
And she hates herself for not doing it. But, dearie--don't you see
she thinks if she does, her father and mother will lose the big house,
and Bob will be involved in some kind of trouble? They keep that
before her all of the time. She says that John is always insisting
that she be nice to Brownwell. And you know the Culpeppers think
Brownwell is--well, you know what they think."

They worked along for a while, and the general stopped and put his
foot on his spade and cried: "That boy--that boy--that boy! Isn't he
selling his soul to the devil by bits? A little chunk goes every day.
And oh, my dear, my dear--" he broke out, "what profiteth a man if he
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Poor, poor John." He fell
to his work again, sighing, "Poor John, poor John!" So they talked on
until the afternoon grew old.

And while they were talking, John and General Hendricks were in
Barclay's office going over matters, and seeing where they stood.

"So he says seventy thousand is too much for the company and me to
owe?" said John, at the end of half an hour's conference.

The general was drumming his fingers on the table nervously. "Yes--he
says we've got to reduce that in thirty days, or he'll close us up.
Haven't you got any political influence, somewhere in the East,
John,--some of those stockholders,--that will hold this matter up
till you can harvest your crop next June?"

Barclay thought a moment, with his hand in his chin, and then slowly
shook his head. A bank inspector from Washington was several degrees
higher in the work of politics than Barclay had gone.

"Let me see--" droned Barclay; "let me see. We can at least try
scattering it out a little; cut off, say, fifty thousand from me and
the company and put it in the name of Lige--"

"He's on to Lige, we've got a hat full of Lige's notes in there,"
interrupted the general.

"All right, then, drop Lige and put in the colonel--he'll do that for
me, and I'll see if I can't get the colonel to get Brownwell to
accommodate us. He's burning a good bit of the colonel's stove wood
these nights." Barclay smiled, and added, "And I'll just put Bob in
for a few thousand."

"But what'll we do about those taxes?" asked the general, anxiously.
"You know they've got to be paid before the first of the year, and
that's only six weeks off."

Barclay rose and paced the rug, and replied: "Yes, that's so. I was
going to make another note for them. But I suppose we oughtn't to do
it even under cover; for if he found out you had exceeded our loan
right now--you know those fellows get ugly sometimes." The young man
screwed up his face and stood looking out of the window in silence for
a long minute. Then he limped over to his chair and sat down as one
who has a plan. "Say now, General; you know Gabe Carnine's coming in
as county treasurer right after the first of the year, and we will
make him help us. You make your personal check for the nine thousand,
and give it to the old cuss who's in the county treasurer's office
now, with the descriptions of the land, and get the tax receipts;
he'll bring the check back to the bank; you give him credit on his
pass-book with the other checks, and just hold your own check out in
the drawer as cash. If my check was in there, the inspector might drop
in and see it, and cause a disturbance. When Gabe comes in, I'll make
him carry the matter over till next summer."

The transaction would cover only a few days, Barclay explained; and
finally he had his way. So the Larger Good was accomplished.

And later Adrian Brownwell came into the office to say:--

"Mr. Barclay, our friend, Colonel Culpepper, confessed to me after
some transparent attempts at subterfuge that my signing an
accommodation note would help you, and do I understand this also will
help our young friend, Robert Hendricks, whom I have never seen, and
enable him to remain at his post during the winter?"

John Barclay took a square hard look at Brownwell, and got a smile and
a faint little shrug in return, whereupon, for the Larger Good, he
replied "Yes," and for the Larger Good also, perhaps, Adrian Brownwell
answered:

"Well, I shall be delighted--just make my note for thirty days--only
thirty days, you understand; and then--well, of course if
circumstances justify it, I'll renew it." Barclay laughed and asked,
"Well, Mr. Brownwell, as between friends may I ask how 'circumstances'
are getting on?"

Brownwell shrugged his shoulders and smiled blandly as he answered:
"Just so-so; I go twice a week. And--" he waved his gloves airily and
continued, "What is it the immortal Burns says: 'A man's a man, for a'
that and a' that!' And I'm a man, John Barclay, and she's a woman. And
I go twice a week. You know women, sir, you know women--they're
mostly all alike. So I think--" he smirked complacently as he
concluded--"I think what I need is time--only time."

"Luck to you," said Barclay. "I'll just make the note thirty days, as
you say, and we can renew it from time to time."

Then Brownwell put on his hat, twirled his cane effusively, and bade
Barclay an elaborate adieu.

And ten days later, Molly Culpepper, loathing herself in her soul, and
praying for the day of deliverance when it should be all over, walked
slowly from the post-office up the hill to the house, the stately
house, with its impressive pillars, reading this: "My darling Girl:
John has sent me some more mortgages to sell, and they have to be sold
now. He says that father has to have the money, and he and father have
laid out work for me that will keep me here till the middle of
January. John says that the government inspector has been threatening
us with serious trouble in the bank lately, and we must have the
money. He says the times have forced us to do certain things that were
technically wrong--though I guess they were criminally wrong from
what he says, and we must have this money to make things good. So I am
compelled to stay here and work. Father commands me to stay in a way
that makes me fear that my coming home now would mean our ruin. What a
brick John is to stay there and shoulder it all. But, oh, darling,
darling, darling, I love you."

There was more, of course, and it was from a man's heart, and the
strange and sad part of this story is that when Molly Culpepper read
the rest of the letter, her heart burned in shame, and her shame was
keener than her sorrow that her lover was not coming home.

So it happened naturally that Molly Culpepper went to the Christmas
dance with Adrian Brownwell, and when Jane Barclay, seeing the
proprietary way the Alabaman hovered over Molly, and his obvious
jealousy of all the other men who were civil to her, asked John why he
did not let Bob come home for the holidays, as he had promised, for
the Larger Good John told her the facts--that there were some
mortgages that had just come in, and they must be sold, so that the
company could reduce its indebtedness to the bank. But the facts are
not always the truth, and in her heart, which did not reason but only
felt, Molly Culpepper, knowing that Brownwell and John Barclay were in
some kind of an affair together, feared the truth. And from her heart
she wrote to her lover questioning John's motives and pleading with
him to return, and he, having merely the facts, did not see the truth,
and replied impatiently--so impatiently that it hurt, and there was
temper in her answer, and then for over a week no letter came, and for
over a week no reply went back to that. And so the Larger Good was
doing its fine work in a wicked world.




CHAPTER XIII


The spring sun of 1875 that tanned John Barclay's face gave it a
leathery masklike appearance that the succeeding years never entirely
wore off. For he lived in the open by day, riding among his fields in
three townships, watching the green carpet of March rise and begin to
dimple in April, and billow in May. And at night he worked in his
office until the midnight cockcrow. His back was bowed under a score
of burdens. But his greatest burden was the bank; for it gave him
worry; and worry weighed upon him more than work. It was in
April--early April when the days were raw and cloudy, and the nights
blustery and dreary--that Barclay sat in his office one night after a
hard day afield, his top-boots spattered with mud, his corduroy coat
spread out on a chair to dry, and his wet gray soft hat on his desk
beside him. Jane was with her parents in Minneola, and Barclay had
come to his office without eating, from the stable where he left his
team. The yellow lights in the street below were reflected on the
mists outside his window, and the dripping eaves and cornices above
him and about him seemed to mark the time of some eery music too fine
for his senses, and the footfalls in the street below, hurrying
footfalls of people shivering through the mists, seemed to be the drum
beats of the weird symphony that he could not hear.

Barclay drew a watch from, the pocket of his blue flannel shirt, and
looked at it and stopped writing and stood by the box-stove. He was
looking at the door when he heard a thud on the stairs. It was
followed by a rattling sound, and in a moment Adrian Brownwell and his
cane were in the room. After the rather gorgeous cadenza of
Brownwell's greeting had died away and Barclay had his man in a chair,
Barclay opened the stove door and let the glow of the flames fight the
shadows in the room.

"Well," said Barclay, turning toward his visitor brusquely, "why won't
you renew that accommodation paper for me again?"

The Papins and the Dulangpres shrugged their shoulders and waved
their hands through Brownwell rather nastily as he answered,
"Circumstances, Mr. Barclay, circumstances!"

"You're not getting along fast enough, eh?" retorted Barclay.

"Yes--and no," returned Brownwell.

"What do you mean?" asked Barclay, half divining the truth.

"Well--it is after all our own affair--but since you are a friend I
will say this: three times a week--sometimes four times a week I go
out to pay my respects. Until November I stayed until nine, at
Christmas we put on another hour; now it is ten-thirty. I am a man,
John Barclay--as you see. She--she is an angel. Very good. In that
way, yes. But," the Papins and Dulangpres came back to his face, and
he shook his head. "But otherwise--no. There we stand still. She will
not say it."

Barclay squinted at the man who sat so complacently in the glow of the
firelight, with his cane between his toes and his gloves lightly
fanning the air. "So I take it," said John, "that you are like the
Memorial Day parade, several hours passing a given point!"

"Exactly," smiled back Brownwell. He drew from his pocket a diamond
ring. "She will look at it; she will admire it. She will put it on a
chain, but she will not wear it. And so I say, why should I put my
head in a noose here in your bank--what's the use? No, sir, John
Barclay--no, sir. I'm done, sir."

Barclay knew wheedling would not move Brownwell. He was of the mulish
temperament. So Barclay stretched out in his chair, locked his hands
back of his head, and looked at the ceiling through his eyelashes.
After a silence he addressed the cobwebs above him: "Supposing the
case. Would a letter from me to you, setting forth the desperate need
of this accommodation paper, not especially for me, but for Colonel
Culpepper's fortunes and the good name of the Hendricks family--would
that help your cause--a letter that you could show; a letter,"
Barclay said slowly, "asking for this accommodation; a letter that you
could show to--to--well, to the proper parties, let us say,
to-night; would--that kind of a letter help--" Barclay rose suddenly
to an upright position and went on: "Say, Mr. Man, that ought to
pretty nearly fix it. Let's leave both matters open, say for two
hours, and then at ten o'clock or so--you come back here, and I'll
have the note for you to sign--if you care to. How's that?" he asked
as he turned to his desk and reached for a pen.

"Well," replied Brownwell, "I am willing to try."

And so Barclay sat writing for five minutes, while the glow of the
flames died down, and the shadows ceased fighting and were still.

"Read this over," said Barclay at length. "You will see," he added, as
he handed Brownwell the unfolded sheets, "that I have made it clear
that if you refuse to sign our notes, General Hendricks will be
compelled to close the bank, and that the examination which will
follow will send him to prison and jeopardize Bob, who has signed a
lot of improper notes there to cover our transactions, and that in the
crash Colonel Culpepper will lose all he has, including the roof over
his head--if you refuse to help us." ("However," snarled Barclay, at
his conscience, "I've only told the truth; for if you take your money
and go and shut down on the colonel, it would make him a pauper.")

With a flourishing crescendo finale Adrian Brownwell entered the dark
stairway and went down into the street. Barclay turned quickly to his
work as if to avoid meditation. The scratch of his pen and the murmur
of the water on the roof grew louder and louder as the evening waxed
old. And out on the hill, out on Lincoln Avenue, the rain descended,
and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that
house--that stately house of a father's pride and--

At ten o'clock John Barclay heard a light footstep and a rattling cane
upon the stair, and Brownwell, a human whirligig of gay gestures, came
tripping into the room. "A pen, a pen,"--he cried, "my kingdom for a
pen." He was tugging at his gloves as he spoke, and in the clatter
that he made, Barclay found the blank note and pushed it toward the
table's edge to Brownwell, who put his ornate copy-book signature upon
it with a flourish.

When he had gone, Barclay wrote a note to Jane telling her of Molly's
engagement to Brownwell, and then he sat posting his books, and
figuring up his accounts. It was after midnight when he limped down
the stairs, and the rain had ceased. But a biting wind like a cruel
fate came out of the north, and he hurried through the deserted
street, under lowering clouds that scurried madly across the stars.
But John Barclay could not look up at the stars, he broke into a
limping run and head downward plunged into the gale. And never in all
his life could he take a square look at Molly Culpepper's diamond
ring.

As the spring deepened Bob Hendricks felt upon him at his work the
pressure of two distinct troubles. One was his sweetheart's attitude
toward him, and the other was the increasing weakness of his father.
Molly Culpepper's letters seemed to be growing sad; also they were
failing in their length and frequency--the young man felt that they
were perfunctory. His father's letters showed a physical breakdown.
His handwriting was unsteady, and often he repeated himself in
successive letters. The sister wrote about her father's weakness, and
seemed to think he was working too hard. But the son suspected that it
was worry rather than work, and that things were not going right in
the bank. He did not know that the Golden Belt Wheat Company had
sapped the money of the bank and had left it a husk, which at any time
might crumble. The father knew this, and after the first of the year
every morning when he opened the bank he feared that day would be the
last day of its career.

And so it fell out that "those that look out of the windows" were
darkened, and General Hendricks rose up with the voice of the bird and
was "afraid of that which was high" and terrors were in the way. So on
his head, the white blossom of the almond tree trembled; and one noon
in March the stage bore to this broken, shaking old man a letter from
Kansas City that ran the sword of fear into his heart and almost
stopped it forever. It ran:--

"Dear General: I have just learned from talking with a banker here
that an inspector is headed our way. He probably will arrive the day
after this reaches you. Something must be done about that tax check of
yours. The inspector should not find it in the drawer again. Once was
all right, but you must get it out now. Put it in the form of a note.
Make it Carnine's note. He is good for twice that. Don't bother him
with it, but make it out for ninety days, and by that time we can make
another turn. But that note must be in there. Your check won't do any
longer. The inspector has been gossiping about us up here--and about
that check of yours. For God's sake, don't hesitate, but do this thing
quick."

The letter was not signed, but it came in Barclay's envelope, and was
addressed by Barclay's hand.

The general fumbled with the pad of blank notes before him for a long
time. He read and reread Barclay's letter. Then he put away the pad
and tore the letter into bits and started for the front door. But a
terror seized him, and he walked behind the counter and put his
palsied hand into the box where he kept cancelled checks, and picked
out one of Gabriel Carnine's checks. He folded it up, and started for
the door again, but turned weakly at the threshold, and walked to the
back room of the bank.

When it was done, and had been worked through the books, General
Hendricks, quaking with shame and fear, sat shivering before his desk
with jaws agape and the forged name gashed into his soul. And "the
strong men" bowed themselves as he shuffled home in the twilight. The
next day when the inspector came, "all the daughters of music were
brought low" and the feeble, bent, stricken man piped and wheezed and
stammered his confused answers to the young man's questions, and stood
paralyzed with unspeakable horror while the inspector glanced at the
Carnine note and asked some casual question about it. When the bank
closed that night, General Hendricks tried to write to his son and
tell him the truth, but he sat weeping before his desk and could not
put down the words he longed to write. Bob Hendricks found that
tear-stained letter half finished in the desk when he came home, and
he kept it locked up for years. And when he discovered that the date
on the letter and the date on the forged note were the same, the son
knew the meaning of the tears. But it was all for the Larger Good, and
so John Barclay won another game with Destiny.

But the silver cord was straining, and morning after morning the old
pitcher went to the fountain, to be battered and battered and
battered. His books, which he kept himself, grew spotted and dirty,
and day by day in the early spring the general dreaded lest some
depositor would come into the bank and call for a sum in cash so large
that it would take the cash supply below the legal limit, and that an
inspector would suddenly appear again and discover the deficiency.
Except Barclay the other directors knew nothing of the situation. They
signed whatever reports the general or Barclay put before them; there
came a time in April when any three of a dozen depositors could have
taken every penny out of the bank. When the general was unusually low
in spirits, Barclay sent Colonel Culpepper around to the bank with his
anthem about times being better when the spring really opened, and for
an hour the general was cheerful, but when the colonel went, the
general always saw the axe hanging over his head. And then one morning
late in April--one bright Sunday morning--the wheel of the cistern
was broken, and they found the old man cold in his bed with his face
to the wall.

John Barclay was on a horse riding to the railroad--four hours away,
before the town was up for late Sunday morning breakfast. That
afternoon he went into Topeka on a special engine, and told a Topeka
banker who dealt with the bank of Sycamore Ridge the news of the
general's death, and asked for five thousand dollars in silver to
allay a possible run. At midnight he drove into the Ridge with the
money, and the bank opened in the morning at seven o'clock instead of
nine, so that a crowd might not gather, and depositors who came, saw
back of Barclay a great heap of silver dollars, flanked by all the
gold and greenbacks in the vault, and when a man asked for his money
he got it in silver, and when Oscar Fernald presented a check for over
three thousand dollars, Barclay paid it out in silver, and in the
spirit of fun, Sheriff Jake Dolan, who heard of the counting and
recounting of the money while it was going on, brought in a
wheelbarrow and Oscar wheeled his money to his hotel, while every
loafer in town followed him. At noon Fernald came back with his money,
and Barclay refused to take it. The town knew that also. Barclay did
not step out of the teller's cage during the whole day, but Lige Bemis
was his herald, and through him Barclay had Dolan refuse to give
Fernald protection for his money unless Fernald would consent to be
locked up in jail with it. In ten minutes the town knew that story,
and at three o'clock Barclay posted a notice saying the bank would
remain open until nine o'clock that night, to accommodate any
depositors who desired their money, but that it would be closed for
three days following until after the funeral of the president of the
bank.

The next day he sat in the back room of the bank and received
privately nearly all the money that had been taken out Monday, and
several thousand dollars besides that came through fear that Fernald's
cash would attract robbers from the rough country to the West who
might loot the town. To urge in that class of depositors, Barclay
asked Sheriff Dolan to detail a guard of fifty deputies about the bank
day and night, and the day following the cash began coming in with
mildew on it, and Adrian Brownwell appeared that night with a thousand
dollars of old bank-notes, issued in the fifties, that smelled of the
earth. Thursday John limped up and down the street inviting first one
business man and then another into the bank to help him count cash and
straighten out his balance. And each of a dozen men believed for years
that he was the man who first found the balance in the books of the
Exchange National Bank of Sycamore Ridge, after John Barclay had got
them tangled. And when Barclay was a great and powerful man in the
world, these men, being interviewed by reporters about the personality
of Barclay, took pride in telling this story of his blundering. But
when Bob Hendricks reached Sycamore Ridge Thursday noon, confidence in
the safety of the bank was founded upon a rock.

So when the town closed its stores that afternoon and took the body of
the general, its first distinguished citizen to die, out upon the
Hill, and laid it to rest in the wild prairie grass, John Barclay and
Jane, his wife, rode in the carriage with the mourners, and John stood
by his friend through the long service, and when the body was lowered
into the grave, the most remote thought in all the world from John's
mind was that he was responsible for the old man's death.

Bob Hendricks saw Molly Culpepper for the first time in twenty months,
standing by her father with those who gathered about the general's
grave, and as soon as he could leave the friends who came home with
him and his sister, he hurried to the Culpeppers'. As he left his
home, he could see Molly sitting on the veranda behind one of the
pillars of great pride. She moved down the steps toward the gate to
meet him. It was dusk,--deep dusk,--but he knew her figure and was
thrilled with joy. They walked silently from the gate toward the
veranda, and the youth's soul was moved too deeply for words. So
deeply indeed was his being stirred, that he did not notice in his
eagerness to bring their souls together how she was holding him away
from her heart.

The yellow roses were blooming, and the pink roses were in bud. They
strayed idly to the side of the house farthest from the street, and
there they found the lilacs, heavy with blooms; they were higher than
the girl's head,--a little thicket of them,--and behind the thicket
was a rustic seat made of the grape-vines. He stepped toward the
chair, pulling her by the hand, and she followed. He tried to gather
her into his arms, but she slid away from him and cried, "No--no,
Bob--no!"

"Why--why--why! what's wrong?" gasped the youth.

The girl sank on the seat and covered her face with her hands. He
touched her shoulder and her hair with his finger-tips, and she
shivered away from him. "Oh, Bob--Bob, Bob!--" she cried in agony,
still looking at the grass before her.

The young man looked at her in perplexity. "Why, dear--why--why,
darling--why, Molly," he stammered, "why--why--"

She rose and faced him. She gripped herself, and he could feel the
unnatural firmness in her voice as she spoke.

"Bob, I am not the little girl you left." He put out his arms, but she
shrank back among the lilacs; their perfume was in her face, and she
was impressed with that odd feeling one sometimes has of having had
some glimpse of it all before. She knew that she would say, "I am not
worthy--not worthy any more--Bob, do you understand?"

And when he had stepped to ward her again with piteous pleading
face,--a face that she had never seen before, yet seemed always to
have known,--she felt that numb sense of familiarity with it all, and
it did not pain her as she feared it would when he cried, "Oh--God,
Molly--nothing you ever could do would make you unworthy of
me--Molly, Molly, what is it?" The anguish in his face flashed back
from some indefinite past to her, and then the illusion was gone, and
the drama was all new. He caught her, but she fought herself away.

"Don't--don't!" she cried; "you have no right--now." She dropped
into the seat, while he stood over her with horror on his face. She
answered the question of his eyes, rocking her body as she spoke,
"Bob--do you understand now?" He shook his head, and she went on, "We
aren't engaged--not any more, Bob--not any more--never!" He started
to speak, but she said: "I'm going to marry Mr. Brownwell. Oh,
Bob--Bob, I told you I was unworthy--now do you understand?"

The man turned his face starward a second, and then dropped his head.
"Oh," he groaned, and then sat down beside her at the other end of the
bench. He folded his hands on his knees, and they sat silent for a
time, and then he asked in a dead voice, "You know I love you--still,
don't you, Molly?"

She answered, "Yes, that's what makes it hard."

"And do you love me?" he cried with eagerness.

She sat for a minute without replying and then answered, "I am a woman
now, Bob--a grown woman, and some way things are different."

They sat without speaking; then he drew a deep breath and said, "Well,
I suppose I ought to go." His head rested on his hand which was
supported by an arm of the chair. He did not offer to rise.

She rose and went to him, kneeling before him. She put her hands upon
his shoulders, and he put them aside, and she felt him shudder. She
moaned, and looked up at him. Her face was close to his, but he did
not come closer. He stared at her dumbly, and kept shaking his head as
if asking some mute question too deep for words. Then he put out his
hand and took hers. He put it against his cheek and held it in both
his own. She did not take her eyes from his face, but his eyes began
to wander.

"I will never see you again, Bob--I mean like this." She paused.

There was no life in his hands, and hers slipped away unrestrained.
"How sweet the lilacs smell to-night," he said as he drew in a deep
breath. He leaned back that he might breathe more freely, and added as
he sighed, "I shall smell them through eternity--Molly." Then he rose
and broke off a spray. He helped her rise and said, "Well--so this is
the way of it." His handsome fair face was white in the moonlight, and
she saw that his hair was thinning at the temples, and the strange
flash of familiarity with it all came again as she inhaled the
fragrance of the lilacs.

She trembled with some chill of inner grief, and cried vehemently,
"Oh, Bob--my boy--my boy--say you hate me--for God's love, say you
hate me." She came so close to him that she touched him, then she
crumpled against the side of the seat in a storm of tears, but he
looked at her steadily and shook his head.

"Come on, Molly. It's too cool for you out here," he said, and took
her hand and walked with her to the steps. She was blinded by her
weeping, and he helped here to the veranda, but he stopped on a lower
step where his face was on a level with hers, and dropping her hand,
he said, "Well, good night, Molly--good night--" and as he half
turned from her, he said in the same voice, "Good-by."

He went quickly down the walk--a tall stalwart figure, and he carried
his hat in his hand, and wiped his forehead as he went. At the gate he
looked back and saw her standing where he had left her; he could still
hear the pitiful sobs, but he made no sign to her, and she heard him
walking away under the elms into the night. When his steps had ceased
she ran on tiptoe, holding her breath to silence her sobs, through the
hall, up the stairs of the silent home to her room, and locked the
door. When she could not pray, she lay sobbing and groaning through a
long night.




CHAPTER XIV


The next morning John Barclay gave Robert Hendricks the keys to the
bank. Barclay watched the town until nine o'clock and satisfied
himself that there would be no run on the bank, for during the early
part of the morning young Hendricks was holding a reception in his
office; then Barclay saddled a horse and started for the wheat fields.
After the first hours of the morning had passed, and the townspeople
had gone from the bank, Robert Hendricks began to burrow into the
books. He felt instinctively that he would find there the solution of
the puzzle that perplexed him. For he was sure Molly Culpepper had not
jilted him wantonly. He worked all the long spring afternoon and into
the night, and when he could not sleep he went back to the bank at
midnight, following some clew that rose out of his under-consciousness
and beckoned him to an answer to his question.

The next morning found him at his counter, still worrying his books as
a ferret worries a rat. They were beginning to mean something to him,
and he saw that the bank was a worm-eaten shell. When he discovered
that Brownwell's notes were not made for bona fide loans, but that
they were made to cover Barclay's overdrafts, he began to find the
truth, and then when he found that Colonel Culpepper had lent the
money back to the bank that he borrowed from Brownwell,--also to save
John's overdrafts,--Bob Hendricks' soul burned pale with rage. He
found that John had borrowed far beyond the limit of his credit at the
bank to buy the company's stock, and that he had used Culpepper and
Brownwell to protect his account when it needed protection. Hendricks
went about his work silently, serving the bank's customers, and
greeting his neighbours pleasantly, but his heart was full of a lust
to do some bodily hurt to John Barclay. When John came back, he
sauntered into the bank so airily that Hendricks could not put the
hate into his hands that was in his breast. John was full of a plan to
organize a commission company, buy all of the wheat grown by the
Golden Belt Wheat Company and make a profit off the wheat company for
the commission company. He had bargained with the traffic officers of
the railroad company to accept stock in the commission company in
return for rate concessions on the Corn Belt Railroad, which was
within a few months' building distance of Sycamore Ridge.

As John unfolded his scheme, Bob eyed his partner almost without a
word. A devil back in some recess of his soul was thirsting for a
quarrel. But Bob's sane consciousness would not unleash the devil, so
he replied:--

"No--you go ahead with your commission company, and I'll stick to the
wheat proposition. That and the bank will keep me going."

The afternoon was late, and a great heap of papers of the bank and the
company lay before them that needed their time. Bob brushed his devil
back and went to work. But he kept looking at Barclay's neck and
imagining his fingers closing upon it. When the twilight was falling,
Barclay brought the portmanteau containing the notes into the back
room and turning to the "C's" pulled out a note for nine thousand
dollars signed by Gabriel Carnine, who was then county treasurer.
Barclay put it on the table before Hendricks and looked steadily at
him a minute before saying, "Bob--see that note?" And when the young
man answered, the other returned: "We had to do that, and several
other things, this spring to tide us over. I didn't bother you with
it--but we just had to do it--or close up, and go to pieces with the
wheat scheme."

Hendricks picked up the note, and after examining it a moment, asked
quickly, "John, is that Gabe's signature?"

"No--I couldn't get Gabe to sign it--and we had to have it to make
his account balance."

"And you forged his note,--and are carrying it?" cried Hendricks,
rising.

"Oh, sit down, Bob--we did it here amongst hands. It wasn't exactly
my affair, the way it got squared around."

Hendricks took the note to the window. He was flushed, and the devil
got into his eyes when he came back, and he cried, "And you made
father do it!"

Barclay smiled pacifically, and limped over to Hendricks and took the
note from him and put it back into the portmanteau. Then Barclay
replied: "No, Bob, I didn't make your father--the times made your
father. It was that or confess to Gabe Carnine, who swelled up on
taking his job, that we hadn't paid the taxes on the company's land,
though our check had been passed for it. When it came in, we gave the
county treasurer credit on his daily bank-book for the nine thousand,
but we held out the check. Do you see?"

"Yes, that far," replied Hendricks.

"Well, it's a long story after that, but when I found Gabe wouldn't
accommodate us for six months by giving us his note to carry as cash
until we could pay it,--the inspectors wouldn't take mine or your
father's,--and our books had to show the amount of gross cash that
the treasurer deposited before Gabe came in, your father thought it
unwise to keep holding checks that had already been paid in the drawer
as cash for that nine thousand, so we--well, one day he just put this
note in, and worked it through the books."

Hendricks had his devil well in hand as he stared at Barclay, and then
said: "John--this is mighty dangerous business. Are we carrying his
account nine thousand short on our books, and making his pass-book
balance?"

"That's it, only--"

"But suppose some one finds it out?" asked Hendricks.

"Oh, now, Bob, keep your shirt on. I fixed that. You know they keep
two separate accounts,--a general maintenance account and a bond
account, and Gabe has been letting us keep the paid-off bonds in the
vault and look after their cancelling, and while he was sick, I was in
charge of the treasurer's office and had the run of the bank, and I
squared our account at the Eastern fiscal agency and in the bond
account in the treasurer's office, and fixed up the short maintenance
account all with nine thousand dollars' worth of old bonds that were
kicking around the vault uncancelled, and now the job is hermetically
sealed so far as the treasurer and the bank are concerned."

"So we can't pay it back if we want to? Is that the way, John?" asked
Hendricks, his fingers twitching as he leaned forward in his chair.

"Ah, don't get so tragic about it. Some day when Gabe has calmed down,
and wants a renomination, I'll take him in the back room and show him
the error that we've both made, and we'll just quietly put back the
money and give him the laugh." There was a pause, and Barclay tilted
his chair back and grinned. "It's all right, Bob--we were where we
had to do it; the books balance to a 'T' now--and we'll square it
with Gabe sometime."

"But if we can't--if Gabe won't be--be--well, be reasonable? What
then?" asked Hendricks.

"Oh, well," returned John, "I've thought of that too. And you'll find
that when, the county treasury changes hands in '79, you'll have to
look after the bond account and the treasurer's books and make a
little entry to satisfy the bonds when they really fall due;
then--I'll show you about it when we're over at the court-house. But
if we can't get the money back with Gabe or the next man, the time
will come when we can."

And Bob Hendricks looked at the natty little man before him and
sighed, and began working for the Larger Good also. And afterwards as
the months flew by the Golden Belt Wheat Company paid the interest on
the forged note, and the bank paid the Golden Belt Wheat Company
interest on a daily ledger balance of nine thousand, and all went
happily. The Larger Good accepted the sacrifices of truth, and went on
its felicitous way.

After Barclay left the bank that night, Hendricks found still more of
the truth. And the devil in the background of his soul came out and
glared through the young man's sleepless eyes as he appeared in
Barclay's office in the morning and said, before he had found a chair,
"John, what's your idea about those farmers' mortgages? Are you going
to let them pay them, or are you going to make them sell under that
option that you've got in them?"

"Why," asked Barclay, "what's it to us? Haven't the courts decided
that that kind of an option is a sale--clear through to the United
States Supreme Court?"

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" persisted Hendricks.

Barclay squinted sidewise at his partner for a few seconds and said,
"Well, it's no affair of ours; we've sold all the mortgages anyway."

Hendricks wagged his head impatiently and exclaimed, "Quit your
dodging and give me a square answer--what have you got up your sleeve
about those options?"

Barclay rose, limped to the window, and looked out as he answered:
"Well, I've always supposed we'd fix it up some way to buy back those
mortgages and then take the land we want for ourselves--for you and
me personally--and give the poor land back to the farmers if they pay
the money we lent them."

"Well," returned Hendricks, "just count me out on that. Whatever I
make in this deal, and you seem to think our share will be plenty,
goes to getting those farmers back their land. So far as I'm concerned
that money we paid them was rent, not a loan!"

Barclay dropped his hands in astonishment and gaped at Hendricks.

"Well, my dear Miss Nancy," he exclaimed, "when did you get religion?"

The two men glared at each other a moment, and Hendricks grappled his
devil and drew a long breath and replied: "Well, you heard what I
said." And then he added: "I'm pretty keen for money, John, but when
it comes to skinning a lot of neighbours out of land that you and
every one says is going to raise thirty dollars' worth of wheat to the
acre this year alone, and only paying them ten dollars an acre for the
title to the land itself--" He did not finish. After a pause he
added: "Why, they'll mob you, man. I've got to live with those
farmers." Barclay sneered at Hendricks without speaking and Hendricks
stepped over to him and drew back his open hand as he said angrily,
"Stop it--stop it, I say." Then he exclaimed: "I'm not what you'd
call nasty nice, John--but I'm no robber. I can't take the rent of
that land for nothing, raise a thirty-dollar crop on every acre of it,
and make them pay me ten dollars an acre to get back the poor land and
steal the good land, on a hocus-pocus option."

"'I do not use the nasty weed, said little Robert Reed,'" replied
Barclay, with a leer on his face. Then, he added: "I've held your
miserable little note-shaving shop up by main strength for a year, by
main strength and awkwardness, and now you come home with your mouth
all fixed for prisms and prunes, and want to get on a higher plane.
You try that," continued Barclay, and his eyes blazed at Hendricks,
"and you'll come down town some morning minus a bank."

Then the devil in Bob Hendricks was freed for an exultant moment, as
his hands came out of his pockets and clamped down on Barclay's
shoulders, and shook him till his teeth rattled.

"Not with me, John, not with me," he cried, and he felt his fingers
clutching for the thin neck so near them, and then suddenly his hands
went back to his pockets. "Now, another thing--you got Brownwell to
lend the colonel that money?" Hendricks was himself.

Barclay nodded.

"And you got Brownwell to sign a lot of accommodation paper there at
the bank?"

"Yes--to cover our own overdrafts," retorted Barclay. "It was either
that or bust--and I preferred not to bust. What's more, if we had
gone under there at one stage of the game when Brownwell helped us, we
could have been indicted for obtaining money under false
pretences--you and I, I mean. I'm perfectly willing to stick my head
inside the jail and look around," Barclay grinned, "but I'll be damned
if I'm going clear inside for any man--not when I can find a way to
back out." Barclay tried to laugh, but Hendricks would not let him.

"And so you put up Molly to bail you out." Barclay did not answer and
Hendricks went on bitterly: "Oh, you're a friend, John Barclay, you're
a loyal friend. You've sold me out like a dog, John--like a dog!"

Barclay, sitting at his desk, playing with a paper-weight, snarled
back: "Why don't you get in the market yourself, if you think I've
sold you out? Why don't you lend the old man some money?"

"And take it from the bank you've just got done robbing of everything
but the wall-paper?" Hendricks retorted.

"No," cried Barclay, in a loud voice. "Come off your high horse and
take the profits we'll make on our wheat, pay off old Brownwell and
marry her."

"And let the bank bust and the farmers slide?" asked Hendricks, "and
buy back Molly with stolen money? Is that your idea?"

"Well," Barclay snapped, "you have your choice, so if you think more
of the bank and your old hayseeds than you do of Molly, don't come
blubbering around me about selling her."

"John," sighed Hendricks, after a long wrestle--a final contest with
his demon, "I've gone all over that. And I have decided that if I've
got to swindle seventy-five or a hundred farmers--most of them old
soldiers on their homesteads--out of their little all, and cheat five
hundred depositors out of their money to get Molly, she and I wouldn't
be very happy when we thought of the price, and we'd always think of
the price." His demon was limp in the background of his soul as he
added: "Here are some papers I brought over. Let's get back to the
settlement--fix them up and bring them over to the bank this morning,
will you?" And laying a package carefully on the table, Hendricks
turned and went quickly out of the room.

After Hendricks left the office that May morning, Barclay sat
whistling the air of the song of the "Evening Star," looking blankly
at a picture of Wagner hanging beside a picture of Jay Gould. The tune
seemed to restore his soul. When he had been whistling softly for five
minutes or so, the idea flashed across his mind that flour was the one
thing used in America more than any other food product and that if a
man had his money invested in the manufacture and sale of flour, he
would have an investment that would weather any panic. The idea
overcame him, and he shut his eyes and his ears and gripped his chair
and whistled and saw visions. Molly Culpepper came into the room, and
paused a moment on the threshold as one afraid to interrupt a sleeper.
She saw the dapper little man kicking the chair rounds with his
dangling heels, his flushed face reflecting a brain full of blood, his
eyes shut, his head thrown far back, so that his Adam's apple stuck up
irrelevantly, and she knew only by the persistence of the soft low
whistle that he was awake, clutching at some day-dream. When she
cleared her throat, he was startled and stared at her foolishly for a
moment, with the vision still upon him. His wits came to him, and he
rose to greet her.

"Well--well--why--hello, Molly--I was just figuring on a matter,"
he said as he put her in a chair, and then he added, "Well--I wasn't
expecting you."

Even before she could speak his lips were puckering to pick up the
tune he had dropped. She answered, "No, John, I wanted to see you--so
I just came up."

"Oh, that's all right, Molly--what is it?" he returned.

"Well--" answered the young woman, listlessly, "it's about; father.
You know he's badly in debt, and some way--of course he sells lots of
land and all, but you know father, John, and he just doesn't--oh, he
just keeps in debt."

Barclay had been lapsing back into his revery as she spoke, but he
pulled himself out and replied: "Oh, yes, Molly--I know about father
all right. Can't you make him straighten things out?"

"Well, no. John, that's just it. His money comes in so irregularly,
this month a lot and next month nothing, that it just spoils him. When
he gets a lot he spends it like a prince," she smiled sadly and
interjected: "You know he is forever giving away--and then while he's
waiting he gets in debt again. Then we are as poor as the people for
whom he passes subscription papers, and that's just what I wanted to
see you about."

Barclay took his eyes off Jay Gould's picture long enough to look at
the brown-eyed girl with an oval face and a tip of a chin that just
fitted the hollow of a man's hand; there were the smallest brown
freckles in the world across the bridge of her nose, and under her
eyes there was the faintest suggestion of dark shading. Youth was in
her lips and cheeks, and when she smiled there were dimples. But
John's eyes went back to Jay Gould's solemn black whiskers and he said
from his abstraction, "Well, Molly, I wish I could help you."

"Well, I knew you would, John, some way; and oh, John, I do need help
so badly." She paused a moment and gazed at him piteously and
repeated, "So badly." But his eyes did not move from the sacred
whiskers of his joss. The vision was flaming in his brain, and with
his lips parted, he whistled "The Evening Star" to conjure it back and
keep it with him. The girl went on:--

"About that money Mr. Brownwell loaned father, John." She flushed and
cried, "Can't you find some way for father to borrow the money and pay
Mr. Brownwell--now that your wheat is turning out so well?"

The young man pulled himself out of his day-dream and said,
"Well--why--you see, Molly--I--Well now, to be entirely frank with
you, Molly, I'm going into a business that will take all of my
credit--and every cent of my money."

He paused a moment, and the girl asked, "Tell me, John, will the wheat
straighten things up at the bank?"

"Well, it might if Bob had any sense--but he's got a fool notion of
considering a straight mortgage that those farmers gave on their land
as rent, and isn't going to make them redeem their land,--his share
of it, I mean,--and if he doesn't do that, he'll not have a cent, and
he couldn't lend your father any money." Barclay was anxious to get
back to his "Evening Star" and his dream of power, so he asked, "Why,
Molly, what's wrong?"

"John," she began, "this is a miserable business to talk about; but it
is business, I guess." She stopped and looked at him piteously. "Well,
John, father's debt to Mr. Brownwell--the ten-thousand-dollar loan on
the house--will be due in August." The young man assented. And after
a moment she sighed, "That is why I'm to be married in August." She
stood a moment looking out of the window and cried, "Oh, John, John,
isn't there some way out--isn't there, John?"

Barclay rose and limped to her and answered harshly: "Not so long as
Bob is a fool--no, Molly. If he wants to go mooning around releasing
those farmers from their mortgages--there's no way out. But I
wouldn't care for a man who didn't think more of me than he did of a
lot of old clodhoppers."

The girl looked at the hard-faced youth a moment in silence, and
turned without a word and left the room. Barclay floated away on his
"Evening Star" and spun out his dream as a spider spins his web, and
when Hendricks came into the office for a mislaid paper half an hour
later, Barclay still was figuring up profits, and making his web
stronger. As Hendricks, having finished his errand, was about to go,
Barclay stopped him.

"Bob, Molly's been up here. As nearly as I can get at it, Brownwell
has promised to renew the colonel's mortgage in August. If he and
Molly aren't married by then--no more renewals from him. Don't be a
fool, Bob; let your sod-busters go hang. If you don't get their farms,
some one else will!"

Hendricks looked at his partner a minute steadily, grunted, and strode
out of the room. And the incident slipped from John Barclay's mind,
and the web of the spider grew stronger and stronger in his brain, but
it cast a shadow that was to reach across his life.

After Hendricks went from his office that morning, Barclay bounded
back, like a boy at play, to the vision of controlling the flour
market. He saw the waving wheat of Garrison County coming to the
railroad, and he knew that his railroad rates were so low that the
miller on the Sycamore could not ship a pound of flour profitably, and
Barclay's mind gradually comprehended that through railroad rates he
controlled the mill, and could buy it at his leisure, upon his own
terms. Then the whole scheme unfolded itself before his closed eyes as
he sat with his head tilted back and pillowed in his hands. If his
railroad concession made it possible for him to underbid the miller at
the Ridge, why could he not get other railroad concessions and
underbid every miller along the line of the Corn Belt road, by
dividing profits with the railroad officials? As he spun out his
vision, he could hear the droning voices of General Ward and Colonel
Culpepper in the next room; but he did not heed them.

They were discussing the things of the day,--indeed, the things of a
fortnight before, to be precise,--the reception given by the
Culpeppers to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. The windows
were open, and Barclay could hear the men's voices, and he knew
vaguely that they were talking of Lige Bemis. For Barclay had
tactfully asked the colonel as a favour to invite Mr. and Mrs. Bemis
to the silver wedding reception. So the Bemises came. Mrs. Bemis, who
was rather stout, even for a woman in her early forties, wore black
satin and jet ornaments, including black jet ear bobs of tremendous
size. And Watts McHurdie was so touched by the way ten years under a
roof had tamed the woman whom he had known of old as "Happy Hallie,"
that he wrote a poem for the _Banner_ about the return of the
"Prodigal Daughter," which may be found in Garrison County scrap-books
of that period. As for Mr. Bemis, he went slinking about the outskirts
of the crowd, showing his teeth considerably, and making it obvious
that he was there.

So as John Barclay rode his "Evening Star" to glory, in the next room
General Ward turned to the colonel, who stood puffing in the doorway
of the general's law-office. "Martin, did John Barclay make you invite
that woman to your house--that Bemis woman?"

The colonel got his breath slowly after climbing the stair, and he did
not reply at once. But he smiled, and stood with his arms akimbo a few
seconds before he spoke. "Well now, General--since you ask it, I may
as well confess it pointedly--I am ashamed to say he did!"

Ward motioned the colonel to a seat and asked impatiently, "Ashamed?"

"Well," responded Culpepper, as he put his feet in the window ledge,
"she's as good as I am--if you come down to that! Why shouldn't I,
who pretend to be a gentleman,--a Virginia gentleman, I may say,
sir,--why shouldn't I be ashamed, disgraced, sir, disgraced in point
of fact, that I had to be forced to invite any person in all God's
beautiful world to my home?"

Ward looked at the colonel coldly a moment and then blurted out: "Ah,
shucks, sir--stuff and nonsense! You know what she was before the
war--Happy Hally! My gracious, Martin, how could you?"

Martin Culpepper brought his chair down with a bang and turned
squarely to Ward. "General, the war's over now. I knew Happy
Hally--and I knew the Red Legs she trained with. And we're making
senators and governors and state officers and indeed, I may say,
prominent citizens out of them. Why not give Hally her show? You damn
cold-nosed Yankee Brahmins--you have Faith and you have Hope, but you
have no more Charity than a sausage-grinder." The colonel rose, and
cried with some asperity, "General, if you'd preach about the poor
less, and pray with 'em more, you'd know more about your fellow-men,
sir!"

Perhaps this conversation should not have been set down here; for it
has no direct relation to the movement of this narrative. The
narrative at this point should be hurrying along to tell how John
Barclay and Bob Hendricks cleared up a small fortune on their wheat
deal, and how that autumn Barclay bought the mill at Sycamore Ridge by
squeezing its owner out, and then set about to establish four branches
of the Golden Belt Wheat Company's elevator service along the line of
the new railroad, and how he controlled the wheat output of three
counties the next year through his enterprise. These facts carry John
Barclay forward toward his life's goal. And while these two
middle-aged gentlemen--the general and the colonel--were in the next
room wrangling over the youthful love affairs of a middle-aged lady, a
great dream was shaping in Barclay's head, and he did not heed them.
He was dreaming of controlling the wheat market of the Golden Belt
Railroad, through railroad-rate privileges, and his fancy was feeling
its way into flour, and comprehending what might be done with wheat
products.

It was a crude dream, but he was aflame with it, and yet--John
Barclay, aged twenty-five, was a young man with curly hair and
flattered himself that he could sing. And there was always in him that
side of his nature, so the reader must know that when Nellie Logan
came to his office that bright summer morning and found him wrapped in
his day-dream of power, she addressed herself not to the Thane of
Wheat who should be King hereafter, but to the baritone singer in the
Congregational choir, and the wheat king scampered back to the dream
world when John replied to Nellie's question.

"So it's _your_ wedding, is it, Nellie--your wedding," he repeated.
"Well, where does Watts come in?" And then, before she answered, he
went on, "You bet I'll sing at your wedding, and what's more, I'll
bring along my limping Congregational foot, and I'll dance at your
wedding."

"Well, I just knew you would," said the young woman.

"So old Watts thought I wouldn't, did he?" asked Barclay. "The old
skeezicks--Well, well! Nellie, you tell him that the fellow who was
with Watts when he was shot ten miles from Springfield isn't going to
desert him when he gets a mortal wound in the heart." Then Barclay
added: "You get the music and take it down to Jane, and tell her to
teach me, and I'll be there. Jane says you're going to put old Watts
through all the gaits."

He leaned back in his swivel chair and smiled at his visitor. He had a
slow drawl that he used in teasing, and one who heard that voice and
afterward heard the harsh bark of the man in driving a bargain or
browbeating an adversary would have to look twice to realize that the
same man was talking. A little over an hour before in that very room
he had looked at Bob Hendricks from under wrinkled brows with the
vertical line creased between his eyes and snarled, "Well, then, if
you think she's going to marry that fellow because I got him to lend
the colonel some money, why don't you go and lend the colonel some
more money and get her back?"

But there was not a muscle twitching in his face as he talked to
Nellie Logan, not a break in his voice, not a ruffle of a hair, to
tell her that John Barclay had broken with the friend of his boyhood
and the partner of his youth, and that he had closed and bolted the
Door of Hope on Molly Culpepper. He drawled on: "Jane was saying that
you were going to have Bob and Molly for best man and bridesmaid.
Ought you to do that? You know they--"

He did not finish the sentence, but she replied: "Oh, yes, I know
about that. I told Watts he ought to have Mr. Brownwell; but he's as
stubborn as a mule about just that one thing. Everything else--the
flower girls and the procession and the ring service and all--he's so
nice about. And you know I just had to have Molly."

John slapped the arms of his chair and laughed. "As old Daddy Mason
says, 'Now hain't that just like a woman!' Well, Nellie, it's your
wedding, and a woman is generally not married more than once, so it's
all right. Go it while you're young."

And so he teased her out of the room, and when Sycamore Ridge packed
itself into the Congregational Church one June night, to witness the
most gorgeous church wedding the town ever had seen, John opened the
ceremonies by singing the "Voice that breathed o'er Eden" most
effectively, and Sycamore Ridge in its best clothes, rather stuffed
and uncomfortable thereby, was in that unnatural attitude toward the
world where it thought John Barclay's voice, a throaty baritone, with
much affectation in the middle register, a tendency to flat in the
upper register, and thick fuzz below "C," was beautiful, though John
often remembered that night with unalloyed shame. He saw himself as he
stood there, primped to kill, like a prize bull at a fair, bellowing
out a mawkish sentiment in a stilted voice, and he wondered how the
Ridge ever managed to endure him afterwards.

But this is a charitable world, and his temperament was such that he
did not realize that no one paid much attention to him, after the real
ceremony started. When the bride and the bridesmaid came down the
aisle, Nellie Logan radiant in the gown which every woman in the
church knew had come from Chicago and had been bought of the drummer
at wholesale cost, saving the bride over fifteen dollars on the
regular price--what did the guests care for a dapper little man
singing a hymn tune through his nose, even if he was the richest young
man in town? And when Molly Culpepper--dear little Molly
Culpepper--came after the bride, blushing through her powder, and
looking straight at the floor for fear her eyes would wander after her
heart and wondering if the people knew--it was of no consequence that
John Barclay's voice frazzled on "F"; for if the town wished to notice
a man at that wedding, there was Watts McHurdie in a paper collar,
with a white embroidered bow tie and the first starched shirt the town
had ever seen him wear, badly out of step with the procession, while
the best man dragged him like an unwilling victim to the altar; and of
course there was the best man,--and a handsome best man as men
go,--fair-skinned, light-haired, blue-eyed, with a good glow on his
immobile face and rather sad eyes that, being in a man's head, went
boldly where they chose and where all the women in the town could see
them go. So there were other things to remember that night besides
John Barclay's singing and the festive figure he cut at that wedding:
there was the wedding supper at the Wards', and the wedding reception
at the Culpeppers', and after it all the dance in Culpepper Hall. And
all the town remembers these things, but only two people remember a
moment after the reception when every one was hurrying away to the
dance and when the bridesmaid--such a sweet, pretty little
bridesmaid--was standing alone in a deserted room with a tall
groomsman--just for a moment--just for a moment before Adrian
Brownwell came up bustling and bristling, but long enough to say,
"Bob--did you take my gloves there in the carriage as we were coming
home from the church?" and long enough for him to answer, "Why, did
you lose them?" and then to get a good square look into her eyes. It
was only a few seconds in the long evening--less than a second that
their eyes met; but it was enough to be remembered forever; though
why--you say! It was all so commonplace; there was nothing in it that
you would have thought worth remembering for a moment. "Bob, did you
take my gloves?" "Why, did you lose them?" and then a glance of the
eyes. Surely there are more romantic words than these. But when a man
and a woman go in for collecting antiques in their dialogues, Heaven
only knows what old rubbish you will find in their attics, scoured off
and rebuilt and polished with secret tears until the old stuff glows
like embers.

And that is why, when the music was silent in Culpepper Hall, and the
tall young man walked slowly home alone, as he clicked his own gate
behind him, he brought from his pocket two little white gloves,--just
two ordinary white gloves,--and held them to his lips and lifted his
arms in despair once and let them drop as he stood before his
doorstep. And that is why a girl, a little girl with the weariest face
in the town, looked out of her bedroom window that night and whispered
over and over to herself the name she dared not speak. And all this
was going on while the town was turning over in its bed, listening to
the most tumultuous charivari that Sycamore Ridge has ever known.

Night after night that summer faithful Jake Dolan walked the streets
of Sycamore Ridge with Bob Hendricks. By day they lived apart, but at
night the young man often would look up the elder, and they would walk
and walk together, but never once did Hendricks mention Molly's name
nor refer to her in any way; yet Jake Dolan knew why they walked
abroad. How did he know? How do we know so many things in this world
that are neither seen nor heard? And the Irish--they have the drop of
blood that defies mathematics; the Irish are the only people in the
world whom kind Providence permits to add two and two together to make
six. "You say 'tis four," said Dolan, one night, as he and Hendricks
stood on the bridge listening to the roar from the dam. "I say 'tis
six. There is this and there is that and you say they make the other.
Not at all; they make something else entirely different. You take your
two and your two and make your four and try your four on the world,
and it works--yes, it works up to a point; but there is something
left over, something unexplained; you don't know what. I do. It's the
other two. Therefore I say to you, Mr. Robert Hendricks, that two and
two make six, because God loves the Irish, and for no other reason on
earth."

So much for the dreams of Molly, the memories of Bob, and the vagaries
of Mr. Dolan. They were as light as air. But in John Barclay's life a
vision was rising--a vision that was real, palpable, and vital; a
vision of wealth and power,--and as the days and the months passed,
the shadow of that vision grew big and black and real in a score of
lives.




CHAPTER XV


As June burned itself gloriously into July, Robert Hendricks no longer
counted the weeks until Molly Culpepper should be married, but counted
the days. So three weeks and two days, from the first of July, became
three weeks, then two weeks and six days, and then one week and six
days, and then six days, five days, four days, three days; and then it
became seventy-two hours. And the three threshing machines of the
Golden Belt Wheat Company were pouring their ceaseless stream into the
company's great bins. The railroad was only five miles away, and
Hendricks was sitting in his office in the bank going over and over
his estimates of the year's crop which was still lying in the
field,--save the crop from less than two thousand acres that was
harvested and threshed. From that he judged that there would be enough
to redeem his share of the farmers' mortgages, which in Hendricks'
mind could be nothing but rent for the land, and to pay his share of
the bank's fraudulent loans to the company--and leave nothing more.

The fact that John expected to buy back the mortgages from Eastern
investors who had bought them, and then squeeze the farmers out of
their land by the option to buy hidden in the contract, did not move
Hendricks. He saw his duty in the matter, but as the golden flood rose
higher in the bins, and as hour after hour rolled by bringing him
nearer and nearer to the time when Molly Culpepper should marry Adrian
Brownwell, a temptation came to him, and he dallied with it as he sat
figuring at his desk. The bank was a husk. Its real resources had been
sold, and a lot of bogus notes--accommodation paper, they called
it--had taken the place of real assets. For Hendricks to borrow money
of any other institution as the officer of the Exchange National Bank
of Sycamore Ridge would be a crime. And yet he knew that ten thousand
dollars would save her, and his brain was wrought with a madness. And
so he sat figuring while the hours slipped by, trying to discount his
future income from the wheat to justify himself in taking the money
from the bank's vaults. His figures did not encourage him. They showed
him that to be honest with the farmers he might hope for no profit
from that year's crop, and with two years of failure behind him, he
knew that to discount the next year's crop would be nothing less than
stealing. Then, strong and compelling, came the temptation to let the
farmers fight it out with the Eastern investors. The temptation rocked
the foundations of his soul. He knew it was wrong; he knew he would be
a thief, if he did it, no matter what the law might say, no matter
what the courts might adjudge. To Barclay what was legal was right,
and what the courts had passed upon--that was legal. But Hendricks
sat with his pencil in his hand, going over and over his figures,
trying to silence his conscience.

It was a hot afternoon that he sat there, and idly through his mind
went the computation that he had but sixty-six more hours of hope, and
as he looked at the clock he added, "and thirty-eight minutes and
twenty-seven seconds," when Martin Culpepper came ambling into the
back room of the bank.

"Robert," began the colonel, with his eyes on the floor and his hands
deep in his trousers pockets, "I've just been talking to John." The
colonel rubbed his neck absent-mindedly and went on, "John's a Yankee,
Robert--the blue stripe on his belly is fast blue, sir; it won't
fade, change colour, or crock, in point of fact, not a damned bit,
sir, not till the devil covers it with a griddle stripe, sir, I may
say." The colonel slouched into a chair and looked into Hendricks'
face with a troubled expression and continued, "That John certainly is
Yankee, Robert, and he's too many for me. Yes, sir, certainly he's got
me up in the air, sir--up in the air, and as I may say a mile west,
on that wheat deal." Hendricks leaned forward unconsciously, and the
colonel dropped both hands to his knees and leaned toward Hendricks.
"Robert Hendricks," asked the colonel, as he bored his deep black eyes
into the younger man, "did you know about that option in the wheat
land mortgage? Answer me, sir!"

"Not at the time, Colonel," returned Hendricks, and began, "but I--"

"Well, neither did I. And I got half of those mortgages myself. Lige
and I did it all, sir. And Lige knew--Lige, he says it's legal, but I
say it's just common stealing." Hendricks moistened his lips and sat
with mute face gazing at the colonel. The colonel went on, "And now
the farmers have found it out, and the devil's to pay, sir, with no
pitch hot!"

Hendricks cleared his throat and began, "Well, Colonel--I don't know;
of course I--"

The elder man rose to his full height and glared at the younger, and
cried, "Ah, Robert, Robert, fire in the mountain, snakes in the
grass--you do know--you do know, sir. You know that to hold up the
farmers of this county in the midst of what amounted to a famine, not
to let them borrow a dollar in the county except on a gouging
mortgage, and then to slip into that mortgage a blind option to sell
for ten dollars an acre land that is worth three times that, is
stealing, and so does John Barclay know that, and, worst of all, so
does Martin Culpepper know that, and the farmers are finding it
out--my neighbours and comrades that I helped to swindle, sir--to
rob, I may say--they know what it is."

The colonel's voice was rising, and he stood glaring and puffing
before the young man, shaking his head furiously. Young Hendricks was
engaged in swallowing his Adam's apple and blinking unsteadily, and
just as he started to reply, the colonel, who had caught his temper by
the horn and was shaking it into submission, cried: "Yes, sir, Robert,
that's what I said, sir; those were my very words in point of fact.
And," he began as he sat down and sighed, "what galls me most of all,
Robert, is that John laughs at me. Here you've been gagging and
gulping and sputtering, boy, to keep down your conscience, and so I
know--yes, Robert, I'm dead sure, I may say, that you're all right;
but John giggles--giggles, sir, snickers in point of fact, as though
he had done something smart in getting me to go out among my old
soldier friends and rob 'em of their homesteads. He doesn't care for
my good name any more than for his own."

Hendricks drummed with his fingers on the desk before him. His blue
eyes looked into nothing, and his mind's eye saw the house of cards he
had been dallying with totter and fall. He drew a deep breath before
he looked up at the colonel, and said rather sadly: "Well, Colonel,
you're right. I told John the day after I came home that I wouldn't
stand it." He drummed with his fingers for a moment before continuing,
"I suppose you got about half of those contracts, didn't you?"

The colonel pulled from his pocket a crumpled paper and handed it to
Hendricks, "Here they are, sir--and every one from a soldier or a
soldier's widow, every one a homestead, sir."

Hendricks walked to the window, and stood looking out with his eyes
cast down. He fumbled his Masonic watch-charm a moment, and then
glancing at it, caught the colonel's eye and smiled as he said: "I'm
on the square, Colonel, in this matter. I'll protect you." He went to
the elder man and put his hands on his shoulder as he said: "You go to
your comrades and tell them this, Colonel, that between now and
snowfall every man will have his land clear. But," he added, picking
up the list of the colonel's contracts, "don't mention me in the
matter." He paused and continued, "It might hurt the bank. Just tell
them you'll see that it's taken care of."

The colonel put out his hand as he rose. When their hands met he was
saying: "Blood tells, Robert Hendricks, blood tells. Wasn't your
sainted father a Democrat, boy, a Democrat like me, sir,--a Union
Democrat in point of fact?" The colonel squeezed the younger man's
hand as he cried: "A Union Democrat, sir, who could shoot at his
party, sir, but never could bring himself to vote against it--not
once, sir--not once. And Robert Hendricks, when I see you acting as
you've acted just now, sir, this very minute in point of fact, I may
say, sir, that you're almost honest enough to be a Democrat,
sir--like your sainted father." The colonel held the young man's hand
affectionately for a time and then dropped it, sighing, "Ah, sir--if
it wasn't for your damned Yankee free schools and your damned Yankee
surroundings, what a Democrat you would have made, Robert--what a
grand Democrat!" The colonel waved his silver tobacco box proudly and
made for the door and left Hendricks sitting at his desk, drumming on
the board with one hand, and resting his head in the other, looking
longingly into the abyss from which he had escaped; for the lure of
the danger still fluttered his soul.

Strength had come to him in that hour to resist the temptation. But
the temptation still was there. For he was a young man, giving up for
an intangible thing called justice the dearest thing in his life. He
had opened the door of his life's despair and had walked in, as much
like a man as he could, but he kept looking back with a heavy heart,
hungering with his whole body and most of his soul for all that he had
renounced. And so, staring at the light of other days, and across the
shadow of what might have been, he let ten long minutes tick past
toward the inevitable hour, and then he rose and put his hand to the
plough for the long furrow.

They are all off the stage now, as Bob Hendricks is standing in the
front door of the bank that August night with his watch in his hand
reckoning the minutes--some four thousand three hundred of
them--until Molly Culpepper will pass from him forever, and as the
stage is almost deserted, we may peep under the rear curtain for a
minute. Observe Sycamore Ridge in the eighties, with Hendricks its
moving spirit, controlling its politics, dominating its
business,--for John Barclay's business has moved to the City and Bob
Hendricks has become the material embodiment of the town. And the town
there on the canvas is a busy town of twenty thousand people. Just
back of that scene we find a convention spread on the canvas, a
political convention wherein Robert Hendricks is struggling for good
government and clean politics. Observe him a taciturn, forceful man,
with his hands on the machinery of his party in the state, shaping its
destinies, directing its politics, seeking no office, keeping himself
in the background, desiring only to serve, and not to advertise his
power. So more and more power comes to him, greater and wider
opportunities to serve his state. His business grows and multiplies,
and he becomes a strong man among men; always reserved, always
cautious, a man whose self-poise makes people take him for a cynic,
though his heart is full of hope and of the joy of life to the very
last. Let us lift up one more rag--one more painted rag in the
scenery of his life--and see him a reformer of national fame; see him
with an unflinching hand pull the wires that control a great national
policy of his party, and watch in that scene wherein he names a
president--even against the power and the money and the organization
of rich men, brutally rich men like John Barclay. Hendricks' thin hair
is growing gray in this scene, and his skin is no longer fresh and
white; but his eyes have a twinkle in them, and the ardour of his soul
glows in a glad countenance. And as he sits alone in his room long
after midnight while the bands are roaring and the processions
cheering and the great city is ablaze with excitement, Robert
Hendricks, turning fifty, winds his watch--the same watch that he
holds in his hand here while we pause to peek under the canvas behind
the scenes--and wonders if Molly will be glad that his side won. He
has not seen her for months, nor talked with her for years, and yet as
he sits there winding his watch after his great strategic victory in
national politics, he hopes fondly that perhaps Molly will know that
he played a clean hand and won a fair game.

Now let us crawl out from under this rubbish of the coming years, back
into Sycamore Ridge. And while the street is deserted, let us turn the
film of events forward, letting them flit by unnoticed past the
wedding of Molly Culpepper and Adrian Brownwell until we come to the
August day when the railroad came to Sycamore Ridge.

Jacob Dolan, sheriff in and for Garrison County for four years,
beginning with 1873, remembered the summer of 1875 to his dying day,
as the year when he tore his blue soldier coat, and for twenty-five
years, after the fight in which the coat was torn, Dolan never put it
on for a funeral or a state occasion, that he did not smooth out the
seam that Nellie Logan McHurdie made in mending the rent place, and
recall the exigencies of the public service which made it necessary to
tear one's clothes to keep the peace.

"You may state to the court in your own way," said the judge at the
trial of the sheriff for assault, "just how the difficulty began."

"Well, sir," answered Dolan, "there was a bit of a celebration in
town, on August 30, it being the day the railroad came in, and in
honour of the occasion I put on my regimentals, and along about--say
eleven o'clock--as the crowd began to thicken up around the bank
corner, and in front of the hardware store, I was walking along, kind
of shoving the way clear for the ladies to pass, when some one behind
me says, 'General Hendricks was an old thief, and his son is no
better,' and I turned around and clapt my eye on this gentleman here.
I'd never seen him before in my whole life, but I knew by the bold
free gay way he had with his tongue that he was from Minneola and bent
on trouble. 'Keep still,' says I, calm and dignified like, bent on
preserving the peace, as was my duty. 'I'll not,' says he. 'You will,'
says I. 'Tis a free country,' says he, coming toward me with one
shoulder wiggling. 'But not for cowards who malign the dead,' says I.
'Well, they were thieves,' says he, shaking his fist and getting more
and more into contempt of court every minute. 'You're a liar,' says I,
maintaining the dignity of my office. 'And you're a thief too,' says
he. 'A what?' says I. 'A thief,' says he. 'Whack,' says I, with my
stick across his head, upholding the dignity of the court. 'Biff,'
says he, with a brick that was handy, more and more contemptuous. 'You
dirty, mangy cur,' says I, grabbing him by the ears and pounding his
head against the wall as I spoke, hoping to get some idea of the
dignity of the court into his rebellious head. 'Whoop,' says he, and,
as he tore my coat, 'Yip yip,' says I, and may it please the court it
was shortly thereafter that the real trouble started, though I
misremember just how at this time." And as there were three "E"
Company men on the jury, they acquitted Dolan and advised the court to
assess a fine on the prosecuting witness for contributory negligence
in resisting an officer.

But the coat--the blue coat with brass buttons, with the straps of a
lieutenant on the shoulders, was mended and even in that same summer
did active service many times. For that was a busy summer for Sycamore
Ridge, and holidays came faster than the months. When the supreme
court decided the Minneola suit to enjoin the building of the
court-house, in favour of Syeamore Ridge, there was another holiday,
and men drew John Barclay around in the new hack with the top down,
and there were fireworks in the evening. For it was John Barclay's
lawsuit. Lige Bemis, who was county attorney, did not try to claim
credit for the work, and when the last acre of the great wheat crop of
the Golden Belt Wheat Company was cut, and threshed, there was a big
celebration and the elevator of the Golden Belt Wheat Company was
formally turned over to the company, and John Barclay was the hero of
another happy occasion. For the elevator, standing on a switch by the
railroad track, was his "proposition." And every one in town knew that
the railroad company had made a rate of wheat to Barclay and his
associates, so low that Minneola could not compete, even if she hauled
her wheat to another station on the road, so Minneola teams lined up
at Barclay's elevator. That autumn Minneola, without a railroad,
without a chance for the county-seat, and without a grain market,
began to fag, and during the last of September, the Mason House came
moving out over the hill road, from Minneola to Sycamore Ridge,
surrounded by a great crowd of enthusiastic men from the Ridge. Every
evening, of the two weeks in which the house was moving, people drove
out from Sycamore Ridge to see it, and Lycurgus Mason, sitting on the
back step smoking,--he could not get into the habit of using the
front steps even in his day of triumph,--was a person of considerable
importance.

Money was plentiful, and the Exchange National Bank grew with the
country. The procession of covered wagons, that had straggled and
failed the year before, began to close ranks in the spring; and in
place of "Buck" and "Ball" and "Star," and "Bright" and "Tom" and
"Jerry," who used to groan under the yoke, horses were hitched to the
wagons, and stock followed after them, and thus Garrison County was
settled, and Sycamore Ridge grew from three to five thousand people in
three years. In the spring of '75 the _Banner_ began to publish a
daily edition, and Editor Brownwell went up and down the railroad on
his pass, attending conventions and making himself a familiar figure
in the state. Times were so prosperous that the people lost interest
in the crime of '73, and General Ward had to stay in his law-office,
but he joined the teetotalers and helped to organize the Good Templars
and the state temperance society. Colonel Culpepper in his prosperity
took to fancy vests, cut extremely low, and the Culpepper women became
the nucleus of organized polite society in the Ridge.

The money that John Barclay made in that first wheat transaction was
the foundation of his fortune. For that money gave him two important
things needed in making money--confidence in himself, and prestige.
He was twenty-five years old then, and he had demonstrated to his
community thoroughly that he had courage, that he was crafty, and that
he went to his end and got results, without stopping for overnice
scruples of honour. Sycamore Ridge and Garrison County, excepting a
few men like General Ward, who were known as cranks, regarded John as
the smartest man in the county--smarter even than Lige Bemis. And the
whole community, including some of the injured farmers themselves,
considered Hendricks a sissy for his scruples, and thought Barclay a
shrewd financier for claiming all that he could get. Barclay got hold
of eight thousand acres of wheat land, in adjacent tracts, and went
ahead with his business. In August he ploughed the ground for another
crop. Also he persuaded his mother to let him build a new home on the
site of the Barclay home by the Sycamore tree under the ridge, and
when it was done that winter Mr. and Mrs. John Barclay moved out of
their rooms at the Thayer House and lived with John's mother. The
house they built cost ten thousand dollars when it was finished, and
it may still be seen as part of the great rambling structure that he
built in the nineties. John put five hundred dollars' worth of books
into the new house--sets of books, which strangely enough he forced
himself to wade through laboriously, and thus he cultivated a habit of
reading that always remained with him. In those days the books with
cracked backs in his library were Emerson, Browning, and Tennyson. And
after a hard day's work he would come home to his poets and his piano.
He thought out the whole plan of the Barclay Economy Car Door Strip
about midnight, sitting in his night clothes at the piano after
reading "Abt Vogler," and the central idea for the address on the
"Practical Transcendentalist," which he delivered at the opening of
the state university the next year, came to him one winter night after
he had tried to compose a clanging march as an air to fit Emerson's
"The Sphinx." After almost a quarter of a century that address became
the first chapter of Barclay's famous book, which created such
ribaldry in the newspapers, entitled "The Obligations of Wealth."

It was in 1879 that Barclay patented his Economy Door Strip, and put
it in his grain cars. It saved loss of grain in shipping, and Barclay,
being on terms of business intimacy with the railroad men, sold the
Economy Strip to the railroads to use on every car of grain or flour
he shipped. And Lycurgus Mason, taken from the kitchen of the Mason
House, hired a room over McHurdie's harness shop, and made the strips
there. His first day in his new shop is impressed upon his memory by
an incident that is the seed of a considerable part of this story.

He always remembers that day, because, when he got to the Thayer
House, he found John there in the buggy waiting for him, and a crowd
of men sitting around smoking cigars. In the seat by Barclay was a
cigar-box, and Lycurgus cut in, before John could speak, with, "Well,
which is it?"

And John returned, "A girl--get in; Mother Mason needs you."

Lycurgus fumbled under the box lid for a cigar as he got into the
buggy, and repeated: "Mother needs me, eh? Well, now, ain't that just
like a woman, taking a man from his work in the middle of the day?
What are you going to name her?"

"How do you like Jeanette?" asked Barclay, as he turned the horse.
"You know we can't have two Janes," he explained.

"Well," asked the elder man, tentatively, "how does mother stand on
Jeanette?"

"Mother Mason," answered Barclay, "is against it."

"All right," replied Lycurgus, "I vote aye. What does she want?" he
asked.

"Susan B.," returned Barclay.

"Susan B. Anthony?" queried the new grandfather.

"Exactly," replied the new father.

The two rode down the street in silence; as they turned into the
Barclay driveway Lycurgus chuckled, "Well--well--Susan B. Wants to
put breeches on that child before she gets her eyes open." Then he
turned on Barclay with a broad grin of fellowship, as he pinched the
young man's leg and laughed, "Say--John--honest, ain't that just
like a woman?"

And so Jeanette Thatcher Barclay came into this world, and what with
her Grandmother Barclay uncovering her to look at the Thatcher nose,
and her Grandmother Mason taking her to the attic so that she could go
upstairs before she went down, that she might never come down in the
world, and what with her Grandfather Mason rubbing her almost raw with
his fuzzy beard before the women could scream at him, and what with
her father trying to jostle her on his knee, and what with all the
different things Mrs. Ward, the mother of six, would have done to her,
and all the things Mrs. Culpepper, mother of three, would have done to
her, and Mrs. McHurdie, mother of none, prevented the others from
doing, Jeanette had rather an exciting birthday. And Jeanette Barclay
as a young woman often looks at the scrap-book with its crinkly leaves
and reads this item from the _Daily Banner_: "The angels visited our
prosperous city again last Thursday, June 12, and left a little one
named Jeanette at the home of our honoured townsman, John Barclay.
Mother and child progressing nicely." But under this item is a long
poem clipped from a paper printed a week later,--Jeanette has counted
the stanzas many times and knows there are seventeen, and each one
ends with "when the angels brought Jeanette." Her father used to read
the verses to her to tease her when she was in her teens, and once
when she was in her twenties, and Jeanette had the lonely poet out to
dinner one Sunday, she sat with him on the sofa in the library,
looking at the old scrap-book. Their eyes fell upon the verses about
the angels bringing Jeanette, and the girl noticed the old man mumming
it over and smiling.

"Tell me, Uncle Watts," she asked, "why did you make such a long poem
about such a short girl?"

The poet ran his fingers through his rough gray beard, and went on
droning off the lines, and grinning as he read. When he had finished,
he took her pretty hand in his gnarly, bony one and patted the white
firm flesh tenderly as he peered back through the years. "U-h-m, that
was years and years ago, Jeanette--years and years ago, and Nellie
had just bought me my rhyming dictionary. It was the first time I had
a chance to use it." The lyrical artist drummed with his fingers on
the mahogany arm of the sofa. "My goodness, child--what a long column
there was of words rhyming with 'ette.'" He laughed to himself as he
mused: "You know, my dear, I had to let 'brevet' and 'fret' and
'roulette' go, because I couldn't think of anything to say about them.
You don't know how that worries a poet." He looked at the verses in
the book before him and then shook his head sadly: "I was young
then--it seems strange to think I could write that. Youth, youth," he
sighed as he patted the fresh young hand beside him, "it is not by
chance you rhyme with truth."

His eyes glistened, and the girl put her cheek against his and
squeezed the thin, trembling hand as she cried, "Oh, Uncle Watts,
Uncle Watts, you're a dear--a regular dear!"

"In his latter days," writes Colonel Culpepper, in the second edition
of the Biography, "those subterranean fires of life that flowed so
fervently in his youth and manhood smouldered, and he did not write
often. But on occasion the flames would rise and burn for a moment
with their old-time ardour. The poem 'After Glow' was penned one night
just following a visit with a young woman, Jeanette, only daughter of
Honourable and Mrs. John Barclay, whose birth is celebrated elsewhere
in this volume under the title 'When the Angels brought Jeanette.' The
day after the poem 'After Glow' was composed I was sitting in the
harness shop with the poet when the conversation turned upon the
compensations of age. I said: 'Sir, do you not think that one of our
compensations is that found in the freedom and the rare intimacy with
which we are treated by the young women? They no longer seem to fear
us. Is it not sweet?' I asked. Our hero turned from his bench with a
smile and a deprecating gesture as he replied softly, 'Ah,
Colonel--that's just it; that's just the trouble.' And then he took
from a box near by this poem, 'The After Glow,' and read it to me. And
I knew the meaning of the line--

"'Oh, drowsy blood that tosses in its sleep.'

"And so we fell to talking of other days. And until the twilight came
we sat together, dreaming of faded moons."




CHAPTER XVI


Colonel Martin Culpepper was standing with, one foot on the window
ledge in the office of Philemon R. Ward one bright spring morning
watching the procession of humanity file into the post-office and out
into the street upon the regular business of life. Mrs. Watts
McHurdie, a bride of five years and obviously proud of it, hurried by,
and Mrs. John Barclay drove down the street in her phaeton; Oscar
Fernald, with a pencil behind his ear, came out of his office licking
an envelope and loped into the post-office and out like a dog looking
for his bone; and then a lank figure sauntered down the street,
stopping here and there to talk with a passerby, stepping into a
stairway to light a cigar, and betimes leaning languidly against an
awning post in the sun and overhauling farmers passing down Main
Street in their wagons.

"He's certainly a gallus-looking slink," ejaculated the colonel.

The general, writing at his desk, asked, "Who?"

"Our old friend and comrade in arms, Lige Bemis." At the blank look on
the general's face the colonel shook his head wearily. "Don't know
what a gallus-looking slink is, do you? General, the more I live with
you damn Yankees and fight for your flag and die for your country,
sir, the more astonished I am at your limited and provincial knowledge
of the United States language. Here you are, a Harvard graduate, with
the Harvard pickle dripping off your ears, confessing such ignorance
of your mother-tongue. General, a gallus-looking slink is four hoss
thieves, three revenue officers, a tin pedler, and a sheep-killing
dog, all rolled into one man. And as I before remarked, our beloved
comrade, Lige Bemis, is certainly a gallus-looking slink."

"Far be it from me," continued the colonel, "residing as I may say in
a rather open and somewhat exposed domicile--a glass house in
fact--to throw stones at Elijah Westlake Bemis,--far be it." The
colonel patted himself heroically on the stomach and laughed.
"Doubtless, while I haven't been a professional horse thief, nor a
cattle rustler, still, probably, if the truth was known, I've done a
number of things equally distasteful--I was going to say
obnoxious--in the sight of Mr. Bemis, so we'll let that pass." The
colonel stretched his suspenders out and let them flap against the
plaits of his immaculate shirt. "But I will say, General, that as I
see it, it will be a heap handier for me to explain to St. Peter at
the gate the things I've done than if he'd ask me about Lige's
record."

The general scratched along, without answering, and the colonel looked
meditatively into the street; then he began to smile, and the smile
glowed into a beam that bespread his countenance and sank into a mood
that set his vest to shaking "like a bowl full of jelly." "I was just
thinking," he said to nobody in particular, "that if Lige was jumped out
of his grave right quick by Gabriel and hauled up before St. Peter and
asked to justify my record, he'd have some trouble too--considerable
difficulty, I may say. I reckon it's all a matter of having to live with
your sins till you get a good excuse thought up."

The general pushed aside his work impatiently and tilted back in his
chair. "Come, Martin Culpepper, come, come! That won't do. You know
better than that. What's the use of your pretending to be as bad as
Lige Bemis? You know better and I know better and the whole town knows
better. He's little, and he's mean, and snooping, and crooked as a
dog's hind leg. Why, he was in here yesterday--actually in here to
see me. Yes, sir--what do you think of that? Wants to be state
senator."

"So I hear," smiled the colonel.

"Well," continued the general, "he came in here yesterday as pious as
a deacon, and he said that his friends were insisting on his running
because his enemies were bringing up that 'old trouble' on him. He
calls his horse stealing and cattle rustling 'that old trouble.'
Honestly, Martin, you'd think he was being persecuted. It was all I
could do to keep from sympathizing with him. He said he couldn't
afford to retreat under fire, and then he told me how he had been
trying to be a better man, and win the respect of the people--and I
couldn't stand it any longer, and I rose up and shook my fist in his
face and said: 'Lige Bemis, you disreputable, horse-stealing cow
thief, what right have you to ask my help? What right have you got to
run for state senator, anyway?' And, Martin, the brazen whelp reared
back and looked me squarely in the eye and answered without blinking,
'Because, Phil Ward, I want the job.' What do you think of that for
brass?"

The colonel slapped his campaign hat on his leg and laughed. There was
always, even to the last, something feminine in Martin Culpepper's
face when he laughed--a kind of alternating personality of the other
sex seemed to tiptoe up to his consciousness and peek out of his kind
eyes. As he laughed with Ward the colonel spoke: "Criminy, but that's
like him. He's over there talking to Gabe Carnine on the corner now. I
know what he's saying. He has only one speech, and he gets it off to
all of us. He's got his cigar chawed down to a rag, stuck in one
corner of his mouth, and he's saying, 'Gabe--this is the fight of my
life. This is the last time I'm going to ask my friends for help.'
General, I've heard that now, off and on, first and last, from old
Lige at every city, state, county, and lodge election since the war
closed, and I can see how Gabe is twisting and wiggling trying to get
away from it. He's heard it too. Now Lige is saying: 'Gabe, I ain't
going to lie to you; you know me, and you know I've made
mistakes--but they were errors of judgment, and I want to get a
chance to live 'em down. I want to show the young men of this state
that Lige Bemis of the Red Legs is a man--even if he was wild as a
young fellow; it'll prove that a man can rise.' Poor old Gabe--Lige
has got him by the coat front, now. That's the third degree. When he
gets him by the neck and begins to whisper, he's giving him the work
in the uniform rank. He's saying: 'Gabe, I've got to have you with me.
I can't win without you, and I would rather lose than win with you
against me. You stand for all that's upright in this county, and if
you'll come to my aid, I can win.' Here, General--look--Lige's got
him by the neck and the hand. Now for the password right from the
grand lodge, 'Gabe, you'd make a fine state treasurer--I can land it
for you. Make me state senator, and with my state acquaintance, added
to the prestige of this office, I can make a deal that will land you.'
Oh, I know his whole speech," laughed the colonel. "Bob Hendricks is
to be secretary of state, John Barclay is to be governor, Oscar
Fernald is to be state auditor, and the boys say that Lycurgus Mason
has the refusal of warden of the Penitentiary." The colonel chuckled
as he added: "So far as the boys have been able to learn, Lige still
has United States senator, president, and five places in the cabinet
to go on, but Minneola township returns ain't all in yet, and they may
change the result. By the way, General, what did you get?"

The general flushed and replied, "Well, to be perfectly honest with
you, Mart--he did promise me to vote for the dram-shop law."

And in the convention that summer Lige Bemis strode with his ragged
cigar sticking from the corner of his mouth, with his black eyes
blazing, and his shock of black hair on end, begging, bulldozing, and
buying delegates to vote for him. He had the river wards behind him to
a man, and he had the upland townships where the farmers needed a
second name on their notes at the bank; and in the gentleman's
ward--the silk-stocking ward--he had Gabriel Carnine, chairman of
the first ward delegation, casting the solid vote of that ward for
Bemis ballot after ballot. And when Bemis got Minneola township for
fifty dollars,--and everybody in the convention knew it,--he was
declared the nominee of the party with a whoop.

But behind Bemis was the sinister figure of young John Barclay working
for his Elevator Company. He needed Bemis in politics, and Bemis
needed Barclay in business. And there the alliance between Barclay and
Bemis was cemented, to last for a quarter of a century. Barclay and
Bemis went into the campaign together and asked the people to rally to
the support of the party that had put down the rebellion, that had
freed four million slaves, and had put the names of Lincoln and of
Grant and Garfield as stars in the world's firmament of heroes. And
the people of Garrison County responded, and State Senator Elijah
Westlake Bemis did for Barclay in the legislature the things that
Barclay would have preferred not to do for himself, and the Golden
Belt Elevator Company throve and waxed fat. And Lige Bemis, its
attorney, put himself in the way of becoming a "general counsel," with
his name on an opaque glass door. For as Barclay rose in the world, he
found the need of Bemis more and more pressing every year. In politics
the favours a man does for others are his capital, and Barclay's
deposit grew large. He was forever helping some one. His standing with
the powers in the state was good. He was a local railroad attorney,
and knew the men who had passes to give, and who were responsible for
the direction which legislation took during the session. Barclay saw
that they put Bemis on the judiciary committee, and by manipulating
the judiciary committee he controlled a dozen votes through Bemis. He
changed a railroad assessment law, secured the passage of a law
permitting his Elevator Company to cheat the farmers by falsely
grading their wheat, and prevented the passage of half a dozen laws
restricting the powers of railroads. So at the close of the
legislative session his name appeared under a wood-cut picture in the
_Commonwealth_ newspaper, and in the article thereunto appended
Barclay was referred to as one of the "money kings of our young
state." That summer he turned his wheat into his elevator early and at
a low price, and borrowed money on it, and bought five new elevators
and strained his credit to the limit, and before the fall closed he
had ten more, and controlled the wheat in twenty counties. Strangers
riding through the state on the Corn Belt Railroad saw the words, "The
Golden Belt Elevator Company" on elevators all along the line. But few
people knew then that the "Company" had become a partnership between
John Barclay of Sycamore Ridge and less than half a dozen railroad
men, with Barclay owning seventy-five per cent of the partnership and
with State Senator Bemis the attorney for the company.

That year the railroad officials who were making money out of the
Golden Belt Elevator Company were obliging, and Barclay made a
contract with them to ship all grain from the Golden Belt Company's
elevators in cars equipped with the Barclay Economy Rubber Strip, and
he sold these strips to the railroads for four dollars apiece and put
them on at the elevators. He shipped ten thousand cars that year, and
Lycurgus Mason hired two men to help him in the strip factory. And
John Barclay, in addition to the regular rebate, made forty thousand
dollars that he did not have to divide. The next year he leased three
large mills and took over a score of elevators and paid Lycurgus
twenty dollars a week, and Lycurgus deposited money in the bank in his
own name for the first time in his life.

As the century clanged noisily into its busy eighties, Adrian P.
Brownwell creaked stiffly into his forties. And while all the world
about him was growing rich,--or thought it was, which is the same
thing,--Brownwell seemed to be struggling to keep barely even with
the score of life. The _Banner_ of course ran as a daily, but it was a
miserable, half-starved little sheet, badly printed, and edited, as
the printers used to say, with a pitchfork. It looked shiftless and
dirty-faced long before Brownwell began to look seedy. Editor
Brownwell was forever going on excursions--editorial excursions,
land-buyers' excursions, corn trains, fruit trains, trade trains,
political junkets, tours of inspection of new towns and new fields,
and for consideration he was forever writing grandiloquent accounts of
his adventures home to the _Banner_. But from the very first he
ostentatiously left Molly, his wife, at home. "The place for a woman,"
said Brownwell to the assembled company on the Barclay veranda one
evening, when Jane had asked him why he did not take Molly to the
opening of the new hotel at Garden City, "the place for woman is in
the sacred precincts of home, 'far from the madding crowd's ignoble
throng.' The madame and I," with a flourish of his cane, "came to that
agreement early, eh, my dear, eh?" he asked, poking her masterfully
with his cane. And Molly Brownwell, wistful-eyed and fading, smiled
and assented, and the incident passed as dozens of other incidents
passed in the Ridge, which made the women wish they had Adrian
Brownwell, to handle for just one day. But the angels in that
department of heaven where the marriages are made are exceedingly
careful not to give to that particular kind of women the Adrian
Brownwell kind of men, so the experiment which every one on earth for
thousands of years has longed to witness, still remains a theory, and
Adrian Brownwell traipsed up and down the earth, in his lavender
gloves, his long coat and mouse-coloured trousers, his high hat, with
his twirling cane, and the everlasting red carnation in his
buttonhole. His absence made it necessary for Molly Brownwell to leave
the sacred precincts of the home many and many a Saturday afternoon,
to go over the books at the _Banner_ office, make out bills, take them
out, and collect the money due upon them and pay off the printers who
got out the paper. But Adrian Brownwell ostentatiously ignored such
services and kept up the fiction about the sacred precincts, and often
wrote scorching editorials about the "encroachment of women" and grew
indignant editorially at the growth of sentiment for woman's suffrage.
On one occasion he left on the copy-hook a fervid appeal for women to
repulse the commercialism which "was sullying the fair rose of
womanhood," and taking "from woman the rare perfume of her chiefest
charm," and then he went away on a ten days' journey, and the foreman
of the _Banner_ had to ask Mrs. Brownwell to collect enough money from
the sheriff and a delinquent livery-stable keeper to pay the freight
charges on the paper stock needed for that week's issue of the paper.

The town came to know these things, and so when Brownwell, who, since
his marriage, had taken up his abode at the Culpeppers', hinted at his
"extravagant family," the town refused to take him seriously. And the
strutting, pompous little man, who referred grandly to "my wife," and
then to "the madame," and finally to "my landlady," in a rather
elaborate attempt at jocularity, laughed alone at his merriment along
this line, and never knew that no one cared for his humour.

So in his early forties Editor Brownwell dried up and grew yellow and
began to dye his mustaches and his eyebrows, and to devote much time
to considering his own importance. "Throw it out," said Brownwell to
the foreman, "not a line of it shall go!" He had just come home from a
trip and had happened to glance over the proof of the article
describing the laying of the corner-stone of Ward University.

"But that's the only thing that happened in town this week, and Mrs.
Brownwell wrote it herself."

"Cut it out, I say," insisted Brownwell, and then threw back his
shoulders and marched to his desk, snapping his eyes, and
demonstrating to the printers that he was a man of consequence. "I'll
teach 'em," he roared. "I'll teach 'em to make up their committees and
leave me out."

He raged about the office, and finally wrote the name of Philemon R.
Ward in large letters on the office blacklist hanging above his desk.
This list contained the names which under no circumstances were to
appear in the paper. But it was a flexible list. The next day John
Barclay, who desired to have his speech on the laying of the
corner-stone printed in full, gave Brownwell twenty dollars, and a
most glowing account of the event in question appeared in the
_Banner_, and eloquence staggered under the burden of praise which
Brownwell's language loaded upon the shoulders of General Ward.

It is now nearly a generation since that corner-stone was laid. Boys and
girls who then were children have children in the university, and its
alumni include a brigadier in the army, a poet, a preacher of national
renown, two college presidents, an authority upon the dynamics of living
matter, and two men who died in the American mission at Foo Chow during
the uprising in 1900. When General Ward was running for President of the
United States on one of the various seceding branches of the prohibition
party, while Jeanette Barclay was a little girl, he found the money for
it; two maiden great-aunts on his mother's side of the family had half a
million dollars to leave to something, and the general got it. They
willed it to him to hold in trust during his lifetime, but the day after
the check came for it, he had transferred the money to a university
fund, and had borrowed fifty dollars of Bob Hendricks to clean up his
grocery bills and tide him over until his pension came. But he was a
practical old fox. He announced that he would give the money to a
college only if the town would give a similar sum, and what with John
Barclay's hundred-thousand-dollar donation, and Bob Hendricks' ten
thousand, and what with the subscription paper carried around by Colonel
Culpepper, who proudly headed it with five thousand dollars, and after
the figure wrote in red ink "in real estate," much to the town's
merriment, and what with public meetings and exhortations in the
churches, and what with voting one hundred thousand dollars in bonds by
Garrison County for the privilege of sending students to the college
without tuition, the amount was raised; and as the procession wheeled
out of Main Street to attend the ceremonies incident to laying the
corner-stone that beautiful October day, it is doubtful which was the
prouder man--Martin Culpepper, the master of ceremonies, in his plumed
hat, flashing sword, and red sash, or General Philemon Ward, who for the
first time in a dozen years heard the crowd cheer his name when the
governor in his speech pointed at the general's picture--his campaign
picture that had been hooted with derision and spattered with filth on
so many different occasions in the town. The governor's remarks were of
course perfunctory; he devoted five or ten minutes to the praise of
General Ward, of Sycamore Ridge, of John Barclay, and of education in
general, and then made his regular speech that he used for college
commencements, for addresses of welcome to church conferences, synods,
and assemblies, and for conclaves of the grand lodge. General Ward spoke
poorly, which was to his credit, considering the occasion, and Watts
McHurdie's poem got entangled with Juno and Hermes and Minerva and a
number of scandalous heathen gods,--who were no friends of Watts,--and
the crowd tired before he finished the second canto. But many
discriminating persons think that John Barclay's address, "The Time of
True Romance," was the best thing he ever wrote. It may be found in his
book as Chapter XI. "The Goths," he said, "came out of the woods, pulled
the beards of the senators, destroyed the Roman state, murdered and
pillaged the Roman people, and left the world the Gothic arch; the
Vikings came over the sea, roaring their sagas of rapine and slaughter;
the conquerors came to Europe with spear and sword and torch and left
the outlines of the map, the boundaries of states. Luther married his
nun, and set Christendom to fighting over it for a hundred years, but he
left a free conscience. Cromwell thrust his pikes into the noble heads
of England, snapped his fingers at law, and left civil liberty.
Organized murder reached its sublimity in the war that Lincoln waged,
and in that murdering and pillage true romance came to mankind in its
flower. Murder for the moment in these piping times has become impolite.
But true romance is here. Our heroes rob and plunder, and build cities,
and swing gayly around the curves of the railroads they have stolen, and
swagger through the cities they have levied upon the people to build. Do
we care to-day whether Charlemagne murdered his enemies with a sword or
an axe; do we ask if King Arthur used painless assassination or burned
his foes at the stake? Who cares to know that Caesar was a rake, and that
William the Conqueror was a robber? They did their work and did it well,
and are snugly sitting on their monuments where no moralist can reach
them. So those searching for true romance to-day, who regard the
decalogue as mere persiflage, and the moral code as a thing of archaic
interest, will get their day's work done and strut into posterity in
bronze and marble. They will cheat and rob and oppress and grind the
faces off the poor, and do their work and follow their visions, and live
the romance in their hearts. To-morrow we will take their work,
disinfect it, and dedicate it to God's uses."

There was more of it--four thousand words more, to be exact, and when
General Ward went home that night he prayed his Unitarian God to
forgive John Barclay for his blasphemy. And for years the general
shuddered when his memory brought back the picture of the little man,
with his hard tanned face, his glaring green eyes, his brazen voice
trumpeting the doctrine of materialism to the people.

"John," said the general, the next day, as he sat in the mill, going
over the plans of the college buildings with Barclay, who was chairman
of the board of directors, "John, why are you so crass, so gross a
materialist? You have enough money--why don't you stop getting it and
do something with it worth while?"

"Because, General, I'm not making money--that's only an incident of
my day's work. I'm organizing the grain industry of this country as it
is organized in no other country on this planet." Barclay rose as he
spoke and began limping the length of the room. It was his habit to
walk when he talked, and he knew the general had come to catechize
him.

"Yes, but then, John--what then?"

"What then?" repeated Barclay, with his hands in his pockets and his
eyes on the floor. "Coffee, maybe--perhaps sugar, or tobacco. Or why
not the whole food supply of the people--let me have meat and sugar
where I will have flour and grain, and in ten years no man in America
can open his grocery store in the morning until he has asked John
Barclay for the key." He snapped his eyes good-naturedly at the
general, challenging the man's approval.

The general smiled and replied: "No, John, you'll get the social bug
and go around in knee-breeches, riding a horse after a scared fox, or
keeping a lot of hussies on a yacht. They all get that way sooner or
later."

Barclay leaned over Ward, stuck out his hard jaw and growled: "Well, I
won't. I'm going to be a tourist-sleeper millionaire. I stick to
Sycamore Ridge; Jeanette goes to the public schools; Jane buys her
clothes at Bob Hendricks' or Dorman's, or at the most of Marshall
Field in Chicago; I go fishing down at Minneola when I want rest."
Ward started to protest, but Barclay headed him off. "I made a million
last year. What did I do with it? See any yachts on the Sycamore?
Observe any understudies for Jane around the place? Have you heard of
any villas for the Barclays in Newport? No--no, you haven't, but you
may like to know that I have control of a railroad that handles more
wheat than any other hundred miles in the world, and it is the key to
the lake situation. And I've put the price of my Economy Door Strip up
to ten dollars, and they don't dare refuse it. What's more, I'm going
to hire a high-priced New York sculptor to make a monument for old
Henry Schnitzler, who fell at Wilson's Creek, and put it in the
cemetery. But I am giving none of my hard-earned cash to cooks and
florists and chorus ladies. So if I want to steal a mill or so every
season, and gut a railroad, I'm going to do it, but no one can rise up
and say I am squandering my substance on riotous living."

Barclay shook his head as he spoke and gesticulated with his hands,
and the general, seeing that he could not get the younger man to talk
of serious things, brought out the plans for the college buildings,
and the men fell to the work in hand with a will.

Barclay's spirit was the spirit of his times--growing out of a
condition which, as Barclay said in his speech, was like Emersonian
optimism set to Wagnerian music. In Sycamore Ridge factories rose in
the bottoms near the creek, and shop hands appeared on the streets at
night; new people invaded Lincoln Avenue, and the Culpeppers, to
maintain their social supremacy, had to hire a coloured man to open
the door for an afternoon party, and for an evening reception it took
two, one for the door and one to stand at the top of the stairs.

Those were the palmy days of the colonel's life. Money came easily,
and went easily. The Culpepper Mortgage Company employed fifty men,
who handled money all over the West, and one of the coloured men who
opened the door at the annual social affair at the Culpepper home also
took care of the horses, and drove the colonel down to his office in
the Barclay block every morning, and drove him home in the evening.

"Well," said Watts McHurdie to Gabriel Carnine as the two walked down
the hill into the business section of the town, a few days after the
corner-stone of Ward College was laid, "old Phil has got his college
started and Mart's got his church a-going."

"You mean the East End Mission? Yes, and I don't know which, of 'em is
happier over his work," replied Carnine.

"Well, Mart certainly is proud; he's been too busy to loaf in the shop
for six months," said McHurdie.

Carnine smiled, and stroked his chestnut beard reflectively before he
added: "Probably that's why he hasn't been in to renew his last two
notes. But I guess he does a lot of good to the poor people over there
along the river. Though I shouldn't wonder if he was encouraging them
to be paupers." Carnine paused a moment and then added, "Good old
Mart--he's got a heart just like a woman's."

They were passing the court-house square, and Bailiff Jacob Dolan,
with a fist full of legal papers, caught step with Carnine and
McHurdie. "We were talking about Mart Culpepper and his Mission
Church," said Carnine. "Don't you suppose, Jake, that Mart, by
circulating down there with his basket so much, encourages the people
to be shiftless? We were just wondering."

"Oh, you were, were you?" snapped Dolan. "There you go, Gabe Carnine;
since you've moved to town and got to be president of a bank, you're
mighty damn scared about making paupers. When Christ told the young
man to sell his goods and give them to the poor, He didn't tell him to
be careful about making them paupers. And Mr. Gabriel Carnine,
Esquire, having the aroma of one large morning's drink on my breath
emboldens me to say, that if you rich men will do your part in giving,
the Lord will manage to keep His side of the traces from scraping on
the wheel. And if I had one more good nip, I'd say, which Heaven
forbid, that you fellows are asking more of the Lord by expecting Him
to save your shrivelled selfish little souls from hell-fire because of
your squeeze-penny charities, than you would be asking by expecting
Him to keep the poor from becoming paupers by the dribs you give them.
And if Mart Culpepper can give his time and his money every day
helping them poor devils down by the track, niggers and whites, good
and bad, male and female, I guess the Lord will put in lick for lick
with Mart and see that his helping doesn't hurt them." Dolan shook his
head at the banker, and then smiled at him good-naturedly as he
finished, "Put that in your knapsack, you son of a gun, and chew on it
till I see you again." Whereupon he turned a corner and went his way.

Carnine laughed rather unnaturally and said to McHurdie, "That's why
he's never got on like the other boys. Whiskey's a bad partner."

McHurdie agreed, and went chuckling to his work, when Carnine turned
into the bank. Later in the forenoon Bailiff Dolan came in grinning,
and took a seat by the stove in McHurdie's shop and said as he reached
into the waste-basket for a scrap of harness leather, and began
whittling it, "What did Gabe say when I left you this morning?" and
without waiting for a reply, went on, "I've thought for some time Gabe
needed a little something for what ails him, and I gave it to him, out
of the goodness of my heart."

McHurdie looked at Dolan over his glasses and replied, "Speech is
silver, but silence is golden."

"The same," answered Dolan, "the same it is, and by the same authority
apples of gold in pictures of silver is a word fitly spoken to a man
like Gabe Gamine." He whittled for a few minutes while the harness
maker worked, and then sticking his pocket-knife into the chair
between his legs, said: "But what I came in to tell you was about Lige
Bemis; did you know he's in town? Well, he is. Johnnie Barclay wired
him to leave the dump up in the City and come down here, and what for,
do you think? 'Tis this. The council was going to change the name of
Ellen Avenue out by the college to Garfield, and because it was named
for that little girl of Mart's that died right after the war, don't
you think Johnnie's out raising hell about it, and brought Lige down
here to beat the game. He'll be spending a lot of money if he has to.
Now you wouldn't think he'd do that for old Mart, would you? He's too
many for me--that Johnny boy is. I can't make him out." The Irishman
played with his knife, sticking it in the chair and pulling it out for
a while, and then continued: "Oh, yes, what I was going to tell you
was the little spat me and Lige had over Johnnie. Lige was in my room
in the court-house waiting to see a man in the court, and was bragging
to me about how smart John was, and says Lige, 'He's found some earth
over in Missouri--yellow clay,' he says, 'that's just as good as
oatmeal, and he ships it all over the country to his oatmeal mills and
mixes it with the real stuff and sells it.' I says: 'He does, does he?
Sells mud mixed with oatmeal?' and Lige says, 'Yes, sir, he's got a
whole mountain of it, and he's getting ten dollars a ton net for it,
which is better than a gold mine.' 'And you call that smart?' says I.
'Yes,' says he, 'yes, sir, that's commercial instinct; it's perfectly
clean mud, and our chemist says it won't harm any one,' says he. 'And
him president of the Golden Belt Elevator Co.?' says I. 'He is,' says
Lige. 'And don't need the money at all?' says I. 'Not a penny of it,'
says he. 'Well,' says I, 'Lige Bemis,' says I, 'when Johnnie gets to
hell,--and he'll get there as sure as it doesn't freeze over,' says
I, 'may the devil put him under that mountain of mud and keep his
railroad running night and day dumping more mud on while he eats his
way out as a penance,' says I. And you orto heard 'em laugh." Dolan
went on cutting curly-cues from the leather, and McHurdie kept on
sewing at his bench. "It is a queer world--a queer world; and that
Johnnie Barclay is a queer duck. Bringing Lige Bemis clear down here
to help old Mart out of a little trouble there ain't a dollar in; and
then turning around and feeding the American people a mountain of mud.
Giving the town a park with his mother's name on it, and selling
little tin strips for ten dollars apiece to pay for it. He's a queer
duck. I'll bet it will keep the recording angel busy keeping books on
Johnnie Barclay."

"Oh, well, Jake," replied McHurdie, after a silence, "maybe the angels
will just drop a tear and wipe much of the evil off."

"Maybe so, Watts McHurdie, maybe so," returned Dolan, "but there won't
be a dry eye in the house, as the papers say, if they keep up with
him." And after delivering himself of this, Dolan rose and yawned, and
went out of the shop singing an old tune which recited the fact that
he had "a job to do down in the boulevard."

Looking over the years that have passed since John Barclay and
Sycamore Ridge were coming out of raw adolescence into maturity, one
sees that there was a miracle of change in them both, but where it was
and just how it came, one may not say. The town had no special
advantages. It might have been one of a thousand dreary brown
unpainted villages that dot the wind-swept plain to-day, instead of
the bright, prosperous, elm-shaded town that it is. John Barclay in
those days of his early thirties might have become a penny-pinching
dull-witted "prominent citizen" of the Ridge, with no wider sphere of
influence than the Sycamore Valley, or at most the Corn Belt Railroad.
But he and the town grew, and whether it was destiny that guided them,
or whether they made their own destiny, one cannot say. The town
seemed to be struggling and fighting its way to supremacy in the
Sycamore Valley; and the colonel and the general and Watts McHurdie,
sitting in the harness shop a score of years after those days of the
seventies, used to try to remember some episode or event that would
tell them how John fought his way up. But they could not do so. It was
a fight in his soul. Every time his hand reached out to steal a mill
or crush an opponent with the weapon of his secret railroad rebates,
something caught his hand and held it for a moment, and he had to
fight his way free. At first he had to learn to hate the man he was
about to ruin, and to pretend that he thought the man was about to
ruin him. Then he could justify himself in his greedy game. But at
last he worked almost merrily. He came to enjoy the combat for its own
sake. And sometimes he would play with a victim cat-wise, and after a
victory in which the mouse fought well, John would lick his chops with
some satisfaction at his business prowess. Mill after mill along the
valley and through the West came under his control. And his skin grew
leathery, and the brass lustre in his eyes grew hard and metallic.
When he knew that he was the richest man in Garrison County, he saw
that there were richer men in the state, and in after years when he
was the richest man in the state, and in the Missouri Valley, the rich
men in other states moved him by their wealth to work harder. But
before he was thirty, his laugh had become a cackle, and Colonel
Martin Culpepper, who would saunter along when Barclay would limp by
on Main Street, would call out after him, "Slow down, Johnnie, slow
down, boy, or you'll bust a biler." And then the colonel would pause
and gaze benignly after the limping figure bobbing along in the next
block, and if there was a bystander to address, the colonel would say,
"For a flat-wheel he does certainly make good time." And then if the
bystander looked worth the while, the colonel, in seven cases out of
ten, would pull out a subscription paper for some new church building,
or for some charitable purpose, and proceed to solicit the needed
funds.




BOOK II

BEING NO CHAPTER AT ALL, BUT AN INTERLUDE FOR THE ORCHESTRA


And so the years slipped by--monotonous years they seem now, so far
as this story goes. Because little happened worth the telling; for
growth is so still and so dull and so undramatic that it escapes
interest and climax; yet it is all there is in life. For the roots of
events in the ground of the past are like the crowded moments of our
passing lives that are recorded only in our under-consciousnesses, to
rise in other years in character formed, in traits established, in
events fructified. And in the years when the evil days came not, John
Barclay's tragedy was stirring in the soil of his soul.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the management, let us
thank you for your kind attention, during the tedious act which has
closed. We have done our best to please you with the puppets and have
cracked their heads together in fine fashion, and they have danced and
cried and crackled, while we pulled the strings as our mummers
mumbled. But now they must have new clothes on. Time, the great
costumer, must change their make-up. So we will fold down the curtain.
John Barclay, a Gentleman, must be painted yellow with gold. Philemon
Ward, a Patriot, must be sprinkled with gray. Martin Culpepper's Large
White Plumes must be towsled. Watts McHurdie, a Poet, must be bent a
little at the hips and shoulders. Adrian Brownwell, a Gallant, must
creak as he struts. Neal Dow Ward, an Infant, must put on long
trousers. E. W. Bemis, a Lawyer, must be dignified; Jacob Dolan, an
Irishman and a Soldier, must grow unkempt and frowsy. Robert
Hendricks, Fellow Fine, must have his blond hair rubbed off at the
temples, and his face marked with maturity. Lycurgus Mason, a Woman
Tamer, must get used to wearing white shirts. Gabriel Carnine, a Money
Changer, must feel his importance; and Oscar Fernald, a Tavern Keeper,
must be hobbled by the years. All but the shades must be refurbished.
General Hendricks and Elmer, his son, must fade farther into the mists
of the past, while Henry Schnitzler settles comfortably down in
storied urn and animated bust.

There they hang together on the line, these basswood folk, and beside
them wave their womankind. These also must be repaired and refitted
throughout, as Oscar Fernald's letter-heads used to say of the Thayer
House. Jane Barclay, Wife of John, must have the "star light, star
bright" wiped out of her eyes. Mary Barclay, Mother of the Same, must
have her limbs trimmed gaunt, and her face chiselled strong and
indomitable. Jeanette Barclay, a Toddler, must grow into dresses.
Molly Culpepper, a Dear, must have her heart taken out, and her face
show the shock of the operation. Nellie Logan, a poet's Wife, must
join all the lodges in the Ridge to help her husband in politics.
Trixie Lee, little Beatrix Lee, daughter of J. Lord and Lady Lee, must
have her childish face scarred and her eyes glazed. Mrs. Hally Bemis,
a Prodigal, must be swathed in silk. Elizabeth Cady Stanton Ward and
all her sisters must be put in the simple garb of school-teachers.
Miss Hendricks, a Mouse, must hide in the dusky places; and Ellen
Culpepper, a Memory, must come to life.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, while we have been diverting you, Time
has been at work on the little people of the passing show, and now
before we draw back the curtain to let them caper across your hearts,
let us again thank you one and all for your courtesy in staying, and
hope that what you see and hear may make you wiser and kinder and
braver; for this is a moral entertainment, good people, planned to
show you that yesterday makes to-day and they both make to-morrow, and
so the world spins round the sun.




CHAPTER XVII


The rumble of the wheels in the great stone mill across the Sycamore
and the roar of the waters over the dam seem to have been in Jeanette
Barclay's ears from the day of her birth; for she was but a baby when
the stone mill rose where the little red mill had stood, and beside
the stone mill there had grown up the long stone factory wherein
Lycurgus Mason was a man of consequence. As the trains whirled by
strangers could see the signs in mammoth letters, "The Golden Belt
Mills" on the larger building and on the smaller, "The Barclay Economy
Door Strip Factory." Standing on the stone steps of her father's house
the child could read these signs clear across the mill-pond, and from
these signs she learned her letters. For her father had more pride in
that one mill on the Sycamore than in the scores of other mills that
he controlled. And even in after years, when he controlled mills all
over the West, and owned railroads upon which to take his flour to the
sea, and ships in which to carry his flour all over the world, the
Golden Belt Mill at Sycamore Ridge was his chief pride. The rumble of
the wheels and the hoarse voice of the dam that seemed to Jeanette
like the call of the sea, were so sweet to her father's ears that when
he wearied of the work of the National Provisions Company, with its
two floors of busy offices in the Corn Exchange Building in the great
city, he would come home to Sycamore Ridge, and go to his private
office in the mill. The child remembers what seemed like endless days,
but what in truth were only a few hours in a few days in a few years,
when Daddy Barclay carried her on his shoulders across the bridge and
sat her down barefooted and bareheaded to play upon the dam, while he
in his old clothes prodded among the great wheels near by or sat
beside her telling her where he caught this fish or that fish or a
turtle or a water moccasin when he was a little boy. At low water, she
remembers that he sometimes let her wade in the clear stream, while he
sat in his office near by watching her from the window. That was when
she was only four years old, and she always had the strangest memory
of a playfellow on the dam, a big girl, who fluttered in and out of
the shadows on the stones. Jeanette talked with her, but no one else
could see her, and once the big girl, who could not talk herself,
stamped her feet and beckoned Jeanette to come away from a rock on
which she was playing, and her father, looking out of a window, turned
white when he saw a snake coiled beside the rock. But Jeanette saw the
snake and was frightened, and told her father that Ellen saw it too,
and she could not make him understand who Ellen was. So he only
trembled and hugged his little girl to him tightly, and mother would
not let the child play on the dam again all that summer.

She made songs to fit the rhythmic murmur of the wheels. And always
she remembered the days she had spent with Daddy Mason in the factory
where the machines thumped and creaked, and where the long rubber
sheets were cut and sewed, and the clanking rolls of tin and zinc
curled into strips, and Daddy Mason made her a little set of dishes
and all the things she needed in her playhouse from the scraps of tin
and rubber, and she learned to twist the little tin strips on a stick
and make the prettiest bright shiny tin curls for her dolls that a
little girl ever saw in all the world. And once Ellen came from among
the moving shadows of the wheels and drew Jeanette from beneath a
great knife that fell at her feet, and when Daddy Mason saw what had
happened he fainted, poor man, and made her promise never, never, so
long as she lived, to tell Grandma Mason. And then he drove her up
town, and they had some ice-cream, and she was sent to bed without her
lunch because she would not tell Grandma Mason why grandpa bought
ice-cream for her.

It was such a beautiful life, so natural and so exactly what a little
girl should have, that even though she went to the ocean and crossed
it as a child with her mother and grandmother, and even though she
went to the mountains many times, her childish heart always was
homesick for the mill, and at night in her dreams her ears were filled
with the murmur of waters and the wordless song of ceaseless wheels.
And once when she came back a big girl,--an exceedingly big girl with
braids down her back, a girl in the third reader in fact, who could
read everything in the fourth reader, because she had already done so,
and who could read Eugene Aram in the back of the sixth, only she
never did find out what "gyves upon his wrists" meant,--once when she
came back to the dam and was sitting there looking at the sunset
reflected in the bubbling, froth-flecked water at her feet, Ellen came
suddenly, under the noise of the roaring water, and frightened
Jeanette so that she screamed and jumped; and Ellen, who was much
older than Jeanette--four or five and maybe six years older--ran
right over the slippery, moss-covered ridge of the dam, and was gone
before Jeanette could call her back. The child never saw her playmate
again, though often Jeanette would wonder where Ellen lived and who
she was. As the years went by, Jeanette came to remember her playmate
as her dream child, and once when she was a young miss of eighteen,
and something in her hurt to be said, she tried to make a little poem
about her dream-child playmate, but all she ever got was:--

"O eyes, so brown and clear like water sparkling over mossy stones."

So she gave it up and wrote a poem about a prince who carried away a
maiden, and then she tore up the prince and the maiden, and if it were
not for that line about the eyes in the back of her trigonometry, with
a long list of words under it rhyming with "stones," she would have
forgotten about her playfellow, and much of the memory of the dam and
the pride she took as a child in the great letters upon the high stone
walls of the mills, and of the word "Barclay" on the long low walls of
the factory, might have passed from her consciousness altogether. By
such frail links does memory bind us to our past; and yet, once
formed, how like steel they hold us! What we will be, grows from what
we are, and what we are has grown from what we were. If Jeanette
Barclay, the only child of a man who, when she was in her twenties,
was to be one of the hundred richest men in his country,--so far as
mere money goes,--had been brought up with a governess and a maid,
and with frills and furbelows and tucks and Heaven knows what of silly
kinks and fluffy stuff in her childish head, instead of being brought
up in the Sycamore Ridge public schools, with Grandmother Barclay to
teach her the things that a little girl in the fourth reader should
know, and with a whole community of honest, hard-working men and women
about her to teach her what life really is, indeed she would have
lived a different life, and when she was ready to marry--But there we
go looking in the back of the book again, and that will not do at all;
and besides, a little blue-eyed girl in gingham aprons, sitting on a
cool stone with moss on its north side, watching the bass play among
the rocks in a clear, deep, sun-mottled pool under a great elm tree,
has a right to the illusions of her childhood and should not be
hustled into long dresses and love affairs until her time has come.

But the recollection of those days, so vivid and so sweet, is one of
her choicest treasures. Of course things were not as she saw them.
Jake Dolan was only in his forties then, and considered himself a
young man. But the child remembers him as a tall, brown-eyed man whom
she saw on state occasions in his faded blue army clothes, and to her
he has always been the picture of a veteran. Some one must have told
her--though she cannot remember who it was--that as Jake Dolan
gently descended the social and political scale, he sloughed off his
worldly goods, and as he moved about in the court-house from the
sheriff's office to the deputy's office, and from the deputy's to the
bailiff's, and from the bailiff's to the constable's, and from the
constable's to the janitor's room in the basement, he carried with him
the little bundle that contained all his worldly goods, the thin blue
uniform, spotless and trim, and his lieutenant's commission, and
mustering-out papers from the army. It is odd, is it not, that this
prosaic old chap, who smoked a clay pipe, and whose only
accomplishment was the ability to sing "The Hat me Father Wore," under
three drinks, and the "Sword of Bunker Hill," under ten, should have
epitomized all that was heroic in this child's memory. As for General
Philemon Ward,--a dear old crank who, when Jeanette was born, was
voting with the Republican party for the first time since the war, and
who ran twice for President on some strange issue before she was in
long dresses,--General Ward, whose children's ages could be guessed
by the disturbers of the public peace, whose names they bore,--Eli
Thayer, Mary Livermore, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, Neal
Dow, Belva Lockwood, and Helen Gougar,--General Ward, who scorned her
father's offer of ten thousand dollars a year as state counsel for the
National Provisions Company, and went out preaching fiat money and a
subtreasury for the farmers' crops, trusting to God and the flower
garden about his little white house, to keep the family alive--it is
odd that Jeanette's childish impression was that General Ward was a
man of consequence in the world. Perhaps his white necktie, his long
black coat, and his keen lean face, or his prematurely gray hair, gave
her some sort of a notion of his dignity, but whatever gave her that
notion she kept it, and though in her later life there came a passing
time when she hated him, she did not despise him. And what with the
song that she heard the bands playing all over the country, the song
that the bands sometimes played for Americans in Europe, very badly,
as though it was being translated from English into broken French or
Italian, what with Watts McHurdie's fame and with his verses that
appeared in the _Banner_ on formal occasions, the girl built a fancy
of him as one of the world's great poets--some one like Shakespeare
or Milton; and she was well into her teens before she realized the
truth, that he was an excellent harness maker who often brought out of
his quaint little dream world odd-shaped fancies in rhyme,--some
grotesque, some ridiculous, and some that seemed pretty for a
moment,--and who under the stress of a universal emotion had rhymed
one phase of our common nature and set it to a simple tune that moved
men deeply without regard to race or station. So she lived in her
child world--a world quite different from the real world--a world
gilded by the sunrise of consciousness; and because the angels loved
her and kept her heart clean, the gilding never quite wore off her
heroes. And nothing that Heaven gives us in this world is so blessed
as to have the gilding stick to the images of our youth. In Jeanette's
case even Lige Bemis--Judge Bemis, she had been taught to call
him--never showed the tar under the gilding to her eyes. Her first
memory of him was in her father's office in the big City. He was a
tall man, with gray hair that became him well, with sharp black eyes,
and enough flesh on his bones to carry the frock-coats he always wore
and give him a corporosity just escaping the portly. She remembers
seeing the name "E. W. Bemis" in gold letters on the door of his room,
and not being able to figure out how a man whose name began with "E"
or "W" could be called Lige. He was General Counsel of the Corn Belt
Railroad in those days, when her father was president of the road, and
she knew that he was a man always to be considered. And when, as a
woman grown, she learned the truth about Lige Bemis, it was hard to
believe, for all she could find against him was his everlasting smile.

It is a curious and withal a beautiful thing to see a child come into
the worn and weary world that we grownups have made, and make it over
into another world altogether. Perhaps the child's eye and the child's
heart, fresh from God, see and feel more clearly and more justly than
we do. For this much is sure--Jeanette was right in keeping to the
end the image of Colonel Martin Culpepper as a knight-errant, who
needed only a bespangled steed, a little less avoirdupois, and a
foolish cause to set him battling in the tourney. As it was, in this
humdrum world, the colonel could do nothing more heroic than come
rattling down Main Street into the child's heart, sitting with some
dignity in his weather-beaten buggy, while instead of shining armour
and a glistening helmet he wore nankeen trousers, a linen coat, and a
dignified panama hat. Moreover, it is stencilled into her memory
indelibly that the colonel was the first man in this wide world to
raise his hat to her.

Now it should not be strange that this world was a sad jumble of
fiction and of facts to a child's eyes; for to many an older pair of
eyes it has all seemed a puzzle. Even the shrewd, kind brown eyes of
Jacob Dolan often failed to see things as they were, and what his eyes
did see sometimes bewildered him. By day Dolan saw Robert Hendricks,
president of the Exchange National Bank, president and manager of the
Sycamore Ridge Light, Heat, and Power Company, proprietor of the
Hendricks Mercantile Company, treasurer and first vice-president of
the new Western Wholesale Grocery, and chairman of his party's
congressional central committee, and Dolan's eyes saw a hard, busy
man--a young man, it is true; a tall, straight, rather lean,
rope-haired young man in his thirties, with frank blue eyes, that
turned rather suddenly upon one as if to frighten out a secret. The
man seemed real enough to Dolan, from the wide crown of his slightly
bald, V-shaped head, to his feet with the hard click in the heels; and
yet that man paid no particular attention to Dolan. It was "Hello,
Jake," with a nod, as they passed, maybe only an abstracted stare and
a grunt. But at night, as they walked together over the town under the
stars or moon, a lonely soul rose out of the tall body and spread over
the face.

Dolan kept to his pipe and Hendricks to his cigar. But these were the
only marks of caste between them. One night Hendricks led the way
across the bridge down the river road and into the fields. They walked
far up the stream and their conversation had consisted largely of
"Watch out," "All right," "I see," "This is the best way." They
loitered down a dark lane shaded by hedgerows until they came to a
little wooden bridge and sat down. Dolan looked at the stars, while a
pipe and a cigar had burned out before Hendricks spoke, "Well,
chatterbox?"

"I was bothered with a question of mistaken identity," replied Dolan.
To the silence he answered: "Me myself. I'm the man. Do you happen to
know who I am?" Hendricks broke a splinter from the wood under him,
and Dolan continued: "Of course you don't, and neither do I. For
example, I go down into Union township before election and visit with
the boys. I bring a box of cigars and maybe a nip under the buggy
seat, and maybe a few stray five-dollar bills for the lads that drive
the wagons that haul the voters to the polls. I go home, and I says to
myself: 'I have that bailiwick to a man. No votes there against Jake.'
But the morning after election I see Jake didn't get but two votes in
the township. Very well. Now who did they vote against? Surely not
against the genial obliging rollicking Irish lad whose face I shave
every other morning. What could they possibly have against him?
No--they voted against that man Dolan, who got drunk, at the Fair and
throwed the gate receipts into the well, and tried to shoo the horses
off the track into the crowd at the home-stretch of the trotting race.
He's the man they plugged. And there's another one--him that
confesses to Father Van Sandt." Dolan shook his head sadly and sighed.
"He's a black-hearted wretch. If you want to see how a soul will look
in its underwear, get an Irishman to confess to a Dutchman." The chirp
of crickets arose in the silence, and after a time Dolan concluded,
"And now there abideth these three, me that I shave, me that they vote
against, and me that the Father knows; and the greatest of these is
charity--I dunno."

The soul beside him on the bridge came back from a lilac bower of
other years, with a girl's lips glowing upon his and the beat of a
girl's heart throbbing against his own. The soul was seared with
images that must never find spoken words, and it moved the lips to say
after exhaling a deep breath from its body, "Well, let's go home."
There, too, was a question of identity. Who was Robert Hendricks? Was
he the man chosen to lead his party organization because he was clean
above reproach and a man of ideals; was he the man who was trusted
with the money of the people of his town and county implicitly; or was
he the man who knew that on page 234 of the cash ledger for 1879 in
the county treasurer's office in the Garrison County court-house there
was a forgery in his own handwriting to cover nine thousand dollars of
his father's debt? Or was he the man who for seven years had crept
into a neighbour's garden on a certain night in April to smell the
lilac blossoms and always had found them gone, and had stood there
rigid, with upturned face and clenched fists, cursing a fellow-man? Or
was he the man who in the county convention of his party had risen
pale with anger, and had walked across the floor and roared his
denunciation of Elijah W. Bemis as a boodler and a scoundrel squarely
to the man's gray, smirking face and chattering teeth, and then had
reached down, and grabbed the trapped bribe-giver by the scruff of the
neck and literally thrown him out of the convention, while the crowd
went mad with applause? As he went home that night following the
convention, walking by the side of Dolan in silence, he wondered which
of all his _aliases_ he really was. At the gate of the Hendricks home
the two men stopped. Hendricks smiled quizzically as he asked: "Well,
I give it up, Jake. By the way, did you ever meet me?"

The brown eyes of the Irishman beamed an instant through the night,
before he hurried lightly down the street.

And so with all of this hide-and-seek of souls, now peering from
behind eyes and now far away patting one--two--three upon some
distant base, with all these queer goings-on inside of people here in
this strange world, it is no wonder that when the angels brought
Jeanette to the Barclays, they left her much to learn and many things
to study about. So she had to ask questions. But questions often
reveal more than answers. At least once they revealed much, when she
sat on the veranda of the Barclay home a fine spring evening with all
the company there. Aunt Molly was there; and Uncle Bob Hendricks was
there, the special guest of Grandma Barclay. Uncle Adrian was away on
a trip somewhere; but Uncle Colonel and Grandma Culpepper and all the
others were there listening to father's new German music-box, and no
one should blame a little girl, sitting shyly on the stone steps,
trying to make something out of the absurd world around her, if she
piped out when the talk stopped:--

"Mother, why does Aunt Molly cut off her lilac buds before they
bloom?"

And when her mother assured her that Aunt Molly did nothing of the
kind, and when Uncle Bob Hendricks looked up and saw Aunt Molly go
pale under her powder, and when Aunt Molly said, "Why, Jane--the
child must have dreamed that," no one in this wide world must blame a
little girl for opening her eyes as wide as she could, and lifting her
little voice as strongly as she could, and saying: "Why, Aunt Molly,
you know I saw you last night--when I stayed with you. You know I
did, 'cause I looked out of the window and spokened to you. You know I
did--don't you remember?" And no one must blame the mother for
shaking her finger at Jeanette, and no one must blame Jeanette for
sitting there shaking a protesting head, and screwing up her little
face, trying to make the puzzle out.

And when, later in the evening, Daddy Barclay went over to the mill
with his work, and Uncle Bob left in the twilight, and Aunt Molly and
mother were alone in mother's room, how should a little girl know what
the crying was all about, and how should a little girl understand when
a small woman, looking in a mirror, and dabbing her face with a powder
rag, said to mother, who knows everything in the world, and all about
the angels that brought you here: "Oh, Jane, Jane, you don't
know--you don't understand. There are things that I couldn't make you
understand--and I mustn't even think of them."

Surely it is a curious world for little girls--a passing curious
world, when there are things in it that even mothers cannot
understand.

So Jeanette turned her face to the wall and went to sleep, leaving
Aunt Molly powdering her nose and asking mother, "Does it look all
right now--" and adding, "Oh, I'm such a fool." In so illogical a
world, the reader must not be allowed to think that Molly Brownwell
lamented the folly of mourning for a handsome young gentleman in blue
serge with white spats on his shoes and a Byronic collar and a fluffy
necktie of the period. Far be it from her to lament that sentiment as
folly; however, when she looked at her eyes in the mirror and saw her
nose, she felt that tears were expensive and reproached herself for
them. But so long as these souls of ours, whatever they may be, are
caged in our bodies, our poor bodies will have to bear witness to
their prisoners. If the soul smiles the body shines, and if the soul
frets the body withers. And Molly Brownwell saw in the looking-glass
that night more surely than ever before that her face was beginning to
slump. Her cheeks were no longer firm, and at her eyes were the stains
of tears that would not wipe off, but crinkled the skin at the temples
and deepened the shadows into wide salmon-coloured lines that fell
away from each side of the nose so that no trick could hide them.
Moreover, the bright eyes that used to flash into Bob Hendricks'
steady blue eyes had grown tired, and women who did not know, wondered
why such a pretty girl had broken so.

The Culpeppers had remained with the Barclays for dinner, and the hour
was late for the Ridge--after nine o'clock, and as the departing
guests went down the long curved walk of Barclay pride to the Barclay
gate, they saw a late April moon rising over the trees by the mill.
They clanged the tall iron gate behind them, and stood a moment
watching the moon. For the colonel never grew too old to notice it. He
put his arms about his wife and his daughter tenderly, and said before
they started up the street, "It never grows old--does it?" And he
pressed his wife to him gently and repeated, "Does it, my dear--it's
the same old moon; the one we used to have in Virginia before the war,
isn't it?"

His wife smiled at him placidly and said, "Now, pa--"

Whereupon the colonel squeezed his daughter lustily, and exclaimed,
"Well, Molly still loves me, anyway. Don't you, Molly?" And the
younger woman patted his cheek, and then they started for home.

"Papa, how much money has John?" asked the daughter, as they walked
along.

A man always likes to be regarded as an authority in financial
matters, and the colonel stroked his goatee wisely before replying:
"U-h-m-m, let me see--I don't exactly know. Bob and I were talking
about it the other day--after I bought John's share in College
Heights--last year, to be exact. Of course he's got the mill and it's
all paid for--say a hundred thousand dollars--and that old wheat
land he got back in the seventies--he's cleaned all of that up. I
should say that and the mill were easily worth half a million, and
they're both clear. That's all in sight." The colonel ruminated a
moment and then continued: "About the rest--it's a guess. Some say a
million, some say ten. All I know in point of fact, my dear, to get
right down to bed-rock, is that Lycurgus says they are turning out two
or three car-loads of the strips a year. I wouldn't believe Lycurgus
on a stack of Bibles as high as his head, but little Thayer Ward, who
works down there in the shipping department, told the general the same
thing, and Bob says he knows John gets ten dollars apiece for them
now, so that's a million dollars a year income he's got. He handles
grain and flour way up in Minnesota, and back as far as Ohio, and west
to California. But what he actually owns,--that is, whether he rents
the mills or, to be exact, steals them,--I haven't any idea--not the
slightest notion in the world, in point of fact--not the slightest
notion."

As they passed through Main Street it was deserted, save in the
billiard halls, and as no one seemed inclined to talk, the colonel
took up the subject of Barclay: "Say we call it five million--five
million in round numbers; that's a good deal of money for a man to
have and haggle a month over seventy-five dollars the way he did with
me when he sold me his share of College Heights. But," added the
colonel, "I suppose if I had that much I'd value it more." The women
were thinking of other things, and the colonel addressed the night:
"Man gets an appetite for money just as he does for liquor--just like
the love for whiskey, I may say." He shook his sides as he meditated
aloud: "But as for me--I guess I've got so I can take it or let it
alone. Eh, ma?"

"I didn't catch what you were saying, pa," answered his wife. "I was
just thinking whether we had potatoes enough to make hash for
breakfast; have we, Molly?"

As the women were discussing the breakfast, two men came out of a
cross street, and the colonel, who was slightly in advance of his
women, hailed the men with, "Hello there, Bob--you and Jake out here
carrying on your illicit friendship in the dark?"

The men and the Culpeppers stopped for a moment at the corner. Molly
Brownwell's heart throbbed as they met, and she thought of the rising
moon, and in an instant her brain was afire with a hope that shamed
her. Three could not walk abreast on the narrow sidewalk up the hill,
and when she heard Hendricks say after the group had parleyed a
moment, "Well, Jake, good night; I'll go on home with the colonel,"
she managed the pairing off so that the young man fell to her, and the
colonel and Mrs. Culpepper walked before the younger people, and they
all talked together. But at Lincoln Avenue, the younger people
disconnected themselves from the talk of the elders, and finally
lagged a few feet behind. When they reached the gate the colonel
called back, "Better come in and visit a minute, Bob," and Molly
added, "Yes, Bob, it's early yet."

But what she said with her voice did not decide the matter for him. It
was her eyes. And what he said with his voice is immaterial--it was
what his eyes replied that the woman caught. What he said was, "Well,
just for a minute, Colonel," and the party walked up the steps of the
veranda, and Bob and Molly and the colonel sat down.

Mrs. Culpepper stood for a moment and then said, "Well, Bob, you must
excuse me--I forgot to set my sponge, and there isn't a bit of bread
in the house for Sunday." Whereupon she left them, and when the
colonel had talked himself out he left them, and when the two were
alone there came an awkward silence. In the years they had been apart
a thousand things had stirred in their hearts to say at this time, yet
all their voices spoke was, "Well, Molly?" and "Well, Bob?" The moon
was in their faces as it shone through the elm at the gate. The man
turned his chair so that he could look at her, and after satisfying
his eyes he broke the silence with, "Seven years."

And she returned, "Seven years the thirteenth of April."

The man played a tune with his fingers and a foot and said nothing
more. The woman finally spoke. "Did you know it was the thirteenth?"

"Yes," he replied, "father died the ninth. I have often counted it
up." He added shortly after: "It's a long time--seven years! My! but
it has been a long time!"

"I have wondered if you have thought so," a pause, "too!"

Their hearts were beating too fast for thoughts to come coherently.
The fever of madness was upon them, and numbed their wills so that
they could not reach beneath the surface of their consciousnesses to
find words for their emotions. Then also there was in each a
deadening, flaming sense of guilt. Shame is a dumb passion, and these
two, who in the fastnesses of a thousand nights had told themselves
that what they sought was good and holy, now found in each other's
actual presence a gripping at the tongue's root that held them dumb.

"Yes, I--" the man mumbled, "yes, I--I fancied you understood that
well enough."

"But you have been busy?" she asked; "very busy, Bob, and oh, I've
been so proud of all that you've done." It was the woman's tongue that
first found a sincere word.

The man replied, "Well--I--I am glad you have."

It seemed to the woman a long time since her father had gone. Her
conscience was making minutes out of seconds. She said, "Don't you
think it's getting late?" but did not rise.

The man looked at his watch and answered, "Only 10.34." He started to
rise, but she checked him breathlessly.

"Oh, Bob, Bob, sit down. This isn't enough for these long years. I had
so many things to say to you." She hesitated and cried, "Why are we so
stupid now--now when every second counts?"

He bent slightly toward her and said in a low voice, "So that's why
your lilacs have never bloomed again."

She looked at her chair arm and asked, "Did you know they hadn't
bloomed?"

"Oh, Molly, of course I knew," he answered, and then went on: "Every
thirteenth of April I have slipped through the fence and come over
here, rain or shine, at night, to see if they were blooming. But I
didn't know why they never bloomed!"

The woman rose and walked a step toward the door, and turned her head
away. When she spoke it was after a sob, "Bob, I couldn't bear it--I
just couldn't bear it, Bob!"

He groaned and put his hands to his forehead and rested his elbow on
the chair arm. "Oh, Molly, Molly, Molly," he sighed, "poor, poor
little Molly." After a pause he said: "I won't ever bother you again.
It doesn't do any good." A silence followed in which the woman turned
her face to him, tear-stained and wretched, with the seams of her
heart all torn open and showing through it. "It only hurts," the man
continued, and then he groaned aloud, "Oh, God, how it hurts!"

She sank back into her chair and buried her face in the arm farthest
from him and her body shook, but she did not speak. He stared at her
dry-eyed for a minute, that tolled by so slowly that he rose at the
end of it, fearful that his stay was indecorously long.

"I think I should go now," he said, as he passed her.

"Oh, no!" she cried. "Not yet, not just yet." She caught his arm and
he stopped, as she stood beside him, trembling, haggard, staring at
him out of dead, mad eyes. There was no colour in her blotched face,
and in the moonlight the red rims of her eyes looked leaden, and her
voice was unsteady. At times it broke in sobbing croaks, and she spoke
with loose jaws, as one in great terror. "I want you to know--" she
paused at the end of each little hiccoughed phrase--"that I have not
forgotten--" she caught her breath--"that I think of you every
day--" she wiped her eyes with a limp handkerchief--"every day and
every night, and pray for you, though I don't believe--" she
whimpered as she shuddered--"that God cares much about me."

He tried to stop her, and would have gone, but she put a hand upon his
shoulder and pleaded: "Just another minute. Oh, Bob," she cried, and
her voice broke again, "don't forget me. Don't forget me. When I was
so sick last year--you remember," she pleaded, "I raved in delirium a
week." She stopped as if afraid to go on, then began to shake as with
a palsy. "I raved of everything under God's sun, and through it all,
Bob--not one word of you. Oh, I knew that wouldn't do." She swayed
upon his arm. "I kept a little corner of my soul safe to guard you."
She sank back into her chair and chattered, "Oh, I guarded you."

She was crying like a child. He stood over her and touched her
dishevelled hair with the tips of his fingers and said: "I oughtn't to
stay, Molly."

And she motioned him away with her face hidden and sobbed, "No--I
know it."

He paused a moment on the step before her and then said, "Good-by,
Molly--I'm going now." And she heard him walking down the yard on the
grass, so that his footsteps would not arouse the house. It seemed to
them both that it was midnight, but time had moved slowly, and when
the spent, broken woman crept into the house, and groped her way to
her room, she did not make a light, but slipped into bed without
looking at her scarred, shameful face.




CHAPTER XVIII


In the sunshine of that era of world-wide prosperity in the eighties,
John Barclay made much hay. He spent little time in Sycamore Ridge,
and his private car might be found in Minnesota to-day and at the end
of the week in California. As president of the Corn Belt Road and as
controlling director in the North Lake Line, he got rates on other
railroads for his grain products that no competitor could duplicate.
And when a competitor began to grow beyond the small fry class,
Barclay either bought him out or built a mill beside the offender and
crushed him out. Experts taught him the value of the chaff from the
grain. He had a dozen mills to which he shipped the refuse from his
flour and heaven only knows what else, and turned the stuff into
various pancake flours and breakfast foods. He spent hundreds of
thousands of dollars in advertising--in a day when large
appropriations for advertising were unusual. And the words "Barclay's
Best" glared at the traveller from crags in the Rocky Mountains and
from the piers of all the great harbour bridges. He used Niagara to
glorify the name of Barclay, and "Use Barclay's Best" had to be washed
off the statue of the Goddess of Liberty in New York Harbour. The
greenish brown eyes of the little man were forever looking into space,
and when he caught a dream, instead of letting it go, he called a
stenographer and made it come true. In those days he was beginning to
realize that an idea plus a million dollars will become a fact if a
man but says the word, whereas the same idea minus a million remains a
dream. The great power of money was slowly becoming part of the man's
consciousness. During the years that were to come, he came to think
that there was nothing impossible. Any wish he had might be gratified.
Such a consciousness drives men mad.

But in those prosperous days, while the millions were piling up,
Barclay kept his head. All the world was buying then, but wherever he
could Barclay sold. He bought only where he had to, and paid cash for
what he bought. He did not owe a dollar for anything. He had no
equities; his titles were all good. And as he neared his forties he
believed that he could sell what he had at forced sale for many
millions. He was supposed to be much richer than he was, but the one
thing that he knew about it was that scores of other men had more than
he. So he kept staring into space and pressing the button for his
stenographer, and at night wherever his work found him, whether in
Boston or in Chicago or in San Francisco, he hunted up the place where
he could hear the best music, and sat listening with his eyes closed.
He always kept his note-book in his hand, when Jane was not with him,
and when an idea came to him inspired by the music, he jotted it down,
and the next day, if it stood the test of a night's sleep, he turned
the idea into an event.

In planning his work he was ruthless. He learned that by bribing men
in the operating department of any railroad he could find out what his
competitors were doing. And in the main offices of the National
Provisions Company two rooms full of clerks were devoted to
considering the duplicate way-bills of every car of flour or grain or
grain product not shipped by the Barclay companies. Thus he was able
to delay the cars of his competitors, and get his own cars through on
time. Thus he was able to bribe buyers in wholesale establishments to
push his products. And with Lige Bemis manipulating the railroad and
judiciary committees in the legislatures of ten states, no laws were
enacted which might hamper Barclay's activities.

"Do you know, Lucy," said General Ward to his wife one night when they
were discussing Barclay and his ways and works, "sometimes I think
that what that boy saw at Wilson's Creek,--the horrible bloodshed,
the deadly spectacle of human suffering at the hospital wagon, some
way blinded his soul's eye to right and wrong. It was all a man could
stand; the picture must have seared the boy's heart like a fire."

Mrs. Ward, who was mending little clothes in the light of the
dining-room lamp, put down her work a moment and said: "I have always
thought the colonel had some such idea. For once when he was speaking
of the way John stole that wheat land, he said, 'Well, poor John, he
got a wound at Wilson's Creek that never will heal,' and when I asked
if he meant his foot, the colonel smiled like a woman and said gently,
'No, Miss Lucy, not there--not there at all; in his heart, my dear,
in his heart!'"

And the general's eyes met the eyes of a mother wandering toward a boy
of nine sleeping, tired out, on a couch near by; he was a little boy
with dark hair, and red tanned cheeks, and his mouth--such a soft
innocent mouth--curved prettily, like the lips of children in old
pictures, and as he slept he smiled, and the general, meeting the
mother's eyes coming back from the little face, wiped his glasses and
nodded his head in understanding; in a moment they both rose and stood
hand in hand over their child, and the mother said in a trembling
voice, "And his mother prayed for him, too--she has told me so--so
many times."

But the people of Sycamore Ridge and of the Mississippi Valley did not
indulge in any fine speculations upon the meaning of life when they
thought of John Barclay. He had become considerable of a figure in the
world, and the Middle West was proud of him. For those were the days
of tin cornices, false fronts, vain pretences, and borrowed plumes
bought with borrowed money. Other people's capital was easy to get,
and every one was rich. Debt was regarded as an evidence of
prosperity, and the town ran mad with the rest of the country. It is
not strange then that Mrs. Watts McHurdie, she who for four years
during the war dispensed "beefsteak--ham and eggs--breakfast
bacon--tea--coffee--iced tea--or--milk" at the Thayer House, and
for ten years thereafter sold dry-goods and kept books at Dorman's
store, should have become tainted with the infection of the times. But
it is strange that she could have inoculated so sane a little man as
Watts. Still, there were Delilah and Samson, and of course Samson was
a much larger man than Watts, and Nellie McHurdie was considerably
larger than Delilah; and you never can tell about those things,
anyway. Also it must not be forgotten that Nellie McHurdie since her
marriage had become Grand Preceptress in one lodge, Worthy Matron in
another, Senior Vice Commander in a third, and Worshipful Benefactress
in a fourth, to say nothing of positions as corresponding secretary,
delegate to the state convention, Keeper of the Records and Seals,
Scribe,--and perhaps Pharisee,--in half a dozen others, all in the
interests of her husband's political future; and with such obvious
devotion before him, it is small wonder after all that he succumbed.

But he would not run for office. He had trouble every spring
persuading her, but he always did persuade her, that this wasn't his
year, that conditions were wrong, and that next year probably would be
better. But he allowed her to call their home "The Bivouac," and have
the name cut in stone letters on the horse-block; and he sat by meekly
for many long years at lodges, at church entertainments, at high
school commencement exercises, at public gatherings of every sort, and
heard her sing a medley of American patriotic songs which wound up
with the song that made him famous. It was five drinks in Jake Dolan
that stopped the medley, when the drinks aforesaid inspired him to
rise grandly from his chair at the front of the hall at an
installation of officers of Henry Schnitzler Post of the Grand Army,
and stalk majestically out of the room, while the singing was in
progress, saying as he turned back at the door, before thumping
heavily down the stairs, "Well, I'm getting pretty damn tired of
that!" Mrs. McHurdie insisted that Watts should whip Dolan, and it is
possible that at home that night Watts did smite his breast and shake
his head fiercely, for in the morning the neighbours saw Mrs. McHurdie
walk to the gate with him, talking earnestly and holding his arm as if
to restrain him; moreover, when Watts had turned the corner of Lincoln
Avenue and had disappeared into Main Street, she hurried over to the
Culpeppers' to have the colonel warn Dolan that Watts was a dangerous
man. But when Dolan, sober, walked into the harness shop that
afternoon to apologize, the little harness maker came down the aisle
of saddles in his shop blinking over his spectacles and with his hand
to his mouth to strangle a smile, and before Dolan could speak, Watts
said, "So am I--Jake Dolan--so am I; but if you ever do that again,
I'll have to kill you."

It happened in the middle eighties--maybe a year before the college
was opened--maybe a year after, though Gabriel Carnine, talking of it
some twenty years later, insists that it happened two years after the
opening of the college. But no one ever has mentioned the matter to
Watts, so the exact date may not be recorded, though it is an
important date in the uses of this narrative, as will be seen later.
All agree--the colonel, the general, Dolan, Fernald, and perhaps two
dozen old soldiers who were at the railroad station waiting for the
train to take them to the National Encampment of the Grand Army of the
Republic,--that it was a fine morning in September. Of course John
Barclay contributed the band. He afterwards confessed to that,
explaining that Nellie had told him that Watts never had received the
attention he should receive either in the town or the state or the
nation, and so long as Watts was a National Delegate for the first
time in his life, and so long as she had twice been voted for as
National President of the Ladies' Aid, and might get it this time, the
band would be, as she put it, "so nice to take along"; and as John
never forgot the fact that Nellie asked him to sing at her wedding, he
hired the band. Thus are we bound to our past. But the band was not
what caused the comrades to gasp, though its going was a surprise. And
when they heard it turn into Main Street far up by Lincoln Avenue,
playing the good old tune that the town loved for Watts' sake and for
the sake of the time and the place and the heroic deeds it
celebrated,--when they heard the band, the colonel asked the general,
"Where's Watts?" and they suspected that the band might be bringing
him to the depot.

Heaven knows the town had bought uniforms and new horns for the band
often enough for it to do something public-spirited once in a while
without being paid for it. So the band did not come to the town as a
shock in and of itself. Neither for that matter did the hack--the new
glistening silver-mounted hack, with the bright spick-and-span hearse
harness on the horses; in those bustling days a quarter was nothing,
and you can ride all over the Ridge for a quarter; so when the
comrades at the depot, in their blue soldiers' clothes their campaign
hats, and their delegates' badges, saw the band followed by the hack,
they were of course interested, but that was all. And when some of the
far-sighted ones observed that the top of the hack was spread back
royally, they commented upon the display of pomp, but the comment was
not extraordinary. But when from the street as the band stopped, there
came cheers from the people, the boys at the station felt that
something unusual was about to come to them. So they watched the band
march down the long sheet-iron-covered station walk, and the hack move
along beside the band boys; and the poet's comrades-in-arms saw him
sitting beside the poet's wife,--the two in solemn state. And then
the old boys beheld Watts McHurdie,--little Watts McHurdie, with his
grizzled beard combed, with his gold-rimmed Sunday glasses far down on
his nose so that he could see over them, and--wonder of wonders, they
saw a high shiny new silk hat wobbling over his modest head.

He stumbled out of the open hack with his hand on the great stiff
awkward thing, obviously afraid it would fall off, and she that was
Nellie Logan, late of the Thayer House and still later of Dorman's
store, and later still most worshipful, most potent, most gorgeous and
most radiant archangel of seven secret and mysterious covenants,
conclaves, and inner temples, stood beaming at the pitiful sight,
clearly proud of her shameless achievement. Watts, putting his hand to
his mouth to cover his smile, grabbed the shiny thing again as he
nodded cautiously at the crowd. Then he followed her meekly to the
women's waiting room, where the wives and sisters of the comrades were
assembled--and they, less punctilious than the men, burst forth with
a scream of joy, and the agony was over.

And thus Watts McHurdie went to his greatest earthly glory. The
delegation from the Ridge, with the band, had John Barclay's private
car; that was another surprise which Mrs. McHurdie arranged, and when
they got to Washington, where the National Encampment was, opinions
differ as to when Watts McHurdie had his high tide of happiness. The
colonel says that it was in the great convention, where the Sycamore
Ridge band sat in front of the stage, and where Watts stood in front
of the band and led the great throng,--beginning with his cracked
little heady tenor, and in an instant losing it in the awful diapason
of ten thousand voices singing his old song with him; and where, when
it was over, General Grant came down the platform, making his way
rather clumsily among the chairs, and at last in front of the whole
world grasped Watts McHurdie's hands, and the two little men,
embarrassed by the formality of it all, stood for a few seconds
looking at each other with tears glistening in their speaking eyes.

But Jake Dolan, who knows something of human nature, does not hold to
the colonel's view about the moment of McHurdie's greatest joy. "We
were filing down the Avenue again, thousands and ten thousands of us,
as we filed past the White House nearly twenty years before. And the
Sycamore Ridge band was cramming its lungs into the old tune, when up
on the reviewing stand, beside all the big bugs and with the President
there himself, stood little Watts, plug hat in hand, bowing to the
boys. 'Twas a lovely sight, and he had been there for two mortal hours
before we boys got down--there was the Kansas boys and the Iowa boys
and some from Missouri, carrying the old flag we fought under at
Wilson's Creek. Watts saw us down the street and heard the old band
play; a dozen other bands had played that tune that day; but Billy
Dorman's tuba had its own kind of a rag in it, and Watts knew it. I
seen him a-waving his hat at the boys, almost as soon as they saw him,
and as the band came nearer and nearer I saw the little man's face
begin to crack, and as he looked down the line and saw them Kansas and
Iowa soldiers, I seen him give one whoop, and throw that plug hat
hellwards over the crowd and jump down from that band stand like a
wild man and make for the gang. He was blubbering like a calf when he
caught step with me, and he yelled so as to reach my ears above the
roar of the crowds and the blatting of the bands--yelled with his
voice ripped to shreds that fluttered out ragged from the torn bosom
of him, 'Jake--Jake--how I would like to get drunk--just this
once!' And we went on down the avenue together--him bareheaded,
hay-footing and straw-footing it the same as in the old days."

Jake always paused at this point and shook his head sorrowfully, and
then continued dolefully: "But 'twas no use; he was caught and took
away; some says it was to see the pictures in the White House, and
some says it was to a reception given by the Relief Corps to the
officers elect of the Ladies' Aid, where he was pawed over by a lot of
old girls who says, 'Yes, I'm so glad--what name please--oh,
--McHurdie, surely not _the_ McHurdie; O dear me--Sister McIntire,
come right here, this is _the_ McHurdie--you know I sang your song
when I was a little girl'--which was a lie, unless Watts wrote it for
the Mexican War, and he didn't. And then some one else comes waddling
up and says, 'O dear me, Mr. McHurdie--you don't know how glad I am
to see the author of "Home, Sweet Home,"' and Watts blinks his eyes
and pleads not guilty; and she says, 'O dear, excuse the mistake;
well, I'm sure you wrote something?' And Watts, being sick of love, as
Solomon says in his justly celebrated and popular song, Watts looks
through his Sunday glasses and doesn't see a blame thing, and smiles
and says calmly, 'No, madam, you mistake--I am a simple harness
maker.' And she sidles off looking puzzled, to make room for the one
from Massachusetts, who stares at him through her glasses and says,
'So you're Watts McHurdie--who wrote the--' 'The same, madam,' says
Watts, courting favour. 'Well,' says the high-browed one, 'well--you
are not at all what I imagined.' And 'Neither are you, madam,' returns
Watts, as sweet as a dill pickle; and she goes away to think it over
and wonder if he meant it that way. No--that's where Nellie made her
mistake. It wouldn't have hurt him--just once. But what's done's
done, and can't be undone, as the man said when he fished his wife out
of the lard vat."

Now this all seems a long way from John Barclay--the hero of this
romance. Yet the departure of Watts McHurdie for his scene of glory
was on the same day that a most important thing happened in the lives
of Bob Hendricks and Molly Brownwell. That day Bob Hendricks walked
one end of the station platform alone. The east-bound train was half
an hour late, and while the veterans were teasing Watts and the women
railing at Mrs. McHurdie, Hendricks discovered that it was one hundred
and seventy-eight steps from one end of the walk to the other, and
that to go entirely around the building made the distance fifty-four
steps more. It was almost train time before Adrian Brownwell arrived.
When the dapper little chap came with his bright crimson carnation,
and his flashing red necktie, and his inveterate gloves and cane,
Hendricks came only close enough to him to smell the perfume on the
man's clothes, and to nod to him. But when Hendricks found that the
man was going with the Culpeppers as far as Cleveland, as he told the
entire depot platform, "to report the trip," Hendricks sat on a
baggage truck beside the depot, and considered many things. As he was
sitting there Dolan came up, out of breath, and fearful he should be
late.

"How long will you be gone, Jake?" asked Hendricks.

"The matter of a week or ten days, maybe," answered Dolan.

"Well, Jake," said Hendricks, looking at Dolan with serious eyes, yet
rather abstractedly, "I am thinking of taking a long trip--to be gone
a long time--I don't know exactly how long. I may not go at all--I
haven't said anything to the boys in the store or the bank or out at
the shop about it; it isn't altogether settled--as yet." He paused
while a switch engine clanged by and the crowd surged out of the
depot, and ebbed back again into their seats. "Did you deliver my note
this morning?"

"Yes," replied Dolan, "just as you said. That's what made me a little
late."

"To the lady herself?"

"To the lady herself," repeated Dolan.

"All right," acquiesced Hendricks. "Now, Jake, if I give it out that
I'm going away on a trip, there'll be a lot of pulling and hauling and
fussing around in the bank and in the store and at the shop
and--every place, and then I may not go. So I've gone over every
concern carefully during the past week, and have set down what ought
to be done in case I'm gone. I didn't tell my sister even--she's so
nervous. And, Jake, I won't tell any one. But if, when you get back
from Washington, I'm not here, I'm going to leave this key with you.
Tell the boys at the bank that it will open my tin box, and in the tin
box they'll find some instructions about things." He smiled, and Dolan
assented. Hendricks uncoiled his legs from the truck, and began to get
down. "I won't mix up with the old folks, I guess, Jake. They have
their own affairs, and I'm tired. I worked all last night," he added.
He held out his hand to Dolan and said, "Well, good-by, Jake--have a
good time."

The elder man had walked away a few steps when Hendricks called him
back, and fumbling in his pockets, said: "Well, Jake, I certainly am a
fool; here--" he pulled an envelope marked "Dolan" from his inside
pocket--"Jake, I was in the bank this morning, and I found a picture
for you. Take it and have a good time. It's a long time till pension
day--so long."

The Irishman peeped at the bill and grinned as he said, "Them holy
pictures from the bank, my boy, have powerful healing qualities." And
he marched off with joy in his carriage.

Hendricks then resumed his tramp; up and down the long platform he
went, stepping on cracks one way, and avoiding cracks the next,
thinking it all out. He tried to remember if he had been unfair to any
one; if he had left any ragged edges; if he had taken a penny more
than his honest due. The letter to the county treasurer, returning the
money his father had taken, was on top of the pile of papers in his
tin box at the bank. He had finally concluded, that when everything
else was known, that would not add much to his disgrace. And then it
would be paid, and that page with the forged entry would not always be
in his mind. There were deeds, each witnessed by a different notary,
so that the town would not gossip before he went, transferring all of
his real estate to his sister, and the stock he had sold to the bank
was transferred, and the records all in the box; then he went over the
prices again at which he had disposed of his holdings to the bank, and
he was sure he had made good bargains in every case for the bank. So
it was all fair, he argued for the thousandth time--he was all square
with the world. He had left a deposit subject to his check of twenty
thousand dollars--that ought to do until they could get on their feet
somewhere; and it was all his, he said to himself--all his, and no
one's business.

And when he thought of the other part, the voice of Adrian Brownwell
saying, "Well, come on, old lady, we must be going," rose in his
consciousness. It was not so much Brownwell's words, as his air of
patronage and possession; it was cheerful enough, quite gay in fact,
but Hendricks asked himself a hundred times why the man didn't whistle
for her, and clamp a steel collar about her neck. He wondered
cynically if at the bottom of Brownwell's heart, he would not rather
have the check for twelve thousand dollars which Hendricks had left
for Colonel Culpepper, to pay off the Brownwell note, than to have his
wife. For seven years the colonel had been cheerfully neglecting it,
and now Hendricks knew that Adrian was troubling him about the old
debt.

As he rounded the depot for the tenth time he got back to their last
meeting. There stood General Ward with his arm about the girlish waist
of Mrs. Ward, the mother of seven. There was John Barclay with Jane
beside him, and they were holding hands like lovers. The Ward children
were running like rabbits over the broad lawn under the elms, and
there, talking to the wide, wide world, was Adrian Brownwell,
propounding the philosophy of the _Banner_, and quoting from last
week's editorials. And there sat Bob and Molly by the flower bed that
bordered the porch.

"I am going to the city to hear Gilmore," he said. That was simple
enough, and her sigh had no meaning either. It was just a weary little
sigh, such as women sometimes bring forth when they decide to say
something else. So she had said: "I'll be all alone next week. I think
I'll visit Jane--if she's in town."

Then something throbbed in his brain and made him say:--

"So you'd like to hear Gilmore, too?"

She coloured and was silent, and the pulse of madness that was beating
in her made her answer:--

"Oh--I can't--you know the folks are going to Washington to the
encampment, and Adrian is going as far as Cleveland with the
delegation to write it up."

An impulse loosened his tongue, and he asked:--

"Why not? Come on. If you don't know any one up there, go to the Fifth
Avenue; it's all right, and I'll get tickets, and we'll go every night
and both matinees. Come on!" he urged.

She was aflame and could not think. "Oh--don't, Bob, don't--not now.
Please don't," she begged, in as low a tone as she dared to use.

Adrian was thundering on about the tariff, and the general was
wrangling with him. The Barclays were talking to themselves, and the
children were clattering about underfoot, and in the trees overhead.
Bob's eyes and Molly's met, and the man shuddered at what he saw of
pathos and yearning, and he said: "Well, why not? It's no worse to go
than to want to go. What's wrong about it--Molly, do you think--"

He did not finish the sentence, for Adrian had ceased talking, and
Molly, seeing his jealous eyes upon her, rose and moved away. But
before they left that night she found occasion to say, "I've been
thinking about it, Bob, and maybe I will."

In the year that had passed since Hendricks had left her sobbing in
the chair on the porch of the Culpepper home, a current between them
had been reestablished, and was fed by the chance passing in a store,
a smile at a reception, a good morning on the street, and the current
was pulsing through their veins night and day. But that fine September
morning, as she stood on the veranda of her home with a dust-cap on
her head, cleaning up the litter her parents had made in packing, she
was not ready for what rushed into her soul from the letter Dolan left
her, as he hurried away to overtake the band that was turning from
Lincoln Avenue into Main Street. She sat in a chair to read it, and
for a moment after she had read it, she held it open in her lap and
gazed at the sunlight mottling the blue grass before her, through the
elm trees. Her lips were parted and her eyes wide, and she breathed
slowly. The tune the band was playing--McHurdie's song--sank into
her memory there that day so that it always brought back the mottled
sunshine, the flowers blooming along the walk, and the song of a robin
from a lilac bush near by. She folded the letter carefully, and put it
inside her dress, and then moving mechanically, took it out and read
it again:--

    "MY DARLING, MY DARLING: There is no use struggling any more. You
    must come. I will meet you in the city at the morning train, the one
    that leaves the Ridge here at 2.35 A.M. We can go to the parks
    to-morrow and be alone and talk it all out, before the concert--and
    then--oh, Molly, core of my soul, heart of my heart, why should we
    ever come back!                                           BOB."

All that she could feel as she sat there motionless was a crashing
"no." The thing seemed to drive her mad by its insistence--a horrible
racking thing that all but shook her, and she chattered at it: "Why
not? Why not? Why not?" But the "no" kept roaring through her mind,
and as she heard the servant rattling the breakfast dishes in the
house, the woman shivered out of sight and ran to her room. She fell
on her knees to pray, but all she could pray was, "O God, O God, O
God, help me!" and to that prayer, as she said it, the something in
her heart kept gibbering, "Why not? Why not? Why not?" From an old box
hidden in a closet opening out of her mother's room she took Bob
Hendricks' picture,--the faded picture of a boy of twenty,--and
holding it close to her breast, stared open-lipped into the heart of
an elm tree-top. The whistle of the train brought her back to her real
world. She rose and looked at herself in the mirror, at the unromantic
face with its lines showing faintly around her eyes, grown quiet
during the dozen years that had settled her fluffy hair into sedate
waves. She smiled at the changes of the years and shook her head, and
got a grip on her normal consciousness, and after putting away the
picture and closing the box, she went downstairs to finish her work.

On the stairs she felt sure of herself, and set about to plan for the
next day, and then the tumult began, between the "no" and her soul. In
a few minutes as she worked the "no" conquered, and she said, "Bob's
crazy." She repeated it many times, and found as she repeated it that
it was mechanical and that her soul was aching again. So the morning
wore away; she gossiped with the servant a moment; a neighbour came in
on an errand; and she dressed to go down town. As she went out of the
gate, she wondered where she would be that hour the next day, and then
the struggle began again. Moreover, she bought some new
gloves--travelling gloves to match her gray dress.

In the afternoon she and Jane Barclay sat on the wide porch of the
Barclay home. "Gilmore's going to be in the city all this week," said
Jane, biting a thread in her sewing.

"Is he?" replied Molly. "I should so like to hear him. It's so poky up
at the house."

"Why don't you?" inquired Jane. "Get on the train and go on up."

"Do you suppose it would be all right?" replied Molly.

"Why, of course, girl! Aren't you a married woman of lawful age? I
would if I wanted to."

There was a pause, and Molly replied thoughtfully, "I have half a
notion to--really!"

But as she walked home, she decided not to do it. People from the
Ridge might be there, and they wouldn't understand, and her
finger-tips chilled at the memory of Adrian Brownwell's jealous eyes.
So as she ate supper, she went over the dresses she had that were
available. And at bedtime she gave the whole plan up and went upstairs
humming "Marguerite" as happily as the thrush that sang in the lilacs
that morning. As she undressed the note fell to the floor. When she
picked it up, the flash of passion came tearing through her heart, and
the "no" crashed in her ears again, and all the day's struggle was for
nothing. So she went to bed, resolved not to go. But she stared
through the window into the night, and of a sudden a resolve came to
her to go, and have one fair day with Hendricks--to talk it all out
forever, and then to come home, and she rose from her bed and tiptoed
through the house packing a valise. She left a note in the kitchen for
the servant, saying that she would be back for dinner the next
evening, and when she struck a match in the front hall to see what
time it was, she found that it was only one o'clock. For an hour she
sat in the chill September air on the veranda, thinking it all
over--what she would say; how they would meet and part; and over and
over again she told herself that she was doing the sensible thing. As
the clock struck two she picked up her valise--it was heavier than
she thought, and it occurred to her that she had put in many
unnecessary things, and that she had time to lighten it. But she
stopped a moment only, and then walked to the gate and down a side
street to the station. It was 2.20 when she arrived, and the train was
marked on the blackboard by the ticket window on time. She kept
telling herself that it was best to have it out; that she would come
right back; but she remembered her heavy valise, and again the warning
"no" roared through her soul. She walked up and down the long
platform, and felt the presence of Bob Hendricks strong and
compelling; she knew he had been there that very day, and wondered
where he sat. Then she thought perhaps she would do better not to go.
She looked into the men's waiting room, and it was empty save for one
man; his back was turned to her, but she recognized Lige Bemis. A
tremble of guilt racked and weakened her. And with a thrill as of pain
she heard the faint whistle of a train far up the valley. The man
moved about the room inside. Apparently he also heard the far-off
whistle. She shrank around the corner of the depot. But he caught
sight of her dress, and slowly sauntered up and down the platform
until he passed near enough to her to identify her in the faint
flicker of the gas. He spoke, and she returned his greeting. The train
whistled again--much nearer it seemed to her, but still far away, and
her soul and the "no" were grappling in a final contest. Suddenly it
came over her that she had not bought her ticket. Again the train
whistled, and far up the tracks she could see a speck of light. She
hurried into the waiting room to buy the ticket. The noise of the
train was beginning to sound in her ears, She was frightened and
nervous, and she fumbled with her purse and valise. Nearer and nearer
came the train, and the "no" fairly screamed in her ears, and her face
was pallid, with the black wrinkles standing out upon it in the
gaslight. The train was in the railroad yards, and the glare of the
headlight was in the waiting room. Bemis came in and saw her fumbling
with her ticket, her pocket book, and her valise.

"You'll have to hurry, Mrs. Brownwell, this is the limited--it only
stops a minute. Let me help you."

He picked up the valise and followed her from the room. The rush of
the incoming train shattered her nerves. They pulsed in fear of some
dreadful thing, and in that moment she wondered whether or not she
would ever see it all again--the depot, the familiar street, the
great mill looming across the river, and the Barclay home half a mile
above them. In a second she realized all that her going meant, and the
"no" screamed at her, and the "why not" answered feebly. But she had
gone too far, she said to herself. The engine was passing her, and
Bemis was behind her with the heavy valise. She wondered what he would
say when Bob met her at the train in the city. All this flashed across
her mind in a second, and then she became conscious that the rumbling
thing in front of her was not the limited but a cattle train, and the
sickening odour from it made her faint. In the minute while it was
rushing by at full speed she became rigid, and then, taking her valise
from the man behind her, turned and walked as fast as she could up the
hill, and when she turned the corner she tried to run. Her feet took
her to the Barclay home. She stood trembling in terror on the great
wide porch and rang the bell. The servant admitted the white-faced,
shaking woman, and she ran to Jane Barclay's room.

"Oh, Jane," chattered Molly, "Jane, for God's love, Jane, hold
me--hold me tight; don't let me go. Don't!" She sank to the floor and
put her face in Jane's lap and stuttered: "I--I--have g-g-got to
t-t-tell you, Jane. I've g-g-ot to t-t-t-ell you, J-J-Jane." And then
she fell to sobbing. "Hold me, don't let me go out there. When it
whistles ag-g-gain h-h-hold me t-t-tight."

Jane Barclay's strong kind hands stroked the dishevelled hair of the
trembling woman. And in time she looked up and said quietly, "You
know--you know, Jane, Bob and I--Bob and I were going to run away!"
Molly looked at Jane a fearful second with beseeching eyes, and then
dropped her head and fell to sobbing again, and lay with her face on
the other woman's knees.

When she was quiet Jane said: "I wouldn't talk about it any more,
dear--not now." She stroked the hair and patted the face of the woman
before her. "Shall we go to bed now, dear? Come right in with me." And
soon Molly rose, and her spent soul rested in peace. But they did not go
to bed. The dawn found the two women talking it out together--clear from
the beginning.

And when the day came Molly Brownwell went to Jane Barclay's desk and
wrote. And when Bob Hendricks came home that night, his sister handed
him a letter. It ran:--

    "MY DEAR BOB: I have thought it all out, dear; it wouldn't do at
    all. I went to the train, and something, I don't know what, caught
    me and dragged me over to Jane's. She was good--oh, so good. She
    knows; but it was better that she should than--the other way.

    "It will never do, Bob. We can't go back. The terrible something
    that I did stands irrevocably between us. The love that might have
    made both our lives radiant is broken, Bob--forever broken. And all
    the king's horses and all the king's men cannot ever put it together
    again. I know it now, and oh Bob, Bob, it makes me sadder than the
    pain of unsatisfied love in my heart.

    "It just can't be; nothing ever can make it as it was, and unless it
    could be that way--the boy and girl way, it would be something
    dreadful. We have missed the best in the world, Bob; we cannot enjoy
    the next best together. But apart, each doing his work in life as
    God wills it, we may find the next best, which is more than most
    people know.

    "I have found during this hour that I can pray again, Bob, and I am
    asking God always to let me hope for a heaven, into which I can
    bring a few little memories--of the time before you left me. Won't
    you bring yours there, too, dear? Until then--good-by.

                                                              "MOLLY."

The springs that move God's universe are hidden,--those that move the
world of material things and those that move the world of spiritual
things, and make events creep out of the past into the future so
noiselessly that they seem born in the present. It is all a mystery,
the half-stated equation of life that we call the scheme of things.
Only this is sure, that however remote, however separated by time and
space, the tragedy of life has its root in the weakness of men, and of
all the heart-breaking phantasms that move across the panorama of the
day, somewhere deep-rooted in our own souls' weakness is the
ineradicable cause. Even God's mercy cannot separate the punishment
that follows sin, and perhaps it is the greatest mercy of His mercy
that it cannot do so. For when we leave this world, our books are
clear. If our souls grow--we pay the price in suffering; if they
shrivel, we go into the next world, poorer for our pilgrimage.

So do not pity Molly Brownwell nor Robert Hendricks when you learn
that as she left the station at Sycamore Ridge that night, Lige Bemis
went to a gas lamp and read the note from Robert Hendricks that in her
confusion she had dropped upon the floor. Only pity the miserable
creature whose soul was so dead in him that he could put that note
away to bide his time. In this wide universe, wherein we are growing
slowly up to Godhood, only the poor leprous soul, whitened with malice
and hate, deserves the angels' tears. The rest of us,--weak, failing,
frail, to whom life deals its sorrows and its tears, its punishments
and its anguish,--we leave this world nearer to God than when we came
here, and the journey, though long and hard, has been worth the while.




CHAPTER XIX


Back in the days when John Barclay had become powerful enough to
increase the price of his door strips to the railroad companies from
five dollars to seven and a half, he had transferred the business of
the factory that made the strips from Hendricks' Exchange National to
the new Merchants' State Bank which Gabriel Carnine was establishing.
For Carnine and Barclay were more of a mind than were Barclay and
Hendricks; Carnine was bent on getting rich, and he had come to regard
Barclay as the most remarkable man in the world. Hendricks, on the
other hand, knew Barclay to the core, and since the quarrel of the
seventies, while they had maintained business relations, they were
merely getting along together. There were times when Barclay felt
uncomfortable, knowing that Hendricks knew much about his business,
but the more Carnine knew, the more praise Barclay had of him; and so,
even though Jane kept her own account with Hendricks, and though John
himself kept a personal account with Hendricks, the Economy Door Strip
Company and the Golden Belt Wheat Company did business with Carnine,
and Barclay became a director of the Merchants' State Bank, and
greatly increased its prestige thereby. And Bob Hendricks sighed a
sigh of relief, for he knew that he would never become John Barclay's
fence and be called upon to dispose of stolen goods. So Hendricks went
his way with his eyes on a level and his jaw squared with the world.
And when he knew that Jane knew the secret of his soul, about the only
comfort he had in those black days was the exultation in his heart
that John--whatever he might know--could not turn it into cash at
the Exchange National Bank.

As he walked alone under the stars that first night after Molly
Brownwell's note came to him, he saw his life as it was, with things
squarely in their relations. Of course this light did not stay with
him always; at times in his loneliness the old cloud of wild yearning
would come over him, and he would rattle the bars of his madhouse
until he could fight his way out to the clean air of Heaven under the
stars. And at such times he would elude Dolan, and walk far away from
the town in fields and meadows and woods struggling back to
sanity--sometimes through a long night. But as the years passed, this
truth came to be a part of his consciousness--that in some measure
the thing we call custom, or law, or civilization, or society, with
all its faults, is the best that man, endowed as he is to-day, can
establish, and that the highest service one can pay to man or to God
is found in conforming to the social compact, at whatever cost of
physical pain, or mental anguish, if the conformation does not require
a moral breach. That was the faith he lived by, that by service to his
fellows and by sacrifice to whatever was worthy in the social compact,
he would find a growth of soul that would pay him, either here or
hereafter. So he lent money, and sold light, and traded in
merchandise, and did a man's work in politics--playing each game
according to the rules.

But whatever came to him, whatever of honour or of influence, or of
public respect, in his own heart there was the cloud--he knew that he
was a forger, and that once he had offered to throw everything he had
aside and take in return--But he was not candid enough even in his
own heart to finish the indictment. It made him flush with shame, and
perhaps that was why on his face there was often a curious
self-deprecating smile--not of modesty, not of charity, but the smile
of the man who is looking at a passing show and knows that it is not
real. As he went into his forties, and the flux of his life hardened,
he became a man of reserves--a kind, quiet, strong man, charitable to
a fault for the weaknesses of others, but a man who rarely reflected
his impulses, a listener in conversation, a dreamer amid the tumult of
business, whose success lay in his industry and caution, and who drew
men to him not by what he promised, but by the faith we chattering
daws have in the man who looks on and smiles while we prattle.

His lank bones began to take on flesh, and his face rounded at the
corners, and the eagerness of youth passed from him. He always looked
more of a man than John Barclay. For Barclay was a man of enthusiasms,
who occasionally liked to mouth a hard jaw-breaking "damn," and who
followed his instincts with womanly faith in them--so that he became
known as a man of impulse. But Hendricks' power was in repression, and
in Sycamore Ridge they used to say that the only reason why Bob
Hendricks grew a mustache was to chew it when people expected him to
talk. It wasn't much of a mustache--a little blond fuzz about as
heavy as his yellow eyebrows over his big inquiring blue eyes, and he
once told Dolan that he kept it for a danger signal. When he found
himself pulling at it, he knew he was nervous and should get out into
the open. They tell a story in the Ridge to the effect that Hendricks
started to run to a fire, and caught himself pulling at his mustache,
and turned around and went out to the power-house instead.

It was the only anecdote ever told of Hendricks after he was
forty--for he was not a man about whom anecdotes would hang well,
though the town is full of them about John Barclay. So Hendricks lived
a strong reticent man, who succeeded in business though he was honest,
and who won in politics by choosing his enemies from the kind of noisy
men who make many mistakes, and let every one know it. The time came
when he did not avoid Molly Brownwell; she felt that he was not afraid
to see her in any circumstances, and that made her happy. Sometimes
she went to him in behalf of one of her father's charges,--some poor
devil who could not pay his note at the bank and keep the children in
school, or some clerk or workman at the power-house who had been
discharged. At such times they talked the matter in hand over frankly,
and it ended by the man giving way to the woman, or showing her simply
that she was wrong.

Only once in nearly a score of years did a personal word pass between
them. She had come to him for his signature to a petition for a pardon
for a man whose family suffered while he was in the penitentiary.
Hendricks signed the paper and handed it back to her, and his blue
eyes were fixed impersonally upon her, and he smiled his curious,
self-deprecatory smile and sighed, "As we forgive our debtors." Then
he reached for a paper in his desk and seemed oblivious to her
presence. No one else was near them, and the woman hesitated a moment
before turning to go and repeated, "Yes, Bob--as we forgive our
debtors." She tried to show him the radiance in her soul, but he did
not look up and she went away. When she had gone, he pushed aside his
work and sat for a moment looking into the street; he began biting his
mustache, and rose, and went out of the bank and found some other
work.

That night as Hendricks and Dolan walked over the town together, Dolan
said: "Did you ever know, Robert"--that was as near familiarity as
the elder man came with Hendricks--"that Mart Culpepper owed his
son-in-law a lot of money?"

"Well," returned Hendricks, "he borrowed a lot fifteen years ago or
such a matter; why?"

"Well," answered Dolan, "I served papers on Mart to-day in a suit
for--I dunno, a lot of money--as I remember it about fifteen
thousand dollars. That seems like a good deal."

Hendricks grunted, and they walked on in silence. Hendricks knew from
Brownwell's overdraft that things were not going well with him, and he
believed that matters must have reached a painful crisis in the
Culpepper family if Brownwell had brought suit against the colonel.

The next morning Colonel Martin Culpepper came into the bank. He had
grown into a large gray man--with gray hair, gray mustaches of
undiminished size, and chin whiskers grayed and broadened with the
years. His fine black eyes were just beginning to lose their lustre,
and the spring was going out of his stride. As he came into the bank,
Hendricks noticed that the colonel seemed to shuffle just a little. He
put out his fat hand, and said:--

"Robert, will you come into the back room with me a moment? It isn't
business--I just want to talk with you." He smiled apologetically and
added, "Just troubles, Robert--just an old man wants to talk to some
one, in point of fact."

Hendricks followed the colonel into the directors' room, and without
ceremony the colonel sank heavily into a fat leather chair, facing the
window, and Hendricks sat down facing the colonel. The colonel looked
at the floor and fumbled his triangular watch-charm a moment, and
cleared his throat, as he spoke, "I don't know just how to begin--to
get at it--to proceed, as I may say, Robert." Hendricks did not
reply, and the colonel went on, "I just wanted to talk to some one,
that's all--to talk to you--just to you, sir, to be exact."

Hendricks looked kindly at the colonel, whose averted eyes made the
younger man feel uncomfortable. Then he said gently, "Well, Colonel,
don't be backward about saying what you want to to me." It was a long
speech for Hendricks, and he felt it, and then qualified it with,
"But, of course, I don't want to urge you."

The colonel's face showed a flush of courage to Hendricks, but the
courage passed, and there was a silence, and then a little twitch
under his eyes told Hendricks that the colonel was contemplating a
flank attack as he spoke, "Robert, may I ask you in confidence if
Adrian Brownwell is hard up?"

Hendricks believed the truth would bring matters to a head, and he
answered, "Well, I shouldn't wonder, Colonel."

"Very hard up?" pressed the colonel.

Hendricks remembered Brownwell's overdraft and half a dozen past due
notes to cover other overdrafts and answered, "Well, Colonel, not
desperate, but you know the _Index_ has been getting the best of the
_Banner_ for two or three years."

There was a pause, and then the colonel blurted out, "Well, Bob, he's
sued me."

"I knew that, Colonel," returned Hendricks, anxious to press the
matter to its core. "Jake told me yesterday."

"I was going to pay him; he's spoken about it several times--dunned me,
sir, in point of fact, off and on for several years. But he knew I was
good for it. And now the little coward runs off up to Chicago to attend
the convention and sues me while he's gone. That's what I hate."
Hendricks could see that the object of the colonel's visit was still on
his mind, and so he left the way open for the colonel to talk. "You know
how Mrs. Culpepper feels and how Molly feels--disgraced, sir,
humiliated, shamed, to be exact, sir, in front of the whole town. What
would you do, Robert? What can a man do in a time like this--I ask you,
what can he do?"

"Well, I'd pay him, Colonel, if I were you," ventured the younger man.

The colonel straightened up and glared at Hendricks and exclaimed:
"Bob Hendricks, do you think, sir, that Martin Culpepper would rest
for a minute, while he had a dollar to his name, or a rag on his back,
under the imputation of not paying a debt like that? It is paid,
sir,--settled in full this morning, sir. But what am I going to do
about him, sir--the contemptible scamp who publicly sued his own
wife's father? That's what I came to you for, Robert. What am I going
to do?"

"It'll be forgotten in a week, Colonel--I wouldn't worry about it,"
answered Hendricks. "We all have those little unpleasantnesses."

The colonel was silent for a time, and then he said: "Bob--" turning
his eyes to meet Hendricks' for the first time during their
meeting--"that scoundrel said to me yesterday morning before leaving,
'If I hadn't the misfortune of being your son-in-law, you wouldn't
have the honour of owing me this money.' Then he sneered at me--you
know the supercilious way he has, the damn miserable hound-pup way he
has of grinning at you,--and says, 'I regarded it as a loan, even
though you seemed to regard it as a bargain.' And he whirled and left
me." The colonel's voice broke as he added: "In God's name, Bob, tell
me--did I sell Molly? You know--you can tell me."

The colonel was on his feet, standing before Hendricks, with, his
hands stretched toward the younger man. Hendricks did not reply at
once, and the colonel broke forth: "Bob Hendricks, why did you and my
little girl quarrel? Did she break it or did you? Did I sell her, Bob,
did I sell my little girl?" He slipped back into the chair and for a
moment hid his face, and shook with a great sob, then pulled himself
together, and said, "I know I'm a foolish old man, Bob, only I feel a
good deal depends on knowing the truth--a good deal of my attitude
toward him."

Hendricks looked at the colonel for an abstracted moment, and then
said: "Colonel, Adrian Brownwell is hard up--very hard up, and you
don't know how he is suffering with chagrin at being beaten by the
_Index_. He is quick-tempered--just as you are, Colonel." He paused a
moment and took the colonel by the hand,--a fat, pink hand, without
much iron in it,--and brought him to his feet. "And about that other
matter," he added, as he put his arm about the colonel, "you didn't
sell her. I know that; I give you my word on that. It was fifteen
years ago--maybe longer--since Molly and I were--since we went
together as boy and girl. That's a long time ago, Colonel, a long time
ago, and I've managed to forget just why we--why we didn't make a go
of it." He smiled kindly at the colonel as he spoke--a smile that the
colonel had not seen in Hendricks' face in many years. Then the mask
fell on his face, and the colonel saw it fall--the mask of the man
over the face of the boy. A puzzled, bewildered look crept into the
gray, fat face, and Hendricks could see that the doubt was still in
the colonel's heart. The younger man pressed the colonel's hand, and
the two moved toward the door. Suddenly tears flushed into the dimmed
eyes of the colonel, and he cried, through a smile, "Bob Hendricks, I
believe in my soul you're a liar--a damn liar, sir, but, boy, you're
a thoroughbred--God bless you, you're a thoroughbred." And he turned
and shuffled from the room and out of the bank.

When Colonel Martin Culpepper left Robert Hendricks at the door of the
directors' room of the Exchange National Bank, the colonel was
persuaded in his heart that his daughter had married Adrian Brownwell
to please her parents, and the colonel realized that day that her
parents were pleased with Brownwell as a suitor for their daughter,
because in time of need he had come to their rescue with money, and
incidentally because he was of their own blood and caste--a Southern
gentleman of family. The colonel went to the offices of the Culpepper
Mortgage and Loan Company and went over his bank-book again. The check
that he drew would take all but three hundred and forty-five dollars
out of the accounts of his company, and not a dollar of it was his.
The Culpepper Mortgage Company was lending other people's money. It
had been lending money on farm mortgages for ten years. Pay-day on
many mortgages was coming due, and of the fifteen thousand dollars he
checked out to pay Adrian Brownwell's debt, thirteen thousand dollars
was money that belonged to the Eastern creditors of the company--men
and women who had sent their money to the company for it to lend; and
the money checked out represented money paid back by the farmers for
the release of their mortgages. Some of the money was interest paid by
farmers on their mortgages, some of it was partial payments--but none
of it was Colonel Culpepper's money.

"Molly," said the colonel, as his daughter came into the office, "I've
given a check for that--that money, you know, to Adrian--paid it in
full, my dear. But--" the colonel fumbled with his pencil a moment
and added, "I'm a trifle shy--a few thousand in point of fact, and I
just thought I'd ask--would you borrow it of Bob, if you were me?"

He looked at her closely, and she coloured and shook her head
vehemently as she replied: "Oh, no, father--no, can't you get it
somewhere else? Not from Bob--for that! I mean--oh--I'd much rather
not."

The colonel looked at his daughter a moment and drew a deep breath,
and sighed, and smiled across his sigh, and took her hand and put it
around his neck and kissed it, and when she was close to him he put
his arm about her, and their eyes met for a fleeting instant, and they
did not speak. But in a moment from across his desk the daughter
spoke, "Why don't you go to John or Carnine, father?"

"Well, Gabe--you know Gabe. I'm borrowed clear to the limit there,
now. And John--you know John, Molly--and the muss, the disagreeable
muss,--the row, in point of fact, we had over that last seventy-five
dollars settling up the College Heights business--you remember? Well,
I just can't go to John. But," he added cheerfully, "I can get it
elsewhere, my dear--I have other resources, other resources, my
dear." And the colonel smiled so gayly that he deceived even his
daughter, and she went home as happy as a woman with eyelids as red as
hers were that day might reasonably expect to be.

As for the colonel, he sat figuring for an hour upon a sheet of white
paper. His figures indicated that by putting all of his property
except his home into the market, and reserving all of his commissions
on loans that would fall due during the three years coming, he could
pay back the money he had taken, little by little, and be square with
the company's creditors in three years--or four at the most. So he
let the check stand, and did not try to borrow money of the banks to
make it good, but trusted to to-morrow's receipts to pay yesterday's
debts of the company. Knowing that several mortgages of more than
three thousand each would fall due in a few weeks, and that the men
carrying them, expected to pay them, the colonel wrote dilatory
letters to the Eastern creditors whose money he had taken, explaining
that there was some delay in the payment of the notes, and that the
matter would be straightened out in a few weeks. When the money came
in from the mortgages falling due the next month, he paid those
already due, and delayed the payment of Peter until Paul paid up. It
was a miserable business, and Colonel Culpepper knew that he was a
thief. The knowledge branded him as one, and bent his eyes to the
ground, and wrenched his proud neck so that his head hung loosely upon
it. Always when he spoke in public, or went among his poor on errands
of mercy, at his elbow stood the accusing spectre, and choked his
voice, and unnerved his hand. And trouble came upon the Culpeppers,
and the colonel's clothes, which, had always been immaculate, grew
shabby. As that year and the next passed and mortgages began falling
due, not only in the colonel's company but all over the county, all
over the state, all over the Missouri Valley, men found they could not
pay. The cycle of business depression moved across the world, as those
things come and go through the centuries. Moreover, General Ward was
riding on the crest of a wave of unrest which expressed in terms of
politics what the people felt in their homes. Debts were falling due;
crops brought small returns; capital was frightened; men in the mills
lost their work; men on the farms burned their corn; and Colonel
Martin Culpepper sank deeper and deeper into the mire.

Those years of the panic of the early nineties pressed all the youth
out of his step, dimmed the lustre of his eyes, and slowly broke his
heart. His keenest anguish was not for his own suffering, but because
his poor, the people at the Mission, came trooping to him for help,
and he had to turn so many away. The whole town knew that he was in
trouble, though no one knew or even suspected just what it was. For
the people had their own troubles in those days, and the town and the
county and the state and the whole world grew shabby.

One day in the summer of '93, Colonel Culpepper was sitting in his
office reading a letter from Vermont demanding a long-deferred
interest payment on a mortgage. There were three hundred dollars due,
and the colonel had but half that amount, and was going to send what
he had. Jake Dolan came into the office and saw the colonel sitting
with the letter crumpled in his hands, and with worry in the dull old
eyes.

"Come in, Jake, come in," cried the colonel, a little huskily. "What's
the trouble, comrade--what's wrong?"

But let Dolan tell it to Hendricks three days later, as the two are
sitting at night on the stone bridge across the Sycamore built by John
Barclay to commemorate the battle of Sycamore Ridge. "'Well, Mart,'
says I, 'I'm in vicarious trouble,' says I. 'It's along of my orphan
asylum,' says I. 'What orphan asylum?' says he. 'Well, it's this way,
Mart,' says I. 'You know they found Trixie Lee guilty this afternoon
in the justice court, don't you?' Mart sighs and says, 'Poor Trixie, I
supposed they would sooner or later, poor girl--poor girl. An' old
Cap Lee of the Red Legs was her father; did you know that, Jake?' he
asks. 'Yes, Mart,' says I, 'and Lady Lee before her. She comes by it
honestly.' Mart sat drumming with his fingers on the table, looking
back into the years. 'Poor Jim,' he says, 'Jim was a brave soldier--a
brave, big-hearted, generous soldier--he nursed me all that first
night at Wilson's Creek when I was wounded. Poor Jim.' 'Yes,' says I,
'and Trixie has named her boy for him--Jim Lord Lee Young; that was
her husband's name--Young,' says I. 'And it's along of the boy that
I'm here for. The nicest bright-eyed little chap you ever saw; and he
seems to know that something is wrong, and just clings to his mother
and cries--seven years old, or maybe eight--and begs me not to put
his mother in jail. And,' says I to Mart, 'Mart, I just can't do it.
The sheriff he's run, and so has the deputy; they can't stand the boy
crying, and damn it to hell, Mart, I can't, either; so I just left 'em
in the office and locked the door and come around to see you. I'd 'a'
gone to see Bob, only he's out of town this week,' I says. 'I can
throw up the job, Mart--though I'd have to go on the county; but
Mart, they ain't a soul for the boy to go to; and it ain't right to
put him in jail with the scum that's in there.'"

"Tough--wasn't it?" said Hendricks. "What did you do? Why didn't you
go to Carnine or Barclay?"

"That's just what I'm a-comin' to,--the Priest or the Levite?" said
Jake. "Well, Mart said, 'Where're the men they caught--won't they
help?' and I says, 'They paid their tine and skipped.' 'Fine?' asks
Mart, 'fine? I thought you said it was jail sentence.' 'Well,' says I,
'it amounts to the same thing; she can't pay her fine, and that damn
reform judge, wanting to make a record as a Spartan, has committed her
to jail till it is paid!' 'So they go free, and she goes to jail,
because she is poor,' says Mart.' That's what your reform means,' says
I, 'or I let her and the boy loose and lose my job. And oh, Mart,'
says I, 'the screams of that little boy at the disgrace of it and the
terror of the jail--man--I can't stand it!' 'How much is it?' sighs
Mart. 'An even hundred fine and seventeen dollars and fifty cents
costs,' says I. Mart's eyes was leaking, and he gets up and goes to
the vault, and comes back with the cash and says, blubbering like a
calf: 'Here, Jake Dolan, you old scoundrel, take this. I'll pass a
paper and get it to-morrow--now get out of here.' And he handed me
the money all cried over where he'd been slow counting it out, and
said when he'd got hold of his wobbly jaw: 'Don't you tell her where
you got it--I don't want her around here. I'll see her to-morrow when
I'm down that way and talk to her for old Cap Lee--' And then he
laughs as he stands in the door and says: 'Well, Jim,' and he points
up, 'your bread cast upon the waters was a long time a-coming--but
here she is;' and he says, 'Do you suppose the old villain knows?' And
I turned and hunted up the justice and went around to the office, and
told Trixie to 'go sin no more,' and she laughs and says, 'Well,
hardly ever!' and I kissed the kid, and he fought my whiskers, and we
all live happy ever after."

But the colonel, after Dolan left the office, went into the darkening
room, and spread out the harsh letter from the Vermont banker
demanding money long past due, and read and reread it and took up his
burden, and got into the weary treadmill of his life. It rained the
next day, and he did not go out with his subscription paper; he had
learned that people subscribe better on bright days; and as Hendricks
and Barclay were both out of town, he wrote a dilatory letter to the
Vermont people--the fifth he had written about that particular
transaction--and waited another rainy day and still another before
starting out with his paper. But the event was past; the cry of the
child was not in the people's ears; they knew that the colonel had put
up the money; so it was not until Hendricks came back and heard the
story from Dolan that the colonel was repaid. Then because he actually
had the money--at least half of it due on that particular debt, which
was one of scores of its kind--the colonel delayed another day and
another, and while he was musing the fire burned. And events started
in Vermont which greatly changed the course of this story.

"I wonder," he has written in that portion of the McHurdie Biography
devoted to "The Press of the Years," "why, as we go farther and
farther into life, invariably it grows dingier and dingier. The 'large
white plumes' that dance before the eyes of youth soil, and are
bedraggled. And out of the inexplicable tangle of the mesh of life
come dark threads from God knows where and colour the woof of it gray
and dreary. Ah for the days of the large white plumes--for the days
when life's woof was bright!"




CHAPTER XX


If the reader of this tale should feel drawn to visit Sycamore Ridge,
he will find a number of interesting things there, and the trip may be
made by the transcontinental traveller with the loss of but half a
dozen hours from his journey. The Golden Belt Railroad, fifteen years
ago, used to print a guide-book called "California and Back," in which
were set down the places of interest to the traveller. In that book
Sycamore Ridge was described thus:--

    "Sycamore Ridge, pop. 22,345, census 1890; large water-power, main
    industry milling; also manufacturing; five wholesale houses. Seat
    Ward University, 1300 students; also Garrison County High School,
    also Business College. Thirty-five churches, two newspapers, the
    _Daily Banner_ and the _Index_; fifty miles of paved streets;
    largest stone arch bridge in the West, marking site of Battle of
    Sycamore Ridge, a border ruffian skirmish; home of Watts McHurdie,
    famous as writer of war-songs, best known of which is--" etc., etc.

But excepting Watts, who may be gone before you get there,--for he is
an old man now, and is alone and probably does not always have the
best of care,--the things above annotated will not interest the
traveller. At the Thayer House they will tell you that three things in
the town give it distinction: the Barclay home, a rambling gray brick
structure which the natives call Barclay Castle, with a great sycamore
tree held together by iron bands on the terraced lawn before the
house--that is number one; the second thing they will advise the
traveller to see is Mary Barclay Park, ten acres of transplanted elm
trees, most tastefully laid out, between Main Street and the Barclay
home; and the third thing that will be pointed out to the traveller is
the Schnitzler fountain, in the cemetery gateway, done by St. Gaudens;
it represents a soldier pouring water from his canteen into his hand,
as he bathes the brow of a dying comrade.

These things, of course,--the house, the park, and the
fountain,--represent John Barclay and his money. The town is proud of
them, but the reader is advised not to expect too much of them. One of
the two things really worth seeing at the Ridge is the view over the
wheat fields of the Sycamore Valley from the veranda of the Culpepper
home on the hill. There one may see the great fields lying in three
townships whereon John Barclay founded his fortune. The second thing
worth seeing may be found in the hallway of the public library
building, just at the turn of the marble stairway, where the morning
light strikes it. Take the night train out of Chicago and get to the
Ridge in the morning, to get the light on that picture.

It is a portrait of John Barclay, done when he was forty years old and
painted by a Russian during the summer when the Barclays were called
home from Europe before their journey was half completed, to
straighten out an obstreperous congressman, one Tom Wharton by name,
who was threatening to put wheat and flour on the free list in a
tariff bill, unless--but that is immaterial, except that Wharton was
on Barclay's mind more or less while the painter was at work, and the
portrait reflects what Barclay thought of a number of things. It shows
a small gray-clad man, with a pearl pin in a black tie, sitting rather
on the edge of his chair, leaning forward, so that the head is thrown
into the light. The eyes are well opened, and the jaw comes out, a
hard mean jaw; but the work of the artist, the real work that reveals
the soul of the sitter, is shown in three features, if we except the
pugnacious shoulders. In the face are two of these features: the
mouth, a hard, coarse, furtive mouth,--the mouth of the liar who is
not polished,--the peasant liar who has been caught and has brazened
it out; the mouth and the forehead, full almost to bulging, so clean
and white and naked that it seems shameful to expose it, a poet's
forehead, noble and full of dreams, broad over the eyes, and as
delicately modelled at the temples as a woman's where the curly brown
hair is brushed away from it. But the wonderful feature about the
portrait is the right hand. The artist obviously asked Barclay to
assume a natural attitude, and then seeing him lean forward with his
hand stretched out in some gesture of impatience, persuaded him to
take that pose. It is the sort of vital human thing that would please
Barclay--no sham about it; but he did not realize what the Russian
was putting into that hand--a long, hard, hairy, hollow, grasping,
relentless hand, full in the foreground and squarely in the light--a
horrible thing with artistic fingers, and a thin, greedy palm
indicated by the deep hump in the back. It reaches out from the
picture, with the light on the flesh tints, with the animal hair thick
upon it, and with the curved, slender, tapering fingers cramped like a
claw; and when one follows up the arm to the crouching body, the
furtive mouth, the bold, shrewd eyes, and then sees that forehead full
of visions, one sees in it more than John Barclay of Sycamore Ridge,
more than America, more than Europe. It is the menace of
civilization--the danger to the race from the domination of sheer
intellect without moral restraint.

General Ward, who was on the committee that received the picture
fifteen years after it was painted, stood looking at it the morning it
was hung there on the turn of the stairs. As the light fell
mercilessly upon it, the general, white-haired, white-necktied,
clean-shaven, and lean-faced, gazed at the portrait for a long time,
and then said to his son Neal who stood beside him, "And Samson wist
not that the Lord had departed from him."

It will pay one to stop a day in Sycamore Ridge to see that
picture--though he does not know John Barclay, and only understands
the era that made him, and gave him that refined, savage, cunning,
grasping hand.

Barclay stopped a week in Washington on his return from Europe the
year that picture was painted, made a draft for fifty thousand dollars
on the National Provisions Company to cover "legal expenses," and came
straight home to Sycamore Ridge. He was tired of cities, he told
Colonel Culpepper, who met Barclay at the post-office the morning he
returned, with his arms full of newspapers. "I want to hear the old
mill, Colonel," said Barclay, "to smell the grease down in the guts of
her, and to get my hair full of flour again." When he had gorged
himself for two days, he wired Bemis to come to the Ridge, and Barclay
and Bemis sat on the dam one evening until late bedtime, considering
many things. As they talked, Barclay found that a plan for the
reorganization of the Provisions Company was growing in his mind, and
he talked it out as it grew.

"Lige," he said, as he leaned with his elbows on a rock behind him,
"the trouble with the company as it now stands is that it's too
palpable. There's too much to levy on--too much in sight; too much
physical property. How would it do to sell all these mills and
elevators, and use the company as a kind of a cream skimmer--a profit
shop--to market the products of the mills?" He paused a moment, and
Bemis, who knew he was not expected to reply, flipped pebbles into the
stream. Barclay changed his position slightly and began to pick stones
out of the crevices, and throw the stones into the water. "That's the
thing to do--go ahead and sell every dollar's worth of assets the
company's got--I'll take the mill here. I couldn't get along without
that. Then we'll buy the products of the mills at cost of the millers,
and let them get their profits back as individual holders of our
stock. Our company will handle the Door Strip--buy it and sell
it--and if any long-nosed reformer gets to snooping around the mills,
he'll find they are making only a living profit; and as for us--any
state grain commissioner or board of commissioners who wanted to
examine us could do so, and what'd he find? Simply that we're buying
our products at cost of the millers and selling at the market
price--sometimes at a loss, sometimes at a profit; and what if we do
handle all the grain and grain products in the United States? They
can't show that we are hurting anything. I tell you there's getting to
be too much snooping now in the state and federal governments. Have
you got any fellow in your office who can fix up a charter that will
let us buy and sell grain, and also sell the Barclay Economy Strip?"

Bemis nodded.

"Then, damn 'em, let 'em go on with their commissioners and boards and
legislative committees; they can't catch us. There's no law against
the railroads that ship our stuff buying the Economy Door Strip, is
there? You bet there isn't. And we're entitled to a good round
inventor's profit, ain't we? You bet we are. You go ahead and get up
that reorganization, and I'll put it through. Say, Lige--" Barclay
chuckled as a recollection flashed across his mind--"you know I've
made some of our Northwest senators promise to make you a federal
judge. That's one of the things I did last week; I thought maybe
sometime we'd need a federal judge as one of the--what do you call
it--the hereditaments thereunto appertaining of the company." Bemis
opened his eyes in astonishment, and Barclay grunted in disgust as he
went on: "Of course we can't get you appointed from this
state--that's clear--but they think we can work it through in the
City--as soon as there is a vacancy--or make a new district. How
would you like that? Judge Bemis--say, that sounds all right, doesn't
it?"

Barclay rose and stretched his legs and arms. "Well, I must be
going--Mrs. Barclay and my mother want to hear the new organ over in
the Congregational Church. It's a daisy--Colonel Culpepper, amongst
hands, skirmished up three thousand. They let me pick it out, and I
had to put up another thousand myself to get the kind I wanted. Are
you well taken care of at the hotel?" When Bemis explained that he had
the bridal chamber, the two men clambered up the bank of the stream,
crossed the bridge, and at his gate Barclay said: "Now, I'll sleep on
this to-night,--this reorganization,--and then I'll write you a
letter to-morrow, covering all that I've said, and you can fix up a
tentative charter and fire it down--and say, Lige, figure out what a
modest profit on all the grain and grain produce business of the
country would be--say about two and a half per cent, and make the
capitalization of the reorganization fit that. We'll get the real
profits out of the Door Strip, and can fix that up in the books. We'll
show the reformers a trick or two." It was a warm night, and when the
organ recital was over, John and Jane Barclay, after the custom of the
town, sat on a terrace in front of the house talking of the day's
events. Music always made John babble.

"Jane," he asked suddenly, "Jane--when does a man begin to grow old?
Here I am past forty. I used to think when a man was forty he was
middle-aged; every five years I have advanced my idea of what an old
man was; when I was fifteen, I thought a man was getting along when he
was thirty. When I was twenty-five, I regarded forty as the beginning
of the end; when I was thirty, I put the limit of activity at
forty-five; five years ago I moved it up to fifty; and to-day I have
jumped it to sixty. It seems to me, Jane, that I'm as much of a boy as
ever; all this talk about my being a man puzzles me. What's this
Provisions Company but a game? And I'm going to play another game; I'm
going to get grain and grain produce organized, and then I'm going to
tackle meat. In ten years I'll have the packing-houses where I have
the mills; but it's just play--and it's a lot of fun."

He was silent a moment. Jane did not disturb his reveries. She
understood, without exactly putting her feeling into language, that
she was being talked at, not talked to.

"Say, Jane," he exclaimed, "wasn't that 'Marche Triomphante to-night
great?" He hummed a bar from the motif, "That's it--my--" he cried,
hitting his chair arm with his fist, "but that's a big thing--almost
good enough for Wagner to have done; big and insistent and strong. I'm
getting to like music with go to it--with bang and brass. Wagner does
it; honest, Jane, when I hear his trombones coming into a theme, I get
ideas enough to give the whole force in the office nervous prostration
for a month. To-night when that thing was swelling up like a great
tidal wave of music rolling in, I worked out a big idea; I'm going to
sell all the mills and factories back to the millers for our stock,
and when I own every dollar of our stock, I'm going to double the
price of it to them and sell it back to them; and if they haggle about
it, I'll build a new mill across the track from every man-jack who
tries to give me any funny business--I'll show 'em. That
reorganization ought to clean up millions for us in the next year.
What a lot of fun it all is! I used to think old Jay Gould was some
pumpkins; but if we get this reorganization through, I'll go down
there and buy the Gould outfit and sell 'em for old iron."

The current of his thoughts struck under language, as a prairie stream
sometimes hides from its surface bed. After a time Jane said: "Grandma
Barclay thought the 'Marche Funebre' was the best thing the man did. I
heard the Wards speaking of it in the vestibule; and Molly, who held
my hand through it, nearly squeezed it off--poor girl; but she looks
real well these days." Jane paused a moment and added: "Did you notice
the colonel? How worn and haggard he looks--he seems broken so. They
say he is in trouble. Couldn't we help him?"

Her husband did not reply at once. Finally he recalled his wandering
wits and answered: "Oh, I don't know, Jane. He'll pull through, I
guess." Then he reverted to the music, which was still in his head.
"He played the Largo well--didn't he? That was made for the organ.
But some way I like the big things. The Largo is like running a little
twenty-horse-power steam mill, and selling to the home grocers. But
'The Ride of the Valkyries,' with those screaming discords of brass,
and those magnificent crashes of harmony--Jane, I've got an
idea--Wagner's work is the National Provisions Company set to music,
and I'm the first trombone." He laughed and reached for his wife's
hand and kissed it; then he rose and stood before her, admiring her in
the starlight, as he exclaimed: "And you are those clarinets, sweet
and clear and delicious, that make a man want to cry for sheer joy.
Come on, my dear--isn't it very late?" And the little man limped
across the grass up the steps and into the house. The two stopped a
moment while he listened to the roar of the water and the rumble of
the mill, that glowed in the night like a phosphorescent spectre. He
squeezed her hand and cried out in exultation, "It's great, isn't
it--the finest mill on this planet, my dear--do you realize that?"
And then they turned into the house.

The next morning he kept two stenographers busy; he was spinning the
web of his reorganization, bringing about a condition under which men
were compelled to exchange their stock in the National Provisions
Company for their former property. He was a crafty little man, and his
ways were sometimes devious, even though to outward view his
advertised and proclaimed methods were those of a pirate. So when he
had dictated a day's work to two girls, he went nosing through the
mill, loafing in the engine rooms, looking at the water wheel, or
running about rafters in the fifth floor like a great gray rat. As he
went he hummed little tunes under his breath or whistled between his
teeth, with his lips apart. After luncheon he unlocked a row-boat, and
took a cane pole and rowed himself a mile up the mill-pond, and
brought home three good-sized bass. Thus did he spend his idle moments
around the Ridge. That night he thumped his piano and longed for a
pipe organ. The things he tried to play were noisy, and his mother,
sitting in the gloaming near him, sighed and said: "John, play some of
the old pieces--the quieter ones; play 'The Long and Weary Day' and
some of the old songs. Have you forgotten the 'Bohemian Girl' and
those Schubert songs?"

His fingers felt their way back to his boyhood, and when he ceased
playing, he stood by his mother a moment, and patted her cheeks as he
hummed in German the first two lines of the "Lorelei," and then said,
"We have come a long way since then--eh, mother?" She held his hand
to her cheek and then to her lips, but she did not reply. He repeated
it, "A long, long way from the little home of one room here!" After a
pause he added, "Would you like to go back?"

A tear fell on the hand against her cheek. He felt her jaw quiver, and
then she said, "Oh, yes, John--yes, I believe I would."

He knew she did not care for his wealth, and there were many things
about his achievements that he felt she might misunderstand; her
attitude often puzzled him. So he sat a moment on her chair arm, and
said, "Well, mother, I have done my best." It was a question more than
a protest.

"Yes, dear," she replied, "I know you have--you have done your
best--your very best. But I think it is in your blood."

"What?" he asked.

"Oh, all this," she answered; "all this money-getting. I am foolish,
John, but some way, I want my little boy back--the one who used to
sit with me so long ago, and play on the guitar and sing 'Sleeping, I
Dream, Love.' I don't like your new music, John; it's so like clanging
cars, and crashing hammers, and the groans of men at toil."

"But this is a new world, mother--a new world that is different,"
protested the son, impatiently.

And the mother answered sadly as she looked up at him: "I know,
dear--it is a new world; but the same old God moves it; and the same
faith in God and love of man move men that always have moved them, and
always will move them; there are as many things to live and die for
now, as when your father gave up his life, John--just as many." They
rocked together in silence--the boy of forty and the mother of sixty.
Finally she said, "Johnnie, play me 'Ever of Thee I'm fondly
Thinking,' won't you, before you go?"

He sat with his foot on the soft pedal and played the old love song,
and as he played his mother wandered over hills he had never seen,
through fields he had never known, and heard a voice in the song he
might never hear, even in his dreams. When he finished, she stood
beside him and cried with all the passion her years could summon: "Oh,
John--John--it will come out some way--some day. It's in your soul,
and God in His own way will bring it out." He did not understand her
then, and it was many years before he prayed her prayer.

The next day he went to the City and plunged into his work, and the
Ridge and its people and the prayers of his mother became to him only
as a dream that comes in the night and fades in the day. Even the
shabby figure of Colonel Martin Culpepper, with his market basket on
his arm, waving a good-by as the Barclay private car pulled out of the
Sycamore Ridge depot, disappeared from his mind, though that pathetic
image haunted him for nearly a hundred miles as he rode, and he could
not shake it off until he immersed himself in the roar of the great
City. He could not know that he had any remote relation with the worry
in the old man's eyes. Nor did Martin Culpepper try to shift his load
to John. He knew where the blame was, and he tried to take it like a
man. But in reckoning the colonel's account, may not something be
charged off to the account of John Barclay, who to save himself and
accomplish the Larger Good--which meant the establishment of his own
fortunes--sent Adrian Brownwell in those days in the seventies with
the money to the colonel, not so much to help the colonel as to save
John Barclay? The Larger Good is a slow, vicious, accumulative poison,
and heaven only knows when it will come out and kill.

It was a week after the pipe-organ recital at the church, when Mary
Barclay, doing her day's marketing, ran into Colonel Culpepper
standing rather forlornly in front of McHurdie's shop. He bowed to her
with elaborate graciousness, and she stopped to speak with him. In a
moment he was saying, "So you have not heard, are unaware, entirely
ignorant, in point of fact, of my misfortunes?" She assented, and the
colonel went on: "Well, madam, the end has come; I have played out my
hand; I have strutted my hour upon the stage, and now I go off. Old
Mart Culpepper, my dear, is no longer the leading citizen, nor our
distinguished capitalist, not even the hustling real estate agent of
former days--just plain old Mart Culpepper, I may say. He who was, is
now a has-been,--just an old man without a business." He saw that she
did not appreciate what had happened, and he smiled gently and said:
"Closed up, my dear madam. A receiver was appointed a few minutes ago
for the Culpepper Mortgage Company, and I gave him the key.
Failure--failure--" he repeated the word bitterly--"failure is
written over the door of this life."

Mary Barclay grasped his big fat hand and pressed it, and shook her
head. Something in her throat choked her, and she could not speak at
first. The two stood a moment in silence before the woman said
emphatically, "No--no! Martin Culpepper, God is keeping your books!"

The shabby old man stood uncovered, a smile quivering about his eyes.
"Maybe so, Mary Barclay, maybe so," he said. The smile fell into his
countenance as he added, "That is why I have gone so long without a
settlement; with my account so badly overdrawn, too." Then he turned
to go and walked as lightly down the street as a man could walk,
broken before his time with the weight of a humiliation upon him and a
fear greater than his shame burning in his fluttering old heart.

And now if you are reading this story to be in the company of the rich
Mr. Barclay, to feel the madness of his millions, to enjoy the vain
delirium of his power, skip the rest of this chapter. For it tells of a
shabby time in the lives of all of the threadbare people who move in
this tale. Even John Barclay sees the seams and basting threads of his
life here, and as for the others,--the colonel and Jake and the general
and Watts, and even Molly,--what do these people mean to you, these
common people, in their old clothes, with their old hearts and their
rusty sins and their homely sorrows? Milord and his lady will not
scamper across these pages; no rooms with rich appointments will gladden
your eyes, and perhaps in the whole book you will not find a man in
evening dress nor a woman in a dinner gown. And now the only thing there
is to offer is Jake Dolan, aged fifty-seven, with scanty, grizzled hair,
sitting in his shirt-sleeves in the basement of the court-house, with
the canvas cot he sleeps on for a chair, mending his blue army coat.
Beside him on the bed are his trousers, thin, almost worn through,
patched as to the knees and as to other important places, but clean and
without a loose thread hanging from them. Surely an old Irishman mending
an old army coat under a dusty electric light bulb in the basement of a
court-house, wherein he is janitor by grace of the united demand of
Henry Schnitzler Post of the G.A.R. No. 432, is not a particularly
inspiring picture. But he has bitten the last thread with his teeth, and
is putting away the sewing outfit. And now Mr. Dolan, from the drawer of
a little table beside the cot,--a table with Bob Hendricks' picture,
framed in plush, sitting on the top,--now Mr. Dolan takes from the
drawer a tablet of writing paper printed by the county. It is his
particular pride, that writing paper. For upon it at the top is the
picture of the new one-hundred-thousand-dollar court-house, and beside
the court-house picture are these words: "Office of Jacob Dolan,
Custodian of Public Buildings and Grounds of Garrison County." Mr. Dolan
will be writing a letter, and so long as it begins with "Dear Sir," and
nothing more endearing, surely we may look over his shoulder while he
writes,--even though it is bad form. And as Mr. Dolan will be writing to
"Robert Hendricks, care of Cook's Hotel, Cairo, Egypt,"--which he spells
with an "i," but let that pass, and let some of his literary style and
construction pass with it,--and as he will be writing to Mr. Hendricks,
perhaps Miss Nancy may do well to go sit in the corridor and put her
fingers in her ears while we read. For Mr. Dolan is an emotional man,
and he is breathing hard, and by the way he grabs his pen and jabs it
into the ink one can see that he is angry.

    "DEAR SIR (begins Mr. Dolan): I take my pen in hand to answer yours
    of this date from New York and would have written you anyhow, as
    there is much on my mind and I would cable you, but I can't, being
    for the moment short of funds. I write to say, Robert, that we have
    Mart Culpepper in jail--right across the hall. He came in at nine
    o'clock to-night, and the damn Pop judge put his bail at $15,999 to
    cover his alleged shortage, and the stinker won't accept us old boys
    on the bond--Phil and Watts and Os and the Company 'C' boys I could
    get before the judge went to bed, and Gabe Carnine, the gut, would
    not sign--would not sign old Mart's bond, sir, and I hope to be in
    hell with a fishpole some day poking him down every time his slimy
    fingers get on the rim of the kettle. But we'll have him out in the
    morning, if every man in Garrison County has to go on the bond. They
    say Mart received money to pay four or five mortgages due to a
    Vermont Bank, and they sent a detective here about a month ago and
    worked up the case, and closed his business to-day and waited until
    to-night to arrest him. I've just come from Mart. It's hell. Hoping
    this will find you enjoying the same I beg my dear sir to sign
    myself

    "Your ob't s'r'v't J. DOLAN."

When Jacob Dolan finished his letter, he addressed the envelope and
hurried away to mail it. And so long as we are here in the
court-house, and the custodian is gone, would you like to step in and
see Martin Culpepper across the hall? It is still in the basement now,
and if you are quiet, so quiet that the slipping patter of a rat's
foot on the floor comes to you, a sound as of a faint whining will
come to you also. There--now it comes again. No, it is not a dog; it
is a man--a man in his agony. Shall we open the great iron door, and
go into the cell room? Why, not even you, Miss Nancy--not even you,
who love tears so? You would not see much--only a man, with his coat
and vest off, an old man with a rather shaggy, ill-kept chin whisker
and not the cleanest shirt in the world--though it is plaited, and
once was a considerable garment. And the man wearing it, who lies
prostrate upon his face, once was a considerable man. But he is old
now, old and broken, and if he should look up, as you stepped in the
corridor before him, you would see a great face ripped and scarred by
fear and guilt, and eyes that look so piteously at you--eyes of a man
who cannot understand why the blow has fallen, surprised eyes with a
horror in them; and if he should speak, you will find a voice rough
and mushy with asthma. The heart that has throbbed so many nights in
fear and the breath that has been held for so many footsteps, at last
have turned their straining into disease. No--let's not go in. He
bade his daughter go, and would not see his wife, and they have sent
to the City for his son,--so let us not bother him, for to-morrow he
will be out on bail. But did you hear that fine, trembling, animal
whine--that cry that wrenched itself out of set teeth like a living
thing? Come on--let us go and find Jake, and if he is taking a drink,
don't blame him too much, Miss Nancy--how would you like to sleep in
that room across the corridor?

At nine o'clock the next morning two hundred men had signed the bond
the judge required, and Martin Culpepper shambled home with averted
eyes. They tried to carry him on their shoulders, thinking it would
cheer him up; and from the river wards of the town scores came to give
him their hands. But he shook himself away from them, like a great
whipped dog, and walked slowly up the hill, and turned into Lincoln
Avenue alone.

John Barclay heard the news of the colonel's trouble as he stepped
from his private car in the Sycamore Ridge yards that morning, and
Jane went to the Culpepper home without stopping at her own. That
afternoon, Molly Brownwell knocked at Barclay's office door in the
mill, and went in without waiting for him to open it. She was pale and
haggard, and she sat down before he could speak to her.

"John," she said in a dead voice that smote his heart, "I have come
for my reward now. I never thought I'd ask it, John, but last night I
thought it all out, and I don't believe it's begging."

"No," he replied quietly, "it's not. I am sure--"

But she did not let him finish. She broke in with: "Oh, I don't want
any of your money; I want my own money--money that you got when you
sold me into bondage, John Barclay--do you remember when?" She cried
the last words in a tremulous little voice, and then caught herself,
and went on before he could put into words the daze in his face. "Let
me tell you; do you remember the day you called me up into your office
and asked me to hold Adrian in town to save the wheat company? Yes,
you do--you know you do! And you remember that you played on my love
for Bob, and my duty to father. Well, I saved you, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did, Molly," Barclay replied.

She stared a moment at the framed pictures of mill designs on the
wall, and at the wheat samples on the long table near her, and did not
speak; nor did he. She finally broke the silence: "Well, I saved you,
but what about father--" her voice broke into a sob--"and Bob--Jane
has told you what Bob and I have been--and what about me--what have
you taken from me in these twenty years? Oh, John, John, what a
fearful wreck we have made of life--you with your blind selfishness,
and I with my weakness! Did you know, John, that the money that father
borrowed that day, twenty years ago, of Adrian, to lend to you, is the
very money that sent him to jail last night? I guess he--he took what
wasn't his to pay it back." Her face twitched, and she was losing
control of her voice. Barclay stepped to the door and latched it. She
watched him and shook her head sadly. "You needn't be afraid,
John--I'm not going to make a scene."

"It's all right, Molly," said Barclay. "I want to help you--you know
that. I'm sorry, Molly--infinitely sorry."

She looked at him for a moment in silence, and then said: "Yes, John,
I'll give you credit for that; I think you're as sorry as a selfish
man like you can be. But are you sorry enough to go to jail a pauper,
like father, or wander over the earth alone, like Bob, or come and beg
for money, like me?" Then she caught herself quickly and cried: "Only
it's not begging, John--it's my own; it's the price you got when you
sold me into bondage; it's the price of my soul, and I need it now.
Those people only want their money--that is all."

"Yes," he replied, "I suppose that is all they want." He drummed on
his desk a moment and then asked, "Does your father know how much it
is?"

"Yes," she answered, "I found in his desk at the house last night a
paper on which he had been figuring--poor father--all the night
before. All the night before--" she repeated, and then sobbed, "Poor
father--all the night before. He knew it was coming. He knew the
detective was here. He told me to-day that the sum he had there was
correct. It is sixteen thousand five hundred and forty-three dollars.
But he doesn't know I'm here, John. I told him I had some money of my
own--some I'd had for years--and I have--oh, I have, John
Barclay--I have." She looked up at him with the pallid face stained
with fresh tears and asked, "I have--I have--haven't I, John,
haven't I?"

He put his elbows on the desk and sank his head in his hands and
sighed, "Yes, Molly--yes, you have."

They sat in silence until the roar of the waters and the murmur of the
wheels about them came into the room. Then the woman rose to go.
"Well, John," she said, "I suppose one shouldn't thank a person for
giving her her own--but I do, John. Oh, it's like blood money to
me--but father--I can't let father suffer."

She walked to the door, he stepped to unlatch it, and she passed out
without saying good-by. When she was gone, he slipped the latch, and
sat down with his hands gripping the table before him. As he sat
there, he looked across the years and saw some of the havoc he had
made. There was no shirking anything that he saw. A footfall passing
the door made him start as if he feared to be caught in some guilty
act. Yet he knew the door was locked. He choked a little groan behind
his teeth, and then reached for the top of his desk, pulled down the
rolling cover, and limped quickly out of the room--as though he were
leaving a corpse. What he saw was the ghost of the Larger Good,
mocking him through the veil of the past, and asking him such
questions as only a man's soul may hear and not resent.

He walked over the mill for a time, and then calling his stenographers
from their room, dictated them blind and himself dumb with details of
a deal he was putting through to get control of the cracker companies
of the country. When he finished, the sunset was glaring across the
water through the window in front of him, and he had laid his ghost.
But Molly Brownwell had her check, and her father was saved.

That evening the colonel sat with Watts McHurdie, on the broad veranda
of the Culpepper home, and as the moon came out, General Ward wandered
up the walk and Jake Dolan came singing down the street about "the
relic of old dacincy--the hat me father wore." Perhaps he had one
drink in him, and perhaps two, or maybe three, but he clicked the gate
behind him, and seeing the three men on the veranda, he called out:--

"Hi, you pig-stealing Kansas soldiers, haven't ye heard the war is
over?" And then he carolled: "Oh, can't get 'em up, Oh, can't get 'em
up, Oh, can't get 'em up in the mornin'--Get up, you"--but the rest
of the song, being devoted to the technical affairs of war, and ending
with a general exhortation to the soldier to "get into your breeches,"
would give offence to persons of sensitive natures, and so may as well
be omitted from this story.

There was an awkward pause when Dolan came on the veranda. The general
had just tried to break the ice, but Dolan was going at too high a
speed to be checked.

"Do you know," he asked, "what I always remember when I hear that
call? You do not. I'll tell you. 'Twas the morning of the battle of
Wilson's Creek, and Mart and me was sleeping under a tree, when the
bugler of the Johnnies off somewhere on the hill he begins to crow
that, and it wakes Mart up, and he rolls over on me and he says:
'Jake,' he says, or maybe 'twas me says, 'Mart,' says I--anyway, one
of us says, 'Shut up your gib, you flannel-mouthed mick,' he says,
'and let me pull my dream through to the place where I find the
money,' he says. And I says, 'D'ye know what I'm goin' to do when I
get home?' says I. 'No,' says he, still keen for that money; 'no,'
says he, 'unless it is you're going to be hanged by way of diversion,'
he says. 'I'm going to hire a bugler,' says I. 'What fer--in the name
of all the saints?' says he. 'Well,' says I, 'I'm going to ask him to
blow his damn horn under my window every morning at five o'clock,' I
says, 'and then I'm going to get up and poke my head out of the window
and say: "Mister, you can get me up in the army, but on this occasion
would you be obliging enough to go to hell"!' And Mart, seeing that
the money was gone from his dream, he turns over and wallops me with
the blanket till I was merely a palpitating mass. That was a great
battle, though, boys--a great battle."

And then they shouldered arms and showed how fields were won. Boom!
went Sigel's guns out of the past, and crash! came the Texas cavalry,
and the whoop of the Louisiana Pelicans rang in their ears. They
marched south after Hindman, and then came back with Grant to
Vicksburg, where they fought and bled and died. The general left them
and went east, where he "deployed on our right" and executed flank
movements, and watched Pickett's column come fling itself to death at
Gettysburg. And Watts McHurdie rode with the artillery through the
rear of the rebel lines at Pittsburg Landing, and when the rebel
officer saw the little man's bravery, and watched him making for the
Union lines bringing three guns, he waved his hat and told his
soldiers not to shoot at that boy. The colonel took a stick and marked
out on the floor our position at Antietam, and showed where the
reserves were supposed to be and how the enemy masked his guns behind
that hill, and we planted our artillery on the opposite ridge; and he
marched with the infantry and lay in ambush while the enemy came
marching in force through the wood. In time Watts McHurdie was talking
to Lincoln in the streets of Richmond, and telling for the hundredth
time what Lincoln said of the song and how he had sung it. But who
cares now what Lincoln said? It was something kind, you may be sure,
with a tear and a laugh in it, and the veterans laughed, while their
eyes grew moist as they always did when Watts told it. Then they fell
to carnage again--a fierce fight against time, against the moment
when they must leave their old companion alone. Up hills they charged
and down dales, and the moon rose high, and cast its shadow to the
eastward before they parted. First Dolan edged away, and then the
general went, waving his hand military fashion; and the colonel
returned the salute. When the gate had clanged, Watts rose to go. He
did not speak, nor did the colonel. Arm in arm, they walked down the
steps together, and halfway down the garden path the colonel rested
his hand on the little man's shoulder as they walked in silence. At
the gate they saw each other's tears, and the little man's voice
failed him when the colonel said, "Well, good-by, comrade--good
night." So Watts turned and ran, while the colonel, for the first time
in his manhood, loosed the cords of his sorrow and stood alone in the
moonlight with upturned face, swaying like an old tree in a storm.




CHAPTER XXI


And now those who have avoided the gray unpainted shame of these
unimportant people of the Ridge may here take up again for a moment
the trailing clouds of glory that shimmer over John Barclay's office
in the big City. For here there is the sounding brass and tinkling
cymbal of great worldly power. Here sits John Barclay, a little
gray-haired, gray-clad, lynx-eyed man, in a big light room at the
corner of a tower high over the City in the Corn Exchange Building,
the brain from which a million nerves radiate that run all over the
world and move thousands of men. Forty years before, when John was
playing in the dust of the road leading up from the Sycamore, no king
in all the world knew so much of the day's doings as John knows now,
sitting there at the polished mahogany table with the green blotting
paper upon it, under the green vase adorned with the red rose. A
blight may threaten the wheat in Argentine, and John Barclay knows
every cloud that sails the sky above that wheat, and when the cloud
bursts into rain he sighs, for it means something to him, though
heaven only knows what, and we and heaven do not care. But a dry day
in India or a wet day in Russia or a cloudy day in the Dakotas are all
taken into account in the little man's plans. And if princes quarrel
and kings grow weary of peace, and money bags refuse them war, John
Barclay knows it and puts the episode into figures on the clean white
pad of paper before him.

It is a privilege to be in this office; one passes three doors to get
here, and even at the third door our statesmen often cool their toes.
Mr. Barclay is about to admit one now. And when Senator Myton comes
in, deferentially of course, to tell Mr. Barclay the details of the
long fight in executive session which ended in the confirmation by the
senate of Lige Bemis as a federal judge, the little gray man waves the
senator to a chair, and runs his pencil up a column of figures,
presses a button, writes a word on a sheet of paper, and when the
messenger appears, hands the paper to him and says, "For Judge Bemis."

"I have just dismissed a Persian satrap," expands Barclay, "who won't
let his people use our binders; that country eventually will be a
great field for our Mediterranean branch."

Myton is properly impressed. For a man who can make a senator out of
Red River clay and a federal judge out of Lige Bemis is a superhuman
creature, and Myton does not doubt Barclay's power over satraps.

When the business of the moment between the two men is done, Barclay,
rampant with power, says: "Myton" (it is always "Myton," never
"Senator," with Barclay; he finds it just as well to let his inferiors
know their relation to the universe), "Myton, I ran across a queer
thing last week when I took over that little jerkwater New England
coast line. The Yankees are a methodical lot of old maids. I find they
had been made agents of a lot of the big fellows--insurance people,
packing-houses, and transcontinental railroads--two of my lines were
paying them, though I'd forgotten about it until I looked it up--and
the good old sewing society had card-indexed the politics of the
United States--the whole blessed country, by state and congressional
districts. I took over the chap who runs it, and I've got the whole
kit in the offices here now. It's great. If a man bobs up for
something in Florida or Nebraska, we just run him down on the card
index, and there he stands--everything he ever did, every interview
he ever gave, every lawsuit he ever had, every stand he ever took in
politics--right there in the index, in an envelope ready for use, and
all the mean things ever written about him. I simply can't make a
mistake now in getting the wrong kind of fellows in. Commend me to a
Yankee or a Jap for pains. I can tell you in five minutes just what
influences are behind every governor, congressman, senator, judge,
most of the legislators in every state, the federal courts clear up to
the Supreme Court. There was a man appointed on that court less than a
dozen years ago who swapped railroad receiverships like a tin peddler
with his senator for his job, when he was on the circuit bench. And he
was considerable of a judge in the bean country for a time. Just to
verify my index, I asked Bemis about this judge. 'Lige,' I said, 'was
Judge So-and-So a pretty honest judge?' 'Oh, hell,' says Lige, and
that was all I could get out of him. So I guess they had him indexed
right." And Barclay rattles on; he has become vociferous and
loquacious, and seems to like to hear the roar of his voice in his
head. The habit has been growing on him.

But do not laugh at the blindness of John Barclay, sitting there in
his power, admiring himself, boasting in the strength of his
card-index to Senator Myton. For the tide of his power was running in,
and soon it would be high tide with John Barclay--high tide of his
power, high tide of his fame, high tide of his pride. So let us watch
the complacent smile crack his features as he sits listening to
Senator Myton: "Mr. Barclay, do you know, I sometimes think that
Providence manifests itself in minds like yours, even as in the days
of old it was manifest in the hearts of the prophets. In those days it
was piety that fitted the heart for higher things; to-day it is
business. You and a score of men like you in America are intrusted
with the destiny of this republic, as surely as the fate of the
children of Israel was in the hands of Moses and Aaron!"

Barclay closed his eyes a moment, in contemplation of the figure, and
then broke out in a roaring laugh, "Hanno is a god! Hanno is a
god!--get out of here, Henry Myton,--get out of here, I say--this
is my busy day," and he laughed the young senator out of the room. But
he sat alone in his office grinning, as over and over in his mind his
own words rang, "Hanno is a god!" And the foolish parrot of his other
self cackled the phrase in his soul for days and days!

It is our high privilege thus to stand close by and watch the wheels
of the world go around. In those days of the late nineties Barclay
travelled up and down the earth so much in his private car that Jane
used to tell Molly Brownwell that living with John was like being a
travelling man's wife. But Jane did not seem to appreciate her
privilege. She managed to stay at home as much as possible, and
sometimes he took the Masons along for company. Mrs. Mason gloried in
it, and lived at the great hotels and shopped at the highest-priced
antique stores to her heart's delight. Lycurgus' joy was in being
interviewed, and the Barclay secretaries got so that they could edit
the Mason interviews and keep out the poison, and let the old man
swell and swell until the people at home thought he must surely burst
with importance at the next town.

One day in the nineties Barclay appropriated a half-million dollars to
advertise "Barclay's Best" and a cracker that he was pushing. When the
man who placed the business in the newspaper had gone, Barclay sat
looking out of the window and said to his advertising manager: "I've
got an idea. Why should I pay a million dollars to irresponsible
newspapers? I won't do it."

"But we must advertise, Mr. Barclay--you've proved it pays."

"Yes," he returned, "you bet it pays, and I might just as well get
something out of it besides advertising. Take this; make five copies
of it; I'll give you the addresses later." Barclay squared himself to
a stenographer to dictate:--

    "Dear Sir: I spend a million dollars a year advertising grain
    products; you and the packers doubtless spend that much advertising
    your products and by-products; the railroads spend as much more, and
    the Oil people probably half as much more. Add the steel products
    and the lumber products, and we have ten million dollars going into
    the press of this country. In a crisis we cannot tell how these
    newspapers will treat us. I think we should organize so that we will
    know exactly where we stand. Therefore it is necessary absolutely to
    control the trade advertising of this country. A company to take
    over the five leading advertising agencies could be formed, for half
    as much as we spend every year, and we could control nine-tenths of
    the American trade advertising. We could then put an end to any
    indiscriminate mobbing of corporations by editors. I will be pleased
    to hear from you further upon this subject."

A day or two later, when the idea had grown and ramified itself in his
mind, he talked it all out to Jane and exclaimed, "How will old Phil
Ward's God manage to work it out, as he says, against that
proposition? Brains," continued Barclay, "brains--that's what counts
in this world. You can't expect the men who dominate this
country--who make its wealth, and are responsible for its prosperity,
to be at the mercy of a lot of long-nosed reformers who don't know how
to cash their own checks."

How little this rich man knew of the world about him! How
circumscribed was his vision! With all his goings up and down the
earth, with all of his great transactions, with all of his apparent
power, how little and sordid was his outlook on life. For he thought
he was somebody in this universe, some one of importance, and in his
scheme of things he figured out a kind of partnership between himself
and Providence--a partnership to run the world in the interests of
John Barclay, and of course, wherever possible, with reasonable
dividends to Providence.

But a miracle was coming into the world. In the under-consciousnesses
of men, sown God only knows how and when and where, sown in the
weakness of a thousand blind prophets, the seeds of righteous wrath at
greed like John Barclay's were growing during all the years of his
triumph. Men scarcely knew it themselves. Growth is so simple and
natural a process that its work is done before its presence is known.
And so this arrogant man, this miserable, little, limping, brass-eyed,
leather-skinned man, looked out at the world around him, and did not
see the change that was quickening the hearts of his neighbours.

And yet change was in everything about him. A thousand years are as
but a watch in the night, and tick, tock, tick, tock, went the great
clock, and the dresses of little Jeanette Barclay slipped down, down,
down to her shoe-tops, and as the skirts slipped down she went up. And
before her father knew it her shoe-tops sank out of sight, and she was
a miss at the last of her teens. But he still gave her his finger when
they walked out together, though she was head and shoulders above him.

One day when she led him to the _Banner_ office to buy some fancy
programmes for a party she was giving, he saw her watching young Neal
Ward,--youngest son of the general,--who was sitting at a reporter's
desk in the office, and the father's quick eyes saw that she regarded
the youth as a young man. For she talked so obviously for the Ward
boy's benefit that her father, when they went out of the
printing-office, took a furtive look at his daughter and sighed and
knew what her mother had known for a year.

"Jeanette," he said that night at dinner, "where's my shot-gun?" When
she told him, he said: "After dinner you get it, load it with salt,
and put it in the corner by the front door." Then he added to the
assembled family: "For boys--dirty-faced, good-for-nothing,
long-legged boys! I'm going to have a law passed making an open season
for boys in this place from January first until Christmas."

Jeanette dimpled and blushed, the family smiled, and her mother said:
"Well, John, there'll be a flock of them at Jeanette's party next week
for you to practise on. All the boys and girls in town are coming."

And after dessert was served the father sat chuckling and grinning and
grunting, "Boys--boys," and at intervals, "Measly little milk-eyed
kids," and again "Boys--boys," while the family nibbled at its
cheese.

Those years when the nineteenth century was nearing its close and when
the tide of his fortunes was running in, bringing him power and making
him mad with it, were years of change in Sycamore Ridge--in the old
as well as in the young. In those years the lilacs bloomed on in the
Culpepper yard; and John Barclay did not know it, though forty years
before Ellen Culpepper had guarded the first blossoms from those
bushes for him. Miss Lucy, his first ideal, went to rest in those
years while the booming tide was running in, and he scarcely knew it.
Mrs. Culpepper was laid beside Ellen out on the Hill; and he hardly
realized it, though no one in all the town had watched him growing
into worldly success with so kindly an eye as she. But the tide was
roaring in, and John Barclay's whole consciousness was turned toward
it; the real things of life about him, he did not see and could not
feel. And so as the century is old the booming tide is full, and John
Barclay in his power--a bubble in the Divine consciousness, a mere
vision in the real world--stands stark mad before his phantasm,
dreaming that it is all real, and chattering to his soul, "Hanno is a
god."

And now we must leave John Barclay for the moment, to explain why Neal
Dow Ward, son of General Philemon Ward, made his first formal call at
the Barclays'. It cannot be gainsaid that young Mr. Ward, aged
twenty-one, a senior at Ward University, felt a tingle in his blood
that day when he met Miss Jeanette Barclay, aged eighteen, and home
for the spring vacation from the state university; and seeing her for
the first time with her eyes and her hair and her pretty, strong, wide
forehead poking through the cocoon of gawky girlhood, created a
distinct impression on young Mr. Ward.

But in all good faith it should be stated that he did not make his
first formal call at the Barclays' of his own accord; for his sister,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Ward, took him. She came home from the
Culpeppers' just before supper, laughing until she was red in the
face. And what she heard at the Culpeppers', let her tell in her own
way to the man of her heart. For Lizzie was her father's child; the
four other Ward girls, Mary Livermore, Frances Willard, Belva
Lockwood, and Helen Gougar, had climbed to the College Heights and had
gone to Ward University, and from that seat of learning had gone forth
in the world to teach school. Elizabeth Cady Stanton Ward had remained
in the home, after her mother's death filling her mother's vacant
place as well as a daughter may.

"Well, father," said the daughter, as she was putting the evening meal
on the table, addressing the general, who sat reading by the window in
the dining room, "you should have been at the Culpeppers' when the
colonel came home and told us his troubles. It seems that Nellie
McHurdie is going to make Watts run for sheriff--for sheriff, father.
Imagine Watts heading a posse, or locking any one up! And Watts has
passed the word to the colonel, and he has passed it to Molly and me,
and I am to see Mrs. Barclay, and she is to see Mrs. Carnine to-morrow
morning, and they are all to set to work on Nellie and get her to see
that it won't do. Poor Watts--the colonel says he is terribly wrought
up at the prospect."

The general folded his paper and smiled as he said: "Well, I don't
know; Watts was a brave soldier. He would make a good enough sheriff;
but I suppose he doesn't really care for it."

"Why, no, of course not, father--why should he?" asked the daughter.
"Anyhow, I want you to make Neal go down to Barclays' with me to-night
to talk it over with Jane. Neal," she called to the young man who was
sitting on the porch with his book on his knee, "Neal, I want you to
go to Barclays' with me to-night. Come in now, supper's ready."

And so it happened that Neal Dow Ward made his first call on Jeanette
Barclay with his sister, and they all sat on the porch together that
fine spring evening, with the perfume of the lilacs in the air; and it
happened naturally enough that the curious human law of attraction
which unites youth should draw the chairs of the two young people
together as they talked of the things that interest youth--the
parties and the ball-games and the fraternities and sororities, and
the freshman picnic and the senior grind; while the chairs of the two
others drew together as they talked of the things which interest women
in middle life--the affairs of the town, the troubles of Watts
McHurdie, the bereavement of the Culpeppers, the scarcity of good help
in the kitchen, the popularity of Max Nordau's "Social Evolution," and
the fun in "David Harum." Nor is it strange that after the girl had
shown the boy her Pi Phi pin, and he had shown her his Phi Delta
shield, they should fall to talking of the new songs, and that they
should slip into the big living room of the Barclay home, lighted by
the electric lamps in the hall, and that she should sit down to the
piano to show him how the new song went. And if the moonlight fell
across the piano, and upon her face as she sang the little Irish
folk-song, all in minors, with her high, trembling, half-formed notes
in the upper register, and if she flushed and looked up abashed and
had to be teased to go on,--not teased a great deal, but a
little,--will you blame the young man if he forgot for a moment that
her father was worth such a lot of money, and thought only that she
was a beautiful girl, and said so with his eyes and face and hands in
the pretty little pause that followed when she ceased singing? And if
to hide her confusion when her heart knew what he thought, she put one
foot on the loud pedal of the piano and began singing "O Margery, O
Margery," and he sang with her, and if they thrilled just a little as
their voices blended in the rollicking song--what of it? What of it?
Was it not natural that lilacs should grow in April? Was it not
natural that Watts McHurdie should dread the white light that beats
upon the throne of the sheriff's office? Was it not natural that he
should turn to women for protection against one of their sex, and that
the women plotting for him should have a boy around and having a boy
around where there is a girl around, and spring around and lilacs
around and a moon and music and joy around,--what is more natural in
all this world than that in the fire struck by the simple joy of youth
there should be the flutter of unseen wings around, and when the two
had finished singing, with something passing between their hearts not
in the words, what is more natural than that the girl, half frightened
at the thrill in her soul, should say timidly:--

"I think they will miss us out there--don't you?" as she rose from
the piano.

And if you were a boy again, only twenty-one, to whom millions of
money meant nothing, would you not catch the blue eyes of the girl as
she looked up at you, in the twilight of the big room, and answer,
"All right, Jeanette"? Certainly if you had known a girl all your
life, you would call her by her first name, if her father were worth a
billion, and would you not continue, emboldened some way by not being
frowned upon for calling her Jeanette, though she would have been
astonished if you had said Miss Barclay--astonished and maybe a
little fearful of your sincerity--would you not continue, after a
little pause, repeating your words, "All right, Jeanette--I suppose
so--but I don't care--do you?" as you followed her through the door
back to the moon-lit porch?

And as you walked home, listening to your elder sister, would you not
have time and inclination to wonder from what remote part of this
beautiful universe, from what star or what fairy realm, that creature
came, whose hair you pulled yesterday, whose legs seem to have been
covered with long skirts in the twinkling of an eye, and whose
unrelated features by some magic had sloughed off, leaving a beautiful
face? Would you not think these things, good kind sir, when you were
twenty-one--even though to-day they seem highly improbable thoughts
for any one to have who was not stark mad? But if we were not all
stark mad sometimes, how would the world go round? If we were not all
mad sometimes, who would make our dreams come true? How would visions
in thin air congeal into facts, how would the aspirations of the race
make history? And if we were all sane all the time, how would the
angels ever get babies into the world at all, at all?




CHAPTER XXII


"Speaking of lunatics," said Mr. Dolan to Mr. Hendricks one June
night, a few weeks after the women had persuaded Mrs. McHurdie not to
drag the poet into politics,--"speaking of lunatics, you may remember
that I was born in Boston, and 'twas my duty as a lad to drive the
Cambridge car, and many a time I have heard Mr. Holmes the poet and
Mr. Emerson the philosopher discussing how the world was made; whether
it was objective or subjective,--which I take it to mean whether the
world is in the universe or only in your eye. One fine winter night we
were waiting on a switch for the Boston car, when Mr. Holmes said to
Mr. Emerson: 'What,' says he, 'would you think if Jake Dolan driving
this car should come in and say, "Excuse me, gentlemen, but the moon I
see this moment is not some millions of miles away, but entirely in my
own noddle?"' 'I'd think,' says the great philosopher, never blinking,
'that Mr. Dolan was drunk,' says he. And there the discussion ended,
but it has been going on in my head ever since. Here I am a man
climbing up my sixties, and when have I seen the moon? Once walking by
this very creek here trying to get me courage up to put me arm around
her that is now Mary Carnine; once with me head poked up close to the
heads of Watts McHurdie, Gabe Carnine, and Philemon Ward, serenading
the girls under the Thayer House window the night before we left for
the army. And again to-night, sitting here on the dam, listening to
the music coming down the mill-pond. Did you notice them, Robert--the
young people--Phil Ward's boy, and John Barclay's girl, and Mary
Carnine's oldest, and Oscar Fernald's youngest, with their guitars and
mandolins, piling into the boats and rowing up stream? And now they're
singing the songs we sang--to their mothers, God bless 'em--the
other day before these children were born or thought of, and now I sit
here an old man looking at the moon."

"But is it the moon?" he went on after a long silence, puffing at his
pipe. "If the moon is off there, three or thirty or three hundred
million miles away in the sky, where has it been these forty years?
I've not seen it. And yet here she pops out of my memory into my eye,
and if I say the moon has always been in my eye, and is still in my
eye, Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson says I'm drunk. But does that settle the
question of who's got the moon--me or the cosmos--as the poets call
it?" After that the two men smoked in silence, and as Hendricks threw
away the butt of his cigar, Dolan said, "'Tis a queer, queer world,
Robert--a queer, queer world."

Now do not smile at Mr. Dolan, gentle reader, for Adam must have
thought the same thing, and philosophy has been able to say nothing
more to the point.

It is indeed a queer, queer world, and our blindness is the queerest
thing in it. Here a few weeks, later sit John and Jane Barclay on the
terrace before their house one June night, listening to singing on the
water. Suddenly they realize that there is youth in the world--yet
there has been singing on the mill-pond ever since it was built. It
has been the habitat of lovers for a quarter of a century, this
mill-pond, yet Jane and John Barclay have not known it, and not until
their own child's voice came up to them, singing "Juanita," did they
realize that the song had not begun anew after its twenty years'
silence in their own hearts, but always had been on the summer breeze.
And this is strange, too, considering how rich and powerful John
Barclay is and how by the scratch of his pen, he might set men working
by the thousands for some righteous cause. Yet so it is; for with all
the consciousness of great power, with all the feeling of unrestraint
that such power gives a man, driving him to think he is a kind of god,
John Barclay was only a two-legged man, with a limp in one foot, and a
little mad place in his brain, wherein he kept the sense of his
relation to the rest of this universe. And as he sat, blind to the
moon, dreaming of a time when he would control Presidents and dominate
courts if they crossed his path, out on the mill-pond under an elm
tree that spread like a canopy upon the water, a boy, letting the oars
hang loosely, was playing the mandolin to a girl--a pretty girl
withal, blue as to eyes, fair as to hair, strong as to mouth and chin,
and glorious as to forehead--who leaned back in the boat, played with
the overhanging branches, and listened and looked at the moon, and let
God's miracle work unhindered in her heart. And all up and down those
two miles of mill-pond were other boats and other boys and other
maidens, and as they chatted and sang and sat in the moonlight, there
grew in their hearts, as quietly as the growing of the wheat in the
fields, that strange marvel of life, that keeps the tide of humanity
ceaselessly flowing onward. And it is all so simply done before our
eyes, and in our ears, that we forget it is so baffling a mystery.

Now let us project our astral bodies into the living room of the
Barclay home, while Mr. and Mrs. John Barclay are away in Boston, and
only John Barclay's mother and his daughter are in Sycamore Ridge; and
let us watch a young man of twenty-one and a young woman of eighteen
dispose of a dish of fudge together. Fudge, it may be explained to the
unsophisticated, is a preparation of chocolate, sugar, and cream,
cooked, cooled, and cut into squares. As our fathers and mothers
pulled taffy, as our grandfathers and grandmothers conjured with maple
sugar, and as their parents worked the mysterious spell with some
witchery of cookery to this generation unknown, so is fudge in these
piping times the worker of a strange witchery. Observe: Through a
large room, perhaps forty feet one way and twenty-five feet the other
way, flits a young woman in the summer twilight. She goes about
humming, putting a vase in place here, straightening a picture there,
kicking down a flapping rug, or rearranging a chair; then she sits
down and turns on an electric light and pretends to read. But she does
not read; the light shows her something else in the room that needs
attention, and she turns to that. Then she sits down again, and again
goes humming about the room. Suddenly the young woman rises and
hurries out of the room, and a footstep is heard on the porch,
outside. A bell tinkles, and a maid appears, and--

"Yes," she says. "I'll see if Miss Jeanette is at home!"

And then a rustle of skirts is heard on the stairway and Miss Jeanette
enters with: "Why, Neal, you are an early bird this evening--were you
afraid the worm would escape? Well, it won't; it's right here on the
piano."

The young man's eyes,--good, clear, well-set, dark eyes that match
his brown hair; eyes that speak from the heart,--note how they dwell
upon every detail of the opposing figure, caressing with their shy
surreptitious glances the girl's hair, her broad forehead, her lips;
observe how they flit back betimes to those ripe red lips, like bees
that hover over a flower trembling in the wind; how the eyes of the
young man play about the strong chin, and the bewitching curves of the
neck and shoulders, and rise again to the hair, and again steal over
the face, to the strong shoulders, and again hurry back to the face
lest some feature fade. This is not staring--it is done so quickly,
so furtively, so deftly withal as the minutes fly by, while the lips
and the teeth chatter on, that the stolen honey of these glances is
stored away in the heart's memory, all unknown to him who has gathered
it.

An hour has passed now, while we have watched the restless eyes at
their work, and what has passed with the hour? Nothing, ladies and
gentlemen--nothing; gibber, chatter, giggles, and squeals--that is
all. Grandma Barclay above stairs has her opinion of it, and wonders
how girls can be so addle-pated. In her day--but who ever lived long
enough or travelled far enough or inquired widely enough to find one
single girl who was as wise, or as sedate, or as industrious, or as
meek, or as gentle, or as kind as girls were in her grandmother's day?
No wonder indeed that grandmothers are all married--for one could
hardly imagine the young men of that day overlooking such paragons of
virtue and propriety as lived in their grandmothers' days. Fancy an
old maid grandmother with all those qualities of mind and heart that
girls had in their grandmothers' days!

So the elder Mrs. Barclay in her room at the top of the stairs hears
what "he said," "he said he said," and what "she said she said," and
what "we girls did," and what "you boys ought to do," and what "would
be perfectly lovely," and what "would be a lot of fun!" and so
grandmother, good soul, grows drowsy, closes her door, and goes to
bed. She does not know that they are about to sit down together on a
sofa--not a long, straight, cold, formal affair, but a small, rather
snuggly sofa, with the dish between them. No, girls never did that in
their grandmothers' days, so of course who would imagine they would do
so now? Who, indeed? But there they are, and there is the dish between
them, and two hands reaching into the same dish, must of course
collide. Collision is inevitable, and by carefully noting the
repetitions of the collisions, one may logically infer that the
collisions are upon the whole rather pleasurable than otherwise; and
when it comes to the last piece of fudge in the dish,--the very last
piece,--the astral observer will see that there is just the
slightest, the very slightest, quickest, most fleeting little tussle
of hands for it, and much laughter; and then the young woman rises
quickly--also note the slight pink flush in her cheeks, and she goes
to her chair and folds her pretty hands in her lap, and asks:--

"Well, do you like my fudge, Neal Ward? Is it as good as Belva
Lockwood's? She puts nuts in hers--I've eaten it; do you like it with
nuts in it?"

"Not so well as this," says the boy.

The girl slips into the dining room, for a glass of water. See the eyes
of the youth following her. It is dusky in the dining room, and the
youth longs for dusky places, but has not developed courage enough to
follow her. But he has courage enough to steady his eyes as she comes
back with the water, so that he can look into her blue eyes while you
would count as much as one--two--three--slowly--four--slowly--five. A
long, long time, so long indeed that she wishes he would look just a
second longer.

So at the end of the evening here stand Neal, and Jeanette, even as
Adam and Eve stood in the garden, talking of nothing in particular as
they slowly move toward the door. "Yes, I suppose so," she says, as
Eve said and as Eve's daughters have said through all the centuries,
looking intently at the floor. And then Neal, suddenly finding the
language of his line back to Adam, looks up to say, "Oh, yes, I
forgot--but have you read 'Monsieur Beaucaire'?" Now Adam said, "Have
you heard the new song that the morning stars are singing together?"
and Priam asked Helen if she would like to hear that new thing of
Solomon's just out, and so as the ages have rolled by, young gentlemen
standing beside their adored but not declared ones have mixed
literature with love, and have tied wisdom up in a package of candy or
wild honey, and have taken it to the trysting place since the
beginning of time. It is thus the poets thrive. And when she was asked
about the new song of the morning stars, Eve, though she knew it as
she knew her litany, answered no; and so did Eve's daughter, standing
in the dimly lighted hallway of the Barclay home in Sycamore Ridge;
and so then and there being, these two made their next meeting sure.

In those last years of the last century John Barclay became a powerful
man in this world--one of the few hundred men who divided the
material kingdoms of this earth among them. He was a rich man who was
turning his money into great political power. Senates listened to him,
many courts were his in fee simple, because he had bought and paid for
the men who named the judges; Presidents were glad to know what he
thought, and when he came to the White House, reporters speculated
about the talk that went on behind the doors of the President's room,
and the stock market fluttered. If he desired a law, he paid for it
and got it--not in a coarse illegal way, to be sure, but through the
regular conventional channels of politics, and if he desired to step
on a law, he stepped on it, and a court came running up behind him,
and legalized his transaction. He sneered at reformers, and mocked
God, did John Barclay in those days. He grew arrogant and boastful,
and strutted in his power like a man in liquor with the vain knowledge
that he could increase the population of a state or a group of states,
or he could shrivel the prosperity of a section of the country by his
whim. For by changing a freight rate he could make wheat grow, where
grass had nourished. By changing the rate again, he could beckon back
the wilderness. And yet, how small was his power; here beside him,
cherished as the apple of his eye, was his daughter, a slip of a girl,
with blue eyes and fair hair, whose heart was growing toward the
light, as the hearts of young things grow, and he, with all of his
power, could only watch the mystery, and wonder at it. He was not
displeased at what he saw. But it was one of the few things in his
consciousness over which he could find no way to assume control. He
stood in the presence of something that came from outside of his realm
and ignored him as the sun and the rain and the simple processes of
nature ignored him.

"Jane," he said one night, when he was in the Ridge for the first time
in many weeks,--a night near the end of the summer when Jeanette and
Neal Ward were vaguely feeling their way together, "Jane, mother says
that while we've been away Neal Ward has been here pretty often. You
don't suppose that--"

"Well, I've rather wondered about it myself a little," responded Jane.
"Neal is such a fine handsome young fellow."

"But, Jane," exclaimed Barclay, impatiently, as he rose to walk the
rug, "Jennie is only a child. Why, she's only--"

"Nineteen, John--she's a big girl now."

"I know, dear," he protested, "but that's absurdly young. Why--"

"Yes," she answered, "I was nearly twenty when I was engaged to you,
and Jennie's not engaged yet, nor probably even thinking seriously of
it."

"Don't you think," cried Barclay, as he limped down the diagonal of
the rug, "that you should do something? Isn't it a little unusual?
Why--"

"Well, John," smiled the wife, "I might do what mother did: turn the
young man over to father!" Barclay laughed, and she went on patiently:
"It's not at all unusual, John, even if they do--that is, if they
are--you know; but they aren't, and Jennie is too much in love with
her work at school to quit that. But after all it's the American way;
it was the way we did, dear, and the way our mothers and fathers did,
and unless you wish to change it--to Europeanize it, and pick--"

"Ah, nonsense, Jane--of course I don't want that! Only I thought some
way, if it's serious she ought to--Oh, don't you know she ought
to--"

Mrs. Barclay broke her smile with, "Of course she ought to, dear, and
so ought I and so ought mother when she married father and so ought my
grandmother when she married grandpa--but did we? Dear, don't you see
the child doesn't realize it? If it is anything, it is growing in her
heart, and I wouldn't smudge it for the world, by speaking to her
now--unless you don't like Neal; unless you think he's too--unless
you want a different boy. I mean some one of consequence?"

"Oh, no, it isn't that, Jane--it isn't that. Neal's all right; he's
clean and he is honest--I asked Bob Hendricks about him to-day, when
we passed the boy chasing news for the _Banner_, and Bob gives him a
fine name." Barclay threw himself into a chair and sighed. "I suppose
it's just that I feel Jeanette's kind of leaving us out of it--that
is all."

Jane went to him and patted his head gently, as she spoke: "That is
nature, dear--the fawn hiding in the woods; we must trust to Jennie's
good sense, and the good blood in Neal. My, but his sisters are proud
of him! Last week Lizzie was telling me Neal's wages had been
increased to ten dollars a week--and I don't suppose their father in
all of his life ever had that much of a steady income. The things the
family is planning to do with that ten dollars a week brought tears of
joy to my eyes. Neal's going to have his mother-in-law on his side,
anyway--just as you had yours. I know now how mother felt."

But John Barclay did not know how mother felt, and he did not care. He
knew how father felt--how Lycurgus Mason felt, and how the father of
Mrs. Lycurgus Mason felt; he felt hurt and slighted, and he could not
repress a feeling of bitterness toward the youth. All the world loves
a daughter-in-law, but a father's love for a son-in-law is an acquired
taste; some men never get it. And John Barclay was called away the
next morning to throttle a mill in the San Joaquin Valley, and from
there he went to North Dakota to stop the building of a competitive
railroad that tapped his territory; so September came, and with it
Jeanette Barclay went back to school. The mother wondered what the
girl would do with her last night at home. She was clearly nervous and
unsettled all the afternoon before, and made an errand into town and
came back with a perturbed face. But after dinner the mother heard
Jeanette at the telephone, and this is the one-sided dialogue the
mother caught: "Yes--this is Miss Barclay." "Oh, yes, I didn't
recognize your voice at first." "What meeting?" "Yes--yes." "And they
are not going to have it?" "Oh, I see." "You were--oh, I don't know.
Of course I should have felt--well, I--oh, it would have been all
right with me. Of course." Then the voice cheered up and she said:
"Why, of course--come right out. I understand." A pause and then,
"Yes, I know a man has to go where he is called." "Oh, she'll
understand--you know father is always on the wing." "No--why, no, of
course not--mother wouldn't think that of you. I'll tell her how it
was." "All right, good-by--yes, right away." And Jeanette Barclay
skipped away from the telephone and ran to her mother to say, "Mother,
that was Neal Ward--he wants to come out, and he was afraid you'd
think it rude for him to ask that way, but you know he had a meeting
to report and thought he couldn't come, and now they've postponed the
meeting, and I told him to come right out--wasn't that all right?"

And so out came Neal Ward, a likely-looking young man of twenty-one or
maybe twenty-two--a good six feet in height, with a straight leg, a
square shoulder, and firm jaw, set like his father's, and clean brown
eyes that did not blink. And as Jeanette Barclay, with her mother's
height, and her father's quick keen features, and her Grandmother
Barclay's eyes and dominant figure, stood beside him in the doorway,
Mrs. Jane Barclay thought a good way ahead, and Jeanette would have
blushed her face to a cinder if the mother had spoken her thoughts.
The three, mother and daughter and handsome young man, sat for a while
together in the living room, and then Jane, who knew the heart of
youth, and did not fear it, said, "You children should go out on the
porch--it's a beautiful night; I'm going upstairs."

And now let us once more in our astral bodies watch them there in the
light of the veiled moon--for it is the last time that even we should
see them alone. She is sitting on a balustrade, and he is standing
beside her, and their hands are close together on the stones. "Yes,"
he is saying, "I shall be busy at the train to-morrow trying to catch
the governor for an interview on the railroad question, and may not
see you."

"I wish you would throw the governor into the deep blue sea," she
says, and he responds:--

"I wish I could." There is a silence, and then he risks it--and the
thing he has been trying to say comes out, "I wonder if you will do
something for me, Jeanette?"

"Oh, I don't know--don't ask me anything hard--not very hard, Neal!"

The last word was all he cared for, and by what sleight of hand he
slipped his fraternity pin from his vest into her hand, neither ever
knew.

"Will you?" he asks. "For me?"

She pins it at her throat, and smiles. Then she says, "Is this long
enough--do you want it back now?"

He shakes his head, and finally she asks, "When?" and then it comes
out:--

"Never."

And her face reddens, and she does not speak. Their hands, on the
wall, have met--they just touch, that is all, but they do not hasten
apart. A long, long time they are silent--an eternity of a minute;
and then she says, "We shall see in the morning."

And then another eternal minute rolls by, and the youth slips the rose
from her hair--quickly, and without disarranging a strand.

"Oh," she cries, "Neal!" and then adds, "Let me get you a pretty
one--that is faded."

But no, he will have that one, and she stands beside him and pins it
on his coat--stands close beside him, and where her elbows and her
arms touch him he is thrilled with delight. In the shadow of the great
porch they stand a moment, and her hand goes out to his.

"Well, Jeanette," he says, and still her hand does not shrink away,
"well, Jeanette--it will be lonesome when you go."

"Will it?" she asks.

"Yes--but I--I have been so happy to-night."

He presses her hand a little closer, and as she says, "I'm so glad,"
he says, "Good-by," and moves down the broad stone steps. She stands
watching him, and at the bottom he stops and again says:--

"Well--good-by--Jeanette--I must go--I suppose." And she does not
move, so again he says, "Good-by."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Youth," said Colonel Martin Culpepper to the assembled company in the
ballroom of the Barclay home as the clock struck twelve and brought in
the twentieth century; "Youth," he repeated, as he tugged at the
bottom of Buchanan Culpepper's white silk vest, to be sure that it met
his own black trousers, and waved his free hand grandly aloft;
"Youth," he reiterated, as he looked over the gay young company at the
foot of the hall, while the fiddlers paused with their bows in the
air, and the din of the New Year's clang was rising in the town;
"Youth,--of all the things in God's good green earth,--Youth is the
most beautiful." Then he signalled with some dignity to the leader of
the orchestra, and the music began.

It was a memorable New Year's party that Jeanette Barclay gave at the
dawn of this century. The Barclay private car had brought a dozen girls
down from the state university for the Christmas holidays, and then had
made a recruiting trip as far east as Cleveland and had brought back a
score more of girls in their teens and early twenties--for an invitation
from the Barclays, if not of much social consequence, had a power behind
it that every father recognized. And what with threescore girls from the
Ridge, and young men from half a dozen neighbouring states,--and young
men are merely background in any social picture,--the ballroom was as
pretty as a garden. It was her own idea,--with perhaps a shade of
suggestion from her father,--that the old century should be danced out
and the new one danced in with the pioneers of Garrison County set in
quadrilles in the centre of the floor, while the young people whirled
around them in the two-step then in vogue. So the Barclays asked a score
or so of the old people in for dinner New Year's Eve; and they kept
below stairs until midnight. Then they filed into the ballroom, with its
fair fresh faces, its shrill treble note of merriment,--these old men
and women, gray and faded, looking back on the old century while the
others looked into the new one. There came Mr. and Mrs. Watts McHurdie
in the lead, Watts in his best brown suit, and Mrs. Watts in lavender to
sustain her gray hair; General Ward, in his straight black frock coat
and white tie, followed with Mrs. Dorman, relict of the late William
Dorman, merchant, on his arm; behind him came the Brownwells, in evening
clothes, and Robert Hendricks and his sister,--all gray-haired, but
straight of figure and firm of foot; Colonel Culpepper followed with
Mrs. Mary Barclay; the Lycurgus Masons were next in the file, and in
their evening clothes they looked withered and old, and Lycurgus was not
sure upon his feet; Jacob Dolan in his faded blue uniform marched in
like a drum-major with the eldest Miss Ward; and the Carnines followed,
and the Fernalds followed them; and then came Judge and Mrs. Bemis--he a
gaunt, sinister, parchment-skinned man, with white hair and a gray
mustache, and she a crumbling ruin in shiny satin bedecked in diamonds.
Down the length of the long room they walked, and executed an
old-fashioned grand march, such as Watts could lead, while the orchestra
played the tune that brought cheers from the company, and the little old
man looked at the floor, while Mrs. McHurdie beamed and bowed and
smiled. And then they took their partners to step off the
quadrille--when behold, it transpired that in all the city orchestra,
that had cost the Barclays a thousand dollars according to town
tradition, not one man could be found who could call off a quadrille.
Then up spake John Barclay, and stood him on a chair, and there, when
the colonel had signalled for the music to start, the voice of John
Barclay rang out above the din, as it had not sounded before in nearly
thirty years. Old memories came rushing back to him of the nights when
he used to ride five and ten and twenty miles and play the cabinet organ
to a fiddle's lead, and call off until daybreak for two dollars. And
such a quadrille as he gave them--four figures of it before he sent them
to their seats. There were "cheat or swing," the "crow's nest," "skip to
my Loo,"--and they all broke out singing, while the young people clapped
their hands, and finally by a series of promptings he quickly called the
men into one line and the women into another, and then the music
suddenly changed to the Virginia reel. And so the dance closed for the
old people, and they vanished from the room, looking back at the youth
and the happiness and warmth of the place with wistful but not eager
eyes; and as Jacob Dolan, in his faded blues and grizzled hair and
beard, disappeared into the dusk of the hallway, Jeanette Barclay,
looking at her new ring, patted it and said to Neal Ward: "Well, dear,
the nineteenth century is gone! Now let us dance and be happy in this
one."

And so she danced the new year and the new century and the new life
in, as happy as a girl of twenty can be. For was she not a Junior at
the state university, if you please? Was she not the heir of all the
ages, and a scandalous lot of millions besides, and what is infinitely
more important to a girl's happiness, was she not engaged, good and
tight, and proud of it, to a youth making twelve dollars every week
whether it rained or not? What more could an honest girl ask? And it
was all settled, and so happily settled too, that when she had
graduated with her class at the university, and had spent a year in
Europe--but that was a long way ahead, and Neal had to go to the City
with father and learn the business first. But business and graduation
and Europe were mere details--the important thing had happened. So
when it was all over that night, and the girls had giggled themselves
to bed, and the house was dark, Jeanette Barclay and her mother walked
up the stairs to her room together. There they sat down, and Jeanette
began--

"Neal said he told you about the ring?"

"Yes," answered her mother.

"But he did not show it to you--because he wanted me to be the first
to see it."

"Neal's a dear," replied her mother. "So that was why? I thought
perhaps he was bashful."

"No, mother," answered the girl, "no--we're both so proud of it." She
kept her hand over the ring finger, as she spoke, "You know those
'Short and Simple Annals' he's been doing for the _Star_--well, he
got his first check the day before Christmas, and he gave half of it
to his father, and took the other twenty-five dollars and bought this
ring. I think it is so pretty, and we are both real proud of it." And
then she took her hand from the ring, and held her finger out for her
mother's eyes, and her mother kissed it. They were silent a moment;
then the girl rose and stood with her hand on the doorknob and cried:
"I think it is the prettiest ring in all the world, and I never want
any other." Then she thought of mother, and flushed and ran away.

And we should not follow her. Rather let us climb Main Street and turn
into Lincoln Avenue and enter the room where Martin Culpepper sits
writing the Biography of Watts McHurdie. He is at work on his famous
chapter, "Hymen's Altar," and we may look over his great shoulder and
see what he has written: "The soul caged in its prison house of the
flesh looks forth," he writes, "and sees other chained souls, and
hails them in passing like distant ships. But soul only meets soul in
some great passion of giving, whether it be man to his fellow-man, to
his God, or in the love of men and women; it matters not how the
ecstasy comes, its root is in sacrifice, in giving, in forgetting self
and merging through abnegation into the source of life in this
universe for one sublime moment. For we may not come out of our prison
houses save to inhale the air of heaven once or twice, and then go
scourged back to our dungeons. Great souls are they who love the most,
who breathe the deepest of heaven's air, and give of themselves most
freely."




CHAPTER XXIII


The next morning, before the guests were downstairs, Barclay, reading
his morning papers before the fireplace, stopped his daughter, who was
going through the living room on some morning errand.

"Jeanette," said the father, as he drew her to his chair arm, "let me
see it."

She brought the setting around to the outside of her finger, and gave
him her hand. He looked at it a moment, patted her hand, put the ring
to his lips, and the two sat silent, choked with something of joy and
something of sorrow that shone through their brimming eyes. Thus Mary
Barclay found them. They looked up abashed, and she bent over them and
stroked her son's hair as she said:--

"John, John, isn't it fine that Jennie has escaped the curse of your
millions?"

Barclay's heart was melted. He could not answer, so he nodded an
assenting head. The mother stooped to kiss her son's forehead, as she
went on, "Not with all of your millions could you buy that simple
little ring for Jennie, John." And the father pressed his lips to the
ring, and his daughter snuggled tightly into his heart and the three
mingled their joy together.

Two hours later Barclay and General Ward met on the bridge by the
mill. It was one of those warm midwinter days, when nature seems to be
listening for the coming of spring. A red bird was calling in the
woods near by, and the soft south wind had spring in it as it blew
across the veil of waters that hid the dam. John Barclay's head was
full of music, and he was lounging across the bridge from the mill on
his way home to try his new pipe organ. He had spent four hours the
day before at his organ bench, trying to teach his lame foot to keep
up with his strong foot. So when General Ward overhauled him, Barclay
was annoyed. He was not the man to have his purposes crossed, even
when they were whims.

"I was just coming over to the mill to see you," said the general, as
he halted in Barclay's path.

"All right, General--all right; what can I do for you?"

The general was as blunt a man as John Barclay. If Barclay desired no
beating around the bush, the general would go the heart of matters. So
he said, "I want to talk about Neal with you."

Barclay knew that certain things must be said, and the two men sat in
a stone seat in the bridge wall, with the sun upon them, to talk it
out then and there. "Well, General, we like Neal--we like him
thoroughly. And we are glad, Jane and I, and my mother too--she likes
him; and I want to do something for him. That's about all there is to
say."

"Yes, but what, John Barclay--what?" exclaimed the general. "That's
what I want to know. What are you going to do for him? Make him a
devil worshipper?"

"Well now, General, here--don't be too fast," Barclay smiled and
drawled. He put his hands on the warm rocks at his sides and flapped
them like wing-tips as he went on: "Jeanette and Neal have their own
lives to live. They're sensible--unusually sensible. We didn't steal
Neal, any more than you stole Jeanette, General, and--"

"Oh, I understand that, John; that isn't the point," broke in the
general. "But now that you've got him, what are you going to do with
him? Can't you see, John, he's my boy, and that I have a right to
know?"

"Now, General, will you let me do a little of this talking?" asked
Barclay, impatiently. "As I was saying, Jeanette and Neal are
sensible, and money isn't going to make fools of them. When the time
comes and I'm gone, they'll take the divine responsibility--"

"The divine tommyrot!" cried the general; "the divine fiddlesticks!
Why should they? What have they done that they should have that thrust
upon them like a curse; in God's name, John Barclay, why should my
Neal have to have that blot upon his soul? Can't they be free and
independent?"

Barclay did not answer; he looked glumly at the floor, and kicked the
cement with his heel. "What would you have them do with the money when
they get it," he growled, "burn it?"

"Why not?" snapped the general.

"Oh--I just thought I'd ask," responded Barclay.

The two men sat in silence. Barclay regarded conversation with the
general in that mood as arguing with a lunatic. Presently he rose, and
stood before Ward and spoke rather harshly: "What I am going to do is
this--? and nothing more. Neal tells me he understands shorthand: I
know the boy is industrious, and I know that he is bright and quick
and honest. That's all he needs. I am going to take him into our
company as a stockholder--with one share--a thousand-dollar share,
to be explicit; I'm going to give that to him, and that's all; then
he's to be my private secretary for three years at five thousand a
year, so long as you must know, and then at the end of that time, if
he and Jennie are so minded, they're going to marry; and if he has any
business sense--of course you know what will happen. She is all we
have, General--some one's got to take hold of things."

As Barclay spoke General Ward grew white--his face was aquiver as his
trembling voice cried out: "Oh, God, John Barclay, and would you take
my boy--my clean-hearted, fine-souled boy, whom I have taught to fear
God, and callous his soul with your damned money-making? How would you
like me to take your girl and blacken her heart and teach her the
wiles of the outcasts? And yet you're going to teach Neal to lie and
steal and cheat and make his moral guide the penal code instead of his
father's faith. Shame on you, John Barclay--shame on you, and may God
damn you for this thing, John Barclay!" The old man trembled, but the
sob that shook his frame had no tears in it. He looked Barclay in the
eyes without a tremor for an angry moment, and then broke: "I am an
old man, John; I can't interfere with Neal and Jeanette; it's their
life, not mine, and some way God will work it out; but," he added,
"I've still got my own heart to break over it--that's mine--that's
mine."

He rose and faced the younger man a moment, and then walked quickly
away. Barclay limped after him, and went home. There he sat on his
bench and made the great organ scream and howl and bellow with rage
for two hours.

When Neal Ward went to the City to live, he had a revelation of John
Barclay as a man of moods. The Barclay Neal Ward saw was an electric
motor rather than an engine. The power he had to perceive and to act
seemed transmitted to him from the outside. At times he dictated
letters of momentous importance to the young man, which Neal was sure
were improvised. Barclay relied on his instincts and rarely changed a
decision. He wore himself out every day, yet he returned to his work
the next day without a sign of fag. The young man found that Barclay
had one curious vanity--he liked to seem composed. Hence the big
smooth mahogany table before him, with the single paper tablet on it,
and the rose--the one rose in the green vase in the centre of the
table. Visitors always found him thus accoutred. But to see him
limping about from room to room, giving orders in the great offices,
dictating notes for the heads of the various departments, to see him
in the room where the mail was received, worrying it like a pup, was
to see another man revealed. He liked to have people from Sycamore
Ridge call upon him, and the man who kept door in the outer office--a
fine gray-haired person, who had the manners of a brigadier--knew so
many people in Sycamore Ridge that Neal used to call him the City
Directory. One day Molly Brownwell called. She was the only person who
ever quelled the brigadier; but when a woman has been a social leader
in a country town all of her life, she has a social poise that may not
be impressed by a mere brigadier. Mrs. Brownwell realized that her
call was unusual, but she refused to acknowledge it to him. Barclay
seemed glad to see her, and as he was in one of his mellow moods he
talked of old times, and drew from a desk near the wall, which he
rarely opened, an envelope containing a tintype picture of Ellen.
Culpepper. He showed it to her sister, and they both sat silent for a
time, and then the woman spoke.

"Well, John," she said, "that was a long time ago."

"Forty years, Molly--forty years."

When they came back to the world she said: "John, I am up here looking
for a publisher. Father has written a Biography of Watts, and
collected all of his poems and things in it, and we thought it might
sell--Watts is so well known. But the publishers won't take it. I
want your advice about it."

Barclay listened to her story, and then wheeled in his chair and
exclaimed, "Can Adrian publish that book?"

"Yes," she answered tentatively; "that is, he could if it didn't take
such an awful lot of money."

After discussing details with her, Barclay called Neal Ward and
said:--

"Get up a letter to Adrian Brownwell asking him to print for me three
thousand copies of the colonel's book, at one dollar and fifty cents a
copy, and give seventy-five per cent of the profits to Colonel
Culpepper. We'll put that book in every public library in this
country. How's that?" And he looked at the tintype and said, "Bless
her dear little heart."

"Neal," asked Barclay, as Mrs. Brownwell left the room, "how old are
you? I keep forgetting." When the young man answered twenty-five,
Barclay, who was putting away the tintype picture, said, "And Jeanette
will be twenty-three at her next birthday." He closed the desk and
looked at the youth bending over his typewriter and sighed. "Been
going together off and on five or six years--I should say."

Neal nodded. Barclay put his hand on his chin and contemplated the
young man a moment. "Ever have any other love affair, son?"

The youngster coloured and looked up quickly with a puzzled look and
did not reply.

Barclay cut in with, "Well, son, I'm glad to find you don't lie
easily." He laughed silently. "Jennie has--lots of them. When she was
six she used to cry for little Watts Fernald, and they quarrelled like
cats and dogs, and when she was ten there was an Irish boy--Finnegan
I think his name was--who milked the cow, whom she adored, and when
she was fourteen or so, it was some boy in the high school who gave
her candy until her mother had to shoo him off, and I don't know how
many others." He paused for a few seconds and then went on, "But she's
forgotten them--that's the way of women." His eyes danced merrily as
he continued, while he scratched his head: "But with us men--it's
different. We never forget." He chuckled a moment, and then his face
changed as he said, "Neal, I wish you'd go into the mail room and see
if the noon mail has anything in it from that damn scoundrel who's
trying to start a cracker factory in St. Louis--I hate to bother to
smash him right now when we're so busy."

But it so happened that the damn scoundrel thought better of his
intention and took fifty thousand for his first thought, and Neal
Ward, being one of the component parts of an engaged couple, went
ahead being sensible about it. All engaged couples, of course, resolve
to be sensible about it. And for two years and a half--during
nineteen one and two and part of nineteen three--Jeanette Barclay and
Neal Ward had tried earnestly and succeeded admirably (they believed)
in being exceedingly sensible about everything. Jeanette had gone
through school and was spending the year in Europe with her mother,
and she would be home in May; and in June--in June of 1904--why, the
almanac stopped there; the world had no further interest, and no one
on earth could imagine anything after that. For then they proposed not
to be sensible any longer.

In the early years of this century--about 1902, probably--John
Barclay paid an accounting company twenty-five thousand dollars--more
money than General Ward and Watts McHurdie and Martin Culpepper and
Jacob Dolan had saved in all their long, industrious, frugal, and
useful lives--to go over his business, install a system of audits and
accounts, and tell him just how much money he was worth. After a score
of men had been working for six months, the accounting company made
its report. It was put in terms of dollars and cents, which are
fleeting and illusive terms, and mean much in one country and little
in another, signify great wealth at one time and mere affluence in
another period. So the sum need not be set down here. But certain
interesting details of the report may be set down to illuminate this
narrative. For instance, it indicates that John Barclay was a man of
some consequence, when one knows that he employed more men in that
year than many a sovereign state of this Union employed in its state
and county and city governments. It signifies something to learn that
he controlled more land growing wheat than any of half a dozen
European kings reign over. It means something to realize that in those
years of his high tide John Barclay, by a few lines dictated to Neal
Ward, could have put bread out of the reach of millions of his
fellow-creatures. And these are evidences of material power--these
men he hired, these lands he dominated, and this vast store of food
that he kept. So it is fair to assume that if this is a material
world, John Barclay's fortune was founded upon a rock. He and his
National Provisions Company were real. They were able to make laws;
they were able to create administrators of the law; and they were able
to influence those who interpreted the law. Barclay and his power were
substantial, palpable, and translatable into terms of money, of power,
of vital force.

And then one day, after long years of growth in the
under-consciousnesses of men, an idea came into full bloom in the
world. It had no especial champions. The people began to think this
idea. That was all. Now life reduced to its lowest terms consists of
you and him and me. Put us on a desert island together--you and him
and me--and he can do nothing without you and me--except he kill us,
and then he is alone; even then we haunt him, so our influence still
binds him. You can do nothing without him and me, and I can do nothing
without you and him. Not that you and he will hold me; not that you
will stop me; but what you think and say will bind me to your wishes
tighter than any chains you might forge. What you and he think is more
powerful than all the material forces of this universe. For what you
and he think is public opinion. It is not substantial; it is not
palpable. It may not readily be translated into terms of money, or
power, or vital force. But it crushes all these things before it. When
this public opinion rises sure and firm and strong, no material force
on this earth can stop it. For a time it may be dammed and checked.
For a day or a week or a year or a decade it may be turned from its
channel; yet money cannot hold it; arms cannot hold it; cunning cannot
baffle it. For it is God moving among men. Thus He manifests Himself
in this earth. Through the centuries, amid the storm and stress of
time, often muffled, often strangled, often incoherent, often raucous
and inarticulate with anguish, but always in the end triumphant, the
voice of the people is indeed the voice of God!

Nearly a dozen years had passed since the Russian painted the picture
of John Barclay, which hangs in the public library of Sycamore Ridge,
and in that time the heart of the American people had changed. Barclay
was beginning to feel upon him, night and day, the crushing weight of
popular scorn. He called the idea envy, but it was not envy. It was
the idea working in the world, and the weight of the scorn was
beginning to crumple his soul; for this idea that the people were
thinking was finding its way into newspapers, magazines, and books.
They were beginning to question the divine right of wealth to rule,
because it was wealth--an idea that Barclay could not comprehend even
vaguely. The term honest wealth, which was creeping into respectable
periodicals, was exceedingly annoying to him. For the very presence of
the term seemed to indicate that there was such a thing as dishonest
wealth,--an obvious absurdity; and when he addressed the students of
the Southwestern University at their commencement exercises in 1902,
his address attracted considerable attention because it deplored the
modern tendency in high places toward socialism and warned the
students that a nation of iconoclasts would perish from the earth. But
the people went on questioning the divine right of wealth to rule. In
the early part of 1903 Barclay was astounded at the action of a score
of his senators and nearly a hundred of his congressmen, who voted for
a national law prohibiting the giving of railroad rebates. He was
assured by all of them that it was done to satisfy temporary
agitation, but the fact that they voted for the law at all, as he
explained to Senator Myton, at some length and with some asperity, was
a breach of faith with "interests in American politics which may not
safely be ignored." "And what's more," he added angrily, "this is a
personal insult to me. That law hits my Door Strip."

And then out of the clear sky like a thunderbolt, not from an enemy,
not from any clique or crowd he had fought, but from the government
itself, during the last days of Congress came a law creating a
Department of Commerce and Labour at Washington, a law giving federal
inspectors the right to go through books of private concerns. Barclay
was overwhelmed with amazement. He raged, but to no avail; and his
wrath was heated by the rumours printed in all the newspapers that
Barclay and the National Provisions Company were to be the first
victims of the new law. Mrs. Barclay and Jeanette were going to Europe
in the spring of 1903, and Barclay on the whole was glad of it. He
wished the decks cleared for his fight; he felt that he must not have
Jane at his elbow holding his hand from malice in the engagement that
was coming, and when he left them on the boat, he spent a week
scurrying through the East looking for some unknown enemy in high
financial circles who might be back of the government's determination
to move against the N.P.C. He felt sure he could uncover the source of
his trouble--and then, either fight his enemy or make terms. It did
not occur to Barclay that he could not find a material, palpable,
personal object upon which to charge or with which to capitulate. But
he found nothing, and crossed the Alleghanies puzzled.

When he got home, he learned that a government inspector, one H. S.
Smith, was beginning the investigation of the Provisions Company's
books in St. Paul, Omaha, Chicago, and Denver. Barclay learned that
Smith had secured some bills of lading that might not easily be
explained. Incidentally, Barclay learned that an attempt had been
made, through proper channels, to buy Smith, and he was nonplussed to
learn that Smith was not purchasable. Then to end the whole matter,
Barclay wrote to Senator Myton, directing him to have Smith removed
immediately. But Myton's reply, which was forwarded to Barclay at
Sycamore Ridge, indicated that "the orders under which Smith is
working come from a higher source than the department."

Barclay's scorn of Inspector Smith--a man whom he could buy and sell
a dozen times from one day's income from his wealth--flamed into a
passion. He tore Myton's letter to bits, and refreshed his faith in
the god of Things As They Are by garroting a mill in Texas. While the
Texas miller was squirming, Barclay did not consider Inspector Smith
consciously, but in remote places in his mind always there lived the
scorned person whom Barclay knew was working against him.

From time to time in the early summer the newspapers contained
definite statements, authorized from Washington with increasing
positiveness, that the cordon around the N.P.C. was tightening. In
July Barclay's scorn of Inspector Smith grew into disquietude; for a
letter from Judge Bemis, of the federal court,--written up in the
Catskills,--warned him that scorn was not the only emotion with which
he should honour Smith. After reading Bemis' confidential and
ambiguous scrawl, Barclay drummed for a time with his hard fingers on
the mahogany before him, stared at the print sketches of machinery
above him, and paced the floor of his office with the roar of the mill
answering something in his angry heart. He could not know that the
tide was running out. He went to his telephone and asked for a city so
far away that when he had finished talking for ten minutes, he had
spent enough money to keep General Ward in comfort for a month. Neal
Ward, sitting in his room, heard Barclay say: "What kind of a damn
bunco game were you fellows putting up on me in 1900? You got my
money; that's all right; I didn't squeal at the assessment, did I?"
Young Ward in the pause closed his door. But the bull-like roar of
Barclay came through the wood between them in a moment, and he heard:
"Matter enough--here's this fellow Smith bullying my clerks out in
Omaha, and nosing around the St. Paul office; what right has he got?
Who is he, anyway--who got him his job? I wrote to Myton to get him
removed, or sent to some other work, and Myton said that the White
House was back of him. I wish you'd go over to Washington, and tell
them who I am and what we did for you in '96 and 1900; we can't stand
this. It's a damned outrage, and I look to you to stop it." In a
moment Ward heard Barclay exclaim: "You can't--why, that's a hell of
a note! What kind of a fellow is he, anyway? Tell him I gave half a
million to the party, and I've got some rights in this government that
a white man is bound to respect--or does he believe in taking your
money and letting you whistle?" A train rolling by the mill drowned
Barclay's voice, but at the end of the conversation Ward heard Barclay
say: "Well, what's a party good for if it doesn't protect the men who
contribute to its support? You simply must do it. I look to you for
it. You got my good money, and it's up to you to get results."

There was some growling, and then Barclay hung up the receiver. But he
was mad all day, and dictated a panic interview to Ward, which Ward
was to give to the Associated Press when they went to Chicago the next
day. In the interview, Barclay said that economic conditions were
being disturbed by half-baked politicians, and that values would
shrink and the worst panic in the history of the country would follow
unless the socialistic meddling with business was stopped.

The summer had deepened to its maturest splendour before Barclay
acknowledged to himself his dread of the City. For he began to feel a
definite discomfiture at the panorama of his pictures on the
news-stands in connection with the advertising of the Sunday
newspapers and magazines. The newspapers were blazoning to the whole
country that the Economy Door Strip was a blind for taking railroad
rebates, and everywhere he met the report of Inspector Smith that the
National Provisions Company's fifty-pound sack of Barclay's Best
contained but forty-eight pounds and ten ounces; also that Barclay had
been taking three ounces out of the pound cartons of breakfast food,
and that the cracker packages were growing smaller, while the prices
were not lowered. Even in Sycamore Ridge the reporters appeared with
exasperating regularity, and the papers were filled with diverting
articles telling of the Barclays' social simplicity and rehashing old
stories of John Barclay's boyhood. His attempt to stop the
investigation of the National Provisions Company became noised around
Washington, and the news of his failure was frankly given out from the
White House. This inspired a cartoon from McCutcheon in the _Chicago
Tribune_, representing the President weighing a flour sack on which
was printed "Barclay's Worst," with Barclay behind the President
trying to get his foot on the scales.

All of his life Barclay had been a fighter; he liked to hit and dodge
or get hit back. His struggles in business and in the business part of
politics had been with tangible foes, with material things; and his
weapons had been material things: coercion, bribery (more or less
sugar-coated), cheating, and often in these later years the roar of
his voice or the power of his name. But now, facing the formless,
impersonal thing called public opinion, hitherto unknown in his scheme
of things, he was filled with uncertainty and indecision.

One autumn day, after sending three stenographers home limp and weary
with directions for his battles, Barclay strayed into McHurdie's shop.
The general and Dolan were the only members of the parliament present
that afternoon, besides Watts. Barclay nodded at the general without
speaking, and Dolan said:--

"Cool, ain't it? Think it will freeze?"

Barclay took a chair, and when Dolan and Ward saw that he had come for
a visit, they left.

"Watts," asked Barclay, after the others had gone, and the little man
at the bench did not speak, "Watts, what's got into the people of this
country? What have I done that they should begin pounding me this
way?"

McHurdie turned a gentle smile on his visitor, knowing that Barclay
would do the talking. Barclay went on: "Here are five suits in county
courts in Texas against me; a suit in Kansas by the attorney-general,
five or ten in the Dakotas, three in Nebraska, one or two in each of
the Lake states, and the juries always finding against me. I haven't
changed my methods. I'm doing just what I've done for fifteen years.
I've had lots of lawsuits before, with stockholders and rival
companies and partners, and millers and all that--but this standing
in front of the mob and fighting them off--why? Why? What have I
done? These county attorneys and attorneys-general seem to delight in
it--now why? They didn't used to; it used to be that only cranks like
old Phil Ward even talked of such things, and people laughed at them;
and now prosecuting attorneys actually do these things, and people
reelect them. Why? What's got into the people? What am I doing that I
haven't been doing?"

"Maybe the people are growing honest, John," suggested the harness
maker amiably.

Barclay threw back his head and roared: "Naw--naw--it isn't that;
it's the damn newspapers. That's what it is! They're what's raising
the devil. But why? Why? What have I done? Why, they have even
bulldozed some of my own federal judges--my own men, Watts, my own
men; men whose senators came into my office with their hats in their
hands and asked permission to name these judges. Now why?" He was
silent awhile and then began chuckling: "But I fixed 'em the other
day. Did you see that article in all the papers briefed out of New
York about how that professor had said that the N.P.C. was an economic
necessity? I did that, Watts: and got it published in the magazines,
too--and our advertising agents made all the newspapers that get our
advertising print it--and they had to." Barclay laughed. After a
moody silence he continued: "And you know what I could do. I could
finance a scheme to buy out the meat trust and the lumber trust, and I
could control every line of advertising that goes into the damn
magazines--and I could buy the paper trust too, and that would fix
'em. The Phil Wards are not running this country yet. The men who make
the wealth and maintain the prosperity have got to run it in spite of
the long-nosed reformers and socialists. You know, Watts, that we men
who do things have a divine responsibility to keep the country off the
rocks. But she's drifting a lot just now, and they're all after me,
because I'm rich. That's all, Watts, just because I've worked hard and
earned a little money--that's why." And so he talked on, until he was
tired, and limped home and sat idly in front of his organ, unable to
touch the keys.

Then he turned toward the City to visit his temporal kingdom. There in
the great Corn Exchange Building his domain was unquestioned. There in
the room with the mahogany walls he could feel his power, and stanch
the flow of his courage. There he was a man. But alas for human
vanity! When he got to the City, he found the morning papers full of a
story of a baby that had died from overeating breakfast food made at
his mills and adulterated with earth from his Missouri clay banks, as
the coroner had attested after an autopsy; and a miserable county
prosecutor was looking for John Barclay. So he hid all the next day in
his offices, and that evening took Neal Ward on a special train in his
private car, on a roundabout way home to Sycamore Ridge.

It was a wretched homecoming for so great and successful a man as
Barclay. Yet he with all his riches, with all his material power, even
he longed for the safety of home, as any hunted thing longs for his
lair. On the way he paced the diagonals of the little office room in
his car, like a caged jackal. The man had lost his anchor; the things
which his life had been built on would not hold him. Money--men
envied the rich nowadays, he said, and the rich man had no rights in
the courts or out of them; friends--they had gone up in the market,
and he could not afford them; politics--he had found it a quicksand.
So he jabbered to Neal Ward, his secretary, and pulled down the
curtains of his car on the station side of every stop the train made
in its long day's journey.




CHAPTER XXIV


It was nearly midnight when the special train pulled into Sycamore
Ridge, and Neal Ward hurried home. He went to his room, and found
there a letter and a package, both addressed in Jeanette's
handwriting. The letter was only a note that read:--

    "MY DEAREST BOY: I could not wait to send it for your Christmas
    present. So I am sending it the very day it is finished. I hope it
    will bring me close to you--into your very heart and keep me there.
    I have kissed it--for I knew that you would.

    "Your loving JEANETTE."

He tore open the package and found a miniature of Jeanette done on
ivory--that seemed to bring her into the room, and illumine it with
her presence. The thing bloomed with life, and his heart bounded with
joy as his eyes drank the beauty of it. His father called from below
stairs, and the youth went down holding the note and the miniature in
his hands. Before the father could speak, the son held out the
picture, and Philemon Ward looked for a moment into the glowing
faces--that of the picture and that of the living soul before him,
and hesitated before speaking.

"I got your wire--" he began.

"But isn't it beautiful, father--wonderful!" broke in the son.

The father assented kindly and then continued: "So I thought I'd sit
up for you. I had to talk with you." The son's face looked an
interrogation, and the father answered, "Read that, Neal--" handing
his son a letter in a rich linen envelope bearing in the corner the
indication that it was written at the Army and Navy Club in
Washington. The lovely face in the miniature lay on the table between
them and smiled up impartially at father and son as the young man drew
out the letter and read:--

    "MY DEAR GENERAL WARD: This letter will introduce to you Mr. H. S.
    Smith, an inspector from the Bureau of Commerce and Labour, who has
    been working upon evidence connected with the National Provisions
    Company. I happened to be at luncheon this afternoon with a man of
    the highest official authority, whose name it would be bad faith to
    divulge, but whom I know you respect, even if you do not always
    agree with him. I mentioned your name and the part you took in the
    battle of the Wilderness, and my friend was at once interested,
    though, of course, he had known you by name and fame for forty
    years. One word led to another, as is usual in these cases, and my
    friend mentioned the fact that your son, Neal Dow Ward, is secretary
    to John Barclay, and in a position to verify certain evidence which
    the government now has in the N.P.C. matter. I happen to know that
    the government is exceedingly anxious to be exactly correct in every
    charge it makes against this Company, and hence I am writing to you.
    Your son can do a service to his country to-day by telling the truth
    when he is questioned by Inspector Smith, to my mind as important as
    that you did in the Wilderness. Inspector Smith has a right to
    question him, and will do so, and I have promised my friend here to
    ask you to counsel with your son, and beg him in the name of that
    good citizenship for which you have always stood, and for which you
    offered your life, to tell the simple truth. As a comrade and a
    patriot, I have no doubt what you will do, knowing the facts."

Neal Ward put his hand on the table, with the letter still in his
fingers. "Father," he asked blankly, "do you know what that means?"

"Yes, Neal, I think I understand; it means that to-morrow morning will
decide whether you are a patriot or a perjurer, my boy--a patriot or
a perjurer!" The general, who was in his shirt-sleeves and collarless,
rose, and putting his hands behind him, backed to the radiator to warm
them.

"But, father--father," exclaimed the boy, "how can I? What I learned
was in confidence. How can I?"

The father saw the anguish in his son's face, and did not reply at
once. "Is it crooked, Neal?"

"Yes," replied the son, and then added: "So bad I was going to get out
of it, as soon as Jeanette came home. I couldn't stand it--for a
life, father. But I promised to stay three years, and try, and I think
I should keep my promise."

The father and son were silent for a time, and then the father spoke.
"And you love her with all your life--don't you, Nealie?" The son was
gazing intently at the miniature and nodded. At length the father
sighed. "My poor, poor boy--my poor, poor boy." He walked to the
table on which were his books and papers, and then stood looking at
the girl's face. "You couldn't explain it to her, I suppose?" he
asked.

"No," replied the son. "No; she adores her father; to her he is
perfect. And I don't blame her, for he is good--you can't know how
good, to her." Again they stood in silence. The son looked up from the
picture and said, "And you know, father, what the world would think of
me--a spy, an informer--an ingrate?"

The old man did not reply, and the son shook his head and his face
twitched with the struggle that was in him. Suddenly the father walked
to the son and cried: "And yet you must, Neal Ward--you must. Is
there any confidence in God's world so sacred as your duty to mankind?
Is there any tie, even that of your wife, so sacred as that which
binds you to humanity? I left your mother, my sweetheart, and went out
to fight, with the chance of never seeing her again. I went out and
left her for the same country that is calling you now, Neal!" The boy
looked up with agony on his face. The father paused a moment and then
went on: "Your soul is your soul--not John Barclay's, my boy--not
Jeanette Barclay's--but yours--yours, Neal, to blight or to cherish,
as you will." A moment later he added, "Don't you see, son--don't you
see, Neal?" The son shook his head and looked down, and did not
answer. The father put his arm about the son. "Boy, boy," he cried,
"boy, you've got a a man's load on you now--a man's load. To-morrow
you can run away like a coward; you can dodge and lie like a thief, or
you can tell the simple truth, as it is asked of you, like a man--the
simple truth like a man, Neal."

"Yes, I know, father--I see it all--but it is so hard--for her
sake, father."

The old man was silent, while the kitchen clock ticked away a minute
and then another and a third. Then he took his arm away from his son,
and grasped the boy's hand. "Oh, little boy--little boy," he cried,
"can't I make you see that the same God who has put this trial upon
you will see you through it, and that if you fail in this trial, your
soul will be crippled for life, and that no matter what you get in
return for your soul--you will lose in the bargain? Can't you see it,
Nealie--can't you see it? All my life I have been trying to live that
way, and I have tried to make you see it--so that you would be ready
for some trial like this."

The son rose, and the two men stood side by side, clasping hands. The
boy suddenly tore himself loose, and throwing his hands in the air,
wailed, "Oh, God--it is too hard--I can't, father--I can't."

And with the miniature in his hand he walked from the room, and
Philemon Ward went to his closet and wrestled through the night. At
dawn his son sat reading and re-reading a letter. Finally he pressed
another letter to his lips, and read his own letter again. It read:--

    "MY DARLING GIRL: This is the last letter I shall ever mail to you,
    perhaps. I can imagine no miracle that will bring us together again.
    My duty, as I see it, stands between us. The government inspector is
    going to put me under oath to-morrow--unless I run, and I
    won't--and question me about your father's business. What I must
    tell will injure him--maybe ruin him. I am going to tell your father
    what I am going to do before I do it. But by all the faith I have
    been taught in a God--and you know I am not pious, and belong to no
    church--I am forced to do this thing. Oh, Jeanette, Jeanette--if I
    loved you less, I would take you for this life alone and sell my
    soul for you; but I want you for an eternity--and in that eternity I
    want to bring you an unsoiled soul. Good-by--oh, good-by.
                                                                 NEAL."

The next morning when Neal Ward went out of the office at the mill,
John Barclay sat shivering with wrath and horror. Every second stamped
him with its indelible finger, as a day, or a month, puts its stain on
other men.

Another morning, a week later, as he sat at his desk, a telegram from
his office manager in the city fluttered in his hands. It read: "We
are privately advised that you were indicted by the federal grand jury
last night--though we do not know upon what specific charge--our
friend B. will advise us later in the day."

It was a gray December day, and a thin film of ice covered the
mill-pond. Barclay looked there and shuddered away from the thought
that came to him. He was alone in the mill. He longed for his wife and
daughter, and yet when he thought of their homecoming to disgrace, he
shook with agony. Over and over again he whispered the word
"indicted." The thought of his mother and her sorrow broke him down.
He locked the door, dropped heavily into his chair, and bowed his head
on his crossed arms. And then--

What, tears? Tears for Mr. Barclay?--for himself? Look back along the
record for his life: there are many tears charged to his account, but
none for his own use. Back in the seventies there are tears of Miss
Culpepper, charged to Mr. Barclay, and one heart-break for General
Hendricks. Again in the eighties there is sorrow for Mr. Robert
Hendricks, and more tears for Mrs. Brownwell, that was Miss
Culpepper--all charged to the account of Mr. Barclay; and in the
early nineties there are some manly tears for Martin F. Culpepper,
also charged to Mr. Barclay--but none before for his own use. Are
they, then, tears of repentance? No, not tears for the recording
angel, not good, man's size, soul-washing tears of repentance, but
miserable, dwarf, useless, self-pitying, corroding tears--tears of
shame and rage, for the proud, God-mocking, man-cheating, powerful,
faithless, arrogant John Barclay, dealer in the Larger Good.

And so with his head upon his arms, and his arms upon his desk,--a
gray-clad, gray-haired, slightly built, time-racked little
figure,--John Barclay strained his soul and wrenched his body and
tried in vain to weep.




CHAPTER XXV


Down comes the curtain. Only a minute does John Barclay sit there with
his head in his arms, and then, while you are stretching your legs, or
reading your programme, or looking over the house to see who may be
here, up rises John Barclay, and while the stage carpenters are
setting the new scene, he is behind there telephoning to Chicago, to
Minneapolis, to Omaha, to Cleveland, to Buffalo,--he fairly swamps
the girl with expensive long-distance calls,--trying to see if there
is not some way to stop the filing of that indictment. For to him the
mere indictment advertises to mankind that money is not power, and
with him and with all of his caste and class a confession of weakness
is equivalent to a confession of wrong. For where might makes right,
as it does in his world, weakness spells guilt, and with all the
people jeering at him, with the press saying: "Aha, so they have got
Mr. Barclay, have they? Well, if all his money and all his power could
not prevent an indictment, he must be a pretty tough customer,"--with
the public peering into his private books and papers in a lawsuit,
confirming as facts all that they had read in the newspapers, in short
with the gold plating of respectability rubbed off his moral brass, he
feels the crushing weight of the indictment, as he limps up and down
his room at the mill and frets at the long-distance operator for being
so slow with his calls.

But he is behind the scenes now; and so is Neal Ward, walking the
streets of Chicago, looking for work on a newspaper, and finally
finding it. And so are Mrs. Jane Barclay and Miss Barclay, as they
sail away on their ten days' cruise of the Mediterranean. And while
the orchestra plays and the man in the middle of row A of the dress
circle edges out of his seat and in again, we cannot hear John Barclay
sigh when the last telephone call is answered, and he finds that
nothing can be done. And he is not particularly cheered by the
knowledge that the Associated Press report that very afternoon is
sending all over the world the story of the indictment. But late in
the afternoon Judge Bemis, in whose court the indictment was found,
much to his chagrin, upon evidence furnished by special counsel sent
out from Washington--Judge Bemis tells him, as from one old friend to
another, that the special counsellor isn't much of a lawyer. The
pleasant friendly little rip-saw laugh of the judge over the telephone
nearly a thousand miles away is not distinct enough to be heard across
the stage even if the carpenters were not hammering, and the orchestra
screaming, and the audience buzzing; but that little laugh of his good
friend, Judge Bemis, was the sweetest sound John Barclay had heard in
many a day. It seemed curious that he should so associate it, but that
little laugh seemed to drown the sound of a clicking key in a lock--a
large iron lock, that had been rattling in his mind since noon. For
even in the minds of the rich and the great, even in the minds of men
who fancy they are divinely appointed to parcel out to their less
daring brethren the good things of this world, there is always a
child's horror of the jail. So when Mr. Barclay, who was something of
a lawyer himself, heard his good friend, Judge Bemis, laugh that
pleasant little friendly laugh behind the scenes, the heart of Mr.
Barclay gave a little pulse-beat of relief if not of joy.

But an instant later the blight of the indictment was over him again.
Hammer away, and scream away, and buzz away with all your might, you
noises of the playhouse; let us not hear John Barclay hastening across
the bridge just before the early winter sunset comes, that he may
intercept the _Index_ and the _Banner_ in the front yard of the
Barclay home, before his mother sees them. Always heretofore he has
been glad to have her read of his achievements, in the hope that she
would come to approve them, and to view things as he saw them--his
success and his power and his glory. But to-night he hides the paper
under his gray coat and slips into the house. She and her son sit down
to dinner alone. This must be a stage dinner they are eating--though
it is all behind the scenes; for Mr. Barclay is merely going through
the empty form of eating. "No, thank you," for the roast. "Why, Mr.
Barclay did not touch his soup!" "Well," says the cook, tasting it
critically, "that's strange." And "No, thank you" for the salad, and
"Not any pie to-night, Clara." "What--none of the mince pie, John?
Why, I went out in the kitchen and made it for you myself." "Well, a
little."

Heigh-ho! We sigh, and we drum on our table-cloth with our fingers,
and we are trying to find some way to tell something. We have been a
bad boy, maybe--a bad little boy, and must own up; that is part of
our punishment--the hardest part perhaps, even with the curtain down,
even with the noise in front, even with the maid gone, even when a
mother comes and strokes our head, as we sit idly at the organ bench,
unable to sound a key. Shall the curtain go up now? Shall we sit
gawking while a boy gropes his way out of a man's life, back through
forty years, and puts his head in shame and sorrow against a mother's
breast? How he stumbles and falters and halts, as the truth comes
out--and it must come out; on the whole the best thing there is to
say of John Barclay on that fateful December day in the year of our
Lord 1903 is that he did not let his mother learn the truth from any
lips but his. And so it follows naturally, because he was brave and
kind, that instead of having to strengthen her, she sustained
him--she in her seventies, he in his fifties.

"My poor dear child," she said, "I know--I know. But don't worry,
John--don't worry. I don't mind. Jane won't mind, I am sure, and I
know Jennie will understand. It isn't what even we who love you think
of you, John--it is what you are that counts. Oh, Johnnie, Johnnie,
maybe you could serve your country and humanity in jail--by showing
the folly and the utter uselessness of all this money-getting, just as
your father served it by dying. I would not mind if it made men see
that money isn't the thing--if it made you see it, my boy; if you
could come out of a jail with that horrible greed for money purged
from you--"

But no--we will not peep behind the curtain; we will not dwell with
John Barclay as he walked all night up and down the great living room
of his home. And see, the footlights have winked at the leader of the
orchestra, to let him know he is playing too long; observe, how
quickly the music dies down--rather too quickly, for the clatter of
cast iron is heard on the stage, and the sound of hurried footsteps is
audible, as of some one moving rapidly about behind the curtain. The
rattling iron you hear is the stove in Watts McHurdie's shop; they
have just set it up, and got it red hot; for it is a cold day, that
fifteenth day of December, 1903, and the footsteps you hear are those
of the members of the harness shop parliament.

Ah! There goes the curtain, and there sits Watts astraddle of his
bench, working with all his might, for he has an order to sew
sleigh-bells on a breast strap, for some festivity or another; and
here sits the colonel, and over there the general, and on his
home-made chair Jacob Dolan is tilted back, warming his toes at the
stove. They are all reading--all except Watts, who is working; on the
floor are the Chicago and St. Louis evening papers, and the Omaha and
Kansas City morning papers. And on the first pages of all of these
papers are pictures of John Barclay. There is John Barclay in the
_Bee_, taken in his Omaha office by the _Bee's_ own photographer--a
new picture of Mr. Barclay, unfamiliar to the readers of most
newspapers. It shows the little man standing by a desk, smiling rather
benignly with his sharp bold eyes fixed on the camera. There is a line
portrait of Mr. Barclay in the _Times_, one of recent date, showing
the crow's-feet about the eyes, the vertical wrinkle above the nose,
and the furtive mouth, hard and naked, and the square mean jaw, that
every cartoonist of Barclay has emphasized for a dozen years. And
there are other pictures of Mr. Barclay in the papers on the floor,
and the first pages of the papers are filled with the news of the
Barclay indictment. All over this land, and in Europe, the news of
that indictment caused a sensation. In the _Times_, there on the
floor, is an editorial comment upon the indictment of Barclay cabled
from London, another from Paris, and a third from Berlin. It was a big
event in the world, an event of more than passing note--this sudden
standing up of one of the richest men of his land, before the front
door of a county jail. Big business, and little business that apes big
business, dropped its jaw. The world is not accustomed to think of
might making wrong, so when a Charles I or a Louis XVI or a John
Barclay comes to harm, the traditions of the world are wrenched. Men
say: "How can these things be--if might makes right? Here is a case
where might and right conflict--how about it? Jails are for the poor,
not for the rich, because the poor are wrong and the rich are right,
and no just man made perfect by a million should be in jail."

And so while the members of the parliament in Watts McHurdie's shop
read and were disturbed at the strange twist of events, the whole
world was puzzled with them, and in unison with Jacob Dolan, half the
world spoke, "I see no difference in poisoning breakfast foods and
poisoning wells, and it's no odds to me whether a man pinches a few
ounces out of my flour sack, or steals my chickens."

And the other half of the world was replying with Colonel Culpepper,
"Oh, well, Jake, now that's all right for talk; but in the realms of
high finance men are often forced to be their own judges of right and
wrong, and circumstances that we do not appreciate, cannot understand,
in point of fact, nor comprehend, if I may say so, intervene, and make
what seems wrong in small transactions, trivial matters and
pinch-penny business, seem right in the high paths of commerce."

The general was too deeply interested in reading what purported to be
his son's testimony before Commissioner Smith, to break into the
discussion at this point, so Dolan answered, "From which I take it
that you think that Johnnie down at the mill keeps a private God in
his private car."

The colonel was silent for a time; he read a few lines and looked into
space a moment, and then replied in a gentle husky voice: "Jake, what
do we know about it? The more I think how every man differs from his
neighbour, and all our sins are the result of individual weakness at
the end of lonely struggles with lonely temptations--the more I think
maybe there is something in what you say, and that not only John but
each of us--each of us under this shining sun, sir--keeps his
private God."

"You'll have to break that news gently to the Pope," returned Dolan.
"I'll not try it. Right's right, Mart Culpepper, and wrong's wrong for
me and for Johnnie Barclay, white, black, brown, or yellow--'tis the
same."

"There's nothing in your theory, Mart," cut in the general, folding
his paper across his knee; "not a thing in the world. We're all parts
of a whole, and the only way this is an individual problem at
all--this working out of the race's destiny--is that the whole can't
improve so long as the parts don't grow. So long as we all are like
John Barclay save in John's courage to do wrong, laws won't help us
much, and putting John in jail won't do so very much--though it may
scare the cowards until John's kind of crime grows unpopular. But what
we must have is individual--"

Tinkle goes the bell over Watts McHurdie's head--the bell tied to a
cord that connects with the front door. Down jumps Watts, and note the
play of the lights from the flies, observe that spot light moving
toward R. U. E., there by the door of the shop. Yes, all ready; enter
John Barclay. See that iron smile on his face; he has not surrendered.
He has been clean-shaven, and entering that door, he is as spick and
span as though he were on a wedding journey. Give him a hand or a hiss
as you will, ladies and gentlemen, John Barclay has entered at the
Right Upper Entrance, and the play may proceed.

"Well," he grinned, "I suppose you are talking it over. Colonel, has
the jury come to a verdict yet?"

What a suave John Barclay it was; how admirably he held his nerve; not
a quiver in the face, not a ruffle of the voice. The general looked at
him over his spectacles, and could not keep the kindness out of his
eyes. "What a brick you are!" he said to himself, and Jake Dolan,
conquered by the simplicity of it, surrendered.

"Oh, well, John, I suppose we all have our little troubles," said
Jake. Only that; the rack of the inquisitor grew limp. And Colonel
Culpepper rose and gave Barclay his hand and spoke not a word. The
silence was awkward, and at the end of a few moments the colonel found
words.

"How," he asked in his thick asthmatic voice, mushy with emotion, "how
in the world did this happen, John? How did it happen?"

Barclay looked at the general; no, he did not glare, for John Barclay
had grown tame during the night, almost docile, one would say. But he
did not answer at first, and Watts McHurdie, bending over his work,
chuckled out: "Ten miles from Springfield, madam--ten miles from
Springfield." And then John sloughed off thirty years and laughed. And
the general laughed, and the colonel smiled, and Jake Dolan took John
Barclay's hand from the colonel, and said:--

"The court adjudges that the prisoner at the bar pay the assembled
company four of those cigars in his inside pocket, and stand committed
until the same is paid."

And then there was a scratching of matches, and a puffing, and Barclay
spoke: "I knew there was one place on earth where I was welcome. The
mill is swarming with reporters, and I thought I'd slip away. They'll
not find me here." The parliament smoked in silence, and again Barclay
said, "Well, gentlemen, it's pretty tough--pretty tough to work all
your life to build up an industry and in the end--get this."

"Well, John," said the general, as he rolled up his newspaper and put
it away, "I'm sorry--just as sorry as Mart is; not so much for the
indictment, that is all part of the inevitable consequence of your
creed; if it hadn't been the indictment, it would have been something
else, equally sad--don't you see, John?"

"Oh, I know what you think, General," retorted Barclay, bitterly. "I
know your idea; you think it's retribution."

"Not exactly that either, John--just the other side of the equation.
You have reaped what you sowed, and I am sorry for what you sowed. God
gave you ten talents, John Barclay--ten fine talents, my boy, and you
wrapped them in a napkin and buried them in the ground, buried them in
greed and cunning and love of power, and you are reaping envy and
malice and cruelty. You were efficient, John; oh, if I had been as
efficient as you, how much I could have done for this world--how
much--how much!" he mused wistfully.

Barclay did not reply, but his face was hard, and his neck was stiff,
and he was not moved. He was still the implacable Mr. Barclay, the
rich Mr. Barclay, and he would have no patronage from old Phil
Ward--Phil Ward the crank, who was a nation's joke. Ting-a-ling went
the bell over Watts McHurdie's head, and the little man climbed down
from his bench and hurried into the shop. But instead of a customer,
Mr. J. K. Mercheson, J. K. Mercheson representing Barber, Hancock, and
Kohn,--yes, the whip trust; that's what they call it, but it is
really an industrial organization of the trade,--Mr. J. K. Mercheson
of New York came in. No, McHurdie did not need anything at present,
and he backed into the shop. He had all of the goods in that line that
he could carry just now; and he sidled toward his seat. The members of
the parliament effaced themselves, as loafers do in every busy place
when business comes up; the colonel got behind his paper, Barclay hid
back of the stove, Dolan examined a bit of harness, and the general
busied himself picking up the litter on the floor, and folding the
papers with the pictures of Barclay inside so that he would not be
annoyed by them. But Mr. Mercheson knew how to get orders; he knew
that the thing to do is to stay with the trade.

So he leaned against the work bench and began:--

"This is a great town, Mr. McHurdie; we're always hearing from
Sycamore Ridge. When I'm in the East they say, 'What kind of a town is
that Sycamore Ridge where Watts McHurdie and your noted reformer,
Robert Hendricks, who was offered a place in the cabinet, and this man
John Barclay live?'"

Mr. Mercheson paused for effect. Mr. McHurdie smiled and went on with
his work.

"Say," said Mr. Mercheson, "your man Barclay is in all the papers this
morning. I was in the smoker of the sleeper last evening coming out of
Chicago, and we got to talking about him--and Lord, how the fellows
did roast him."

"They did?" asked Barclay, from his chair behind the stove.

"Sure," replied Mr. Mercheson; "roasted him good and brown. There
wasn't a man in the smoker but me to stand up for him."

"So you stood up for the old scoundrel, did you?" asked Barclay.

"Sure," answered the travelling man. "Anything to get up an argument,
you know," he went on, beginning to see which way sentiment lay in the
shop. "I've been around town this morning, and I find the people here
don't approve of him for a minute, any more than they did on the
train."

"What do they say?" asked Barclay, braiding a four-strand whip, and
finding that his cunning of nearly fifty years had not left his
fingers.

"Oh, it isn't so much what they say--but you can tell, don't you
know; it's what they don't say; they don't defend him. I guess they
like him personally, but they know he's a thief; that's the
idea--they simply can't defend him and they don't try. The government
has got him dead to rights. Say," he went on, "just to be arguing, you
know last evening I took a poll of the train--the limited--the
Golden State Limited--swell train, swell crowd--all rich old
roosters; and honest, do you know that out of one hundred and
twenty-three votes polled only four were for him, and three of those
were girls who said they knew his daughter at the state university,
and had visited at his house. Wasn't that funny?"

Barclay laughed grimly, and answered, "Well, it was pretty funny
considering that I'm John Barclay."

The suspense of the group in the shop was broken, and they laughed,
too.

"Oh, hell," said Mr. Mercheson, "come off!" Then he turned to McHurdie
and tried to talk trade to him. But Watts was obdurate, and the man
soon left the shop, eying Barclay closely. He stood in the door and
said, as he went out of the store, "Well, you do look some like his
pictures, Mister."

There was a silence when the stranger went, and Barclay, whose face
had grown red, cried, "Damn 'em--damn 'em all--kick a man when he is
down!"

Again the bell tinkled, and McHurdie went into the shop. Evidently a
customer was looking at a horse collar, for through the glass door
they could see Watts' hook go up to the ceiling and bring one down.

"John," said the colonel, when Barclay had spoken, "John, don't mind
it. Look at me, John--look at me! They had to put me in jail, you
know; but every one seems to have forgotten it but me--and I am a dog
that I don't."

John Barclay looked at the old, broken man, discarded from the
playing-cards of life, with the hurt, surprised look always in his
eyes, and it was with an effort that the suave Mr. Barclay kept the
choke in his throat out of his voice as he replied:--

"Yes, Colonel, yes, I know I have no right to kick against the
pricks."

Watts was saying: "Yes, he's in there now--with the boys; you better
go in and cheer him up."

And then at the upper right-hand entrance entered Gabriel Carnine,
president of the State Bank, unctuous as a bishop. He ignored the
others, and walking to Barclay, put out his hand. "Well, well, John,
glad to see you; just came up from the mill--I was looking for you.
Couldn't find Neal, either. Where is he?"

The general answered curtly, "Neal is in Chicago, working on the
_Record-Herald_."

"Oh," returned Carnine, and did not pursue the subject further. "Well,
gentlemen," he said, "fine winter weather we're having."

"Is that so?" chipped in Dolan. "Mr. Barclay was finding it a little
mite warm."

Carnine ignored Dolan, and Barclay grinned. "Well, John," Carnine
hesitated, "I was just down to see you--on a little matter of
business."

"Delighted, sir, delighted," exclaimed Dolan, as he rose to go; "we
were going, anyway--weren't we, General?" The veterans rose, and
Colonel Culpepper said as he went, "I told Molly to call for me here
about noon with the buggy--if she comes, tell her to wait."

All of life may not be put on the stage, and this scene has to be cut;
for it was at the end of half an hour's aimless, footless, foolish
talk that Gabriel Carnine came to the business in hand. Round and
round the bush he beat the devil, before he hit him a whack. Then he
said, as if it had just occurred to him, "We were wondering--some of
the directors--this morning, if under the circumstances--oh, say
just for the coming six months or such a matter--it might not be wise
to reorganize our board; freshen it up, don't you know; kind of get
some new names on it, and drop the old ones--not permanently, but
just to give the other stockholders a show on the board."

"So you want me to get off, do you?" blurted Barclay. "You're afraid
of my name--now?"

The screams of Mr. Carnine, the protesting screams of that oleaginous
gentleman, if they could have been vocalized in keeping with their
muffled, low-voiced, whispering earnestness, would have been loud
enough to be heard a mile away, but Barclay talked out:--

"All right, take my name off; and out comes my account. I don't care."

And thereupon the agony of Mr. Carnine was unutterable. If he had been
a natural man, he would have howled in pain; as it was, he merely
purred. But Barclay's skin was thin that day, sensitive to every
touch, and he felt the rough hand of Carnine and winced. He let the
old man whine and pur and stroke his beard awhile, and then Barclay
said wearily, "All right, just as you please, Gabe--I'll not move my
account. It's nothing to me."

In another minute the feline foot of Mr. Carnine was pattering gently
toward the front door. Barclay sat looking at the stove, and Watts
went on working. Barclay sighed deeply once or twice, but McHurdie
paid no heed to him. Finally Barclay rose and went over to the bench.

"Watts," cried Barclay, "what do you think about it--you, your own
self, what do you think way down in your heart?"

Watts sewed a stitch or two without speaking, and then put down his
thread and put up his glasses and said, "That's fairly spoken, John
Barclay, and will have a fair answer."

The old man paused; Barclay cried impatiently, "Oh, well, Watts, don't
be afraid--nothing can hurt me much now!"

"I was just a-thinking, lad," said Watts, gently, "just a-thinking."

"What?" cried Barclay.

"Just a-thinking," returned the old man, as he put his hand on the
younger man's shoulder, "what a fine poet you spoiled in your life,
just to get the chance to go to jail. But the Lord knows His business,
I suppose!" he added with a twinkle in his eye, "and if He thinks a
poet more or less in jail would help more than one out--it is all for
the best, John, all for the best. But, my boy," he cried earnestly,
"if you'll be going to jail, don't whine, lad. Go to jail like a
gentleman, John Barclay, go to jail like a gentleman, and serve your
Lord there like a man."

"Damn cheerful you are, Watts," returned Barclay. "What a lot of Job's
comforters you fellows have been this morning." He went on half
bitterly and half jokingly: "Beginning with the general, continuing
with your travelling salesman friend, and following up with Gabe, who
wants me to get off the board of directors of his bank for the moral
effect of it, and coming on down to you who bid me Godspeed to
jail--I have had a--a--a rather gorgeous morning."

The door-bell tinkled, and a woman's voice called, "Father, father!"

"Yes, Molly," the harness maker answered; "he'll be here pretty soon.
He said for you to wait."

"Come in, for heaven's sake, Molly," cried Barclay, "come back here
and cheer me up."

"Oh, all right--it's you, John? What are you doing back here? I'm so
glad to find you. I've just got the dearest letter from Jane. We won't
talk business or anything--you know how I feel, and how sorry I
am--so just let's read Jane's letter; it has something in it to cheer
you. She said she was going to write it to you the next day--but I'll
read it to you." And so Mrs. Brownwell took from her pocketbook the
crumpled letter and unfolded it. "It's so like Jane--just good hard
sense clear through." She turned the pages hastily, and finally the
fluttering of the sheets stopped. "Oh, yes," she said, "here's the
place--the rest she's told you. Let me see--Oh: 'And, Molly, what do
you think?--there's a duke after Jeanette--a miserable, little,
dried-up, burned-out, poverty-stricken Italian duke. And oh, how much
good it did us both to cut him, and let him know how ill-bred we
considered him, how altogether beneath any wholesome honest girl we
thought such a fellow.' And now, John, isn't this like Jane?"
interposed Mrs. Brownwell. "Listen; she says, 'Molly, do you know, I
am so happy about Jeanette and Neal. We run such an awful risk with
this money--such a horrible risk of unhappiness and misery for the
poor child--heaven knows she would be so much happier without it. And
to think, dear, that she has found the one in the world for her, in
the sweet simple way that a girl should always find him, and that the
money--the menacing thing that hangs like a shadow over her--cannot
by any possibility spoil her life! It makes me happy all the day, and
I go singing through life with joy at the thought that the money won't
hurt Jennie--that it can't take from her the joy that comes from
living with her lover all her life, as I have lived.' Isn't that fine,
John?" asked Mrs. Brownwell, and looking up, she saw John Barclay,
white-faced, with trembling jaw, staring in pain at the stove. Watts
had gone into the store to wait on a customer, and the woman, seeing
the man's anguish, came to him and said: "Why, John, what is it? How
have I hurt you?--I thought this would cheer you so."

The man rose heavily. His colour was coming back. "Oh, God--God," he
cried, "I needed that to-day--I needed that."

The woman looked at him, puzzled and nonplussed. "Why--why--why?"
she stammered.

"Oh, nothing," he smiled back at her bitterly, "except--" and his jaw
hardened as he snapped--"except that Neal Ward is a damned
informer--and I've sent him about his business, and Jeanette's got to
do the same."

Mollie Brownwell looked at him with hard eyes for a moment, and then
asked, "What did Neal do?"

"Well," replied Barclay, "under cross-examination, I'll admit without
incriminating myself that he gave the testimony which indicted me."

"Was it that or lie, John?" He did not reply. A silence fell, and the
woman broke it with a cry: "Oh, John Barclay, John Barclay, must your
traffic in souls reach your own flesh and blood? Haven't you enough
without selling her into Egypt, too? Haven't you enough money now?"
And without waiting for answer, Molly Brownwell turned and left him
staring into nothing, with his jaw agape.

It was noon and a band was playing up the street, and as he stood by
the stove in McHurdie's shop, he remembered vaguely that he had seen
banners flying and some "Welcome" arches across the street as he
walked through the town that morning. He realized that some lodge or
conclave or assembly was gathering in the town, and that the band was
a part of its merriment. It was playing a gay tune and came nearer and
nearer. But as he stood leaning upon his chair, with his heart
quivering and raw from its punishment, he did not notice that the band
had stopped in front of the harness shop. His mind went back wearily
to the old days, fifty years before, when as a toddling child in
dresses he used to play on that very scrap-heap outside the back door,
picking up bits of leather, and in his boyhood days, playing pranks
upon the little harness maker, and braiding his whips for the town
herd. Then he remembered the verses Watts had written about Bob
Hendricks and him in that very room, and the music he and Watts had
played together there. The old song Watts had made in his presence in
the hospital at St. Louis came back to his mind. Did it come because
outside the band had halted and was playing that old song to serenade
Watts McHurdie? Or did it come because John Barclay was wondering if,
had he made a poet of himself, or a man of spiritual and not of
material power, it would have been better for him?

Heaven knows why the old tune came into his head. But when he
recognized that they were serenading the little harness maker, and
that so far as they thought of John Barclay and his power and his
achievements, it was with scorn, he had a flash of insight into his
relations with the world that illumined his soul for a moment and then
died away. The great Mr. Barclay, alone, sitting in the dingy little
harness shop, can hear the band strike up the old familiar tune again,
and hear the crowd cheer and roar its applause at the little harness
maker, who stands shamefaced and abashed, coatless and aproned, before
the crowd. And he is only a poet--hardly a poet, would be a better
way to say it; an exceedingly bad poet who makes bad rhymes, and
thinks trite thoughts, and says silly and often rather stupid things,
but who once had his say, and for that one hour of glorious liberty of
the soul has moved millions of hearts to love him. John Barclay does
not envy Watts McHurdie--not at all; for Barclay, with all his
faults, is not narrow-gauged; he does not wish they would call for
him--not to-day--not at all; he could not face them now, even if
they cheered him. He says in his heart of pride, beneath his stiff
neck, that it is all right; that Watts,--poor little church-mouse of
a Watts, whom he could buy five times over with the money that has
dropped into the Barclay till since he entered the shop--that Watts
should have his due; but only--only--only--that is it--only, but
only--!




CHAPTER XXVI


And now as we go out into the busy world, after this act in the
dawning of John Barclay's life, let the court convene, and the
reporters gather, and the honourable special counsel for the
government rage, and the defendant sit nervous and fidgety as the
honourable counsel reads the indictment; let the counsel for the
defendant swell and strut with indignation that such indignities
should be put upon honest men and useful citizens, and let the court
frown, and ponder and consider; for that is what courts are for, but
what do we care for it all? We have left it all behind, with the
ragged programmes in the seats. So if the honourable court, in the
person of the more or less honourable Elijah Westlake Bemis, after the
fashion of federal judges desiring to do a questionable thing, calls
in a judge from a neighbouring court--what do we care? And if the
judge of the neighbouring court, after much legal hemming and judicial
hawing, decides in his great wisdom--that the said defendant Barclay
has been charged in the indictment with no crime, and instructs the
jury to find a verdict of not guilty for said defendant John Barclay,
upon the mere reading of the indictment,--what are the odds? What do
we care if the men in the packed courtroom hiss and the reporters put
down the hisses in their note-books and editors write the hisses in
headlines, and presses print the hisses all over the world? For the
fidgety little man is free now--entirely free save for fifty-four
years of selfish life upon his shoulders.

In the trial of nearly every cause it becomes necessary at some point
in the proceedings to halt the narrative and introduce certain
exhibits, records, and documents, upon which foregone evidence has
been based, and to which coming testimony may properly be attached.
That point has been reached in the case now before the reader. And as
"Exhibit A" let us submit a letter written by John Barclay, January
seventh, nineteen hundred and four, to Jane, his wife, at Naples.

    "As I cabled you this afternoon, the case resulted exactly as I said
    it would the day after the indictment. I had not seen or talked with
    Lige since that day I talked with him over the telephone, before the
    indictment was made public, but I knew Lige well enough to know how
    he would act under fire. I had him out to dinner this evening, and
    we talked over old times, and he tells me he wants to retire from
    the bench. Jane, Lige has been my mainstay ever since this company
    was organized. Sometimes I feel that without his help in
    politics--looking to see that pernicious legislation was killed, and
    that the right men were elected to administrative offices, and
    appointed to certain judicial places--we never would have been able
    to get the company to its present high standing. I feel that he has
    been so valuable to us that we should settle a sum on him that will
    make him a rich man as men go in the Ridge. Heaven knows that is
    little enough, considering all that he has done. He may have his
    faults, Jane, but he has been loyal to me.

    "I hope, my dear, that Jeanette has ceased to worry about the other
    matter; he is not worth her tears. Don't come home for a month or
    two yet. The same conditions prevail that I spoke of in my first
    cable the day of the indictment. The press and the public are
    perfectly crazy. America is one great howling mob, and it would make
    you and Jennie unhappy. As for me, I don't mind it. You know me."

And that the reader may know how truthful John Barclay is, let us
append herewith a letter written by Mrs. Mary Barclay, of Sycamore
Ridge, to her granddaughter at Naples, January 15, 1904. She writes
among other things:--

    "Well, dear, it is a week now since your father's case was settled,
    and he was at home for the first time last night. I expected that
    his victory--such as it was--would cheer him up, but some way he
    seems worse in the dumps than he was before. He does not sleep well,
    and is getting too nervous for a man of his age. I have the
    impression that he is forever battling with something. Of course the
    public temper is bitter, dearie. You are a woman now, and should not
    be shielded and pampered with lies, so I am going to tell you the
    truth. The indignation of the people of this nation at your father,
    as he represents present business methods, is past belief. And
    frankly, dearie, I can't blame them. Your father and my son is a
    brave, sweet, loving man; none could be finer in this world, Jennie.
    But the head of the National Provisions Company is another person,
    dear; and of him I do not approve, as you know so well. I am sending
    you Neal Ward's statement which was published by the government the
    day after the case was dismissed. I have not sent it to you before,
    because I wanted to ask your father if it was true. Jennie, he
    admits that Neal told the truth, and nothing but the truth--and did
    not make it as bad as it was. You are entitled to the facts. You are
    a grown woman now, dear, and must make your own decisions. But oh,
    my dear little girl, I am heartsick to see your father breaking as
    he is. He seems to be fighting--fighting--fighting all the time;
    perhaps it is against the flames of public wrath, but some way I
    think he is fighting something inside himself--fighting it back;
    fighting it down--whatever it is."

Counsel also begs indulgence while he introduces and reads two
clippings from the Sycamore Ridge _Daily Banner_, of February 12,
1904. The first one reads:--

    "Judge Bemis Retires

    "Hon. E. W. Bemis has retired from the federal bench, and rumour has
    it that he is soon to return with his estimable wife to our midst.
    Our people will welcome the judge and Mrs. Bemis with open arms. He
    retires from an honourable career, to pass his declining years in
    the peace and quiet of the town in which he began his career over
    fifty years ago. For as every one knows, he came West as a boy, and
    before having been admitted to the bar dealt largely in horses and
    cattle. He has always been a good business man, having with his
    legal acumen the acquisitive faculty, and now he is looking for some
    place to invest a modest competence here in the Ridge, and rumour
    has it again that he is negotiating for the purchase of the Sycamore
    Ridge Waterworks bonds, which are now in litigation. If so, he will
    make an admirable head of that popular institution."

In this connection, and before introducing the other clipping from the
_Banner_, it would be entirely proper to introduce the manuscript for
the above, in the typewriting of the stenographer of Judge Bemis's
court, and a check for fifty dollars payable to Adrian Brownwell,
signed by Judge Bemis aforesaid; but those documents would only clog
the narrative and would not materially strengthen the case, so they
will be thrown out.

The second clipping, found in the personal column of the _Banner_ of
the date referred to, February 12, 1904, follows:--

    "Mrs. John Barclay and Miss Barclay are on the steamer _Etruria_
    which was sighted off Fire Island to-day. They will spend a few
    weeks in New York, and early in March Miss Barclay will enter the
    state university to do some post-graduate work in English, and Mrs.
    Barclay will return to Sycamore Ridge. Mr. Barclay will meet them at
    the pier, and they expect to spend the coming two weeks attending
    German opera. Mrs. Mary Barclay left to-day for the East to join
    them. She will remain a month visiting relatives near Haverhill,
    Mass."

It becomes necessary to append some letters of Miss Jeanette
Barclay's, and they are set down here in the order in which they were
written, though the first one takes the reader back a few weeks to
December 5, 1903. It was posted at Rome, and in the body of it are
found these words:--

    "My dear, I know you will smile when you hear I have been reading
    all the Italian scientific books I can find, dealing with the human
    brain--partly to help my Italian, but chiefly, I think, to see if I
    can find and formulate some sort of a definition for love. It is so
    much a part of my soul, dear heart, that I would like to know more
    about it. And I am going to write down for you what I think it is as
    we know it. I have been wearing your ring nearly three years, Neal,
    and if you had only known it, I would have been happy to have taken
    it a year sooner. In those four years I have grown from a girl to a
    woman, and you have become a man full grown. In that time all my
    thoughts have centred on you. In all my schoolbooks your face comes
    back to me as I open them in fancy. As I think of the old room at
    school, of my walk up the hill, as I think of home and my room
    there, some thought of you is always between me and the picture. All
    through my physical brain are little fibres running to every centre
    that bring up images of you. You are woven into my life, and I know
    in my heart that I am woven into your life. The thing is done; it is
    as much apart of my being as my blood--those million fibres of my
    brain that from every part of my consciousness bring thoughts of
    you. We cannot be separated now, darling--we are united for life,
    whether we unite in life or not. I am yours and you are mine. It is
    now as inexorable as anything we call material. More than that--you
    have made my soul. All the aspirations of my spiritual life go to
    you for beginning and for being as truly as the fibres of my brain
    thrill to the sound of your name or the mental image of your face.
    My soul is your soul, because in the making the thought of you was
    uppermost. I know that my love for you is immortal, ineffaceable,
    and though I should live a hundred years, that love would still be
    as much a part of my life as my hands or my eyes or my body. And the
    best of it all is that I am so glad it is so. Divorce is as
    impossible with a love like that as amputation of the brain. It is
    big and vital in me, real and certain, and so long as I live on
    earth, or dwell in eternity, my soul and your soul are knit
    together."

Three weeks later, on December 28, 1903, Miss Barclay wrote to Mr.
Ward as follows:--

    "Your letter and father's letter were on my desk when we returned
    from our cruise. I have just finished writing to him, and I herewith
    return your ring and your pin."

There was neither signature nor superscription--just those words. And
a month later, Miss Barclay wrote this letter to her Grandmother
Barclay in Sycamore Ridge:--

    "MY DEAR, DEAR GRANNY: I have told mother what you wrote of father,
    and we are coming home just as soon as we can get a steamer. We are
    cabling him to-day, and hope to sail within a week or ten days at
    the very farthest. But I cannot wait until I see you, dear, to come
    close into your heart. And first of all I want you to know that I
    share your views about the heart-break of all this money and the
    miserable man-killing way it is being piled up. I know the two men
    you speak of--father and the president of the N.P.C. But he is my
    father, and I must stand by him, and brace him if I can. But, oh,
    Granny, I don't want the old money! It has never made me
    happy--never for one minute. The only happiness I have ever had was
    when he was at home with us all, away from business--and--but you
    know about that other happiness, and it hurts to speak of it now. I
    have not read what you sent me. I can't. But I will keep it. That it
    is true doesn't help me any. Nothing can help me. It is just one of
    those awful things that I have read of coming to people, but which I
    thought never could possibly come to me. Oh, Granny, Granny, you who
    pray so much for others, now pray for me. Granny, you can't cut
    something out of you--right out of the heart of you, by merely
    saying so; it keeps growing back; it hurts, and hurts, and keeps
    hurting; even if you know it is cut out and thrown away. They say
    that men who have had legs cut off can feel them for months and even
    years if they are cramped when they are buried. The nerves of the
    old dead body reach through space and hurt. It is that way with me.
    The old dead thing in my heart that is buried and gone keeps
    cramping and hurting. You are the only one I can come to, Granny. It
    hurts mother too much, and she is not strong this winter. I think it
    is worry. She is growing thin, and her heart doesn't act right. I am
    terribly worried about her; but she made me promise to say nothing
    to father, and you must not, either; for he will see for himself
    soon."

A few letters from Neal Ward to Jeanette Barclay, and a document some
twenty years old, which the reader may have forgotten, but which one
person connected with this narrative has feared would come to light
every day in that time--and then this tedious business of introducing
documentary evidence will be over. The letter from Neal Ward to
Jeanette Barclay is one of hundreds that he wrote and never mailed.
They were dated, sealed, addressed, and put away. This one was written
at midnight as the bells and whistles and pistols and fireworks were
welcoming the year 1904. It begins:--

    "MY VERY DEAREST: Here I am sitting at the old desk again, in the
    old office of the _Banner_. I could only scribble you a little note
    on the train last night to tell you that my heart still was with
    you, and I did not have the time to explain why I was coming. It is
    a dead secret, little woman, and perhaps I shouldn't tell even you,
    but I feel that I must bring everything to you. Bob Hendricks wired
    me to come down. He has a mortgage on the _Banner_, and he feels
    that things are not being properly managed, so he persuaded Mr.
    Brownwell to give me a place as sort of manager of the paper at
    twenty dollars a week--a sum that seems princely considering that I
    was making only eighteen dollars in Chicago, and that it costs so
    much less to live here. Hendricks guarantees my wages, so that
    Adrian cannot stand me off. Hendricks has another motive for wanting
    me to come here. The waterworks franchise will come up for renewal
    June first of this year, and Mr. Hendricks is for municipal
    ownership. Carnine and the State Bank are against municipal
    ownership, because the water company does business with them, and as
    they control the _Index_, they are preparing to make a warm fight
    for the renewal of the old franchise. So there will be a hot time in
    the old town this spring. But the miserable part of it is this. The
    growth of the town has made it dangerous to use the present supply
    station. The water must not come out of the mill-pond any longer, as
    the town is tilted so that all the surface drainage goes into it,
    and the sewers that drain into it, while they drain a few hundred
    yards below the intake of the waterworks, cannot help tainting the
    whole pond. Mr. Hendricks has had an expert here who declared that
    both the typhoid and diphtheria epidemics here last fall were due
    directly to the water supply, and Mr. Hendricks is going to make the
    fight of his life to have the city buy the waterworks plant, and
    move the intake six miles above town, where there is plenty of clean
    water. Of course it will mean first a city election to get decent
    councilmen, and then a bond election to vote money to buy the old
    plant; the waterworks company are going to move heaven and earth to
    get an anti-Hendricks council elected and to renew the franchise and
    let things go as they are. So that is why I am here, dear heart, and
    oh, my darling, you do not know how painful it all seems to be here
    and not have you--I mean--you know what I mean. All my associations
    with the work here in the office and on the street are with my heart
    close to yours. Everything in the old town tells me of you. 'Saint
    Andrews by the Northern sea, a haunted city is to me.' To-night I
    hear the music of the New Year's dance, and I can shut my eyes and
    feel you with me there. Oh, sweetheart, I have kept you so close, by
    writing to you every night. I come and lay my heart and all its
    thoughts at your shrine, and put all my day's work before you for
    your approval, just as I used to do. It is so sweet a privilege.

    "Last night I dreamed about you. It was so real and your voice
    sounded so clearly, crying to me, that you have been with me all
    day. I wonder if while we sleep, we whose souls would struggle to
    meet through eternity, if through the walls of space they may not
    find each other, and speak to each other through our dreams. It is
    midnight here now, and you are just waking, perhaps, or just
    sleeping that sleep of early morning wherein the soul sinks to
    unknown depths. Oh--oh--oh, if I could but speak to you there, my
    dear! I am going to sit here and close my eyes and try."

The next letter in the exhibit was written six weeks later and is
dated February 12, 1904. It says in part:--

    "I must tell you what a bully fellow Bob Hendricks is. Judge Bemis
    sent a highly laudatory article about himself to the office to-day
    with a check for fifty dollars. In the article it develops that he
    is going to retire from the federal bench and come down here and buy
    the waterworks plant--on the theory that he will get a bargain
    because of the expiring franchise and the prospective fight. That
    fifty dollars looked as big as a barn to poor Adrian, so he trotted
    off with the letter and the check to Hendricks. Of course, the
    letter and the check together, just framed and put in the bank
    window, would make great sport of the judge; but Bob is a
    thoroughbred, and probably Bemis knows it, and figures on that in
    his dealings with him. I was in the bank when Adrian came in with
    the letter. He showed the check and the article to Hendricks, and
    you could almost see Adrian wag his tail and hear him whine to keep
    the check; Bob looked at the poor fellow's wistful eyes and handed
    it back with a quizzical little smile and said, 'Oh, I guess I'd run
    it; it can't hurt anything.' The light that came into Adrian's eyes
    was positively beatific, and he shook Bob by the hand, and twirled
    his cane, and waved his gloves in a sort of canine ecstasy, and
    trotted to the cashier's window with the check like a dog with a
    bone. It is the largest piece of real money he has had in six
    months, the boys say, and he has spent it for clothes. To-morrow he
    will hurry off to the first convention in the city like a comet two
    centuries behind time. But that is beside the point; the thing I
    don't like is the coming of Bemis. I know him; the things I have
    seen him do in your father's business and when he was on the bench,
    make me shudder for decent politics in this town. He is shrewd,
    unscrupulous, and without any restraint on earth.

    "I feel closer to you than I have felt since I put the barrier
    between us. For you are in this country to-night--I could go to the
    telephone there five feet away and reach you if I would. I looked
    to-day in the papers and saw that they would be giving Lohengrin at
    the Metropolitan Opera House, and knowing your father as I do, I
    think he will take you there. I can hear the music rising and see
    you drinking in the harmony, and as it swells into exquisite pain,
    and thrills through the holy places of your soul where are old
    memories of our love, sweetheart, maybe your spirit will go forth in
    God's strange universe where we all dwell neighbours, loosed from
    those material chains that bind our bodies, and will seek the heart
    that is searching for you out there in the highway of heaven. I seem
    to feel you now, dear soul--did the music fling your spirit free for
    a second till it touched my own? I am so happy, Jeanette--even to
    love you and to know that you have loved me, and must always love me
    while you are you and I am I."

And now let us consider the final exhibit. It will be necessary to
turn back the action of this story a month and a half and sit with
John Barclay and his friend, former federal judge Elijah Westlake
Bemis, before the fire in the wide fireplace in the Barclay home, one
cold January night, a week after Barclay had gone free from the court
and the world had hissed him. They were talking of the judge's
business future, and the judge was saying:--

"John, how did Bob Hendricks ever straighten out that affair in the
treasurer's office in connection with the first year's taxes of the
old Wheat Company? What did he do with it finally?"

Barclay looked at the fire and then turned his searchlight eyes into
Bemis's. There was not a quiver. The man sat there without a muscle of
his parchment face moving. His eyes were squinted up, looking at the
tip of his long cigar.

"Why?" asked Barclay.

"Well," responded Bemis, impassive as an ox, "it would help me in my
business to know. Tell me."

He spoke the last two words as one in authority.

"Well," answered Barclay, "one day back in the seventies, I was
appointed to check up the treasurer's book, and I found where he had
fixed it on the county books--apparently between two administrations.
I recognized his hand; and it made the balance for the first time."

Bemis smoked awhile. "What time in the seventies?" he asked.

There was a pause. "In January, 1879."

Bemis grinned a wicked, mean little grin and said: "That settles it. I
believe I am safe in buying the waterworks."

"What are you going to do to Bob?" Barclay asked.

"Nothing, nothing--absolutely nothing, if he has any sense and drops
this municipal ownership tommyrot. Absolutely nothing."

Again the grin came over his face, and at the end of a pause Barclay
said:--

"Well, if not, what then?"

Bemis shut his eyes and crossed his gaunt legs, and began: "Think back
twenty years ago--more or less. Do you remember when I brought your
car down here for Watts McHurdie and his crowd to go to Washington in,
to the G.A.R. celebration? All right; do you remember that I came to
the office and told you I saw Bob Hendricks waiting for some one at
the Union Station, when the train got into the city that morning?"

"Yes," said Barclay, "you were so mysterious and funny about it, I
remember."

"Well," said Bemis, as he got up and poked a log that was annoying him
in the fireplace, "well, I have a little document in my desk at home,
that I got the night before in the Ridge, which will convince Bobbie,
if he has any sense, that this municipal ownership business isn't all
it's cracked up to be."

Barclay, who knew from Jane something of the truth, guessed the rest,
but he did not question Bemis further. "Oh, I don't know, Lige," he
began; "it seems to me I wouldn't drag that into it."

Bemis turned his old face, full of malicious passion, toward Barclay
and cried, "Maybe you wouldn't, John Barclay--you forget things; but
I never do; and you're a coward sometimes, and I am not."

The blaze of his wrath went out in a moment, and Barclay's mind went
back to that afternoon in the seventies when Hendricks picked Bemis up
and threw him bodily from the county convention and branded him as a
boodler. Barclay knew argument was useless. So he said nothing.

"He has the county officers--every man-jack of them from the
treasurer to Jake Dolan, the janitor--and I couldn't get hold of that
book by fair means without his knowing it. But I am going to have that
book, John--I'm going to have that book."

Barclay followed Bemis's mental processes, as if they were his own.
"Well--what if he does know it?" asked Barclay.

"Oh, if he knew I was after the book, he'd fix me,--have it destroyed
or something; he could do lots of things or beat me some way. I've got
to get that book--get it out of the court-house--and there's just
one way to get into the court-house, without using the doors and the
windows." When Bemis had finished speaking, he gazed steadily into
Barclay's eyes. And Bemis saw the fear that was in Barclay's face.
"Yes, I know a way into the court-house, John--it's mine by fifty
years' right of discovery. I'm going to have that book, and get an
expert opinion as to the similarity of the handwriting in the book and
the handwriting of my own little document. My own little document," he
mused, licking his chops like a hound at the prospect.

Now we will call that little document "Exhibit I" in the case of the
Larger Good _vs._ The People, and close thereby a long and tedious
chapter. But we will begin another chapter in which the wheels of
events spin rapidly in their courses toward that moral equilibrium
that deeds must find before they stop when they are started for the
Larger Good.




CHAPTER XXVII


The spring of 1904 in Sycamore Ridge opened in turmoil. The turmoil
came from the contest over the purchase of the town's water system.
Robert Hendricks as president of the Citizens' League was leading the
forces that advocated the purchase of the system by the town, as being
the only sure way to change the water supply from the polluted
mill-pond to a clean source. Six months before he had leased every
bill-board in town, and for the two months preceding the city election
that was to decide the question of municipal purchase he had hired
every available hall in town, for every vacant night during those
months, and had bought half of the first page of both the _Banner_ and
the _Index_ for those months--and all of this long before the town
knew the fight was coming. He covered the bill-boards and the first
pages of the newspapers with analyses of the water in the
mill-pond--badly infected from the outlet of the town sewers and its
surface drainage. The Citizens' League filled the halls with speakers
demanding the purchase of the plant and the removal of the pumping
station to a place several miles above the town, and four beyond the
mill-pond. Judge Bemis, with the aid and abetment of John Barclay, who
was in the game to help his old friend, put up banners denouncing
Hendricks as a socialist, accusing him of being the town boss, and
charged through the columns of the _Index_ that Hendricks' real motive
in desiring to have the city take over the waterworks system was to
make money on the sale of the city's bonds. So Hendricks was the
centre of the fight.

In the first engagement, a malicious contest, Hendricks lost. The town
refused to vote the bonds to buy the plant. But at the same election
the same people elected a city council overwhelmingly in favour of
municipal ownership and in favour of compelling the operating company
to move its plant from the mill-pond. The morning after the election
Hendricks began a lawsuit as a taxpayer and citizen to make the
waterworks company move its plant. The town could understand that
issue, and sentiment rallied to Hendricks again. Judge Bemis, at the
head of the company, although irritated, was not alarmed. For in the
courts he could promote delays, plead technicalities, and wear out his
adversary. It was an old game with him. Still, the suit disturbed the
value of his bonds, and having other resources, he gleefully decided
to use them.

And thus it fell out that one fine day in April, Trixie Lee, from the
bedraggled outer hem of the social garment down by the banks of the
Sycamore, called to the telephone Robert Hendricks of the town's
purple and fine linen, who dwelt on the hill. He did not recognize her
voice, the first time she called. But shrewd as Judge Bemis was, and
bad as he was, he did not know it all. He did not know that when
Hendricks had received the first anonymous letter three days before,
he had instructed the girls in the telephone office, which he
controlled, to make a record of every telephone call for his office or
his house, and when the woman's voice on the telephone that day
delivered Judge Bemis's message, the moment after she quit talking he
knew with whom he had been talking.

"Is this Mr. Hendricks?" the voice had begun, rather pleasantly. Yes,
it was Mr. Hendricks. "Well, I am your friend, but I don't dare to let
you know my name now; it would be all my life is worth." And Robert
Hendricks grinned pleasantly into the rubber transmitter as he
realized that his trap would work. "Yes, Mr. Hendricks, I am your
friend, and you have a powerful enemy." What with the insinuations in
the _Index_ and the venom that Lige Bemis had been putting into
anonymous circulars during the preliminary waterworks campaign, this
was no news to Mr. Hendricks; so he let the voice go on, "They want
you to dismiss that suit against the waterworks company that you
brought last week." There was a pause for a reply; but none came; then
the voice said, "Are you there, Mr. Hendricks--do you hear me?" And
Mr. Hendricks said that he heard perfectly. "And," went on the voice,
"as your friend I wish you would, too. Do you remember a letter you
once wrote to a woman, asking her to elope with you--a married woman,
Mr. Hendricks?" There was a pause for a reply, and again the voice
asked, "Do you hear, Mr. Hendricks?" and Mr. Hendricks heard; heard in
his soul and was afraid, but his voice did not quaver as he replied,
"Yes, I hear perfectly." Then the voice went on, "Well, they have that
letter--a little note--not over one hundred words, and with no date
on it, and the man who has it also has a photograph of page 234 of a
certain ledger in the county treasurer's office for 1879, and there is
an entry there in your handwriting, Mr. Hendricks; and he has had them
both enlarged to show that the handwriting of the note and of the
county book are the same; isn't that mean, Mr. Hendricks?" Hendricks
coughed into the transmitter, and she knew that he was there, so she
continued: "As your friend in this matter, I have got them to promise
that if you will come to the Citizens' League meeting that you have
called for to-morrow night at Barclay Hall and tell the people that
you think we need harmony in the Ridge worse than we need this
everlasting row, if you will merely say to Mr. Barclay as you pass
into the meeting, 'Well, John, I believe I'll dismiss that suit,' you
can have your letter back. He hasn't got the letter, but he will be
sure to tell the news to a friend who has." Here the voice faltered,
and said unconsciously, "Wait a minute, I've lost my place; oh, here
it is; all right. And if you don't come to the meeting and say that, I
believe they are going to spring those documents on the meeting to put
you in bad odour."

"Is that all?" asked Hendricks.

"Well--" a pause and then finally--"yes," came the voice.

"Well, my answer is no," said Hendricks, and while he was trying to
get central the voice called again and said:--

"Just one word more: if you still maintain your present decision, a
copy of that letter you wrote will be put into the hands of Mr.
Brownwell of the _Banner_ before the meeting; I tell you this to
protect you. He and Mrs. Brownwell and Mrs. Barclay will be in town
to-morrow evening on the Barclay car from the West on No. 6; you will
have until then to reconsider your decision; after that you act at
your own risk."

Again the voice ceased, and Hendricks learned from central who had
been talking with him. It was after banking hours, and he sat for a
time looking the situation squarely in the face. The reckoning had
come. He had answered "no" with much bravery over the telephone--but
in his heart a question began to rise, and his decision was clouded.

Hendricks walked alone under the stars that night, and as he walked he
turned the situation over and over as one who examines a strange
puzzle. He saw that his "no" could not be his own "no." Molly must be
partner in it. For to continue his fight for clean water he must risk
her good name. He measured Bemis, and remembered the old quarrel. The
hate in the face of the bribe-giver, thrown out of the county
convention a quarter of a century before, came to Hendricks, and he
knew that it was no vain threat he was facing. So he turned up the
other facet of the puzzle. There was Adrian. For an hour he considered
Adrian Brownwell, a vain jealous old man with the temper of a beast.
To see Molly, tell her of their common peril, get her decision, and be
with it at the meeting before Adrian saw the note, all in the two
hours between the arrival of the train bearing the Brownwells and Mrs.
Barclay, and the time of the meeting in Barclay Hall, was part of
Hendricks' puzzle. He believed that by using the telephone to make an
appointment he could manage it. Then he turned the puzzle over and saw
that to save Molly Brownwell's good name and his father's, human lives
must be sacrificed by permitting the use of foul water in the town.
And in the end his mind set. He knew that unless she forbade it, the
contest must go on to a righteous finish, through whatever perils,
over any obstacles. Yet as he walked back to the bank, determined not
to take his hand from the plough, he saw that he must prepare to go
into the next day as though it were his last. For in his consciousness
on the other side of the puzzle--always there was the foolish Adrian,
impetuous at best, but stark mad in his jealousy and wrath.

And Elijah Westlake Bemis, keeping account of the man's movements,
chuckled as he felt the struggle in the man's breast. For he was a
wise old snake, that Lige Bemis, and he had seduced many another man
after the brave impulsive "no" had roared in his face. Just before
midnight when he saw the electric light flash on in the private office
of the president of the Exchange National Bank, Lige Bemis, libertine
with men, strolled home and counted the battle won. "He's writing his
speech," he said to Barclay over the telephone at midnight. And John
Barclay, who had fought the local contest in the election with Bemis
to be loyal to a friend, and to help one who was in danger of losing
the profit on half a million dollars' investment in the Sycamore Ridge
waterworks, laughed as he walked upstairs in his pajamas, and said to
himself, "Old Lige is a great one--there is a lot of fight in the old
viper yet." It was nothing to Barclay that the town got its water from
a polluted pond. That phase of the case did not enter his
consciousness, though it was placarded on the bill-boards and had been
printed in the _Banner_ a thousand times during the campaign. To him
it was a fight by the demagogues against property interests, and he
was with property, even a little property--even a miserable little
dribble of property like half a million dollars' worth of waterworks
bonds.

And Robert Hendricks--playfellow of John Barclay's boyhood, partner
of his youth--sat working throughout the night, a brave man, going
into battle without a tremor. He went through his books, made out
statements of his business relations, prepared directions for the
heads of his different concerns, as a man would do who might be going
on a long journey. For above everything, Robert Hendricks was
foresighted. He prepared for emergencies first, and tried to avoid
them afterwards. And with the thought of the smallness of this life in
his soul, he looked up from his work to see the hard gray lines of the
dawn in the street outside of his office, bringing the ugly details
from the shadows that hid them during the day, and he sighed as he
wondered in what bourne he should see the next dawn break.

It was a busy day for Robert Hendricks, that next day, and through it
all his mind was planning every moment of the time how he could
protect Molly Brownwell. Did he work in the bank, behind his work his
mind was seeking some outlet from his prison. If he went over the
power-house at the electric plant, always he was looking among the
wheels for some way of refuge for Molly. When he spent an hour in the
office of the wholesale grocery house, he despatched a day's work, but
never for a second was his problem out of his head. He spent two hours
with his lawyers planning the suit against the water company, pointing
out new sources of evidence, and incidentally leaving a large check to
pay for the work. But through it all Molly Brownwell's good name was
ever before him, and when he thought how twenty years before he had
walked through another day planning, scheming, and contriving, all to
produce the climax of calamity that was hovering over her to-day, he
was sick and faint with horror and self-loathing.

But as the day drew to its noon, Hendricks began to feel a persistent
detachment from the world about him. It floated across his
consciousness, like the shadow anchor of some cloud far above him. He
began to watch the world go by. He seemed not to be a part of it. He
became a spectator. At four o'clock he passed Dolan on the street and
said, absently, "I want you to-night at the bank at seven o'clock
sharp--don't forget, it's very important."

As he walked down Main Street to the bank, the shadow anchor of the
cloud had ceased to flit across his consciousness. Life had grown all
gray and dull, and he was apart from the world. He saw the handbills
announcing the meeting that night as one who sees a curious passing
show; the men he met on the street he greeted as creatures from
another world. Yet he knew he smiled and spoke with them casually. But
it was not he who spoke; the real Robert Hendricks he knew was
separated from the pantomime about him. When he went into the bank at
five o'clock, the janitor was finishing his work. Hendricks called up
the depot on the telephone and found that No. 6 was an hour late. With
the realization that a full hour of his fighting time had been taken
from him and that the train would arrive only a scant hour before the
meeting, the Adrian face of his puzzle turned insistently toward
Hendricks. It was not fear but despair that seized him. The cloud was
over him. And for want of something to do he wrote. First he wrote
abstractedly and mechanically to John Barclay, then to Neal Ward--a
note for the _Banner_--and as the twilight deepened in the room, he
squared his chair to the table and wrote to Molly Brownwell; that
letter was the voice of his soul. That was real. Six o'clock struck.
Half-past six clanged on the town clock, and as Jake Dolan opened the
bank door, Hendricks heard the roar of the train crossing at the end
of Main Street.

"There goes Johnnie's private car, switching on the tail of her," said
Dolan, standing in the doorway.

Hendricks sent Dolan to a back room of the bank, and at seven-twenty
went to the telephone. "Give me 876, central," he called.
"Hello--hello--hello," he cried nervously, "hello--who is this?"
The answer came and he said, "Oh, I didn't recognize your voice." Then
he asked in a low tone, as one who had fear in his heart: "Do you
recognize me? If you do, don't speak my name. Where is Adrian?" Then
Mr. Dolan, listening in the next room, heard this: "You say Judge
Bemis phoned to him? Oh, he was to meet him at eight o'clock. How long
ago did he leave?" After a moment Hendricks' answer was: "Then he has
just gone; and will not be back?" Hendricks cut impatiently into
whatever answer came with: "Molly, I must see you within the next
fifteen minutes. I can't talk any more over the telephone, but I must
come up." "Yes," in a moment, "I must have your decision in a matter
of great importance to you--to you, Molly." There was a short
silence, then Dolan heard: "All right, I'll be there in ten minutes."
Then Hendricks turned from the telephone and called Dolan in. He
unlocked a drawer in his desk, and began speaking to Dolan, who stood
over him. Hendricks' voice was low, and he was repressing the
agitation in his heart by main strength.

"Jake," he said, talking as rapidly as he could, "I must be ungodly
frank with you. It doesn't make any difference whether he is right or
not, but Adrian Brownwell may be fooled into thinking he has reason to
be jealous of me." Hendricks was biting his mustache. "He's a raging
maniac of jealousy, Jake, but I'm not afraid of him--not for myself.
I can get him before he gets me, if it comes to that, but to do it
I'll have to sacrifice Molly. And I won't do that. If it comes to her
good name or my life--she can have my life." They were outside now
and Dolan was unhitching the horse. He knew instinctively that he was
not to reply. In a moment Hendricks went on, "Well, there is just one
chance in a hundred that it may turn that way--her good name or my
life--and on that chance I've written some letters here." He reached
in his coat and said, "Now, Jake, put these letters in your pocket and
if anything goes wrong with me, deliver them to the persons whose
names are on the envelopes--and to no one else. I must trust
everything to you, Jake," he said.

Driving up the hill, he met Bemis coming down town. He passed people
going to the meeting in Barclay Hall. He did not greet them, but drove
on. His jaw was set hard, and the muscles of his face were firm. As he
neared the Culpepper home he climbed from the buggy and hitched the
horse to the block in front of his own house. He hurried into the
Culpepper yard, past the lilac bushes heavy with blooms, and up the
broad stone steps with the white pillars looming above him. It was a
quarter to eight, and at that minute Bemis was saying to Adrian
Brownwell, "All right, if you don't believe it, don't take my word for
it, but go home right now and see what you find."

Molly Brownwell met Hendricks on the threshold with trembling steps.
"Bob, what is it?" she asked. They stood in the shadow of the great
white pillars, where they had parted a generation ago.

"It's this, Molly," answered Hendricks, as he put his hand to his
forehead that was throbbing with pain; "Lige Bemis has my letter to
you. Yes," he cried as she gasped, "the note--the very note, and to
get it I must quit the waterworks fight and go to the meeting to-night
and surrender. I had no right to decide that alone. It is our
question, Molly. We are bound by the old life--and we must take this
last stand together."

The woman shrank from Hendricks with horror on her face, as he
personified her danger. She could not reply at once, but stood staring
at him in the dusk. As she stared, the feeling that she had seen it
all before in a dream came over her, and the premonition that some
awful thing was impending shook her to the marrow.

"Molly, we have no time to spare," he urged. "I must answer Bemis in
ten minutes--I can do it by phone. But say what you think."

"Why--why--why--Bob--let me think," she whispered, as one trying
to speak in a dream, and that also seemed familiar to her. "It's
typhoid for my poor who died like sheep last year," she cried, "or my
good name and yours, is it, Bob? Is it, Bob?" she repeated.

He put his hand to his forehead again in the old way she remembered so
well--to temples that were covered with thin gray hair--and
answered, "Yes, Molly, that's our price."

Those were the last words that she seemed to have heard before; after
that the dialogue was all new to her. She was silent a few agonized
seconds and then said, "I know what you think, Bob; you are for my
poor; you are brave." He did not answer, fearing to turn the balance.
As she sank into a porch chair a rustling breeze moved the lilac
plumes and brought their perfume to her. From down the avenue came the
whir of wheels and the hurrying click of a horse's hoofs. At length
she rose, and said tremulously: "I stand with you, Bob. May God make
the blow as light as He can."

They did not notice that a buggy had drawn up on the asphalt in front
of the house. Hendricks put out his hand and cried, "Oh,
Molly--Molly--Molly--" and she took it in both of hers and pressed
it to her lips, and as Adrian Brownwell passed the lilac thicket in
the gathering darkness that is what he saw. Hendricks was halfway down
the veranda steps before he was aware that Brownwell was running up
the walk at them, pistol in hand, like one mad. Before the man could
fire, Hendricks was upon him, and had Brownwell's two hands gripped
tightly in one of his, holding them high in the air. The little man
struggled.

"Don't scream--for God's sake, don't scream," cried Hendricks to the
woman in a suppressed voice. Then he commanded her harshly, "Go in the
house--quick--Molly--quick."

She ran as though hypnotized by the force of the suggestion. Hendricks
had his free hand over Brownwell's mouth and around his neck. The
little old man was kicking and wriggling, but Hendricks held him. "Not
here, you fool, not here. Can't you see it would ruin her, you fool?
Not here." He carried and dragged Brownwell across the grass through
the shrubbery and into the Hendricks yard. No one was passing, and the
night had fallen. "Now," said Hendricks, as he backed against a pine
tree, still holding Brownwell, "I shall let you go if you'll promise
to listen to me just a minute until I tell you the whole truth. Molly
is innocent, man--absolutely innocent, and I'll show you if you'll
talk for a moment. Will you promise, man?"

Brownwell nodded his assent; Hendricks looked at him steadily for a
second and then said, "All right," and set the little man on his feet.
The glare of madness came into Brownwell's eyes, and as he turned he
came at Hendricks with his pistol drawn. An instant later there was a
shot. Brownwell saw the amazement flash into Hendricks' eyes, and then
Hendricks sank gently to the foot of the pine tree.

And Molly Brownwell, with the paralysis of terror still upon her,
heard the shot and then heard footsteps running across the grass. A
moment later her husband, empty-handed, chattering, shivering, and
white, stumbled into the room. Rage had been conquered by fear. For an
agonized second the man and woman stared at one another,
speechless--then the wife cried:--

"Oh--oh--why--why--Adrian," and her voice was thick with fear.--

The man was a-tremble--hands, limbs, body--and his mad eyes seemed
to shrink from the woman's gaze. "Oh, God--God--oh, God--" he
panted, and fell upon his face across the sofa. They heard a hurrying
step running toward the Hendricks house, there came a frightened,
choked cry of "Help!" repeated twice, another and another sound of
pattering feet came, and five minutes after the quaking man had
entered the door the whole neighbourhood seemed to be alive with
running figures hurrying silently through the gloom. The thud of feet
and the pounding of her heart, and the whimpering of the little man
who lay, face down, on the sofa, were the only sounds in her ears. She
started to go with the crowd. But Adrian screamed to her to stay.

"Oh," he cried, "he sank so softly--he sank so softly--he sank so
softly! Oh, God, oh, God--he sank so softly!"

And the next conscious record of her memory was that of Neal Ward
bursting into the room, crying, "Aunt Molly--Aunt Molly--do you know
Mr. Hendricks has committed suicide? They've found him dead with a
pistol by his side. I want some whiskey for Miss Hendricks. And they
need you right away."

But Molly Brownwell, with what composure she could, said, "Adrian is
sick, Neal--I can't--I can't leave him now." And she called after
Neal as he ran toward the door, "Tell them, Neal, tell them--why I
can't come." There was a hum of voices in the air, and the sound of a
gathering crowd. Soon the shuffle and clatter of a thousand feet made
it evident that the meeting at Barclay Hall had heard the news and was
hurrying up the hill. The crowd buzzed for an hour, and Molly and
Adrian Brownwell waited speechless together--he face downward on the
sofa, she huddled in a chair by the window. And then the crowd broke,
slowly, first into small groups that moved away together and then
turned in a steady stream and tramped, tramped, tramped down the hill.

When the silence had been unbroken a long time, save by the rumble of
a buggy on the asphalt or by the footsteps of some stray passerby, the
man on the sofa lifted his head, looked at his wife and spoke, "Well,
Molly?"

"Well, Adrian," she answered, "this is the end, I suppose?"

He did not reply for a time, and when he did speak, it was in a dead,
passionless voice: "Yes--I suppose so. I can't stay here now."

"No--no," she returned. "No, you should not stay here."

He sat up and stared vacantly at her for a while and then said,
"Though I don't see why I didn't leave years and years ago; I knew all
this then, as well as I do now." The wife looked away from him as she
replied: "Yes, I should have known you would know. I knew your secret
and you--"

"My secret," said Adrian, "my secret?"

"Yes--that you came North with your inherited money because when you
were in the Confederate army you were a coward in some action and
could not live among your own people."

"Who told you," he asked, "who told you?"

"The one who told you I have always loved Bob; life has told me that,
Adrian. Just as life has told you my story." They sat without speaking
for a time, and then the woman sighed and rose. "Two people who have
lived together twenty-five years can have no secrets from each other.
In a thousand, ways the truth comes out."

"I should have gone away a long time ago," he repeated, "a long time
ago; I knew it, but I didn't trust my instincts."

"Here comes father," she said, as the gate clicked.

They stood together, listening to the slow shuffle of the colonel
coming up the walk, and the heavy fall of his cane. The wife put out
her hand and said gently, "I think I have wronged you, Adrian, more
than any one else."

He did not take her hand but sighed, and turned and went up the wide
stairway. He was an old man then, and she remembered the years when he
tripped up gayly, and then she looked at her own gray hair in the
mirror and saw that her life was spent too.

As the colonel came in gasping asthmatically, he found his daughter
waiting for him. "Is Adrian better?" he asked excitedly. "Neal said
Adrian was sick."

"Yes, father, he's upstairs packing. He is going out on the four
o'clock train."

"Oh," said the colonel, and then panted a moment before asking, "Has
any one told you how it happened?"

"Yes," she replied, "I know everything. I think I'll run over there
now, father." As she stood in the doorway, she said, "Don't bother
Adrian--he'll need no help."

And so Molly Brownwell passed the last night with her dead lover.
About midnight the bell rang and she went to the door.

"Ah, madam," said Jacob Dolan, as he fumbled in his pockets, and tried
to breathe away from her to hide the surcease of his sorrow, "Ah,
madam," he repeated, as he suddenly thought to pull off his hat, "I
did not come for you--'twas Miss Hendricks I called for; but I have
one for you, too. He gave the bundle to me the last thing--poor lad,
poor lad." He handed her the letter addressed to Mrs. Brownwell, and
then asked, "Is the sister about?"

And when he found she could not be seen he went away, and Molly
Brownwell sat by the dead man's body and read:--

"My darling--my darling--they will let a dead man say that to
you--won't they? And yet, so far as any thought of mine could sin
against you, I have been dead these twenty years. Yet I know that I
have loved you all that time, and as I sit alone here in the bank, and
take the bridle off my heart, the old throb of joy that we both knew
as children comes back again. It is such a strange thing--this
life--such a strange thing." Then there followed a burst of
passionate regret from the man's very heart, and it is so sacred to a
manly love that curbed itself for a score of years, that it must not
be set down here.

Over and over Molly Brownwell read the letter and then crept out to
her lilac thicket and wept till dawn. She heard Adrian Brownwell go,
but she could not face him, and listened as his footsteps died away,
and he passed from her life.

And John Barclay kept vigil for the dead with her. As he tossed in his
bed through the night, he seemed to see glowing out of the darkness
before him the words Hendricks had written, in the letter that Dolan
gave Barclay at midnight. Sometimes the farewell came to him:--

"It is not this man of millions that I wish to be with a moment
to-night, John--but the boy I knew in the old days--the boy who ran
with me through the woods at Wilson's Creek, the boy who rode over the
hill into the world with me that September day forty years ago; the
boy whose face used to beam eagerly out of yours when you sat playing
at your old melodeon. I wish to be near him a little while to-night.
When you get this, can't you go to your great organ and play him back
into consciousness and tell him Bob says good-by?"

At dawn Barclay called Bemis out of bed, and before sunrise he and
Barclay were walking on the terrace in front of the Barclay home.

"Lige," began Barclay, "did you tell Adrian of that note last night?"
Bemis grinned his assent.

"And he went home, found Bob there conferring with Mrs. Brownwell
about his position in the matter, and Adrian killed him."

"That's the way I figured it out myself," replied Bemis, laconically,
"but it's not my business to say so."

"I thought you promised me you would just bluff with that note and not
go so far, Lige Bemis," said Barclay.

"Did he just bluff with me when he called me a boodler and threw me
downstairs in the county convention?"

"Then you lied to me, sir," snapped Barclay.

"Oh, hell, John--come off," sneered Bemis. "Haven't I got a right to
lie to you if I want to?"

The two men stared at each other like growling dogs for a moment, and
then Barclay turned away with, "What is there in the typhoid talk?"

"Demagogery--that's all. Of course there may be typhoid in the water;
but let 'em boil the water."

"But they won't."

"Well, then, if they eat too much of your 'Old Honesty' or drink too
much of my water unboiled, they take their own risk. You don't make a
breakfast food for hogs, and I can't run my water plant for fools."

"But, Lige," protested Barclay, "couldn't we hitch up the electric
plant--"

"Hitch up the devil and Tom Walker, John Barclay. When the wolves got
after you, did I come blubbering to you to lay down and take a light
sentence?" Barclay did not answer. Bemis continued: "Brace up,
John--what's turned you baby when we've got the whole thing won? We
didn't kill Hendricks, did we? Are you full of remorse and going to
turn state's evidence?"

Barclay looked at the ground for a time, and said: "I believe, Lige,
we did kill Bob--if it comes to that; and we are morally responsible
for--"

"Oh, bag your head, John; I'm going home. When you can talk some
sense, let me know."

And Bemis left Barclay standing in the garden looking at the sunrise
across the mill-pond. Presently the carrier boy with a morning paper
came around, and in it Barclay read the account of Hendricks' reported
suicide, corroborated by his antemortem statement, written and
delivered to Jacob Dolan an hour before he died.

"When I took charge of the Exchange National Bank," it read, "I found
that my father owed Garrison County nine thousand dollars for another
man's taxes, which he, my father, had agreed to pay, but had no money
to do so. The other man insisted on my father forging a note to
straighten matters up. It seemed at that time that the bank would
close and the whole county would be ruined if my father had not
committed that deed. I could not put the money back into the treasury
without revealing my father's crime, so I let the matter run for a few
years, renewing the forged note, and then, as it seemed an
interminable job of forgery, I forged the balance on the county books,
one afternoon between administrations in 1879. Mr. E. W. Bemis, who is
trying to force polluted water on Sycamore Ridge, has discovered this
forgery and has threatened to expose me in that and perhaps other
matters. So I feel that my usefulness in the fight for pure water in
the town is ended. I leave funds to fight the matter in the courts,
and I feel sure that we will win."

Barclay sat in the warm morning sun, reading and re-reading the
statement. Finally Jane Barclay, thin, broken and faded, on whom the
wrath of the people was falling with crushing weight, came into the
veranda, and put her hands on her husband's shoulders.

"Come in, John, breakfast is ready."

The woman whom the leprosy of dishonest wealth was whitening, walked
dumbly into the great house, and ate in silence. "I am going to
Molly," she said simply, as the two rose from their meal. "I think she
needs me, dear; won't you come, too?" she asked.

"I can't, Jane--I can't," cried Barclay. And when his wife had
pressed him, he broke forth: "Because Lige Bemis made Adrian kill Bob
and I helped--" he groaned, and sank into his chair, "and I helped."

When Neal Ward came to the office the next morning, he found Dolan
waiting for him. Ward opened the envelope that Dolan gave him, and
found in it the mortgage Hendricks had owned on the _Banner_ office,
assigned to Ward, and around the mortgage was a paper band on which
was written: "God bless you, my boy--keep up the fight; never say
die."

Then Ward read Adrian Brownwell's valedictory that was hanging on a
copy spike before him. It was the heart-broken sob of an old man who
had run away from failure and sorrow, and it need not be printed here.

On Memorial Day, when they came to the cemetery on the hill to
decorate the soldiers' graves, men saw that the great mound of lilacs
on Robert Hendricks' grave had withered. The seven days' wonder of his
passing was ended. The business that he had left prospered without
him, or languished and died; within a week in all but a dozen hearts
Hendricks' memory began to recede into the past, and so, where there
had been a bubble on the tide, that held in its prism of light for a
brief bit of eternity all of God's spectacle of life, suddenly there
was only the tide moving resistlessly toward the unknown shore. And
thus it is with all of us.




CHAPTER XXVIII


In the summer of 1904, following the death of Robert Hendricks, John
Barclay spent much time in the Ridge, more time than he had spent
there for thirty years. For in the City he was a marked man. Every
time the market quivered, reporters rushed to get his opinion about
the cause of the disturbance; the City papers were full of stories
either of his own misdeeds, or of the wrong-doings of other men of his
caste. His cronies were dying all about him of broken hearts or
wrecked minds, and it seemed to him that the word "indictment" was in
every column of every newspaper, was on every man's lips, and
literally floated in the air.

So he remained in Sycamore Ridge much of the time, and every fair
afternoon he rowed himself up the mill-pond to fish. He liked to be
alone; for when he was alone, he could fight the battle in his soul
without interruption. The combat had been gathering for a year; a
despair was rising in him, that he concealed from his womenkind--who
were his only intimate associates in those days--as if it had been a
crime. But out on the mill-pond alone, casting minnows for bass, he
could let the melancholy in his heart rage and battle with his sanity,
without let or hindrance. His business was doing well; the lawsuits
against the company in a dozen states were not affecting dividends,
and the department in charge of his charities was forwarding letters
of condolence and consolation from preachers and college presidents,
and men who under the old regime had been in high walks of life.
Occasionally some conservative newspaper or magazine would praise him
and his company highly; but he knew the shallowness of all the patter
of praise. He knew that he paid for it in one way or another, and he
grew cynical; and in his lonely afternoons on the river, often he
laughed at the whole mockery of his career, smiled at the thought of
organized religion, licking his boots for money like a dog for bones,
and then in his heart he said there is no God. Once, to relieve the
pain of his soul's woe, he asked aloud, who is God, anyway, and then
laughed as he thought that the bass nibbling at his minnow would soon
think he, John Barclay, was God. The analogy pleased him, and he
thought that his own god, some devilish fate, had the string through
his gills at that moment and was preparing to cast him into the fire.
Up in the office in the city, they went on making senators and
governors, and slipping a federal judge in where they could, but he
had little hand in it, for his power was a discarded toy. He sat in
his boat alone, rowing for miles and miles, from stump to stump, and
from fallen tree-top to tree-top, hating the thing he called God, and
distrusting men.

But when he appeared in the town, or at home, he was cheerful enough;
he liked to mingle with the people, and it fed his despair to notice
what a hang-dog way they had with him. He knew they had been abusing
him behind his back, and when he found out exactly what a man had
said, he delighted in facing the man down with it.

"So you think John Barclay could have saved Bob Hendricks' life, do
you, Oscar?" asked Barclay, as he overhauled Fernald coming out of the
post-office.

"Who said so?" asked Fernald, turning red.

"Oh," chuckled Barclay, "I got it from the hired girls' wireless news
agency. But you said it all right--you said it, Oscar; you said it
over to Ward's at dinner night before last." And Barclay grinned
maliciously.

Fernald scratched his head, and said, "Well, John, to be frank with
you, that's the talk all over town--among the people."

"The people--the people," snapped Barclay, impatiently, "the people
take my money for bridges and halls and parks and churches and statues
and then call me a murderer--oh, damn the people! Who started this
story?"

"See Jake Dolan, John--it's up to him. He can satisfy you," said
Fernald, and turned, leaving Barclay in the street.

Up the hill trudged the gray-clad little man, with his pugnacious
shoulders weaving and his bronzed face set hard and his mean jaw
locked. On the steps of the court-house he found Jake Dolan, smoking a
morning pipe with the loafers in the shade of the building.

"Here you, Jake Dolan," called Barclay, "what do you mean by accusing
me of murdering Bob Hendricks? What did I have to do with it?"

"Easy, easy, Johnnie, my boy," returned Dolan, knocking the ashes from
his pipe on the steps between his feet. "Gentlemen," said Dolan,
addressing the crowd, "you've heard what our friend says. All
right--come with me to my office, Johnnie Barclay, and I'll show
you." Barclay followed Dolan into the basement of the court-house,
with the crowd at a respectful distance. "Right this way--" and Dolan
switched on an electric light. "Do you see that break in the
foundation, Mr. Barclay? You do? And you know in your soul that it
opens into the cave that leads to the cellar of your own house. Well,
then, Mr. Johnnie Barclay--the book that contained the evidence
against Bob Hendricks did not go out of this court-house by the front
door, as you well know, but through that hole--stolen at night when I
was out; and the man who stole it was the horse thief that used to run
the cave--your esteemed friend, Lige Bemis."

The crowd was gaping at the rickety place in the foundation, and one
man pulled a loose stone out and let the cold air of the cave into the
room.

"Lige Bemis came to your house, Mr. Johnnie Barclay, got into the cave
from your cellar, broke through this wall, and stole the book that
contained the forgery made to cover General Hendricks' disgrace. And
who caused that disgrace but the overbearing, domineering John
Barclay, who made that old man steal to pay John Barclay's taxes, back
in the grasshopper year, when the sheriff and the jail were almost as
familiar to him as they are now,--by all counts. Ah, John Barclay,"
said the Irishman, turning to the crowd, "John Barclay, John
Barclay--you're a brave little man sometimes; I've seen you when I
was most ungodly proud of you; I've seen you do grand things, my
little man, grand things. But you're a coward too, Johnnie; sitting in
your own house while your horse-thief friend used your cellar to work
out the disgrace of the man who gave his good name to save your
own--that was a fine trick--a damn fine trick, wasn't it, Mr.
Barclay?"

Barclay started to go, but the crowd blocked his way. Dolan saw that
Barclay was trying to escape. "Turn tail, will you, my little man?
Wait one minute," cried Dolan. "Wait one minute, sir. For what was you
conniving against the big man? I know--to win your game; to win your
miserable little game. Ah, what a pup a man can be, Johnnie, what a
mangy, miserable, cowardly little pup a man can be when he tries--and
a decent man, too. Money don't mean anything to you--you got past
that, but it's to win the game. Why, man, look at yourself--look at
yourself--you'd cheat your own mother playing cards with matches for
counters--just to win the game." Dolan waved for the crowd to break.
"Let him out of here, and get out yourselves--every one of you. This
is public property you're desecrating."

Dolan sat alone in his office, pale and trembling after the crowd had
gone. Colonel Culpepper came puffing in and saw the Irishman sitting
with his head in his hands and his elbows on the table.

"What's this, Jake--what's this I hear?" asked the colonel.

"Oh, nothing," answered Dolan, and then he looked up at the colonel
with sad, remorseful eyes. "What a fool--what a fool whiskey in a
man's tongue is--what a fool." He reached under his cot for his jug,
and repeated as he poured the liquor into a glass, "What a fool, what
a fool, what a fool." And then, as he gulped it down and made a wry
face, "Poor little Johnnie at the mill; I didn't mean to hit him so
hard--not half so hard. What a fool, what a fool," and the two old
men started off for the harness shop together.

Neal Ward that night, in the _Banner_ office alone, wrote to his
sweetheart the daily letter that was never mailed.

    "How sweet it is," he writes, "to have you at home. Sometimes I hear
    your voice through the old leaky telephone, talking to Aunt Molly;
    her phone and ours are through the same board, and your voice seems
    natural then, and unstrained, not as it is when we meet. But I know
    that some way we are meeting--our souls--in the infinite realm
    outside ourselves--beyond our consciousness--either sleeping or
    waking. Last night I dreamed a strange dream. A little girl, like
    one of the pictures in mother's old family photograph album, seemed
    to be talking with me,--dressed so quaintly in the dear old fashion
    of the days when mother taught the Sycamore Ridge School. She seemed
    to be playing with me in some way, and then she said: 'Oh, yes, I am
    your telephone; she knows all about it. I tell her every night as we
    play together.' And then she was no longer a little girl but a most
    beautiful soul and she said with great gentleness: 'In her heart she
    loves you--in her heart she loves you. This I know, only she is
    proud--proud with the Barclay pride; but in her heart she loves you;
    is not that enough?' What a strange dream! I wonder where we are--we
    who animate our bodies, when we sleep. What is sleep, but the proof
    that death is but a sleep? Oh, Jeanette, Jeanette, come into my soul
    as we sleep."

He folded the letter, sealed and addressed it, and dated the envelope,
and put it in his desk--the desk before which Adrian Brownwell had
sat, eating his heart out in futile endeavour to find his place in the
world. Neal Ward had cleaned out one side of the desk, and was using
that for his own. Mrs. Brownwell kept her papers in the other side,
and one key locked them both. As he walked home that night under the
stars, his heart was full of John Barclay's troubles. Neal knew
Barclay well enough to know that the sensitive nature of the man, with
his strongly developed instinctive faculty for getting at the truth,
would be his curse in the turmoil or criticism through which he was
going. So a day or two later Neal was not surprised to find a long
statement in the morning press despatches from Barclay explaining and
defending the methods of the National Provisions Company. He proved
carefully that the notorious Door Strip saved large losses in transit
of the National Provisions Company's grain and grain produce, and
showed that in paying him for the use of these strips the railroad
companies were saving great sums for widowed and orphaned stockholders
of railroads--sums which would be his due for losses in transit if
the strips were not used.

Neal Ward knew what it had cost Barclay in pride to give out that
statement; so the young man printed it on the first page of the
_Banner_ with a kind editorial about Mr. Barclay and his good works.
That night when the paper was off, and young Ward was working on the
books of his office, he was called to the telephone.

"Is this you, Nealie Ward?" asked a woman's voice--the strong, clear,
deep voice of an old woman. And when he had answered, the voice went
on: "Well, Nealie, I wish to thank you for that editorial about John
to-night in the paper; I'm Mary Barclay. It isn't more than half true,
Nealie; and if it was all true, it isn't a fraction of what the truth
ought to be if John did what he could, but it will do him a lot of
good--right here in the home paper, and--Why, Jennie, I'm speaking
with Nealie Ward,--why, do you think I am not old enough to talk with
Nealie without breeding scandal?--as I was saying, my dear, it will
cheer John up a little, and heaven knows he needs something.
I'm--Jennie, for mercy sakes keep still; I know Nealie Ward and I
knew his father when he wasn't as old as Nealie--did his washing for
him; and boarded his mother four winters, and I have a right to say
what I want to to that child." The boy and the grandmother laughed
into the telephone. "Jennie is so afraid I'll do something improper,"
laughed Mrs. Barclay. "Oh, yes, by the way--here's a little item for
your paper to-morrow: Jennie's mother is sick; I think it's typhoid,
but you can't get John to admit it. So don't say typhoid." Then with a
few more words she rang off.

When the _Banner_ printed the item about Mrs. Barclay's illness, the
town, in one of those outbursts of feeling which communities often
have, seemed to try to show John Barclay the affection that was in
their hearts for the man who had grown up among them, and the family
that had been established under his name. Flowers--summer
flowers--poured in on the Barclays. Children came with wild flowers,
prairie flowers that Jane Barclay had not seen since she roamed over
the unbroken sod about Minneola as a girl; and Colonel Culpepper came
marching up the walk through the Barclay grounds, bearing his
old-fashioned bouquet, as grandly as an ambassador bringing a king's
gift. Jane Barclay sent word that she wished to see him.

"My dear," said the colonel, as he held the flowers toward her,
"accept these flowers from those who have shared your bounty--from
God's poor, my dear; these are God's smiles that they send you from
their hearts--from their very hearts, my dear, from their poor hearts
wherein God's smiles come none too often." She saw through glistening
eyes the broken old figure, with his coat tightly buttoned on that
July day to hide some shabbiness underneath. But she bade the colonel
sit down, and they chatted of old times and old places and old faces
for a few minutes; and the colonel, to whom any sort of social
function was a rare and sweet occasion, stayed until the nurse had to
beckon him out of the room over Mrs. Barclay's shoulder.

General Ward sent a note with a bunch of monthly blooming roses.

    "MY DEAR JANE (he wrote): These roses are from slips we got from
    John's mother when we planted our little yard. This red one is from
    the very bush on which grew the rose John wore at his wedding. Pin
    it on the old scamp to-night, and see how he will look. He was a
    dapper little chap that night, and the years have hardly begun their
    work on him; or perhaps he is such a tough customer that he dulls
    the chisel of time. I do not know, and so long as it is so, you do
    not care, but we both know, and are both glad that of all the many
    things God has sent you in thirty years, he has sent you nothing so
    fine as the joy that came with the day John wore this rose for
    you--a joy that has grown while the rose has faded. And may this
    rose renew your joy for another thirty years."

John read the note when he came in from the mill that evening, and
Jane watched the years slip off his face. He looked into the past as
it spread itself on the carpet near the bed.

"Well, well, well," he said, as he smiled into the picture he saw, "I
remember as well the general bringing that rose down to the office
that morning, wrapped in blue tissue paper from cotton batting rolls!
The package was tied with fancy red braid that used to bind muslin
bolts." He laughed quietly, and asked, "Jane, do you remember that old
red braid?" The sick woman nodded. "Well, with the little blue package
was a note from Miss Lucy, which said that my old teacher could not
give me a present that year--times were cruelly hard then, you
remember--but that she could and did put the blessing of her prayers
on the rose, that all that it witnessed at my wedding would bring me
happiness." He sat for a moment in silence, and, as the nurse was
gone, he knelt beside the sick woman and kissed her. And as the wife
stroked his head she whispered, "How that prayer has been answered,
John--dear, hasn't it?" And the great clock in the silent hall below
ticked away some of the happiest minutes it had ever measured.

But when he passed out of the sick room, the world--the maddening
press of affairs, and the combat in his soul--snapped back on his
shoulders with a mental click as though a load had fallen into its old
place. He stood before his organ, and could not press the keys. As he
sat there in the twilight made by the shaded electric lamps, the
struggle rose in his heart against the admission of anything into his
scheme of life but material things, and the conflict raged unchecked.
What a silliness, he said, to think that the mummery of a woman over a
rose could affect a life. Life is what the succession of the days
brings. The thing is or is not, he said to himself, and the gibber
about prayer and the moral force that moves the universe is for the
weak-minded. So he took his hell to bed with him as it went every
night, and during the heavy hours when he could not sleep, he tiptoed
into the sick room, and looked at the thin face of his wife, sleeping
a restless, feverish sleep, and a great fear came into his heart.

Once as the morning dawned he asked the nurse whom he met in the hall,
"Is it typhoid?"

She was a stranger to the town, and she said to him, "What does the
doctor tell you?"

"That's not the point," he insisted. "What do you think?"

She looked at him for an undecided moment and replied, "I'm not paid
to think, Mr. Barclay," and went past him with her work. But he knew
the truth. He went to his bed, and threw himself upon it, a-tremble
with remorse and fear, and the sneer in his heart stilled his lips and
he could not look outside himself for help. So the morning came, and
another day, bringing its thousand cares, faced him, like a jailer
with his tortures.

Time dragged slowly in the sick room and at the mill. One doctor
brought another, and the Barclay private car went far east and came
flying back with a third. The town knew that Mrs. John Barclay was
dangerously sick. There came hopeful days when the patient's mind was
clear; on one of these days Mrs. McHurdie called, and they let her see
the sick woman. She brought some flowers.

"In the flowers, Jane," she said, "you will find something from
Watts." Mrs. McHurdie smiled. "You know he sat up till 'way after
midnight last night, playing his accordion. Oh, it's been years since
he has touched it. And this morning when I got up, I found him sitting
by the kitchen table, writing. It's a poem for you." Mrs. McHurdie
looked rather sheepish as she said: "You know how Watts is, Jane; he
just made me bring it. You can read it when you get well."

They hurried Mrs. McHurdie out, and when Jane Barclay went to sleep,
they found tears on her pillow, and in her hand the verses,--the
limping, awkward verses of an old man, whose music only echoed back
from the past. The nurses and the young doctor from Boston had a good
laugh at it. Each of the four stanzas began with two lines that asked:
"Oh, don't you remember the old river road, that ran through the
sweet-scented wood?" To them it was a curious parody on something old
and quaint that they had long since forgotten. But to the woman who
lay murmuring of other days, whose lips were parched for the waters of
brooks that had surrendered to the plough a score of years ago, the
halting verses of Watts McHurdie were laden with odours of grape
blossoms, of wild cucumbers and sumach, of elder blossoms, and the
fragrance of the crushed leaves of autumn. And the music of distant
ripples played in her feverish brain and the sobbing voice of the
turtle dove sang out of the past for her as she slept. All through the
day and the night and for many nights and days she whispered of the
trees and the running water and the wild grass and the birds.

And so one morning when it was still gray, she woke and said to John,
who bent over her, "Why, dear, we are almost home; there are the
lights across the river; just one more hill, dearie, and then--" And
then with the water prattling in her ears at the last ford she turned
to the wall and sank to rest.

Day after day, until the days and nights became a week and the week
repeated itself until nearly a month was gone, John Barclay, dry-eyed
and all but dumb, paced the terrace before his house by night, and by
day roamed through the noisy mill or wandered through his desolate
house, seeking peace that would not come to him. The whole foundation
of his scheme of life was crumbling beneath him. He had built
thirty-five years of his manhood upon the theory that the human brain
is the god of things as they are and as they must be. The structure of
his life was an imposing edifice, and men called it great and
successful. Yet as he walked his lonely way in those black days that
followed Jane's death, there came into his consciousness a strong,
overmastering conviction, which he dared not accept, that his house
was built on sand. For here were things outside of his plans, outside
of his very beliefs, coming into his life, bringing calamity, sorrow,
and tragedy with them into his own circle of friends, into his own
household, into his own heart. As he walked through the dull, lonely
hours he could not escape the vague feeling, though he fought it as
one mad fights for his delusion, that all the tragedies piling up
about him came from his own mistakes. Over and over again he threshed
the past. Molly Brownwell's cry, "You have sold me into bondage, John
Barclay," would not be stilled, though at times he could smile at it;
and the broken body and shamed face of her father haunted him like an
obsession. Night after night when he tried to sleep, Robert Hendricks'
letter burned in fire before his eyes, and at last so mad was the
struggle in his soul that he hugged these things to him that he might
escape the greater horror: the dreadful red headlines in the
sensational paper they had sent him from the City office which
screamed at him, "John Barclay slays his wife--Aids a water
franchise grab that feeds the people typhoid germs and his own wife
dies of the fever." He had not replied to the letter from the law
department of the Provisions Company which asked if he wished to sue
for libel, and begged him to do so. He had burned the paper, but the
headlines were seared into his brain.

Over and over he climbed the fiery ladder of his sins: the death of
General Hendricks, the sacrifice of Molly Culpepper, the temptation
and fall of her father, the death of his boyhood's friend, and then
the headlines. These things were laid at his door, and over and over
again, like Sisyphus rolling the stones uphill, he swept them away
from his threshold, only to find that they rolled right back again.
And with them came at times the suspicion that his daughter's
unhappiness was upon him also. And besides these things, a hundred
business transactions wherein he had cheated and lied for money rose
to disturb him. And through it all, through his anguish and shame, the
faith of his life kept battling for its dominion.

Once he sent for Bemis and tried to talk himself into peace with his
friend. He did not speak of the things that were corroding his heart,
but he sat by and heard himself chatter his diabolic creed as a
drunkard watches his own folly.

"Lige," he said, "I'm sick of that infernal charities bureau we've
got. I'm going to abolish it. These philanthropic millionaires make me
sick at the stomach, Lige. What do they care for the people? They know
what I know, that the damn people are here to be skinned." He laughed
viciously and went on: "Sometimes I think we filthy rich are divided
into two classes: those of us who keep mistresses, and those of us who
have harmless little entanglements with preachers and college
presidents. Neither the lemon-haired women nor the college presidents
interfere with our business; they don't hamper us--not the slightest.
They just take our money, and for a few idle hours amuse us, and make
us feel that we are good fellows. As for me, I'll have neither women
nor college presidents purring around my ankles. I'm going to cut out
the philanthropy appropriation to-day."

And he was as good as his word. But that did not help. The truth kept
wrenching his soul, and his feet blindly kept trying to find a path to
peace.

It was late one night in August, and a dead moon was hanging in the
south, when, treading the terrace before his house, he saw a shadow
moving down the stairway in the hall. At first his racked nerves
quivered, but when he found that it was his mother, he went to meet
her, exclaiming as he mounted the steps to the veranda, "Why, mother,
what is it--is anything wrong?"

Though it was past midnight, Mary Barclay was dressed for the day. She
stood in the doorway with the dimmed light behind her, a tall, strong
woman, straight and gaunt as a Nemesis. "No, John--nothing is
wrong--in the house." She walked into the veranda and began as she
approached a chair, "Sit down, John; I wish to talk with you."

"Well, mother--what is it?" asked the son, as he sat facing her.

She paused a moment looking earnestly at his face and replied, "The
time has come when we must talk this thing out, John, soul to soul."

He shrank from what was coming. His instinct told him to fight away
the crisis. He began to palaver, but his mother cut him short, as she
exclaimed:--

"Why don't you let Him in, John?"

"Let who in?" asked her son.

"You know Whom, John Barclay; that was your grandfather speaking then,
the old polly foxer. You know, my boy. Don't you remember me bending
over the town wash-tub when you were a child, Johnnie? Don't you
remember the old song I used to sing--of course you do, child--as I
rubbed the clothes on the board: 'Let Him in, He is your friend, let Him
in, He is your friend; He will keep you to the end--let--Him--in!' Of
course you remember it, boy, and you have been fighting Him with all
your might for six months now, and since Jane went, the fight is driving
you crazy--can't you see, John?"

The son did not reply for a moment, then he said, "Oh, well, mother,
that was all right in that day, but--"

"John Barclay," cried the mother sternly, as she leaned toward him,
"the faith that bore your father a martyr to the grave, sustained me
in this wilderness, and kept me happy as I scrubbed for your bread,
shall not be scoffed in my presence. We are going to have this thing
out to-night. I, who bore you, and nursed you, and fed you, and staked
my soul on your soul, have some rights to-night. Here you are,
fifty-four years old, and what have you done? You've killed your
friend and your friend's father before him--I know that, John. You've
wrecked the life of the sister of your first sweetheart, and put fear
and disgrace in her father's face forever--forever, John Barclay, as
long as he lives. I know that too; I haven't been wrapped in pink
cotton all these years, boy--I've lived my own life since you left my
wing, and made my own way too, as far as that goes. And now you are
trying to quench the fires of remorse in your soul because your wife
died a victim of your selfish, ruthless, practical scheme of things.
More than that, my son--more than that, your child is suffering all
the agony that a woman can suffer because of your devilish system of
traffic in blood for money. You know what I mean, John. That boy told
the truth, as you admit, and he could either run or lie, and for being
a man you have broken up a God-sent love merely to satisfy your own
vanity. Oh, John--John," she cried passionately, "my poor, blind,
foolish boy--haven't you found the ashes in the core of your faith
yet--aren't you ready to quit?"

He began, "Don't you think, mother, I have suffered--"

"Suffered, boy? Suffered? Of course you have suffered, John," she
answered, taking his hands in hers. "I have seen the furnace fires
smoking your face, and I know you have suffered, Johnnie; that's why I
am coming to you--to ask you to quit suffering. Look at it, my
boy--what are you suffering for? Is it material power you want? Well,
you have never had it. The people are going right along running their
own affairs in spite of you. All your nicely built card houses are
knocked over. In the states and in the federal government, in spite of
your years of planning and piecing out your little practical system,
at the very first puff of God's breath it goes to pieces. The men whom
you bought and paid for don't stay bought--do they, my boy? Oh, your
old mother knows, John. Men who will sell are never worth buying; and
the house that relies on them, falls. You have built a sand dam,
son--like the dams you used to build in the spring stream when you
were a child. It melts under pressure like straw. You have no worldly
power. In this practical world you are a failure, and good old Phil
Ward, who went out into the field and scattered seeds of discontent at
your system--he is seeing his harvest ripen in his old age, John,"
she cried. "Can't you see your failure? Look at it from a practical
standpoint: what thing in the last thirty years have you advocated,
and Philemon Ward opposed, that to-day he has not realized and you
lost? His prescription for the evils may have been wrong many times,
but his diagnosis of them was always right, and they are being cured,
in spite of all your protest that they did not exist. Which of you has
won his practical fight in this practical world--his God or your God;
the ideal world or the material world, boy? Can't you see it?" The old
woman leaned forward and looked in her son's dull, unresponsive face.
"Can't you see how you have failed?" she pleaded.

They rose together and began to pace the long floor of the veranda.
"Oh, mother," he cried, as he put his arm about her, "I am so
lonely--so tired, so sick in the heart of me."

They didn't speak for a time, but walked together in silence. At
length the mother began again. "John," she said, as they turned at the
end of the porch, "I suppose you are saying that you have your
money--that it is material--solid, substantial, and undeniable. But
is it? Isn't it all a myth? Leave it where it is--in the shape of
securities and stocks and credits--what will it do? Will it bring
Jane back? Will it give Jeanette her heart's desire, and make her
happy all her life? You know, dear, that it will only make me
miserable. Has it made you happy, John? Turn it into gold and pile it
up in the front yard--and what will it buy that poor Phil Ward has
not had all of his life--good food, good clothing--good enough, at
least--a happy family, useful children, and a good name? A good name,
John, is rather to be chosen than great riches--than all your money,
my son--rather to be chosen than all your money. Can you buy that
with your millions piled on millions?"

They were walking slowly as she spoke, and they turned into the
terrace. There they stood looking at the livid moon sinking behind the
great house.

"Is there more joy in this house than in any other house in town,
John--answer me squarely, son--answer me," she cried. He shook his
head sadly and sighed. "A mother, whose heart bleeds every hour as she
sees her son torturing himself with footless remorse; that is one. A
heart-broken, motherless girl, whose lover has been torn away from her
by her father's vanity and her own pride, and whose mother has been
taken as a pawn in the game her father played with no motive, no
benefit, nothing but to win his point in a miserable little game of
politics; that is number two. And a man who should be young for twenty
years yet, who should have been useful for thirty years--and now what
is he? powerless, useless, wretched, lonely, who spends his time
walking about fighting against God, that he may prove his own wisdom
and nothing more."

"Mother," cried Barclay, petulantly, "I can't stand this--that you
should turn on me--now." He broke away from her, and stood alone.
"When I need you most, you reproach me. When I need sympathy, you
scorn all that I have done. You can't prove your God. Why should I
accept Him?"

The gaunt old woman stretched out her arms and cried: "Oh, John
Barclay, prove your god. Tell him to come and give you a moment's
happiness--set him to work to restore your good name; command him to
make Jeanette happy. These things my God can do! Let your Mammon," she
cried with all the passion of her soul, "let your Mammon come down and
do one single miracle like that." Her voice broke and she sobbed.
"What a tower of Babel--an industrial Babel, you are building,
John--you and your kith and kind. The last century gave us
Schopenhauers and Kants, all denying God, and this one gives us
Railroad Kings and Iron Kings and Wheat Kings, all by their works
proclaiming that Mammon has the power and the glory and the Kingdom. O
ye workers of iniquity!" she cried, and her voice lifted, "ye wicked
and perverse--"

She did not finish, but broken and trembling, her strength spent and
her faith scorned, she sank on her knees by a marble urn on the
terrace and sobbed and prayed. When she rose, the dawn was breaking,
and she looked for a moment at her son, who had been sitting near her,
and cried: "Oh, my boy, my little boy that I nursed at my breast--let
Him in, He is your friend--and oh, my God, sustain my faith!"

Her son came to her side and led her into the house. But he went to
his room and began the weary round, battling for his own faith.

As he stood by his open window that day at the mill, he saw Molly
Brownwell across the pond, going into his home. He watched her idly
and saw Jeanette meet her at the door, and then as his memory went
back to the old days, he tried to find tears for the woman who had
died, but he could only rack his soul. Tears were denied to him.

He was a rich man--was John Barclay; some people thought that, taking
his wealth as wealth goes, all carefully invested in substantial
things--in material things, let us say--he was the richest man in
the Mississippi Valley. He bought a railroad that day when he looked
through the office window at Molly Brownwell--a railroad three
thousand miles long. And he bought a man's soul in a distant city--a
man whom he did not know even by name, but the soul was thrown in "to
boot" in a bargain; and he bought a woman's body whose face he had
never seen, and that went as part of another trade he was making and
he did not even know they had thrown it in. And he bought a child's
life, and he bought a city's prosperity in another bargain, and bought
the homage of a state, and the tribute of a European kingdom, as part
of the day's huckstering. But with all his wealth and power, he could
not buy one tear--not one little, miserable tear to moisten his
grief-dried heart. For tears, just then, were a trifle high. So Mr.
Barclay had to do without, though the man whose soul he bought wept,
and the woman whose body came with a trade, sobbed, and the dead face
of the child was stained with a score of tears.

They went to Jeanette Barclay's room,--the gray-haired woman and the
girl,--and they sat there talking for a time--talking of things that
were on their lips and not in their hearts. Each felt that the other
understood her. And each felt that something was to be said. For one
day before the end Jeanette's mother had said to her: "Jennie, if I am
not here always go to Molly--ask her to tell you about her girlhood."
The mother had rested for a while, and then added, "Tell her I said
for you to ask her, and she'll know what I mean."

"Jeanette," said Molly Brownwell, "your mother and I were girls
together. Your father saw more of her at our house than he did at her
own home, until they married. Did you know that?" Jeanette nodded
assent. "So one day last June she said to me, 'Molly, sometime I wish
you would tell Jennie all about you and Bob.'"

Mrs. Brownwell paused, and Jeanette said, "Yes, mother told me to ask
you to, Aunt Molly." Tears came into the daughter's eyes, and she
added, "I think she knew even then that--"

And then it all came back, and after a while the elder woman was
saying, "Well, once upon a time there lived a princess, my dear. All
good stories begin so--don't they? She was a fat, pudgy little
princess who longed to grow up and have hoop-skirts like a real
sure-enough woman princess, and there came along a tall prince--the
tallest, handsomest prince in all the wide world, I think. And he and
the princess fell in love, as princesses and princes will, you know,
my dear,--just as they do now, I am told. And the prince had to go
away on business and be gone a long, long time, and while he was gone
the father of the princess and the friend of the prince got into
trouble--and the princess thought it was serious trouble. She thought
the father of the prince would have to go to jail and maybe the prince
and his friend fail. My, my, Jeanette, what a big word that word fail
seemed to the little fat princess! So she let a man make love to her
who could lend them all some money and keep the father out of jail and
the prince and his friend from the awful fate of failure. So the man
lent the money and made love, and made love. And the little princess
had to listen; every one seemed to like to have her listen, so she
listened and she listened, and she was a weak little princess. She
knew she had wronged the prince by letting the man make love to her,
and her soul was smudged and--oh, Jeanette, she was such a foolish,
weak, miserable little princess, and they didn't tell her that there
is only one prince for every princess, and one princess for every
prince--so she took the man, and sent away the prince, and the man
made love ever so beautifully--but it was not the real thing, my
dear,--not the real thing. And afterwards when she saw the
prince--so young and so strong and so handsome, her heart burned for
him as with a flame, and she was not ashamed; the wicked, wicked
princess, she didn't know. And so they walked together one night right
up to the brink of the bad place, dearie--right up to the brink; and
the princess shuddered back, and saved the prince. Oh, Jeanette,
Jeanette, Jeanette," sobbed the woman, in the girl's arms, "right in
this room, in this very room, which was your mother's room in the old
house, I came out of the night, as bad a woman as God ever sent away
from Him. And your mother and I cried it out, and talked it out, and I
fought it out, and won. Oh, I won, Jeanette--I won!"

The two women were silent for a time, and then the elder went on:
"That's what your mother wished you to know--that for every princess
there is just one real prince, and for every prince there is just one
real princess, my dear, and when you have found him, and know he is
true, nothing--not money, not friends, not father nor mother--when
he is honest, not even pride--should stand between you. That is what
your mother sent you, dearie. Do you understand?"

"I think I do, Aunt Molly--I think so," repeated the girl. She looked
out of the window for a moment, and then cried, "Oh, Aunt Molly--but
I can't, I can't. How could he, Aunt Molly--how could he?" The girl
buried her face in the woman's lap, and sobbed.

After a time the elder woman spoke. "You know he loves you, don't you,
dear?"

The girl shook her head and cried, "But how could he?" and repeated it
again and again.

"And you still love him--I know that, my dear, or you could not--you
would not care, either," she added.

And so after a time the tears dried, as tears will, and the two women
fell back into the pale world of surfaces, and as Molly Brownwell left
she took the girl's hand and said: "You won't forget about the little
pudgy princess--the dear, foolish, little weak princess, will you,
Jeanette? And, dearie," she added as she stood on the lower steps of
the porch, "don't--don't always be so proud--not about that, my
dear--about everything else in the world, but not about that." And so
she went back into the world, and ceased to be a fairy godmother, and
took up her day's work.

John Barclay went to the City that night for the first time in two
months, and Jeanette and her Grandmother Barclay kept the big house
alone. In ten days he came back; his face was still hard, and the red
rims around his eyes were dry, and his voice was sullen, as it had
been for many weeks. His soul was still wrestling with a spirit that
would not give up the fight. That night his daughter tried to sit with
him, as she had tried many nights before. They sat looking at the
stars in silence as was their wont. Generally the father had risen and
walked away, but that night he turned upon her and said:--

"Jeanette, don't you like to be rich? I guess you are the richest girl
in this country. Doesn't that sound good to you?"

"No, father," she answered simply, and continued, "What can I do with
all that money?"

"Marry some man who's got sense enough to double it, and double it,"
cried Barclay, harshly. "Then there'll be no question but that you'll
be the richest people in the world."

"And then what?" asked the girl.

"Then--then," he cried, "make the people in this world stand
around--that's what."

"But, father," she said as she put her hand on his arm, "what if I
don't want them to stand around? Why should I have to bother about
it?"

"Oh," he groaned, "your grandmother has been filling you full of
nonsense." He did not speak for a time, and at length she rose to go
to bed. "Jeanette," he cried so suddenly that it startled her, "are
you still moping after Neal Ward? Do you love him? Do you want me to
go and get him for you?"

The girl stood by her father's chair a moment and then answered
colourlessly: "No, father, I don't want you to get him for me. I am
not moping for him, as you call it."

Her desolate tone reached some chord in his very heart, for he caught
her hand, and put it to his cheek and said softly, "But she loves
him--my poor little girl loves him?"

She tried to pull away her hand and replied, in the same dead voice:
"Oh, well--that doesn't matter much, I suppose. It's all over--so
far as I am concerned." She turned to leave him, and he cried:--

"My dear, my dear--why don't you go to him?"

She stopped a moment and looked at her father, and even in the
starlight she could see his hard mouth and his ruthless jaw. Then she
cried out, "Oh, father, I can't--I can't--" After a moment she
turned and looked at him, and asked, "Would you? Would you?" and
walked into the house without waiting for an answer.

The father sat crumpled up in his chair, listening to the flames
crackling in his heart. The old negation was fighting for its own, and
he was weary and broken and sick as with a palsy of the soul. For
everything in him trembled. There was no solid ground under him. He
had visited his material kingdom in the City, and had seen its strong
fortresses and had tried all of its locks and doors, and found them
firm and fast. But they did not satisfy his soul; something within him
kept mocking them; refusing to be awed by their power, and the eternal
"yes" rushed through his reason like a great wind.

As he sat there, suddenly, as from some power outside, John Barclay
felt a creaking of his resisting timbers, and he quit the struggle.
His heart was lead in his breast, and he walked through the house to
his pipe organ, that had stood silent in the hall for nearly a year.
He stood hesitatingly before it for a second, and then wearily lay him
down to rest, on a couch beside it, where, when he had played the last
time, Jane lay and listened. He was tired past all telling, but his
soul was relaxed. He lay there for hours--until the tall clock above
his head chimed two. He could not sleep, but his consciousness was
inert and his mind seemed limp and empty, as one who has worked past
his limit. The hymn that the clock chimed through the quarter hours
repeated itself over and over again without meaning in his brain.
Something aroused him; he started up suddenly, and lying half on his
elbow and half on his side he stared about him, and was conscious of a
great light in the room: it was as though there was a fire near by and
he was alarmed, but he could not move. As he looked into space,
terrified by the paralysis that held him, he saw across the face of
the organ, "Righteousness exalteth a Nation, but sin is a reproach to
any people."

Quick as a flash his mind went back to the time that same motto stared
meaninglessly at him from above the pulpit in the chapel at West
Point, to which he had been appointed official visitor at Commencement
many years before. But that night as he gazed at the text its meaning
came rushing through his brain. It came so quickly that he could not
will it back nor reason it in. Righteousness, he knew, was not
piety--not wearing your Sunday clothes to church and praying and
singing psalms; it was living honestly and kindly and charitably and
dealing decently with every one in every transaction; and sin--that,
he knew--was the cheating, the deceiving, and the malicious greed
that had built up his company and scores of others like it all over
the land. That, he knew--that bribery and corruption and vicarious
stealing which he had learned to know as business--that was a
reproach to any people, and as it came to him that he was a miserable
offender and that the other life, the decent life, was the right life,
he was filled with a joy that he could not express, and he let the
light fail about him unheeded, and lay for a time in a transport of
happiness. He had found the secret.

The truth had come to him--to him first of all men, and it was his to
tell. The joy of it--that he should find out what righteousness
was--that it was not crying "Lord, Lord" and playing the
hypocrite--thrilled him. And then the sense of his sinning came over
him, but only with joy too, because he felt he could show others how
foolish they were. The clock stopped ticking; the chimes were silent,
and he lay unconscious of his body, with his spirit bathed in some new
essence that he did not understand and did not try to understand.
Finally he rose and went to his organ and turned on the motor, and put
his hands to the keys. As he played the hymn to the "Evening Star,"
John Barclay looked up and saw his mother standing upon the stair with
her fine old face bathed in tears. And then at last--

Tears? Tears for Mr. Barclay? All these months there have been no
tears for him--none, except miserable little corroding tears of rage
and shame. But now there are tears for Mr. Barclay, large, man's size,
soul-healing tears--tears of repentance; not for the rich Mr.
Barclay, the proud Mr. Barclay, the powerful, man-hating, God-defying
Mr. Barclay of Sycamore Ridge, but for John Barclay, a contrite man,
the humblest in all the kingdom.

And as John Barclay let his soul rise with the swelling music, he felt
the solace of a great peace in his heart; he turned his wet face
upward and cried, "Oh, mother, mother, I feel like a child!" Then Mary
Barclay knew that her son had let Him in, knew in her own heart all
the joy there is in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.




CHAPTER XXIX


It is written in the Book that holds the wisdom of our race that one
who is reborn into the Kingdom of God, enters as a little child. It is
there in black and white, yet few people get the idea into their
consciousnesses. They expect regeneration to produce an upright man.
God knows better than that. And we should know better too when it is
written down for us. And so you good people who expect to see John
Barclay turn rightabout face on the habits of a lifetime are to be
disappointed. For a little child stumbles and falls and goes the wrong
way many times before it learns the way of life. There came days after
that summer night of 1904, when John Barclay fell--days when he would
sneak into the stenographers' room in his office in the City and tear
up some letter he had dictated, when he would send a telegram
annulling an order, when he would find himself cheating and gouging
his competitors or his business associates,--even days when he had
not the moral courage to retrace his steps although he knew he was
wrong. Shame put her brand on his heart, and his face showed to those
who watched it closely--and there were scores of fellow-gamblers at
the game with him, whose profits came from watching his face--his
face showed forth uncertainty and daze. So men said, "The old man's
off his feed," or others said, "Barclay's losing his nerve"; and still
others said, "Can it be possible that the old hypocrite is getting a
sort of belated conscience?"

But slowly, inch by inch, the child within him grew; he gripped his
soul with the iron hand of will that had made a man of him, and when
the child fell and ached with shame, Barclay's will sustained the
weakling. We are so hidden by our masks that this struggle in the
man's soul, though guessed at by some of those about him, was unknown
to the hundreds who saw him every day. But for him the universe had
changed. And as a child, amazed, he looked upon the new wonder of
God's order about him and went tripping and stumbling and toppling
over awkwardly through it all as one learning some new equilibrium.
There were times when his heart grew sick, and he would have given it
all up. There were hours when he did surrender; when he did a mean
thing and gloried in it, or a cowardly thing and apologized for it.
But his will rose and turned him back to his resolve. He found the big
things easy, and the little things hard to do. So he kept at the big
things until they had pushed him so far toward his goal that the
little things were details which he repaired slowly and with anguish
of humiliation in secret, and unknown even to those who were nearest
to him.

And all this struggle was behind the hard face, under the broad, high
forehead, back of the mean jaw, beneath the cover of the sharp brazen
eyes. Even in Sycamore Ridge they did not suspect the truth until
Barclay had grown so strong in his new faith that he could look at his
yesterdays without shuddering.

The year of our Lord nineteen hundred and six was a slow year
politically in Sycamore Ridge, so in the parliament at McHurdie's shop
discussion took somewhat wider range than was usual. It may interest
metaphysicians in the world at large to know that the McHurdie
parliament that August definitely decided that this is not a material
world; that sensation is a delusion, that the whole phantasmagoria of
the outer and material world is a reaction of some sort upon the
individual consciousness. Up to this point the matter is settled, and
metaphysicians may as well make a record of the decision; for Watts
McHurdie, Jacob Dolan, Philemon Ward, Martin Culpepper, and sometimes
Oscar Fernald, know just exactly as much about it as the ablest
logician in the world. It is, however, regrettable that after deciding
that the external world is but a divine reaction upon the individual
consciousness, the parliament was unable to reach any sort of a
decision as to whose consciousness received the picture. Mr. Dolan
maintained vigorously that his consciousness was the one actually
affected, and that the colonel and the general and Watts were mere
hallucinations of his. The general held that Jake and the others were
accessory phantasms of his own dream, and Watts and the colonel, being
of more poetical temperament, held that the whole outfit was a chimera
in some larger consciousness, whose entity it is not given us to know.
As for Oscar, he claimed the parliament was crazy, and started to
prove it, when it was thought best to shift and modify the discussion;
and, therefore, early in September, when the upper currents of the
national atmosphere were vocal with discordant allegations, denials,
accusations, and maledictions, in Watts McHurdie's shop the question
before the house was, "How many people are there in the world?" For
ten days, in the desultory debate that had droned through the summer,
the general, true to his former contention, insisted that there was
only one person in the world. Mr. Dolan, with the Celtic elasticity of
reason, was willing to admit two.

"You and me and no more--all the rest is background for us," he
proclaimed. "If the you of the moment is the colonel--well and good;
then the colonel and I for it; but if it is the general and I--to the
trees with your colonel and Watts, and the three billion
others--you're merely stage setting, and become third persons."

"But," asked McHurdie, "if I exist this minute with you, and then you
focus your attention on Mart there, the next minute, and he exists,
what becomes of me when you turn your head from me?"

Dolan did not answer. He dipped into the _Times_ and read awhile; and
the colonel and the general got out the checkerboard and plunged into
a silent game. At length Dolan, after the fashion of debaters in the
parliament, came out of his newspaper and said:--

"That, Mr. McHurdie, is a problem ranging off the subject, into the
theories of the essence of time and space, and I refuse to answer it."

Me Hurdie kept on working, and the hands of the clock slipped around
nearly an hour. Then the bell tinkled and Neal Ward came in on his
afternoon round for news to print in the next day's issue of the
_Banner_.

"Anything new?" he asked.

"Mrs. Dorman is putting new awnings on the rear windows of her
store--did you get that?" asked McHurdie.

The young man made a note of the fact.

"Yes," added Dolan, "and you may just say that Hon. Jacob Dolan,
former sheriff of Garrison County, and a member of 'C' Company, well
known in this community, who has been custodian of public buildings
and grounds in and for Garrison County, state of Kansas, ss., is
contemplating resigning his position and removing to the National
Soldiers' Home at Leavenworth for the future."

Young Ward smiled, but did not take the item down in his note-book.

"It isn't time yet," he said.

"Why not?" asked Dolan.

"Only two months and a half since I printed that the last time. It
can't go oftener than four times a year, and it's been in twice this
year. Late in December will time it about right."

"What's the news with you, boy?" asked Dolan.

"Well," said the young man, pausing carefully as if to make a
selection from a large and tempting assortment, but really swinging
his arms for a long jump into the heart of the matter in his mind,
"have you heard that John Barclay has given the town his pipe organ?"

"You don't say!" exclaimed McHurdie.

"Tired of it?" asked Dolan, as though twenty-five-thousand-dollar pipe
organs were raining in the town every few days.

"It'll not be that, Jake," said Watts. "John is no man to tire of
things."

"No, it's not that, Mr. Dolan," answered Neal Ward. "He has sent word
to the mayor and council that he is going to have the organ installed
in Barclay Hall this week at his own expense, and he accompanied the
letter with fifty thousand dollars in securities to hire a permanent
organist and a band-master for the band; and a band concert and an
organ concert will alternate in the hall every week during the year. I
gather from reading his letter that Mr. Barclay believes the organ
will do more good in the hall than in his house."

The general and the colonel kept on at their game. Dolan whistled, and
Watts nodded his head. "That's what I would say he did it for," said
McHurdie.

"Are the securities N.P.C. stock?" asked Dolan, tentatively.

"No," replied Neal; "I saw them; they are municipal bonds of one sort
and another."

"Well, well--Johnnie at the mill certainly is popping open like a
chestnut bur. Generally when he has some scheme on to buy public
sentiment he endows something with N.P.C. stock, so that in case of a
lawsuit against the company he'd have the people interested in
protecting the stock. This new tack is certainly queer doings.
Certainly queer doings for the dusty miller!" repeated Dolan.

"Well, it's like his buying the waterworks of Bemis last month, and
that land at the new pumping station, and giving the council money to
build the new dam and power-house. He had no rebate or take back in
that--at least no one can see it," said the young man.

"Nellie says," put in Watts, "that she heard from Mrs. Fernald, who
got it from her girl, who got it from the girl who works in the Hub
restaurant, who had it from Mrs. Carnine's girl--so it come pretty
straight--that Lige made John pay a pretty penny for the waterworks,
and they had a great row because John would give up the fight."

"Yes," replied Dolan, "it come to me from one of the nigger prisoners
in the jail, who has a friend who sweeps out Gabe's bank, that he
heard John and Lige dickering, and that Lige held John up for a
hundred thousand cold dollars for his bargain."

"The Associated Press to-day," said young Ward, "has a story to the
effect that there is a great boom in certain railroad stocks owing to
some secret operations of Mr. Barclay. They don't know what he is
doing, but things are pretty shaky. He refuses to make a statement."

"He's a queer canny little man," explained Watts. "You never know
where he'll break out next."

"Well, he's up to some devilment," exclaimed Dolan; "you can depend on
that. Why do you suppose he's laying off the hands at the strip
factory?"

The young man shook his head. "Give it up. I asked Mr. Mason and the
best I could get out of him was a parrot-like statement that 'owing to
the oversupply of our commodity, we have decided to close operations
for the present. We have, therefore,' he said pompously, 'given each
of our employees unable to find immediate work here, a ticket for
himself and family to any point in the United States to which he may
desire to go, and have agreed to pay the freight on his household
goods also.' That was every word I could get out of him--and you know
Mr. Mason is pretty talkative sometimes."

"Queer doings for the dusty miller," repeated Dolan.

The group by the bench heard the slap of the checkerboard on its
shelf, and General Ward cut into the conversation as one who had never
been out of it. "The boy's got good blood in him; it will come out
some day--he wasn't made a Thatcher and a Barclay and a Winthrop for
nothing. Lizzie was over there the other night for tea with them, and
she said she hadn't seen John so much like himself for years."

Young Ward went about his afternoon's work and the parliament
continued its debate on miscellaneous public business. The general
pulled the _Times_ from Dolan's pocket and began turning it over. He
stopped and read for a few moments and exclaimed:--

"Boys--see here. Maybe this explains something we were talking
about." He began reading a news item sent out from Washington, D.C.
The item stated that the Department of Commerce and Labour had scored
what every one in official circles believed was the most important
victory ever achieved by the government outside of a war. The item
continued:--

    "Within the last ten days, the head of one of the largest so-called
    trusts in this country called at the department, and explained that
    his organization, which controls a great staple commodity, was going
    into voluntary liquidation. The organization in question has been
    the subject of governmental investigation for nearly two years, and
    investigators were constantly hampered and annoyed by attempts of
    politicians of the very highest caste, outside of the White House,
    trying to get inspectors removed or discredited, and all along the
    line of its investigations the government has felt a powerful secret
    influence shielding the trust. As an evidence of his good faith in
    the disorganization, the head of the trust, while he was here,
    promised to send to the White House, what he called his 'political
    burglar's kit,' consisting of a card index, labelling and ticketing
    with elaborate cross references and cabinet data, every man in the
    United States who is in politics far enough to get to his state
    legislature, or to be a nominee of his party for county attorney.
    This outfit, shipped in a score of great boxes, was dumped at the
    White House to-day, and it is said that a number of the cards
    indicating the reputation of certain so-called conservative senators
    and congressmen may be framed. There is a great hubbub in
    Washington, and the newspaper correspondents who called at the White
    House on their morning rounds were regaled by a confidential glimpse
    into the cards and the cabinets. It is likely that the whole outfit
    will be filed in the Department of Commerce and Labour, and will
    constitute the basis of what is called around the White House
    to-day, a 'National Rogues' Gallery.' The complete details of every
    senatorial election held in the country during twelve years last
    past, showing how to reach any Senator susceptible to any influence
    whatsoever, whether political, social, or religious, are among the
    trophies of the chase in the hands of the Mighty Hunter for Big Game
    to-day."

When General Ward had finished reading, he lifted up his glasses and
said: "Well, that's it, boys; John has come to his turn of the road.
Here's the rest. It says: 'The corporation in question is practically
controlled by one man, the man who has placed the information above
mentioned in the hands of the government. It is a corporation owning
no physical property whatever, and is organized as a rebate hopper, if
one may so style it. The head of the corporation stated when he was
here recently that he is preparing to buy in every share of the
company's stock at the price for which it was sold and then--' Jake,
where is page 3 with the rest of this article on it?" asked the
general.

"Why, I threw that away coming down here," responded Dolan.

"Rather leaves us in the air--doesn't it?" suggested the colonel.

"Well, it's John. I know enough to know that--from Neal," said the
general.

The afternoon sun was shining in the south window of the shop. Dolan
started to go. In the doorway McHurdie halted him.

"Jake," he cried, pointing a lean, smutty finger at Dolan, "Jake
Dolan, if there are only two people in the world, what becomes of me
when you begin talking to Mart? If you knew, you would not dodge. In
philosophy no man can stand on his constitutional rights. Turn state's
evidence, Jake Dolan, and tell the truth--what becomes of me?"

"'Tis an improper question," replied Dolan, and then drawing himself
up and pulling down the front of his coat, he added, "'Tis not a
matter that may be discussed among gentlemen," and with that he
disappeared.

The front door-bell tinkled, and the parliament prepared to adjourn.
The colonel helped the poet close his store and bring in the wooden
horse from the sidewalk, and then Molly Brownwell came with her
phaeton and drove the two old men home. On the way up Main Street they
overhauled Neal Ward. Mrs. Brownwell turned in to the sidewalk and
called, "Neal, can you run over to the house a moment this evening?"
And when he answered in the affirmative, she let the old nag amble
gently up the street.

"How pretty you are, Aunt Molly," exclaimed Neal, as the gray-haired
woman who could still wear a red ribbon came into the room where he
sat waiting for her. The boy's compliment pleased her, and she did not
hesitate to say so. But after that she plunged into the subject that
was uppermost in her heart.

"Neal," she said, as she drew her chair in front of him so that she
could see his face and know the truth, no matter what his lips might
say, "we're partners now, aren't we, or what amounts to the same
thing?" She smiled good-naturedly. "I own the overdraft at the bank
and you own the mortgage at the court-house. So I am going to ask you
a plain question; and if you say it isn't any of my business, I'll
attempt to show you that it is. Neal," she asked, looking earnestly
into his face, "why do you write to Jeanette Barclay every day of your
life and not mail the letters?"

The youth flushed. "Why--Aunt Molly--how did you know?--I never
told--"

"No, Neal, you never told me; but this afternoon while you we're out I
was looking for Adrian's check-book; I was sure we paid Dorman's bill
last April, and that I took the check over myself. I was going through
the desk, and I got on your side, thinking I might have left the
check-book there by mistake, and I ran into the very midst of those
letters, before I knew what I was about. Now, Neal--why?"

The young man gazed at the woman seriously for a time and then parried
her question with, "Why do you care--what difference can it make to
you, Aunt Molly?"

"Because," she answered quickly, "because I wish to see my partner
happy. He will do better work so--if you desire to put it on a
cold-blooded basis. Oh, Nealie, Nealie--do you love her that
much--that you take your heart and your life to her without hope or
without sign or answer every day?"

He dropped his eyes, and turned his face away. "Not every day," he
answered, "not every day--but every night, Aunt Molly."

"Why don't you go to her, Neal, and tell her?" asked the woman. "Is it
so hopeless as that?"

"Oh, there are many reasons--why I don't go to her," he replied.
After a minute's silence he went on: "In the first place she is a very
rich girl, and that makes a difference--now. When she was just a
young girl of eighteen, or such a matter, and I only twenty or
twenty-one, we met so naturally, and it all came out so beautifully!
But we are older now, Aunt Molly," he said sadly, "and it's
different."

"Yes," admitted Mrs. Brownwell, "it is different now--you are right
about it."

"Yes," he continued, repeating a patter which he had said to himself a
thousand times. "Yes,--and then I can't say I'm sorry--for I'm not.
I'd do it again. And I know how Mr. Barclay feels; he didn't leave me
in any doubt about that," smiled the boy, "when I left his office that
morning after telling him what I was going to do. So," he sighed and
smiled in rather hopeless good humour, "I can't see my way out. Can
you?"

Molly Brownwell leaned back in her chair, and closed her eyes for a
minute, and then shook her head, and said, "No, Neal, not now; but
there is a way--somehow--I am sure of that."

He laughed for want of any words to express his hopelessness, and the
two--the youth in despair, and the woman full of hope--sat in
silence.

"Neal," she asked finally, "what do you put in those letters? Why do
you write them at all?"

The young man with his eyes upon the floor began, "Well--they're just
letters, Aunt Molly--just letters--such as I used to write
before--don't you know." His voice was dull and passionless, and he
went on: "I can't tell you more about them. They're just letters." He
drew in a quick long breath and exclaimed: "Oh, you know what they
are--I want to talk to some one and I'm going to. Oh, Aunt Molly," he
cried, "I'm not heart-broken, and all that--I'm infinitely happy.
Because I still hold it--it doesn't die. Don't you see? And I know
that always it will be with me--whatever may come to her. I don't
want to forget--and it is my only joy in the matter, that I never
will forget. I can be happy this way; I don't want to give any other
woman a warmed-over heart, for this would always be there--I know
it--and so I am just going to keep it." He dropped his voice again
after a sigh, and went on: "There, that's all there is to it. Do you
think I'm a fool?" he asked, as the colour came into his face.

"No, Neal, I don't," said Molly Brownwell, as she stood beside him.
"You are a brave, manly fellow, Neal, and I wish I could help you. I
don't see how now--but the way will come--sometime. Now," she added,
"tell me about the paper."

And then they went into business matters which do not concern us; for
in this story business conjures up the face of John Barclay--the
tanned, hard face of John Barclay, crackled with a hundred wrinkles
about the eyes, and scarred with hard lines about the furtive crafty
mouth; and we do not wish to see that face now; it should be hidden
while the new soul that is rising in his body struggles with that
tough, bronzed rind, gets a focus from the heart into those glaring
brass eyes, and teaches the lying lips to speak the truth, and having
spoken it to look it. And so while John Barclay in the City is daily
slipping millions of his railroad bonds into the market,--slipping
them in quietly yet steadily withal, mixing them into the daily
commerce of the country, so gently that they are absorbed before any
one knows they have left his long grasping fingers,--while he is
trading to his heart's content, let us forget him, and look at this
young man, that September night, after he left Molly Brownwell,
sitting at his desk in the office with the telephone at his elbow,
with the smell of the ink from the presses in his nostrils, with the
silence of the deserted office becalming his soul, and with his
heart--a clean, strong, manly heart--full of the picture of a
woman's face, and the vision without a hope. In his brain are recorded
a thousand pictures, and millions of little fibres run all over this
brain, conjuring up those pictures, and if there are blue eyes in the
pictures, and lips in the pictures, and the pressure of hands, and the
touch of souls in the pictures,--they are Neal Ward's pictures,
--they are Mr. Higgin's pictures, and Mrs. Wiggin's pictures, and Mr.
Stiggin's pictures, my dears, and alack and alas, they are the
pictures of Miss Jones and Miss Lewis and Miss Thomas and Miss Smith,
for that matter; and so, my dears, if we would be happy we should be
careful even if we can't be good, for it is all for eternity, and
whatever courts may say, and whatever churches may say, and whatever
comes back with rings and letters and trinkets,--there is no divorce,
and the pictures always stay in the heart, and the sum of the pictures
is life.

So that September night Neal Ward went back over the old trail as
lovers always will, and then his pen began to write. Now in the nature
of things the first three words are not for our eyes, and to-night we
must not see the first three lines nor the first thirty, nor the last
three words nor the last three lines nor the last thirty lines. But we
may watch him write; we may observe how longingly he looks at the
telephone, as if tempted to go to it, and tell it what is in his
breast. There it sits, all shiny and metallic; and by conjuring it
with a number and a word, he could have her with him. Yet he does not
take it up; because--the crazy loon thinks in the soul of him, that
what he writes, some way, in the great unknown system of receivers and
recorders and transmitters of thought that range through this
universe, is pouring into her heart, and so he writes and smiles, and
smiles and writes--no bigger fool than half the other lovers on the
planet who, talking to their sweethearts, holding their hands and
looking squarely into their eyes, deceive themselves that what they
say is going to the heart, and not going in one ear and out of the
other.

And now let us put on our seven-league boots and walk from September's
green and brown, through October's gold and crimson, into that season
of the year 1906 when Nature is shifting her scenery, making ready for
the great spring show. It is bleak, but not cold; barren, but not
ugly,--for the stage setting of the hills and woods and streams, even
without the coloured wings and flies and the painted trees and grass,
has its fine simplicity of form and grouping that are good to look
upon. Observe in the picture a small man sitting on a log in a wood,
looking at the stencil work of the brown and gray branches, as its
shadows waver and shimmer upon the gray earth. He is poking
reflectively in the earth with his cane. His boat is tied to some tree
roots, and he doesn't breathe as regularly as a man should breathe who
is merely thinking of his next dinner or his last dollar. He delves
into himself and almost forgets to breathe at all, so deep is his
abstraction. And so he sits for five minutes--ten minutes--half an
hour--and save that he edges into the sun as the shadow of the great
walnut tree above catches him, an hour passes and he does not move.
Poking, poking, poking his stick into the mould, he has dug up much
litter in an hour, and he has seen his whole life thrown up before
him. In those leaves yonder is a battle--a bloody battle, and things
are blistered into his boyish heart in that battle that never heal
over; that tuft of sod is a girl's face--a little girl's face that he
loved as a boy; there is his first lawsuit--that ragged pile of
leaves by the twig at the log's end; and the twig is his first ten
thousand dollars. All of it lies there before him, his victories and
his defeats, his millions come, and his millions going--going?--yes,
all but gone. Yonder that deep gash in the sod at the left hides a
woman's face--pale, wasted, dead on her pillow; and that clean black
streak on the ebony cane--that is a tear, and in the tear is a girl's
face and back of hers shimmers a boy's countenance. All of John
Barclay's life and hopes and dreams and visions are spread out before
him on the ground. So he closes his eyes, and braces his soul, and
then, having risen, whistles as he limps lightly--for a man past
fifty--down to the boat. He rows with a clean manly stroke--even in
an old flat-bottomed boat--through the hazy sunset into the dusk.

"Jeanette," he said to his daughter that evening at dinner, "I wish
you would go to the phone, pretty soon, and tell Molly Culpepper that
I want her to come down this evening. I am anxious to see her. The
colonel isn't at home, or I'd have him, mother," explained Mr Barclay.

And that is why Miss Barclay called "876, Please--yes, 8-7-6;" and
then said: "Hello--hello, is this 876? Yes--is Mrs. Brownwell in?
Oh, all right." And then, "54, please; yes, 5-4. Is this you, Aunt
Molly? Father is in town--he came in this morning and has spent the
afternoon on the river, and he told me at dinner to ask you if you
could run down this evening. Oh, any time. I didn't know you worked
nights at the office. Oh, is Mr. Ward out of town?--I didn't know.
All right, then--about eight o'clock--we'll look for you."

And that is why at the other end of the telephone, a pretty,
gray-haired woman stood, and looked, and looked, and looked at a plain
walnut desk, as though it was enchanted, and then slipped guiltily
over to that black walnut desk, unlocked a drawer, and pulled out a
whole apronful of letters.

And so the reader may know what Molly Brownwell had in that package
which she put in the buggy seat beside her when she drove down to see
the Barclays, that beautiful starry November night. She put the
package with her hat and wraps in Jeanette's room, and then came down
to the living room where John Barclay sat by the roaring fire in the
wide fireplace, with a bundle beside him also. His mother was there,
and his daughter took a seat beside him.

"Molly," said Barclay, with a deep sigh, "I sent for you, first,
because, of all the people in the world, it is but just that you
should be here, to witness what I am doing; and second, because Jane
would have had you, and I want you to be with Jeanette when I tell her
some things that she must know to-night--she and mother."

He was sitting in a deep easy chair, with one foot--not his lame
foot--curled under him, a wiry-looking little gray cat of a man who
nervously drummed on the mahogany chair arm, or kept running his hands
over the carving, or folding and unfolding them, and twirled his
thumbs incessantly as he talked. He smiled as he began:--

"Well, girls, father got off the chair car at Sycamore Ridge this
morning, after having had the best sleep he has had in twenty years."

He paused for the effect of his declaration to sink in. Jeanette
asked, "Where was the car?"

"What car?" teased the little gray cat.

"Why, our car?"

"My dear, we have no car," he smiled, with the cream of mystery on his
lips. Then he licked it off. "I sold the car three weeks ago, when I
left the Ridge the last time." He dropped into an eloquent silence,
and then went on: "I rode in the chair car to save three dollars. I
need it in my business."

His mother's blue eyes were watching him closely. She exclaimed,
"John, quit your foolishness. What have you done?"

He laughed as he said: "Mother, I have returned to you poor but
honest. My total assets at this minute are seventy-five million
dollars' worth of stock of the National Provisions Company, tied up in
this bundle on the floor here, and five thousand dollars in the
Exchange National Bank of Sycamore Ridge which I have held for thirty
years. I sold my State Bank stock last Monday to Gabe Carnine. I have
thirty-four dollars and seventy-three cents in my pocketbook, and that
is all."

The women were puzzled, and their faces showed it. So the little gray
cat made short work of the mice.

"Well, now, to be brief and plain," said Barclay, pulling himself
forward in his chair and thrusting out an arm and hand, as if to grip
the attention of his hearers, "I have always owned or directly
controlled over half the N.P.C. stock--representing a big pile of
money. I am trying to forget how much, and you don't care. But it was
only part of my holdings--about half or such a matter, I should say.
The rest were railroad bonds on roads necessary to the company,
mortgages on mills and elevators whose stock was merged in the
company, and all sorts of gilt-edged stuff, bank stock and insurance
company stock--all needed to make N.P.C. a dominant factor in the
commercial life of the country. You don't care about that, but it was
all a sort of commercial blackmail on certain fellows and interests to
keep them from fighting N.P.C." Barclay hitched himself forward to the
edge of his chair, and still held out his grappling-hook of a hand to
hold them as he smiled and went on: "Well, I've been kind of swapping
horses here for six months or so--trading my gilt-edged bonds and
stuff for cash and buying up N.P.C. stock. I got a lot of it
quietly--an awful lot." He grinned. "I guess that was square enough.
I paid the price for it--and a little better than the price--because
I had to." He was silent a few moments, looking at the fire. He
meditated pleasantly: "There was some good in it--a lot of good when
you come to think of it--but a fearful lot of bad! Well--I've saved
the good. I just reorganized the whole concern from top to
bottom--the whole blame rebate hopper. We had some patents, and we
had some contracts with mills, and we had some good ideas of
organization. And I've kept the good and chucked the bad. I put N.P.C.
out of business and have issued stock in the new company to our
minority whose stock I couldn't buy and have squeezed the water out of
the whole concern. And then I took what balance I had left--every
cent of it, went over the books for thirty years, and made what
restitution I could." He grinned as he added: "But I found it was
nearly whittlety whet. A lot of fellows had been doing me up, while I
had been doing others up. But I made what restitution I could and then
I got out. I closed up the City office, and moved the whole concern to
St. Paul, and turned it over to the real owners--the millers and
elevator men--and I have organized an industry with a capitalization
small enough to make it possible for them to afford to be honest for
thirty years--while our patents and contracts last, anyway." He put
an elbow in the hollow of his hand, and the knuckles on his knee as he
sat cross-legged, and drawled: "I wonder if it will work--" and
repeated: "I wonder, I wonder. There's big money in it; she's a dead
monopoly as she stands, and they have the key to the whole thing in
the Commerce Department at Washington. They can keep her straight if
they will." He paused for a while and went on: "But I'm tired of it.
The great hulk of a thing has ground the soul out of me. So I ducked.
Girls," he cried, as he turned toward them, "here's the way it is; I
never did any real good with money. I'm going to see what a man can do
to help his fellows with his bare hands. I want to help, not with
money, but just to be some account on earth without money. And so
yesterday I cleaned up the whole deal forever."

He paused to let it sink in. Finally Jeanette asked, "And are we poor,
father--poor?"

"Well, my dear," he expanded, "your grandmother Barclay has always
owned this house. An Omaha syndicate owns the mill. I own $5,000 in
bank stock, and the boy who marries you for your money right now is
going to get badly left."

"You aren't fooling me, are you, John?" asked his mother as she rose
from her chair.

"No, mother," answered the son, "I've got rid of every dirty dollar I
have on earth. The bank stock I bought with the money the Citizens'
Committee subscribed to pay me for winning the county-seat lawsuit. As
near as I can figure it out, that was about the last clean money I
ever earned."

The mother walked toward her son, and leaned over and kissed him again
and again as she sobbed: "Oh, John, I am so happy to-night--so
happy."

In a moment he asked, "Well, Jeanette, what do you think of it?"

"You know what I think, father--you know very well, don't you?"

He sighed and nodded his head. Then he reached for the package on the
floor and began cutting the strings. The bundle burst open and the
stock of the National Provisions Company, issued only in
fifty-thousand-dollar and one-hundred-thousand-dollar shares, littered
the floor.

"Now," cried Barclay, as he stood looking at the litter, "now, Molly,
here's what I want you to do: Burn it up--burn it up," he cried. "It
has burned the joy out of your life, Molly--burn it up! I have fought
it all out to-day on the river--but I can't quite do that. Burn it
up--for God's sake, Molly, burn it up."

When the white ashes had risen up the chimney, he put on another log.
"This is our last extravagance for some time, girls--but we'll
celebrate to-night," he cried. "You haven't a little elderberry wine,
have you, mother?" he asked. "Riley says that's the stuff for little
boys with curvature of the spine--and I'll tell you it put several
kinks in mine to watch that burn."

And so they sat for an hour talking of old times while the fire
burned. But Molly Brownwell's mind was not in the performance that
John Barclay had staged. She could see nothing but the package lying
on her cloak in the girl's room upstairs. So she rose to go early, and
the circle broke when she left it. She and Jeanette left John standing
with his arms about his mother, patting her back while she wept.

As she closed the door of Jeanette's room behind her, Molly Brownwell
knew that she must speak. "Jeanette," she said, "I don't know just how
to say it, dear; but, I stole those--I mean what is in that
package--I took it and Neal doesn't know I have it. It's for you,"
she cried, as she broke the string that tied it, and tore off the
wrapping.

The girl stared at her and asked: "Why, Aunt Molly--what is it? I
don't understand."

The woman in pulling her wrap from the chair, tumbled the letters to
the floor. She slipped into her cloak and kissed the bewildered girl,
and said as she stood in the doorway: "There they are, my dear--they
are yours; do what you please with them."

She hurried down the stairs, and finding John sitting alone before the
fire in the sitting room, would have bidden him good night as she
passed through the room, but he stopped her.

"There is one thing more, Molly," he said, as he motioned to a chair.

"Yes," she answered, "I wondered if you had forgotten it!"

He worried the fire, and renewed the blaze, before he spoke. "What
about Neal--how does he feel?"

"John," replied the woman, turning upon him a radiant face, "it is the
most beautiful thing in the world--that boy's love for Jennie! Why,
every night after his work is done, sitting there in the office alone,
Neal writes her a letter, that he never mails; just takes his heart to
her, John. I found a great stack of them in his desk the other day."

Barclay's face crinkled in a spasm of pain, and he exclaimed, "Poor
little kids--poor, poor children."

"John--" Molly Brown well hesitated, and then took courage and cried:
"Won't you--won't you for Ellen's sake? It is like that--like you
and Ellen. And," she stammered, "oh, John, I do want to see one such
love affair end happily before I die."

Barclay's hard jaw trembled, and his eyes were wet as he rose and
limped across the great room. At the foot of the stairs he called up,
"Don't bother with the phone, Jeanette, I'm going to use it." He
explained, "The branch in her room rings when we use this one," and
then asked, "Do you know where he is--at home or at the office?"

"If the ten o'clock train is in, he's at the office. If not, he's not
in town."

But Barclay went to the hall, and when he returned he said, "Well, I
got him; he'll be right out."

Molly was standing by the fire. "What are you going to say, John?" she
asked.

"Oh, I don't know. There'll be enough for me to say, I suppose," he
replied, as he looked at the floor.

She gave him her hand, and they stood for a minute looking back into
their lives. They walked together toward the door, but at the
threshold their eyes met and each saw tears, and they parted without
words.

Neal Ward found Barclay prodding the fire, and the gray little man,
red-faced from his task, limped toward the tall, handsome youth, and
led him to a chair. Barclay stood for a time with his back to the
fire, and his head down, and in the silence he seemed to try to speak
several times before the right words came. Then he exclaimed:

"Neal, I was wrong--dead wrong--and I've been too proud and mean all
this time--to say so."

Neal stared open-eyed at Barclay and moistened his lips before
language came to him. Finally he said: "Well, Mr. Barclay--that's all
right. I never blamed you. You needn't have bothered about--that is,
to tell me."

Barclay gazed at the young man abstractedly for a minute that seemed
interminable, and then broke out, "Damn it, Neal, I can't propose to
you--but that's about what I've got you out here to-night for."

He laughed nervously, but the young face showed his obtuseness, and
John Barclay having broken the ice in his own heart put his hands in
his pockets and threw back his head and roared, and then cried
merrily: "All we need now is a chorus in fluffy skirts and an
orchestra with me coming down in front singing, 'Will you be my
son-in-law?' for it to be real comic opera."

The young man's heart gave such a bound of joy that it flashed in his
face, and the father, seeing it, was thrilled with happiness. So he
limped over to Neal's chair and stood beaming down upon the
embarrassed young fellow.

"But, Mr. Barclay--" the boy found voice, "I don't know--the
money--it bothers me."

And John Barclay again threw his head back and roared, and then they
talked it all out. He told Neal the story of his year's work. It was
midnight when they heard the telephone ringing, and Barclay, curled up
like an old gray cat in his chair before the fire, said for old times'
sake, "Neal, go see who is ringing up at this unholy hour."

And while Neal Ward steps to the telephone, let us go upstairs on one
last journey with our astral bodies and discover what Jeanette is
doing. After Molly's departure, Jeanette stooped to pick up what Molly
had left. She saw her own name, "Jeanette Barclay," and her address
written on an envelope. She picked it up. It was dated: "Written
December 28," and she saw that the package was filled with letters in
envelopes similarly addressed in Neal Ward's handwriting. She dropped
the letter on her dressing-table and began to undo her hair. In a few
minutes she stopped and picked up another, and laid it down unopened.
But in half an hour she was sitting on the floor reading the letters
through her tears. The flood of joy that came over her drowned her
pride. For an hour she sat reading the letters, and they brought her
so near to her lover that it seemed that she must reach out and touch
him. She was drawn by an irresistible impulse to her telephone that
sat on her desk. It seemed crazy to expect to reach Neal Ward at
midnight, but as she rose from the floor with the letters slipping
from her lap and with the impulse like a cord drawing her, she saw, or
thought she saw, standing by the desk, a part of the fluttering
shadows, a girl--a quaint, old-fashioned girl in her teens,
with--but then she remembered the dream girl her lover had described
in the letter she had just been reading, and she understood the source
of her delusion. And yet there the vision moved by the telephone,
smiling and beckoning; then it faded, and there came rushing back to
her memory a host of recollections of her childhood, and of some one
she could not place, and then a memory of danger,--and then it was
all gone and there stood the desk and the telephone and the room as it
was.

She shuddered slightly, and then remembered that she had just been
through two great nervous experiences--the story of her father's
changed life, and the return of her lover. And she was a level-headed,
strong-nerved girl. So the joy of love in her heart was not dampened,
and the cord drawing her to the desk in the window did not loosen, and
she did not resist. With a gulp of nervous fear she rang the telephone
bell and called, "54, please!" She heard a buzzing, and then a faint
stir in the receiver, and then she got the answer. She sat a-tremble,
afraid to reply. The call was repeated in her ear, and then she said
so faintly that she could not believe it would be heard, "Oh,
Neal--Neal--I have come back."

The young man standing in the dimly lighted hall was startled. He
cried, "Is it really you, Jeanette--is it you?"

And then stronger than before the voice said, "Yes, Neal, it is I--I
have come back!"

"Oh, Jeanette--Jeanette," he cried.

But she stopped him with, "We must not talk any more--now, don't you
know--but I had to tell you that I had come back, Neal." And then she
said, "Good night." So there they stood, the only two people in the
universe, reunited lovers, each with the voice of the other sounding
in his ears. For Mr. Dolan was right. There are only two people in the
world, and for these two lovers earth and the stars and the systems of
suns that make up this universe were only background for the play of
their happiness.

As Neal Ward came back to John Barclay from the telephone, the young
man's face was burning with joy.

"Who was it?" asked Barclay.

The youth smiled bashfully as he said, "Well, it was Jeanette--she
was calling up another number and I cut in."

"What did she say?" asked her father.

"Oh, nothing--in particular," replied Neal.

Barclay looked up quickly, caught the young man's abashed smile, and
asked, "Does she know you're here?"

"No, she thinks I'm at the office."

Barclay rose from his chair, and limped across the room, calling back
as he mounted the stair, "Wait a minute."

It was more than a minute that Neal Ward stood by the fire waiting.

And now, gentle people, observe the leader of the orchestra fumbling
with his music. There is a faint stir among the musicians under the
footlights. And you, too, are getting restless; you are feeling for
your hat instinctively, and you for your hat-pins, and you for your
rubbers, while Neal Ward stands there waiting, and the great clock
ticks in the long silence. There is a rustle on the stairs, at the
right, and do you see that foot peeping down, that skirt, that slender
girlish figure coming down, that young face tear-stained, happy,
laughing and sobbing, with the arms outstretched as she nears the last
turn of the stairs? And the lover--he has started toward her. The
orchestra leader is standing up. And the youth, with God's holiest
glory in his face, has almost reached her. And there for an instant
stand Neal and Jeanette mingling tears in their kisses, for the
curtain, the miserable, unemotional, awkward curtain--it has stuck
and so they must stand apart, hand in hand, devouring each other's
faces a moment, and then as the curtain falls we see four feet close
together again, and then--and then the world comes in upon us, and we
smile and sigh and sigh and smile, for the journey of those four feet
is ended, the story is done.




CHAPTER XXX

BEING SOMEWHAT IN THE NATURE OF AN EPILOGUE


And now that the performance is finished and the curtain has been rung
down, we desire to thank you, one and all, for your kind attention,
and to express the hope that in this highly moral show you may have
found some pleasure as well as profit. But though the play is ended,
and you are already reaching for your hats and coats, the lights are
still dim; and as you see a great white square of light appear against
the curtain, you know that the entertainment is to conclude with a
brief exhibition of the wonders of that great modern invention, the
cinematograph of Time.

The first flickering shadows show you the interior of Watts McHurdie's
shop, and as your eyes take in the dancing shapes, you discern the
parliament in session. Colonel Martin F. Culpepper is sitting there
with Watts McHurdie, reading and re-reading for the fourth and fifth
time, in the peculiar pride that authorship has in listening to the
reverberation of its own eloquence, the brand-new copy of the second
edition of "The Complete Poetical and Philosophical Works of Watts
McHurdie, with Notes and a Biographical Appreciation by Martin F.
Culpepper, 'C' Company, Second Regiment K.V." The colonel, with his
thumb in the book, pokes the fire in the stove, and sits down again to
drink his joy unalloyed. Watts is working on a saddle, but his arms
and his hands are not what they were in the old days when his saddlery
won first prize year after year at the Kansas City Fair. So he puffs
and fusses and sighs his way through his morning's work. Sometimes the
colonel reads aloud a line from a verse, or a phrase from the
Biography--more frequently from the Biography--and exclaims,
"Genius, Watts, genius, genius!" But Watts McHurdie makes no reply. As
his old eyes--quicker than his old fingers--see the sad work they
are making, his heart sinks within him.

"Listen, Watts," cries the colonel. "How do you like this, you old
skeezicks?" and the colonel reads a stanza full of "lips" and "slips,"
"eyes" and "tries," "desires" and "fires," and "darts" and "hearts."

The little white-haired old man leans forward eagerly to catch it all.
But his shoulders slump, and he draws a long, tired breath when the
colonel has finished.

"Man--man," he cries, "what a saddle I could make when I wrote that!"
And he turns wearily to his task again.

Oscar Fernald paces in busily, and in half an hour Lycurgus Mason, who
has been thrown out of the current of life, drifts into his place in
the back-water, and the parliament is ready for business. They see
Gabriel Carnine totter by, chasing after pennies to add to his little
pile. The bell tinkles, and the postman brings a letter. McHurdie
opens it and says, as he looks at the heading:

"It's from old Jake. It is to all of us" he adds as he looks at the
top of the sheet of letter paper. He takes off his apron and
ceremoniously puts on his coat; then seats himself, and unfolding the
sheet, begins at the very top to read:--

                                       "National Soldiers' Home,
                                            Leavenworth, Kansas,
                                               March 11, 1909.

    "TO THE MEMBERS OF MCHURDIE'S PARLIAMENT,

    "_Gents and Comrades_: I take my pen in hand this bright spring
    morning to tell you that I arrived here safe, this side up with
    care, glass, be careful, Saturday morning, and I am willing to
    compromise my chances for heaven, which Father Van Saudt being a
    Dutchman always regarded as slim, for a couple of geological ages of
    this. I hope you are the same, but you are not. Given a few hundred
    white nighties for us to wear by day, and a dozen or two dagoes
    playing on harps, and this would be my idea of Heaven. The meals
    that we do have--tell Oscar that when I realize what eating is, what
    roast beef can be, cut thin and rare and dripping with gravy--it
    makes me wonder if the days when I boarded at the Thayer House might
    not be counted as part of the time I must do in the fireworks. And
    the porcelean bath tubs, and the white clean beds, and the music of
    the band, and the free tobacco--here I raise my Ebenezer, as the
    Colonel sings down in his heretic church; here I put my standard
    down.

    "Well, Watts, I hear the news about Nelly. We've known it was coming
    for a year, but that doesn't make it easier. Why don't you come up
    here, Comrade--we are all lonesome up here, and it doesn't make the
    difference. Well, John Barclay, the reformed pirate, President of
    the Exchange National Bank, and general all-round municipal
    reformer, was over in Leavenworth last week attending the Bankers'
    Convention, or something, and he came to see me, as though he hadn't
    bid me good-by at the train two days before. But he said things were
    going on at the Ridge about the same, and being away from home, he
    grew confidential, and he told me Lige Bemis had lost all his money
    bucking the board of trade--did you know that? If not, it isn't so,
    and I never told you. John showed me the picture of little John B.
    Ward--as likely a looking yearling as I ever saw. Well, I must
    close. Remember me to all inquiring friends and tell them Comrade
    Dolan is lying down by the still waters."

And now the screen is darkened for a moment to mark the passage of
months before we are given another peep into the parliament. It is
May--a May morning that every one of these old men will remember to
his death. The spring rise of the Sycamore has flooded the lowlands.
The odour of spring is in the air. In the parliament are lilacs in a
sprinkling pot--a great armful of lilacs, sent by Molly Culpepper.
The members who are present are talking of the way John Barclay has
sloughed off his years, and Watts is saying:--

"Boys will be boys; I knew him forty years ago when he was at least a
hundred years older, and twice as wise."

"He hasn't missed a ball game--either foot-ball or baseball--for for
nearly two years now," ventures Fernald. "And yell! Say, it's
something terrible."

McHurdie turns on the group with his glasses on his forehead. "Don't
you know what's a-happening to John?" he asks. "Well, I know. Whoever
wrote the Bible was a pretty smart man. I've found that out in
seventy-five years--especially the Proverbs, and I've been thinking
some of the Testament." He smiles. "There's something in it. It says,
'Except ye come as a little child, ye shall in no wise enter the
Kingdom.' That's it--that's it. I don't claim to know rightly what
the kingdom may be, but John's entering it. And I'll say this: John's
been a long time getting in, but now that he's there, he's having the
de'el of a fine time."

And on the very words General Ward comes bursting into the room,
forgetful of his years, with tragedy in his face. The bustle and
clatter of that morning in the town have passed over the men in the
parliament. They have not heard the shouts of voices in the street,
nor the sound of footsteps running towards the river. But even their
dim eyes see the horror in the general's face as he gasps for breath.

"Boys, boys," he exclaims. "My God, boys, haven't you heard--haven't
you heard?" And as their old lips are slow to answer, he cries out,
"John's dead--John Barclay's drowned--drowned--gave his life trying
to save Trixie Lee out there on a tree caught in the dam."

The news is so sudden, so stunning, that the old men sit there for a
moment, staring wide-eyed at the general. McHurdie is the first to
find his voice.

"How did it happen?" he says.

"I don't know--no one seems to know exactly," replies the general.
And then in broken phrases he gives them the confused report that he
has gathered: how some one had found Trixie Lee clinging to a tree
caught in the current of the swollen river just above the dam, and
calling for help, frantic with fear; how a crowd gathered, as crowds
gather, and the outcry brought John Barclay running from his house
near by; how he arrived to find men discussing ways of reaching the
woman in the swift current, while her grip was loosening and her cries
were becoming fainter. Then the old spirit in John Barclay, that had
saved the county-seat for Sycamore Ridge, came out for the last time.
His skiff was tied to a tree on the bank close at hand. A boy was sent
running to the nearest house for a clothes-line. When he returned,
John was in the skiff, with the oars in hand. He passed an end of the
line to the men, and without a word in answer to their protests, began
to pull out against the current. It was too strong for him, and was
sweeping him past the woman, when he stood up, measured the distance
with his eye, and threw the line so it fell squarely across her
shoulders. Some one said that as the skiff shot over the dam, John,
still standing up, had a smile on his face, and that he waved his hand
to the crowd with a touch of his old bravado.

The general paused before going on with the story.

"They sent me to tell his mother--the woman who had borne him,
suckled him, reared him, lost him, and found him again."

"And what did she say?" asked Watts, as the general hesitated.

The general moistened his lips and went on. "She stood staring at me
for one dreadful minute, and then she asked, 'How did he die,
Philemon?' 'He died saving a woman from drowning,' I told her. 'Did he
save her?'--that was what she asked, still standing stiff and
motionless. 'Yes,' I said. 'She was only Trixie Lee--a bad woman--a
bad woman, Mrs. Barclay.' And Mary Barclay lifted her long, gaunt arms
halfway above her head and cried: 'Mine eyes have seen the glory of
the coming of the Lord. I must have an hour with God now, Philemon,'
she said over her shoulder as she left me; 'don't let them bother me.'
Then she walked unbent and unshaken up the stairs."

So John Barclay, who tried for four years and more to live by his
faith, was given the opportunity to die for it, and went to his duty
with a glad heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

We will give our cinematograph one more whirl. A day, a week, a month,
have gone, and we may glimpse the parliament for the last time. Watts
McHurdie is reading aloud, slowly and rather painfully, a news item
from the _Banner_. Two vacant chairs are formally backed to the wall,
and in a third sits General Ward. At the end of a column-long article
Watts drones out:--

"And there was considerable adverse comment in the city over the fact
that the deceased was sent here for burial from the National Soldiers'
Home at Leavenworth, in a shabby, faded blue army uniform of most
ancient vintage. Surely this great government can afford better
shrouds than that for its soldier dead."

Watts lays down the paper and wipes his spectacles, and finally he
says:--

"And Neal wrote that?"

"And Neal wrote that," replies the general.

"And was born and bred in the Ridge," complains McHurdie.

"Born and bred in the Ridge," responds the general.

Watts puts on his glasses and fumbles for some piece of his work on
the bench. Then he shakes his head sadly and says, after drawing a
deep breath, "Well, it's a new generation, General, a new generation."

There follows a silence, during which Watts works on mending some bit
of harness, and the general reads the evening paper. The late
afternoon sun is slanting into the shop. At length the general speaks.

"Yes," he says, "but it's a fine town after all. It was worth doing. I
wake up early these days, and often of a fine spring morning I go out
to call on the people on the Hill."

McHurdie nods his comprehension.

"Yes," continues the general, "and I tell them all about the new
improvements. There are more of us out on the Hill now than in town,
Watts; I spent some time with David Frye and Henry Schnitzler and Jim
Lord Lee this morning, and called on General Hendricks for a little
while."

"Did you find him sociable?" asks the poet, grinning up from his
bench.

"Oh, so-so--about as usual," answers the general.

"He was always a proud one," comments Watts. "Will Henry Schnitzler be
stiff-necked about his monument there by the gate?" asks the little
Scotchman.

"Inordinately, Watts, inordinately! The pride of that man is something
terrible."

The two old men chuckle at the foolery of the moment. The general
folds away the evening paper and rises to go.

"Watts," he says, "I have lived seventy-eight years to find out just
one thing."

"And what will that be?" asks the harness maker.

"This," beams the old man, as he puts his spectacle case in his black
silk coat; "that the more we give in this world, the more we take from
it; and the more we keep for ourselves, the less we take." And smiling
at his paradox, he goes through the shop into the sunset.

The air is vocal with the home-bound traffic of the day. Cars are
crowded; delivery wagons rattle home; buggies clatter by on the
pavements; one hears the whisper of a thousand feet treading the hot,
crowded street. But Watts works on. So let us go in to bid him a
formal good-by. The tinkling door-bell will bring out a bent little
old man, with grimy fingers, who will put up his glasses to peer at
our faces, and who will pause a moment to try to recollect us. He will
talk about John Barclay.

"Yes, yes, I knew him well," says McHurdie; "there by the door hangs a
whip he made as a boy. We used to play on that accordion in the case
there. Oh, yes, yes, he was well thought of; we are a neighbourly
people--maybe too much so. Yes, yes, he died a brave death, and the
papers seemed to think his act of sacrifice showed the world a real
man--and he was that,--he was surely that, was John; yes, he was a
real man. You ask about his funeral? It was a fine one--a grand
funeral--every hack in town out--every high-stepping horse out; and
the flowers--from all over the world they came--the flowers were
most beautiful. But there are funerals and funerals. There was Martin
Culpepper's--not so many hacks, not so many high-stepping horses, but
the old buggies, and the farm wagons, and the little nigger
carts--and man, man alive, the tears, the tears!"



     *     *     *     *     *     *



Mr. ROBERT HERRICK'S NOVELS

_Cloth, extra, gilt tops, each $1.50_


The Gospel of Freedom

"A novel that may truly be called the greatest study of social life,
in a broad and very much up-to-date sense, that has ever been
contributed to American fiction."--_Chicago Inter-Ocean_.

The Web of Life

"It is strong in that it faithfully depicts many phases of American
life, and uses them to strengthen a web of fiction, which is most
artistically wrought out."--_Buffalo Express_.

Jock o' Dreams, or The Real World

"The title of the book has a subtle intention. It indicates, and is
true to the verities in doing so, the strange dreamlike quality of
life to the man who has not yet fought his own battles, or come into
conscious possession of his will--only such battles bite into the
consciousness."--_Chicago Tribune_.

The Common Lot

"It grips the reader tremendously.... It is the drama of a human soul
the reader watches ... the finest study of human motive that has
appeared for many a day."--_The World To-day_.

The Memoirs of an American Citizen. Illustrated with about fifty
drawings by F. B. Masters.

"Mr. Herrick's book is a book among many, and he comes nearer to
reflecting a certain kind of recognizable, contemporaneous American
spirit than anybody has yet done."--_New York Times._

"Intensely absorbing as a story, it is also a crisp, vigorous document
of startling significance. More than any other writer to-day he is
giving us _the_ American novel."--_New York Globe_.

Together

"The thing is straight from life.... The spirit of the book is in the
end bracing and quickening."--_Chicago Evening Post._

"An able book, remarkably so, and one which should find a place in the
library of any woman who is not a fool."--_New York American_.

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Publishers    64-66 Fifth Avenue    New York

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Mr. WINSTON CHURCHILL'S NOVELS

_Each, cloth, gilt tops and titles, $1.50_


Mr. Crewe's Career                                         Illustrated

"Another chapter in his broad, epical delineation of the American
spirit ... It is an honest and fair story ...It is very interesting:
and the heroine is a type of woman as fresh, original and captivating
as any that has appeared in American novels for a long time
past."--_The Outlook, New York._

"Shows Mr. Churchill at his best. The flavor of his humor is of that
stimulating kind which asserts itself just the moment, as it were,
after it has passed the palate ... As for Victoria, she has that
quality of vivid freshness, tenderness, and independence which makes
so many modern American heroines delightful."--_The Times_, London.

The Celebrity. An Episode

"No such piece of inimitable comedy in a literary way has appeared for
years... It is the purest, keenest fun."--_Chicago_ _Inter-Ocean_.

Richard Carvel                                             Illustrated
"...In breadth of canvas, massing of dramatic effect, depth of
feeling, and rare wholesomeness of spirit, it has seldom, if ever,
been surpassed by an American romance."--_Chicago Tribune_.

The Crossing                                               Illustrated
"'The Crossing' is a thoroughly interesting book, packed with exciting
adventure and sentimental incident, yet faithful to historical fact
both in detail and in spirit."--_The Dial_.

The Crisis                                                 Illustrated
"It is a charming love story, and never loses its interest ... The
intense political bitterness, the intense patriotism of both parties,
are shown understandingly."--_Evening Telegraph_, Philadelphia.

Coniston                          Illustrated
"'Coniston' has a lighter, gayer spirit and a deeper, tenderer touch
than Mr. Churchill has ever achieved before... It is one of the truest
and finest transcripts of modern American life thus far achieved in
our fiction."--_Chicago Record-Herald_.

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Publishers    64-66 Fifth Avenue    New York

     *     *     *     *     *     *

By EDEN PHILLPOTTS

    The Three Brothers                                  _Cloth, $1.50_

"'The Three Brothers' seems to us the best yet of the long series of
these remarkable Dartmoor tales. If Shakespeare had written novels we
can think that some of his pages would have been like some of these.
Here certainly is language, turn of humor, philosophical play, vigor
of incident such as might have come straight from Elizabeth's day....
The story has its tragedy, but this is less dire, more reasonable than
the tragedy is in too many of Mr. Phillpotts's other tales. The book
is full of a very moving interest, and it is agreeable and
beautiful."--_The New York Sun_.

By Miss ELLEN GLASGOW

    The Romance of a Plain Man                                 _$1.50_

"From the first she has had the power to tell a strong story, full of
human interest, but as her work has continued it has shown an
increasing mellowness and sympathy. The atmosphere of this book is
fascinating indeed."--_Chicago Tribune_.

By FRANK DANBY

    The Heart of a Child                                _Cloth, $1.50_

BEING PASSAGES FROM THE EARLY LIFE
OF SALLY SNAPE, LADY KIDDERMINSTER

"'Frank Danby' has found herself. It is full of the old wit, the old
humor, the old epigram, and the old knowledge of what I may call the
Bohemia of London; but it is also full of a new quality, the quality
of imaginative tenderness and creative sympathy. It is delightful to
watch the growth of human character either in life or in literature,
and in 'The Heart of a Child' one can see the brilliancy of Frank
Danby suddenly burgeoning into the wistfulness that makes cleverness
soft and exquisite and delicate.... It is a mixture of naturalism and
romance, and one detects in it the miraculous power ... of seeing
things steadily and seeing them wholly, with relentless humor and
pitiless pathos. The book is crowded with types, and they are all
etched in with masterly fidelity of vision and sureness of touch, with
feminine subtlety as well as virile audacity."--James Douglas in _The
Star_, London.

    Sebastian.    A Son of Dreams.                       _Cloth, $1.50_

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Publishers    64-66 Fifth Avenue    New York

     *     *     *     *     *     *

NOVELS, ETC., BY "BARBARA"

(MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT)

_Each, in decorated cloth binding, $1.50_


The Garden of a Commuter's Wife                            Illustrated

"Reading it is like having the entry into a home of the class that is
the proudest product of our land, a home where love of books and love
of nature go hand in hand with hearty, simple love of 'folks.' ... It
is a charming book."--_The Interior_.

People of the Whirlpool                                    Illustrated
"The whole book is delicious, with its wise and kindly humor, its just
perspective of the true values of things, its clever pen pictures of
people and customs, and its healthy optimism for the great world in
general."--_Philadelphia Evening Telegraph_.

The Woman Errant

"The book is worth reading. It will cause discussion. It is an
interesting fictional presentation of an important modern question,
treated with fascinating feminine adroitness."--Miss Jeannette Gilder
in the _Chicago Tribune_.

At the Sign of the Fox

"Her little pictures of country life are fragrant with a genuine love
of nature, and there is fun as genuine in her notes on rural
character."--_New York Tribune_.

The Garden, You and I

"This volume is simply the best she has yet put forth, and quite too
deliciously torturing to the reviewer, whose only garden is in
Spain.... The delightful humor which pervaded the earlier books, and
without which Barbara would not be Barbara, has lost nothing of its
poignancy."--_Congregationalist_.

The Open Window. Tales of the Months.

"A little vacation from the sophistication of the
commonplace."--_Argonaut_.

Poppea of the Post Office

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Publishers    64-66 Fifth Avenue    New York



     *     *     *     *     *     *



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

1. Punctuation has been changed to conform to contemporary standards.

2. Table of Contents not present in the original has been added.

3. Alternate spellings of "ecstacy" (inside quoted material, on page
   318 and 361) and "ecstasy" (outside quoted material, on page 109)
   retained.



***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A CERTAIN RICH MAN***


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