Infomotions, Inc.The Gentleman from Indiana / Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946



Author: Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946
Title: The Gentleman from Indiana
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): harkless; fisbee; plattville; carlow; meredith; john harkless; miss sherwood; helen; carlow county; young fisbee; herald; miss hinsdale; tom
Contributor(s): Trebitsch, Siegfried, 1869-1956 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 102,804 words (short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 67 (easy)
Identifier: etext9659
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Title: The Gentleman From Indiana

Author: Booth Tarkington

Release Date: January, 2006 [EBook #9659]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on October 14, 2003]
[Date last updated: June 3, 2004]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GENTLEMAN FROM INDIANA ***





THE GENTLEMAN FROM INDIANA


BY BOOTH TARKINGTON


CONTENTS

CHAPTER

    I. THE YOUNG MAN WHO CAME TO STAY
   II. THE STRANGE LADY
  III. LONESOMENESS
   IV. THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER
    V. AT THE PASTURE BARS: ELDER-BUSHES MAY HAVE STINGS
   VI. JUNE
  VII. MORNING: "SOME IN RAGS AND SOME IN TAGS AND SOME IN VELVET GOWNS"
 VIII. GLAD AFTERNOON: THE GIRL BY THE BLUE TENT POLE
   IX. NIGHT: IT IS BAD LUCK TO SING BEFORE BREAKFAST
    X. THE COURT-HOUSE BELL
   XI. JOHN BROWN'S BODY
  XII. JERRY THE TELLER
 XIII. JAMES FISBEE
  XIV. A RESCUE
   XV. NETTLES
  XVI. PRETTY MARQUISE
 XVII. HELEN'S TOAST
XVIII. THE TREACHERY OF H. FISBEE
  XIX. THE GREAT HARKLESS COMES HOME



CHAPTER I


THE YOUNG MAN WHO CAME TO STAY

There is a fertile stretch of flat lands in Indiana where unagrarian
Eastern travellers, glancing from car-windows, shudder and return their
eyes to interior upholstery, preferring even the swaying caparisons of a
Pullman to the monotony without. The landscape lies interminably level:
bleak in winter, a desolate plain of mud and snow; hot and dusty in
summer, in its flat lonesomeness, miles on miles with not one cool hill
slope away from the sun. The persistent tourist who seeks for signs of man
in this sad expanse perceives a reckless amount of rail fence; at
intervals a large barn; and, here and there, man himself, incurious,
patient, slow, looking up from the fields apathetically as the Limited
flies by.  Widely separated from each other are small frame railway
stations--sometimes with no other building in sight, which indicates that
somewhere behind the adjacent woods a few shanties and thin cottages are
grouped about a couple of brick stores.

On the station platforms there are always two or three wooden packing-
boxes, apparently marked for travel, but they are sacred from disturbance
and remain on the platform forever; possibly the right train never comes
along. They serve to enthrone a few station loafers, who look out from
under their hat-brims at the faces in the car-windows with the languid
scorn a permanent fixture always has for a transient, and the pity an
American feels for a fellow-being who does not live in his town. Now and
then the train passes a town built scatteringly about a court-house, with
a mill or two humming near the tracks. This is a county-seat, and the
inhabitants and the local papers refer to it confidently as "our city."
The heart of the flat lands is a central area called Carlow County, and
the county-seat of Carlow is a town unhappily named in honor of its first
settler, William Platt, who christened it with his blood. Natives of this
place have sometimes remarked, easily, that their city had a population of
from five to six thousand souls. It is easy to forgive them for such
statements; civic pride is a virtue.

The social and business energy of Plattville concentrates on the Square.
Here, in summer-time, the gentlemen are wont to lounge from store to store
in their shirt sleeves; and here stood the old, red-brick court-house,
loosely fenced in a shady grove of maple and elm--"slipp'ry ellum"--called
the "Court-House Yard." When the sun grew too hot for the dry-goods box
whittlers in front of the stores around the Square and the occupants of
the chairs in front of the Palace Hotel on the corner, they would go
across and drape themselves over the court-house fence, under the trees,
and leisurely carve there initials on the top board. The farmers hitched
their teams to the fence, for there were usually loafers energetic enough
to shout "Whoa!" if the flies worried the horses beyond patience. In the
yard, amongst the weeds and tall, unkept grass, chickens foraged all day
long; the fence was so low that the most matronly hen flew over with
propriety; and there were gaps that accommodated the passage of itinerant
pigs. Most of the latter, however, preferred the cool wallows of the less
important street corners. Here and there a big dog lay asleep in the
middle of the road, knowing well that the easy-going Samaritan, in his
case, would pass by on the other side.

Only one street attained to the dignity of a name--Main Street, which
formed the north side of the Square. In Carlow County, descriptive
location is usually accomplished by designating the adjacent, as, "Up at
Bardlocks'," "Down by Schofields'," "Right where Hibbards live," "Acrost
from Sol. Tibbs's," or, "Other side of Jones's field." In winter, Main
Street was a series of frozen gorges land hummocks; in fall and spring, a
river of mud; in summer, a continuing dust heap; it was the best street in
Plattville.

The people lived happily; and, while the world whirled on outside, they
were content with their own. It would have moved their surprise as much as
their indignation to hear themselves spoken of as a "secluded community";
for they sat up all night to hear the vote of New York, every campaign.
Once when the President visited Rouen, seventy miles away, there were only
few bankrupts (and not a baby amongst them) left in the deserted homes of
Carlow County. Everybody had adventures; almost everybody saw the great
man; and everybody was glad to get back home again. It was the longest
journey some of them ever set upon, and these, elated as they were over
their travels, determined to think twice ere they went that far from home
another time.

On Saturdays, the farmers enlivened the commercial atmosphere of
Plattville; and Miss Tibbs, the postmaster's sister and clerk, used to
make a point of walking up and down Main Street as often as possible, to
get a thrill in the realization of some poetical expressions that haunted
her pleasingly; phrases she had employed frequently in her poems for the
"Carlow County Herald." When thirty or forty country people were scattered
along the sidewalks in front of the stores on Main Street, she would walk
at nicely calculated angles to the different groups so as to leave as few
gaps as possible between the figures, making them appear as near a solid
phalanx as she could. Then she would murmur to herself, with the accent of
soulful revel, "The thronged city streets," and, "Within the thronged
city," or, "Where the thronging crowds were swarming and the great
cathedral rose." Although she had never been beyond Carlow and the
bordering counties in her life, all her poems were of city streets and
bustling multitudes. She was one of those who had been unable to join the
excursion to Rouen when the President was there; but she had listened
avidly to her friends' descriptions of the crowds. Before that time her
muse had been sylvan, speaking of "Flow'rs of May," and hinting at
thoughts that overcame her when she roved the woodlands thro'; but now the
inspiration was become decidedly municipal and urban, evidently reluctant
to depart beyond the retail portions of a metropolis. Her verses
beginning, "O, my native city, bride of Hibbard's winding stream,"--
Hibbard's Creek runs west of Plattville, except in time of drought--"When
thy myriad lights are shining, and thy faces, like a dream, Go flitting
down thy sidewalks when their daily toil is done," were pronounced, at the
time of their publication, the best poem that had ever appeared in the
"Herald."

This unlucky newspaper was a thorn in the side of every patriot of Carlow
County. It was a poor paper; everybody knew it was a poor paper; it was so
poor that everybody admitted it was a poor paper--worse, the neighboring
county of Amo possessed a better paper, the "Amo Gazette." The "Carlow
County Herald" was so everlastingly bad that Plattville people bent their
heads bitterly and admitted even to citizens of Amo that the "Gazette" was
the better paper. The "Herald" was a weekly, issued on Saturday; sometimes
it hung fire over Sunday and appeared Monday evening. In their pride, the
Carlow people supported the "Herald" loyally and long; but finally
subscriptions began to fall off and the "Gazette" gained them. It came to
pass that the "Herald" missed fire altogether for several weeks; then it
came out feebly, two small advertisements occupying the whole of the
fourth page. It was breathing its last. The editor was a clay-colored
gentleman with a goatee, whose one surreptitious eye betokened both
indolence of disposition and a certain furtive shrewdness. He collected
all the outstanding subscriptions he could, on the morning of the issue
just mentioned, and, thoughtfully neglecting several items on the other
side of the ledger, departed from Plattville forever.

The same afternoon a young man from the East alighted on the platform of
the railway station, north of the town, and, entering the rickety omnibus
that lingered there, seeking whom it might rattle to deafness, demanded to
be driven to the Herald Building. It did not strike the driver that the
newcomer was precisely a gay young man when he climbed into the omnibus;
but, an hour later, as he stood in the doorway of the edifice he had
indicated as his destination, depression seemed to have settled into the
marrow of his bones. Plattville was instantly alert to the stranger's
presence, and interesting conjectures were hazarded all day long at the
back door of Martin's Dry-Goods Emporium, where all the clerks from the
stores around the Square came to play checkers or look on at the game.
(This was the club during the day; in the evening the club and the game
removed to the drug, book, and wall-paper store on the corner.) At supper,
the new arrival and his probable purposes were discussed over every table
in the town. Upon inquiry, he had informed Judd Bennett, the driver of the
omnibus, that he had come to stay. Naturally, such a declaration caused a
sensation, as people did not come to Plattville to live, except through
the inadvertency of being born there. In addition, the young man's
appearance and attire were reported to be extraordinary. Many of the
curious, among them most of the marriageable females of the place, took
occasion to pass and repass the sign of the "Carlow County Herald" during
the evening.

Meanwhile, the stranger was seated in the dingy office upstairs with his
head bowed low on his arms. Twilight stole through the dirty window-panes
and faded into darkness. Night filled the room. He did not move. The young
man from the East had bought the "Herald" from an agent; had bought it
without ever having been within a hundred miles of Plattville. He had
vastly overpaid for it. Moreover, the price he had paid for it was all the
money he had in the world.

The next morning he went bitterly to work. He hired a compositor from
Rouen, a young man named Parker, who set type all night long and helped
him pursue advertisements all day. The citizens shook their heads
pessimistically. They had about given up the idea that the "Herald" could
ever amount to anything, and they betrayed an innocent, but caustic, doubt
of ability in any stranger.

One day the new editor left a note on his door; "Will return in fifteen
minutes."

Mr. Rodney McCune, a politician from the neighboring county of Gaines,
happening to be in Plattville on an errand to his henchmen, found the
note, and wrote beneath the message the scathing inquiry, "Why?"

When he discovered this addendum, the editor smiled for the first time
since his advent, and reported the incident in his next issue, using the
rubric, "Why Has the 'Herald' Returned to Life?" as a text for a rousing
editorial on "honesty in politics," a subject of which he already knew
something.  The political district to which Carlow belonged was governed
by a limited number of gentlemen whose wealth was ever on the increase;
and "honesty in politics" was a startling conception to the minds of the
passive and resigned voters, who discussed the editorial on the street
corners and in the stores. The next week there was another editorial,
personal and local in its application, and thereby it became evident that
the new proprietor of the "Herald" was a theorist who believed, in
general, that a politician's honor should not be merely of that middling
healthy species known as "honor amongst politicians"; and, in particular,
that Rodney McCune should not receive the nomination of his party for
Congress. Now, Mr. McCune was the undoubted dictator of the district, and
his followers laughed at the stranger's fantastic onset.

But the editor was not content with the word of print; he hired a horse
and rode about the country, and (to his own surprise) he proved to be an
adaptable young man who enjoyed exercise with a pitchfork to the farmer's
profit while the farmer talked. He talked little himself, but after
listening an hour or so, he would drop a word from the saddle as he left;
and then, by some surprising wizardry, the farmer, thinking over the
interview, decided there was some sense in what that young fellow said,
and grew curious to see what the young fellow had further to say in the
"Herald."

Politics is the one subject that goes to the vitals of every rural
American; and a Hoosier will talk politics after he is dead.

Everybody read the campaign editorials, and found them interesting,
although there was no one who did not perceive the utter absurdity of a
young stranger's dropping into Carlow and involving himself in a party
fight against the boss of the district. It was entirely a party fight;
for, by grace of the last gerrymander, the nomination carried with it the
certainty of election. A week before the convention there came a
provincial earthquake; the news passed from man to man in awe-struck
whispers--McCune had withdrawn his name, making the hollowest of excuses
to his cohorts. Nothing was known of the real reason for his disordered
retreat, beyond the fact that he had been in Plattville on the morning
before his withdrawal and had issued from a visit to the "Herald" office
in a state of palsy. Mr. Parker, the Rouen printer, had been present at
the close of the interview; but he held his peace at the command of his
employer. He had been called into the sanctum, and had found McCune, white
and shaking, leaning on the desk.

"Parker," said the editor, exhibiting a bundle of papers he held in his
hand, "I want you to witness a verbal contract between Mr. McCune and
myself. These papers are an affidavit and copies of some records of a
street-car company which obtained a charter while Mr McCune was in the
State legislature. They were sent to me by a man I do not know, an
anonymous friend of Mr. McCune's; in fact, a friend he seems to have lost.
On consideration of our not printing these papers, Mr. McCune agrees to
retire from politics for good. You understand, if he ever lifts his head
again, politically, We publish them, and the courts will do the rest. Now,
in case anything should happen to me----"

"Something will happen to you, all right," broke out McCune. "You can bank
on that, you black----"

"Come," the editor interrupted, not unpleasantly "why should there be
anything personal, in all this? I don't recognize you as my private enemy
--not at all; and I think you are getting off rather easily; aren't you?
You stay out of politics, and everything will be comfortable. You ought
never to have been in it, you see. It's a mistake not to keep square,
because in the long run somebody is sure to give you away--like the fellow
who sent me these. You promise to hold to a strictly private life?"

"You're a traitor to the party," groaned the other, "but you only
wait----"

The editor smiled sadly. "Wait nothing. Don't threaten, man. Go home to
your wife. I'll give you three to one she'll be glad you are out of it."

"I'll give you three to one," said McCune, "that the White Caps will get
you if you stay in Carlow. You want to look out for yourself, I tell you,
my smart boy!"

"Good-day, Mr. McCune," was the answer. "Let me have your note of
withdrawal before you leave town this afternoon."  The young man paused a
moment, then extended his hand, as he said: "Shake hands, won't you? I--I
haven't meant to be too hard on you. I hope things will seem easier and
gayer to you before long; and if--if anything should turn up that I can do
for you in a private way, I'll be very glad, you know. Good-by."

The sound of the "Herald's" victory went over the State. The paper came
out regularly. The townsfolk bought it and the farmers drove in for it.
Old subscribers came back. Old advertisers renewed. The "Herald" began to
sell in Amo, and Gaines County people subscribed. Carlow folk held up
their heads when journalism was mentioned. Presently the "Herald"
announced a news connection with Rouen, and with that, and the aid of
"patent insides," began an era of three issues a week, appearing on
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The Plattville Brass Band serenaded
the editor.

During the second month of the new regime of the "Herald," the working
force of the paper received an addition. One night the editor found some
barroom loafers tormenting a patriarchal old man who had a magnificent
head and a grand white beard. He had been thrown out of a saloon, and he
was drunk with the drunkenness of three weeks steady pouring. He propped
himself against a wall and reproved his tormentors in Latin. "I'm walking
your way, Mr. Fisbee," remarked the journalist, hooking his arm into the
old man's. "Suppose we leave our friends here and go home?"

Mr. Fisbee was the one inhabitant of the town who had an unknown past; no
one knew more about him than that he had been connected with a university
somewhere, and had travelled in unheard-of countries before he came to
Plattville. A glamour of romance was thrown about him by the gossips, to
whom he ever proved a fund of delightful speculation. There was a dark,
portentous secret in his life, it was agreed; an opinion not too well
confirmed by the old man's appearance. His fine eyes had a pathetic habit
of wandering to the horizon in a questioning fashion that had a queer sort
of hopelessness in it, as if his quest were one for the Holy Grail,
perhaps; and his expression was mild, vague, and sad. He had a look of
race and blood; and yet, at the first glance, one saw that he was lost in
dreams, and one guessed that the dreams would never be of great
practicability in their application. Some such impression of Fisbee was
probably what caused the editor of the "Herald" to nickname him (in his
own mind) "The White Knight," and to conceive a strong, if whimsical,
fancy for him.

Old Fisbee had come (from nobody knew where) to Plattville to teach, and
had been principal of the High School for ten years, instructing his
pupils after a peculiar fashion of his own, neglecting the ordinary
courses of High School instruction to lecture on archaeology to the
dumfounded scholars; growing year by year more forgetful and absent, lost
in his few books and his own reflections, until, though undeniably a
scholar, he had been discharged for incompetency. He was old; he had no
money and no way to make money; he could find nothing to do. The blow had
seemed to daze him for a time; then he began to drop in at the hotel bar,
where Wilkerson, the professional drunkard, favored him with his society.
The old man understood; he knew it was the beginning of the end. He sold
his books in order to continue his credit at the Palace bar, and once or
twice, unable to proceed to his own dwelling, spent the night in a lumber
yard, piloted thither by the hardier veteran, Wilkerson.

The morning after the editor took him home, Fisbee appeared at the
"Herald" office in a new hat and a decent suit of black. He had received
his salary in advance, his books had been repurchased, and he had become
the reportorial staff of the "Carlow County Herald"; also, he was to write
various treatises for the paper. For the first few evenings, when he
started home from the office, his chief walked with him, chatting
heartily, until they had passed the Palace bar. But Fisbee's redemption
was complete.

The old man had a daughter. When she came to Plattville, he told her what
the editor of the "Herald" had done for him.

The journalist kept steadily at his work; and, as time went on, the
bitterness his predecessor's swindle had left him passed away. But his
loneliness and a sense of defeat grew and deepened. When the vistas of the
world had opened to his first youth, he had not thought to spend his life
in such a place as Plattville; but he found himself doing it, and it was
no great happiness to him that the congressional representative of the
district, the gentleman whom the "Herald's" opposition to McCune had sent
to Washington, came to depend on his influence for renomination; nor did
the realization that the editor of the "Carlow County Herald" had come to
be McCune's successor as political dictator produce a perceptibly
enlivening effect on the young man. The years drifted very slowly, and to
him it seemed they went by while he stood far aside and could not even see
them move. He did not consider the life he led an exciting one; but the
other citizens of Carlow did when he undertook a war against the "White
Caps." The natives were much more afraid of the "White Caps" than he was;
they knew more about them and understood them better than he did.




CHAPTER II


THE STRANGE LADY

IT was June. From the patent inner columns of the "Carlow County Herald"
might be gleaned the information (enlivened by cuts of duchesses) that the
London season had reached a high point of gaiety; and that, although the
weather had grown inauspiciously warm, there was sufficient gossip for the
thoughtful. To the rapt mind of Miss Selina Tibbs came a delicious moment
of comparison: precisely the same conditions prevailed in Plattville.

Not unduly might Miss Selina lay this flattering unction to her soul, and
well might the "Herald" declare that "Carlow events were crowding thick
and fast." The congressional representative of the district was to deliver
a lecture at the court-house; a circus was approaching the county-seat,
and its glories would be exhibited "rain or shine"; the court had cleared
up the docket by sitting to unseemly hours of the night, even until ten
o'clock--one farmer witness had fallen asleep while deposing that he "had
knowed this man Hender some eighteen year"--and, as excitements come
indeed when they do come, and it seldom rains but it pours, the identical
afternoon of the lecture a strange lady descended from the Rouen
Accommodation and was greeted on the platform by the wealthiest citizen of
the county. Judge Briscoe, and his daughter, Minnie, and (what stirred
wonder to an itch almost beyond endurance) Mr. Fisbee! and they then drove
through town on the way to the Briscoe mansion, all four, apparently, in a
fluster of pleasure and exhilaration, the strange lady engaged in earnest
conversation with Mr. Fisbee on the back seat.

Judd Bennett had had the best stare at her, but, as he immediately fell
into a dreamy and absent state, little satisfaction could be got from him,
merely an exasperating statement that the stranger seemed to have a kind
of new look to her. However, by means of Miss Mildy Upton, a domestic of
the Briscoe household, the community was given something a little more
definite. The lady's name was Sherwood; she lived in Rouen; and she had
known Miss Briscoe at the eastern school the latter had attended (to the
feverish agitation of Plattville) three years before; but Mildy confessed
her inadequacy in the matter of Mr. Fisbee. He had driven up in the
buckboard with the others and evidently expected to stay for supper Mr.
Tibbs, the postmaster (it was to the postoffice that Miss Upton brought
her information) suggested, as a possible explanation, that the lady was
so learned that the Briscoes had invited Fisbee on the ground of his being
the only person in Plattville they esteemed wise enough to converse with
her; but Miss Tibbs wrecked her brother's theory by mentioning the name of
Fisbee's chief.

"You see, Solomon," she sagaciously observed, "if that were true, they
would have invited him, instead of Mr. Fisbee, and I wish they had. He
isn't troubled with malaria, and yet the longer he lives here the
sallower-looking and sadder-looking he gets. I think the company of a
lovely stranger might be of great cheer to his heart, and it will be
interesting to witness the meeting between them. It may be," added the
poetess, "that they _have_ already met, on his travels before he settled
here. It may be that they are old friends--or even more."

"Then what," returned her brother, "what is he doin' settin' up in his
office all afternoon with ink on his forehead, while Fisbee goes out
ridin' with her and stays for supper after_werds_?"

Although the problem of Fisbee's attendance remained a mere maze of
hopeless speculation, Mildy had been present at the opening of Miss
Sherwood's trunk, and here was matter for the keen consideration of the
ladies, at least. Thoughtful conversations in regard to hats and linings
took place across fences and on corners of the Square that afternoon; and
many gentlemen wondered (in wise silence) why their spouses were absent-
minded and brooded during the evening meal.

At half-past seven, the Hon. Kedge Halloway of Amo delivered himself of
his lecture; "The Past and Present. What we may Glean from Them, and Their
Influence on the Future." At seven the court-room was crowded, and Miss
Tibbs, seated on the platform (reserved for prominent citizens), viewed
the expectant throng with rapture. It is possible that she would have
confessed to witnessing a sea of faces, but it is more probable that she
viewed the expectant throng. The thermometer stood at eighty-seven degrees
and there was a rustle of incessantly moving palm-leaf fans as, row by
row, their yellow sides twinkled in the light of eight oil lamps. The
stouter ladies wielded their fans with vigor. There were some very pretty
faces in Mr. Halloway's audience, but it is a peculiarity of Plattville
that most of those females who do not incline to stoutness incline far in
the opposite direction, and the lean ladies naturally suffered less from
the temperature than their sisters. The shorn lamb is cared for, but often
there seems the intention to impart a moral in the refusal of Providence
to temper warm weather to the full-bodied.

Old Tom Martin expressed a strong consciousness of such intention when he
observed to the shocked Miss Selina, as Mr. Bill Snoddy, the stoutest
citizen of the county, waddled abnormally up the aisle: "The Almighty must
be gittin" a heap of fun out of Bill Snoddy to-night."

"Oh, Mr. Martin!" exclaimed Miss Tibbs, fluttering at his irreverence.

"Why, you would yourself. Miss Seliny," returned old Tom. Mr. Martin
always spoke in one key, never altering the pitch of his high, dry,
unctuous drawl, though, when his purpose was more than ordinarily
humorous, his voice assumed a shade of melancholy. Now and then he
meditatively passed his fingers through his gray beard, which followed the
line of his jaw, leaving his upper lip and most of his chin smooth-shaven.
"Did you ever reason out why folks laugh so much at fat people?" he
continued. "No, ma'am. Neither'd anybody else."

"Why is it, Mr. Martin?" asked Miss Selina.

"It's like the Creator's sayin', 'Let there be light.' He says, 'Let
ladies be lovely--'" (Miss Tibbs bowed)--"and 'Let men-folks be honest--
sometimes;' and, 'Let fat people be held up to ridicule till they fall
off.' You can't tell why it is; it was jest ordained that-a-way."

The room was so crowded that the juvenile portion of the assemblage was
ensconced in the windows. Strange to say, the youth of Plattville were not
present under protest, as their fellows of a metropolis would have been,
lectures being well understood by the young of great cities to have
instructive tendencies. The boys came to-night because they insisted upon
coming. It was an event. Some of them had made sacrifices to come,
enduring even the agony (next to hair-cutting in suffering) of having
their ears washed. Conscious of parental eyes, they fronted the public
with boyhood's professional expressionlessness, though they communicated
with each other aside in a cipher-language of their own, and each group
was a hot-bed of furtive gossip and sarcastic comment. Seated in the
windows, they kept out what small breath of air might otherwise have
stolen in to comfort the audience.

Their elders sat patiently dripping with perspiration, most of the
gentlemen undergoing the unusual garniture of stiffly-starched collars,
those who had not cultivated chin beards to obviate such arduous
necessities of pomp and state, hardly bearing up under the added anxiety
of cravats. However, they sat outwardly meek under the yoke; nearly all of
them seeking a quiet solace of tobacco--not that they smoked; Heaven and
the gallantry of Carlow County forbid--nor were there anywhere visible
tokens of the comforting ministrations of nicotine to violate the eye of
etiquette. It is an art of Plattville.

Suddenly there was a hum and a stir and a buzz of whispering in the room.
Two gray old men and two pretty young women passed up the aisle to the
platform. One old man was stalwart and ruddy, with a cordial eye and a
handsome, smooth-shaven, big face. The other was bent and trembled
slightly; his face was very white; he had a fine high brow, deeply lined,
the brow of a scholar, and a grandly flowing white beard that covered his
chest, the beard of a patriarch. One of the young women was tall and had
the rosy cheeks and pleasant eyes of her father, who preceded her. The
other was the strange lady.

A universal perturbation followed her progress up the aisle, if she had
known it. She was small and fair, very daintily and beautifully made; a
pretty Marquise whose head Greuze. should have painted Mrs. Columbus
Landis, wife of the proprietor of the Palace Hotel, conferring with a lady
in the next seat, applied an over-burdened adjective: "It ain't so much
she's han'some, though she is, that--but don't you notice she's got a kind
of smart look to her? Her bein' so teeny, kind of makes it more so,
somehow, too." What stunned the gossips of the windows to awed admiration,
however, was the unconcerned and stoical fashion in which she wore a long
bodkin straight through her head. It seemed a large sacrifice merely to
make sure one's hat remained in place.

The party took seats a little to the left and rear of the lecturer's
table, and faced the audience. The strange lady chatted gaily with the
other three, apparently as unconscious of the multitude of eyes fixed upon
her as the gazers were innocent of rude intent. There were pretty young
women in Plattville; Minnie Briscoe was the prettiest, and, as the local
glass of fashion reflected, "the stylishest"; but this girl was different,
somehow, in a way the critics were puzzled to discover--different, from
the sparkle of her eyes and the crown of her trim sailor hat, to the edge
of her snowy duck skirt.

Judd Bennett sighed a sigh that was heard in every corner of the room. As
everybody immediately turned to look at him, he got up and went out.

It had long been a jocose fiction of Mr. Martin, who was a widower of
thirty years' standing, that he and the gifted authoress by his side were
in a state of courtship. Now he bent his rugged head toward her to
whisper: "I never thought to see the day you'd have a rival in my
affections. Miss Seliny, but yonder looks like it. I reckon I'll have to
go up to Ben Tinkle's and buy that fancy vest he's had in stock this last
twelve year or more. Will you take me back when she's left the city again;
Miss Seliny?" he drawled. "I expect, maybe, Miss Sherwood is one of these
here summer girls. I've heard of 'em but I never see one before. You
better take warning and watch me--Fisbee won't have no clear field from
now on."

The stranger leaned across to speak to Miss Briscoe and her sleeve touched
the left shoulder of the old man with the patriarchal white beard. A
moment later he put his right hand to that shoulder and gently moved it up
and down with a caressing motion over the shabby black broadcloth her
garment had touched.

"Look at that old Fisbee!" exclaimed Mr. Martin, affecting indignation.
"Never be 'n half as spruced up and wide awake in all his life. He's
prob'ly got her to listen to him on the decorations of Nineveh--it's my
belief he was there when it was destroyed. Well, if I can't cut him out
we'll get our respected young friend of the 'Herald' to do it."

"Sh!" returned Miss Tibbs. "Here he is."

The seats upon the platform were all occupied, except the two foremost
ones in the centre (one on each side of a little table with a lamp, a
pitcher of ice-water, and a glass) reserved for the lecturer and the
gentleman who was to introduce him. Steps were audible in the hall, and
every one turned to watch the door, where the distinguished pair now made
their appearance in a hush of expectation over which the beating of the
fans alone prevailed. The Hon. Kedge Halloway was one of the gleaners of
the flesh-pots, himself, and he marched into the room unostentatiously
mopping his shining expanse of brow with a figured handkerchief. He was a
person of solemn appearance; a fat gold watch-chain which curved across
his ponderous front, adding mysteriously to his gravity. At his side
strolled a very tall, thin, rather stooping--though broad-shouldered--
rather shabby young man with a sallow, melancholy face and deep-set eyes
that looked tired. When they were seated, the orator looked over his
audience slowly and with an incomparable calm; then, as is always done, he
and the melancholy young man exchanged whispers for a few moments. After
this there was a pause, at the end of which the latter rose and announced
that it was his pleasure and his privilege to introduce, that evening, a
gentleman who needed no introduction to that assemblage. What citizen of
Carlow needed an introduction, asked the speaker, to the orator they had
applauded in the campaigns of the last twenty years, the statesman author
of the Halloway Bill, the most honored citizen of the neighboring and
flourishing county and city of Amo? And, the speaker would say, that if
there were one thing the citizens of Carlow could be held to envy the
citizens of Amo, it was the Honorable Kedge Halloway, the thinker, to
whose widely-known paper they were about to have the pleasure and
improvement of listening.

The introduction was so vehemently applauded that, had there been present
a person connected with the theatrical profession, he might have been
nervous for fear the introducer had prepared no encore. "Kedge is too
smart to take it all to himself," commented Mr. Martin. "He knows it's
half account of the man that said it."

He was not mistaken. Mr. Halloway had learned a certain perceptiveness on
the stump. Resting one hand upon his unfolded notes upon the table, he
turned toward the melancholy young man (who had subsided into the small of
his back in his chair) and, after clearing his throat, observed with
sudden vehemence that he must thank his gifted friend for his flattering
remarks, but that when he said that Carlow envied Amo a Halloway, it must
be replied that Amo grudged no glory to her sister county of Carlow, but,
if Amo could find envy in her heart it would be because Carlow possessed a
paper so sterling, so upright, so brilliant, so enterprising as the
"Carlow County Herald," and a journalist so talented, so gifted, so
energetic, so fearless, as its editor.

The gentleman referred to showed very faint appreciation of these ringing
compliments. There was a lamp on the table beside him, against which, to
the view of Miss Sherwood of Rouen, his face was silhouetted, and very
rarely had it been her lot to see a man look less enthusiastic under
public and favorable comment of himself. She wondered if he, also,
remembered the Muggleton cricket match and the subsequent dinner oratory.

The lecture proceeded. The orator winged away to soary heights with
gestures so vigorous as to cause admiration for his pluck in making use of
them on such a night; the perspiration streamed down his face, his neck
grew purple, and he dared the very face of apoplexy, binding his auditors
with a double spell. It is true that long before the peroration the
windows were empty and the boys were eating stolen, unripe fruit in the
orchards of the listeners. The thieves were sure of an alibi.

The Hon. Mr. Halloway reached a logical conclusion which convinced even
the combative and unwilling that the present depends largely upon the
past, while the future will be determined, for the most part, by the
conditions of the present. "The future," he cried, leaning forward with an
expression of solemn warning, "The future is in our own hands, ladies and
gentlemen of the city of Plattville. Is it not so? We will find it so.
Turn it over in your minds." He leaned backward and folded his hands
benevolently on his stomach and said in a searching whisper; "Ponder it."
He waited for them to ponder it, and little Mr. Swanter, the druggist and
bookseller, who prided himself on his politeness and who  was seated
directly in front, scratched his head and knit his brows to show that he
was pondering it. The stillness was intense; the fans ceased to beat; Mr.
Snoddy could be heard breathing dangerously. Mr. Swanter was considering
the advisability of drawing a pencil from his pocket and figuring on it
upon his cuff, when suddenly, with the energy of a whirlwind, the lecturer
threw out his arms to their fullest extent and roared: "It is a _fact_! It
is carven on stone in the gloomy caverns of TIME. It is writ in FIRE on
the imperishable walls of Fate!"

After the outburst, his voice sank with startling rapidity to a tone of
honeyed confidence, and he wagged an inviting forefinger at Mr. Snoddy,
who opened his mouth. "Shall we take an example? Not from the marvellous,
my friends; let us seek an illustration from the ordinary. Is that not
better? One familiar to the humblest of us. One we can all comprehend. One
from our every-day life. One which will interest even the young. Yes. The
common house-fly. On a window-sill we place a bit of fly-paper, and
contiguous to it, a flower upon which the happy insect likes to feed and
rest. The little fly approaches. See, he hovers between the two. One is a
fatal trap, an ambuscade, and the other a safe harbor and an innocuous
haven. But mystery allures him. He poises, undecided. That is the present.
That, my friends, is the Present! What will he do? WHAT will he do? What
will he DO? Memories of the past are whispering to him: 'Choose the
flower. Light on the posy.' Here we clearly see the influence of the past
upon the present. But, to employ a figure of speech, the fly-paper beckons
to the insect toothsomely, and, thinks he; 'Shall I give it a try? Shall
I? Shall I give it a try?' The future is in his own hands to make or
unmake. The past, the voice of Providence, has counselled him: 'Leave it
alone, leave it alone, little fly. Go away from there.' Does he heed the
warning? Does he heed it, ladies and gentlemen? Does he? Ah, no! He
springs into the air, decides between the two attractions, one of them, so
deadly to his interests and--_drops upon the fly-paper to perish
miserably_! The future is in his hands no longer. We must lie upon the bed
that we have made, nor can Providence change its unalterable decrees."

After the tragedy, the orator took a swallow of water, mopped his brow
with the figured handkerchief and announced that a new point herewith
presented itself for consideration.  The audience sank back with a gasp of
release from the strain of attention. Minnie Briscoe, leaning back,
breathless like the others, became conscious that a tremor agitated her
visitor. Miss Sherwood had bent her head behind the shelter of the judge's
broad shoulders; was shaking slightly and had covered her face with her
hands.

"What is it, Helen?" whispered Miss Briscoe, anxiously. "What is it? Is
something the matter?"

"Nothing. Nothing, dear." She dropped her hands from her face. Her cheeks
were deep crimson, and she bit her lip with determination.

"Oh, but there is! Why, you've tears in your eyes. Are you faint? What is
it?"

"It is only--only----" Miss Sherwood choked, then cast a swift glance at
the profile of the melancholy young man. The perfectly dismal decorum of
this gentleman seemed to inspire her to maintain her own gravity. "It is
only that it seemed such a pity about that fly," she explained. From where
they sat the journalistic silhouette was plainly visible, and both Fisbee
and Miss Sherwood looked toward it often, the former with the wistful,
apologetic fidelity one sees in the eyes of an old setter watching his
master.

When the lecture was over many of the audience pressed forward to shake
the Hon. Mr. Halloway's hand. Tom Martin hooked his arm in that of the
sallow gentleman and passed out with him.

"Mighty humanizin' view Kedge took of that there insect," remarked Mr.
Martin. "I don't recollect I ever heard of no mournfuller error than
that'n. I noticed you spoke of Halloway as a 'thinker,' without mentioning
what kind. I didn't know, before, that you were as cautious a man as
that."

"Does your satire find nothing sacred, Martin?" returned the other, "not
even the Honorable Kedge Halloway?"

"I wouldn't presume," replied old Tom, "to make light of the catastrophe
that overtook the heedless fly. When Halloway went on to other subjects I
was so busy picturin' the last moments of that closin' life, stuck there
in the fly-paper, I couldn't listen to him. But there's no use dwellin' on
a sorrow we can't help. Look at the moon; it's full enough to cheer us
up." They had emerged from the court-house and paused on the street as the
stream of townsfolk divided and passed by them to take different routes
leading from the Square. Not far away, some people were getting into a
buckboard. Fisbee and Miss Sherwood were already on the rear seat.

"Who's with him, to-night, Mr. Fisbee?" asked Judge Briscoe in a low
voice.

"No one. He is going directly to the office. To-morrow is Thursday, one of
our days of publication."

"Oh, then it's all right. Climb in, Minnie, we're waiting for you." The
judge offered his hand to his daughter.

"In a moment, father," she answered. "I'm going to ask him to call," she
said to the other girl.

"But won't he--"

Miss Briscoe laughed. "He never comes to see me!" She walked over to where
Martin and the young man were looking up at the moon, and addressed the
journalist.

"I've been trying to get a chance to speak to you for a week," she said,
offering him her hand; "I wanted to tell you I had a friend coming to
visit me Won't you come to see us? She's here."

The young man bowed. "Thank you," he answered. "Thank you, very much. I
shall be very glad." His tone had the meaningless quality of perfunctory
courtesy; Miss Briscoe detected only the courtesy; but the strange lady
marked the lack of intention in his words.

"Don't you include me, Minnie?" inquired Mr Martin, plaintively. "I'll try
not to be too fascinatin', so as to give our young friend a show. It was
love at first sight with me. I give Miss Seliny warning soon as your folks
come in and I got a good look at the lady."

As the buckboard drove away, Miss Sherwood, who had been gazing
steadfastly at the two figures still standing in the street, the tall
ungainly old one, and the taller, loosely-held young one (he had not
turned to look at her) withdrew her eyes from them, bent them seriously
upon Fisbee, and asked: "What did you mean when you said no one was with
him to-night?"

"That no one was watching him," he answered.

"Watching him? I don't understand."

"Yes; he has been shot at from the woods at night and----"

The girl shivered. "But who watches him?"

"The young men of the town. He has a habit of taking long walks after
dark, and he is heedless of all remonstrance. He laughs at the idea of
curtailing the limit of his strolls or keeping within the town when night
has fallen; so the young men have organized a guard for him, and every
evening one of them follows him until he goes to the office to work for
the night. It is a different young man every evening, and the watcher
follows at a distance so that he does not suspect."

"But how many people know of this arrangement?"

"Nearly every one in the county except the Cross-Roads people, though it
is not improbable that they have discovered it."

"And has no one told him"

"No; it would annoy him; he would not allow it to continue. He will not
even arm himself."

"They follow and watch him night after night, and every one knows and no
one tells him? Oh, I must say," cried the girl, "I think these are good
people."

The stalwart old man on the front seat shook out the reins and whined the
whip over his roans' backs. "They are the people of your State and mine.
Miss Sherwood," he said in his hearty voice, "the best people in God's
world--and I'm not running for Congress, either!"

"But how about the Six-Cross-Roads people, father?" asked Minnie.

"We'll wipe them clean out some day," answered her father--"possibly
judicially, possibly----"

"Surely judiciously?" suggested Miss Sherwood.

"If you care to see what a bad settlement looks like, we'll drive through
there to-morrow--by daylight," said Briscoe.  "Even the doctor doesn't
insist on being in that neighborhood after dark. They are trying their
best to get Harkless, and if they do----"

"If they do!" repeated Miss Sherwood. She clasped Fisbee's hand gently.
His eyes shone and he touched her fingers with a strange, shy reverence.

"You will meet him to-morrow," he said.

She laughed and pressed his hand. "I'm afraid not. He wasn't even
interested enough to look at me."




CHAPTER III


LONESOMENESS

When the rusty hands of the office clock marked half-past four, the
editor-in-chief of the "Carlow County Herald" took his hand out of his
hair, wiped his pen on his last notice from the White-Caps, put on his
coat, swept out the close little entry, and left the sanctum for the
bright June afternoon.

He chose the way to the west, strolling thoughtfully out of town by the
white, hot, deserted Main Street, and thence onward by the country road
into which its proud half-mile of old brick store buildings, tumbled-down
frame shops and thinly painted cottages degenerated. The sun was in his
face, where the road ran between the summer fields, lying waveless, low,
gracious in promise; but, coming to a wood of hickory and beech and walnut
that stood beyond, he might turn his down-bent-hat-brim up and hold his
head erect. Here the shade fell deep and cool on the green tangle of rag
and iron weed and long grass in the corners of the snake fence, although
the sun beat upon the road so dose beside. There was no movement in the
crisp young leaves overhead; high in the boughs there was a quick flirt of
crimson where two robins hopped noiselessly. No insect raised resentment
of the lonesomeness: the late afternoon, when the air is quite still, had
come; yet there rested--somewhere--on the quiet day, a faint, pleasant,
woody smell. It came to the editor of the "Herald" as he climbed to the
top rail of the fence for a seat, and he drew a long, deep breath to get
the elusive odor more luxuriously--and then it was gone altogether.

"A habit of delicacies," he said aloud, addressing the wide silence
complainingly. He drew a faded tobacco-bag and a brier pipe from his coat
pocket and filled and lit the pipe. "One taste--and they quit," he
finished, gazing solemnly upon the shining little town down the road. He
twirled the pouch mechanically about his finger, and then, suddenly
regarding it, patted it caressingly. It had been a giddy little bag, long
ago, satin, and gay with embroidery in the colors of the editor's
university; and although now it was frayed to the verge of tatters, it
still bore an air of pristine jauntiness, an air of which its owner in no
wise partook. He looked from it over the fields toward the town in the
clear distance and sighed softly as he put the pouch back in his pocket,
and, resting his arm on his knee and his chin in his hand, sat blowing
clouds of smoke out of the shade into the sunshine, absently watching the
ghostly shadows dance on the white dust of the road.

A little garter snake crept under the fence beneath him and disappeared in
the underbrush; a rabbit progressing timidly on his travels by a series of
brilliant dashes and terror-smitten halts, came within a few yards of him,
sat up with quivering nose and eyes alight with fearful imaginings--
vanished, a flash of fluffy brown and white. Shadows grew longer; the
brier pipe sputtered feebly in depletion and was refilled. A cricket
chirped and heard answer; there was a woodland stir of breezes; and the
pair of robins left the branches overhead in eager flight, vacating before
the arrival of a great flock of blackbirds hastening thither ere the
eventide should be upon them. The blackbirds came, chattered, gossiped,
quarrelled, and beat each other with their wings above the smoker sitting
on the top fence rail.

But he had remembered--it was Commencement. To-day, a thousand miles to
the east, a company of grave young gentlemen sat in semi-circular rows
before a central altar, while above them rose many tiers of mothers and
sisters and sweethearts, listening to the final word. He could see it all
very clearly: the lines of freshly shaven, boyish faces, the dainty gowns,
the flowers and bright eyes above, and the light that filtered in through
stained glass to fall softly over them all, with, here and there, a vivid
splash of color, Gothic shaped. He could see the throngs of white-clad
loungers under the elms without, under-classmen, bored by the Latin
addresses and escaped to the sward and breeze of the campus; there were
the troops of roistering graduates trotting about arm in arm, and singing;
he heard the mandolins on the little balconies play an old refrain and
the university cheering afterward; saw the old professor he had cared for
most of all, with the thin white hair straggling over his silken hood,
following the band in the sparse ranks of his class. And he saw his own
Commencement Day--and the station at the junction where he stood the
morning after, looking across the valley at the old towers for the last
time; saw the broken groups of his class, standing upon the platform on
the other side of the tracks, waiting for the south-bound train as he and
others waited for the north-bound--and they all sang "Should auld
acquaintance be forgot;" and, while they looked across at each other,
singing, the shining rails between them wavered and blurred as the engine
rushed in and separated them and their lives thenceforth. He filled his
pipe again and spoke to the phantoms gliding over the dust--"Seven years!"
He was occupied with the realization that there had been a man in his
class whose ambition needed no restraint, his promise was so complete--in
the strong belief of the university, a belief he could not help knowing--
and that seven years to a day from his Commencement this man was sitting
on a fence rail in Indiana.

Down the road a buggy came creaking toward him, gray with dust, the top
canted permanently to one side, old and frayed, like the fat, shaggy, gray
mare that drew it; her unchecked, despondent head lowering before her,
while her incongruous tail waved incessantly, like the banner of a
storming party. The editor did not hear the flop of the mare's feet nor
the sound of the wheels, so deep was his reverie, till the vehicle was
nearly opposite him. The red-faced and perspiring driver drew rein, and
the journalist looked up and waved a long white hand to him in greeting.

"Howdy' do, Mr. Harkless?" called the man in the buggy. "Soakin' in the
weather?" He spoke in shouts, though neither was hard of hearing.

"Yes; just soaking," answered Harkless; "it's such a gypsy day. How is Mr.
Bowlder?"

"I'm givin' good satisfaction, thankye, and all at home. She's in town;
goin' in after her now."

"Give Mrs. Bowlder my regards," said the journalist, comprehending the
symbolism. "How is Hartley?"

The farmer's honest face shaded over, a second. "He's be'n steady ever
sence the night you brought him out home; six weeks straight. I'm kind of
bothered about to-morrow--It's show-day and he wants to come in town with
us, and seems if I hadn't any call to say no. I reckon he'll have to take
his chances--and us, too." He raised the reins and clucked to the gray
mare; "Well, she'll be mad I ain't there long ago. Ride in with me?"

"No, I thank you. I'll walk in for the sake of my appetite."

"Wouldn't encourage it _too_ much--livin' at the Palace Hotel,'" observed
Bowlder. "Sorry ye won't ride." He gathered the loose ends of the reins in
his hands, leaned far over the dashboard and struck the mare a hearty
thwack; the tattered banner of tail jerked indignantly, but she consented
to move down the road. Bowlder thrust his big head through the sun-curtain
behind him and continued the conversation: "See the White-Caps ain't got
ye yet."

"No, not yet." Harkless laughed.

"Reckon the boys 'druther ye stayed in town after dark," the other called
back; then, as the mare stumbled into a trot, "Well, come out and see us--
if ye kin spare time from the jedge's." The latter clause seemed to be an
afterthought intended with humor, for Bowlder accompanied it with the loud
laughter of sylvan timidity, risking a joke. Harkless nodded without the
least apprehension of his meaning, and waved farewell as Bowlder finally
turned his attention to the mare. When the flop, flop of her hoofs had
died out, the journalist realized that the day was silent no longer; it
was verging into evening.

He dropped from the fence and turned his face toward town and supper. He
felt the light and life about him; heard the clatter of the blackbirds
above him; heard the homing bees hum by, and saw the vista of white road
and level landscape, framed on two sides by the branches of the grove, a
vista of infinitely stretching fields of green, lined here and there with
woodlands and flat to the horizon line, the village lying in their lap. No
roll of meadow, no rise of pasture land, relieved their serenity nor
shouldered up from them to be called a hill. A second great flock of
blackbirds was settling down over the Plattville maples. As they hung in
the fair dome of the sky below the few white clouds, it occurred to
Harkless that some supping god had inadvertently peppered his custard, and
now inverted and emptied his gigantic blue dish upon the earth, the
innumerable little black dots seeming to poise for a moment, then floating
slowly down from the heights.

A farm-bell rang in the distance, a tinkling coming small and mellow from
far away, and at the lonesomeness of that sound he heaved a long, mournful
sigh. The next instant he broke into laughter, for another bell rang over
the fields, the court-house bell in the Square. The first four strokes
were given with mechanical regularity, the pride of the custodian who
operated the bell being to produce the effect of a clock-work bell such as
he had once heard in the court-house at Rouen; but the fifth and sixth
strokes were halting achievements, as, after four o'clock, he often lost
count on the strain of the effort for precise imitation. There was a pause
after the sixth, then a dubious and reluctant stroke--seven--a longer
pause, followed by a final ring with desperate decision--eight! Harkless
looked at his watch; it was twenty minutes of six.

As he crossed the court-house yard to the Palace Hotel, he stopped to
exchange a word with the bell-ringer, who, seated on the steps, was
mopping his brow with an air of hard-earned satisfaction.

"Good-evening, Schofields'," he said. "You came in strong on the last
stroke, to-night."

"What we need here," responded the bell-ringer, "is more public-spirited
men. I ain't kickin' on you, Mr. Harkless, no sir; but we want more men
like they got in Rouen; we want men that'll git Main Street paved with
block or asphalt; men that'll put in factories, men that'll act and not
set round like that ole fool Martin and laugh and polly-woggle and make
fun of public sperrit, day in and out. I reckon I do my best for the
city."

"Oh, nobody minds Tom Martin," answered Harkless. "It's only half the time
he means anything by what he says."

"That's jest what I hate about him," returned the bell-ringer in a tone of
high complaint; "you can't never tell which half it is. Look at him now!"
Over in front of the hotel Martin was standing, talking to the row of
coatless loungers who sat with their chairs tilted back against the props
of the wooden awning that projected over the sidewalk. Their faces were
turned toward the court-house, and even those lost in meditative whittling
had looked up to laugh. Martin, his hands in the pockets of his alpaca
coat, his rusty silk hat tilted forward till the wide brim rested almost
on the bridge of his nose, was addressing them in his one-keyed voice, the
melancholy whine of which, though not the words, penetrated to the court-
house steps.

The bell-ringer, whose name was Henry Schofield, but who was known as
Schofield's Henry (popularly abbreviated to Schofields') was moved to
indignation. "Look at him," he cried. "Look at him! Everlastingly goin' on
about my bell! Let him talk, jest let him talk." The supper gong boomed
inside the hotel and Harkless bade the bell-ringer good-night. As he moved
away the latter called after him: "He don't disturb nobody. Let him talk.
Who pays any 'tention to him I'd like to know?" There was a burst of
laughter from the whittlers. Schofields' sat in patient silence for a full
minute, as one who knew that no official is too lofty to escape the
anathemas of envy. Then he sprang to his feet and shook his fist at
Martin, who was disappearing within the door of the hotel. "Go to
Halifax!" he shouted.

The dining-room of the Palace Hotel was a large, airy apartment, rustling
with artistically perforated and slashed pink paper that hung everywhere,
at this season of the year, to lend festal effect as well as to palliate
the scourge of flies. There were six or seven large tables, all vacant
except that at which Columbus Landis, the landlord, sat with his guests,
while his wife and children ate in the kitchen by their own preference.
Transient trade was light in Plattville; nobody ever came there, except
occasional commercial travellers who got out of town the instant it was
possible, and who said awful things if, by the exigencies of the railway
time-table, they were left over night.

Behind the host's chair stood a red-haired girl in a blue cotton gown; and
in her hand she languidly waved a long instrument made of clustered strips
of green and white and yellow tissue paper fastened to  a wooden wand;
with this she amiably amused the  flies except at such times as the
conversation proved too interesting, when she was apt to rest it on the
shoulder of one of the guests. This happened each time the editor of the
"Herald" joined in the talk. As the men seated themselves they all nodded
to her and said, "G'd evening, Cynthy." Harkless always called her
Charmion; no one knew why. When he came in she moved around the table to a
chair directly opposite him, and held that station throughout the meal,
with her eyes fixed on his face. Mr. Martin noted this manoeuvre--it
occurred regularly twice a day--with a stealthy smile at the girl, and her
light skin flushed while her lip curled shrewishly at the old gentleman.
"Oh, all right, Cynthy," he whispered to her, and chuckled aloud at her
angry toss of the head.

"Schofields' seemed to be kind of put out with me this evening," he
remarked, addressing himself to the company. "He's the most ungratefullest
cuss I ever come up with. I was only oratin' on how proud the city ought
to be of him. He fairly keeps Plattville's sportin' spirit on the gog;
'die out, wasn't for him. There's be'n more money laid on him whether
he'll strike over and above the hour, or under and below, or whether he'll
strike fifteen minutes before time, or twenty after, than--well, sir, we'd
all forgit the language if it wasn't for Schofields' bell to keep us
talkin'; that's _my_ claim. Dull days, think of the talk he furnishes all
over town. Think what he's done to promote conversation. Now, for
instance, Anna Belle Bardlock's got a beau, they say"--here old Tom tilted
back in his chair and turned an innocent eye upon a youth across the
table, young William Todd, who was blushing over his griddle-cakes--"and I
hear he's a good deal scared of Anna Belle and not just what you might
call brash with her. They say every Sunday night he'll go up to Bardlocks'
and call on Anna Belle from half-past six till nine, and when he's got
into his chair he sets and looks at the floor and the crayon portraits
till about seven; then he opens his tremblin' lips and says, 'Reckon
Schofields' must be on his way to the court-house by this time.' And about
an hour later, when Schofields' hits four or five, he'll speak up again,
'Say, I reckon he means eight.' 'Long towards nine o'clock, they say he
skews around in his chair and says, 'Wonder if he'll strike before time or
after,' and Anna Belle answers out loud, 'I hope after,' for politeness;
but in her soul she says, 'I pray before'; and then Schofields' hits her
up for eighteen or twenty, and Anna Belle's company reaches for his hat.
Three Sundays ago he turned around before he went out and said, 'Do you
like apple-butter?' but never waited to find out. It's the same programme
every Sunday evening, and Jim Bardlock says Anna Belle's so worn out you
wouldn't hardly know her for the blithe creature she was last year--the
excitement's be'n too much for her!"

Poor William Todd bent his fiery face over the table and suffered the
general snicker in helpless silence. Then there was quiet for a space,
broken only by the click of knives against the heavy china and the
indolent rustle of Cynthia's fly-brush.

"Town so still," observed the landlord, finally, with a complacent glance
at the dessert course of prunes to which his guests were helping
themselves from a central reservoir, "Town so still, hardly seems like
show-day's come round again.  Yet there's be'n some shore signs lately:
when my shavers come honeyin' up with, 'Say, pa, ain't they no urrands I
can go for ye, pa? I like to run 'em for you, pa,'--'relse, 'Oh, pa, ain't
they no water I can haul, or nothin', pa?'--'relse, as little Rosina T.
says, this morning, 'Pa, I always pray fer _you_ pa,' and pa this and pa
that-you can rely either Christmas or show-day's mighty close."

William Todd, taking occasion to prove himself recovered from confusion,
remarked casually that there was another token of the near approach of the
circus, as ole Wilkerson was drunk again.

"There's a man!" exclaimed Mr. Martin with enthusiasm.  "There's the
feller for _my_ money! He does his duty as a citizen more discriminatin'ly
on public occasions than any man I ever see. There's Wilkerson's
celebration when there's a funeral; look at the difference between it and
on Fourth of July. Why, sir, it's as melancholy as a hearse-plume, and
sympathy ain't the word for it when he looks at the remains, no sir;
preacher nor undertaker, either, ain't _half_ as blue and respectful. Then
take his circus spree. He come into the store this afternoon, head up,
marchin' like a grenadier and shootin' his hand out before his face and
drawin' it back again, and hollering out, 'Ta, ta, ta-ra-ta, ta, ta-ta-
ra'--why, the dumbest man ever lived could see in a minute show's 'comin'
to-morrow and Wilkerson's playin' the trombone. Then he'd snort and goggle
like an elephant. Got the biggest sense of appropriateness of any man in
the county, Wilkerson has. Folks don't half appreciate him."

As each boarder finished his meal he raided the glass of wooden toothpicks
and went away with no standing on the order of his going; but Martin
waited for Harkless, who, not having attended to business so concisely as
the others, was the last to leave the table, and they stood for a moment
under the awning outside, lighting their cigars.

"Call on the judge, to-night?" asked Martin.

"No," said Harkless. "Why?"

"Didn't you see the lady with Minnie and the judge at the lecture?"

"I caught a glimpse of her. That's what Bowlder meant, then."

"I don't know what Bowlder meant, but I guess you better go out there,
young man. She might not stay here long."




CHAPTER IV


THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER

The Briscoe buckboard rattled along the elastic country-road, the roans
setting a sharp pace as they turned eastward on the pike toward home and
supper.

"They'll make the eight miles in three-quarters of an hour," said the
judge, proudly. He pointed ahead with his whip. "Just beyond that bend we
pass through Six-Cross-Roads."

Miss Sherwood leaned forward eagerly. "Can we see 'Mr. Wimby's' house from
here?"

"No, it's on the other side, nearer town; we pass it later. It's the only
respectable-looking house in this township." They reached the turn of the
road, and the judge touched up his colts to a sharper gait. "No need of
dallying," he observed quietly. "It always makes me a little sick just to
see the place. I'd hate to have a break-down here."

They came in sight of a squalid settlement, built raggedly about a
blacksmith's shop and a saloon. Half-a-dozen shanties clustered near the
forge, a few roofs scattered through the shiftlessly cultivated fields,
four or five barns propped by fence-rails, some sheds with gaping
apertures through which the light glanced from side to side, a squad of
thin, "razor-back" hogs--now and then worried by gaunt hounds--and some
abused-looking hens, groping about disconsolately in the mire, a broken-
topped buggy with a twisted wheel settling into the mud of the middle of
the road (there was always abundant mud, here, in the dryest summer), a
lowering face sneering from a broken window--Six-Cross-Roads was
forbidding and forlorn enough by day. The thought of what might issue from
it by night was unpleasant, and the legends of the Cross-Roads, together
with an unshapen threat, easily fancied in the atmosphere of the place,
made Miss Sherwood shiver as though a cold draught had crossed her.

"It is so sinister!" she exclaimed.  "And so unspeakably mean! This is
where they live, the people who hate him, is it? The 'White-Caps'?"

"They are just a lot of rowdies," replied Briscoe. "You have your rough
corners in big cities, and I expect there are mighty few parts of any
country that don't have their tough neighborhoods, only Six-Cross-Roads
happens to be worse than most. They choose to call themselves 'White-
Caps,' but I guess it's just a name they like to give themselves. Usually
White-Caps are a vigilance committee going after rascalities the law
doesn't reach, or won't reach, but these fellows are not that kind. They
got together to wipe out their grudges--and sometimes they didn't need any
grudge and let loose their deviltries just for pure orneriness; setting
haystacks afire and such like; or, where a farmer had offended them, they
would put on their silly toggery and take him out at midnight and whip him
and plunder his house and chase the horses and cattle into his corn,
maybe. They say the women went with them on their raids."

"And he was the first to try to stop them?"

"Well, you see our folks are pretty long-suffering," Briscoe replied,
apologetically. "We'd sort of got used to the meanness of the Cross-Roads.
It took a stranger to stir things up--and he did. He sent eight of 'em to
the penitentiary, some for twenty years."

As they passed the saloon a man stepped into the doorway and looked at
them. He was coatless and clad in garments worn to the color of dust; his
bare head was curiously malformed, higher on one side than on the other,
and though the buckboard passed rapidly, and at a distance, this singular
lopsidedness was plainly visible to the occupants, lending an ugly
significance to his meagre, yellow face. He was tall, lean, hard,
powerfully built. He eyed the strangers with affected languor, and then,
when they had gone by, broke into sudden, loud laughter.

"That was Bob Skillett, the worst of the lot," said the judge. "Harkless
sent his son and one brother to prison, and it nearly broke his heart that
he couldn't swear to Bob."

When they were beyond the village and in the open road again. Miss
Sherwood took a deep breath. "I think I breathe more freely," she said.
"That was a hideous laugh he sent after us. I had heard of places like
this before--and I don't think I care to see many of them. As I understand
it, Six-Cross-Roads is entirely vicious, isn't it; and bears the same
relation to the country that the slums do to a city?'"

"That's about it. They make their own whiskey. I presume; and they have
their own fights amongst themselves, but they settle 'em themselves, too,
and keep their own counsel and hush it up. Lige Willetts, Minnie's friend
--I guess she's told you about Lige?--well, Lige Willetts will go anywhere
when he's following a covey, though mostly the boys leave this part of the
country alone when they're hunting; but Lige got into a thicket back of
the forge one morning, and he came on a crowd of buzzards quarrelling over
a heap on the ground, and he got out in a hurry. He said he was sure it
was a dog; but he ran almost all the way to Plattville."

"Father!" exclaimed his daughter, leaning from the back seat. "Don't tell
such stories to Helen; she'll think we're horrible, and you'll frighten
her, too."

"Well, it isn't exactly a lady's story," said the judge. He glanced at his
guest's face and chuckled. "I guess we won't frighten her much," he went
on. "Young lady, I don't believe you'd be afraid of many things, would
you? You don't look like it. Besides, the Cross-Roads isn't Plattville,
and the White-Caps have been too scared to do anything much, except try to
get even with the 'Herald,' for the last two years; ever since it went for
them. They're laying for Harkless partly for revenge and partly because
they daren't do anything until he's out of the way."

The girl gave a low cry with a sharp intake of breath. "Ah! One grows
tired of this everlasting American patience!   Why don't the Plattville
people do something before they----"

"It's just as I say," Briscoe answered; "our folks are sort of used to
them. I expect we do about all we can; the boys look after him nights, and
the main trouble is that we can't make him understand he ought to be more
afraid of them. If he'd lived here all his life he would be. You know
there's an old-time feud between the Cross-Roads and our folks; goes way
back into pioneer history and mighty few know anything of it. Old William
Platt and the forefathers of the Bardlocks and Tibbses and Briscoes and
Schofields moved up here from North Carolina a good deal just to get away
from some bad neighbors, mostly Skilletts and Johnsons--one of the
Skilletts had killed old William Platt's two sons. But the Skilletts and
Johnsons followed all the way to Indiana to join in making the new
settlement, and they shot Platt at his cabin door one night, right where
the court-house stands to-day. Then the other settlers drove them out for
good, and they went seven miles west and set up a still. A band of
Indians, on the way to join the Shawnee Prophet at Tippecanoe, came down
on the Cross-Roads, and the Cross-Roaders bought them off with bad whiskey
and sent them over to Plattville. Nearly all the Plattville men were away,
fighting under Harrison, and when they came back there were only a few
half-crazy women and children left. They'd hid in the woods.

"The men stopped just long enough to hear how it was, and started for the
Cross-Roads; but the Cross-Roads people caught them in an ambush and not
many of our folks got back.

"We really never did get even with them, though all the early settlers
lived and died still expecting to see the day when Plattville would go
over and pay off the score. It's the same now as it was then, good stock
with us, bad stock over here; and all the country riff-raff in creation
come and live with 'em when other places get too hot to hold them. Only
one or two of us old folks know what the original trouble was about; but
you ask a Plattville man, to-day, what he thinks of the Cross-Roads and
he'll be mighty apt to say, 'I guess we'll all have to go over there some
time and wipe those hoodlums out.' It's been coming to that a long time.
The work the 'Herald' did has come nearer bringing us even with Six-Cross-
Roads than anything else ever has. Queer, too--a man that's only lived in
Plattville a few years to be settling such an old score for us. They'll do
their best to get him, and if they do there'll be trouble of an illegal
nature. I think our people would go over there again, but I expect there
wouldn't be any ambush this time; and the pioneers, might rest easier in--"
He broke off suddenly and nodded to a little old man in a buckboard,
who was turning off from the road into a farm lane which led up to a trim
cottage with a honeysuckle vine by the door. "That's Mrs. Wimby's
husband," said the judge in an undertone.

Miss Sherwood observed that "Mrs. Wimby's husband" was remarkable for the
exceeding plaintiveness of his expression. He was a weazened, blank, pale-
eyed little man, with a thin, white mist of neck whisker; his coat was so
large for him that the sleeves were rolled up from his wrists with several
turns, and, as he climbed painfully to the ground to open the gate of the
lane, it needed no perspicuous eye to perceive that his trousers had been
made for a much larger man, for, as his uncertain foot left the step of
his vehicle, one baggy leg of the garment fell down over his foot,
completely concealing his boot and hanging some inches beneath. A faintly
vexed expression crossed his face as he endeavored to arrange the
disorder, but he looked up and returned Briscoe's bow, sadly, with an air
of explaining that he was accustomed to trouble, and that the trousers had
behaved no worse than he expected.

No more inoffensive or harmless figure than this feeble little old man
could be imagined; yet his was the distinction of having received a
terrible visit from his neighbors of the Cross-Roads. Mrs. Wimby was a
widow, who owned a comfortable farm, and she had refused every offer of
the neighboring ill-eligible bachelors to share it. However, a vagabonding
tinker won her heart, and after their marriage she continued to be known
as "Mrs. Wimby"; for so complete was the bridegroom's insignificance that
it extended to his name, which proved quite unrememberable, and he was
usually called "Widder-Woman Wimby's Husband," or, more simply, "Mr.
Wimby." The bride supplied the needs of his wardrobe with the garments of
her former husband, and, alleging this proceeding as the cause of their
anger, the Cross-Roads raiders, clad as "White-Caps," broke into the
farmhouse one night, looted it, tore the old man from his bed, and
compelling his wife, who was tenderly devoted to him, to watch, they
lashed him with sapling shoots till he was near to death. A little yellow
cur, that had followed his master on his wanderings, was found licking the
old man's wounds, and they deluged the dog with kerosene and then threw
the poor animal upon a bonfire they had made, and danced around it in
heartiest enjoyment.

The man recovered, but that was no palliation of the offense to the mind
of a hot-eyed young man from the East, who was besieging the county
authorities for redress and writing brimstone and saltpetre for his paper.
The powers of the county proving either lackadaisical or timorous, he
appealed to those of the State, and he went every night to sleep at a
farmhouse, the owner of which had received a warning from the "White-
Caps." And one night it befell that he was rewarded, for the raiders
attempted an entrance. He and the farmer and the former's sons beat off
the marauders and did a satisfactory amount of damage in return. Two of
the "White-Caps" they captured and bound, and others they recognized. Then
the State authorities hearkened to the voice of the "Herald" and its
owner; there were arrests, and in the course of time there was a trial.
Every prisoner proved an alibi, could have proved a dozen; but the editor
of the "Herald," after virtually conducting the prosecution, went upon the
stand and swore to man after man. Eight men went to the penitentiary on
his evidence, five of them for twenty years. The Plattville Brass Band
serenaded the editor of the "Herald" again.

There were no more raids, and the Six-Cross-Roads men who were left kept
to their hovels, appalled and shaken, but, as time went by and left them
unmolested, they recovered a measure of their hardiness and began to think
on what they should do to the man who had brought misfortune and terror
upon them. For a long time he had been publishing their threatening
letters and warnings in a column which he headed: "Humor of the Day."

"Harkless don't understand the Cross-Roads," Briscoe said to Miss Sherwood
as they left the Wimby farm behind; "and then he's like most of us; hardly
any of us realizes that harm's ever going to come to _us_. Harkless was
anxious enough about other people, but----"

The young lady interrupted him, touching his arm. "Look!" she said,
"Didn't you see a child, a little girl, ahead of us on the road?"

"I noticed one a minute ago, but she's not there now," answered Briscoe.

"There was a child walking along the road just ahead, but she turned and
saw us coming, and she disappeared in the most curious way; she seemed to
melt into the weeds at the roadside, across from the elder-bush yonder."

The judge pulled in the horses by the elder-bush. "No child here, now," he
said, "but you're right; there certainly was one, just before you spoke."
The young corn was low in the fields, and there was no hiding-place in
sight.

"I'm very superstitious; I am sure it was an imp," Miss Sherwood said. "An
imp or a very large chameleon; she was exactly the color of the road."

"A Cross-Roads imp," said the judge, lifting the reins, "and in that case
we might as well give up. I never set up to be a match for those people,
and the children are as mean as their fathers, and smarter."

When the buckboard had rattled on a hundred yards or so, a little figure
clad in a tattered cotton gown rose up from the weeds, not ten feet from
where the judge had drawn rein, and continued its march down the road
toward Plattville, capering in the dust and pursuing the buckboard with
malignant gestures till the clatter of the horses was out of hearing, the
vehicle out of sight.



Something over two hours later, as Mr. Martin was putting things to rights
in his domain, the Dry-Goods Emporium, previous to his departure for the
evening's gossip and checkers at the drug-store, he stumbled over
something soft, lying on the floor behind a counter. The thing rose, and
would have evaded him, but he put out his hands and pinioned it and
dragged it to the show-window where the light of the fading day defined
his capture. The capture shrieked and squirmed and fought earnestly.
Grasped by the shoulder he held a lean, fierce-eyed, undersized girl of
fourteen, clad in one ragged cotton garment, unless the coat of dust she
wore over all may be esteemed another. Her cheeks were sallow, and her
brow was already shrewdly lined, and her eyes were as hypocritical as they
were savage. She was very thin and little, but old Tom's brown face grew a
shade nearer white when the light fell upon her.

"You're no Plattville girl," he said sharply.

"You lie!" cried the child. "You lie! I am! You leave me go, will you? I'm
lookin' fer pap and you're a liar!"

"You crawled in here to sleep, after your seven-mile walk, didn't you?"
Martin went on.

"You're a liar," she screamed again.

"Look here," said Martin, slowly, "you go back to Six-Cross-Roads and tell
your folks that if anything happens to a hair of Mr. Harkless's head every
shanty in your town will burn, and your grandfather and your father and
your uncles and your brothers and your cousins and your second-cousins and
your third-cousins will never have the good luck to see the penitentiary.
Reckon you can remember that message? But before I let you go to carry it,
I guess you might as well hand out the paper they sent you over here
with."

His prisoner fell into a paroxysm of rage, and struck at him.

"I'll git pap to kill ye," she shrieked. "I don' know nothin' 'bout yer
Six-Cross-Roads, ner no papers, ner yer dam Mister Harkels neither, ner
_you_, ye razor-backed ole devil! Pap'll kill ye; leave me go--leave me
_go_!--Pap'll kill ye; I'll git him to _kill_ ye!"  Suddenly her struggles
ceased; her eyes closed; her tense little muscles relaxed and she drooped
toward the floor; the old man shifted his grip to support her, and in an
instant she twisted out of his hands and sprang out of reach, her eyes
shining with triumph and venom.

"Ya-hay, Mister Razor-back!" she shrilled. "How's that fer hi? Pap'll kill
ye, Sunday. You'll be screechin' in hell in a week, an' we 'ull set up an'
drink our apple-jack an' laff!" Martin pursued her lumberingly, but she
was agile as a monkey, and ran dodging up and down the counters and mocked
him, singing "Gran' mammy Tipsy-Toe," till at last she tired of the game
and darted out of the door, flinging back a hoarse laugh at him as she
went. He followed; but when he reached the street she was a mere shadow
flitting under the courthouse trees. He looked after her forebodingly,
then turned his eyes toward the Palace Hotel. The editor of the "Herald"
was seated under the awning, with his chair tilted back against a post,
gazing dreamily at the murky red afterglow in the west.

"What's the use of tryin' to bother him with it?" old Tom asked himself.
"He'd only laugh." He noted that young William Todd sat near the editor,
whittling absently. Martin chuckled. "William's turn to-night," he
muttered. "Well, the boys take mighty good care of him." He locked the
doors of the Emporium, tried them, and dropped the keys in his pocket.

As he crossed the Square to the drug-store, where his cronies awaited him,
he turned again to look at the figure of the musing journalist. "I hope
he'll go out to the judge's," he said, and shook his head, sadly. "I don't
reckon Plattville's any too spry for that young man. Five years he's be'n
here. Well, it's a good thing for us folks, but I guess it ain't exactly
high-life for him." He kicked a stick out of his way impatiently. "Now,
where'd that imp run to?" he grumbled.

The imp was lying under the court-house steps. When the sound of Martin's
footsteps had passed away, she crept cautiously from her hiding-place and
stole through the ungroomed grass to the fence opposite the hotel. Here
she stretched herself flat in the weeds and took from underneath the
tangled masses of her hair, where it was tied with a string, a rolled-up,
crumpled slip of greasy paper. With this in her fingers, she lay peering
under the fence, her fierce eyes fixed unwinkingly on Harkless and the
youth sitting near him.

The street ran flat and gray in the slowly gathering dusk, straight to the
western horizon where the sunset embers were strewn in long, dark-red
streaks; the maple trees were clean-cut silhouettes against the pale rose
and pearl tints of the sky above, and a tenderness seemed to tremble in
the air. Harkless often vowed to himself he would watch no more sunsets in
Plattville; he realized that their loveliness lent a too unhappy tone to
the imaginings and introspections upon which he was thrown by the
loneliness of the environment, and he considered that he had too much time
in which to think about himself.  For five years his introspections had
monotonously hurled one word at him: "Failure; Failure! Failure!" He
thought the sunsets were making him morbid. Could he have shared them,
that would have been different.

His long, melancholy face grew longer and more melancholy in the twilight,
while William Todd patiently whittled near by. Plattville had often
discussed the editor's habit of silence, and Mr. Martin had suggested that
possibly the reason Mr. Harkless was such a quiet man was that there was
nobody for him to talk to. His hearers did not agree, for the population
of Carlow County was a thing of pride, being greater than that of several
bordering counties. They did agree, however, that Harkless's quiet was not
unkind, whatever its cause, and that when it was broken it was usually
broken to conspicuous effect. Perhaps it was because he wrote so much that
he hated to talk.

A bent figure came slowly down the street, and William hailed it
cheerfully: "Evening, Mr. Fisbee."

"A good evening, Mr. Todd," answered the old man, pausing. "Ah, Mr.
Harkless, I was looking for you." He had not seemed to be looking for
anything beyond the boundaries of his own dreams, but he approached
Harkless, tugging nervously at some papers in his pocket. "I have
completed my notes for our Saturday edition. It was quite easy; there is
much doing."

"Thank you, Mr. Fisbee," said Harkless, as he took the manuscript.  "Have
you finished your paper on the earlier Christian symbolism? I hope the
'Herald' may have the honor of printing it." This was the form they used.

"I shall be the recipient of honor, sir," returned Fisbee. "Your kind
offer will speed my work; but I fear, Mr. Harkless, I very much fear, that
your kindness alone prompts it, for, deeply as I desire it, I cannot
truthfully say that my essays appear to increase our circulation." He made
an odd, troubled gesture as he went on: "They do not seem to read them
here, Mr. Harkless, although Mr. Martin assures me that he carefully
peruses my article on Chaldean decoration whenever he rearranges his
exhibition windows, and I bear in mind the clipping from a Rouen paper you
showed me, commenting generously upon the scholarship of the 'Herald.' But
for fifteen years I have tried to improve the art feeling in Plattville,
and I may say that I have worked in the face of no small discouragement.
In fact," (there was a slight quaver in Fisbee's voice), "I cannot
remember that I ever received the slightest word or token of encouragement
till you came, Mr. Harkless. Since then I have labored with refreshed
energy; still, I cannot claim that our architecture shows a change for the
better, and I fear the engravings upon the walls of our people exhibit no
great progress in selection. And--I--I wish also to say, Mr. Harkless, if
you find it necessary to make some alterations in the form of my
reportorial items for Saturday's issue, I shall perfectly understand,
remembering your explanation that journalism demands it. Good-evening, Mr.
Harkless. Good-evening, Mr. Todd." He plodded on a few paces, then turned,
irresolutely.

"What is it, Fisbee?" asked Harkless.

Fisbee stood for a moment, as though about to speak, then he smiled
faintly, shook his head, and went his way. Harkless stared after him,
surprised. It suddenly struck him, with a feeling of irritation, that if
Fisbee had spoken it would have been to advise him to call at Judge
Briscoe's. He laughed impatiently at the notion, and, drawing his pencil
and a pad from his pocket, proceeded to injure his eyes in the waning
twilight by the editorial perusal of the items his staff had just left in
his hands. When published, the manuscript came under a flaring heading,
bequeathed by Harkless's predecessor in the chair of the "Herald," and the
alteration of which he felt Plattville would refuse to sanction:
"Happenings of Our City." Below, was printed in smaller type:
"Improvements in the World of Business," and, beneath that, came the
rubric: "Also, the Cradle, the Altar, and the Tomb."

The first of Fisbee's items was thus recorded: "It may be noted that the
new sign-board of Mr. H. Miller has been put in place. We cannot but
regret that Mr. Miller did not instruct the painter to confine himself to
a simpler method of lettering."

"Ah, Fisbee," murmured the editor, reproachfully, "that new sign-board is
almost the only improvement in the World of Business Plattville has seen
this year. I wonder how many times we have used it from the first, 'It is
rumored in business circles that Herve Miller contemplates'--to the
exciting, 'Under Way,' and, 'Finishing Touches.' My poor White Knight, are
five years of training wasted on you? Sometimes you make me fear it. Here
is Plattville panting for our story of the hanging of the sign, and you
throw away the climax like that!" He began to write rapidly, bending low
over the pad in the half darkness. His narrative was an amplification of
the interesting information (already possessed by every inhabitant) that
Herve Miller had put up a new sign. After a paragraph of handsome
description, "Herve is always enterprising," wrote the editor. "This is a
move in the right direction. Herve, keep it up."

He glanced over the other items meditatively, making alterations here and
there. The last two Fisbee had written as follows:

"There is noticeable in the new (and somewhat incongruous) portico erected
by Solomon Tibbs at the residence of Mr. Henry Tibbs Willetts, an attempt
at rococo decoration which cannot fail to sadden the passer-by."

"Miss Sherwood of Rouen, whom Miss Briscoe knew at the Misses Jennings'
finishing-school in New York, is a guest of Judge Briscoe's household."

Fisbee's items were written in ink; and there was a blank space beneath
the last. At the bottom of the page something had been scribbled in
pencil. Harkless tried vainly to decipher it, but the twilight had fallen
too deep, and the writing was too faint, so he struck a match and held it
close to the paper. The action betokened only a languid interest, but when
he caught sight of the first of the four subscribed lines he sat up
straight in his chair with an ejaculation. At the bottom of Fisbee's page
was written in a dainty, feminine hand, of a type he had not seen for
years:

          "'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
             'To talk of many things:
           Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
             And cabbages--and kings--'"

He put the paper in his pocket, and set off rapidly down the village
street.

At his departure William Todd looked up quickly; then he got upon his feet
and quietly followed the editor. In the dusk a tattered little figure rose
up from the weeds across the way, and stole noiselessly after William.  He
was in his shirt-sleeves, his waistcoat unbuttoned and loose. On the
nearest corner Mr. Todd encountered a fellow-townsman, who had been pacing
up and down in front of a cottage, crooning to a protestive baby held in
his arms. He had paused in his vigil to stare after Harkless.

"Whereas he bound for, William?" inquired the man with the baby.

"Briscoes'," answered William, pursuing his way.

"I reckoned he would be," commented the other, turning to his wife, who
sat on the doorstep, "I reckoned so when I see that lady at the lecture
last night."

The woman rose to her feet. "Hi, Bill Todd!" she said. "What you got onto
the back of your vest?" William paused, put his hand behind him and
encountered a paper pinned to the dangling strap of his waistcoat. The
woman ran to him and unpinned the paper. It bore a writing. They took it
to where the yellow lamp-light shone through the open door, and read:
           "der Sir
              "FoLer harkls aL yo ples an gaRd him yoR
 best venagesn is closteR, harkls not Got 3 das to liv
                                  "We come in Wite."

"What ye think, William?" asked the man with the baby, anxiously. But the
woman gave the youth a sharp push with her hand. "They never dast to do
it!" she cried. "Never in the world! You hurry, Bill Todd. Don't you leave
him out of your sight one second."




CHAPTER V


AT THE PASTURE BARS: ELDER-BUSHES MAY HAVE STINGS

The street upon which the Palace Hotel fronted formed the south side of
the Square and ran west to the edge of the town, where it turned to the
south for a quarter of a mile or more, then bent to the west again. Some
distance from this second turn, there stood, fronting close on the road, a
large brick house, the most pretentious mansion in Carlow County. And yet
it was a homelike place, with its red-brick walls embowered in masses of
cool Virginia creeper, and a comfortable veranda crossing the broad front,
while half a hundred stalwart sentinels of elm and beech and poplar stood
guard around it. The front walk was bordered by geraniums and hollyhocks;
and honeysuckle climbed the pillars of the porch. Behind the house there
was a shady little orchard; and, back of the orchard, an old-fashioned,
very fragrant rose-garden, divided by a long grape arbor, extended to the
shallow waters of a wandering creek; and on the bank a rustic seat was
placed, beneath the sycamores.

From the first bend of the road, where it left the town and became (after
some indecision) a country highway--called the pike--rather than a proud
city boulevard, a pathway led through the fields to end at some pasture
bars opposite the brick house.

John Harkless was leaning on the pasture bars. The stars were wan, and the
full moon shone over the fields. Meadows and woodlands lay quiet under the
old, sweet marvel of a June night. In the wide monotony of the flat lands,
there sometimes comes a feeling that the whole earth is stretched out
before one. To-night it seemed to lie so, in the pathos of silent beauty,
all passive and still; yet breathing an antique message, sad, mysterious,
reassuring. But there had come a divine melody adrift on the air. Through
the open windows it floated.  Indoors some one struck a peal of silver
chords, like a harp touched by a lover, and a woman's voice was lifted.
John Harkless leaned on the pasture bars and listened with upraised head
and parted lips.

"To thy chamber window roving, love hath led my feet."

The Lord sent manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness. Harkless
had been five years in Plattville, and a woman's voice singing Schubert's
serenade came to him at last as he stood by the pasture bars of Jones's
field and listened and rested his dazzled eyes on the big, white face of
the moon.

How long had it been since he had heard a song, or any discourse of music
other than that furnished by the Plattville Band--not that he had not
taste for a brass band! But music that he loved always gave him an ache of
delight and the twinge of reminiscences of old, gay days gone forever.
To-night his memory leaped to the last day of a June gone seven years; to
a morning when the little estuary waves twinkled in the bright sun about
the boat in which he sat, the trim launch that brought a cheery party
ashore from their schooner to the Casino landing at Winter Harbor, far up
on the Maine coast.

It was the happiest of those last irresponsible days before he struck into
his work in the world and became a failure. To-night he saw the picture as
plainly as if it were yesterday; no reminiscence had risen so keenly
before his eyes for years: pretty Mrs. Van Skuyt sitting beside him--
pretty Mrs. Van Skuyt and her roses! What had become of her? He saw the
crowd of friends waiting on the pier for their arrival, and the dozen or
so emblazoned classmates (it was in the time of brilliant flannels) who
suddenly sent up a volley of college cheers in his honor--how plainly the
dear, old, young faces rose up before him to-night, the men from whose
lives he had slipped! Dearest and jolliest of the faces was that of Tom
Meredith, clubmate, classmate, his closest friend, the thin, red-headed
third baseman; he could see Tom's mouth opened at least a yard, it seemed,
such was his frantic vociferousness. Again and again the cheers rang out,
"Harkless! Harkless!" on the end of them. In those days everybody
(particularly his classmates) thought he would be minister to England in a
few years, and the orchestra on the Casino porch was playing "The
Conquering Hero," in his honor, and at the behest of Tom Meredith, he
knew.

There were other pretty ladies besides Mrs. Van Skuyt in the launch-load
from the yacht, but, as they touched the pier, pretty girls, or pretty
women, or jovial gentlemen, all were overlooked in the wild scramble the
college men made for their hero. They haled him forth, set him on high,
bore him on their shoulders, shouting "Skal to the Viking!" and carried
him up the wooded bluff to the Casino. He heard Mrs. Van Skuyt say, "Oh,
we're used to it; we've put in at several other places where he had
friends!" He struggled manfully to be set down, but his triumphal
procession swept on. He heard bystanders telling each other, "It's that
young Harkless, 'the Great Harkless,' they're all so mad about"; and while
it pleased him a little to hear such things, they always made him laugh a
great deal. He had never understood his popularity: he had been chief
editor of the university daily, and he had done a little in athletics, and
the rest of his distinction lay in college offices his mates had heaped
upon him without his being able to comprehend why they did it. And yet,
somehow, and in spite of himself, they had convinced him that the world
was his oyster; that it would open for him at a touch. He could not help
seeing how the Freshmen looked at him, how the Sophomores jumped off the
narrow campus walks to let him pass; he could not help knowing that he was
the great man of his time, so that "The Great Harkless" came to be one of
the traditions of the university. He remembered the wild progress they
made for him up the slope that morning at Winter Harbor, how the people
baked on, and laughed, and clapped their hands. But at the veranda edge he
had noticed a little form disappearing around a corner of the building; a
young girl running away as fast as she could.

"See there!" he said, as the tribe set him down, "You have frightened the
populace." And Tom Meredith stopped shouting long enough to answer, "It's
my little cousin, overcome with emotion. She's been counting the hours
till you came--been hearing of you from me and others for a good while;
and hasn't been able to talk or think of anything else. She's only
fifteen, and the crucial moment is too much for her--the Great Harkless
has arrived, and she has fled."

He remembered other incidents of his greatness, of the glory that now
struck him as rarely comical; be hoped he hadn't taken it too seriously
then, in the flush of his youth. Maybe, after all, he had been a, big-
headed boy, but he must have bottled up his conceit tightly enough, or the
other boys would have detected it and abhorred him. He was inclined to
believe that he had not been very much set up by the pomp they made for
him. At all events, that day at Winter Harbor had been beautiful, full of
the laughter of friends and music; for there was a musicale at the Casino
in the afternoon.

But the present hour grew on him as he leaned on the pasture bars, and
suddenly his memories sped; and the voice that was singing Schubert's
serenade across the way touched him with the urgent, personal appeal that
a present beauty always had for him. It was a soprano; and without
tremolo, yet came to his ear with a certain tremulous sweetness; it was
soft and slender, but the listener knew it could be lifted with fullness
and power if the singer would. It spoke only of the song, yet the listener
thought of the singer. Under the moon thoughts run into dreams, and he
dreamed that the owner of the voice, she who quoted "The Walrus and the
Carpenter" on Fisbee's notes, was one to laugh with you and weep with you;
yet her laughter would be tempered with sorrow, and her tears with
laughter.

When the song was ended, he struck the rail he leaned upon a sharp blow
with his open hand. There swept over him a feeling that he had stood
precisely where he stood now, on such a night, a thousand years ago, had
heard that voice and that song, had listened and been moved by the song,
and the night, just as he was moved now.

He had long known himself for a sentimentalist; he had almost given up
trying to cure himself. And he knew himself for a born lover; he had
always been in love with some one. In his earlier youth his affections had
been so constantly inconstant that he finally came to settle with his
self-respect by recognizing in himself a fine constancy that worshipped
one woman always--it was only the shifting image of her that changed!
Somewhere (he dreamed, whimsically indulgent of the fancy; yet mocking
himself for it) there was a girl whom he had never seen, who waited till
he should come. She was Everything. Until he found her, he could not help
adoring others who possessed little pieces and suggestions of her--her
brilliancy, her courage, her short upper lip, "like a curled roseleaf," or
her dear voice, or her pure profile. He had no recollection of any lady
who had quite her eyes.

He had never passed a lovely stranger on the street, in the old days,
without a thrill of delight and warmth. If he never saw her again, and the
vision only lasted the time it takes a lady to cross the sidewalk from a
shop door to a carriage, he was always a little in love with her, because
she bore about her, somewhere, as did every pretty girl he ever saw, a
suggestion of the far-away divinity. One does not pass lovely strangers in
the streets of Plattville. Miss Briscoe was pretty, but not at all in the
way that Harkless dreamed. For five years the lover in him that had loved
so often had been starved of all but dreams. Only at twilight and dusk in
the summer, when, strolling, he caught sight of a woman's skirt, far up
the village street--half-outlined in the darkness under the cathedral arch
of meeting branches--this romancer of petticoats could sigh a true lover's
sigh, and, if he kept enough distance between, fly a yearning fancy that
his lady wandered there.

Ever since his university days the image of her had been growing more and
more distinct. He had completely settled his mind as to her appearance and
her voice. She was tall, almost too tall, he was sure of that; and out of
his consciousness there had grown a sweet and vivacious young face that he
knew was hers. Her hair was light-brown with gold lustres (he reveled in
the gold lustres, on the proper theory that when your fancy is painting a
picture you may as well go in for the whole thing and make it sumptuous),
and her eyes were gray. They were very earnest, and yet they sparkled and
laughed to him companionably; and sometimes he had smiled back upon her.
The Undine danced before him through the lonely years, on fair nights in
his walks, and came to sit by his fire on winter evenings when he stared
alone at the embers.

And to-night, here in Plattville, he heard a voice he had waited for long,
one that his fickle memory told him he had never heard before. But,
listening, he knew better--he had heard it long ago, though when and how,
he did not know, as rich and true, and ineffably tender as now. He threw a
sop to his common sense. "Miss Sherwood is a little thing" (the image was
so surely tall) "with a bumpy forehead and spectacles," he said to
himself, "or else a provincial young lady with big eyes to pose at you."
Then he felt the ridiculousness of looking after his common sense on a
moonlight night in June; also, he knew that he lied.

The song had ceased, but the musician lingered, and the keys were touched
to plaintive harmonies new to him. He had come to Plattville before
"Cavalleria Rusticana" was sung at Rome, and now, entranced, he heard the
"Intermezzo" for the first time. Listening to this, he feared to move lest
he should wake from a summer-night's dream.

A ragged little shadow flitted down the path behind him, and from a
solitary apple-tree, standing like a lonely ghost in the middle of the
field, came the _woo_ of a screech owl--twice. It was answered--twice--
from a clump of elder-bushes that grew in a fence-corner fifty yards west
of the pasture bars. Then the barrel of a squirrel rifle issued, lifted
out of the white elder-blossoms, and lay along the fence. The music in the
house across the way ceased, and Harkless saw two white dresses come out
through the long parlor windows to the veranda.

"It will be cooler out here," came the voice of the singer clearly through
the quiet. "What a night!"

John vaulted the bars and started to cross the road. They saw him from the
veranda, and Miss Briscoe called to him in welcome. As his tall figure
stood out plainly in the bright light against the white dust, a streak of
fire leaped from the elder-blossoms and there rang out the sharp report of
a rifle. There were two screams from the veranda. One white figure ran
into the house. The other, a little one with a gauzy wrap streaming
behind, came flying out into the moonlight--straight to Harkless. There
was a second report; the rifle-shot was answered by a revolver. William
Todd had risen up, apparently from nowhere, and, kneeling by the pasture
bars, fired at the flash of the rifle.

"Jump fer the shadder, Mr. Harkless," he shouted; "he's in them elders,"
and then: "Fer God's sake, comeback!"

Empty-handed as he was, the editor dashed for the treacherous elder-bush
as fast as his long legs could carry him; but, before he had taken six
strides, a hand clutched his sleeve, and a girl's voice quavered from
close behind him:

"Don't run like that, Mr. Harkless; I can't keep up!" He wheeled about,
and confronted a vision, a dainty little figure about five feet high, a
flushed and lovely face, hair and draperies disarranged and flying. He
stamped his foot with rage. "Get back in the house!" he cried.

"You mustn't go," she panted. "It's the only way to stop you."

"Go back to the house!" he shouted, savagely.

"Will you come?"

"Fer God's sake," cried William Todd, "come back! Keep out of the road."
He was emptying his revolver at the clump of elder, the uproar of his
firing blasting the night. Some one screamed from the house:

"Helen! Helen!"

John seized the girl's wrists roughly; her gray eyes flashed into his
defiantly. "Will you go?" he roared.

"No!"

He dropped her wrists, caught her up in his arms as if she had been a
kitten, and leaped into the shadow of the trees that leaned over the road
from the yard. The rifle rang out again, and the little ball whistled
venomously overhead. Harkless ran along the fence and turned in at the
gate.

A loose strand of the girl's hair blew across his cheek, and in the moon
her head shone with gold. She had light-brown hair and gray eyes and a
short upper lip like a curled rose-leaf. He set her down on the veranda
steps. Both of them laughed wildly.

"But you came with me!" she gasped triumphantly.

"I always thought you were tall," he answered; and there was afterward a
time when he had to agree that this was a somewhat vague reply.




CHAPTER VI


JUNE

Judge Briscoe smiled grimly and leaned on his shot-gun in the moonlight by
the veranda. He and William Todd had been trampling down the elder-bushes,
and returning to the house, found Minnie alone on the porch. "Safe?" he
said to his daughter, who turned an anxious face upon him. "They'll be
safe enough now, and in our garden."

"Maybe I oughtn't to have let them go," she returned, nervously.

"Pooh! They're all right; that scalawag's half-way to Six-Cross-Roads by
this time, isn't he, William?"

"He tuck up the fence like a scared rabbit," Mr. Todd responded, looking
into his hat to avoid meeting the eyes of the lady. "I didn't have no call
to toller, and he knowed how to run, I reckon. Time Mr. Harkless come out
the yard again, he was near out o' sight, and we see him take across the
road to the wedge-woods, near half-a-mile up. Somebody else with him then
--looked like a kid. Must 'a' cut acrost the field to join him. They're
fur enough towards home by this."

"Did Miss Helen shake hands with you four or five times?" asked Briscoe,
chuckling.

"No. Why?"

"Because Harkless did. My hand aches, and I guess William's does, too; he
nearly shook our arms off when we told him he'd been a fool. Seemed to do
him good. I told him he ought to hire somebody to take a shot at him every
morning before breakfast--not that it's any joking matter," the old
gentleman finished, thoughtfully.

"I should say not," said William, with a deep frown and a jerk of his head
toward the rear of the house. "_He_ jokes about it enough. Wouldn't even
promise to carry a gun after this. Said he wouldn't know how to use it.
Never shot one off since he was a boy, on the Fourth of July. This is the
third time he's be'n shot at this year, but he says the others was at a--
a--what'd he call it?"

"'A merely complimentary range,'" Briscoe supplied. He handed William a
cigar and bit the end off another himself. "Minnie, you better go in the
house and read, I expect--unless you want to go down the creek and join
those folks."

"_Me_!" she responded. "I know when to stay away, I guess. Do go and put
that terrible gun up."

"No," said Briscoe, lighting his cigar, deliberately. "It's all safe;
there's no question of that; but maybe William and I better go out and
take a smoke in the orchard as long as they stay down at the creek."

In the garden, shafts of white light pierced the bordering trees and fell
where June roses lifted their heads to breathe the mild night breeze, and
here, through summer spells, the editor of the "Herald" and the lady who
had run to him at the pasture bars strolled down a path trembling with
shadows to where the shallow creek tinkled over the pebbles. They walked
slowly, with an air of being well-accustomed friends and comrades, and for
some reason it did not strike either of them as unnatural or
extraordinary. They came to a bench on the bank, and he made a great fuss
dusting the seat for her with his black slouch hat. Then he regretted the
hat--it was a shabby old hat of a Carlow County fashion.

It was a long bench, and he seated himself rather remotely toward the end
opposite her, suddenly realizing that he had walked very close to her,
coming down the narrow garden path. Neither knew that neither had spoken
since they left the veranda; and it had taken them a long time to come
through the little orchard and the garden. She rested her chin on her
hand, leaning forward and looking steadily at the creek. Her laughter had
quite gone; her attitude seemed a little wistful and a little sad. He
noted that her hair curled over her brow in a way he had not pictured in
the lady of his dreams; this was so much lovelier. He did not care for
tall girls; he had not cared for them for almost half an hour. It was so
much more beautiful to be dainty and small and piquant. He had no notion
that he was sighing in a way that would have put a furnace to shame, but
he turned his eyes from her because he feared that if he looked longer he
might blurt out some speech about her beauty. His glance rested on the
bank; but its diameter included the edge of her white skirt and the tip of
a little, white, high-heeled slipper that peeped out beneath it; and he
had to look away from that, too, to keep from telling her that he meant to
advocate a law compelling all women to wear crisp, white gowns and white
slippers on moonlight nights.

She picked a long spear of grass from the turf before her, twisted it
absently in her fingers, then turned to him slowly. Her lips parted as if
to speak. Then she turned away again. The action was so odd, and somehow,
as she did it, so adorable, and the preserved silence was such a bond
between them, that for his life he could not have helped moving half-way
up the bench toward her.

"What is it?" he asked; and he spoke in a whisper he might have used at
the bedside of a dying friend. He would not have laughed if he had known
he did so. She twisted the spear of grass into a little ball and threw it
at a stone in the water before she answered.

"Do you know, Mr. Harkless, you and I haven't 'met,' have we? Didn't we
forget to be presented to each other?"

"I beg your pardon. Miss Sherwood. In the perturbation of comedy I
forgot."

"It was melodrama, wasn't it?" she said. He laughed, but she shook her
head.

"Comedy," he answered, "except your part of it, which you shouldn't have
done. It was not arranged in honor of 'visiting ladies.' But you mustn't
think me a comedian. Truly, I didn't plan it. My friend from Six-Cross-
Roads must be given the credit of devising the scene-though you divined
it!"

"It was a little too picturesque, I think. I know about Six-Cross-Roads.
Please tell me what you mean to do."

"Nothing. What should I?"

"You mean that you will keep on letting them shoot at you, until they--
until you--" She struck the bench angrily with her hand.

"There's no summer theatre in Six-Cross-Roads; there's not even a church.
Why shouldn't they?" he asked gravely. "During the long and tedious
evenings it cheers the poor Cross-Reader's soul to drop over here and take
a shot at me. It whiles away dull care for him, and he has the additional
exercise of running all the way home."

"Ah!" she cried indignantly, "they told me you always answered like this!"

"Well, you see the Cross-Roads efforts have proved so purely hygienic for
me. As a patriot I have sometimes felt extreme mortification that such bad
marksmanship should exist in the county, but I console myself with the
thought that their best shots are unhappily in the penitentiary."

"There are many left. Can't you understand that they will organize again
and come in a body, as they did before you broke them up? And then, if
they come on a night when they know you are wandering out of town----"

"You have not the advantage of an intimate study of the most exclusive
people of the Cross-Roads, Miss Sherwood. There are about twenty gentlemen
who remain in that neighborhood while their relatives sojourn under
discipline. If you had the entree over there, you would understand that
these twenty could not gather themselves into a company and march the
seven miles without physical debate in the ranks. They are not precisely
amiable people, even amongst themselves.  They would quarrel and shoot
each other to pieces long before they got here."

"But they worked in a company once."

"Never for seven miles. Four miles was their radius. Five would see them
all dead."

She struck the bench again. "Oh, you laugh at me! You make a joke of your
own life and death, and laugh at everything! Have five years of Plattville
taught you to do that?"

"I laugh only at taking the poor Cross-Roaders too seriously. I don't
laugh at your running into fire to help a fellow-mortal."

"I knew there wasn't any risk. I knew he had to stop to load before he
shot again."

"He did shoot again. If I had known you before to-night--I--" His tone
changed and he spoke gravely. "I am at your feet in worship of your
philanthropy. It's so much finer to risk your life for a stranger than for
a friend."

"That is rather a man's point of view, isn't it?"

"You risked yours for a man you had never seen before."

"Oh, no! I saw you at the lecture; I heard you introduce the Honorable Mr.
Halloway."

"Then I don't understand your wishing to save me."

She smiled unwillingly, and turned her gray eyes upon him with troubled
sunniness, and, under the kindness of her regard, he set a watch upon his
lips, though he knew it might not avail him. He had driveled along
respectably so far, he thought, but he had the sentimental longings of
years, starved of expression, culminating in his heart. She continued to
look at him, wistfully, searchingly, gently. Then her eyes traveled over
his big frame from his shoes (a patch of moonlight fell on them; they were
dusty; he drew them under the bench with a shudder) to his broad shoulders
(he shook the stoop out of them). She stretched her small hands toward him
in contrast, and broke into the most delicious low laughter in the world.
At this sound he knew the watch on his lips was worthless. It was a
question of minutes till he should present himself to her eyes as a
sentimental and susceptible imbecile. He knew it. He was in wild spirits.

"Could you realize that one of your dangers might be a shaking?" she
cried. "Is your seriousness a lost art?" Her laughter ceased suddenly.
"Ah, no. I understand. Thiers said the French laugh always, in order not
to weep. I haven't lived here five years. I should laugh too, if I were
you."

"Look at the moon," he responded. "We Plattvillains own that with the best
of metropolitans, and, for my part, I see more of it here. You do not
appreciate us. We have large landscapes in the  heart of the city, and
what other capital possesses advantages like that? Next winter the railway
station is to have a new stove for the waiting-room. Heaven itself is one
of our suburbs--it is so close that all one has to do is to die. You
insist upon my being French, you see, and I know you are fond of nonsense.
How did you happen to put 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' at the bottom of
a page of Fisbee's notes?"

"Was it? How were you sure it was I?"

"In Carlow County!"

"He might have written it himself."

"Fisbee has never in his life read anything lighter than cuneiform
inscriptions."

"Miss Briscoe----"

"She doesn't read Lewis Carroll; and it was not her hand. What made you
write it on Fisbee's manuscript?"

"He was with us this afternoon, and I teased him a little about your
heading. 'Business and the Cradle, the Altar, and the Tomb,' isn't it? And
he said it had always troubled him, but that you thought it good. So do I.
He asked me if I could think of anything that you might like better, to
put in place of it, and I wrote, 'The time has come,' because it was the
only thing I could think of that was as appropriate and as fetching as
your headlines. He was perfectly dear about it. He was so serious; he said
he feared it wouldn't be acceptable. I didn't notice that the paper he
handed me to write on was part of his notes, nor did he, I think.
Afterward, he put it back in his pocket. It wasn't a message."

"I'm not so sure he did not notice. He is very wise. Do you know, somehow,
I have the impression that the old fellow wanted me to meet you."

"How dear and good of him!" She spoke earnestly, and her face was suffused
with a warm light. There was no doubt about her meaning what she said.

"It was," John answered, unsteadily. "He knew how great was my need of a
few moments' companionableness with--with----"

"No," she interrupted. "I meant dear and good to me, because I think he
was thinking of me, and it was for my sake he wanted us to meet."

It would have been hard to convince a woman, if she had overheard this
speech, that Miss Sherwood's humility was not the calculated affectation
of a coquette. Sometimes a man's unsuspicion is wiser, and Harkless knew
that she was not flirting with him. In addition, he was not a fatuous man;
he did not extend the implication of her words nearly so far as she would
have had him.

"But I had met you," said he, "long ago."

"What!" she cried, and her eyes danced. "You actually remember?"

"Yes; do you?" he answered. "I stood in Jones's field and heard you
singing, and I remembered. It was a long time since I had heard you sing:

          "'I was a ruffler of Flanders,
             And fought for a florin's hire.
            You were the dame of my captain
             And sang to my heart's desire.'

"But that is the balladist's notion. The truth is that you were a lady at
the Court of Clovis, and I was a heathen captive. I heard you sing a
Christian hymn--and asked for baptism." By a great effort he managed to
look as if he did not mean it.

But she did not seem over-pleased with his fancy, for, the surprise fading
from her face, "Oh, that was the way you remembered!" she said.

"Perhaps it was not that way alone. You won't despise me for being mawkish
to-night?" he asked. "I haven't had the chance for so long."

The night air wrapped them warmly, and the  balm of the little breezes
that stirred the foliage  around them was the smell of damask roses from
the garden. The creek tinkled over the pebbles at their feet, and a drowsy
bird, half-wakened by the moon, crooned languorously in the sycamores. The
girl looked out at the flashing water through downcast lashes. "Is it
because it is so transient that beauty is pathetic?" she said; "because we
can never come back to it in quite the same way? I am a sentimental girl.
If you are born so, it is never entirely teased out of you, is it?
Besides, to-night is all a dream. It isn't real, you know. You couldn't be
mawkish."

Her tone was gentle as a caress, and it made him tingle to his finger-
tips. "How do you know?" he asked in a low voice.

"I just know. Do you think I'm very 'bold and forward'?" she said,
dreamily.

"It was your song I wanted to be sentimental about. I am like one 'who
through long days of toil'--only that doesn't quite apply--'and nights
devoid of ease'--but I can't claim that one doesn't sleep well here; it is
Plattville's specialty--like one who

           "'Still heard in his soul the music
             Of wonderful melodies.'"

"Those blessed old lines!" she said. "Once a thing is music or poetry, all
the hand-organs and elocutionists in the world cannot ruin it, can they?
Yes; to live here, out of the world, giving up the world, doing good and
working for others, working for a community as you do----"

"I am not quite shameless," he interrupted, smilingly. "I was given a life
sentence for incompetency, and I've served five years of it, which have
been made much happier than my deserts."

"No," she persisted, "that is your way of talking of yourself; I know you
would always 'run yourself down,' if one paid any attention to it. But to
give up the world, to drop out of it without regret, to come here and do
what you have done, and to live the life that must be so desperately dry
and dull for a man of your sort, and yet to have the kind of heart that
makes wonderful melodies sing in itself--oh!" she cried, "I say that is
fine!"

"You do not understand," he returned, sadly, wishing, before her, to be
unmercifully just to himself. "I came here because I couldn't make a
living anywhere else. And the 'wonderful melodies'--I have known you only
one evening--and the melodies--" He rose to his feet and took a few steps
toward the garden. "Come," he said. "Let me take you back. Let us go
before I--" he finished with a helpless laugh.

She stood by the bench, one hand resting on it; she stood all in the
tremulant shadow. She moved one step toward him, and a single, long sliver
of light pierced the sycamores and fell upon her head. He gasped.

"What was it about the melodies?" she said.

"Nothing! I don't know how to thank you for this evening that you have
given me. I--I suppose you are leaving to-morrow. No one ever stays
here.--I----"

"What about the melodies?"

He gave it up. "The moon makes people insane!" he cried.

"If that is true," she returned, "then you need not be more afraid than I,
because 'people' is plural. What were you saying about----"

"I _had_ heard them--in my heart. When I heard your voice to-night, I knew
that it was you who sang them there--had been singing them for me always."

"So!" she cried, gaily. "All that debate about a pretty speech!" Then,
sinking before him in a deep courtesy, "I am beholden to you," she said.
"Do you think that no man ever made a little flattery for me before
to-night?"

At the edge of the orchard, where they could keep an unseen watch on the
garden and the bank of the creek. Judge Briscoe and Mr. Todd were
ensconced under an apple-tree, the former still armed with his shot-gun.
When the two young people got up from their bench, the two men rose
hastily, and then sauntered slowly toward them. When they met, Harkless
shook each of them cordially by the hand, without seeming to know it.

"We were coming to look for you," explained the judge. "William was afraid
to go home alone; thought some one might take him for Mr. Harkless and
shoot him before he got into town. Can you come out with young Willetts in
the morning, Harkless," he went on, "and go with the ladies to see the
parade? And Minnie wants you to stay to dinner and go to the show with
them in the afternoon."

Harkless seized his hand and shook it fervently, and then laughed
heartily, as he accepted the invitation.

At the gate, Miss Sherwood extended her hand to him and said politely, and
with some flavor of mockery: "Good-night, Mr. Harkless. I do not leave
to-morrow. I am very glad to have met you."

"We are going to keep her all summer if we can," said Minnie, weaving her
arm about her friend's waist. "You'll come in the morning?"

"Good-night, Miss Sherwood," he returned, hilariously. "It has been such a
pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for saving my life. It was very
good of you indeed. Yes, in the morning. Good-night--good-night." He shook
hands with them all again, including Mr. Todd, who was going with him.

He laughed most of the way home, and Mr. Todd walked at his side in
amazement. The Herald Building was a decrepit frame structure on Main
Street; it had once been a small warehouse and was now sadly in need of
paint. Closely adjoining it, in a large, blank-looking yard, stood a low
brick cottage, over which the second story of the warehouse leaned in an
effect of tipsy affection that had reminded Harkless, when he first saw
it, of an old Sunday-school book wood-cut of an inebriated parent under
convoy of a devoted child. The title to these two buildings and the blank
yard had been included in the purchase of the "Herald"; and the cottage
was Harkless's home.

There was a light burning upstairs in the "Herald" office. From the street
a broad, tumble-down stairway ran up on the outside of the building to the
second floor, and at the stairway railing John turned and shook his
companion warmly by the hand.

"Good-night, William," he said. "It was plucky of you to join in that
muss, to-night. I shan't forget it."

"I jest happened to come along," replied the other, drowsily; then, with a
portentous yawn, he asked: "Ain't ye goin' to bed?"

"No; Parker wouldn't allow it."

"Well," observed William, with another yawn, which bade fair to expose the
veritable soul of him, "I d'know how ye stand it. It's closte on eleven
o'clock. Good-night."

John went up the steps, singing aloud:

          "For to-night we'll merry, merry be,
           For to-night we'll merry, merry be,"

and stopped on the sagging platform at the top of the stairs and gave the
moon good-night with a wave of the hand and friendly laughter. At that it
suddenly struck him that he was twenty-nine years of age; that he had
laughed a great deal that evening; that he had laughed and laughed over
things not in the least humorous, like an excited schoolboy making his
first formal call; that he had shaken hands with Miss Briscoe when he left
her, as if he should never see her again; that he had taken Miss
Sherwood's hand twice in one very temporary parting; that he had shaken
the judge's hand five times, and William's four!

"Idiot!" he cried. "What has happened to me?" Then he shook his fist at
the moon and went in to work--he thought.




CHAPTER VII


MORNING: "SOME IN RAGS AND SOME IN TAGS AND SOME IN VELVET GOWNS"

The bright sun of circus-day shone into Harkless's window, and he awoke to
find himself smiling. For a little while he lay content, drowsily
wondering why he smiled, only knowing that there was something new. It was
thus, as a boy, he had wakened on his birthday mornings, or on Christmas,
or on the Fourth of July, drifting happily out of pleasant dreams into the
consciousness of long-awaited delights that had come true, yet lying only
half-awake in a cheerful borderland, leaving happiness undefined.

The morning breeze was fluttering at his window blind; a honeysuckle vine
tapped lightly on the pane. Birds were trilling, warbling, whistling. From
the street came the rumbling of wagons, merry cries of greeting, and the
barking of dogs. What was it made him feel so young and strong and light-
hearted? The breeze brought him the smell of June roses, fresh and sweet
with dew, and then he knew why he had come smiling from his dreams. He
would go a holiday-making. With that he leaped out of bed, and shouted
loudly: "Zen! Hello, Xenophon!"

In answer, an ancient, very black darky put his head in at the door, his
warped and wrinkled visage showing under his grizzled hair like charred
paper in a fall of pine ashes. He said: "Good-mawn', suh. Yessuh. Hit's
done pump' full. Good-mawn', suh."

A few moments later, the colored man, seated on the front steps of the
cottage, heard a mighty splashing within, while the rafters rang with
stentorian song:

       "He promised to buy me a bunch o' blue ribbon,
        He promised to buy me a bunch o' blue ribbon,
        He promised to buy me a bunch o' blue ribbon,
             To tie up my bonny brown hair

       "Oh dear! What can the matter be?
        Oh dear! What can the matter be?
        Oh dear! What can the matter be?
             Johnnie's so long at the Fair!"

At the sound of this complaint, delivered in a manly voice, the listener's
jaw dropped, and his mouth opened and stayed open. "_Him!_" he muttered,
faintly. "_Singin'_!"

    "Well, the old Triangle knew the music of our tread;
     How the peaceful Seminole would tremble in his bed!"

sang the editor.
"I dunno huccome it," exclaimed the old man, "an' dat ain' hyer ner dar;
but, bless Gawd! de young man' happy!" A thought struck him suddenly, and
he scratched his head. "Maybe he goin' away," he said, querulously. "What
become o' ole Zen?" The splashing ceased, but not the voice, which struck
into a noble marching chorus. "Oh, my Lawd," said the colored man, "I pray
you listen at dat!"

           "Soldiers marching up the street,
             They keep the time;
             They look sublime!
            Hear them play Die Wacht am Rhein!
             They call them Schneider's Band.
               Tra la la la, la!"

The length of Main Street and all the Square resounded with the rattle of
vehicles of every kind. Since earliest dawn they had been pouring into the
village, a long procession on every country road. There were great red and
blue farm wagons, drawn by splendid Clydesdales; the elders of the family
on the front seat and on boards laid from side to side in front, or on
chairs placed close behind, while, in the deep beds back of these,
children tumbled in the straw, or peeped over the sides, rosy-cheeked and
laughing, eyes alight with blissful anticipations. There were more
pretentious two-seated cut-unders and stout buckboards, loaded down with
merrymakers, four on a seat meant for two; there were rattle-trap phaetons
and comfortable carry-alls drawn by steady spans; and, now and then, mule
teams bringing happy negroes, ready to squander all on the first Georgia
watermelons and cider. Every vehicle contained heaping baskets of good
things to eat (the previous night had been a woeful Bartholomew for Carlow
chickens) and underneath, where the dogs paced faithfully, swung buckets
and fodder for the horses, while colts innumerable trotted dose to the
maternal flanks, viewing the world with their big, new eyes in frisky
surprise.

Here and there the trim side-bar buggy of some prosperous farmer's son,
escorting his sweetheart, flashed along the road, the young mare stepping
out in pride of blood to pass the line of wagons, the youth who held the
reins, resplendent in Sunday best and even better, his scorched brown face
glowing with a fine belief in the superiority of both his steed and his
lady; the latter beaming out upon life and rejoicing in the light-blue
ribbons on her hat, the light-blue ribbon around her waist, the light-
blue, silk half-mittens on her hands, and the beautiful red coral necklace
about her neck and the red coral buttons that fastened her gown in the
back.

The air was full of exhilaration; everybody was laughing and shouting and
calling greetings; for Carlow County was turning out, and from far and
near the country people came; nay, from over the county line, clouds of
dust rising from every thoroughfare and highway, and sweeping into town to
herald their coming.

Dibb Zane, the "sprinkling contractor," had been at work with the town
water-cart since the morning stars were bright, but he might as well have
watered the streets with his tears, which, indeed, when the farmers began
to come in, bringing their cyclones of dust, he drew nigh unto, after a
spell of profanity as futile as his cart.

           "Tief wie das Meer soll deine Liebe sein,"

hummed the editor in the cottage. His song had taken on a reflective tone
as that of one who cons a problem, or musically ponders which card to
play. He was kneeling before an old trunk in his bedchamber. From one
compartment he took a neatly folded pair of duck trousers and a light-gray
tweed coat; from another, a straw hat with a ribbon of bright colors. They
had lain in the trunk a long time undisturbed; and he examined them
musingly. He shook the coat and brushed it; then he laid the garments upon
his bed, and proceeded to shave himself carefully, after which he donned
the white  trousers, the gray coat, and, rummaging in the trunk  again,
found a gay pink cravat, which he fastened about his tall collar (also a
resurrection from the trunk) with a pearl pin. After that he had a long,
solemn time arranging his hair with a pair of brushes. When at last he was
suited, and his dressing completed, he sallied forth to breakfast.

Xenophon stared after him as he went out of the gate whistling heartily.
The old darky lifted his hands, palms outward.

"Lan' name, who dat!" he exclaimed aloud. "Who dat in dem pan-jingeries?
He jine' de circus?" His hands fell upon his knees, and he got to his feet
pneumatically, shaking his head with foreboding. "Honey, honey, hit' baid
luck, baid luck sing 'fo' breakfus. Trouble 'fo' de day be done. Trouble,
honey, gre't trouble. Baid luck, baid luck!"

Along the Square the passing of the editor in his cool equipment evoked
some gasps of astonishment; and Mr. Tibbs and his sister rushed from the
postoffice to stare after him.

"He looks just beautiful, Solomon," said Miss Tibbs.

"But what's the name for them kind of clothes?" inquired her brother.
"'Seems to me there's a special way of callin' 'em. 'Seems as if I see a
picture of 'em, somewheres. Wasn't it on the cover of that there long-
tennis box we bought and put in the window, and the country people thought
it was a seining outfit?"

"It was a game, the catalogue said," observed Miss Selina. "Wasn't it?"

"It was a mighty pore investment," the postmaster answered.

As Harkless approached the hotel, a decrepit old man, in a vast straw hat
and a linen duster much too large for him, came haltingly forward to meet
him. He was Widow-Woman Wimby's husband. And, as did every one else, he
spoke of his wife by the name of her former martial companion.

"Be'n a-lookin' fer you, Mr. Harkless," he said in a shaking spindle of a
voice, as plaintive as his pale little eyes. "Mother Wimby, she sent some
roses to ye. Cynthy's fixin' 'em on yer table. I'm well as ever I am; but
her, she's too complaining to come in fer show-day. This morning, early,
we see some the Cross-Roads folks pass the place towards town, an' she
sent me in to tell ye. Oh, I knowed ye'd laugh. Says she, 'He's too much
of a man to be skeered,' says she, 'these here tall, big men always 'low
nothin' on earth kin hurt 'em,' says she, 'but you tell him to be
keerful,' says she; an' I see Bill Skillett an' his brother on the Square
lessun a half-an-hour ago, 'th my own eyes. I won't keep ye from yer
breakfast.--Eph Watts is in there, eatin'. He's come back; but I guess I
don't need to warn ye agin' him. He seems peaceable enough. It's the other
folks you got to look out fer."

He limped away. The editor waved his hand to him from the door, but the
old fellow shook his head, and made a warning, friendly gesture with his
arm.

Harkless usually ate his breakfast alone, as he was the latest riser in
Plattville. (There were days in the winter when he did not reach the hotel
until eight o'clock.) This morning he found a bunch of white roses, still
wet with dew and so fragrant that the whole room was fresh and sweet with
their odor, prettily arranged in a bowl on the table, and, at his plate,
the largest of all with a pin through the stem. He looked up, smilingly,
and nodded at the red-haired girl. "Thank you, Charmion," he said. "That's
very pretty."

She turned even redder than she always was, and answered nothing,
vigorously darting her brush at an imaginary fly on the cloth. After
several minutes she said abruptly, "You're welcome."

There was a silence, finally broken by a long, gasping sigh. Astonished,
he looked at the girl. Her eyes were set unfathomably upon his pink tie;
the wand had dropped from her nerveless hand, and she stood rapt and
immovable. She started violently from her trance. "Ain't you goin' to
finish your coffee?" she asked, plying her instrument again, and, bending
over him slightly, whispered: "Say, Eph Watts is over there behind you."

At a table in a far corner of the room a large gentleman in a brown frock
coat was quietly eating his breakfast and reading the "Herald." He was of
an ornate presence, though entirely neat. A sumptuous expanse of linen
exhibited itself between the lapels of his low-cut waistcoat, and an inch
of bediamonded breastpin glittered there, like an ice-ledge on a snowy
mountain side. He had a steady, blue eye and a dissipated, iron-gray
mustache. This personage was Mr. Ephraim Watts, who, following a calling
more fashionable in the eighteenth century than in the latter decades of
the nineteenth, had shaken the dust of Carlow from his feet some three
years previously, at the strong request of the authorities. The "Herald"
had been particularly insistent upon his deportation, and, in the local
phrase, Harkless had "run him out of town." Perhaps it was because the
"Herald's" opposition (as the editor explained at the time) had been
merely moral and impersonal, and the editor had always confessed to a
liking for the unprofessional qualities of Mr. Watts, that there was but
slight embarrassment when the two gentlemen met to-day. His breakfast
finished, Harkless went over to the other and extended his hand. Cynthia
held her breath and clutched the back of a chair. However, Mr. Watts made
no motion toward his well-known hip pocket. Instead, he rose, flushed
slightly, and accepted the hand offered him.

"I'm glad to see you, Mr. Watts," said the journalist, cordially. "Also,
if you are running with the circus and calculate on doing business here
to-day, I'll have to see that you are fired out of town before noon. How
are you? You're looking extremely well."

"Mr. Harkless," answered Watts, "I cherish no hard feelings, and I never
said but what you done exactly right when I left, three years ago. No,
sir; I'm not here in a professional way at all, and I don't want to be
molested. I've connected myself with an oil company, and I'm down here to
look over the ground. It beats poker and fan-tan hollow, though there
ain't as many chances in favor of the dealer, and in oil it's the farmer
that gets the rake-off. I've come back, but in an enterprising spirit this
time, to open up a new field and shed light and money in Carlow. They told
me never to show my face here again, but if you say I stay, I guess I
stay. I always was sure there was oil in the county, and I want to prove
it for everybody's benefit. Is it all right?"

"My dear fellow," laughed the young man, shaking the gambler's hand again,
"it is all right. I have always been sorry I had to act against you.
Everything is all right! Stay and bore to Corea if you like. Did ever you
see such glorious weather?"

"I'll let you in on some shares," Watts called after him as he turned
away. He nodded in reply and was leaving the room when Cynthia detained
him by a flourish of the fly-brush. "Say," she said,--she always called
him "Say"--"You've forgot your flower."

He came back, and thanked her. "Will you pin it on for me, Charmion?"

"I don't know what call you got to speak to me out of my name," she
responded, looking at the floor moodily.

"Why?" he asked, surprised.

"I don't see why you want to make fun of me."

"I beg your pardon, Cynthia," he said gravely. "I didn't mean to do that.
I haven't been considerate. I didn't think you'd be displeased. I'm very
sorry. Won't you pin it on my coat?"

Her face was lifted in grateful pleasure, and she began to pin the rose to
his lapel. Her hands were large and red and trembled.  She dropped the
flower, and, saying huskily, "I don't know as I could do it right," seized
violently upon a pile of dishes and hurried from the room.

Harkless rescued the rose, pinned it on his coat himself, and, observing
internally, for the hundredth time, that the red-haired waitress was the
queerest creature in the village, set forth gaily upon his holiday.

When he reached the brick house on the pike he discovered a gentleman sunk
in an easy and contemplative attitude in a big chair behind the veranda
railing. At the click of the gate the lounger rose and disclosed the
stalwart figure and brown, smiling, handsome face of Mr. Lige Willetts, an
habitual devotee of Minnie Briscoe, and the most eligible bachelor of
Carlow. "The ladies will be down right off," he said, greeting the
editor's finery with a perceptible agitation and the editor himself with a
friendly shake of the hand. "Mildy says to wait out here."

But immediately there was a faint rustling within the house: the swish of
draperies on the stairs, a delicious whispering when light feet descend,
tapping, to hearts that beat an answer, the telegraphic message, "We come!
We come! We are near! We are near!" Lige Willetts stared at Harkless. He
had never thought the latter good-looking until he saw him step to the
door to take Miss Sherwood's hand and say in a strange, low, tense voice,
"Good-morning," as if he were announcing, at the least: "Every one in the
world except us two, died last night. It is a solemn thing, but I am very
happy."

They walked, Minnie and Mr. Willetts a little distance in front of the
others. Harkless could not have told, afterward, whether they rode, or
walked, or floated on an air-ship to the court-house. All he knew
distinctly was that a divinity in a pink shirt waist, and a hat that was
woven of gauzy cloud by mocking fairies to make him stoop hideously to see
under it, dwelt for the time on earth and was at his side, dazzling him in
the morning sunshine. Last night the moon had lent her a silvery glamour;
she had something of the ethereal whiteness of night-dews in that watery
light, a nymph to laugh from a sparkling fountain, at the moon or, as he
thought, remembering her courtesy for his pretty speech, perhaps a little
lady of King Louis's court, wandering down the years from Fontainebleau
and appearing to clumsy mortals sometimes, of a June night when the moon
was in their heads.

But to-day she was of the clearest color, a pretty girl, whose gray eyes
twinkled to his in gay companionship.  He marked how the sunshine was spun
into the fair shadows of her hair and seemed itself to catch a lustre,
rather than to impart it, and the light of the June day drifted through
the gauzy hat, touching her face with a delicate and tender flush that
came and went like the vibrating pink of early dawn. She had the divinest
straight nose, tip-tilted the faintest, most alluring trifle, and a dimple
cleft her chin, "the deadliest maelstrom in the world!" He thrilled
through and through. He had been only vaguely conscious of the dimple in
the night. It was not until he saw her by daylight that he really knew it
was there.

The village hummed with life before them. They walked through shimmering
airs, sweeter to breathe than nectar is to drink. She caught a butterfly,
basking on a jimson weed, and, before she let it go, held it out to him in
her hand. It was a white butterfly. He asked which was the butterfly.

"Bravo!" she said, tossing the captive craft above their heads and
watching the small sails catch the breeze; "And so you can make little
flatteries in the morning, too. It is another courtesy you should be
having from me, if it weren't for the dustiness of it. Wait till we come
to the board walk."

She had some big, pink roses at her waist. "In the meantime," he answered,
indicating these, "I know very well a lad that would be blithe to accept a
pretty token of any lady's high esteem."

"But you have one, already, a very beautiful one." She gave him a genial
up-and-down glance from head to foot, half quizzical, but so quick he
almost missed it. And then he was glad he had found the straw hat with the
youthful ribbon, and all his other festal vestures. "And a very becoming
flower a white rose is," she continued, "though I am a bold girl to be
blarneying with a young  gentleman I met no longer ago than last night."

"But why shouldn't you blarney with a gentleman, when you began by saving
his life?"

"Or, rather, when the gentleman had the politeness to gallop about the
county with me tucked under his arm?" She stood still and laughed softly,
but consummately, and her eyes closed tight with the mirth of it. She had
taken one of the roses from her waist, and, as she stood, holding it by
the long stem, its petals lightly pressed her lips.

"You may have it--in exchange," she said. He bent down to her, and she
began to fasten the pink rose in place of the white one on his coat. She
did not ask him, directly or indirectly, who had put the white one there
for him, because she knew by the way it was pinned that he had done it
himself. "Who is it that ev'ry morning brings me these lovely flow'rs?"
she burlesqued, as he bent over her.

"'Mr. Wimby,'" he returned. "I will point him out to you. You must see
him, and, also, Mr. Bodeffer, the oldest inhabitant--and crossest."

"Will you present them to me?"

"No; they might talk to you and take some of my time with you away from
me." Her eyes sparkled into his for the merest fraction of a second, and
she laughed half mockingly. Then she dropped his lapel and they proceeded.
She did not put the white rose in her belt, but carried it.

The Square was heaving with a jostling, goodnatured, happy, and constantly
increasing crowd that overflowed on Main Street in both directions; and
the good nature of this crowd was augmented in the ratio that its size
increased. The streets were a confusion of many colors, and eager faces
filled every window opening on Main Street or the Square. Since nine
o'clock all those of the courthouse had been occupied, and here most of
the damsels congregated to enjoy the spectacle of the parade, and their
swains attended, gallantly posting themselves at coignes of less vantage
behind the ladies. Some of the faces that peeped from the dark, old court-
house windows were pretty, and some of them were not pretty; but nearly
all of them were rosy-cheeked, and all were pleasant to see because of the
good cheer they showed. Some of the gallants affected the airy and easy,
entertaining the company with badinage and repartee; some were openly
bashful. Now and then one of the latter, after long deliberation,
constructed a laborious compliment for his inamorata, and, after advancing
and propounding half of it, again retired into himself, smit with a
blissful palsy. Nearly all of them conversed in tones that might have
indicated that they were separated from each other by an acre lot or two.

Here and there, along the sidewalk below, a father worked his way through
the throng, a licorice-bedaubed cherub on one arm, his coat (borne with
long enough) on the other; followed by a mother with the other children
hanging to her skirts and tagging exasperatingly behind, holding red and
blue toy balloons and delectable batons of spiral-striped peppermint in
tightly closed, sadly sticky fingers.

A thousand cries rent the air; the strolling mountebanks and gypsying
booth-merchants; the peanut vendors; the boys with palm-leaf fans for
sale; the candy sellers; the popcorn peddlers; the Italian with the toy
balloons that float like a cluster of colored bubbles above the heads of
the crowd, and the balloons that wail like a baby; the red-lemonade man,
shouting in the shrill voice that reaches everywhere and endures forever:
"Lemo! Lemo! Ice-cole lemo! Five cents, a nickel, a half-a-dime, the
twentiethpotofadollah! Lemo! Ice-cole lemo!"--all the vociferating
harbingers of the circus crying their wares. Timid youth, in shoes covered
with dust through which the morning polish but dimly shone, and
unalterably hooked by the arm to blushing maidens, bought recklessly of
peanuts, of candy, of popcorn, of all known sweetmeats, perchance; and
forced their way to the lemonade stands; and there, all shyly, silently
sipped the crimson-stained ambrosia. Everywhere the hawkers dinned, and
everywhere was heard the plaintive squawk of the toy balloon.

But over all rose the nasal cadence of the Cheap John, reeking oratory
from his big wagon on the corner: "Walk up, walk up, walk up, ladies and
gents! Here we are! Here we are! Make hay while we gather the moss. Walk
up, one and all. Here I put this solid gold ring, sumptuous and golden,
eighteen carats, eighteen golden carats of the priceless mother of metals,
toiled fer on the wild Pacific slope, eighteen garnteed, I put this golden
ring, rich and golden, in the package with the hangkacheef, the elegant
and blue-ruled note-paper, self-writing pens, pencil and penholder. Who
takes the lot? Who takes it, ladies and gents?"

His tongue curled about his words; he seemed to love them. "Fer a quat-of-
a-dollah! Don't turn away, young man--you feller in the green necktie,
there. We all see the young lady on your arm is a-langrishing fer the
golden ring and the package. Faint heart never won fair wummin'. There you
are, sir, and you'll never regret it. Go--and be happy! Now, who's the
next man to git solid with his girl fer a quat-of-a-dollah? Life is a
mysterus and unviolable shadder, my friends; who kin read its orgeries?
To-day we are here--but to-morrow we may be in jail. Only a quat-of-a-
dollah! We are Seventh-Day Adventists, ladies and gents, a-givin' away our
belongings in the awful face of Michael, fer a quat-of-a-dollah. The same
price fer each-an-devery individual, lady and gent, man, wummin, wife and
child, and happiness to one and all fer a quat-of-a-dollah!"

Down the middle of the street, kept open between the waiting crowd, ran
barefoot boys, many of whom had not slept at home, but had kept vigil in
the night mists for the coming of the show, and, having seen the muffled
pageant arrive, swathed, and with no pomp and panoply, had returned to
town, rioting through jewelled cobwebs in the morning fields, happy in the
pride of knowledge of what went on behind the scenes. To-night, or
to-morrow, the runaways would face a woodshed reckoning with outraged
ancestry; but now they caracoled in the dust with no thought of the grim
deeds to be done upon them.

In the court-house yard, and so sinning in the very eye of the law, two
swarthy, shifty-looking gentlemen were operating (with some greasy walnut
shells and a pea) what the fanciful or unsophisticated might have been
pleased to call a game of chance; and the most intent spectator of the
group around them was Mr. James Bardlock, the Town Marshal. He was simply
and unofficially and earnestly interested. Thus the eye of Justice may not
be said to have winked upon the nefariousness now under its vision; it
gazed with strong curiosity, an itch to dabble, and (it must be admitted)
a growing hope of profit. The game was so direct and the player so sure.
Several countrymen had won small sums, and one, a charmingly rustic
stranger, with a peculiar accent (he said that him and his goil should now
have a smoot' old time off his winninks--though the lady was not
manifested), had won twenty-five dollars with no trouble at all. The two
operators seemed depressed, declaring the luck against them and the
Plattville people too brilliant at the game.

It was wonderful how the young couples worked their way arm-in-arm through
the thickest crowds, never separating. Even at the lemonade stands they
drank holding the glasses in their outer hands--such are the sacrifices
demanded by etiquette. But, observing the gracious outpouring of fortune
upon the rustic with the rare accent, a youth in a green tie disengaged
his arm--for the first time in two hours--from that of a girl upon whose
finger there shone a ring, sumptuous and golden, and, conducting her to a
corner of the yard, bade her remain there until he returned. He had to
speak to Hartly Bowlder, he explained.

Then he plunged, red-faced and excited, into the circle about the shell
manipulators, and offered, to lay a wager.

"Hol' on there, Hen Fentriss," thickly objected a flushed young man beside
him, "iss my turn."

"I'm first. Hartley," returned the other. "You can hold yer bosses a
minute, I reckon."

"Plenty fer each and all, chents," interrupted one of the shell-men.
"Place yer spondulicks on de little ball. Wich is de next lucky one to win
our money? Chent bets four sixty-five he seen de little ball go under de
middle shell. Up she comes! Dis time _we_ wins; Plattville can't win
_every_ time. Who's de next chent?"

Fentriss edged slowly out of the circle, abashed, and with rapidly
whitening cheeks. He paused for a moment, outside, slowly realizing that
all his money had gone in one wild, blind whirl--the money he had earned
so hard and saved so hard, to make a holiday for his sweetheart and
himself. He stole one glance around the building to where a patient figure
waited for him. Then he fled down a side alley and soon was out upon the
country road, tramping soddenly homeward through the dust, his chin sunk
in his breast and his hands clenched tight at his sides. Now and then he
stopped and bitterly hurled a stone at a piping bird on a fence, or gay
Bob White in the fields. At noon the patient figure was still waiting in
the corner of the court-house yard, meekly twisting the golden ring upon
her finger.

But the flushed young man who had spoken thickly to her deserter drew an
envied roll of bankbills from his pocket and began to bet with tipsy
caution, while the circle about the gamblers watched with fervid interest,
especially Mr. Bardlock, Town Marshal.

From far up Main Street came the cry "She's a-comin'! She's a-comin'!"
and, this announcement of the parade proving only one of a dozen false
alarms, a thousand discussions took place over old-fashioned silver
timepieces as to when "she" was really due. Schofields' Henry was much
appealed to as an arbiter in these discussions, from a sense of his having
a good deal to do with time in a general sort of way; and thus Schofields'
came to be reminded that it was getting on toward ten o'clock, whereas, in
the excitement of festival, he had not yet struck nine.  This, rushing
forthwith to do, he did; and, in the elation of the moment, seven or eight
besides. Miss Helen Sherwood was looking down on the mass of shifting
color from a second-story window--whither many an eye was upturned in
wonder--and she had the pleasure of seeing Schofields' emerge on the steps
beneath her, when the bells had done, and heard the cheers (led by Mr.
Martin) with which the laughing crowd greeted his appearance after the
performance of his feat.

She turned beamingly to Harkless. "What a family it is!" she laughed.
"Just one big, jolly family. I didn't know people could be like this until
I came to Plattville."

"That is the word for it," he answered, resting his hand on the casement
beside her. "I used to think it was desolate, but that was long ago." He
leaned from the window to look down. In his dark cheek was a glow Carlow
folk had never seen there; and somehow he seemed less thin and tired;
indeed, he did not seem tired at all, by far the contrary; and he carried
himself upright (when he was not stooping to see under the hat), though
not as if he thought about it. "I believe they are the best people I
know," he went on. "Perhaps it is because they have been so kind to me;
but they are kind to each other, too; kind, good people----"

"I know," she said, nodding--a flower on the gauzy hat set to vibrating in
a tantalizing way. "I know. There are fat women who rock and rock on
piazzas by the sea, and they speak of country people as the 'lower
classes.' How happy this big family is in not knowing it is the lower
classes!" "We haven't read Nordau down here," said John. "Old Tom Martin's
favorite work is 'The Descent of Man.' Miss Tibbs admires Tupper, and
'Beulah,' and some of us possess the works of E. P. Roe--and why not?"

"Yes; what of it," she returned, "since you escape Nordau? I think the
conversation we hear from the other windows is as amusing and quite as
loud as most of that I hear in Rouen during the winter; and Rouen, you
know, is just like any other big place nowadays, though I suppose there
are Philadelphians, for instance, who would be slow to believe a statement
like that."

"Oh, but they are not all of Philadelphia----" He left the sentence,
smilingly.

"And yet somebody said, 'The further West I travel the more convinced I am
the Wise Men came from the East.'"

"Yes," he answered. "'From' is the important word in that."

"It was a girl from Southeast Cottonbridge, Massachusetts," said Helen,
"who heard I was from Indiana and asked me if I didn't hate to live so far
away from things." There was a pause, while she leaned out of the window
with her face aside from him. Then she remarked carelessly, "I met her at
Winter Harbor."

"Do you go to Winter Harbor?" he asked.

"We have gone there every summer until this one, for years. Have you
friends who go there?"

"I had--once. There was a classmate of mine from Rouen----"

"What was his name? Perhaps I know him." She stole a glance at him. His
face had fallen into sad lines, and he looked like the man who had come up
the aisle with the Hon. Kedge Halloway. A few moments before he had seemed
another person entirely.

"He's forgotten me, I dare say. I haven't seen him for seven years; and
that's a long time, you know.  Besides, he's 'out in the world,' where
remembering is harder. Here in Plattville we don't forget."

"Were you ever at Winter Harbor?"

"I was--once. I spent a very happy day there long ago, when you must have
been a little girl. Were you there in--"

"Listen!" she cried. "The procession is coming. Look at the crowd!" The
parade had seized a psychological moment.

There was a fanfare of trumpets in the east. Lines of people rushed for
the street, and, as one looked down on the straw hats and sunbonnets and
many kinds of finer head apparel, tossing forward, they seemed like surf
sweeping up the long beaches.

She was coming at last. The boys whooped in the middle of the street; some
tossed their arms to heaven, others expressed their emotion by
somersaults; those most deeply moved walked on their hands. In the
distance one saw, over the heads of the multitude, tossing banners and the
moving crests of triumphal cars, where "cohorts were shining in purple and
gold." She _was_ coming. After all the false alarms and disappointments,
she was coming!

There was another flourish of music. Immediately all the band gave sound,
and then, with blare of brass and the crash of drums, the glory of the
parade burst upon Plattville. Glory in the utmost! The resistless impetus
of the march-time music; the flare of royal banners, of pennons on the
breeze; the smiling of beautiful Court Ladies and great, silken Nobles;
the swaying of howdahs on camel and elephant, and the awesome shaking of
the earth beneath the elephant's feet, and the gleam of his small but
devastating eye (every one declared he looked the alarmed Mr. Snoddy full
in the face as he passed, and Mr. Snoddy felt not at all reassured when
Tom Martin severely hinted that it was with the threatening glance of a
rival); then the badinage of the clown, creaking along in his donkey cart;
the terrific recklessness of the spangled hero who was drawn by in a cage
with two striped tigers; the spirit of the prancing steeds that drew the
rumbling chariots, and the grace of the helmeted charioteers; the splendor
of the cars and the magnificence of the paintings with which they were
adorned; the ecstasy of all this glittering, shining, gorgeous pageantry
needed even more than walking on your hands to express.

Last of all came the tooting calliope, followed by swarms of boys as it
executed, "Wait till the clouds roll by, Jennie" with infinite dash and
gusto.

When it was gone, Miss Sherwood's intent gaze relaxed--she had been
looking on as eagerly as any child,--and she turned to speak to Harkless
and discovered that he was no longer in the room; instead, she found
Minnie and Mr. Willetts, whom he had summoned from another window.

"He was called away," explained Lige. "He thought he'd be back before the
parade was over, and said you were enjoying it so much he didn't want to
speak to you."

"Called away?" she said, inquiringly.

Minnie laughed. "Oh, everybody sends for Mr. Harkless."

"It was a farmer, name of Bowlder," added Mr. Willetts. "His son Hartley's
drinking again, and there ain't any one but Harkless can do anything with
him. You let him tackle a sick man to nurse, or a tipsy one to handle, and
I tell you," Mr. Willetts went on with enthusiasm, "he is at home. It
beats me,--and lots of people don't think college does a man any good!
Why, the way he cured old Fis----"

"See!" cried Minnie, loudly, pointing out of the window.  "Look down
there. Something's happened."

There was a swirl in the crowd below. Men were running around a corner of
the court-house, and the women and children were harking after. They went
so fast, and there were so many of them, that immediately that whole
portion of the yard became a pushing, tugging, pulling, squirming jam of
people.

"It's on the other side," said Lige. "We can see from the hall window.
Come quick, before these other folks fill it up."

They followed him across the building, and looked down on an agitated
swarm of faces. Five men were standing on the entrance steps to the door
below, and the crowd was thickly massed beyond, leaving a little
semicircle clear about the steps. Those behind struggled to get closer,
and leaped in the air to catch a glimpse of what was going on. Harkless
stood alone on the top step, his hand resting on the shoulder of the pale
and contrite and sobered Hartley. In the clear space, Jim Bardlock was
standing with sheepishly hanging head, and between him and Harkless were
the two gamblers of the walnut shells. The journalist held in his hand the
implements of their profession.

"Give it all up," he was saying in his steady voice. "You've taken eighty-
six dollars from this boy. Hand it over."

The men began to edge closer to the crowd, giving little, swift,
desperate, searching looks from left to right, and right to left, moving
nervously about, like weasels in a trap. "Close up there tight," said
Harkless, sharply. "Don't let them out."

"W'y can't we git no square treatment here?" one of the gamblers whined;
but his eyes, blazing with rage, belied the plaintive passivity of his
tone. "We been running no skin. Wy d'ye say we gotter give up our own
money? You gotter prove it was a skin. We risked our money fair."

"Prove it! Come up here, Eph Watts. Friends," the editor turned to the
crowd, smiling, "friends, here's a man we ran out of town once, because he
knew too much about things of this sort. He's come back to us again and
he's here to stay. He'll give us an object-lesson on the shell game."

"It's pretty simple," remarked Mr. Watts. "The best way is to pick up the
ball with your second finger and the back part of your thumb as you
pretend to lay the shell down over it: this way." He illustrated, and
showed several methods of manipulation, with professional sang-froid; and
as he made plain the easy swindle by which many had been duped that
morning, there arose an angry and threatening murmur.

"You all see," said Harkless, raising his voice a little, "what a simple
cheat it is--and old as Pharaoh. Yet a lot of you stood around and lost
your own money, and stared like idiots, and let Hartley Bowlder lose
eighty-odd dollars on a shell racket, and not one of you lifted a hand.
How hard did you work for what these two cheap crooks took from you? Ah!"
he cried, "it is because you were greedy that they robbed you so easily.
You know it's true. It's when you want to get something for nothing that
the 'confidence men' steal the money you sweat for and make the farmer a
laughing stock. And _you_, Jim Bardlock, Town Marshal!--you, who confess
that you 'went in the game sixty cents' worth, yourself--" His eyes were
lit with wrath as he raised his accusing hand and levelled it at the
unhappy municipal.

The Town Marshal smiled uneasily and deprecatingly about him, and, meeting
only angry glances, hearing only words of condemnation, he passed his hand
unsteadily over his fat mustache, shifted from one leg to the other and
back again, looked up, looked down, and then, an amiable and pleasure-
loving man, beholding nothing but accusation and anger in heaven and
earth, and wishing nothing more than to sink into the waters under the
earth, but having no way of reaching them, finding his troubles quite
unbearable, and unable to meet the manifold eye of man, he sought relief
after the unsagacious fashion of a larger bird than he. His burly form
underwent a series of convulsions not unlike sobs, and he shut his eyes
tightly and held them so, presenting a picture of misery unequalled in the
memory of any spectator. Harkless's outstretched hand began to shake.
"You!" he tried to continue--"you, a man elected to----"

There came from the crowd the sound of a sad, high-keyed voice, drawling:
"That's a nice vest Jim's got on, but it ain't hardly the feathers fitten
for an ostrich, is it?"

The editor's gravity gave way; he broke into a ringing laugh and turned
again to the shell-men. "Give up the boy's money. Hurry."

"Step down here and git it," said the one who had spoken.

There was a turbulent motion in the crowd, and a cry arose, "Run 'em out!
Ride 'em on a rail! Tar and feathers! Run 'em out o' town!"

"I wouldn't dilly-dally long if I were you," said Harkless, and his advice
seemed good to the shell-men. A roll of bills, which he counted and turned
over to the elder Bowlder, was sullenly placed in his hand. The fellow who
had not yet spoken clutched the journalist's sleeve with his dirty hand.

"We hain't done wit' youse," he said, hoarsely. "Don't belief it, not fer
a minute, see?"

The Town Marshal opened his eyes briskly, and placing a hand on each of
the gamblers, said: "I hereby do arrest your said persons, .and declare
you my prisoners." The cry rose again, louder: "Run 'em out!  String 'em
up! Hang them! Hang them!" and a forward rush was made.

"This way, Jim.  Be quick," said Harkless, quietly, bending down and
jerking one of the gamblers half-way up the steps. "Get through the hall
to the other side and then run them to the lock-up. No one will stop you
that way. Watts and I will hold this door." Bardlock hustled his prisoners
through the doorway, and the crowd pushed up the steps, while Harkless
struggled to keep the vestibule clear until Watts got the double doors
closed. "Stand back, here!" he cried; "it's all over. Don't be foolish.
The law is good enough for us. Stand back, will you!"

He was laughing a little, shoving them back with open hand and elbow, when
a small, compact group of men suddenly dashed up the steps together, and a
heavy stick swung out over their heads. A straw hat with a gay ribbon
sailed through the air. The journalist's long arms went out swiftly from
his body in several directions, the hands not open, but clenched and hard.
The next instant he and Mr. Watts stood alone on the steps, and a man with
a bleeding, blaspheming mouth dropped his stick and tried to lose himself
in the crowd. Mr. Watts was returning something he had not used to his
hip-pocket.

"Prophets of Israel!" exclaimed William Todd, ruefully, "it wasn't Eph
Watts's pistol. Did you see Mr. Harkless? I was up on them steps when he
begun. I don't believe he needs as much takin' care of as we think."

"Wasn't it one of them Cross-Roads devils that knocked his hat off?" asked
Judd Bennett. "I thought I see Bob Skillett run up with a club."

Harkless threw open the doors behind him; the hall was empty. "You may
come in now," he said. "This isn't my court-house."




CHAPTER VIII


GLAD AFTERNOON: THE GIRL BY THE BLUE TENT-POLE

They walked slowly back along the pike toward the brick house. The white-
ruffed fennel reached up its dusty yellow heads to touch her skirts as she
passed, and then drooped, satisfied, against the purple iron-weed at the
roadside. In the noonday silence no cricket chirped nor locust raised its
lorn monotone; the tree shadows mottled the road with blue, and the level
fields seemed to pant out a dazzling breath, the transparent "heat-waves"
that danced above the low corn and green wheat.

He was stooping very much as they walked; he wanted to be told that he
could look at her for a thousand years. Her face was rarely and
exquisitely modelled, but, perhaps, just now the salient characteristic of
her beauty (for the salient characteristic seemed to be a different thing
at different times) was the coloring, a delicate glow under the white
skin, that bewitched him in its seeming a reflection of the rich
benediction of the noonday sun that blazed overhead.

Once he had thought the way to the Briscoe homestead rather a long walk;
but now the distance sped malignantly; and strolled they never so slow, it
was less than a "young bird's flutter from a wood." With her acquiescence
he rolled a cigarette, and she began to hum lightly the air of a song, a
song of an ineffably gentle, slow movement.

That, and a reference of the morning, and, perhaps, the smell of his
tobacco mingling with the fragrance of her roses, awoke again the keen
reminiscence of the previous night within him. Clearly outlined before him
rose the high, green slopes and cool cliff-walls of the coast of Maine,
while his old self lazily watched the sharp little waves through half-
closed lids, the pale smoke of his cigarette blowing out under the rail of
a waxen deck where he lay cushioned. And again a woman pelted his face
with handfuls of rose-petals and cried: "Up lad and at 'em! Yonder is
Winter Harbor." Again he sat in the oak-raftered Casino, breathless with
pleasure, and heard a young girl sing the "Angel's Serenade," a young girl
who looked so bravely unconscious of the big, hushed crowd that listened,
looked so pure and bright and gentle and good, that he had spoken of her
as "Sir Galahad's little sister." He recollected he had been much taken
with this child; but he had not thought of her from that time to this, he
supposed; had almost forgotten her. No! Her face suddenly stood out to his
view as though he saw her with his physical eye--a sweet and vivacious
child's face with light-brown hair and gray eyes and a short upper lip.
. . . And the voice. . . .

He stopped short and struck his palms together. "You are Tom Meredith's
little cousin!"

"The Great Harkless!" she answered, and stretched out her hand to him.

"I remember you!"

"Isn't it time?"

"Ah, but I never forgot you," he cried. "I thought I had. I didn't know
who it was I was remembering. I thought it was fancy, and it was memory. I
never forgot your voice, singing--and I remembered your face too; though I
thought I didn't." He drew a deep breath. "_That_ was why----"

"Tom Meredith has not forgotten you," she said, as he paused.

"Would you mind shaking hands once more?" he asked. She gave him her hand
again. "With all my heart. Why?"

"I'm making a record at it. Thank you."

"They called me 'Sir Galahad's little sister' all one summer because the
Great John Harkless called me that. You danced with me in the evening."

"Did I?"

"Ah," she said, shaking her head, "you were too busy being in love with
Mrs. Van Skuyt to remember a waltz with only me! I was allowed to meet you
as a reward for singing my very best, and you--you bowed with the
indulgence of a grandfather,   and asked me to dance."

"Like a grandfather? How young I was then! How time changes us!"

"I'm afraid my conversation did not make a great impression upon you," she
continued.

"But it did. I am remembering very fast. If you will wait a moment, I will
tell you some of the things you said."

The girl laughed merrily. Whenever she laughed he realized that it was
becoming terribly difficult not to tell her how adorable she was. "I
wouldn't risk it, if I were you," she warned him, "because I didn't speak
to you at all. I shut my lips tight and trembled all over every bit of the
time I was dancing with you. I did not sleep that night, because I was so
unhappy, wondering what the Great Harkless would think of me. I knew he
thought me unutterably stupid because I couldn't talk to him. I wanted to
send him word that I knew I had bored him. I couldn't bear for him not to
know that I knew I had. But he was not thinking of me in any way. He had
gone to sea again in a big boat, the ungrateful pirate, cruising with Mrs.
Van Skuyt."

"How time _does_ change us!" said John. "You are wrong, though; I did
think of you; I have al----"

"Yes," she interrupted, tossing her head in airy travesty of the stage
coquette, "you think so--I mean you say so--now. Away with you and your
blarneying!"



And so they went through the warm noontide, and little he cared for the
heat that wilted the fat mullein leaves and made the barefoot boy, who
passed by, skip gingerly through the burning dust with anguished mouth and
watery eye. Little he knew of the locust that suddenly whirred his mills
of shrillness in the maple-tree, and sounded so hot, hot, hot; or those
others that railed at the country quiet from the dim shade around the
brick house; or even the rain-crow that sat on the fence and swore to them
in the face of a sunny sky that they should see rain ere the day were
done.

Little the young man recked of what he ate at Judge Briscoe's good noon
dinner: chicken wing and young roas'n'-ear; hot rolls as light as the
fluff of a summer cloudlet; and honey and milk; and apple-butter flavored
like spices of Arabia; and fragrant, flaky cherry-pie; and cool, rich,
yellow cream. Lige Willetts was a lover, yet he said he asked no better
than to Just go on eating that cherry-pie till a sweet death overtook him;
but railroad sandwiches and restaurant chops might have been set before
Harkless for all the difference it would have made to him.

At no other time is a man's feeling of companionship with a woman so
strong as when he sits at table with her-not at a "decorated" and
becatered and bewaitered table, but at a homely, appetizing, wholesome
home table like old Judge Briscoe's. The very essence of the thing is
domesticity, and the implication is utter confidence and liking. There are
few greater dangers for a bachelor. An insinuating imp perches on his
shoulder, and, softly tickling the bachelor's ear with the feathers of an
arrow-shaft, whispers: "Pretty nice, isn't it, eh? Rather pleasant to have
that girl sitting there, don't you think? Enjoy having her notice your
butter-plate was empty? Think it exhilarating to hand her those rolls?
Looks nice, doesn't she? Says 'Thank you' rather prettily? Makes your
lonely breakfast seem mighty dull, doesn't it? How would you like to have
her pour your coffee for you to-morrow, my boy? How would it seem to have
such pleasant company all the rest of your life? Pretty cheerful, eh?"

When Miss Sherwood passed the editor the apple-butter, the casual, matter-
of-course way she did it entranced him in a strange, exquisite wonderment.
He did not set the dish down when she put it in his hand, but held it
straight out before him, just looking at it, until Mr. Willetts had a
dangerous choking fit, for which Minnie was very proud of Lige; no one
could have suspected that it was the veil of laughter. When Helen told
John he really must squeeze a lemon into his iced tea, he felt that his
one need in life was to catch her up in his arms and run away with her,
not anywhere in particular, but just run and run and run away.

After dinner they went out to the veranda and the gentlemen smoked. The
judge set his chair down on the ground, tilted back in it with his feet on
the steps, and blew a wavery domed city up in the air. He called it solid
comfort. He liked to sit out from under the porch roof, he said; he wanted
to see more of the sky. The others moved their chairs down to join him in
the celestial vision. There had blown across the heaven a feathery, thin
cloud or two, but save for these, there was nothing but glorious and
tender, brilliant blue. It seemed so clear and close one marvelled the
little church spire in the distance did not pierce it; yet, at the same
time, the eye ascended miles and miles into warm, shimmering ether. Far
away two buzzards swung slowly at anchor, half-way to the sun.

           "'O bright, translucent, cerulean hue,
             Let my wide wings drift on in you,'"

said Harkless, pointing them out to Helen.

"You seem to get a good deal of fun out of this kind of weather," observed
Lige, as he wiped his brow and shifted his chair out of the sun.

"I expect you don't get such skies as this up in Rouen," said the judge,
looking at the girl from between half-closed eyelids.

"It's the same Indiana sky, I think," she answered.

"I guess maybe in the city you don't see as much of it, or think as much
about it. Yes, they're the Indiana skies," the old man went on.

                Skies as blue
        As the eyes of children when they smile at you.'

"There aren't any others anywhere that ever seemed much like them to me.
They've been company for me all my life. I don't think there are any
others half as beautiful, and I know there aren't any as sociable. They
were always so." He sighed gently, and Miss Sherwood fancied his wife must
have found the Indiana skies as lovely as he had, in the days of long ago.
"Seems to me they _are_ the softest and bluest and kindest in the world."

"I think they are," said Helen, "and they are more beautiful than the
'Italian skies,' though I doubt if many of us Hoosiers realize it; and--
certainly no one else does."

The old man leaned over and patted her hand. Harkless gasped. "'Us
Hoosiers!'" chuckled the judge. "You're a great Hoosier, young lady! How
much of your life have you spent in the State? 'Us Hoosiers!'"

"But I'm going to be a good one," she answered, gaily, "and if I'm good
enough, when I grow up maybe I'll be a great one."

The buckboard had been brought around, and the four young people climbed
in, Harkless driving. Before they started, the judge, standing on the
horse-block in front of the gate, leaned over and patted Miss Sherwood's
hand again. Harkless gathered up the reins.

"You'll make a great Hoosier, all right," said the old man, beaming upon
the girl. "You needn't worry about that, I guess, my dear."

When he said "my dear," Harkless spoke to the horses.

"Wait," said the judge, still holding the girl's hand. "You'll make a
great Hoosier, some day; don't fret. You're already a very beautiful one."
Then he bent his white head and kissed her, gallantly. John said: "Good
afternoon, judge"; the whip cracked like a pistol-shot, and the buckboard
dashed off in a cloud of dust.

"Every once in a while, Harkless," the old fellow called after them, "you
must remember to look at the team."

The enormous white tent was filled with a hazy yellow light, the warm,
dusty, mellow light that thrills the rejoicing heart because it is found
nowhere in the world except in the tents of a circus--the canvas-filtered
sunshine and sawdust atmosphere of show day. Through the entrance the
crowd poured steadily, coming from the absorptions of the wild-animal tent
to feast upon greater wonders; passing around the sawdust ellipse that
contained two soul-cloying rings, to find seats whence they might behold
the splendors so soon to be unfolded. Every one who was not buying the
eternal lemonade was eating something; and the faces of children shone
with gourmand rapture; indeed, very often the eyes of them were all you
saw, half-closed in palate-gloating over a huge apple, or a bulky oblong
of popcorn, partly unwrapped from its blue tissue-paper cover; or else it
might be a luscious pink crescent of watermelon, that left its ravisher
stained and dripping to the brow.

Here, as in the morning, the hawkers raised their cries in unintermittent
shrillness, offering to the musically inclined the Happy Evenings Song-
book, alleged to contain those treasures, all the latest songs of the day,
or presented for the consideration of the humorous the Lawrence Lapearl
Joke-book, setting forth in full the art of comical entertainment and
repartee. (Schofields' Henry bought two of these--no doubt on the
principle that two were twice as instructive as one--intending to bury
himself in study and do battle with Tom Martin on his own ground.)

Here swayed the myriad palm-leaf fans; here paraded blushing youth and
rosy maiden, more relentlessly arm-in-arm than ever; here crept the
octogenarian, Mr. Bodeffer, shaking on cane and the shoulder of posterity;
here waddled Mr. Snoddy, who had hurried through the animal tent for fear
of meeting the elephant; here marched sturdy yeomen and stout wives; here
came William Todd and his Anna Belle, the good William hushed with the
embarrassments of love, but looking out warily with the white of his eye
for Mr. Martin, and determined not to sit within a hundred yards of him;
here rolled in the orbit of habit the bacchanal, Mr. Wilkerson, who
politely answered in kind all the uncouth roarings and guttural
ejaculations of jungle and fen that came from the animal tent; in brief,
here came with lightest hearts the population of Carlow and part of Amo.

Helen had found a true word: it was a big family. Jim Bardlock, broadly
smiling and rejuvenated, shorn of depression, paused in front of the
"reserve" seats, with Mrs. Bardlock on his arm, and called loudly to a
gentleman on a tier about the level of Jim's head: "How are ye? I reckon
we were a _little_ too smart fer 'em, this morning, huh?" Five or six
hundred people--every one within hearing--fumed to look at Jim; but the
gentleman addressed was engaged in conversation with a lady and did not
notice.

"Hi! Hi, there! _Say_! Mr. Harkless!" bellowed Jim, informally. The people
turned to look at Harkless. His attention was arrested and his cheek grew
red.

"_What is it_?" he asked, a little confused and a good deal annoyed.

"I don't hear what ye say," shouted Jim, putting his hand to his ear.

"_What is it_?" repeated the young man. "I'll kill that fellow to-night,"
he added to Lige Willetts. "Some one ought to have done it long ago."

"What?"

"I _say_, WHAT IS IT?"

"I only wanted to say me and you certainly did fool these here Hoosiers
this morning, huh? Hustled them two fellers through the court-house, and
nobody never thought to slip round to the other door and head us off. Ha,
ha! We were jest a _leetle_ too many fer 'em, huh?"

From an upper tier of seats the rusty length of Mr. Martin erected itself
joint by joint, like an extension ladder, and he peered down over the
gaping faces at the Town Marshal. "Excuse me," he said sadly to those
behind him, but his dry voice penetrated everywhere, "I got up to hear Jim
say 'We' again."

Mr. Bardlock joined in the laugh against himself, and proceeded with his
wife to some seats, forty or fifty feet distant. When he had settled
himself comfortably, he shouted over cheerfully to the unhappy editor:
"Them shell-men got it in fer you, Mr. Harkless."

"Ain't that fool shet up _yit_?" snarled the aged Mr. Bodeffer,
indignantly. He was sitting near the young couple, and the expression of
his sympathy was distinctly audible to them and many others. "Got no more
regards than a brazing calf-disturbin' a feller with his sweetheart!"

"The both of 'em says they're goin' to do fer you," bleated Mr. Bardlock.
"Swear they'll git their evens with ye."

Mr. Martin rose again. "Don't git scared and leave town, Mr. Harkless," he
called out; "Jim'll protect you."

Vastly to the young man's relief the band began to play, and the
equestrians and equestriennes capered out from the dressing-tent for the
"Grand Entrance," and the performance commenced. Through the long summer
afternoon it went on: wonders of horsemanship and horsewomanship; hair-
raising exploits on wires, tight and slack; giddy tricks on the high
trapeze; feats of leaping and tumbling in the rings; while the tireless
musicians blatted inspiringly through it all, only pausing long enough to
allow that uproarious jester, the clown, to ask the ring-master what he
would do if a young lady came up and kissed him on the street, and to
exploit his hilarities during the short intervals of rest for the
athletes.

When it was over, John and Helen found themselves in the midst of a
densely packed crowd, and separated from Miss Briscoe and Lige.  People
were pushing and shoving, and he saw her face grow pale. He realized with
a pang of sympathy how helpless he would feel if he were as small as she,
and at his utmost height could only see big, suffocating backs and huge
shoulders pressing down from above. He was keeping them from crowding
heavily upon her with all his strength, and a royal feeling of
protectiveness came over him. She was so little. And yet, without the
remotest hint of hardness, she gave him such a distinct impression of
poise and equilibrium, she seemed so able to meet anything that might
come, to understand it--even to laugh at it--so Americanly capable and
sure of the event, that in spite of her pale cheek he could not feel quite
so protective as he wished to feel.

He managed to get her to one of the tent-poles, and placed her with her
back to it. Then he set one of his own hands against it over her head,
braced himself and stood, keeping a little space about her, ruggedly
letting the crowd surge against him as it would; no one should touch her
in rough carelessness.

"Thank you. It was rather trying in there," she said, and looked up into
his eyes with a divine gratitude.

"Please don't do that," he answered in a low voice.

"Do what?"

"Look like that."

She not only looked like that, but more so. "Young man, young man," she
said, "I fear you're wishful of turning a girl's head."

The throng was thick around them, garrulous and noisy, but they two were
more richly alone together, to his appreciation, than if they stood on
some far satellite of Mars. He was not to forget that moment, and he kept
the picture of her, as she leaned against the big blue tent-pole, there,
in his heart: the clear gray eyes lifted to his, the delicate face with
the color stealing back to her cheeks, and the brave little figure that
had run so straight to him out of the night   shadows.   There was
something about her, and in the moment, that suddenly touched him with a
saddening sweetness too keen to be borne; the forget-me-not finger of the
flying hour that could not come again was laid on his soul, and he felt
the tears start from his heart on their journey to his eyes. He knew that
he should always remember that moment. She knew it, too. She put her hand
to her cheek and turned away from him a little tremulously. Both were
silent.

They had been together since early morning. Plattville was proud of him.
Many a friendly glance from the folk who jostled about them favored his
suit and wished both of them well, and many lips, opening to speak to
Harkless in passing, closed when their owners (more tactful than Mr.
Bardlock) looked a second time.

Old Tom Martin, still perched alone On his high seat, saw them standing by
the tent-pole, and watched them from under his rusty hat brim. "I reckon
it's be'n three or four thousand years since I was young," he sighed to
himself; then, pushing his hat still further down over his eyes: "I don't
believe I'd ort to rightly look on at that." He sighed again as he rose,
and gently spoke the name of his dead wife: "Marjie,--it's be'n lonesome,
sometimes. I reckon you're mighty tired waitin' for me, ever since sixty-
four--yet maybe not; Ulysses S. Grant's over on your side now, and perhaps
you've got acquainted with him; you always thought a good deal more of him
than you did of me."

"Do you see that tall old man up there?" said Helen, nodding her head
toward Martin. "I think I should like to know him. I'm sure I like him."

"That is old Tom Martin."

"I know."

"I was sorry and ashamed about all that conspicuousness and shouting. It
must have been very unpleasant for you; it must have been so, for a
stranger. Please try to forgive me for letting you in for it."

"But I liked it. It was 'all in the family,' and it was so jolly and good-
natured, and that dear old man was so bright. Do you know," she said
softly, "I don't think I'm such a stranger--I--I think I love all these
people a great deal--in spite of having known them only two days."

At that a wild exhilaration possessed him. He wanted to shake hands with
everybody in the tent, to tell them all that he loved them with his whole
heart, but, what was vastly more important, _she_ loved them a great deal
--in spite of having known them only two days!

He made the horses prance on the homeward drive, and once, when she told
him that she had read a good many of his political columns in the
"Herald," he ran them into a fence. After this it occurred to him that
they were nearing their destination and had come at a perversely sharp
gait; so he held the roans down to a snail's pace (if it be true that a
snail's natural gait is not a trot) for the rest of the way, while they
talked of Tom Meredith and books and music, and discovered that they
differed widely about Ibsen.

They found Mr. Fisbee in the yard, talking to Judge Briscoe. As they drove
up, and before the horses had quite stopped, Helen leaped to the ground
and ran to the old scholar with both her hands outstretched to him. He
looked timidly at her, and took the hands she gave him; then he produced
from his pocket a yellow telegraph envelope, watching her anxiously as she
received it. However, she seemed to attach no particular importance to it,
and, instead of opening it, leaned toward him, still holding one of his
hands.

"These awful old men!" Harkless groaned inwardly as he handed the horses
over to the judge. "I dare say _he_'ll kiss her, too." But, when the
editor and Mr. Willetts had gone, it was Helen who kissed Fisbee.

"They're coming out to spend the evening, aren't they?" asked Briscoe,
nodding to the young men as they set off down the road.

"Lige has to come whether he wants to or not," Minnie laughed, rather
consciously; "It's his turn to-night to look after Mr. Harkless."

"I guess he won't mind coming," said the judge.

"Well," returned his daughter, glancing at Helen, who stood apart, reading
the telegram to Fisbee, "I know if he follows Mr. Harkless he'll get here
pretty soon after supper--as soon as the moon comes up, anyway."

The editor of the "Herald" was late to his supper that evening. It was
dusk when he reached the hotel, and, for the first time in history, a
gentleman sat down to meat in that house of entertainment in evening
dress. There was no one in the diningroom when he went in; the other
boarders had finished, and it was Cynthia's "evening out," but the
landlord came and attended to his guests' wants himself, and chatted with
him while he ate.

"There's a picture of Henry Clay," remarked Landis, in obvious relevancy
to his companion's attire, "there's a picture of Henry Clay somewheres
about the house in a swallow-tail coat. Governor Ray spoke here in one in
early times, Bodeffer says, except it was higher built up 'n yourn about
the collar, and had brass buttons, I think. Ole man Wimby was here
to-night," the landlord continued, changing the subject. "He waited around
fer ye a good while. He's be'n mighty wrought up sence the trouble this
morning, an' wanted to see ye bad. I don't know 'f you seen it, but that
feller 't knocked your hat off was mighty near tore to pieces in the crowd
before he got away. 'Seems some the boys re-_cog_-nized him as one the
Cross-Roads Skillets, and sicked the dogs on him, and he had a pretty mean
time of it. Wimby says the Cross-Roads folks'll be worse 'n ever, and,
says he, 'Tell him to stick close to town,' says he. 'They'll do anything
to git him now,' says he, 'and _resk_ anything.' I told him you wouldn't
take no stock in it, but, see here, don't you put nothin' too mean fer
them folks. I tell you, Mr. Harkless, plenty of us are scared fer ye."

The good fellow was so earnest that when the editor's meal was finished
and he would have departed, Landis detained him almost by force until the
arrival of Mr. Willetts, who, the landlord knew, was his allotted escort'
for the evening. When Lige came (wearing a new tie, a pink one he had
hastened to buy as soon as his engagements had allowed him the
opportunity), Mr. Landis hissed a savage word of reproach for his
tardiness in his ear, and whisperingly bade him not let the other out of
reach that night, to which Willetts replied with a nod implying his
trustworthiness; and the young men set off in the darkness.

Harkless wondered if his costume were not an injustice to his companion,
but he did not regret it; he would wear his best court suit, his laces and
velvets, for deference to that lady. It was a painful thing to remember
his dusty rustiness of the night before, the awful Carlow cut of his coat,
and his formless black cravat; the same felt hat he wore again to-night,
perforce, but it was brushed--brushed almost to holes in spots, and
somehow he had added a touch of shape to it. His dress-coat was an
antique; fashions had changed, no doubt; he did not know; possibly she
would recognize its vintage--but it was a dress-coat.

Lige walked along talking; Harkless answering "Yes" and "No" at random.
The woodland-spiced air was like champagne to him; the road under foot so
elastic and springy that he felt like a thoroughbred before a race; he
wanted to lift his foot knee-high at every step, he had so much energy to
spare. In the midst of a speech of Lige's about the look of the wheat he
suddenly gave out a sigh so deep, so heartfelt, so vibrant, so profound,
that Willetts turned with astonishment; but when his  eye reached his
companion's face, Harkless was smiling. The editor extended his hand.

"Shake hands, Lige," he cried.

The moon peeped over the shoulder of an eastern  wood, and the young men
suddenly descried their long shadows stretching in front of them. Harkless
turned to look at the silhouetted town, the tree-tops and roofs and the
Methodist church spire, silvered at the edges.

"Do you see that town, Willetts?" he asked, laying his fingers on his
companion's sleeve. "That's the best town in the United States!"

"I always kind of thought you didn't much like it," said the other,
puzzled. "Seemed to me you always sort of wished you hadn't settled here."

A little further on they passed Mr. Fisbee. He was walking into the
village with his head thrown back, a strange thing for him. They gave him
a friendly greeting and passed on.

"Well, it beats me!" observed Lige, when the old man was out of hearing.
"He's be'n there to supper again. He was there all day yesterday, and with
'em at the lecture, and at the deepo day before and he looks like another
man, and dressed up--for him--to beat thunder----What do you expect makes
him so thick out there all of a sudden?"

"I hadn't thought about it. The judge and he have been friends a good
while, haven't they?"

"Yes, three or four years; but not like this. It beats _me_! He's all
upset over Miss Sherwood, I think. Old enough to be her grandfather, too,
the old----"

His companion stopped him, dropping a hand on his shoulder.

"Listen!"

They were at the corner of the Briscoe picket fence, and a sound lilted
through the stillness--a touch on the keys that Harkless knew. "Listen,"
he whispered.

It was the "Moonlight Sonata" that Helen was playing. "It's a pretty
piece," observed Lige after a time. John could have choked him, but he
answered: "Yes, it is seraphic."

"Who made it up?" pursued Mr. Willetts.

"Beethoven."

"Foreigner, I expect. Yet in some way or another makes me think of fishing
down on the Wabash bend in Vigo, and camping out nights like this; it's a
mighty pretty country around there--especially at night."

The sonata was finished, and then she sang--sang the "Angel's Serenade."
As the soft soprano lifted and fell in the modulations of that song there
was in its timbre, apart from the pure, amber music of it, a questing,
seeking pathos, and Willetts felt the hand on his shoulder tighten and
then relax; and, as the song ended, he saw that his companion's eyes were
shining and moist.




CHAPTER IX


NIGHT: IT IS BAD LUCK TO SING BEFORE BREAKFAST

There was a lace of faint mists along the creek and beyond, when John and
Helen reached their bench (of course they went back there), and broken
roundelays were croaking from a bayou up the stream, where rakish frogs
held carnival in resentment of the lonesomeness. The air was still and
close. Hundreds of fire-flies coquetted with the darkness amongst the
trees across the water, glinting from unexpected spots, shading their
little lanterns for a second to glow again from other shadows. The sky was
a wonderful olive green; a lazy cloud drifted in it and lapped itself
athwart the moon.

"The dead painters design the skies for us each day and night, I think,"
Helen said, as she dropped a little scarf from her shoulders and leaned
back on the bench. "It must be the only way to keep them happy and busy
'up there.' They let them take turns, and those not on duty, probably
float around and criticise."

"They've given a good man his turn to-night," said John; "some quiet
colorist, a poetic, friendly soul, no Turner--though I think I've  seen a
Turner sunset or two in Plattville."

"It was a sculptor's sunset this evening. Did you see it?--great massy
clouds piled heap on heap, almost with violence. I'm sure it was
Michelangelo. The judge didn't think it meant Michelangelo; he thought it
meant rain."

"Michelangelo gets a chance rather often, doesn't he, considering the
number of art people there must be over there? I believe I've seen a good
many sunsets of his, and a few dawns, too; the dawns not for a long time--
I used to see them more frequently toward the close of senior year, when
we sat up all night talking, knowing we'd lose one another soon, and
trying to hold on as long as we could."

She turned to him with a little frown. "Why have you never let Tom
Meredith know you were living so near him, less than a hundred miles, when
he has always liked and admired you above all the rest of mankind? I know
that he has tried time and again to hear of you, but the other men wrote
that they knew nothing--that it was thought you had gone abroad. I had
heard of you, and so must he have seen your name in the Rouen papers--
about the 'White-Caps,' and in politics--but he would never dream of
connecting the Plattville Mr. Harkless with _his_ Mr. Harkless, though _I_
did, just a little, and rather vaguely. I knew, of course, when you came
into the lecture. But why haven't you written to my cousin?"

"Rouen seems a long way from here," he answered quietly. "I've only been
there once--half a day on business. Except that, I've never been further
away than Amo or Gainesville, for a convention or to make a speech, since
I came here."

"Wicked!" she exclaimed, "To shut yourself up like this! I said it was
fine to drop out of the world; but why have you cut off your old friends
from you? Why haven't you had a relapse, now and then, and come over to
hear Ysaye play and Melba sing, or to see Mansfield or Henry Irving, when
we have had them? And do you think you've been quite fair to Tom? What
right had you to assume that he had forgotten you?"

"Oh, I didn't exactly mean forgotten," he said, pulling a blade of grass
to and fro between his fingers, staring at it absently. "It's only that I
have dropped out of the world, you know. I kept track of every one, saw
most of my friends, or corresponded, now and then, for a year or so after
I left college; but people don't miss you much after a while. They rather
expected me to do a lot of things, in a way, you know, and I wasn't doing
them. I was glad to get away. I always had an itch for newspaper work, and
I went on a New York paper. Maybe it was the wrong paper; at least, I
wasn't fit for it. There was something in the side of life I saw, too, not
only on the paper, that made me heart-sick; and then the rush and fight
and scramble to be first, to beat the other man. Probably I am too
squeamish. I saw classmates and college friends diving into it, bound to
come out ahead, dear old, honest, frank fellows, who had been so happy-go-
lucky and kind and gay, growing too busy to meet and be good to any man
who couldn't be good to them, asking (more delicately) the eternal
question, 'What does it get me?' You might think I bad-met with
unkindness; but it was not so; it was the other way more than I deserved.
But the cruel competition, the thousands fighting for places, the
multitude scrambling for each ginger-bread baton, the cold faces on the
streets--perhaps it's all right and good; of course it has to _be_--but I
wanted to get out of it, though I didn't want to come _here_. That was
chance. A new man bought the paper I was working for, and its policy
changed. Many of the same men still wrote for it, facing cheerfully about
and advocating a tricky theory, vehement champions of a set of personal
schemers and waxy images."

He spoke with feeling; but now, as though a trifle ashamed of too much
seriousness, and justifiably afraid of talking like one of his own
editorials, he took a lighter tone. "I had been taken on the paper through
a friend and not through merit, and by the same undeserved, kindly
influence, after a month or so I was set to writing short political
editorials, and was at it nearly two years. When the paper changed hands
the new proprietor indicated that he would be willing to have me stay and
write the other way. I refused; and it became somewhat plain to me that I
was beginning to be a failure.

"A cousin of mine, the only relative I had, died in Chicago, and I went to
his funeral. I happened to hear of the Carlow 'Herald' through an agent
there, the most eloquent gentleman I ever met. I was younger, and even
more thoughtless than now, and I had a little money and I handed it over
for the 'Herald.' I wanted to run a paper myself, and to build up a power!
And then, though I only lived here the first few years of my life and all
the rest of it had been spent in the East, I was born in Indiana, and, in
a way, the thought of coming back to a life-work in my native State
appealed to me. I always had a dim sort of feeling that the people out in
these parts knew more--had more sense and were less artificial, I mean--
and were kinder, and tried less to be somebody else, than almost any other
people anywhere. And I believe it's so. It's dull, here in Carlow, of
course--that is, it used to be. The agent explained that I could make the
paper a daily at once, with an enormous circulation in the country. I was
very, very young. Then I came here and saw what I had got. Possibly it is
because I am sensitive that I never let Tom know. They expected me to
amount to something; but I don't believe his welcome would be less hearty
to a failure--he is a good heart."

"Failure!" she cried, and clapped her hands and laughed.

"I'm really not very tragic about it, though I must seem consumed with
self-pity," he returned, smiling. "It is only that I have dropped out of
the world while Tom is still in it."

"Dropped out of the world!'" she echoed, impatiently. "Can't you see
you've dropped into it? That you----"

"Last night I was honored by your praise of my graceful mode of quitting
it!"

"And so you wish me to be consistent!" she retorted scornfully. "What
becomes of your gallantry when _we_ abide by reason?"

"True enough; equality is a denial of privilege."

"And privilege is a denial of equality. I don't like that at all." She
turned a serious, suddenly illuminated face upon him and spoke earnestly.
"It's my hobby, I should tell you, and I'm very tired of that nonsense
about 'women always sounding the personal note.' It _should_ be sounded as
we would sound it. And I think we could bear the loss of 'privilege'--"

He laughed and raised a protesting hand. "But _we_ couldn't."

"No, you couldn't; it's the ribbon of superiority in your buttonhole. I
know several women who manage to live without men to open doors for them,
and I think I could bear to let a man pass before me now and then, or wear
his hat in an office where I happened to be; and I could get my own ice at
a dance, I think, possibly with even less fuss and scramble than I've
sometimes observed in the young men who have done it for me. But you know
you would never let us do things for ourselves, no matter what legal
equality might be declared, even when we get representation for our
taxation. You will never be able to deny yourselves giving us our
'privilege.' I hate being waited on. I'd rather do things for myself."

She was so earnest in her satire, so full of scorn and so serious in her
meaning, and there was such a contrast between what she said and her
person; she looked so preeminently the pretty marquise, all silks and
softness, the little exquisite, so essentially to be waited on and helped,
to have cloaks thrown over the dampness for her to tread upon, to be run
about for--he could see half a dozen youths rushing about for her ices,
for her carriage, for her chaperone, for her wrap, at dances--that to save
his life he could not repress a chuckle. He managed to make it inaudible,
however; and it was as well that he did.

"I understand your love of newspaper work," she went on, less vehemently,
but not less earnestly. "I have always wanted to do it myself, wanted to
immensely. I can't think of any more fascinating way of earning one's
living. And I know I could do it. Why don't you make the 'Herald' a
daily?"

To hear her speak of "earning one's living" was too much for him. She gave
the impression of riches, not only for the fine texture and fashioning of
her garments, but one felt that luxuries had wrapped her from her birth.
He had not had much time to wonder what she did in Plattville; it had
occurred to him that it was a little odd that she could plan to spend any
extent of time there, even if she had liked Minnie Briscoe at school. He
felt that she must have been sheltered and petted and waited on all her
life; one could not help yearning to wait on her.

He answered inarticulately, "Oh, some day," in reply to her question, and
then burst into outright laughter.

"I might have known you wouldn't take me seriously," she said with no
indignation, only a sad wistfulness. "I am well used to it. I think it is
because I am not tall; people take big girls with more gravity. Big people
are nearly always listened to."

"Listened to?" he said, and felt that he must throw himself on his knees
before her. "You oughtn't to mind being Titania. She was listened to,
you----"

She sprang to her feet and her eyes flashed. "Do you think personal
comment is ever in good taste?" she cried fiercely, and in his surprise he
almost fell off the bench. "If there is one thing I cannot bear, it is to
be told that I am '_small_' I am not! Every one who isn't a giantess isn't
'_small_'. I _hate_ personalities! I am a great deal over five feet, a
great deal more than that. I----"

"Please, _please_," he said, "I didn't----"

"Don't say you are sorry," she interrupted, and in spite of his contrition
he found her angry voice delicious, it was still so sweet, hot with
indignation, but ringing, not harsh. "Don't say you didn't mean it;
because you did! You can't unsay it, you cannot alter it! Ah!" She drew in
her breath with a sharp sigh, and covering her face with her hands, sank
back upon the bench. "I will not cry," she said, not so firmly as she
thought she did.

"My blessed child!" he cried, in great distress and perturbation, "What
have I done? I--I----"

"Call me 'small' all you like!" she answered. "I don't care. It isn't
that. You mustn't think me such an imbecile." She dropped her hands from
her face and shook the tears from her eyes with a mournful laugh. He saw
that her hands were clenched tightly and her lip trembled. "I will not
cry!" she said in a low voice.

"Somebody ought to murder me; I ought to have thought--personalities _are_
hideous----"

"Don't! It wasn't that."

"I ought to be shot----"

"Ah, please don't say that," she said, shuddering; "please don't, not even
as a joke--after last night."

"But I ought to be for hurting you, indeed----"

She laughed sadly, again. "It wasn't that. I don't care what you call me.
I am small. You'll try to forgive me for being such a baby? I didn't mean
anything I said. I haven't acted so badly since I was a child."

"It's my fault, all of it. I've tired you out. And  I let you get into
that crush at the circus--" he was going on, remorsefully.

"_That_!" she interrupted. "I don't think I would have missed the circus."
He had a thrilling hope that she meant the tent-pole; she looked as if she
meant that, but he dared not let himself believe it.

"No," he continued; "I have been so madly happy in being with you that
I've fairly worn out your patience. I've haunted you all day, and
I have----"

"All that has nothing to do with it," she said, slowly. "Just after you
left, this afternoon, I found that I could not stay here. My people are
going abroad, to Dresden, at once, and I must go with them. That's what
almost made me cry. I leave to-morrow morning."

He felt something strike at his heart. In the sudden sense of dearth he
had no astonishment that she should betray such agitation over her
departure from a place she had known so little, and friends who certainly
were not part of her life. He rose to his feet, and, resting his arm
against a sycamore, stood staring away from her at nothing.

She did not move. There was a long silence.

He had wakened suddenly; the skies had been sapphire, the sward emerald,
Plattville a Camelot of romance; to be there, enchantment--and now, like a
meteor burned out in a breath, the necromancy fell away and he gazed into
desolate years. The thought of the Square, his dusty office, the bleak
length of Main Street, as they should appear to-morrow, gave him a faint
physical sickness. To-day it had all been touched to beauty; he had felt
fit to live and work there a thousand years--a fool's dream, and the
waking was to emptiness. He should die now of hunger and thirst in that
Sahara; he hoped the Fates would let it be soon--but he knew they would
not; knew that this was hysteria, that in his endurance he should plod on,
plod, plod dustily on, through dingy, lonely years.

There was a rumble of thunder far out on the western prairie. A cold
breath stole through the hot stillness, and an arm of vapor reached out
between the moon and the quiet earth. Darkness fell. The man and the girl
kept silence between them. They might have been two sad guardians of the
black little stream that splashed unseen at their feet. Now and then an
echo of far away lightning faintly illumined them with a green light.
Thunder rolled nearer, ominously; the gods were driving their chariots
over the bridge. The chill breath passed, leaving the air again to its hot
inertia.

"I did not want to go," she said, at last, with tears just below the
surface of her voice. "I wanted to stay here, but he--they wouldn't--I
can't."

"Wanted to stay here?" he said, huskily, not turning. "Here?"

"Yes."

"In Rouen, you mean?"

"In Plattville."

"In Plattville?" He turned now, astounded.

"Yes; wouldn't you have taken me on the 'Herald'?" She rose and came
toward him. "I could have supported myself here if you would--and I've
studied how newspapers are made; I know I could have earned a wage. We
could have made it a daily." He searched in vain for a trace of raillery
in her voice; there was none; she seemed to intend her words to be taken
literally.

"I don't understand," he said. "I don't know what you mean."

"I mean that I want to stay here; that I ought to stay here; that my
conscience tells me I should--but I can't and it makes me very unhappy.
That was why I acted so badly."

"Your conscience!" he cried.

"Oh, I know what a jumble and puzzle it must seem to you."

"I only know one thing; that you are going away to-morrow morning, and
that I shall never see you again."

The darkness had grown heavy. They could not see each other; but a wan
glimmer gave him a fleeting, misty view of her; she stood half-turned away
from him, her hand to her cheek in the uncertain fashion of his great
moment of the afternoon; her eyes-he saw in the flying picture that he
caught--were adorably troubled and her hand trembled. She had been
irresistible in her gaiety; but now that a mysterious distress assailed
her, the reason for which he had no guess, she was so divinely pathetic;
and seemed such a rich and lovely and sad and happy thing to have come
into his life only to go out of it; and he was so full of the prophetic
sense of loss of her--it seemed so much like losing everything--that he
found too much to say to be able to say anything.

He tried to speak, and choked a little. A big drop of rain fell on his
bare head. Neither of them noticed the weather or cared for it. They stood
with the renewed blackness hanging like a thick drapery between them.

"Can--can you--tell me why you think you ought not to go?" he whispered,
finally, with a great effort.

"No; not now. But I know you would think I am right in wanting to stay,"
she cried, impulsively. "I know you would, if you knew about it--but I
can't, I can't. I must go in the morning."

"I should always think you right," he answered in an unsteady tone,
"Always!" He went over to the bench, fumbled about for his hat, and picked
it up.

"Come," he said, gently, "I am going now."

She stood quite motionless for a full minute or longer; then, without a
word, she moved toward the house. He went to her with hands extended to
find her, and his fingers touched her sleeve. Then together and silently
they found the garden-path; and followed its dim length. In the orchard he
touched her sleeve again and led the way.

As they came out behind the house she detained him. Stopping short, she
shook his hand from her arm. She spoke in a single breath, as if it were
all one word:

"Will you tell me why you go? It is not late. Why do you wish to leave me,
when I shall not see you again?"

"The Lord be good to me!" he broke out, all his long-pent passion of
dreams rushing to his lips, now that the barrier fell. "Don't you see it
is because I can't bear to let you go? I hoped to get away without saying
it. I want to be alone. I want to be with myself and try to realize. I
didn't want to make a babbling idiot of myself--but I am! It is because I
don't want another second of your sweetness to leave an added pain when
you've gone. It is because I don't want to hear your voice again, to have
it haunt me in the loneliness you will leave--but it's useless, useless! I
shall hear it always, just as I shall always see your face, just as I have
heard your voice and seen your face these seven years--ever since I first
saw you, a child at Winter Harbor. I forgot for a while; I thought it was
a girl I had made up out of my own heart, but it was you--you always! The
impression I thought nothing of at the time, just the merest touch on my
heart, light as it was, grew and grew deeper until it was there forever.
You've known me twenty-four hours, and I understand what you think of me
for speaking to you like this. If I had known you for years and had waited
and had the right to speak and keep your respect, what have I to offer
you? I, couldn't even take care of you if you went mad as I and listened.
I've no excuse for this raving. Yes, I have!"

He saw her in another second of lightning, a sudden, bright one. Her back
was turned to him; she had taken a few startled steps from him.

"Ah," he cried, "you are glad enough, now, to see me go! I knew it. I
wanted to spare myself that. I tried not to be a hysterical fool in your
eyes." He turned aside and his head fell on his breast. "God help me," he
said, "what will this place be to me now?"

The breeze had risen; it gathered force; it was a chill wind, and there
rose a wailing on the prairie. Drops of rain began to fall.

"You will not think a question implied in this," he said more composedly,
and with an unhappy laugh at himself. "I believe you will not think me
capable of asking you if you care----"

"No," she answered; "I--I do not love you."

"Ah! Was it a question, after all? I--you read me better than I do,
perhaps--but if I asked, I knew the answer."

She made as if to speak again, but words refused her.

After a moment, "Good-by," he said, very steadily. "I thank you for the
charity that has given me this little time with you--it will always be--
precious to me--I shall always be your servant." His steadiness did not
carry him to the end of his sentence. "Good-by."

She started toward him and stopped, without his seeing her. She answered
nothing; but stretched out her hand to him and then let it fall quickly.

"Good-by," he said again. "I shall go out the orchard gate. Please tell
them good-night for me. Won't you speak to me? Good-by."

He stood waiting while the rising wind blew their garments about them. She
leaned against the wall of the house. "Won't you say good-by and tell me
you can forget my----"

She did not speak.

"No!" he cried, wildly. "Since you don't forget it! I have spoiled what
might have been a pleasant memory for you, and I know it. You were already
troubled, and I have added, and you won't forget it, nor shall I--nor
shall I! Don't say good-by--I can say it for both of us. God bless you--
and good-by, good-by, good-by!"

He crushed his hat down over his eyes and ran toward the orchard gate. For
a moment lightning flashed repeatedly; she saw him go out the gate and
disappear into sudden darkness. He ran through the field and came out on
the road. Heaven and earth were revealed again for a dazzling white
second. From horizon to horizon rolled clouds contorted like an
illimitable field of inverted haystacks, and beneath them enormous volumes
of pale vapor were tumbling in the west, advancing eastward with sinister
swiftness. She ran to a little knoll at the corner of the house and saw
him set his face to the storm. She cried aloud to him with all her
strength and would have followed, but the wind took the words out of her
mouth and drove her back cowering to the shelter of the house.

Out on the road the dust came lashing and stinging him like a thousand
nettles; it smothered him, and beat upon him so that he covered his face
with his sleeve and fought into the storm shoulder foremost, dimly glad of
its rage, scarcely conscious of it, keeping westward on his way to
nowhere. West or east, south or north--it was all one to him. The few
heavy drops that fell boiling into the dust ceased to come; the rain
withheld while the wind-kings rode on earth. On he went in spite of them.
On and on, running blindly when he could run at all. At least, the wind-
kings were company. He had been so long alone. He could remember no home
that had ever been his since he was a little child, neither father nor
mother, no one who belonged to him or to whom he belonged, except one
cousin, an old man who was dead. For a day his dreams had found in a
girl's eyes the precious thing that is called home--oh, the wild fancy! He
laughed aloud.

There was a startling answer; a lance of living fire hurled from the sky,
riving the fields before his eyes, while crash on crash of artillery
numbed his ears. With that his common-sense awoke and he looked about him.
He was almost two miles from town; the nearest house was the Briscoes' far
down the road. He knew the rain would come now. There was a big oak near
him at the roadside. He stepped under its sheltering branches and leaned
against the great trunk, wiping the perspiration and dust from his face. A
moment of stunned quiet had succeeded the peal of thunder. It was followed
by several moments of incessant lightning that played along the road and
danced in the fields. From that intolerable brightness he turned his head
and saw, standing against the fence, five feet away, a man, leaning over
the top rail and looking at him.



The same flash staggered brilliantly before Helen's eyes as she crouched
against the back steps of the brick house. It scarred a picture like a
marine of big waves: the tossing tops of the orchard trees; for in the
same second the full fury of the storm was loosed, wind and rain and hail.
It drove her against the kitchen door with cruel force; the latch lifted,
the door blew open violently, and she struggled to close it in vain. The
house seemed to rock. A lamp flickered toward her from the inner doorway
and was blown out.

"Helen! Helen!" came Minnie's voice, anxiously. "Is that you? We were
coming to look for you. Did you get wet?"

Mr. Willetts threw his weight against the door and managed to close it.
Then Minnie found her friend's hand and led her through the dark hall to
the parlor where the judge sat, placidly reading by a student-lamp.

Lige chuckled as they left the kitchen. "I guess you didn't try too hard
to shut that door, Harkless," he said, and then, when they came into the
lighted room, "Why, where _is_ Harkless?" he asked. "Didn't he come with
us from the kitchen?"

"No," answered Helen, faintly; "he's gone." She sank upon the sofa and
drew her hand across her eyes as if to shade them from too sudden light.

"Gone!"  The judge dropped his book and stared across the table at the
girl. "Gone! When?"

"Ten minutes--five--half an hour--I don't know. Before the storm
commenced."

"Oh!" The old gentleman appeared to be reassured. "Probably he had work to
do and wanted to get in before the rain."

But Lige Willetts was turning pale. He swallowed several times with
difficulty. "Which way did he go? He didn't come around the house; we were
out there till the storm broke."

"He went by the orchard gate. When he got to the road he turned that way."
She pointed to the west.

"He must have been crazy!" exclaimed the judge. "What possessed the
fellow?"

"I couldn't stop him. I didn't know how." She looked at her three
companions, slowly and with growing terror, from one face to another.
Minnie's eyes were wide and she had unconsciously grasped Lige's arm; the
young man was looking straight before him; the judge got up and walked
nervously back and forth. Helen rose to her feet swiftly and went toward
the old man, her hands pressed to her bosom.

"Ah!" she cried out, sharply, "I had forgotten _that_!  You don't think
they--you don't think----"

"I know what I think," Lige broke in; "I think I'd ought to be hanged for
letting him out of my sight. Maybe it's all right; maybe he turned and
started right back for town--and got there. But I had no business to leave
him, and if I can I'll catch up with him yet." He went to the front door,
and, opening it, let in a tornado of wind and flood of water that beat him
back; sheets of rain blew in horizontally, in spite of the porch beyond.

Briscoe followed him. "Don't be a fool, Lige," he said. "You hardly expect
to go out in that." Lige shook his head; it needed them both to get the
door closed. The young man leaned against it and passed his sleeve across
his wet brow. "I hadn't ought to have left him."

"Don't scare the girls," whispered the other; then in a louder tone: "All
I'm afraid of is that he'll get blown to pieces or catch his death of
cold. That's all there is to worry about. Those scalawags wouldn't try it
again so soon after last night. I'm not bothering about that; not at all.
That needn't worry anybody."

"But this morning----"

"Pshaw! He's likely home and dry by this time--all foolishness; don't be
an old woman." The two men reentered the room and found Helen clinging to
Minnie's hand on the sofa. She looked up at them quickly.

"Do you think--do you--what do you--" Her voice shook so that she could
not go on.

The judge pinched her cheek and patted it. "I think he's home and dry, but
I think he got wet first; that's what I think. Never you fear, he's a good
hand at taking care of himself. Sit down, Lige. You can't go for a while."
Nor could he. It was long before he could venture out; the storm raged and
roared without abatement; it was Carlow's worst since 'Fifty-one, the old
gentleman said. They heard the great limbs crack and break outside, while
the thunder boomed and the wind ripped at the eaves till it seemed the
roof must go. Meanwhile the judge, after some apology, lit his pipe and
told long stories of the storms of early days and of odd freaks of the
wind. He talked on calmly, the picture of repose, and blew rings above his
head, but Helen saw that one of his big slippers beat an unceasing little
tattoo on the carpet. She sat with fixed eyes, in silence, holding
Minnie's hand tightly; and her face was colorless, and grew whiter as the
slow hours dragged by.

Every moment Mr. Willetts became more restless, though assuring the ladies
he had no anxiety regarding Mr. Harkless; it was only his own dereliction
of duty that he regretted; the boys would have the laugh on him, he said.
But he visibly chafed more and more under the judge's stories; and
constantly rose to peer out of the window into the wrack and turmoil, or
uneasily shifted in his chair. Once or twice he struck his hands together
with muttered ejaculations. At last there was a lull in the fury without,
and, as soon as it was perceptible, he declared his intention of making
his way into town; he had ought to have went before, he declared,
apprehensively; and then, with immediate amendment, of course he would
find the editor at work in the "Herald" office; there wasn't the slightest
doubt of that; he agreed with the judge, but he better see about it. He
would return early in the morning to bid Miss Sherwood good-by; hoped
she'd come back, some day; hoped it wasn't her last visit to Plattville.
They gave him an umbrella and he plunged out into the night, and as they
stood watching him for a moment from the door, the old man calling after
him cheery good-nights and laughing messages to Harkless, they could hear
his feet slosh into the puddles and see him fight with his umbrella when
he got out into the road.

Helen's room was over the porch, the windows facing north, looking out
upon the pike and across the fields beyond. "Please don't light the lamp,
Minnie," she said, when they had gone upstairs. "I don't need a light."
Miss Briscoe was flitting about the room, hunting for matches. In the
darkness she came to her friend, and laid a kind, large hand on Helen's
eyes, and the hand became wet. She drew Helen's head down on her shoulder
and sat beside her on the bed.

"Sweetheart, you mustn't fret," she soothed, in motherly fashion. "Don't
you worry, dear. He's all right. It isn't your fault, dear. They wouldn't
come on a night like this."

But Helen drew away and went to the window, flattening her arm against the
pane, her forehead pressed against her arm. She had let him go; she had
let him go alone. She had forgotten the danger that always beset him. She
had been so crazy, she had seen nothing, thought of nothing. She had let
him go into that, and into the storm, alone. Who knew better than she how
cruel they were? She had seen the fire leap from the white blossom and
heard the ball whistle, the ball they had meant for his heart, that good,
great heart. She had run to him the night before--why had she let him go
into the unknown and the storm to-night? But how could she have stopped
him? How could she have kept him, after what he had said? She peered into
the night through distorting tears.

The wind had gone down a little, but only a little, and the electrical
flashes danced all around the horizon in magnificent display, sometimes
far away, sometimes dazingly near, the darkness trebly deep between the
intervals when the long sweep of flat lands lay in dazzling clearness,
clean-cut in the washed air to the finest detail of stricken field and
heaving woodland. A staggering flame clove earth and sky; sheets of light
came following it, and a frightful uproar shook the house and rattled the
casements, but over the crash of thunder Minnie heard her friend's loud
scream and saw her spring back from the window with both hands, palm
outward, pressed to her face. She leaped to her and threw her arms about
her.

"What is it?"

"Look!"   Helen dragged her to the window. "At the next flash--the fence
beyond the meadow----"

"What was it? What was it like?" The lightning flashed incessantly. Helen
tried to point; her hand only jerked from side to side.

"_Look_!" she cried.

"I see nothing but the lightning," Minnie answered, breathlessly.

"Oh, the _fence_! The fence--and in the field!"

"_Helen_! What was it _like_?"

"Ah-ah!" she panted, "a long line of white--horrible white----"

"What _like_?" Minnie turned from the window and caught the other's wrist
in a fluttering clasp.

"Minnie, Minnie! Like long white gowns and cowls crossing the fence."
Helen released her wrist, and put both hands on Minnie's cheeks,  forcing
her around to face the pane. "You must look--you must look," she cried.

"They wouldn't do it, they wouldn't--it _isn't_!" Minnie cried. "They
couldn't come in the storm. They wouldn't do it in the pouring rain!"

"Yes! Such things would mind the rain!" She burst into hysterical
laughter, and Minnie, almost as unnerved, caught her about the waist.
"They would mind the rain. They would fear a storm! Ha, ha, ha! Yes--yes!
And I let him go--I let him go!"

Pressing close together, shuddering, clasping each other's waists, the two
girls peered out at the flickering landscape.

"_Look_!"

Up from the distant fence that bordered the northern side of Jones's
field, a pale, pelted, flapping thing reared itself, poised, and seemed,
just as the blackness came again, to drop to the ground.

"Did you _see_?"

But Minnie had thrown herself into a chair with a laugh of wild relief.
"My darling girl!" she cried. "Not a line of white things--just one--Mr.
Jones's old scarecrow! And we saw it blown down!"

"No, no, no! I saw the others; they were in the field beyond. I saw them!
When I looked the first time they were nearly all on the fence. This time
we saw the last man crossing. Ah! I let him go alone!"

Minnie sprang up and enfolded her. "No; you dear, imagining child, you're
upset and nervous--that's all the matter in the world. Don't worry; don't,
child, it's all right. Mr. Harkless is home and safe in bed long ago. I
know that old scarecrow on the fence like a book; you're so unstrung you
fancied the rest. He's all right; don't you bother, dear."

The big, motherly girl took her companion in her arms and rocked her back
and forth soothingly, and petted and reassured her, and then cried a
little with her, as a good-hearted girl always will with a friend. Then
she left her for the night with many a cheering word and tender caress.
"Get to sleep, dear," she called through the door when she had closed it
behind her. "You must, if you have to go in the morning--it just breaks my
heart. I don't know how we'll bear it without you. Father will miss you
almost as much as I will. Good-night. Don't bother about that old white
scarecrow. That's all it was. Good-night, dear, good-night."

"Good-night, dear," answered a plaintive little voice. Helen's hot cheek
pressed the pillow and tossed from side to side. By and by she turned the
pillow over; it had grown wet. The wind blew about the eaves and blew
itself out; she hardly heard it. Sleep would not come. She got up and
laved her burning eyes. Then she sat by the window. The storm's strength
was spent at last; the rain grew lighter and lighter, until there was but
the sound of running water and the drip, drip on the tin roof of the
porch. Only the thunder rumbling in the distance marked the storm's
course; the chariots of the gods rolling further and further away, till
they finally ceased to be heard altogether. The clouds parted
majestically, and then, between great curtains of mist, the day-star was
seen shining in the east.

The night was hushed, and the peace that falls before dawn was upon the
wet, flat lands. Somewhere in the sodden grass a swamped cricket chirped.
From an outlying flange of the village a dog's howl rose mournfully; was
answered by another, far away, and by another and another. The sonorous
chorus rose above the village, died away, and quiet fell again.

Helen sat by the window, no comfort touching her heart. Tears coursed her
cheeks no longer, but her eyes were wide and staring, and her lips parted,
for the hush was broken by the far clamor of the court-house bell ringing
in the night. It rang, and rang, and rang, and rang. She could not
breathe. She threw open the window. The bell stopped. All was quiet once
more. The east was growing gray.

Suddenly out of the stillness there came the sound of a horse galloping
over a wet road. He was coming like mad. Some one for a doctor? No; the
horse-hoofs grew louder, coming out from the town, coming this way, coming
faster and faster, coming _here_. There was a splashing and trampling in
front of the house and a sharp "Whoa!" In the dim gray of first dawn she
made out a man on a  foam-flecked horse. He drew up at the gate.

A window to the right of hers went screeching up. She heard the judge
clear his throat before he spoke.

"What is it? That's you, isn't it, Wiley? What is it?" He took a good deal
of time and coughed between the sentences. His voice was more than
ordinarily quiet, and it sounded husky. "What is it, Wiley?"

"Judge, what time did Mr. Harkless leave here last night and which way did
he go?"

There was a silence.  The judge turned away from the window. Minnie was
standing just outside his door. "It must have been about half-past nine,
wasn't it, father?" she called in a shaking voice. "And, you know, Helen
thought he went west."

"Wiley!" The old man leaned from the sill again.

"Yes!" answered the man on horseback.

"Wiley, he left about half-past nine--just before the storm. They think he
went west."

"Much obliged. Willetts is so upset he isn't sure of anything."


"Wiley!" The old man's voice shook; Minnie began to cry aloud. The
horseman wheeled about and turned his animal's head toward town. "Wiley!"

"Yes."

"Wiley, they haven't--you don't think they've got him?"

"By God, judge," said the man on horseback, "I'm afraid they have!"




CHAPTER X


THE COURT-HOUSE BELL

The court-house bell ringing in the night! No hesitating stroke of
Schofields' Henry, no uncertain touch, was on the rope. A loud, wild,
hurried clamor pealing out to wake the country-side, a rapid _clang!
clang! clang!_ that struck clear in to the spine.

The court-house bell had tolled for the death of Morton, of Garfield, of
Hendricks; had rung joy-peals of peace after the war and after political
campaigns; but it had rung as it was ringing now only three times; once
when Hibbard's mill burned, once when Webb Landis killed Sep Bardlock and
intrenched himself in the lumber-yard and would not be taken till he was
shot through and through, and once when the Rouen accommodation was
wrecked within twenty yards of the station.

Why was the bell ringing now? Men and women, startled into wide
wakefulness, groped to windows--no red mist hung over town or country.
What was it? The bell rang on. Its loud alarm beat increasingly into men's
hearts and quickened their throbbing to the rapid measure of its own.
Vague forms loomed in the gloaming. A horse, wildly ridden, splashed
through the town. There were shouts; voices called hoarsely. Lamps began
to gleam in the windows. Half-clad people emerged from their houses, men
slapping their braces on their shoulders as they ran out of doors.
Questions were shouted into the dimness.

Then the news went over the town.

It was cried from yard to yard, from group to group, from gate to gate,
and reached the furthermost confines. Runners shouted it as they sped by;
boys panted it, breathless; women with loosened hair stumbled into
darkling chambers and faltered it out to new-wakened sleepers; pale girls
clutching wraps at their throats whispered it across fences; the sick,
tossing on their hard beds, heard it. The bell clamored it far and near;
it spread over the country-side; it flew over the wires to distant cities.
The White-Caps had got Mr. Harkless!

Lige Willetts had lost track of him out near Briscoes', it was said, and
had come in at midnight seeking him. He had found Parker, the "Herald"
foreman, and Ross Schofield, the typesetter, and Bud Tipworthy, the devil,
at work in the printing-room, but no sign of Harkless, there or in the
cottage. Together these had sought for him and had roused others, who had
inquired at every house where he might have gone for shelter, and they had
heard nothing. They had watched for his coming during the slackening of
the storm and he had not come, and there was nowhere he could have gone.
He was missing; only one thing could have happened.

They had roused up Warren Smith, the prosecutor, the missing editor's most
intimate friend in Carlow, and Homer, the sheriff, and Jared Wiley, the
deputy. William Todd had rung the alarm. The first thing to do was to find
him. After that there would be trouble--if not before. It looked as if
there would be trouble before. The men tramping up to the muddy Square in
their shirt-sleeves were bulgy about the right hips; and when Homer Tibbs
joined Lum Landis at the hotel corner, and Landis saw that Homer was
carrying a shot-gun, Landis went back for his. A hastily sworn posse
galloped out Main Street. Women and children ran into neighbors' yards and
began to cry. Day was coming; and, as the light grew, men swore and
savagely kicked at the palings of fences that they passed.

In the foreglow of dawn they gathered in the Square and listened to Warren
Smith, who made a speech from the court-house fence and warned them to go
slow. They answered him with angry shouts and hootings, but he made his
big voice heard, and bade them do nothing rash; no facts were known, he
said; it was far from certain that harm had been done, and no one knew
that the Six-Cross-Roads people had done it--even if something had
happened to Mr. Harkless. He declared that he spoke in Harkless's name.
Nothing could distress _him_ so much as for them to defy the law, to take
it out of the proper hands. Justice would  be done.

"Yes it will!" shouted a man below him, brandishing the butt of a raw-hide
whip above his head. "And while you jaw on about it here, he may be tied
up like a dog in the woods, shot full of holes by the men you never lifted
a finger to hender, because you want their votes when you run for circuit
judge. What are we doin' _here_? What's the good of listening to you?"

There was a yell at this, and those who heard the speaker would probably
have started for the Cross-Roads without further parley, had not a rumor
sprung up, which passed so rapidly from man to man that within five
minutes it was being turbulently discussed in every portion of the crowd.
The news came that the two shell-gamblers had wrenched a bar out of a
window under cover of the storm, had broken jail, and were at large. Their
threats of the day before were remembered now, with convincing vividness.
They had sworn repeatedly to Bardlock and to the sheriff, and in the
hearing of others, that they would "do" for the man who took their money
from them and had them arrested. The prosecuting attorney, quickly
perceiving the value of this complication in holding back the mob that was
already forming, called Homer from the crowd and made him get up on the
fence and confess that his prisoners had escaped--at what time he did not
know, probably toward the beginning of the storm, when it was noisiest.

"You see," cried the attorney, "there is nothing as yet of which we can
accuse the Cross-Roads. If our friend has been hurt, it is much more
likely that these crooks did it. They escaped in time to do it, and we all
know they were laying for him. You want to be mighty careful, fellow-
citizens. Homer is already in telegraphic communication with every town
around here, and we'll have those men before night. All you've got to do
is to control yourselves a little and go home quietly." He could see that
his words (except those in reference to returning home--no one was going
home) made an impression. There rose a babble of shouting and argument and
swearing that grew continually louder, and the faces the lawyer looked
down on were creased with perplexity, and shadowed with an anger that
settled darker and darker.

Mr. Ephraim Watts, in spite of all confusion, clad as carefully as upon
the preceding day, deliberately climbed the fence and stood by the lawyer
and made a single steady gesture with his hand. He was listened to at
once, as his respect for the law was less notorious than his irreverence
for it, and he had been known in Carlow as a customarily reckless man.
They wanted illegal and desperate advice, and quieted down to hear it. He
spoke in his professionally calm voice.

"Gentlemen, it seems to me that Mr. Smith and Mr. Ribshaw" (nodding to the
man with the rawhide whip) "are both right. What good are we doing here?
What we want to know is what's happened to Mr. Harkless. It looks just now
like the shell-men might have done it. Let's find out what they done.
Scatter and hunt for him. 'Soon as anything is known for certain,
Hibbard's mill whistle will blow three times. Keep on looking till it
does. _Then_" he finished, with a barely perceptible scornful smile at the
attorney, "_then_ we can decide on what had ought to be done."

Six-Cross-Roads lay dark and steaming in the sun that morning. The forge
was silent, the saloon locked up, the roadway deserted, even by the pigs.
The broken old buggy stood rotting in the mud without a single lean,
little old man or woman--such were the children of the Cross-Roads--to
play about it. The fields were empty, and the rag-stuffed windows blank,
under the baleful glance of the horsemen who galloped by at intervals,
muttering curses, not always confining themselves to muttering them. Once,
when the deputy sheriff rode through alone, a tattered black hound, more
wolf than dog, half-emerged, growling, from beneath one of the tumble-down
barns, and was jerked back into the darkness by his tail, with a snarl
fiercer than his own, while a gun-barrel shone for a second as it swung
for a stroke on the brute's head. The hound did not yelp or whine when the
blow fell. He shut his eyes twice, and slunk sullenly back to his place.

The shanties might have received a volley or two from some of the mounted
bands, exasperated by futile searching, had not the escape of Homer's
prisoners made the guilt of the Cross-Roads appear doubtful in the minds
of many. As the morning waned, the advocates of the theory that the
gamblers had made away with Harkless grew in number. There came a telegram
from the Rouen chief of police that he had a clew to their whereabouts; he
thought they had succeeded in reaching Rouen, and it began to be generally
believed that they had escaped by the one-o'clock freight, which had
stopped to take on some empty cars at a side-track a mile northwest of the
town, across the fields from the Briscoe house. Toward noon a party went
out to examine the railroad embankment.

Men began to come back into the village for breakfast by twos and threes,
though many kept on searching the woods, not feeling the need of food, or
caring if they did. Every grove and clump of underbrush, every thicket,
was ransacked; the waters of the creek, shallow for the most part, but
swollen overnight, were dragged at every pool. Nothing was found; there
was not a sign.

The bar of the hotel was thronged all morning as the returning citizens
rapidly made their way thither, and those who had breakfasted and were
going out again paused for internal, as well as external, reinforcement.
The landlord, himself returned from a long hunt, set up his whiskey with a
lavish hand.

"He was the best man we had, boys," said Landis, as he poured the little
glasses full. "We'd ort of sent him to the legislative halls of Washington
long ago. He'd of done us honor there; but we never thought of doin'
anything fer him; jest set 'round and let him build up the town and give
him empty thankyes. Drink hearty, gentlemen," he finished, gloomily, "I
don't grudge no liquor to-day--except to Lige Willetts."

"He was a good man," said young William Todd, whose nose was red, not from
the whiskey. "I've about give up."

Schofields' Henry drew his sleeve across his eyes. "He was the only man in
this whole city that didn't jab and nag at me when I done my best," he
exclaimed, with an increasing break in his utterance. "Many a good word
I've had from him when nobody in town done nothin' but laugh an' rile an'
badger me about my--my bell." And Schofields' Henry began to cry openly.

"He was a great hand with the chuldern," said one man. "Always have
something to say to 'em  to make 'em laugh when he went by. 'Talk more to
them 'n he would to grown folks. Yes, sir."

"They knowed _him_ all right," added another. "I reckon all of us did,
little and big."

"It's goin' to seem mighty empty around here," said Ross Schofield.
"What's goin' to become o' the 'Herald' and the party in this district?
Where's the man to run either of 'em now. Like as not," he concluded
desperately, "the election'll go against us in the fall."

Dibb Zane choked over his four fingers. "We might's well bust up this
dab-dusted ole town ef he's gone."

"I don't know what's come over that Cynthy Tipworthy," said the landlord.
"She's waited table on him last two year, and her brother Bud works at the
'Herald' office. She didn't say a word--only looked and looked and looked
--like a crazy woman; then her and Bud went off together to hunt in the
woods. They just tuck hold of each other's hands like----"

"That ain't nothin'," Homer Tibbs broke in. "You'd ort to've saw old Miz
Hathaway, that widder woman next door to us, when she heard it. He had
helped her to git her pension; and she tuck on worse 'n' anything I ever
hear--lot worse 'n' when Hathaway died."

"I reckon there ain't many crazier than them two Bowlders, father and
son," said the postmaster, wiping the drops from his beard as he set his
glass on the bar. "They rid into town like a couple of wild Indians, the
old man beatin' that gray mare o' theirn till she was one big welt, and he
ain't natcherly no cruel man, either. I reckon Lige Willetts better keep
out of Hartley's way."

"I keep out of no man's way," cried a voice behind him. Turning, they saw
Lige standing on the threshold of the door that led to the street. In his
hand he held the bridle of the horse he had ridden across the sidewalk,
and that now stood panting, with lowered head, half through the doorway,
beside his master. Lige was hatless, splashed with mud from head to foot;
his jaw was set, his teeth ground together; his eyes burned under red
lids, and his hair lay tossed and damp on his brow. "I keep out of no
man's way," he repeated, hoarsely.

"I heard you, Mr. Tibbs, but I've got too much to do, while you loaf and
gas and drink over Lum Landis's bar--I've got other business than keeping
out of Hartley Bowlder's way. I'm looking for John Harkless. He was the
best man we had in this ornery hole, and he was too good for us, and so
we've maybe let him get killed, and maybe I'm to blame. But I'm going to
find him, and if he's hurt--damn _me_! I'm going to have a hand on the
rope that lifts the men that did it, if I have to go to Rouen to put it
there! After that I'll answer for my fault, not before!"

He threw himself on his horse and was gone. Soon the room was emptied, as
the patrons of the bar returned to the search, and only Mr. Wilkerson and
the landlord remained, the bar being the professional office, so to speak,
of both.

Wilkerson had a chair in a corner, where he sat chanting a funeral march
in a sepulchral murmur, allowing a parenthetical _hic_ to punctuate the
dirge in place of the drum. Whenever a batch of newcomers entered, he rose
to drink with them; and, at such times, after pouring off his liquor with
a rich melancholy, shedding tears after every swallow, he would make an
exploring tour of the room on his way back to his corner, stopping to look
under each chair inquiringly and ejaculate: "Why, where kin he be!" Then,
shaking his head, he would observe sadly: "Fine young man, he was, too;
fine young man. Pore fellow! I reckon we hain't a-goin' to git him."

At eleven o'clock. Judge Briscoe dropped wearily from his horse at his own
gate, and said to a wan girl who came running down the walk to meet him:
"There is nothing, yet. I sent the telegram to your mother--to Mrs.
Sherwood."

Helen turned away without answering. Her face was very white and looked
pinched about the mouth. She went back to where old Fisbee sat on the
porch, his white head held between his two hands; he was rocking himself
to and fro. She touched him gently, but he did not look up. She spoke to
him.

"There isn't anything--yet. He sent the telegram to mamma. I shall stay
with you, now, no matter what you say." She sat beside him and put her
head down on his shoulder, and though for a moment he appeared not to
notice it, when Minnie came out on the porch, hearing her father at the
door, the old scholar had put his arm about the girl and was stroking her
fair hair softly.

Briscoe glanced at them, and raised a warning finger to his daughter, and
they went tiptoeing into the house, where the judge dropped heavily upon a
sofa with an asthmatic sigh; he was worn and tired. Minnie stood before
him with a look of pale inquiry, and he shook his head.

"No use to tell _them_; but I can't see any hope," he answered her, biting
nervously at the end of a cigar. "I expect you better bring me some coffee
in here; I couldn't take another step to save me. I'm too old to tear
around the country horseback before breakfast, like I have to-day."

"Did you send her telegram?" Minnie asked, as he drank the coffee she
brought him. She had interpreted "coffee" liberally, and, with the
assistance of Mildy Upton (whose subdued nose was frankly red and who shed
tears on the raspberries), had prepared an appetizing table at his elbow.

"Yes," responded the judge, "and I'm glad she sent it. I talked the other
way yesterday, what little I said--it isn't any of our business--but I
don't think any too much of those people, somehow. She thinks she belongs
with Fisbee, and I guess she's right. That young fellow must have got
along with her pretty well, and I'm afraid when she gives up she'll be
pretty bad over it; but I guess we all will. It's terribly sudden,
somehow, though it's only what everybody half expected would come; only we
thought it would come from over yonder." He nodded toward the west. "But
she's got to stay here with us. Boarding at Sol Tibbs's with that old man
won't do; and she's no girl to live in two rooms. You fix it up with her--
you make her stay."

"She must," answered his daughter as she knelt beside him and patted his
coat and handed him several things to eat at the same time. "Mr. Fisbee
will help me persuade her, now that she's bound to stay in spite of him
and the Sherwoods, too. I think she is perfectly grand to do it. I've
always thought she was grand--ever since she took me under her wing at
school when I was terribly 'country' and frightened; but she was so sweet
and kind she made me forget. She was the pet of the school, too, always
doing things for the other girls, for everybody; looking out for people
simply heads and heads bigger than herself, and so recklessly generous and
so funny about it; and always thoughtful and--and--pleasant----"

Minnie was speaking sadly, mechanically; but suddenly she broke off with a
quick sob, sprang up and went to the window; then, turning, cried out:

"I don't believe it! He knew how to take care of himself too well.  He'd
have got away from them."

Her father shook his head. "Then why hasn't he turned up? He'd have gone
home after the storm if something bad wasn't the matter."

"But nothing--nothing _that_ bad could have happened. They haven't found--
any--anything."

"But why hasn't he come back, child?"

"Well, he's lying hurt somewhere, that's all."

"Then why haven't they found him?"

"I don't care!" she cried, and choked with the words and tossed her
dishevelled hair from her temples; "it isn't true. Helen won't believe it
--why should I? It's only a few hours since he was right here in our yard,
talking to us all. I won't believe it till they've searched every stick
and stone of Six-Cross-Roads and found him."

"It wasn't the Cross-Roads," said the old gentleman, pushing the table
away and relaxing his limbs on the sofa. "They probably didn't have
anything to do with it. We thought they had at first, but everybody's
about come to believe it was those two devils that he had arrested
yesterday."

"Not the Cross-Roads!" echoed Minnie, and she began to tremble violently.
"Haven't they been out there yet?"

"What use? They are out of it, and they can thank God they are!"

"They are not!" she cried excitedly. "They did it. It was the White-Caps.
We saw them, Helen and I."

The judge got upon his feet with an oath. He had not sworn for years until
that morning. "What's this?" he said sharply.

"I ought to have told you before, but we were so frightened, and--and you
went off in such a rush after Mr. Wiley was here. I never dreamed
everybody wouldn't know it was the Cross-Roads; that they would _think_ of
any one else. And I looked for the scarecrow as soon as it was light and
it was 'way off from where we saw them, and wasn't blown down at all, and
Helen saw them in the field besides--saw all of them----"

He interrupted her. "What do you mean? Try to tell me about it quietly,
child." He laid his hand on her shoulder.

She told him breathlessly (while he grew more and more visibly perturbed
and uneasy, biting his cigar to pieces and groaning at intervals) what she
and Helen had seen in the storm. When she finished he took a few quick
turns about the room with his hands thrust deep in his coat pockets, and
then, charging her to repeat the story to no one, left the house, and,
forgetting his fatigue, rapidly crossed the fields to the point where the
bizarre figures of the night had shown themselves to the two girls at the
window.

The soft ground had been trampled by many feet. The boot-prints pointed to
the northeast. He traced them backward to the southwest through the field,
and saw where they had come from near the road, going northeast. Then,
returning, he climbed the fence and followed them northward through the
next field. From there, the next, beyond the road that was a continuation
of Main Street, stretched to the railroad embankment. The track, raggedly
defined in trampled loam and muddy furrow, bent in a direction which
indicated that its terminus might be the switch where the empty cars had
stood last night, waiting for the one-o'clock freight. Though the fields
had been trampled down in many places by the searching parties, he felt
sure of the direction taken by the Cross-Roads men, and he perceived that
the searchers had mistaken the tracks he followed for those of earlier
parties in the hunt. On the embankment he saw a number of men, walking
west and examining the ground on each side, and a long line of people
following them out from town. He stopped. He held the fate of Six-Cross-
Roads in his hand and he knew it.

He knew that if he spoke, his evidence would damn the Cross-Roads, and
that it meant that more than the White-Caps would be hurt, for the Cross-
Roads would fight. If he had believed that the dissemination of his
knowledge could have helped Harkless, he would have called to the men near
him at once; but he had no hope that the young man was alive. They would
not have dragged him out to their shanties wounded, or as a prisoner; such
a proceeding would have courted detection, and, also, they were not that
kind; they had been "looking for him" a long time, and their one idea was
to kill him.

And Harkless, for all his gentleness, was the sort of man, Briscoe
believed, who would have to be killed before he could be touched. Of one
thing the old gentleman was sure; the editor had not been tied up and
whipped while yet alive. In spite of his easy manners and geniality, there
was a dignity in him that would have made him kill and be killed before
the dirty fingers of a Cross-Roads "White-Cap" could have been laid upon
him in chastisement. A great many good Americans of Carlow who knew him
well always Mistered him as they would have Mistered only an untitled
Morton or Hendricks who might have lived amongst them. He was the only man
the old darky, Uncle Xenophon, had ever addressed as "Marse" since he came
to Plattville, thirty years ago.

Briscoe considered it probable that a few people were wearing bandages, in
the closed shanties over to the west to-day. A thought of the number they
had brought against one man; a picture of the unequal struggle, of the
young fellow he had liked so well, unarmed and fighting hopelessly in a
trap, and a sense of the cruelty of it, made the hot anger surge up in his
breast, and he started on again. Then he stopped once more. Though long
retired from faithful service on the bench, he had been all his life a
serious exponent of the law, and what he went to tell meant lawlessness
that no one could hope to check. He knew the temper of the people; their
long suffering was at an end, and they would go over at last and wipe out
the Cross-Roads. It depended on him. If the mob could be held off over
to-day, if men's minds could cool over night, the law could strike and the
innocent and the hotheaded be spared from suffering. He would wait; he
would lay his information before the sheriff; and Horner would go quietly
with a strong posse, for he would need a strong one. He began to retrace
his steps.

The men on the embankment were walking slowly, bending far over, their
eyes fixed on the ground. Suddenly one of them stood erect and tossed his
arms in the air and shouted loudly. Other men ran to him, and another far
down the track repeated the shout and the gesture to another far in his
rear; this man took it up, and shouted and waved to a fourth man, and so
they passed the signal back to town. There came, almost immediately three
long, loud whistles from a mill near the station, and the embankment grew
black with people pouring out from town, while the searchers came running
from the fields and woods and underbrush on both sides of the railway.

Briscoe paused for the last time; then he began to walk slowly toward the
embankment.

The track lay level and straight, not dimming in the middle distances, the
rails converging to points, both northwest and southeast, in the clean-
washed air, like examples of perspective in a child's drawing-book. About
seventy miles to the west and north lay Rouen; and, in the same direction,
nearly six miles from where the signal was given, the track was crossed by
a road leading directly south to Six-Cross-Roads.

The embankment had been newly ballasted with sand. What had been
discovered was a broad brown stain on the south slope near the top. There
were smaller stains above and below; none beyond it to left or right; and
there were deep boot-prints in the sand. Men were examining the place
excitedly, talking and gesticulating.  It was Lige Willetts who had found
it. His horse was tethered to a fence near by, at the end of a lane
through a cornfield. Jared Wiley, the deputy, was talking to a group near
the stain, explaining.

"You see them two must have knowed about the one-o'clock freight, and that
it was to stop here to take on the empty lumber cars. I don't know how
they knowed it, but they did. It was this way: when they dropped from the
window, they beat through the storm, straight for this side-track. At the
same time Mr. Harkless leaves Briscoes' goin' west. It begins to rain. He
cuts across to the railroad to have a sure footing, and strikin' for the
deepo for shelter--near place as any except Briscoes' where he'd said
good-night already and prob'ly don't wish to go back, 'fear of givin'
trouble or keepin' 'em up--anybody can understand that. He comes along,
and gets to where we are precisely at the time _they_ do, them comin' from
town, him strikin' for it. They run right into each other. That's what
happened. They re-_cog_-nized him and raised up on him and let him have
it. What they done it with, I don't know; we took everything in that line
off of 'em; prob'ly used railroad iron; and what they done with him
afterwards we don't know; but we will by night. They'll sweat it out of
'em up at Rouen when they get 'em."

"I reckon maybe some of us might help," remarked Mr. Watts, reflectively.

Jim Bardlock swore a violent oath. "That's the talk!" he shouted. "Ef I
ain't the first man of this crowd to set my foot in Roowun, an' first to
beat in that jail door, an' take 'em out an' hang 'em by the neck till
they're dead, dead, dead, I'm not Town Marshal of Plattville, County of
Carlow, State of Indiana, and the Lord have mercy on our souls!"

Tom Martin looked at the brown stain and quickly turned away; then he went
back slowly to the village. On the way he passed Warren Smith.

"Is it so?" asked the lawyer.

Martin answered with a dry throat. He looked out dimly over the sunlit
fields, and swallowed once or twice. "Yes, it's so. There's a good deal of
it there. Little more than a boy he was." The old fellow passed his seamy
hand over his eyes without concealment. "Peter ain't very bright,
sometimes, it seems to me," he added, brokenly; "overlook Bodeffer and
Fisbee and me and all of us old husks, and--and--" he gulped suddenly,
then finished--"and act the fool and take a boy that's the best we had. I
wish the Almighty would take Peter off the gate; he ain't fit fer it."

When the attorney reached the spot where the crowd was thickest, way was
made for him. The old colored man, Xenophon, approached at the same time,
leaning on a hickory stick and bent very far over, one hand resting on his
hip as if to ease a rusty joint. The negro's age was an incentive to
fable; from his appearance he might have known the prophets, and he wore
that hoary look of unearthly wisdom many decades of superstitious
experience sometimes give to members of his race. His face, so tortured
with wrinkles that it might have been made of innumerable black threads
woven together, was a living mask of the mystery of his blood. Harkless
had once said that Uncle Xenophon had visited heaven before Swedenborg and
hell before Dante. To-day, as he slowly limped over the ties, his eyes
were bright and dry under the solemn lids, and, though his heavy nostrils
were unusually distended in the effort for regular breathing, the deeply
puckered lips beneath them were set firmly.

He stopped and looked at the faces before him. When he spoke his voice was
gentle, and though the tremulousness of age harped on the vocal strings,
it was rigidly controlled. "Kin some kine gelmun," he asked, "please t'be
so good ez t' show de ole main whuh de W'ite-Caips is done shoot Marse
Hawkliss?"

"Here was where it happened, Uncle Zen," answered Wiley, leaning him
forward. "Here is the stain."

Xenophon bent over the spot on the sand, making little odd noises in his
throat. Then he painfully resumed his former position. "Dass his blood,"
he said, in the same gentle, quavering tone. "Dass my bes' frien' whut lay
on de groun' whuh yo staind, gelmun."

There was a pause, and no one spoke.

"Dass whuh day laid 'im an' dass whuh he lie," the old negro continued.
"Dey shot 'im in de fiels. Dey ain' shot 'im hear-yondeh dey drugged 'im,
but dis whuh he lie." He bent over again, then knelt, groaningly, and
placed his hand on the stain, one would have said, as a man might place
his hand over a heart to see if it still beat. He was motionless, with the
air of hearkening.

"Marse, honey, is you gone?" He raised his voice as if calling, "Is you
gone, suh?--Marse?"

He looked up at the circle about him, and, still kneeling, not taking his
hand from the sand, seeming to wait for a sign, to listen for a voice, he
said: "Whafo' you gelmun think de good Lawd summon Marse Hawkliss? Kaze he
de mos' fittes'? You know dat man he ketch me in de cole night, wintuh
'to' lais', stealin' 'is wood. You know whut he done t'de ole thief? Tek
an' bull' up big fiah een ole Zen' shainty; say, 'He'p yo'se'f an'
welcome. Reckon you hongry, too, ain' you, Xenophon?' Tek an' feed me. Tek
an' tek keer o' me ev' since. Ah pump de baith full in de mawin'; mek 'is
bed; pull de weeds out'n of de front walk--dass all. He tek me in. When Ah
aisk 'im ain' he fraid keep ole thief he say, jesso: 'Dass all my fault,
Xenophon; ought look you up long 'go; ought know long 'go you be cole dese
baid nights. Reckon Ahm de thievenest one us two, Xenophon, keepin' all
dis wood stock' up when you got none,' he say, jesso. Tek me in; say he
_lahk_ a thief. Pay me sala'y. Feed me. Dass de main whut de Caips gone
shot lais' night." He raised his head sharply, and the mystery in his
gloomy eyes intensified as they opened wide and stared at the sky,
unseeingly.

"Ise bawn wid a cawl!" he exclaimed, loudly. His twisted frame was braced
to an extreme tension. "Ise bawn wid a cawl! De blood anssuh!"

"It wasn't the Cross-Roads, Uncle Xenophon," said Warren Smith, laying his
hand on the old man's shoulder.

Xenophon rose to his feet. He stretched a long, bony arm straight to the
west, where the Cross-Roads lay; stood rigid and silent, like a seer; then
spoke:

"De men whut shot Marse Hawkliss lies yondeh, hidin' f'um de light o' day.
An' _him_"--he swerved his whole rigid body till the arm pointed
northwest--"he lies yondeh. You won't find him heah. Dey fought 'im een de
fiel's an' dey druggen 'im heah. Dis whim dey lay 'im down.  Ise bawn wid
a cawl!"

There were exclamations from the listeners, for Xenophon spoke as one
having authority. Suddenly he turned and pointed his outstretched hand
full at Judge Briscoe.

"An' dass de main," he cried, "dass de main kin tell you Ah speak de
trufe."

Before he was answered, Eph Watts looked at Briscoe keenly and then turned
to Lige Willetts and whispered: "Get on your horse, ride in, and ring the
court-house bell like the devil. Do as I say!"

Tears stood in the judge's eyes. "It is so," he said, solemnly. "He speaks
the truth. I didn't mean to tell it to-day, but somehow--" He paused. "The
hounds!" he cried. "They deserve it! My daughter saw them crossing the
fields in the night--saw them climb the fence, hoods, gowns, and all, a
big crowd of them. She and the lady who is visiting us saw them, saw them
plainly. The lady saw them several times, clear as day, by the flashes of
lightning--the scoundrels were coming this way. They must have been
dragging him with them then. He couldn't have had a show for his life
amongst them. Do what you like--maybe they've got him at the Cross-Roads.
If there's a chance of it--dead or alive--bring him back!"

A voice rang out above the clamor that followed the judge's speech.

"'Bring him back!' God could, maybe, but He won't. Who's travelling my
way? I go west!" Hartley Bowlder had ridden his sorrel up the embankment,
and the horse stood between the rails. There was an angry roar from the
crowd; the prosecutor pleaded and threatened unheeded; and as for the
deputy sheriff, he declared his intention of taking with him all who
wished to go as his posse. Eph Watts succeeded in making himself heard
above the tumult.

"The Square!" he shouted. "Start from the Square. We want everybody, and
we'll need them. We want every one in Carlow to be implicated in this
posse."

"They will be!" shouted a farmer. "Don't you worry about that."

"We want to get into some sort of shape," cried Eph.

"Shape, hell!" said Hartley Bowlder.

There was a hiss and clang and rattle behind him, and a steam whistle
shrieked. The crowd divided, and Hartley's sorrel jumped just in time as
the westbound accommodation rushed through on its way to Rouen. From the
rear platform leaned the sheriff, Horner, waving his hands frantically as
he flew by, but no one understood--or cared--what he said, or, in the
general excitement, even wondered why he was leaving the scene of his duty
at such a time. When the train had dwindled to a dot and disappeared, and
the noise of its rush grew faint, the court-house bell was heard ringing,
and the mob was piling pell-mell into the village to form on the Square.
The judge stood alone on the embankment.

"That settles it," he said aloud, gloomily, watching the last figures. He
took off his hat and pushed back the thick, white hair from his forehead.
"Nothing to do but wait. Might as well go home for that. Blast it!" he
exclaimed, impatiently. "I don't want to go there. It's too hard on the
little girl. If she hadn't come till next week she'd never have known John
Harkless."




CHAPTER XI


JOHN BROWN'S BODY

All morning horsemen had been galloping through Six-Cross-Roads, sometimes
singly, oftener in company. At one-o'clock the last posse passed through
on its return to the county-seat, and after that there was a long,
complete silence, while the miry corners were undisturbed by a single
hoof-beat. No unkempt colt nickered from his musty stall; the sparse young
corn that was used to rasp and chuckle greenly stood rigid in the fields.
Up the Plattville pike despairingly cackled one old hen, with her wabbling
sailor run, smit with a superstitious horror of nothing, in the stillness;
she hid herself in the shadow underneath a rickety barn, and her shrieking
ceased.

Only on the Wimby farm were there signs of life. The old lady who had sent
Harkless roses sat by the window all morning and wiped her eyes, watching
the horsemen ride by; sometimes they would hail her and tell her there was
nothing yet. About two-o'clock, her husband rattled up in a buckboard, and
got out the late, and more authentic, Mr. Wimby's shot-gun, which he
carefully cleaned and oiled, in spite of its hammerless and quite useless
condition, sitting, meanwhile, by the window opposite his wife, and often
looking up from his work to shake his weak fist at his neighbors'
domiciles and creak decrepit curses and denunciations.

But the Cross-Roads was ready. It knew what was coming now. Frightened,
desperate, sullen, it was ready.

The afternoon wore on, and lengthening shadows fell upon a peaceful--one
would have said, a sleeping--country. The sun-dried pike, already dusty,
stretched its serene length between green borders flecked with purple and
yellow and white weedflowers; and the tree shadows were not shade, but
warm blue and lavender glows in the general pervasion of still, bright
light, the sky curving its deep, unburnished, penetrable blue over all,
with no single drift of fleece upon it to be reflected in the creek that
wound along past willow and sycamore. A woodpecker's telegraphy broke the
quiet like a volley of pistol shots.

But far eastward on the pike there slowly developed a soft, white haze. It
grew denser and larger. Gradually it rolled nearer. Dimly behind it could
be discerned a darker, moving nucleus that extended far back upon the
road. A heavy tremor began to stir the air--faint manifold sounds, a
waxing, increasing, multitudinous rumor.

The pike ascended a long, slight slope leading west up to the Cross-Roads.
From a thicket of iron-weed at the foot of this slope was thrust the hard,
lean visage of an undersized girl of fourteen. Her fierce eyes examined
the approaching cloud of dust intently. A redness rose under the burnt
yellow skin and colored the wizened cheeks.

They were coming.

She stepped quickly out of the tangle, and darted up the road, running
with the speed of a fleet little terrier, not opening her lips, not
calling out, but holding her two thin hands high above her head. That was
all. But Birnam wood was come to Dunsinane at last, and the messenger
sped. Out of the weeds in the corners of the snake fence, in the upper
part of the rise, silently lifted the heads of men whose sallowness became
a sickish white as the child flew by.

The mob was carefully organized. They had taken their time and had
prepared everything deliberately, knowing that nothing could stop them. No
one had any thought of concealment; it was all as open as the light of
day, all done in the broad sunshine. Nothing had been determined as to
what was to be done at the Cross-Roads more definite than that the place
was to be wiped out. That was comprehensive enough; the details were quite
certain to occur. They were all on foot, marching in fairly regular ranks.
In front walked Mr. Watts, the man Harkless had abhorred in a public
spirit and befriended in private--to-day he was a hero and a leader,
marching to avenge his professional oppressor and personal brother. Cool,
unruffled, and, to outward vision, unarmed, marching the miles in his
brown frock coat and generous linen, his carefully creased trousers neatly
turned up out of the dust, he led the way. On one side of him were the two
Bowlders, on the other was Lige Willetts, Mr. Watts preserving peace
between the two young men with perfect tact and sang-froid.

They kept good order and a similitude of quiet for so many, except far to
the rear, where old Wilkerson was bringing up the tail of the procession,
dragging a wretched yellow dog by a slip-noose fastened around the poor
cur's protesting neck, the knot carefully arranged under his right ear. In
spite of every command and protest, Wilkerson had marched the whole way
uproariously singing, "John Brown's Body."

The sun was in the west when they came in sight of the Cross-Roads, and
the cabins on the low slope stood out angularly against the radiance
beyond. As they beheld the hated settlement, the heretofore orderly ranks
showed a disposition to depart from the steady advance and rush the
shanties. Willetts, the Bowlders, Parker, Ross, Schofield, and fifty
others did, in fact, break away and set a sharp pace up the slope.

Watts tried to call them back. "What's the use your gettin' killed?" he
shouted.

"Why not?" answered Lige, who, like the others, was increasing his speed
when old "Wimby" rose up suddenly from the roadside ahead of them, and
motioned them frantically to go back. "They're laid out along the fence,
waitin' fer ye," he warned them. "Git out the road. Come by the fields.
Per the Lord's sake, spread!" Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he
dropped down into the weeds again. Lige and those with him paused, and the
whole body came to a halt while the leaders consulted. There was a sound
of metallic clicking and a thin rattle of steel. From far to the rear came
the voice of old Wilkerson:

   "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground,
    John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground--"

A few near him, as they stood waiting, began to take up the burden of the
song, singing in slow time like a dirge; then those further away took it
up; it spread, reached the leaders; they, too, began to sing, taking off
their hats as they joined in; and soon the whole concourse, solemn,
earnest, and uncovered, was singing--a thunderous requiem for John
Harkless.

The sun was swinging lower and the edges of the world were embroidered
with gold while that deep volume of sound shook the air, the song of a
stern, savage, just cause--sung, perhaps, as some of the ancestors of
these men sang with Hampden before the bristling walls of a hostile city.
It had iron and steel in it. The men lying on their guns in the ambuscade
along the fence heard the dirge rise and grow to its mighty fulness, and
they shivered. One of them, posted nearest the advance, had his rifle
carefully levelled at Lige Willetts, a fair target in the road. When he
heard the singing, he turned to the man next behind him and laughed
harshly: "I reckon we'll see a big jamboree in hell to-night, huh?"

The huge murmur of the chorus expanded, and gathered in rhythmic strength,
and swelled to power, and rolled and thundered across the plain.

     "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground,
      John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground,
      John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground,
               His soul goes marching on!
      Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
      Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
      Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
               His soul goes marching on!"

A gun spat from the higher ground, and Willetts dropped where he stood,
but was up again in a second, with a red line across his forehead where
the ball had grazed his temple. Then the mob spread out like a fan,
hundreds of men climbing the fence and beginning the advance through the
fields, dosing on the ambuscade from both sides. Mr. Watts, wading through
the high grass in the field north of the road, perceived the barrel of a
gun shining from a bush some distance in front of him, and, although in
the same second no weapon was seen in his hand, discharged a revolver at
the bush behind the gun. Instantly ten or twelve men leaped from their
hiding-places along the fences of both fields, and, firing hurriedly and
harmlessly into the scattered ranks of the oncoming mob, broke for the
shelter of the houses, where their fellows were posted. Taken on the
flanks and from the rear, there was but one thing for them to do to keep
from being hemmed in and shot or captured. (They excessively preferred
being shot.) With a wild, high, joyous yell, sounding like the bay of
young hounds breaking into view of their quarry, the Plattville men
followed.

The most eastward of the debilitated edifices of Six-Cross-Roads was the
saloon, which bore the painted legends: on the west wall, "Last Chance";
on the east wall, "First Chance." Next to this, and separated by two or
three acres of weedy vacancy from the corners where the population centred
thickest, stood-if one may so predicate of a building which leaned in
seven directions-the house of Mr. Robert Skillett, the proprietor of the
saloon. Both buildings were shut up as tight as their state of repair
permitted. As they were furthest to the east, they formed the nearest
shelter, and to them the Cross-Roaders bent their flight, though they
stopped not here, but disappeared behind Skillett's shanty, putting it
between them and their pursuers, whose guns were beginning to speak. The
fugitives had a good start, and, being the picked runners of the Cross-
Roads, they crossed the open, weedy acres in safety and made for their
homes. Every house had become a fort, and the defenders would have to be
fought and torn out one by one. As the guns sounded, a woman in a shanty
near the forge began to scream, and kept on screaming.

On came the farmers and the men of Plattville. They took the saloon at a
run; battered down the crazy doors with a fence-rail, and swarmed inside
like busy insects, making the place hum like a hive, but with the hotter
industries of destruction. It was empty of life as a tomb, but they beat
and tore and battered and broke and hammered and shattered like madmen;
they reduced the tawdry interior to a mere chaos, and came pouring forth
laden with trophies of ruin. And then there was a charry smell in the air,
and a slender feather of smoke floated up from a second-story window.

At the same time Watts led an assault on the adjoining house--an assault
which came to a sudden pause, for, from cracks in the front wall, a
squirrel-rifle and a shot-gun snapped and banged, and the crowd fell back
in disorder. Homer Tibbs had a hat blown away, full of buck-shot holes,
while Mr. Watts solicitously examined a small aperture in the skirts of
his brown coat. The house commanded the road, and the rush of the mob into
the village was checked, but only for the instant.

A rickety woodshed, which formed a portion of the Skillett mansion,
closely joined the "Last Chance" side of the family place of business.
Scarcely had the guns of the defenders sounded, when, with a loud shout,
Lige Willetts leaped from an upper window on that side of the burning
saloon and landed on the woodshed, and, immediately climbing the roof of
the house itself, applied a fiery brand to the time-worn clapboards. Ross
Schofield dropped on the shed, close behind him, his arm lovingly
enfolding a gallon jug of whiskey, which he emptied (not without evident
regret) upon the clapboards as Lige fired them. Flames burst forth almost
instantly, and the smoke, uniting with that now rolling out of every
window of the saloon, went up to heaven in a cumbrous, gray column.

As the flames began to spread, there was a rapid fusillade from the rear
of the house, and a hundred men and more, who had kept on through the
fields to the north, assailed it from behind. Their shots passed clear
through the flimsy partitions, and there was a horrid screeching, like a
beast's howls, from within. The front door was thrown open, and a lean,
fierce-eyed girl, with a case-knife in her hand, ran out in the face of
the mob. At sound of the shots in the rear they had begun to advance on
the house a second time, and Hartley Bowlder was the nearest man to the
girl. With awful words, and shrieking inconceivably, she made straight at
Hartley, and attacked him with the knife. She struck at him again and
again, and, in her anguish of hate and fear, was so extraordinary a
spectacle that she gained for her companions the four or five seconds they
needed to escape from the house. As she hurled herself alone at the
oncoming torrent, they sped from the door unnoticed, sprang over the
fence, and reached the open lots to the west before they were seen by
Willetts from the roof.

"Don't let 'em fool you!" he shouted. "Look to I your left! There they go!
Don't let 'em get away."

The Cross-Readers were running across the field. They were Bob Skillett
and his younger brother, and Mr. Skillett was badly damaged: he seemed to
be holding his jaw on his face with both hands. The girl turned, and sped
after them. She was over the fence almost as soon as they were, and the
three ran in single file, the girl last. She was either magnificently
sacrificial and fearless, or she cunningly calculated that the regulators
would take no chances of killing a woman-child, for she kept between their
guns and her two companions, trying to cover and shield the latter with
her frail body.

"Shoot, Lige," called Watts. "If we fire from here we'll hit the girl.
Shoot!"

Willetts and Ross Schofield were still standing on the roof, at the edge,
out of the smoke, and both fired at the same time. The fugitives did not
turn; they kept on running, and they had nearly reached the other side of
the field, when suddenly, without any premonitory gesture, the elder
Skillett dropped flat on his face. The Cross-Roaders stood by each other
that day, for four or five men ran out of the nearest shanty into the
open, lifted the prostrate figure from the ground, and began to carry it
back with them. But Mr. Skillett was alive; his curses were heard above
all other sounds. Lige and Schofield fired again, and one of the rescuers
staggered. Nevertheless, as the two men slid down from the roof, the
burdened Cross-Readers were seen to break into a run; and at that, with
another yell, fiercer, wilder, more joyous than the first, the Plattville
men followed.

The yell rang loudly in the ears of old Wilkerson, who had remained back
in the road, and at the same instant he heard another shout behind him.
Mr. Wilkerson had not shared in the attack, but, greatly preoccupied with
his own histrionic affairs, was proceeding up the pike alone--except for
the unhappy yellow mongrel, still dragged along by the  slip-noose--and
alternating, as was his natural  wont, from one fence to the other;
crouching behind  every bush to fire an imaginary rifle at his dog, and
then springing out, with triumphant bellowings, to fall prone upon the
terrified animal. It was after one of these victories that a shout of
warning was raised behind him, and Mr. Wilkerson, by grace of the god
Bacchus, rolling out of the way in time to save his life, saw a horse dash
by him--a big, black horse whose polished flanks were dripping with
lather. Warren Smith was the rider. He was waving a slip of yellow paper
high in the air.

He rode up the slope, and drew rein beyond the burning buildings, just
ahead of those foremost in the pursuit. He threw his horse across the road
to oppose their progress, rose in his stirrups, and waved the paper over
his head. "Stop!" he roared, "Give me one minute. Stop!" He had a grand
voice; and he was known in many parts of the State for the great bass roar
with which he startled his juries. To be heard at a distance most men lift
the pitch of their voices; Smith lowered his an octave or two, and the
result was like an earthquake playing an organ in a catacomb.

"Stop!" he thundered. "Stop!"

In answer, one of the flying Cross-Roaders turned and sent a bullet
whistling close to him. The lawyer paused long enough to bow deeply in
satirical response; then, flourishing the paper, he roared again: "Stop! A
mistake! I have news! Stop, I say! Homer has got them!"

To make himself heard over that tempestuous advance was a feat; for him,
moreover, whose counsels had so lately been derided, to interest the
pursuers at such a moment enough to make them listen--to find the word--
was a greater; and by the word, and by gestures at once vehemently
imperious and imploring, to stop them was still greater; but he did it. He
had come at just the moment before the moment that would have been too
late. They all heard him. They all knew, too, he was not trying to save
the Cross-Roads as a matter of duty, because he had given that up before
the mob left Plattville. Indeed, it was a question if, at the last, he had
not tacitly approved; and no one feared indictments for the day's work. It
would do no harm to listen to what he had to say. The work could wait; it
would "keep" for five minutes. They began to gather around him, excited,
flushed, perspiring, and smelling of smoke. Hartley Bowlder, won by Lige's
desperation and intrepidity, was helping the latter tie up his head; no
one else was hurt.

"What is it?" they clamored impatiently. "Speak quick!" There was another
harmless shot from a fugitive, and then the Cross-Roaders, divining that
the diversion was in their favor, secured themselves in their decrepit
fastnesses and held their fire. Meanwhile, the flames crackled cheerfully
in Plattville ears. No matter what the prosecutor had to say, at least the
Skillett saloon and homestead were gone, and Bob Skillett and one other
would be sick enough to be good for a while.

"Listen," cried Warren Smith, and, rising in his stirrups again, read the
missive in his hand, a Western Union telegraph form. "Warren Smith,
Plattville," was the direction. "Found both shell-men. Police familiar
with both, and both wanted here. One arrested at noon in a second-hand
clothes store, wearing Harkless's hat, also trying dispose torn full-dress
coat known to have been worn by Harkless last night. Stains on lining
believed blood. Second man found later at freight-yards in empty lumber
car left Plattville 1 P.M., badly hurt, shot, and bruised. Supposed
Harkless made hard fight. Hurt man taken to hospital unconscious. Will
die. Hope able question him first and discover whereabouts body. Other man
refuses talk so far. Check any movement Cross-Roads. This clears Skillett,
etc. Come over on 9.15."

The telegram was signed by Homer and by Barrett, the superintendent of
police at Rouen.

"It's all a mistake, boys," the lawyer said, as he handed the paper to
Watts and Parker for inspection. "The ladies at the judge's were mistaken,
that's all, and this proves it. It's easy enough to understand: they were
frightened by the storm, and, watching a fence a quarter-mile away by
flashes of lightning, any one would have been confused, and imagined all
the horrors on earth. I don't deny but what I believed it for a while, and
I don't deny but the Cross-Roads is pretty tough, but you've done a good
deal here already, to-day, and we're saved in time from a mistake that
would have turned out mighty bad. This settles it.  Homer got a wire from
Rouen to come over there, soon as they got track of the first man; that
was when we saw him on the Rouen accommodation."

A slightly cracked voice, yet a huskily tuneful one, was lifted
quaveringly on the air from the roadside, where an old man and a yellow
dog sat in the dust together, the latter reprieved at the last moment, his
surprised head rakishly garnished with a hasty wreath of dog-fennel
daisies.

   "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground,
            While we go marching on!"

Three-quarters of an hour later, the inhabitants of the Cross-Roads,
saved, they knew not how; guilty; knowing nothing of the fantastic
pendulum of opinion, which, swung by the events of the day, had marked the
fatal moment of guilt, now on others, now on them, who deserved it--these
natives and refugees, conscious of atrocity, dumfounded by a miracle,
thinking the world gone mad, hovered together in a dark, ragged mass at
the crossing corners, while the skeleton of the rotting buggy in the
slough rose behind them against the face of the west. They peered with
stupified eyes through the smoky twilight.

From afar, faintly through the gloaming, came mournfully to their ears the
many-voiced refrain--fainter, fainter:

    "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground,
     John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the ground.
     John Brown's body lies--mould--
     .  .  .  .  . we go march  .  .  .  .  on."




CHAPTER XII


JERRY THE TELLER
At midnight a small brougham stopped at the gates of the city  hospital in
Rouen. A short distance ahead, the lamps of a cab, drawn up at the
curbing, made two dull orange sparks under the electric light swinging
over the street. A cigarette described a brief parabola as it was tossed
from the brougham, and a short young man jumped out and entered the gates,
then paused and spoke to the driver of the cab.

"Did you bring Mr. Barrett here?"

"Yes, sir," answered the driver; "him and two other gentlemen."

Lighting another cigarette, from which he drew but two inspirations before
he threw it away, the young man proceeded quickly up the walk. As he
ascended the short flight of steps which led to the main doors, he panted
a little, in a way which suggested that (although his white waistcoat
outlined an ellipse still respectable) a crescendo of portliness was
playing diminuendo with his youth.  And, though his walk was brisk, it was
not lively. The expression of his very red face indicated that his
briskness was spurred by anxiety, and a fattish groan he emitted on the
top step added the impression that his comfortable body protested against
the mental spur. In the hall he removed his narrow-brimmed straw hat and
presented a rotund and amiable head, from the top of which his auburn hair
seemed to retire with a sense of defeat; it fell back, however, not in
confusion, but in perfect order, and the sparse pink mist left upon his
crown gave, by a supreme effort, an effect of arrangement, so that an
imaginative observer would have declared that there was a part down the
middle. The gentleman's plump face bore a grave and troubled expression,
and gravity and trouble were patent in all the lines of his figure and in
every gesture; in the way he turned his head; in the uneasy shifting of
his hat from one hand to the other and in his fanning himself with it in a
nervous fashion; and in his small, blue eyes, which did not twinkle behind
his rimless glasses and looked unused to not twinkling. His gravity
clothed him like an ill-fitting coat; or, possibly, he might have reminded
the imaginative observer, just now conjured up, of a music-box set to
turning its cylinder backwards.

He spoke to an attendant, and was directed to an office, which he entered
without delay. There were five men in the room, three of them engaged in
conversation near the door; another, a young surgeon, was writing at a
desk; the fifth drowsily nodding on a sofa. The newcomer bowed as he
entered.

"Mr. Barrett?" he said inquiringly.

One of the men near the door turned about. "Yes, sir," he answered, with a
stem disfavor of the applicant; a disfavor possibly a perquisite of his
office. "What's wanted?"

"I think I have met you," returned the other. "My name is Meredith."

Mr. Barrett probably did not locate the meeting, but the name proved an
open sesame to his geniality, for he melted at once, and saying: "Of
course, of course, Mr. Meredith; did you want a talk with me?" clasped the
young man's hand confidentially in his, and, with an appearance of
assuring him that whatever the atrocity which had occurred in the Meredith
household it should be discreetly handled and hushed up, indicated a
disposition to conduct him toward a more appropriate apartment for the
rehearsal of scandal. The young man accepted the hand-clasp with some
resignation, but rejected the suggestion of privacy.

"A telegram from Plattville reached me half an hour ago," he said. "I
should have had it sooner, but I have been in the country all day."

The two men who had been talking with the superintendent turned quickly,
and stared at the speaker. He went on: "Mr. Harkless was an old--and--" He
broke off, with a sudden, sharp choking, and for a moment was unable to
control an emotion that seemed, for some reason, as surprising and
unbefitting, in a person of his rubicund presence, as was his gravity. An
astonished tear glittered in the corner of his eye. The grief of the gayer
sorts of stout people appears, sometimes, to dumfound even themselves. The
young man took off his glasses and wiped them slowly. "--An old and very
dear friend of mine." He replaced the glasses insecurely upon his nose. "I
telephoned to your headquarters, and they said you had come here."

"Yes, sir; yes, sir," the superintendent of police responded, cheerfully.
"These two gentlemen are from Plattville; Mr. Smith just got in. They
mighty near had big trouble down there to-day, but I guess we'll settle
things for 'em up here. Let me make you acquainted with my friend, Mr.
Smith, and my friend, Mr. Homer. Gentlemen, my friend, Mr. Meredith, one
of our well-known citizens."

"You hear it from the police, gentlemen," added Mr. Meredith, perking up a
little. "I know Dr. Gay." He nodded to the surgeon.

"I suppose you have heard some of the circumstances--those that we've
given out," said Barrett.

"I read the account in the evening paper. I had heard of Harkless, of
Carlow, before; but it never occurred to me that it was my friend--I had
heard he was abroad--until I got this telegram from a relative of mine who
happened to be down there."

"Well," said the superintendent, "your friend made a mighty good fight
before he gave up. The Teller, that's the man we've got out here, he's so
hacked up and shot and battered his mother wouldn't know him, if she
wanted to; at least, that's what Gay, here, says. We haven't seen him,
because the doctors have been at him ever since he  was found, and they
expect to do some more tonight, when we've had our interview with him, if
he lives long enough. One of my sergeants found  him in, the freight-yards
about four-o'clock and sent him here in the ambulance; knew it was Teller,
because he was stowed away in one of the empty cars that came from
Plattville last night, and Slattery--that's his running mate, the one we
caught with the coat and hat--gave in that they beat their way on that
freight. I guess Slattery let this one do most of the fighting; he ain't
scratched; but Mr. Harkless certainly made it hot for the Teller."

"My relative believes that Mr. Harkless is still alive," said Meredith.

Mr. Barrett permitted himself an indulgent smile. He had the air of having
long ago discovered everything which anybody might wish to know, and of
knowing a great deal which he held in reserve because it was necessary to
suppress many facts for a purpose far beyond his auditor's comprehension,
though a very simple matter to himself.

"Well, hardly, I expect," he replied, easily. "No; he's hardly alive."

"Oh, don't say that," said Meredith.

"I'm afraid Mr. Barrett has to say it," broke in Warren Smith. "We're up
here to see this fellow before he dies, to try and get him to tell what
disposal they made of the----"

"Ah!" Meredith shivered. "I believe I'd rather he said the other than to
hear you say that."

Mr. Horner felt the need of defending a fellow-townsman, and came to the
rescue, flushing painfully. "It's mighty bad, I know," said the sheriff of
Carlow, the shadows of his honest, rough face falling in a solemn pattern;
"I reckon we hate to say it as much as you hate to hear it; and Warren
really didn't get the word out. It's stuck in our throats all day; and I
don't recollect as I heard a single man say it before I left our city this
morning. Our folks thought a great deal of him, Mr. Meredith; I don't
believe there's any thinks more. But it's come to that now; you can't
hardly see no chance left. We be'n sweating this other man, Slattery, but
we can't break him down. Jest tells us to go to"--the sheriff paused,
evidently deterred by the thought that swear-words were unbefitting a
hospital--"to the other place, and shets his jaw up tight. The one up here
is called the Teller, as Mr. Barrett says; his name's Jerry the Teller.
Well, we told Slattery that Jerry had died and left a confession; tried to
make him think there wasn't no hope fer him, and he might as well up and
tell his share; might git off easier; warned him to look out for a mob if
he didn't, maybe, and so on, but it never bothered him at all. He's nervy,
all right. Told us to go--that is, he said it again--and swore the Teller
was on his way to Chicago, swore he seen him git on the train. Wouldn't
say another word tell he got a lawyer. So, 'soon as it was any use, we
come up here--they reckon he'll come to before he dies. We'll be glad to
have you go in with us," Horner said kindly. "I reckon it's all the same
to Mr. Barrett."

"He will die, will he, Gay?" Meredith asked, turning to the surgeon.

"Oh, not necessarily," the young man replied, yawning slightly behind his
hand, and too long accustomed to straightforward questions to be shocked
at an evident wish for a direct reply. "His chances are better, because
they'll hang him if he gets well. They took the ball and a good deal of
shot out of his side, and there's a lot more for afterwhile, if he lasts.
He's been off the table an hour, and he's still going."

"That's in his favor, isn't it?" said Meredith. "And extraordinary, too?"
If young Dr. Gay perceived a slur in these interrogations he betrayed no
exterior appreciation of it.

"Shot!" exclaimed Homer. "Shot! I knowed there'd be'n a pistol used,
though where they got it beats me--we stripped 'em--and it wasn't Mr.
Harkless's; he never carried one. But a shot-gun!"

An attendant entered and spoke to the surgeon, and Gay rose wearily,
touched the drowsy young man on the shoulder, and led the way to the door.
"You can come now," he said to the others; "though I doubt its being any
good to you. He's delirious."

They went down a long hall and up a narrow corridor, then stepped softly
into a small, quiet ward.

There was a pungent smell of chemicals in the room; the light was low, and
the dimness was imbued with a thick, confused murmur, incoherent
whisperings that came from a cot in the corner. It was the only cot in use
in the ward, and Meredith was conscious of a terror that made him dread,
to look at it, to go near it. Beside it a nurse sat silent, and upon it
feebly tossed the racked body of him whom Barrett had called Jerry the
Teller.

The head was a shapeless bundle, so swathed it was with bandages and
cloths, and what part of the face was visible was discolored and pigmented
with drugs. Stretched under the white sheet the man looked immensely tall
--as Horner saw with vague misgiving--and he lay in an odd, inhuman
fashion, as though he had been all broken to pieces. His attempts to move
were constantly soothed by the nurse, and he as constantly renewed such
attempts; and one hand, though torn and bandaged, was not to be restrained
from a wandering, restless movement which Meredith felt to be pathetic. He
had entered the room with a flare of hate for the thug whom he had come to
see die, and who had struck down the old friend whose nearness he had
never known until it was too late. But at first sight of the broken figure
he felt all animosity fall away from him; only awe remained, and a
growing, traitorous pity as he watched the long, white fingers of the
Teller "pick at the coverlet." The man was muttering rapid fragments of
words, and syllables.

"Somehow I feel a sense of wrong," Meredith whispered to Gay. "I feel as
if I had done the fellow to death myself, as if it were all out of gear. I
know, now, how Henry felt over the great Guisard. My God, how tall he
looks! That doesn't seem to me like a thug's hand."

The surgeon nodded. "Of course, if there's a  mistake to be made, you can
count on Barrett and his sergeants to make it. I doubt if this is their
man. When they found him what clothes he wore were torn and stained; but
they had been good once, especially the linen."

Barrett bent over the recumbent figure. "See here. Jerry," he said, "I
want to talk to you a little. Rouse up, will you? I want to talk to you as
a friend."

The incoherent muttering continued.

"See here, Jerry!" repeated Barrett, more sharply. "Jerry! rouse up, will
you? We don't want any fooling; understand that, Jerry!" He dropped his
hand on the man's shoulder and shook him slightly. The Teller uttered a
short, gasping cry.

"Let me," said Gay, and swiftly interposed. Bending over the cot, he said
in a pleasant, soft voice: "It's all right, old man; it's all right.
Slattery wants to know what you did with that man down at Plattville, when
you got through with him. He can't remember, and he thinks there was money
left on him. Slattery's head was hurt--he can't remember. He'll go shares
with you, when he gets it. Slattery's going to stand by you, if he can get
the money."

The Teller only tried to move his free hand to the shoulder Barrett had
shaken.

"Slattery wants to know," repeated the surgeon, gently moving the hand
back upon the sheet. "He'll divvy up, when he gets it. He'll stand by you,
old man."

"Would you please not mind," whispered the Teller faintly, "would you
please not mind if you took care not to brush against my shoulder again?"

The surgeon drew back with an exclamation; but the Teller's whisper
gathered strength, and they heard him murmuring oddly to himself. Meredith
moved forward.

"What's that?" he asked, with a startled gesture.

"Seems to be trying to sing, or something," said Barrett, bending over to
listen. The Teller swung his arm heavily over the side of the cot, the
fingers never ceasing their painful twitching, and Gay leaned down and
gently moved the cloths so that the white, scarred lips were free. They
moved steadily; they seemed to be framing the semblance of an old ballad
that Meredith knew; the whisper grew more distinct, and it became a rich
but broken voice, and they heard it singing, like the sound of some far,
halting minstrelsy:

"Wave willows--murmur waters--golden sunbeams smile, Earthly music--cannot
waken--lovely--Annie Lisle."

"My God!" cried Tom Meredith.

The bandaged hand waved jauntily over the Teller's head. "Ah, men," he
said, almost clearly, and tried to lift himself on his arm, "I tell you
it's a grand eleven we have this year! There will be little left of
anything that stands against them. Did you see Jim Romley ride over his
man this afternoon?"

As the voice grew clearer the sheriff stepped forward, but Tom Meredith,
with a loud exclamation of grief, threw himself on his knees beside the
cot and seized the wandering fingers in his own. "John!" he cried. "John!
Is it _you_?"

The voice went on rapidly, not heeding him: "Ah, you needn't howl; I'd
have been as much use at right as that Sophomore. Well, laugh away, you
Indians! If it hadn't been for this ankle--but it seems to be my chest
that's hurt--and side--not that it matters, you know; the Sophomore's just
as good, or better. It's only my egotism. Yes, it must be the side--and
chest--and head--all over, I believe. Not that it matters--I'll try again
next year--next year I'll make it a daily, Helen said, not that I should
call you Helen--I mean Miss--Miss--Fisbee--no, Sherwood--but I've always
thought Helen was the prettiest name in the world--you'll forgive me?--And
please tell Parker there's no more copy, and won't be--I wouldn't grind
out another stick to save his immortal--yes, yes, a daily--she said-ah, I
never made a good trade--no--they can't come seven miles--but I'll finish
_you_, Skillett, first; I know _you_!  I know nearly all of you! Now let's
sing 'Annie Lisle.'" He lifted his hand as if to beat the time for a
chorus.

"Oh, John, John!" cried Tom Meredith, and sobbed outright. "My boy--my
boy--old friend----" The cry of the classmate was like that of a mother,
for it was his old idol and hero who lay helpless and broken before him.



The brougham lamps and the apathetic sparks of the cab gleamed in front of
the hospital till daylight. Two other pairs of lamps joined them in the
earliest of the small hours, these subjoined to two deep-hooded phaetons,
from each of which quickly descended a gentleman with a beard, an air of
eminence, and a small, ominous black box. The air of eminence was
justified by the haste with which Meredith had sent for them, and by their
wide repute. They arrived almost simultaneously, and hastily shook hands
as they made their way to the ward down the long hall and up the narrow
corridor. They had a short conversation with Gay and a word with the
nurse, then turned the others out of the room by a practiced innuendo of
manner. They stayed a long time in the room without opening the door.
Meredith paced the hall alone, sometimes stopping to speak to Warren
Smith; but the two officials of peace sat together in dumb consternation
and astonishment. The sleepy young man relaxed himself resignedly upon a
bench in the hall had returned to the dormance from which he had been
roused. The big hospital was very still. Now and then a nurse went through
the hall, carrying something, and sometimes a neat young physician passed
cheerfully along, looking as if he had many patients who were well enough
to testify to his skill, but sick enough to pay for it. Outside, through
the open front doors, the crickets chirped.

Meredith went out on the steps, and breathed the cool night air. A slender
taint of drugs hung everywhere about the building, and the almost
imperceptible permeation sickened him; it was deadly, he thought, and
imbued with a hideous portent of suffering. That John Harkless, of all
men, should lie stifled with ether, and bandaged and splintered, and
smeared with horrible unguents, while they stabbed and slashed and
tortured him, and made an outrage and a sin of that grand, big, dexterous
body of his! Meredith shuddered. The lights in the little ward were turned
up, and they seemed to shine from a chamber of horrors, while he waited,
as a brother might have waited outside the Inquisition--if, indeed, a
brother would have been allowed to wait outside the Inquisition.

Alas, he had found John Harkless! He had "lost track" of him as men
sometimes do lose track of their best beloved, but it had always been a
comfort to know that Harkless _was_--somewhere, a comfort without which he
could hardly have got along. Like others he had been waiting for John to
turn up--on top, of course; for people would always believe in him so,
that he would be shoved ahead, no matter how much he hung back himself--
but Meredith had not expected him to turn up in Indiana. He had heard
vaguely that Harkless was abroad, and he had a general expectation that
people would hear of him over there some day, with papers like the "Times"
beseeching him to go on missions. And he found him here, in his own home,
a stranger, alone and dying, receiving what ministrations were reserved
for Jerry the Teller. But it was Helen Sherwood who had found him. He
wondered how much those two had seen of each other, down there in
Plattville. If they had liked each other, and Harkless could have lived,
he thought it might have simplified some things for Helen. "Poor Helen!"
he exclaimed  aloud. Her telegram had a ring, even in the barren four
sentences. He wondered how much they had liked each other. Perhaps she
would wish to come at once. When those fellows came out of the room he
would send her a word by telegraph.

When they came out--ah! he did not want them to come out; he was afraid.
They were an eternity--why didn't they come? No; he hoped they would not
come, just now. In a little time, in a few minutes, even, he would not
dread a few words so much; but _now_ he couldn't quite bear to be told he
had found his friend only to lose him, the man he had always most needed,
wanted, loved. Everybody had always cared for Harkless, wherever he went.
That _he_ had always cared for everybody was part of the reason, maybe.
Meredith remembered, now, hearing a man who had spent a day in Plattville
on business speak of him: "They've got a young fellow down there who'll be
Governor in a few years. He's a sort of dictator; and runs the party all
over that part of the State to suit his own sweet will, just by sheer
personality. And there isn't a man in that district who wouldn't
cheerfully lie down in the mud to let him pass over dry. It's that young
Harkless, you know; owns the 'Herald,' the paper that downed McCune and
smashed those imitation 'White-Caps' in Carlow County." Meredith had been
momentarily struck by the coincidence of the name, but his notion of
Harkless was so inseparably connected with what was (to his mind) a
handsome and more spacious--certainly more illuminated--field of action,
that the idea that this might be his friend never entered his head.  Helen
had said something once--he could not remember what--that made him think
she had half suspected it, and he had laughed. He thought of the whimsical
fate that had taken her to Plattville, of the reason for her going, and
the  old thought came to him that the world is, after all, so very small.
He looked up at the twinkling stars;  they were reassuring and kind. Under
their benignancy no loss could befall, no fate miscarry--for in his last
thought he felt his vision opened, for the moment, to perceive a fine
tracery of fate.

"Ah, that would be too beautiful!" he said.

And then he shivered; for his name was spoken from within.

It was soon plain to him that he need not have feared a few words, for he
did not in the least understand those with which the eminent surgeons
favored him; and they at once took their departure. He did understand,
however, what Horner told him. Mr. Barrett, Warren Smith, and the sleepy
young man had reentered the ward; and Horner was following, but waited for
Meredith. Somehow, the look of the sheriff's Sunday coat, wrinkling
forlornly from his broad, bent shoulders, was both touching and solemn. He
said simply: "He's conscious and not out of his head. They're gone in to
take his ante-mortem statement," and they went into the room.

Harkless's eyes were bandaged. The lawyer was speaking to him, and as
Horner went awkwardly toward the cot. Warren said something indicative of
the sheriff's presence, and the hand on the sheet made a formless motion
which Horner understood, for he took the pale fingers in his own, very
gently, and then set them back. Smith turned toward Meredith, but the
latter made a gesture which forbade the attorney to speak of him, and went
to a corner and sat down with his head in his hands.

The sleepy young man opened a notebook and shook a stylographic pen so
that the ink might flow freely. The lawyer, briefly and with unlegal
agitation, administered an oath, to which Harkless responded feebly, and
then there was silence.

"Now, Mr. Harkless, if you please," said Barrett, insinuatingly; "if you
feel like telling us as much as you can about it?"

He answered in a low, rather indistinct voice, very deliberately, pausing
before almost every word. It was easy work for the sleepy stenographer.

"I understand. I don't want to go off my head again before I finish. Of
course I know why you want this. If it were only for myself I should tell
you nothing, because, if I am to leave, I should like it better if no one
were punished. But that's a bad community over there; they are
everlastingly worrying our people; they have always been a bother to us,
and it's time it was stopped for good. I don't believe very much in
punishment, but you can't do a great deal of reforming with the Cross-
Roaders unless you catch them young--very young, before they're weaned--
they wean them on whiskey, I think. I realize you needn't have sworn me
for me to tell you this."

Homer and Smith had started at the mention of the Cross-Roads, but they
subdued their ejaculations, while Mr. Barrett looked as if he had known
it, of course. The room was still, save for the dim voice and the soft
transcribings of the stylographic pen.

"I left Judge Briscoe's, and went west on the pike to a big tree. It
rained, and I stepped under the tree for shelter. There was a man on the
other side of the fence. It was Bob Skillett. He was carrying his gown and
hood--I suppose it was that--on his arm. Then I saw two others a little
farther east, in the middle of the road; and I think they had followed me
from the Briscoes', or near there. They had their foolish regalia on, as
all the rest had,--there was plenty of lightning to see. The two in the
road were simply standing there in the rain, looking at me through the
eye-holes in their hoods. I knew there were others--plenty--but I thought
they were coming from behind me--the west.

"I wanted to get home--the court-house yard was good enough for me--so I
started east, toward town. I passed the two gentlemen; and one fell down
as I went by him, but the other fired a shot as a signal, and I got his
hood off his face for it--I stopped long enough--and it was Force Johnson.
I know him well. Then I ran, and they followed. A little ahead of me I saw
six or eight of them spread across the road. I knew I'd have a time
getting through, so I jumped the fence to cut across the fields, and I lit
in a swarm of them--it had rained them just where I jumped. I set my back
to the fence, but one of the fellows in the road leaned over and smashed
my head in, rather--with the butt of a gun, I believe. I came out from the
fence and they made a little circle around me. No one said anything. I saw
they had ropes and saplings, and I didn't want that, exactly, so I went
into them. I got a good many hoods off before it was over, and I can swear
to quite a number besides those I told you."

He named the men, slowly and carefully. Then he went on: "I think they
gave up the notion of whipping. We all got into a bunch, and they couldn't
clear to shoot without hitting some of their own: and there was a lot of
gouging and kicking--one fellow nearly got my left eye, and I tried to
tear him apart and he screamed so that I think he was hurt. Once or twice
I thought I might get away, but somebody hammered me over the head and
face again, and I got dizzy; and then they all jumped away from me
suddenly, and Bob Skillett stepped up--and--shot me. He waited for a good
flurry of lightning, and I was slow tumbling down. Some one else fired a
shot-gun, I think--I can't be sure--about the same time, from the side. I
tried to get up, but I couldn't, and then they got together, for a
consultation. The man I had hurt--I didn't recognize him--came and looked
at me. He was nursing himself all over; and groaned; and I laughed, I--at
any rate, my arm was lying stretched out on the grass, and he stamped his
heel into my hand, and after a little of that I quit feeling.

"I'm not quite clear about what happened afterwards. They went away, not
far, I think. There's an old shed, a cattle-shelter, near there, and I
think the storm drove them under it to wait for a slack. It seemed a long
time. Sometimes I was conscious, sometimes I wasn't. I thought I might be
drowned, but I suppose the rain was good for me. Then I remember being in
motion, being dragged and carried a long way. They took me up a steep,
short slope, and set me down near the top. I knew that was the railroad
embankment, and I thought they meant to lay me across the track, but it
didn't occur to them, I suppose--they are not familiar with melodrama--and
a long time after that I felt and heard a great banging and rattling under
me and all about me, and it came to me that they had disposed of me by
hoisting me into an empty freight-car. The odd part of it was that the car
wasn't empty, for there were two men already in it, and I knew them by
what they said to me.

"They were the two shell-men who cheated Hartley Bowlder, and they weren't
vindictive; they even seemed to be trying to help me a little, though
perhaps they were only stealing my clothes, and maybe they thought for
them to do anything unpleasant would be superfluous; I could see that they
thought I was done for, and that they had been hiding in the car when I
was put there. I asked them to try to call the train men for me, but they
wouldn't listen, or else I couldn't make myself understood. That's all.
The rest is a blur. I haven't known anything more until those surgeons
were here. Please tell me how long ago it happened. I shall not die, I
think; there are a good many things I want to know about." He moved
restlessly and the nurse soothed him.

Meredith rose and left the room with a noiseless step. He went out to the
stars again, and looked to them to check the storm of rage and sorrow that
buffeted his bosom. He understood lynching, now the thing was home to him,
and his feeling was no inspiration of a fear lest the law miscarry; it was
the itch to get his own hand on the rope. Horner came out presently, and
whispered a long, broad, profound curse upon the men of the Cross-Roads,
and Meredith's gratitude to him was keen. Barrett went away, soon after,
leaving the cab for the gentlemen from Plattville. Meredith had a strange,
unreasonable desire to kick Barrett, possibly for his sergeant's sake.
Warren Smith sat in the ward with the nurse and Gay, and the room was very
quiet. It was a long vigil.

They were only waiting.

At five o'clock he was still alive--just that, Smith came out to say.
Meredith sent his driver with a telegram to Helen which would give
Plattville the news that Harkless was found and was not yet gone from
them. Homer took the cab and left for the station; there was a train, and
there were things for him to do in Carlow. At noon Meredith sent a second
telegram to Helen, as barren of detail as the first: he was alive--was a
little improved. This telegram did not reach her, for she was on the way
to Rouen, and half of the population of Carlow--at least, so it appeared
to the unhappy conductor of the accommodation--was with her.

They seemed to feel that they could camp in the hospital halls and
corridors, and they were an incalculable worry to the authorities. More
came on every train, and nearly all brought flowers, and jelly, and
chickens for preparing broth, and they insisted that the two latter
delicacies be fed to the patient at once. Meredith was possessed by an
unaccountable responsibility for them all, and invited a great many to
stay at his own house. They were still in ignorance of the truth about the
Cross-Roads, and some of them spent the day (it was Sunday) in planning an
assault upon the Rouen jail for the purpose of lynching Slattery in case
Harkless's condition did not improve at once. Those who had heard his
statement kept close mouths until the story appeared in full in the Rouen
papers on Monday morning; but by that time every member of the Cross-Roads
White-Caps was lodged in the Rouen jail with Slattery. Homer and a heavily
armed posse rode over to the muddy corners on Sunday night, and the
sheriff discovered that he might have taken the Skilletts and Johnsons
single-handed and unarmed. Their nerve was gone; they were shaken and
afraid; and, to employ a figure somewhat inappropriate to their sullen,
glad surrender, they fell upon his neck in their relief at finding the law
touching them. They had no wish to hear "John Brown's Body" again. They
wanted to get inside of a strong jail, and to throw themselves on the
mercy of the court as soon as possible. And those whom Harkless had not
recognized delayed not to give themselves up; they did not desire to
remain in Six-Cross-Roads. Bob Skillett, Force Johnson, and one or two
others needed the care of a physician badly, and one man was suffering
from a severely wrenched back. Homer had a train stopped at a crossing, so
that his prisoners need not be taken through Plattville, and he brought
them all safely to Rouen. Had there chanced any one to ride through the
deserted Cross-Roads the next morning, passing the trampled fields and the
charred ruins of the two shanties to the east, and listening to the
lamentations of the women and children, he would have declared that at
last the old score had been paid, and that Six-Cross-Roads was wiped out.

The Carlow folks were deeply impressed with the two eminent surgeons, of
whom some of them had heard, and on Tuesday, the bulletins marking
considerable encouragement, most of them decided to temporarily risk the
editor of the "Herald" to such capable hands, and they returned quietly to
their homes; only a few were delayed in reaching Carlow by travelling to
the first station in the opposite direction before they succeeded in
planting themselves on the proper train.

Meanwhile, the object of their solicitude tossed and burned on his bed of
pain. He was delirious most of the time, and, in the intervals of half-
consciousness, found that his desire to live, very strong at first, had
disappeared; he did not care much about anything except rest--he wanted
peace. In his wanderings he was almost always back in his college days,
beholding them in an unhappy, distorted fashion. He would lie asprawl on
the sward with the others, listening to the Seniors singing on the steps,
and, all at once, the old, kindly faces would expand enormously and press
over him with hideous mouthings, and an ugly Senior in cap and gown would
stamp him and grind a spiked heel into his hand; then they would toss him
high into air that was all flames, and he would fall and fall through the
raging heat, seeing the cool earth far beneath him, but never able to get
down to it again. And then he was driven miles and miles by dusky figures,
through a rain of boiling water; and at other times the whole universe was
a vast, hot brass bell, and it gave off a huge, continuous roar and hum,
while he was a mere point of consciousness floating in the exact centre of
the heat and sound waves, and he listened, listened for years, to the
awful, brazen hum from which there could be no escape; at the same time it
seemed to him that he was only a Freshman on the slippery roof of the
tower, trying to steal the clapper of the chapel bell.

Finally he came to what he would have considered a lucid interval, had it
not appeared that Helen Sherwood was whispering to Tom Meredith at the
foot of his bed. This he knew to be a fictitious presentation of his
fever, for was she not by this time away and away for foreign lands? And,
also, Tom Meredith was a slim young thing, and not the middle-aged youth
with an undeniable stomach and a baldish head, who, by the grotesque
necromancy of his hallucinations, assumed a preposterous likeness to his
old friend. He waved his hand to the figures and they vanished like
figments of a dream; but all the same the vision had been realistic enough
for the lady to look exquisitely pretty. No one could help wishing to stay
in a world which contained as charming a picture as that.

And then, too quickly, the moment of clearness passed; and he was troubled
about the "Herald," beseeching those near him to put copies of the paper
in his hands, threatening angrily to believe they were deceiving him, that
his paper had suspended, if the three issues of the week were not
instantly produced. What did they mean by keeping the truth from him? He
knew the "Herald" had not come out. Who was there to get it out in his
absence? He raised himself on his elbow and struggled to be up; and they
had hard work to quiet him.

But the next night Meredith waited near his bedside, haggard and
dishevelled. Harkless had been lying in a long stupor; suddenly he spoke,
quite loudly, and the young surgeon, Gay, who leaned over him, remembered
the words and the tone all his life.

"Away and away--across the waters," said John Harkless. "She was here--
once--in June."

"What is it, John?" whispered Meredith, huskily. "You're easier, aren't
you?"

And John smiled a little, as if, for an instant, his swathed eyes
penetrated the bandages, and saw and knew his old friend again.

That same night a friend of Rodney McCune's sent a telegram from Rouen:
"He is dying. His paper is dead. Your name goes before convention in
September."




CHAPTER XIII


JAMES FISBEE

On Monday morning three men sat in council in the "Herald" office; that
is, if staring out of dingy windows in a demented silence may be called
sitting in council; that was what Mr. Fisbee and Parker and Ross Schofield
were doing. By almost desperate exertions, these three and Bud Tipworthy
had managed to place before the public the issues of the paper for the
previous week, unaided by their chief, or, rather, aided by long accounts
of his condition and the manner of his mishap; and, in truth, three copies
were at that moment in the possession of Dr. Gay, accompanied by a note
from Parker warning the surgeon to exhibit them to his patient only as a
last resort, as the foreman feared the perusal of them might cause a
relapse.

By indiscriminate turns, acting as editors, reporters, and typesetters--
and particularly space-writers--the three men had worried out three
issues, and part of the fourth (to appear the next morning) was set up;
but they had come to the end of their string, and there were various
horrid gaps yet to fill in spite of a too generous spreading of
advertisements. Bud Tipworthy had been sent out to besiege Miss Tibbs, all
of whose recent buds of rhyme had been hot-housed into inky blossom during
the week, and after a long absence the youth returned with a somewhat
abrupt quatrain, entitled "The Parisians of Old," which she had produced
while he waited--only four lines, according to the measure they meted,
which was not regardful of art--less than a drop in the bucket, or, to
preserve the figure, a single posy where they needed a bouquet. Bud went
down the rickety outside stairs, and sat on the lowest step, whistling
"Wait till the Clouds Roll by, Jenny"; Ross Schofield descended to set up
the quatrain, and Fisbee and Parker were left to silence and troubled
meditation.

They were seated on opposite sides of Harkless's desk. Sheets of blank
scratch-paper lay before them, and they relaxed not their knit brows. Now
and then, one of them, after gazing vacantly about the room for ten or
fifteen minutes, would attack the sheet before him with fiercest energy;
then the energy would taper off, and the paragraph halt, the writer peruse
it dubiously, then angrily tear off the sheet and hurl it to the floor.
All around them lay these snowballs of defeated journalism.

Mr. Parker was a long, loose, gaunt gentleman, with a peremptory forehead
and a capable jaw, but on the present occasion his capability was baffled
and swamped in the attempt to steer the craft of his talent up an
unaccustomed channel without a pilot. "I don't see as it's any use,
Fisbee," he said, morosely, after a series of efforts that littered the
floor in every direction. "I'm a born compositor, and I can't shift my
trade. I stood the pace fairly for a week, but I'll have to give up; I'm
run plumb dry. I only hope they won't show him our Saturday with your
three columns of 'A Word of the Lotus Motive,' reprinted from February.
I begin to sympathize with the boss, because I know what he felt when I
ballyragged him for copy. Yes, sir, I know how it is to be an editor in a
dead town now."

"We must remember, too," said his companion, thoughtfully, "there is the
Thursday issue of this week to be prepared, almost at once."

"_Don't_! Please don't mention that, Fisbee!" Parker tilted far back in
his chair with his feet anchored under the desk, preserving a precarious
balance. "I ain't as grateful for my promotion to joint Editor-in-Chief as
I might be. I'm a middling poor man for the hour, I guess," he remarked,
painfully following the peregrinations of a fly on his companion's sleeve.

Mr. Fisbee twisted up another sheet, and employed his eyes in following
the course of a crack in the plaster, a slender black aperture which
staggered across the dusty ceiling and down the dustier wall to disappear
behind a still dustier map of Carlow County. "That's the trouble!"
exclaimed Parker, observing the other's preoccupation. "Soon as you get to
writing a line or two that seems kind of promising, you begin to take a
morbid interest in that blamed crack. It's busted up enough copy for me,
the last eight days, to have filled her up twenty times over. I don't know
as I ever care to see that crack again. I turned my back on it, but there
wasn't any use in that, because if a fly lights on you I watch him like a
brother, and if there ain't any fly I've caught a mania for tapping my
teeth with a pencil, that is just as good."

To these two gentlemen, thus disengaged, reentered (after a much longer
absence than Miss Selina's quatrain justified) Mr. Ross Schofield, a
healthy glow of exertion lending pleasant color to his earnest visage, and
an almost visible laurel of success crowning his brows. In addition to
this imaginary ornament, he was horned with pencils over both ears, and
held some scribbled sheets in his hand.

"I done a good deal down there," he announced cheerfully, drawing up a
chair to the desk. "I thought up a heap of things I've heard lately, and
they'll fill up mighty well. That there poem of Miss Seliny's was a kind
of an inspiration to me, and I tried one myself, and it didn't come hard
at all. When I got started once, it jest seemed to flow from me. I didn't
set none of it up," he added modestly, but with evident consciousness of
having unearthed genius in himself and an elate foreknowledge of the treat
in store for his companions. "I thought I'd ort to see how you liked it
first." He offered the papers to Mr. Parker, but the foreman shook his
head.

"You read it, Ross," I said. "I don't believe I feel hearty enough to-day.
Read the items first--we can bear the waiting."

"What waiting?" inquired Mr. Schofield.

"For the poem," replied Parker, grimly.

With a vague but not fleeting smile, Ross settled the sheets in order, and
exhibited tokens of that pleasant nevousness incident to appearing before
a critical audience, armed with literature whose merits should delight
them out of the critical attitude. "I run across a great scheme down
there," he volunteered amiably, by way of preface; "I described everything
in full, in as many words as I could think up; it's mighty filling, and
it'll please the public, too; it gives 'em a lot more information than
they us'ally git. I reckon there's two sticks of jest them extry words
alone."

"Go on," said the foreman, rather ominously.

Ross began to read, a matter necessitating a puckered brow and at times an
amount of hesitancy and ruminating, as his results had already cooled a
little, and he found his hand difficult to decipher. "Here's the first,"
he said:

"'The large and handsome, fawn-colored, two years and one-half year old
Jersey of Frederick Bibshaw Jones, Esquire----'"

The foreman interrupted him: "Every reader of the 'Herald' will be glad to
know that Jersey's age and color! But go on."

"'--Frederick Bibshaw Jones, Esquire,'" pursued his assistant, with some
discomfiture, "'--Esquire, our popular and well-dressed fellow-citizen----
'"

"You're right; Bib Jones is a heavy swell," said Parker in a breaking
voice.

"'--Citizen, can be daily seen wandering from the far end of his pasture-
lot to the other far end of it.'"

"'His!'" exclaimed Parker. "'_His_ pasture-lot?' The Jersey's?"

"No," returned the other, meekly, "Bib Jones's."

"Oh," said Parker. "Is that the end of that item? It is! You want to get
out of Plattville, my friend; it's too small for you; you go to Rouen and
you'll be city editor of the 'Journal' inside of a week. Let's have
another."

Mr. Schofield looked up blankly; however, he felt that there was enough
live, legitimate news in his other items to redeem the somewhat tame
quality of the first, and so, after having crossed out several of the
extra words which had met so poor a reception, he proceeded:

"'Whit Upton's pigs broke out last Wednesday and rooted up a fine patch of
garden truck. Hard luck, Whit.'

"'Jerusalem Hawkins took a drive yesterday afternoon. He had the bay to
his side-bar. Jee's buggy has been recently washed. Congratulations,
Jee.'"

"There's thrilling information!" shouted the foreman.  "That'll touch the
gentle reader to the marrow. The boss had to use some pretty rotten copy
himself, but he never got as low as that. But we'll use it; oh, we'll use
it! If we don't get her out he'll have a set-back, but if they show her to
him it'll kill him. If it doesn't, and he gets well, he'll kill us. But
we'll use it, Ross. Don't read any more to us, though; I feel weaker than
I did, and I wasn't strong before. Go down and set it all up."

Mr. Schofield rejoined with an injured air, and yet hopefully: "I'd like
to see what you think of the poetry--it seemed all right to me, but I
reckon you ain't ever the best judge of your own work. Shall I read it?"
The foreman only glanced at him in silence, and the young man took this
for assent. "I haven't made up any name for it yet."

            "'O, the orphan boy stood on the hill,
              The wind blew cold and very chill--'"

Glancing at his auditors, he was a trifle abashed to observe a glaze upon
the eyes of Mr. Parker, while a purple tide rose above his neck-band and
unnaturally distended his throat and temples. With a placative little
laugh, Mr. Schofield remarked: "I git the swing to her all right, I
reckon, but somehow it doesn't sound so kind of good as when I was writing
it."  There was no response, and he went on hurriedly:

            "'But there he saw the little rill--'"

The poet paused to say, with another amiable laugh: "It's sort of hard to
git out of them ill, hill, chill rhymes once you strike 'em. It runs on
like this:

                                        "'--Little rill
         That curved and spattered around the hill.'

"I guess that's all right, to use 'hill' twice; don't you reckon so?

            "'And the orphan he stood there until
              The wind and all gave him a chill;
              And he sickened--'"

That day Ross read no more, for the tall printer, seemingly incapable of
coherent speech, kicked the desk impotently, threw his arms above his
head, and, his companions confidently looking to see him foam at the
mouth, lost his balance and toppled over backward, his extensive legs
waving wildly in the air as he struck the floor. Mr. Schofield fled.

Parker made no effort to rise, but lay glaring at the ceiling, breathing
hard. He remained in that position for a long time, until finally the
glaze wore away from his eyes and a more rational expression settled over
his features. Mr. Fisbee addressed him timidly: "You don't think we could
reduce the size of the sheet?"

"It would kill him," answered his prostrate companion. "We've got to fill
her solid some way, though I give up; I don't know how. How that man has
worked! It was genius. He just floated around the county and soaked in
items, and he wrote editorials that people read. One thing's certain: we
can't do it. We're ruining his paper for him, and when he gets able to
read, it'll hurt him bad. Mighty few knew how much pride he had in it. Has
it struck you that now would be a precious good time for it to occur to
Rod McCune to come out of his hole? Suppose we go by the board, what's to
stop him? What's to stop him, anyway? Who knows where the boss put those
copies and affidavits, and if we did know, would we know the best way to
use 'em? If we did, what's to keep the 'Herald' alive until McCune lifts
his head? And if we don't stop him, the 'Carlow County Herald' is
finished. Something's got to be done!'"

No one realized this more poignantly than Mr. Fisbee, but no one was less
capable of doing something of his own initiation. And although the Tuesday
issue was forthcoming, embarrassingly pale in spots--most spots--Mr.
Martin remarked rather publicly that the items were not what you might
call stirring, and that the unpatented pages put him in mind of Jones's
field in winter with a dozen chunks of coal dropped in the snow. And his
observations on the later issues of the week (issues which were put forth
with a suggestion of spasm, and possibly to the permanent injury of Mr.
Parker's health, he looked so thin) were too cruelly unkind to be repeated
here. Indeed, Mr. Fisbee, Parker, the luckless Mr. Schofield, and the
young Tipworthy may be not untruthfully likened to a band of devoted
mariners lost in the cold and glaring regions of a journalistic Greenland:
limitless plains of empty white paper extending about them as far as the
eye could reach, while life depended upon their making these terrible
voids productive; and they shrank appalled from the task, knowing no means
to fertilize the barrens; having no talent to bring the still snows into
harvests, and already feeling-in the chill of Mr. Martin's remarks--a
touch of the frost that might wither them.

It was Fisbee who caught the first glimpse of a relief expedition clipping
the rough seas on its lively way to rescue them, and, although his first
glimpse of the jaunty pennant of the relieving vessels was over the
shoulder of an iceberg, nothing was surer than that the craft was flying
to them with all good and joyous speed.  The iceberg just mentioned
assumed--by no melting process, one may be sure--the form of a long
letter, first postmarked at Rouen, and its latter substance was as
follows:


"Henry and I have always believed you as selfish, James Fisbee, as you are
self-ingrossed and incapable. She has told us of your 'renunciation'; of
your 'forbidding' her to remain with you; how you 'commanded,' after you
had 'begged' her, to return to us, and how her conscience told her she
should stay and share your life in spite of our long care of her, but that
she yielded to your 'wishes' and our entreaty. What have you ever done for
her and what have you to offer her? She is our daughter, and needless to
say we shall still take care of her, for no one believes you capable of
it, even in that miserable place, and, of course, in time she will return
to her better wisdom, her home, and her duty. I need scarcely say we have
given up the happy months we had planned to spend in Dresden. Henry and I
can only stay at home to pray that her preposterous mania will wear itself
out in short order, as she will find herself unfitted for the ridiculous
task which she insists upon attempting against the earnest wishes of us
who have been more than father and mother to her. Of course, she has
talked volumes of her affection for us, and of her gratitude, which we do
not want--we only want her to stay with us. Please, please try to make her
come back to us--we cannot bear it long. If you are a man you will send
her to us soon. Her excuse for not returning on the day we wired our
intention to go abroad at once (and I may as well tell you now that our
intention to go was formed in order to bring affairs to a crisis and to
draw her away from your influence--we always dreaded her visit to you and
held it off for years)--her excuse was that your best friend, and, as I
understand it, your patron, had been injured in some brawl in that
Christian country of yours--a charming place to take a girl like her--and
she would not leave you in your 'distress' until more was known of the
man's injuries. And now she insists--and you will know it from her by the
next mail--on returning to Plattville, forsooth, because she has been
reading your newspaper, and she says she knows you are in difficulties
over it, and it is her moral obligation--as by some wild reasoning of her
own she considers herself responsible for your ruffling patron's having
been alone when he was shot--to go down and help. I suppose he made love
to her, as all the young men she meets always do, sooner or later, but I
have no fear of any rustic entanglements tor her; she has never been
really interested, save in one affair. We are quite powerless--we have
done everything; but we cannot alter her determination to edit your paper
for you. Naturally, she knows nothing whatever about such work, but she
says, with the air of triumphantly quelching all such argument, that she
has talked a great deal to Mr. Macauley of the 'Journal.' Mr. Macauley is
the affair I have alluded to; he is what she has meant when she has said,
at different times, that she was interested in journalism. But she is very
business-like now. She has bought a typewriter and purchased a great
number of soft pencils and erasers at an art shop; I am only surprised
that she does not intend to edit your miserable paper in water-colors. She
is coming at once. For mercy's sake don't telegraph her not to; your
forbiddings work the wrong way. Our only hope is that she will find the
conditions so utterly discouraging at the very start that she will give it
up and come home. If you are a man you will help to make them so. She has
promised to stay with that country girl with whom she contracted such an
incomprehensible friendship at Miss Jennings's.

"Oh, James, pray for grace to be a man once in your life and send her back
to us! Be a man--try to be a man! Remember the angel you killed! Remember
all we have done for you and what a return you have made, and be a man for
the first time. Try and be a man!

                         "Your unhappy sister-in-law,

                                         "MARTHA SHERWOOD."


Mr. Fisbee read the letter with a great, rising delight which no sense of
duty could down; indeed, he perceived that his sense of duty had ceased to
conflict with the one strong hope of his life, just as he perceived that
to be a man, according to Martha Sherwood, was, in part, to assist Martha
Sherwood to have her way in things; and, for the rest, to be the sort of
man she persuaded herself she would be were she not a woman. This he had
never been able to be.

By some whimsy of fate, or by a failure of Karma (or, perhaps, by some
triumph of Kismetic retribution), James Fisbee was born in one of the most
business-like and artless cities of a practical and modern country, of
money-getting, money-saving parents, and he was born a dreamer of the
past. He grew up a student of basilican lore, of choir-screens, of Persian
frescoes, and an ardent lounger in the somewhat musty precincts of Chaldea
and Byzantium and Babylon. Early Christian Symbolism, a dispute over the
site of a Greek temple, the derivation of the lotus column, the
restoration of a Gothic buttress--these were the absorbing questions of
his youth, with now and then a lighter moment spent in analytical
consideration of the extra-mural decorations of St. Mark's. The world
buzzed along after its own fashion, not disturbing him, and his
absorptions permitted only a faint consciousness of the despair of his
relatives regarding his mind. Arrived at middle-age, and a little more, he
found himself alone in the world (though, for that matter, he had always
been alone and never of the world), and there was plenty of money for him
with various bankers who appeared to know about looking after it.
Returning to the town of his nativity after sundry expeditions in Syria--
upon which he had been accompanied by dusky gentlemen with pickaxes and
curly, long-barrelled muskets--he met, and was married by, a lady who was
ambitious, and who saw in him (probably as a fulfilment of another
Kismetic punishment) a power of learning and a destined success. Not long
after the birth of their only child, a daughter, he was "called to fill
the chair" of archaeology in a newly founded university; one of the kind
which a State and a millionaire combine to purchase ready-made. This one
was handed down off the shelf in a more or less chaotic condition, and for
a period of years betrayed considerable doubt as to its own intentions,
undecided whether they were classical or technical; and in the settlement
of that doubt lay the secret of the past of the one man in Plattville so
unhappy as to possess a past. From that settlement and his own preceding
action resulted his downfall, his disgrace with his wife's relatives, the
loss of his wife, the rage, surprise, and anguish of her sister, Martha,
and Martha's husband, Henry Sherwood, and the separation from his little
daughter, which was by far to him the hardest to bear. For Fisbee, in his
own way, and without consulting anybody--it never occurred to him, and he
was supposed often to forget that he had a wife and child--had informally
turned over to the university all the money which the banks had kindly
taken care of, and had given it to equip an expedition which never
expedited. A new president of the institution was installed; he talked to
the trustees; they met, and elected to become modern and practical and
technical; they abolished the course in fine arts, which abolished
Fisbee's connection with them, and they then employed his money to erect a
building for the mechanical engineering department. Fisbee was left with
nothing. His wife and her kinsfolk exhibited no brilliancy in holding a
totally irresponsible man down to responsibilities, and they made a
tragedy of a not surprising fiasco. Mrs. Fisbee had lived in her
ambitions, and she died of heartbreak over the discovery of what manner of
man she had married. But, before she died, she wisely provided for her
daughter.

Fisbee told Parker the story after his own queer fashion.

"You see, Mr. Parker," he said, as they sat together in the dust and
litter of the "Herald" office, on Sunday afternoon, "you see, I admit that
my sister-in-law has always withheld her approbation from me, and possibly
her disapproval is well founded--I shall say probably. My wife had also a
considerable sum, and this she turned over to me at the time of our
marriage, though I had no wish regarding it one way or the other. When I
gave my money to the university with which I had the honor to be
connected, I added to it the fund I had received from her, as I was the
recipient of a comfortable salary as a lecturer in the institution and had
no fear of not living well, and I was greatly interested in providing that
the expedition should be perfectly equipped. Expeditions of the magnitude
of that which I had planned are expensive, I should, perhaps, inform you,
and this one was to carry on investigations regarding several important
points, very elaborately; and I am still convinced it would have settled
conclusively many vital questions concerning the derivation of the
Babylonian column, as: whether the lotus column may be without prejudice
said to--but at the present moment I will not enter into that. I fear I
had no great experience in money matters, for the transaction had been
almost entirely verbal, and there was nothing to bind the trustees to
carry out my plans for the expedition. They were very sympathetic, but
what could they do? they begged leave to inquire. Such an institution
cannot give back money once donated, and it was clearly out of character
for a school of technology and engineering to send savants to investigate
the lotus column."

"I see," Mr. Parker observed, genially. He listened with the most
ingratiating attention, knowing that he had a rich sensation to set before
Plattville as a dish before a king, for Fisbee's was no confidential
communication. The old man might have told a part of his history long ago,
but it had never occurred to him to talk about his affairs--things had a
habit of not occurring to Fisbee--and the efforts of the gossips to draw
him out always passed over his serene and absent head.

"It was a blow to my wife," the old man continued, sadly, "and I cannot
deny that her reproaches were as vehement as her disappointment was
sincere." He hurried over this portion of his narrative with a vaguely
troubled look, but the intelligent Parker read poor Mrs. Fisbee's state of
mind between the sentences.  "She never seemed to regard me in the same
light again," the archaeologist went on. "She did not conceal from me that
she was surprised and that she could not look upon me as a practical man;
indeed, I may say, she appeared to regard me with marked antipathy. She
sent for her sister, and begged her to take our daughter and keep her from
me, as she did not consider me practical enough-I will substitute for her
more embittered expressions--to provide for a child and instruct it in the
world's ways. My sister-in-law, who was childless, consented to adopt the
little one, on the conditions that I renounced all claim, and that the
child legally assumed her name and should be in all respects as her own
daughter, and that I consented to see her but once a year, in Rouen, at my
brother-in-law's home.

"I should have refused, but I--my wife--that is--she was--very pressing--
in her last hours, and they all seemed to feel that I ought to make
amends--all except the little girl herself, I should say, for she
possessed, even as an infant, an exceptional affection for her father. I
had nothing; my salary was gone, and I was discomfited by the combined
actions of the trustees and my relatives, so--I--I gave her up to them,
and my wife passed away in a more cheerful frame of mind, I think. That is
about all. One of the instructors obtained the position here for me, which
I--I finally--lost, and I went to See the little girl every New Year's
day. This year she declared her intention of visiting _me_, but she was
persuaded by friends who were conversant with the circumstances to stay
with them, where I could be with her almost as much as at my apartment at
Mr. Tibbs's. She had long since declared her intention of some day
returning to live with me, and when she came she was strenuous in
insisting that the day had come." The old man's voice broke suddenly as he
observed: "She has--a very--beautiful--character, Mr. Parker."

The foreman nodded with warm confirmation. "I believe you, sir. Yes, sir;
I saw her, and I guess she looks it. You take that kind of a lady usually,
and catch her in a crowd like the one show-day, and she can't help doing
the Grand Duchess, giving the tenants a treat--but not her; she didn't
seem to _separate_ herself from 'em, some way."

"She is a fine lady," said the other simply. "I did not accept her
renunciation, though I acknowledge I forbade it with a very poignant envy.
I could not be the cause of her giving up for my sake her state of ease
and luxury--for my relatives are more than well-to-do, and they made it
plain she must choose between them and me, with the design, I think, of
making it more difficult to choose me. And, also, it seemed to me, as it
did to her, that she owed them nearly everything, but she declared I had
lived alone so long that she owed me everything, also. She is a--
beautiful--character, Mr. Parker."

"Well," said Parker, after a pause, "the town will be upside down over
this; and folks will be mighty glad to have it explained about your being
out there so much, and at the deepo, and all this and that. Everybody in
the place has been wondering what in--that is--" he finished in some
confusion--"that is--what I started to say was that it won't be so bad as
it might be, having a lady in the office here. I don't cuss to speak of,
and Ross can lay off on his till the boss comes back. Besides, it's our
only chance. If she can't make the 'Herald' hum, we go to the wall."

The old man did not seem to hear him. "I forbade the renunciation she
wished to make for my sake," he said, gently, "but I accept it now for the
sake of our stricken friend--for Mr. Harkless."

"And for the Carlow 'Herald,'" completed the foreman.

The morning following that upon which this conversation took place, the
two gentlemen stood together on the station platform, awaiting the arrival
of the express from Rouen. It was a wet gray day; the wide country lay
dripping under formless wraps of thin mist, and a warm, drizzling rain
blackened the weather-beaten shingles of the station; made clear-
reflecting puddles of the unevenly worn planks of the platform, and
dampened the packing-cases that never went anywhere too thoroughly for
occupation by the station-lounger, and ran in a little crystal stream off
Fisbee's brown cotton umbrella and down Mr. Parker's back. The 'bus
driver, Mr. Bennett, the proprietor of two attendant "cut-unders," and
three or four other worthies whom business, or the lack of it, called to
that locality, availed themselves of the shelter of the waiting-room, but
the gentlemen of the "Herald" were too agitated to be confined, save by
the limits of the horizon. They had reached the station half an hour
before train time, and consumed the interval in pacing the platform under
the cotton umbrella, addressing each other only in monosyllables. Those in
the waiting-room gossiped eagerly, and for the thousandth time, about the
late events, and the tremendous news concerning Fisbee. Judd Bennett
looked out through the rainy doorway at the latter with reverence and a
fine pride of townsmanship, declaring it to be his belief that Fisbee and
Parker were waiting for her at the present moment. It was a lady, and a
bird of a lady, too, else why should Cale Parker be wearing a coat, and be
otherwise dooded and fixed up beyond any wedding? Judd and his friends
were somewhat excited over Parker.

Fisbee was clad in his best shabby black, which lent an air of state to
the occasion, but Mr. Parker--Caleb Parker, whose heart, during his five
years of residence in Plattville, had been steel-proof against all the
feminine blandishments of the town, whose long, lank face had shown
beneath as long, and lanker, locks of proverbially uncombed hair, he who
had for weeks conspicuously affected a single, string-patched suspender,
who never, even upon the Sabbath day, wore a collar or blacked his shoes--
what aesthetic leaven had entered his soul that he donned not a coat alone
but also a waistcoat with checks?--and, more than _that_, a gleaming
celluloid collar?--and, more than that, a brilliant blue tie? What had
this iron youth to do with a rising excitement at train time and brilliant
blue ties?

Also, it might have been inquired if this parade of fashion had no
connection with the simultaneous action of Mr. Ross Schofield; for Ross
was at this hour engaged in decorating the battered chairs in the "Herald"
editorial room with blue satin ribbon, the purchase of which at the Dry
Goods Emporium had been directed by a sudden inspiration of his superior
of the composing force. It was Ross's intention to garnish each chair with
an elaborately tied bow, but, as he was no sailor and understood only the
intricacies of a hard-knot, he confined himself to that species of
ornamentation, leaving, however, very long ends of ribbon hanging down
after the manner of the pendants of rosettes.

It scarcely needs the statement that his labors were in honor of the new
editor-in-chief of the Carlow "Herald." The advent and the purposes of
this personage were, as yet, known certainly to only those of the "Herald"
and to the Briscoes. It had been arranged, however, that Minnie and her
father were not to come to the station, for the journalistic crisis was
immoderately pressing; the "Herald" was to appear on the morrow, and the
new editor wished to plunge directly, and without the briefest
distraction, into the paper's difficulties, now accumulated into a
veritable sea of troubles. The editor was to be delivered to the Briscoes
at eventide and returned by them again at dewy morn; and this was to be
the daily programme. It had been further--and most earnestly--stipulated
that when the wounded proprietor of the ailing journal should be informed
of the addition to his forces, he was not to know, or to have the
slenderest hint of, the sex or identity of the person in charge during his
absence. It was inevitable that Plattville (already gaping to the
uttermost) would buzz voluminously over it before night, but Judge Briscoe
volunteered to prevent the buzz from reaching Rouen. He undertook to
interview whatever citizens should visit Harkless, or write to him--when
his illness permitted visits and letters--and forewarn them of the
incumbent's desires. To-day, the judge stayed at home with his daughter,
who trilled about the house for happiness, and, in their place, the
"Herald" deputation of two had repaired to the station to act as a
reception committee.

Far away the whistle of the express was heard, muffled to sweetness in the
damp, and the drivers, whip in hand, came out upon the platform, and the
loafers issued, also, to stand under the eaves and lean their backs
against the drier boards, preparing to eye the travellers with languid
raillery.

Mr. Parker, very nervous himself, felt the old man's elbow trembling
against his own as the great engine, reeking in the mist, and sending
great clouds of white vapor up to the sky, rushed by them, and came to a
standstill beyond the platform.

Fisbee and the foreman made haste to the nearest vestibule, and were
gazing blankly at its barred approaches when they heard a tremulous laugh
behind them and an exclamation.

"Upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber! Just behind you, dear."

Turning quickly, Parker beheld a blushing and smiling little vision, a
vision with light-brown hair, a vision enveloped in a light-brown rain-
cloak and with brown gloves, from which the handles of a big brown
travelling bag were let fall, as the vision disappeared under the cotton
umbrella, while the smitten Judd Bennett reeled gasping against the
station.

"Dearest," the girl cried to the old man, "you were looking for me between
the devil and deep sea--the parlor-car and the smoker. I've given up
cigars, and I've begun to study economy, so I didn't come on either."

There was but this one passenger for Plattville; two enormous trunks
thundered out of the baggage car onto the truck, and it was the work of no
more than a minute for Judd to hale them to the top of the omnibus (he
well wished to wear them next his heart, but their dimensions forbade the
thought), and immediately he cracked his whip and drove off furiously
through the mud to deposit his freight at the Briscoes'. Parker, Mr.
Fisbee, and the new editor-in-chief set forth, directly after, in one of
the waiting cut-unders, the foreman in front with the driver, and holding
the big brown bag on his knees in much the same manner he would have held
an alien, yet respected, infant.




CHAPTER XIV


A RESCUE

The drizzle and mist blew in under the top of the cut-under as they drove
rapidly into town, and bright little drops sparkled on the fair hair above
the new editor's forehead and on the long lashes above the new editor's
cheeks.

She shook these transient gems off lightly, as she paused in the doorway
of the office at the top of the rickety stairway. Mr. Schofield had just
added the last touch to his decorations and managed to slide into his coat
as the party came up the stairs, and now, perspiring, proud, embarrassed,
he assumed an attitude at once deprecatory of his endeavors and pointedly
expectant of commendation for the results.  (He was a modest youth and a
conscious; after his first sight of her, as she stood in the doorway, it
was several days before he could lift his distressed eyes under her
glance, or, indeed, dare to avail himself of more than a hasty and
fluttering stare at her when her back was turned.) As she entered the
room, he sidled along the wall and laughed sheepishly at nothing.

Every chair in the room was ornamented with one  of his blue rosettes,
tied carefully (and firmly) to the  middle slat of each chair-back. There
had been several yards of ribbon left over, and there was a hard knot of
glossy satin on each of the ink-stands and on the door-knobs; a blue band,
passing around the stovepipe, imparted an antique rakishness suggestive of
the charioteer; and a number of streamers, suspended from a hook in the
ceiling, encouraged a supposition that the employees of the "Herald"
contemplated the intricate festivities of May Day. It needed no genius to
infer that these garnitures had not embellished the editorial chamber
during Mr. Harkless's activity, but, on the contrary, had been put in
place that very morning. Mr. Fisbee had not known of the decorations, and,
as his glance fell upon them, a faint look of pain passed over his brow;
but the girl examined the room with a dancing eye, and there were both
tears and laughter in her heart.

"How beautiful!" she cried. "How beautiful!" She crossed the room and gave
her hand to Ross. "It is Mr. Schofield, isn't it? The ribbons are
delightful. I didn't know Mr. Harkless's room was so pretty."

Ross looked out of the window and laughed as he took her hand (which he
shook with a long up and down motion), but he was set at better ease by
her apparent unrecognition of the fact that the decorations were for her.
"Oh, it ain't much, I reckon," he replied, and continued to look out of
the window and laugh.

She went to the desk and removed her gloves and laid her rain-coat over a
chair near by. "Is this Mr. Harkless's chair?" she asked, and, Fisbee
answering that it was, she looked gravely at it for a moment, passed her
hand gently over the back of it, and then, throwing the rain-cloak over
another chair, said cheerily:

"Do you know, I think the first thing for us to do will be to dust
everything very carefully."

"You remember I was confident she would know precisely where to begin?"
was Fisbee's earnest whisper in the willing ear of the long foreman. "Not
an instant's indecision, was there?"

"No, siree!" replied the other; and, as he went down to the press-room to
hunt for a feather-duster which he thought might be found there, he
collared Bud Tipworthy, who, not admitted to the conclave of his
superiors, was whistling on the rainy stairway. "You hustle and find that
dust brush we used to have. Bud," said Parker. And presently, as they
rummaged in the nooks and crannies about the machinery, he melted to his
small assistant. "The paper is saved, Buddie--saved by an angel in light
brown. You can tell it by the look of her."

"Gee!" said Bud.

Mr. Schofield had come, blushing, to join them. "Say, Cale, did you notice
the color of her eyes?"

"Yes; they're gray."

"I thought so, too, show day, and at Kedge Halloway's lecture; but, say,
Cale, they're kind of changeable. When she come in upstairs with you and
Fisbee, they were jest as blue!--near matched the color of our ribbons."

"Gee!" repeated Mr. Tipworthy.

When the editorial chamber had been made so Beat that it almost glowed--
though it could never be expected to shine as did Fisbee and Caleb Parker
and Ross Schofield that morning--the editor took her seat at the desk and
looked over the few items the gentlemen had already compiled for her
perusal. Mr. Parker explained many technicalities peculiar to the Carlow
"Herald," translated some phrases of the printing-room, and enabled her to
grasp the amount of matter needed to fill the morrow's issue.

When Parker finished, the three incompetents sat watching the little
figure with the expression of hopeful and trusting terriers. She knit her
brow for a second--but she did not betray an instant's indecision.

"I think we should have regular market reports," she announced,
thoughtfully. "I am sure Mr. Harkless would approve.  Don't you think he
would?" She turned to Parker.

"Market reports!" Mr. Fisbee exclaimed. "I should never have thought of
market reports, nor, do I imagine, would either of my--my associates. A
woman to conceive the idea of market reports!"

The editor blushed. "Why, who would, dear, if not a woman, or a
speculator, and I'm not a speculator; and neither are you, and that's the
reason you didn't think of them. So, Mr. Parker, as there is so much
pressure, and if you don't mind continuing to act as reporter as well as
compositor until after to-morrow, and if it isn't too wet--you must take
an umbrella--would it be too much bother if you went around to all the
shops--_stores_, I mean--to all the grocers', and the butchers', and that
leather place we passed, the tannery?--and if there's one of those places
where they bring cows, would it be too much to ask you to stop there?--and
at the flour-mill, if it isn't too far?--and at the dry-goods store? And
you must take a blank-book and sharpened pencil, And will you price
everything, please, and jot down how much things are?"

Orders received, the impetuous Parker was departing on the instant, when
she stopped him with a little cry: "But you haven't any umbrella!" And she
forced her own, a slender wand, upon him; it bore a cunningly wrought
handle and its fabric was of glistening silk. The foreman, unable to
decline it, thanked her awkwardly, and, as she turned to speak to Fisbee,
bolted out of the door and ran down the steps without unfolding the
umbrella; and as he made for Mr. Martin's emporium, he buttoned it
securely under his long "Prince Albert," determined that not a drop of
water should touch and ruin so delicate a thing. Thus he carried it,
triumphantly dry, through the course of his reportings of that day.

When he had gone the editor laid her hand on Fisbee's arm. "Dear," she
said, "do you think you would take cold if you went over to the hotel and
made a note of all the arrivals for the last week--and the departures,
too? I noticed that Mr. Harkless always filled two or three--sticks, isn't
it?--with them and things about them, and somehow it 'read' very nicely.
You must ask the landlord all about them; and, if there aren't any, we can
take up the same amount of space lamenting the dull times, just as he used
to. You see I've read the 'Herald' faithfully; isn't it a good thing I
always subscribed for it?" She patted Fisbee's cheek, and laughed gaily
into his mild, vague old eyes.

"It won't be this scramble to 'fill up' much longer. I have plans,
gentlemen," she cried, "and before long we will print news.   And we must
buy 'plate matter' instead of 'patent insides'; and I had a talk with the
Associated Press people in Rouen--but that's for afterwhile. And I went to
the hospital this morning before I left. They wouldn't let me see him
again, but they told me all about him, and he's better; and I got Tom to
go to the jail--he was so mystified, he doesn't know what I wanted it for
--and he saw some of those beasts, and I can do a column of description
besides an editorial about them, and I will be fierce enough to suit
Carlow, you may believe that. And I've been talking to Senator Burns--that
is, listening to Senator Burns, which is much stupider--and I think I can
do an article on national politics. I'm not very well up on local issues
yet, but I--" She broke off suddenly. "There! I think we can get out
to-morrow's number without any trouble. By the time you get back from the
hotel, father, I'll have half my stuff written--'written up,' I mean. Take
your big umbrella and go, dear, and please ask at the express office if my
typewriter has come."

She laughed again with sheer delight, like a child, and ran to the corner
and got the cotton umbrella and placed it in the old man's hand. As he
reached the door, she called after him: "Wait!" and went to him and knelt
before him, and, with the humblest, proudest grace in the world, turned up
his trousers to keep them from the mud. Ross Schofield had never
considered Mr. Fisbee a particularly sacred sort of person, but he did
from that moment. The old man made some timid protest, at his daughter's
action, But she answered; "The great ladies used to buckle the Chevalier
Bayard's spurs for him, and you're a great deal nicer than the Chev----
_You haven't any rubbers_! I don't believe _any_ of you have any rubbers!"
And not until both Fisbee and Mr. Schofield had promised to purchase
overshoes at once, and in the meantime not to step in any puddles, would
she let her father depart upon his errand. He crossed the Square with the
strangest, jauntiest step ever seen in Plattville. Solomon Tibbs had a
warm argument with Miss Selina as to his identity. Miss Selina maintaining
that the figure under the big umbrella--only the legs and coat-tails were
visible to them--was that of a stranger, probably an Englishman.

In the "Herald" office the editor turned, smiling, to the paper's
remaining vassal. "Mr. Schofield, I heard some talk in Rouen of an oil
company that had been formed to prospect for kerosene in Carlow County. Do
you know anything about it?"

Ross, surfeited with honor, terror, and possessed by a sweet distress at
finding himself tete-a-tete with the lady, looked at the wall and replied:

"Oh, it's that Eph Watts's foolishness."

"Do you know if they have begun to dig for it yet?"

"Ma'am?" said Ross.

"Have they begun the diggings yet?"

"No, ma'am; I think not. They've got a contrapshun fixed up about three
mile south. I don't reckon they've begun yet, hardly; they're gittin' the
machinery in place. I heard Eph say they'd begin to bore--_dig_, I mean,
ma'am, I meant to say dig----" He stopped, utterly confused and unhappy;
and she understood his manly purpose, and knew him for a gentleman whom
she liked.

"You mustn't be too much surprised," she said; "but in spite of my
ignorance about such things, I mean to devote a good deal of space to the
oil company; it may come to be of great importance to Carlow. We won't go
into it in to-morrow's paper, beyond an item or so; but do you think you
could possibly find Mr. Watts and ask him for some information as to their
progress, and if it would be too much trouble for him to call here some
time to-morrow afternoon, or the day after? I want him to give me an
interview if he will. Tell him, please, he will very greatly oblige us."

"Oh, he'll come all right," answered her companion, quickly. "I'll take
Tibbs's buggy and go down there right off. Eph won't lose no time gittin'
_here_!" And with this encouraging assurance he was flying forth, when he,
like the others, was detained by her solicitous care. She was a born
mother. He protested that in the buggy he would be perfectly sheltered;
besides, there wasn't another umbrella about the place; he _liked_ to get
wet, anyway; had always loved rain. The end of it was that he went away in
a sort of tremor, wearing her rain-cloak over his shoulders, which
garment, as it covered its owner completely when she wore it, hung almost
to his knees. He darted around a corner; and there, breathing deeply,
tenderly removed it; then, borrowing paper and cord at a neighboring
store, wrapped it neatly, and stole back to the printing-office on the
ground floor of the "Herald" building, and left the package in charge of
Bud Tipworthy, mysteriously charging him to care for it as for his own
life, and not to open it, but if the lady so much as set one foot out of
doors before his return, to hand it to her with the message: "He borrowed
another off J. Hankins."

Left alone, the lady went to the desk and stood for a time looking gravely
at Harkless's chair. She touched it gently, as she had touched it once
before that morning, and then she spoke to it as if he were sitting there,
and as she would not have spoken, had he been sitting there.

"You didn't want gratitude, did you?" she whispered, with sad lips.

Soon she smiled at the blue ribbons, patted the chair gaily on the back,
and, seizing upon pencil and pad, dashed into her work with rare energy.
She bent low over the desk, her pencil moving rapidly, and, except for a
momentary interruption from Mr. Tipworthy, she seemed not to pause for
breath; certainly her pencil did not.  She had covered many sheets when
her father returned; and, as he came in softly, not to disturb her, she
was so deeply engrossed she did not hear him; nor did she look up when
Parker entered, but pursued the formulation of her fast-flying ideas with
the same single purpose and abandon; so the two men sat and waited while
their chieftainess wrote absorbedly. At last she glanced up and made a
little startled exclamation at seeing them there, and then gave them
cheery greeting. Each placed several scribbled sheets before her, and she,
having first assured herself that Fisbee had bought his overshoes, and
having expressed a fear that Mr. Parker had found her umbrella too small,
as he looked damp (and indeed he _was_ damp), cried praises on their notes
and offered the reporters great applause.

"It is all so splendid!" she cried. "How could you do it so quickly? And
in the rain, too! This is exactly what we need. I've done most of the
things I mentioned, I think, and made a draught of some plans for
hereafter. And about that man's coming out for Congress, I must tell you
it is my greatest hope that he will. We can let it go until he does, and
then----But doesn't it seem to you that it would be a good notion for the
'Herald' to have a woman's page--'For Feminine Readers,' or, 'Of Interest
to Women'--once a week?"

"A woman's page!" exclaimed Fisbee. "I could never have thought of that,
could you, Mr. Parker?"

"And now," she continued, "I think that when I've gone over what I've
written and beat it into better shape I shall be ready for something to
eat. Isn't it almost time for luncheon?"

This simple, and surely natural, inquiry had a singular, devastating
effect upon her hearers. They looked upon each other with fallen jaws and
complete stupefaction. The old man began to grow pale, and Parker glared
about him with a wild eye. Fortunately, the editor was too busy at her
work to notice their agitation; she applied herself to making alterations
here and there, sometimes frowningly crossing out whole lines and even
paragraphs, sometimes smiling and beaming at the writing; and, as she bent
earnestly over the paper, against the darkness of the rainy day, the
glamour about her fair hair was like a light in the room. To the minds of
her two companions, this lustre was a gentle but unbearable accusation;
and each dreaded the moment when her Work should be finished, with a great
dread. There was a small "store-room" adjoining the office, and presently
Mr. Parker, sweating at the brow, walked in there. The old man gave him a
look of despairing reproach, but in a moment the foreman's voice was
heard: "Oh, Mr. Fisbee, can you step here a second?"

"Yes, indeed!" was Fisbee's reply; and he fled guiltily into the "store-
room," and Parker closed the door. They stood knee-deep in the clutter and
lumber, facing each other abjectly.

"Well, we're both done, anyway, Mr. Fisbee," remarked the foreman.

"Indubitably, Mr. Parker," the old man answered; "it is too true."

"Never to think a blame thing about dinner for her!" Parker continued,
remorsefully. "And her a lady that can turn off copy like a rotary
snowplough in a Dakota blizzard! Did you see the sheets she's piled up on
that desk?"

"There is no cafe--nothing--in Plattville, that could prepare food worthy
of her," groaned Fisbee. "Nothing!"

"And we never thought of it. Never made a single arrangement. Never struck
us she didn't live on keeping us dry and being good, I guess."

"How can I go there and tell her that?"

"Lord!"

"She cannot go to the hotel----"

"Well, I guess not! It ain't fit for her. Lum's table is hard enough on a
strong man. Landis doesn't know a good cake from a Fiji missionary
pudding. I don't expect pie is much her style, and, besides, the Palace
Hotel pies--well!--the boss was a mighty uncomplaining man, but I used to
notice his articles on field drainage got kind of sour and low-spirited
when they'd been having more than the regular allowance of pie for dinner.
She can't go there anyway; it's no use; it's after two o'clock, and the
dining-room shuts off at one. I wonder what kind of cake she likes best."

"I don't know," said the perplexed Fisbee. "If we ask her--"

"If we could sort of get it out of her diplomatically, we could telegraph
to Rouen for a good one."

"Ha!" said the other, brightening up.  "You try it, Mr. Parker. I fear I
have not much skill in diplomacy, but if you----"

The compositor's mouth drooped at the corners, and he interrupted
gloomily: "But it wouldn't get here till to-morrow."

"True; it would not."

They fell into a despondent reverie, with their chins in their bosoms.
There came a cheerful voice from the next room, but to them it brought no
cheer; in their ears it sounded weak from the need of food and faint with
piteous reproach.

"Father, aren't you coming to have luncheon with me?"

"Mr. Parker, what are we to do?" whispered the old man, hoarsely.

"Is it too far to take her to Briscoes'?"

"In the rain?"

"Take her with you to Tibbs's."

"Their noon meal is long since over; and their larder is not--is not--
extensive."

"Father!" called the girl. She was stirring; they could hear her moving
about the room.

"You've got to go in and tell her," said the foreman, desperately, and
together they stumbled into the room. A small table at one end of it was
laid with a snowy cloth and there was a fragrance of tea, and, amidst
various dainties, one caught a glimpse of cold chicken and lettuce leaves.
Fisbee stopped, dumfounded, but the foreman, after stammeringly declining
an invitation to partake, alleging that his own meal awaited, sped down to
the printing-room, and seized upon Bud Tipworthy with a heavy hand.

"Where did all that come from, up there?"

"Leave go me! _What_ 'all that'?"

"All that tea and chicken and salad and wafers--all kinds of things;
sardines, for all I know!"

"They come in Briscoes' buckboard while you was gone. Briscoes sent 'em in
a basket; I took 'em up and she set the basket under the table. You'd seen
it if you'd 'a' looked. _Quit_ that!" And it was unjust to cuff the
perfectly innocent and mystified Bud, and worse not to tell him what the
punishment was for.

Before the day was over, system had been introduced, and the "Herald" was
running on it: and all that warm, rainy afternoon, the editor and Fisbee
worked in the editorial rooms, Parker and Bud and Mr. Schofield (after his
return with the items and a courteous message from Ephraim Watts) bent
over the forms downstairs, and Uncle Xenophon was cleaning the store-room
and scrubbing the floor.

An extraordinary number of errands took the various members of the
printing force up to see the editor-in-chief, literally to see the editor-
in-chief; it was hard to believe that the presence had not flown--hard to
keep believing, without the repeated testimony of sight, that the dingy
room upstairs was actually the setting for their jewel; and a jewel they
swore she was.  The printers came down chuckling and gurgling after each
interview; it was partly the thought that she belonged to the "Herald,"
_their_ paper. Once Ross, as he cut down one of the temporarily distended
advertisements, looked up and caught the foreman giggling to himself.

"What in the name of common-sense you laughin' at, Cale?" he asked.

"What are _you_ laughing at?" rejoined the other.

"I dunno!"

The day wore on, wet and dreary outside, but all within the "Herald's"
bosom was snug and busy and murmurous with the healthy thrum of life and
prosperity renewed. Toward six o'clock, system accomplished, the new
guiding-spirit was deliberating on a policy as Harkless would conceive a
policy, were he there, when Minnie Briscoe ran joyously up the stairs,
plunged into the room, waterproofed and radiant, and caught her friend in
her eager arms, and put an end to policy for that day.

But policy and labor did not end at twilight every day; there were
evenings, as in the time of Harkless, when lamps shone from the upper
windows of the "Herald" building. For the little editor worked hard, and
sometimes she worked late; she always worked early. She made some mistakes
at first, and one or two blunders which she took more seriously than any
one else did. But she found a remedy for all such results of her
inexperience, and she developed experience. She set at her task with the
energy of her youthfulness and no limit to her ambition, and she felt that
Harkless had prepared the way for a wide expansion of the paper's
interests; wider than he knew. She had a belief that there were
possibilities for a country newspaper, and she brought a fresh point of
view to operate in a situation where Harkless had fallen, perhaps, too
much in the rut; and she watched every chance with a keen eye and looked
ahead of her with clear foresight. What she waited and yearned for and
dreaded, was the time when a copy of the new "Herald" should be placed in
the trembling hands of the man who lay in the Rouen hospital. Then, she
felt, if he, unaware of her identity, should place everything in her hands
unreservedly, that would be a tribute to her work--and how hard she would
labor to deserve it! After a time, she began to realize that, as his
representative and the editor of the "Herald," she had become a factor in
district politics. It took her breath--but with a gasp of delight, for
there was something she wanted to do.

Above all, she brought a light heart to her work. One evening in the
latter part of that first week of the new regime, Parker perceived Bud
Tipworthy standing in the doorway of the printing-room, beckoning him
silently to come without.

"What's the matter, Buddie?"

"Listen. She's singin' over her work."

Parker stepped outside. On the pavement, people had stopped to listen;
they stood in the shadow, looking up with parted lips at the open, lighted
Windows, whence came a clear, soft, reaching voice, lifted in song; now it
swelled louder, unconsciously; now its volume was more slender and it
melted liquidly into the night; again, it trembled and rose and dwelt in
the ear, strong and pure; and, hearing it, you sighed with unknown
longings. It was the "Angels' Serenade."

Bud Tipworthy's sister, Cynthia, was with him, and Parker saw that she
turned from the window and that she was crying, quietly; she put her hand
on the boy's shoulder and patted it with a forlorn gesture which, to the
foreman's eye, was as graceful as it was sad. He moved closer to Bud and
his big hand fell on Cynthia's brother's other shoulder, as he realized
that red hair could look pretty sometimes; and he wondered why the
editor's singing made Cynthy cry; and at the same time he decided to be
mighty good to Bud henceforth. The spell of night and song was on him;
that and something more; for it is a strange, inexplicable fact that the
most practical chief ever known to the "Herald" had a singularly
sentimental influence over her subordinates, from the moment of her
arrival. Under Harkless's domination there had been no more steadfast
bachelors in Carlow than Ross Schofield and Caleb Parker, and, like
timorous youths in a graveyard, daring and mocking the ghosts in order to
assuage their own fears, they had so jibed and jeered at the married state
that there was talk of urging the minister to preach at them; but now let
it be recorded that at the moment Caleb laid his hand on Bud's other
shoulder, his associate, Mr. Schofield, was enjoying a walk in the far end
of town with a widow, and it is not to be doubted that Mr. Tipworthy's
heart, also, was no longer in his possession, though, as it was after
eight o'clock, the damsel of his desire had probably long since retired to
her couch.

For some faint light on the cause of these spells, we must turn to a
comment made by the invaluable Mr. Martin some time afterward. Referring
to the lady to whose voice he was now listening in silence (which shows
how great the enthralling of her voice was), he said: "When you saw her,
or heard her, or managed to be around, any, where she was, why, if you
couldn't git up no hope of marryin' _her_, you wanted to marry
_somebody_."

Mr. Lige Willetts, riding idly by, drew rein in front of the lighted
windows, and listened with the others. Presently he leaned from his horse
and whispered to a man near him:

"I know that song."

"Do you?" whispered the other.

"Yes; he and I heard her sing it, the night he was shot."

"So!"

"Yes, sir. It's by Beethoven."

"Is it?"

"It's a seraphic song," continued Lige.

"No!" exclaimed his friend; then, shaking his head, he sighed: "Well, it's
mighty sweet."

The song was suddenly woven into laughter in the unseen chamber, and the
lights in the windows went out, and a small lady and a tall lady and a
thin old man, all three laughing and talking happily, came down and drove
off in the Briscoe buckboard. The little crowd dispersed quietly; Lige
Willetts plucked to his horse and cantered away to overtake the buckboard;
William Todd took his courage between his teeth, and, the song ringing in
his ears, made a desperate resolve to call upon Miss Bardlock that
evening, in spite of its being a week day, and Caleb Parker gently and
stammeringly asked Cynthia if she would wait till he shut up the shop, and
let him walk home with her and Bud.

Soon the Square was quiet as before, and there was naught but peace under
the big stars of July.

That day the news had come that Harkless, after weeks of alternate
improvement and relapse, hazardously lingering in the borderland of
shadows, had passed the crucial point and was convalescent. His recovery
was assured. But from their first word of him, from the message that he
was found and was alive, none of the people of Carlow had really doubted
it. They are simple country people, and they know that God is good.




CHAPTER XV


NETTLES

Two men who have been comrades and classmates at the Alma Mater of John
Harkless and Tom Meredith; two who have belonged to the same dub and
roomed in the same entry; who have pooled their clothes and money in a
common stock for either to draw on; who have shared the fortunes of
athletic war, triumphing together, sometimes with an intense triumphancy;
two men who were once boys getting hazed together, hazing in no unkindly
fashion in their turn, always helping each other to stuff brains the night
before an examination and to blow away the suffocating statistics like
foam the night after; singing, wrestling, dancing, laughing, succeeding
together, through the four kindest years of life; two such brave
companions, meeting in the after years, are touchingly tender and
caressive of each other, but the tenderness takes the shy, United States
form of insulting epithets, and the caresses are blows. If John Harkless
had been in health, uninjured and prosperous, Tom Meredith could no more
have thrown himself on his knees beside him and called him "old friend"
than he could have danced on the slack-wire.

One day they thought the patient sleeping; the nurse fanned him softly,
and Meredith had stolen in and was sitting by the cot. One of Harkless's
eyes had been freed of the bandage, and, when Tom came in, it was closed;
but, by and by, Meredith became aware that the unbandaged eye had opened
and that it was suffused with a pathetic moisture; yet it twinkled with a
comprehending light, and John knew that it was his old Tom Meredith who
was sitting beside him, with the air of having sat there very often
before. But this bald, middle-aged young man, not without elegance, yet a
prosperous burgher for all that--was _this_ the slim, rollicking broth of
a boy whose thick auburn hair used to make one streak of flame as he spun
around the bases on a home run? Without doubt it was the stupendous fact,
wrought by the alchemy of seven years.

For, though seven years be a mere breath in the memories of the old, it is
a long transfiguration to him whose first youth is passing, and who finds
unsolicited additions accruing to some parts of his being and strange
deprivations in others, and upon whom the unhappy realization begins to be
borne in, that his is no particular case, and that he of all the world is
not to be spared, but, like his forbears, must inevitably wriggle in the
disguising crucible of time. And, though men accept it with apparently
patient humor, the first realization that people do grow old, and that
they do it before they have had time to be young, is apt to come like a
shock.

Perhaps not even in the interminable months of Carlow had Harkless
realized the length of seven years so keenly as he did when he beheld his
old friend at his bedside. How men may be warped apart in seven years,
especially in the seven years between twenty-three and thirty! At the
latter age you may return to the inseparable of seven years before and
speak not the same language; you find no heartiness to carry on with each
other after half an hour. Not so these classmates, who had known each
other to the bone.

Ah, yes, it was Tom Meredith, the same lad, in spite of his masquerade of
flesh; and Helen was right: Tom had not forgotten.

"It's the old horse-thief!" John murmured, tremulously.

"You go plumb to thunder," answered Meredith between gulps.


When he was well enough, they had long talks; and at other times Harkless
lay by the window, and breathed deep of the fresh air, while Meredith
attended to his correspondence for him, and read the papers to him. But
there was one phenomenon of literature the convalescent insisted upon
observing for himself, and which he went over again and again, to the
detriment of his single unswathed eye, and this was the Carlow "Herald."

The first letter he had read to him was one from Fisbee stating that the
crippled forces left in charge had found themselves almost distraught in
their efforts to carry on the paper (as their chief might conclude for
himself on perusal of the issues of the first fortnight of his absence),
and they had made bold to avail themselves of the services of a young
relative of the writer's from a distant city--a capable journalist, who
had no other employment for the present, and who had accepted the
responsibilities of the "Herald" temporarily. There followed a note from
Parker, announcing that Mr. Fisbee's relative was a bird, and was the kind
to make the "Herald" hum. They hoped Mr. Harkless would approve of their
bespeaking the new hand on the sheet; the paper must have suspended
otherwise. Harkless, almost overcome by his surprise that Fisbee possessed
a relative, dictated a hearty and grateful indorsement of their action,
and, soon after, received a typewritten rejoinder, somewhat complicated in
the reading, because of the numerous type errors and their corrections.
The missive was signed "H. Fisbee," in a strapping masculine hand that
suggested six feet of enterprise and muscle spattering ink on its shirt
sleeves.

John groaned and fretted over the writhings of the "Herald's" headless
fortnight, but, perusing the issues produced under the domination of H.
Fisbee, he started now and then, and chuckled at some shrewd felicities of
management, or stared, puzzled, over an oddity, but came to a feeling of
vast relief; and, when the question of H. Fisbee's salary was settled and
the tenancy assured, he sank into a repose of mind. H. Fisbee might be an
eccentric fellow, but he knew his business, and, apparently, he knew
something of other business as well, for he wrote at length concerning the
Carlow oil fields, urging Harkless to take shares in Mr. Watts's company
while the stock was very low, two wells having been sunk without
satisfactory results. H. Fisbee explained with exceeding technicality his
reasons for believing that the third well would strike oil.

But with his ease of mind regarding the "Herald," Harkless found himself
possessed by apathy. He fretted no longer to get back to Plattville. With
the prospect of return it seemed an emptiness glared at him from hollow
sockets, and the thought of the dreary routine he must follow when he went
back gave him the same faint nausea he had felt the evening after the
circus. And, though it was partly the long sweat of anguish which had
benumbed him, his apathy was pierced, at times, by a bodily horror of the
scene of his struggle. At night he faced the grotesque masks of the Cross-
Roads men and the brutal odds again; over and over he felt the blows, and
clapped his hand to where the close fire of Bob Skillett's pistol burned
his body.

And, except for the release from pain, he rejoiced less and less in his
recovery. He remembered a tedious sickness of his childhood and how
beautiful he had thought the world, when he began to get well, how
electric the open air blowing in at the window, how green the smile of
earth, and how glorious to live and see the open day again. He had none of
that feeling now. No pretty vision came again near his bed, and he beheld
his convalescence as a mistake. He had come to a jumping-off place in his
life--why had they not let him jump? What was there left but the weary
plod, plod, and dust of years?

He could have gone back to Carlow in better spirit if it had not been for
the few dazzling hours of companionship which had transformed it to a
paradise, but, gone, left a desert. She, by the sight of her, had made him
wish to live, and now, that he saw her no more, she made him wish to die.
How little she had cared for him, since she told him she did not care,
when he had not meant to ask her. He was weary, and at last he longed to
find the line of least resistance and follow it; he had done hard things
for a long time, but now he wanted to do something easy. Under the new
genius--who was already urging that the paper should be made a daily--the
"Herald" could get along without him; and the "White-Caps" would bother
Carlow no longer; and he thought that Kedge Halloway, an honest man, if a
dull one, was sure to be renominated for Congress at the district
convention which was to meet at Plattville in September--these were his
responsibilities, and they did not fret him. Everything was all right.
There was only one thought which thrilled him: his impression that she had
come to the hospital to see him was not a delusion; she had really been
there--as a humane, Christian person, he said to himself. One day he told
Meredith of his vision, and Tom explained that it was no conjuration of
fever.

"But I thought she'd gone abroad," said Harkless, staring.

"They had planned to," answered his friend. "They gave it up for some
reason. Uncle Henry decided that he wasn't strong enough for the trip, or
something."

"Then--is she--is she here?"

"No; Helen is never here in summer. When she came back from Plattville,
she went north, somewhere, to join people she had promised, I think."
Meredith had as yet no inkling or suspicion that his adopted cousin had
returned to Plattville. What he told Harkless was what his aunt had told
him, and he accepted it as the truth.

Mrs. Sherwood (for she was both Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood) had always
considered Fisbee an enigmatic rascal, and she regarded Helen's defection
to him in the light of a family scandal to be hushed up, as well as a
scalding pain to be borne. Some day the unkind girl-errant would "return
to her wisdom and her duty"; meanwhile, the less known about it the
better.

Meredith talked very little to Harkless of his cousin, beyond lightly
commenting on the pleasure and oddity of their meeting, and telling him of
her friendly anxiety about his recovery; he said she had perfect
confidence from the first that he would recover. Harkless had said a word
or two in his delirium and a word or two out of it, and these, with once a
sudden brow of suffering, and a difference Meredith felt in Helen's manner
when they stood together by the sick man's bedside, had given the young
man a strong impression, partly intuitive, that in spite of the short time
the two had known each other, something had happened between them at
Plattville, and he ventured a guess which was not far from the truth.
Altogether, the thing was fairly plain--a sad lover is not so hard to
read--and Meredith was sorry, for they were the two people he liked best
on earth.

The young man carried his gay presence daily to the hospital, where
Harkless now lay in a pleasant room of his own, and he tried to keep his
friend cheery, which was an easy matter on the surface, for the journalist
turned ever a mask of jokes upon him; but it was not hard for one who
liked him as Meredith did to see through to the melancholy underneath.
After his one reference to Helen, John was entirely silent of her, and
Meredith came to feel that both would be embarrassed if occasion should
rise and even her name again be mentioned between them.

He did not speak of his family connection with Mr. Fisbee to the invalid,
for, although the connection was distant, the old man was, in a way, the
family skeleton, and Meredith had a strong sense of the decency of reserve
in such a matter. There was one thing Fisbee's shame had made the old man
unable not to suppress when he told Parker his story; the wraith of a
torrid palate had pursued him from his youth, and the days of drink and
despair from which Harkless had saved him were not the first in his life.
Meredith wondered as much as did Harkless where Fisbee had picked up the
journalistic "young relative" who signed his extremely business-like
missives in such a thundering hand. It was evident that the old man was
grateful to his patron, but it did not occur to Meredith that Fisbee's
daughter might have an even stronger sense of gratitude, one so strong
that she could give all her young strength to work for the man who had
been good to her father.

There came a day in August when Meredith took the convalescent from the
hospital in a victoria, and installed him in his own home. Harkless's
clothes hung on his big frame limply; however, there was a drift of light
in his eyes as they drove slowly through the pretty streets of Rouen. The
bandages and splints and drugs and swathings were all gone now, and his
sole task was to gather strength. The thin face was sallow no longer; it
was the color of evening shadows; indeed he lay among the cushions
seemingly no more than a gaunt shadow of the late afternoon, looking old
and gray and weary. They rolled along abusing each other, John sometimes
gratefully threatening his friend with violence.

The victoria passed a stone house with wide lawns and an inhospitable air
of wealth and importunate rank; over the sward two peacocks swung,
ambulating like caravals in a green sea; and one expected a fine lady to
come smiling and glittering from the door. Oddly enough, though he had
never seen the place before, it struck Harkless with a sense of
familiarity. "Who lives there?" he asked abruptly.

"Who lives there? On the left? Why that--that is the Sherwood place,"
Meredith answered, in a tone which sounded as if he were not quite sure of
it, but inclined to think his information correct. Harkless relapsed into
silence.

Meredith's home was a few blocks further up the same street; a capacious
house in the Western fashion of the Seventies. In front, on the lawn,
there was a fountain with a leaping play of water; maples and shrubbery
were everywhere; and here and there stood a stiff sentinel of Lombardy
poplar. It was all cool and incongruous and comfortable; and, on the
porch, sheltered from publicity by a multitude of palms and flowering
plants, a white-jacketed negro appeared with a noble smile and a more
important tray, whereon tinkled bedewed glasses and a crystal pitcher,
against whose sides the ice clinked sweetly. There was a complement of
straws.

When they had helped him to an easy chair on the porch, Harkless whistled
luxuriously. "Ah, my bachelor!" he exclaimed, as he selected a straw.

"'Who would fardels bear?'" rejoined Mr. Meredith. Then came to the other
a recollection of an auburn-haired ball player on whom the third strike
had once been called while his eyes wandered tenderly to the grandstand,
where the prettiest girl of that commencement week was sitting.

"Have you forgot the 'Indian Princess'?" he asked.

"You're a dull old person," Tom laughed. "Haven't you discovered that 'tis
they who forget us? And why shouldn't they? Do _we_ remember well?--
anybody except just us two, I mean, of course."

"I've a notion we do, sometimes."

The other set his glass on the tray, and lit his cigarette. "Yes; when
we're unsuccessful. Then I think we do."

"That may be true."

"Of course it is. If a lady wishes to make an impression on me that is
worth making, let her let me make none on her."

"You think it is always our vanity?"

"Analyze it as your revered Thomas does and you shall reach the same
conclusion. Let a girl reject you and--" Meredith broke off, cursing
himself inwardly, and, rising, cried gaily: "What profiteth it a man if he
gain the whole wisdom in regard to women and loseth not his own heart? And
neither of us is lacking a heart--though it may be; one can't tell, one's
self; one has to find out about that from some girl. At least, I'm rather
sure of mine; it's difficult to give a tobacco-heart away; it's drugged on
the market. I'm going to bring out the dogs; I'm spending the summer at
home just to give them daily exercise."

This explanation of his continued presence in Rouen struck John as quite
as plausible as Meredith's more seriously alleged reasons for not joining
his mother and sister, at Winter Harbor. (He possessed a mother, and, as
he explained, he had also sisters to satiety, in point of numbers.)
Harkless knew that Tom had stayed to look after him; and he thought there
never was so poor a peg as himself whereon to hang the warm mantle of such
a friendship. He knew that other mantles of affection and kindliness hung
on that self-same peg, for he had been moved by the letters and visits
from Carlow people, and he had heard the story of their descent upon the
hospital, and of the march on the Cross-Roads. Many a good fellow, too,
had come to see him during his better days--from Judge Briscoe, openly
tender and solicitous, to  the embarrassed William Todd, who fiddled at
his  hat and explained that, being as he was in town on  business (a
palpable fiction) he thought he'd look  in to see if "they was any word
would wish to be  sent down to our city." The good will the sick  man had
from every one touched him, and made him feel unworthy, and he could see
nothing he had done to deserve it. Mr. Meredith could (and would not--
openly, at least) have explained to him that it made not a great deal of
difference what he did; it was what people thought he was.

His host helped him upstairs after dinner, and showed him the room
prepared for his occupancy. Harkless sank, sighing with weakness, into a
deep chair, and Meredith went to a window-seat and stretched himself out
for a smoke and chat.

"Doesn't it beat your time," he said, cheerily, "to think of what's become
of all the old boys? They turn up so differently from what we expected,
when they turn up at all. We sized them up all right so far as character
goes, I fancy, but we couldn't size up the chances of life. Take poor old
Pickle Haines: who'd have dreamed Pickle would shoot himself over a
bankruptcy? I dare say that wasn't all of it--might have been cherchez la
femme, don't you think? What do you make of Pickle's case, John?"

There was no answer. Harkless's chair was directly in front of the mantel-
piece, and upon the carved wooden shelf, amongst tobacco-jars and little
curios, cotillion favors and the like, there were scattered a number of
photographs. One of these was that of a girl who looked straight out at
you from a filigree frame; there was hardly a corner of the room where you
could have stood without her clear, serious eyes seeming to rest upon
yours.

"Cherchez la femme?" repeated Tom, puffing unconsciously. "Pickle was a
good fellow, but he had the deuce of an eye for a girl. Do you remember--"
He stopped short, and saw the man and the photograph looking at each
other. Too late, he unhappily remembered that he had meant, and forgotten,
to take that photograph out of the room before he brought Harkless in. Now
he would have to leave it; and Helen Sherwood was not the sort of girl,
even in a flat presentment, to be continually thrown in the face of a man
who had lost her. And it always went hard, Tom reflected, with men who
stretched vain hands to Helen, only to lose her. But there was one, he
thought, whose outstretched hands might not prove so vain. Why couldn't
she have cared for John Harkless? Deuce take the girl, did she want to
marry an emperor? He looked at Harkless, and pitied him with an almost
tearful compassion. A feverish color dwelt in the convalescent's cheek;
the apathy that had dulled his eyes was there no longer; instead, they
burned with a steady fire. The image returned his unwavering gaze with
inscrutable kindness.

"You heard that Pickle shot himself, didn't you?" Meredith asked. There
was no answer; John did not hear him.

"Do you know that poor Jeny Haines killed himself, last March?" Tom said
sharply.

There was only silence in the room. Meredith got up and rattled some tongs
in the empty fireplace, but the other did not move or notice him in any
way.

Meredith set the tongs down, and went quietly out of the room, leaving his
friend to that mysterious interview.

When he came back, after a remorseful cigarette in the yard, Harkless was
still sitting, motionless, looking up at the photograph above the mantel-
piece.



They drove abroad every day, at first in the victoria, and, as Harkless's
strength began to come back, in a knock-about cart of Tom's, a light trail
of blue smoke floating back wherever the two friends passed.  And though
the country editor grew stronger in the pleasant, open city, Meredith felt
that his apathy and listlessness only deepened, and he suspected that, in
Harkless's own room, where the photograph reigned, the languor departed
for the time, making way for a destructive fire. Judge Briscoe, paying a
second visit to Rouen, told Tom, in an aside, that their friend did not
seem to be the same man. He was altered and aged beyond belief, the old
gentleman whispered sadly.

Meredith decided that his guest needed enlivening--something to take him
out of himself; he must be stirred up to rub against people once more. And
therefore, one night he made a little company for him: two or three
apparently betrothed very young couples, for whom it was rather dull,
after they had looked their fill of Harkless (it appeared that every one
was curious to see him); and three or four married young couples, for whom
the entertainment seemed rather diverting in an absent-minded way (they
had the air of remembering that they had forgotten the baby); and three or
four bachelors, who seemed contented in any place where they were allowed
to smoke; and one widower, whose manner indicated that any occasion
whatever was gay enough for him; and four or five young women, who
(Meredith explained to John) were of their host's age, and had been "left
over" out of the set he grew up with; and for these the modest party took
on a hilarious and chipper character. "It is these girls that have let the
men go by because they didn't see any good enough; they're the jolly
souls!" the one widower remarked, confidentially. "They've been at it a
long while, and they know how, and they're light-hearted as robins. They
have more fun than people who have responsibilities."

All of these lively demoiselles fluttered about Harkless with
commiserative pleasantries, and, in spite of his protestations, made him
recline in the biggest and deepest chair on the porch, where they
surfeited him with kindness and grouped about him with extra cushions and
tenderness for a man who had been injured. No one mentioned the fact that
he had been hurt; it was not spoken of, though they wished mightily he
would tell them the story they had read luridly in the public prints. They
were very good to him. One of them, in particular, a handsome, dark, kind-
eyed girl, constituted herself at once his cicerone in Rouen gossip and
his waiting-maid. She sat by him, and saw that his needs (and his not-
needs, too) were supplied and oversupplied; she could not let him move,
and anticipated his least wish, though he was now amply able to help
himself; and she fanned him as if he were a dying consumptive.

They sat on Meredith's big porch in the late twilight and ate a
substantial refection, and when this was finished, a buzz of nonsense rose
from all quarters, except the remote corners where the youthful affianced
ones had defensively stationed themselves behind a rampart of plants.
They, having eaten, had naught to do, and were only waiting a decent hour
for departure. Laughing voices passed up and down the street, and mingled
with the rhythmic plashing of Meredith's fountain, and, beyond the
shrubberies and fence, one caught glimpses of the light dresses of women
moving to and fro, and of people sitting bareheaded on neighboring lawns
to enjoy the twilight. Now and then would pass, with pipe and dog, the
beflanneled figure of an undergraduate, home for vacation, or a trio of
youths in knickerbockers, or a band of young girls, or both trio and band
together; and from a cross street, near by, came the calls and laughter of
romping children and the pulsating whirr of a lawn-mower: This sound
Harkless remarked as a ceaseless accompaniment to life in Rouen; even in
the middle of the night there was always some unfortunate, cutting grass.

When the daylight was all gone, and the stars had crept out, strolling
negroes patrolled the sidewalks, thrumming mandolins and guitars, and
others came and went, singing, making the night Venetian. The untrained,
joyous voices, chording eerily in their sweet, racial minors, came on the
air, sometimes from far away. But there swung out a chorus from fresh,
Aryan throats, in the house south of Meredith's:

        'Where, oh where, are the grave old Seniors?
         Safe, now, in the wide, wide world!"

"Doesn't that thrill you, boy?" said Meredith, joining the group about
Harkless's chair. "Those fellows are Sophomores, class of heaven knows
what. _Aren't_ you feeling a fossil. Father Abraham?"

A banjo chattered on the lawn to the north, and soon a mixed chorus of
girls and boys sang from there:

       "O, 'Arriet, I'm waiting, waiting alone out 'ere."

Then a piano across the street sounded the dearthful harmonies of Chopin's
Funeral March.

"You may take your choice," remarked Meredith, flicking a spark over the
rail in the ash of his cigar, "Chopping or Chevalier."

"Chopin, my friend," said the lady who had attached herself to Harkless.
She tapped Tom's shoulder with her fan and smiled, graciously corrective.

"Thank you, Miss Hinsdale," he answered, gratefully. "And as I, perhaps,
had better say, since otherwise there might be a pause and I am the host,
we have a wide selection. In addition to what is provided at present, I
predict that within the next ten minutes a talented girl who lives two
doors south will favor us with the Pilgrims' Chorus, piano arrangement,
break down in the middle, and drift, into 'Rastus on Parade,' while a
double quartette of middle-aged colored gentlemen under our Jim will make
choral offering in our own back yard."

"My dear Tom," exclaimed Miss Hinsdale, "you forget Wetherford Swift!"

"I could stand it all," put forth the widower, "if it were not for
Wetherford Swift."

"When is Miss Sherwood coming home?" asked one of the ladies. "Why does
she stay away and leave him to his sufferings?"

"Us to his sufferings," substituted a bachelor. "He is just beginning;
listen."

Through all the other sounds of music, there penetrated from an unseen
source, a sawish, scraped, vibration of catgut, pathetic, insistent,
painstaking, and painful beyond belief.

"He is in a terrible way to-night," said the widower.

Miss Hinsdale laughed.  "Worse every night. The violinist is young
Wetherford Swift," she explained to Harkless. "He is very much in love,
and it doesn't agree with him. He used to be such a pleasant boy, but last
winter he went quite mad over Helen Sherwood, Mr. Meredith's cousin, our
beauty, you know--I am so sorry she isn't here; you'd be interested in
meeting her, I'm sure--and he took up the violin."

"It is said that his family took up chloroform at the same time," said the
widower.

"His music is a barometer," continued the lady, "and by it the
neighborhood nightly observes whether Miss Sherwood has been nice to him
or not."

"It is always exceedingly plaintive," explained another.

"Except once," rejoined Miss Hinsdale. "He played jigs when she came home
from somewhere or other, in June."

"It was Tosti's 'Let Me Die,' the very next evening," remarked the
widower.

"Ah," said one of the bachelors, "but his joy was sadder for us than his
misery. Hear him now."

"I think he means it for 'What's this dull town to me,'" observed another,
with some rancor. "I would willingly make the town sufficiently exciting
for him--"

"If there were not an ordinance against the hurling of missiles," finished
the widower.

The piano executing the funeral march ceased to execute, discomfited by
the persistent and overpowering violin; the banjo and the coster-songs
were given over; even the collegians' music was defeated; and the
neighborhood was forced to listen to the dauntless fiddle, but not without
protest, for there came an indignant, spoken chorus from the quarter
whence the college songs had issued: "Ya-a-ay! Wetherford, put it away!
_She'll_ come back!" The violin played on.

"We all know each other here, you see, Mr. Harkless," Miss Hinsdale smiled
benignantly.

"They didn't bother Mr. Wetherford Swift," said the widower. "Not that
time. Do you hear him?--'Could ye come back to me, Douglas'?"

"Oh, but it isn't absence that is killing him and his friends," cried one
of the young women. "It is Brainard Macauley."

"That is a mistake," said Tom Meredith, as easily as he could.  "There
goes Jim's double quartette. Listen, and you will hear them try to----"

But the lady who had mentioned Brainard Macauley cried indignantly: "You
try to change the subject the moment it threatens to be interesting. They
were together everywhere until the day she went away; they danced and 'sat
out' together through the whole of one country-club party; they drove
every afternoon; they took long walks, and he was at the Sherwoods' every
evening of her last week in town. 'That is a mistake!'"

"I'm afraid it looks rather bleak for Wetherford," said the widower. "I
went up to the 'Journal' office on business, one day, and there sat Miss
Sherwood in Macauley's inner temple, chatting with a reporter, while
Brainard finished some work."

"Helen is eccentric," said the former speaker, "but she's not quite that
eccentric, unless they were engaged.  It is well understood that they will
announce it in the fall."

Miss Hinsdale kindly explained to Harkless that Brainard Macauley was the
editor of the "Rouen Morning Journal"--"a very distinguished young man,
not over twenty-eight, and perfectly wonderful." Already a power to be
accounted with in national politics, he was "really a tremendous success,"
and sure to go far; "one of those delicate-looking men, who are yet so
strong you know they won't let the lightning hurt you." It really looked
as if Helen Sherwood (whom Harkless really ought to meet) had actually
been caught in the toils at tet, those toils wherein so many luckless
youths had lain enmeshed for her sake. He must meet Mr. Macauley, too, the
most interesting man in Rouen. After her little portrait of him, didn't
Mr. Harkless agree that it looked really pretty dull for Miss Sherwood's
other lovers?

Mr. Harkless smiled, and agreed that it did indeed. She felt a thrill of
compassion for him, and her subsequent description of the pathos of his
smile was luminous. She said it was natural that a man who had been
through so much suffering from those horrible "White-Cappers" should have
a smile that struck into your heart like a knife.

Despite all that Meredith could do, and after his notorious effort to
shift the subject he could do very little, the light prattle ran on about
Helen Sherwood and Brainard Macauley. Tom abused himself for his wild
notion of cheering his visitor with these people who had no talk, and who,
if they drifted out of commonplace froth, had no medium to float them
unless they sailed the currents, of local personality, and he mentally
upbraided them for a set of gossiping ninnies. They conducted a
conversation (if it could be dignified by a name) of which no stranger
could possibly partake, and which, by a hideous coincidence, was making
his friend writhe, figuratively speaking, for Harkless sat like a fixed
shadow. He uttered scarcely a word the whole evening, though Meredith knew
that his guests would talk about him enthusiastically, the next day, none
the less. The journalist's silence was enforced by the topics; but what
expression and manner the light allowed them to see was friendly and
receptive, as though he listened to brilliant suggestions. He had a nice
courtesy, and Miss Hinsdale felt continually that she was cleverer than
usual this evening, and no one took his silence to be churlish, though
they all innocently wondered why he did not talk more; however, it was
probable that a man who had been so interestingly and terribly shot would
be rather silent for a time afterward.

That night, when Harkless had gone to bed Meredith sat late by his own
window calling himself names. He became aware of a rhomboidal patch of
yellow light on a wall of foliage without, and saw that it came from his
friend's window. After dubious consideration, he knocked softly on the
door.

"Come."

He went in. Harkless was in bed, and laughed faintly as Meredith entered.
"I--I'm fearing you'll have to let me settle your gas bill, Tom. I'm not
like I used to be, quite. I find--since--since that business, I can't
sleep without a light. I rather get the--the horrors in the dark."

Incoherently, Meredith made a compassionate exclamation and turned to go,
and, as he left the room, his eye fell upon the mantel-piece. The position
of the photographs had been altered, and the picture of the girl who
looked straight out at you was gone. The mere rim of it was visible behind
the image of an old gentleman with a sardonic mouth.

An hour later, Tom came back, and spoke through the closed door. "Boy,
don't you think you can get to sleep now?"

"Yes, Tom. It's all right. You get to bed. Nothing troubles me."

Meredith spent the next day in great tribulation and perplexity; he felt
that something had to be done, but what to do he did not know. He still
believed that a "stirring-up" was what Harkless needed--not the species of
"stirring-up" that had taken place last night, but a diversion which would
divert. As they sat at dinner, a suggestion came to him and he determined
to follow it. He was called to the telephone, and a voice strange to his
ear murmured in a tone of polite deference: "A lady wishes to know if Mr.
Meredith and his visitor intend being present at the country-club this
evening."

He had received the same inquiry from Miss Hinsdale on her departure the
previous evening, and had answered vaguely; hence he now rejoined:

"You are quite an expert ventriloquist, but you do not deceive me."

"I beg your pardon, sir," creaked the small articulation.

"This is Miss Hinsdale, isn't it?"

"No, sir. The lady wishes to know if you will kindly answer her question."

"Tell her, yes." He hung up the receiver, and returned to the table. "Some
of Clara Hinsdale's play," he explained. "You made a devastating
impression on her, boy; you were wise enough not to talk any, and she
foolishly thought you were as interesting as you looked. We're going out
to a country-club dance. It's given for the devotees who stay here all
summer and swear Rouen is always cool; and nobody dances but me and the
very young ones. It won't be so bad; you can smoke anywhere, and there are
little tables. We'll go."

"Thank you, Tom, you're so good to think of it, but----"

"But what?"

"Would you mind going alone? I find it very pleasant sitting on your
veranda, or I'll get a book."

"Very well, if you don't want to go, I don't. I haven't had a dance for
three months and I'm still addicted to it. But of course----"

"I think I'd like to go." Harkless acquiesced at once, with a cheerful
voice and a lifeless eye, and the good Tom felt unaccountably mean in
persisting.

They drove out into the country through mists like lakes, and found
themselves part of a procession of twinkling carriage-lights, and cigar
sparks shining above open vehicles, winding along the levels like a canoe
fete on the water. In the entrance hall of the club-house they encountered
Miss Hinsdale, very handsome, large, and dark, elaborately beaming and
bending toward them warmly.

"Who do you think is here?" she said.

"Gomez?" ventured Meredith.

"Helen Sherwood!" she cried. "Go and present Mr. Harkless before Brainard
Macauley takes her away to some corner."




CHAPTER XVI


PRETTY MARQUISE

The two friends walked through a sort of opera-bouffe to find her; music
playing, a swaying crowd, bright lights, bright eyes, pretty women, a
glimpse of dancers footing it over a polished floor in a room beyond--a
hundred colors flashing and changing, as the groups shifted, before the
eye could take in the composition of the picture. A sudden thrill of
exhilaration rioted in John's pulses, and he trembled like a child before
the gay disclosure of a Christmas tree. Meredith swore to himself that he
would not have known him for the man of five minutes agone. Two small,
bright red spots glowed in his cheeks; he held himself erect with head
thrown back and shoulders squared, and the idolizing Tom thought he looked
as a king ought to look at the acme of power and dominion. Miss Hinsdale's
word in the hallway was the geniuses touch: a bent, gray man of years--a
word--and behold the Great John Harkless, the youth of elder days ripened
to his prime of wisdom and strength! People made way for them and
whispered as they passed. It had been years since John Harkless had been
in the midst of a crowd of butterfly people; everything seemed unreal, or
like a ball in a play; presently the curtain would fall and close the
lights and laughter from his view, leaving only the echo of music. It was
like a kaleidoscope for color: the bouquets of crimson or white or pink or
purple; the profusion of pretty dresses, the brilliant, tender fabrics,
and the handsome, foreshortened faces thrown back over white shoulders in
laughter; glossy raven hair and fair tresses moving in quick salutations;
and the whole gay shimmer of festal tints and rich artificialities set off
against the brave green of out-doors, for the walls were solidly adorned
with forest branches, with, here and there amongst them, a blood-red droop
of beech leaves, stabbed in autumn's first skirmish with summer. The night
was cool, and the air full of flower smells, while harp, violin, and
'cello sent a waltz-throb through it all.

They looked rapidly through several rooms and failed to find her indoors,
and they went outside, not exchanging a word, and though Harkless was a
little lame, Tom barely kept up with his long stride. On the verandas
there were fairy lamps and colored incandescents over little tables, where
people sat chatting. She was not there. Beyond was a terrace, where a
myriad of Oriental lanterns outlined themselves clearly in fantastically
shaped planes of scarlet and orange and green against the blue darkness.
Many couples and groups were scattered over the terrace, and the young men
paused on the steps, looking swiftly from group to group. She was not
there.

"We haven't looked in the dancing-room," said Tom, looking at his
companion rather sorrowfully. John turned quickly and they reentered the
house.

He had parted from her in the blackness of storm with only the flicker of
lightning to show her to him, but it was in a blaze of lights that he saw
her again. The dance was just ended, and she stood in a wide doorway, half
surrounded by pretty girls and young men, who were greeting her. He had
one full look at her. She was leaning to them all, her arms full of
flowers, and she seemed the radiant centre of all the light and gaiety of
the place. Even Meredith stopped short and exclaimed upon her; for one
never got used to her; and he remembered that whenever he saw her after
absence the sense of her beauty rushed over him anew. And he believed the
feeling on this occasion was keener than ever before, for she was prettier
than he had ever seen her.

"No wonder!" he cried; but Harkless did not understand. As they pressed
forward, Meredith perceived that they were only two more radii of a circle
of youths, sprung from every direction as the waltz ended, bearing down
upon the common focus to secure the next dance. Harkless saw nothing but
that she stood there before him. He feared a little that every one might
notice how he was trembling, and he was glad of the many voices that kept
them from hearing his heart knock against his ribs. She saw him coming
toward her, and nodded to him pleasantly, in just the fashion in which she
was bowing to half a dozen others, and at that a pang of hot pain went
through him like an arrow--an arrow poisoned with cordial, casual
friendliness.

She extended her hand to him and gave him a smile that chilled him--it,
was so conventionally courteous and poised so nicely in the manner of
society. He went hot and cold fast enough then, for not less pleasantly in
that manner did she exclaim: "I am very glad to see you, Mr. Harkless, so
extremely glad! And so delighted to find you looking strong again! Do tell
me about all our friends in Plattville. I should like to have a little
chat with you some time. So good of you to find me in this melee."

And with that she turned from the poor fellow to Meredith. "How do you do.
Cousin Tom? I've saved the next dance for you." Then she distributed words
here and there and everywhere, amongst the circle about her--pretty
Marquise with a vengeance! "No, Mr. Swift, I shall not make a card; you
must come at the beginning of a dance if you want one. I cannot promise
the next; it is quite impossible. No, I did not go as far north as
Mackinac. How do you do, Mr. Burlingame?--Yes, quite an age;--no, not the
next, I am afraid; nor the next;--I'm not keeping a card. Good evening,
Mr. Baird. No, not the next. Oh, _thank_ you, Miss Hinsdale!--No, Mr.
Swift, it is quite impossible--I'm so sorry. Cousin, the music is
commencing; this is ours."

As she took Meredith's arm, she handed her flowers to a gentleman beside
her with the slightest glance at the recipient; and the gesture and look
made her partner heartsick for his friend; it was so easy and natural and
with the air of habit, and had so much of the manner with which a woman
hands things to a man who partakes of her inner confidences.  Tom knew
that Harkless divined the gesture, as well as the identity of the
gentleman. They started away, but she paused, and turned to the latter.
"Mr. Macauley, you must meet Mr. Harkless. We leave him in your care, and
you must see that he meets all the pretty girls--you are used to being
nice to distinguished strangers, you know."

Tom put his arm about her, and whirled her away, and Harkless felt as if a
soft hand had dealt him blow after blow in the face. Was this lady of
little baffling forms and small cold graces the girl who had been his kind
comrade, the girl who stood with him by the blue tent-pole, she who had
run to him to save his life, she who walked at his side along the pike?
The contrast of these homely scenes made him laugh grimly. Was this she
who had wept before him--was it she who had been redolent of kindness so
fragrantly natural and true--was it she who said she "loved all these
people very much, in spite of having known them only two days"?

He cried out upon himself for a fool. What was he in her eyes but a man
who had needed to be told that she did not love him! Had he not better--
and more courteously to her--have avoided the meeting which was
necessarily an embarrassment to her? But no; he must rush like a Mohawk
till he found her and forced her to rebuff him, to veil her kindness in
little manners, to remind him that he put himself in the character of a
rejected importunate. She had punished him enough, perhaps a little too
cruelly enough, in leaving him with the man to whom she handed bouquets as
a matter of course. And this man was one whose success had long been a
trumpet at his ear, blaring loudly of his own failure in the same career.

It had been several years since he first heard of the young editor of the
Rouen "Journal," and nowadays almost everybody knew about Brainard
Macauley. Outwardly, he was of no unusual type: an American of affairs;
slight, easy, yet alert; relaxed, yet sharp; neat, regular, strong; a
quizzical eye, a business chin, an ambitious head with soft, straight hair
outlining a square brow; and though he was "of a type," he was not
commonplace, and one knew at once that he would make a rattling fight to
arrive where he was going.

It appeared that he had heard of Harkless, as well as the Carlow editor of
him. They had a few moments of shop, and he talked to Harkless as a
brother craftsman, without the offense of graciousness, and spoke of his
pleasure in the meeting and of his relief at Harkless's recovery, for,
aside from the mere human feeling, the party needed him in Carlow--even if
he did not always prove himself "quite a vehement partisan." Macauley
laughed. "But I'm not doing my duty," he said presently; "I was to present
you to the pretty ones only, I believe. Will you designate your preferred
fashion of beauty? We serve all styles."

"Thank you," the other answered, hurriedly. "I met a number last night--
quite a number, indeed." He had seen them only in dim lights, however, and
except Miss Hinsdale and the widower, had not the faintest recognition of
any of them, and he cut them all, except those two, one after the other,
before the evening was over; and this was a strange thing for a politician
to do; but he did it with such an innocent eye that they remembered the
dark porch and forgave him.

"Shall we watch the dancing, then?" asked Macauley. Harkless was already
watching part of it.

"If you will. I have not seen this sort for more than five years."

"It is always a treat, I think, and a constant proof that the older school
of English caricaturists didn't overdraw."

"Yes; one realizes they couldn't."

Harkless remembered Tom Meredith's fine accomplishment of dancing; he had
been the most famous dancer of college days, and it was in the dancer that
John best saw his old friend again as he had known him, the light lad of
the active toe. Other couples flickered about the one John watched,
couples that plodded, couples that bobbed, couples that galloped, couples
that slid, but the cousins alone passed across the glistening reflections
as lightly as October leaves blown over the forest floor. In the midst of
people who danced with fixed, glassy eyes, or who frowned with
determination to do their duty or to die, and seemed to expect the latter,
or who were pale with the apprehension of collision, or who made visible
their anxiety to breathe through the nose and look pleased at the same
time, these two floated and smiled easily upon life. Three or four steep
steps made the portly and cigarette-smoking Meredith pant like an old man,
but a dance was a cooling draught to him. As for the little Marquise--when
she danced, she danced away with all those luckless hearts that were not
hers already. The orchestra launched the jubilant measures of the deux-
temps with a torrent of vivacity, and the girl's rhythmic flight answered
like a sail taking the breeze.

There was one heart she had long since won which answered her every
movement. Flushed, rapturous, eyes sparkling, cheeks aglow, the small head
weaving through the throng like a golden shuttle--ah, did she know how
adorable she was! Was Tom right: is it the attainable unattainable to one
man and given to some other that leaves a deeper mark upon him than
success? At all events the unattainable was now like a hot sting in the
heart, but yet a sting more precious than a balm. The voice of Brainard
Macauley broke in:

"A white brow and a long lash, a flushing cheek and a soft eye, a voice
that laughs and breaks and ripples in the middle of a word, a girl you
could put in your hat, Mr. Harkless--and there you have a strong man
prone! But I congratulate you on the manner your subordinates operate the
'Herald' during your absence. I understand you are making it a daily."

Macauley was staring at him quizzically, and Harkless, puzzled, but
without resentment of the other's whimsey, could only decide that the
editor of the Rouen "Journal" was an exceedingly odd young man. All at
once he found Meredith and the girl herself beside him; they had stopped
before the dance was finished. He had the impulse to guard himself from
new blows as a boy throws up his elbow to ward a buffet, and, although he
could not ward with his elbow, for his heart was on his sleeve--where he
began to believe that Macauley had seen it--he remembered that he could
smile with as much intentional mechanism as any wornout rounder of
afternoons. He stepped aside for her, and she saw what she had known but
had not seen before, for the thickness of the crowd, and this was that he
limped and leaned upon his stick.

"Do let me thank you," he said, with a louder echo of her manner of
greeting him, a little earlier. "It has been such a pleasure to watch you
dance. It is really charming to meet you here. If I return to Plattville I
shall surely remember to tell Miss Briscoe."

At this she surprised him with a sudden, clear look in the eyes, so
reproachful, so deep, so sad, that he started. She took her flowers from
Macauley, who had the air of understanding the significance of such
ceremonies very well, and saying, "Shan't we all go out on the terrace?"
placed her arm in Harkless's, and conducted him (and not the others) to
the most secluded corner of the terrace, a nook illumined by one Japanese
lantern; to which spot it was his belief that he led her. She sank into a
chair, with the look of the girl who had stood by the blue tent-pole. He
could only stare at her, amazed by her abrupt change to this dazzling, if
reproachful, kindness, confused by his good fortune.

"'_If_ you go back to Plattville!'" she said in a low voice. "What do you
mean?"

"I don't know. I've been dull lately, and I thought I might go somewhere
else." Caught in a witchery no lack of possession could dispel, and which
the prospect of loss made only stronger while it lasted, he took little
thought of what he said; little thought of anything but of the gladness it
was to be with her again.

"'Somewhere else?' Where?"

"Anywhere."

"Have you no sense of responsibility? What is to become of your paper?"

"The 'Herald'? Oh, it will potter along, I think."

"But what has become of it in your absence, already? Has it not
deteriorated very much?"

"No," he said; "it's better than it ever was before."

"What!" she cried, with a little gasp.

"You're so astounded at my modesty?"

"But please tell me what you mean," she said quickly. "What happened to
it?"

"Isn't the 'Herald' rather a dull subject? I'll tell you how well Judge
Briscoe looked when he came to see me; or, rather, tell me of your summer
in the north."

"No," she answered earnestly. "Don't you remember my telling you that I am
interested in newspaper work?"

"I have even heard so from others," he said, with an instant of dryness.

"Please tell me about the 'Herald'?"

"It is very simple. Your friend, Mr. Fisbee, found a substitute, a
relative six feet high with his coat off, a traction engine for energy and
a limited mail for speed. He writes me letters on a type writer suffering
from an impediment in its speech; and in brief, he is an enterprising
idiot with a mania for work-baskets."

Her face was in the shadow.

"You say the--idiot--is enterprising?" she inquired.

"Far more enterprising and far less idiot than I. They are looking for oil
down there, and when he came he knew less about oil than a kindergarten
babe, and spoke of 'boring for kerosene' in his first letter to me; but he
knows it all now, and writes long and convincing geological arguments. If
a well comes in, he is prepared to get out an extra! Perhaps you may
understand what that means in Plattville, with the 'Herald's' numerous
forces. I owe him everything, even the shares in the oil company, which he
has persuaded me to take. And he is going to dare to make the 'Herald' a
daily. Do you remember asking me why I had never done that? It seemed
rather a venture to try to compete with the Rouen papers in offering State
and foreign news, but this young Gulliver has tacked onto the Associated
Press, and means to print a quarto--that's eight pages, you know--once a
week, Saturday, and a double sheet, four pages, on other mornings. The
daily venture begins next Monday."

"Will it succeed?"

"Oh, no!" he laughed.

"You think not?" Her interest in this dull business struck him as
astonishing, and yet in character with her as he had known her in
Plattville. Then he wondered unhappily if she thought that talking of the
"Herald" and learning things about the working of a country newspaper
would help her to understand Brainard Macauley.

"Why have you let him go on with it?" she asked. "I suppose you have
encouraged him?"

"Oh, yes, I encouraged him. The creature's recklessness fascinated me. A
dare-devil like that is always charming.'"

"You think there is no chance for the creature's succeeding with the
daily?"

"None," he replied indifferently.

"You mentioned work-baskets, I think?"

He laughed again.  "I believe him to be the original wooden-nutmeg man.
Once a week he produces a 'Woman's Page,' wherein he presents to the
Carlow female public three methods for making currant jelly, three
receipts for the concoction of salads, and directs the ladies how to
manufacture a pretty work-basket out of odd scraps in twenty minutes. The
astonishing part of it is that he has not yet been mobbed by the women who
have followed his directions."

"So you think the daily is a mistake and that your enterprising idiot
should be mobbed? Why?" She seemed to be taking him very seriously.

"I think he may be--for his 'Woman's Page.'"

"It is all wrong, you think?"

"What could a Yankee six-footer cousin of old Fisbee's know about currant
jelly and work-baskets?"

"You know about currant jelly and work-baskets yourself?"

"Heaven defend the right, I do not!"

"You are sure he is six feet?"

"You should see his signature; that leaves no doubt. And, also, his
ability denotes his stature."

"You believe that ability is in proportion to height, do you not?" There
was a dangerous luring in her tone.

His memory recalled to him that he was treading on undermined ground, so
he hastened to say: "In inverse proportion."

"Then your substitute is a failure.   I see," she said, slowly.

What muffled illumination there was in their nook fell upon his face; her
back was toward it, so that she was only an outline to him, and he would
have been startled and touched to the quick, could he have known that her
lip quivered and her eyes filled with tears as she spoke the last words.
He was happy as he had not been since his short June day; it was enough to
be with her again. Nothing, not even Brainard Macauley, could dull his
delight. And, besides, for a few minutes he had forgotten Brainard
Macauley. What more could man ask than to sit in the gloom with her, to
know that he was near her again for a little while, and to talk about
anything--if he talked at all? Nonsense and idle exaggeration about young
Fisbee would do as well as another thing.

"The young gentleman is an exception," he returned. "I told you I owed
everything to him; my gratitude will not allow me to admit that his
ability is less than his stature. He suggested my purchase of a quantity
of Mr. Watts's oil stock when it was knocked flat on its back by two wells
turning out dry; but if Mr. Watts's third well comes in, and young Fisbee
has convinced me that it will, and if my Midas's extra booms the stock and
the boom develops, I shall oppose the income tax. Poor old Plattville will
be full of strangers and speculators, and the 'Herald' will advocate vast
improvements to impress the investor's eye. Stagnation and picturesqueness
will flee together; it is the history of the Indiana town. Already the
'Herald' is clamoring with Schofields' Henry--you remember the bell-
ringer?--for Main Street to be asphalted. It will all come. The only
trouble with young Fisbee is that he has too much ability."

"And yet the daily will not succeed?"

"No. That's too big a jump, unless my young man's expressions on the
tariff command a wide sale amongst curio-hunters."

"Then he is quite a fool about political matters?"

"Far from it; he is highly ingenious. His editorials are often the
subtlest cups of flattery I ever sipped, many of them showing assiduous
study of old files to master the method and notions of his eagle-eyed
predecessor. But the tariff seems to have got him. He is a very masculine
person, except for this one feminine quality, for, if I may say it without
ungallantry, there is a legend that no woman has ever understood the
tariff. Young Fisbee must be an extremely travelled person, because the
custom-house people have made an impression upon him which no few
encounters with them could explain, and he conceives the tariff to be a
law which discommodes a lady who has been purchasing gloves in Paris. He
thinks smuggling the great evil of the present tariff system; it is such a
temptation, so insidious a break-down of moral fibre. His views must edify
Carlow."

She gave a quick, stifled cry. "Oh! there isn't a word of truth in what
you say! Not a word! I did not think you could be so cruel!"

He bent forward, peering at her in astonishment.

"Cruel!"

"You know it is a hateful distortion--an exaggeration!" she exclaimed
passionately. "No man living could have so little sense as you say he has.
The tariff is perfectly plain to any child. When you were in Plattville
you weren't like this--I didn't know you were unkind!"

"I--I don't understand, please----"

"Miss Hinsdale has been talking--raving--to me about you! You may not know
it--though I suppose you do--but you made a conquest last night. It seems
a little hard on the poor young man who is at work for you in Plattville,
doing his best for you, plodding on through the hot days, and doing all he
knows how, while you sit listening to music in the evenings with Clara
Hinsdale, and make a mock of his work and his trying to please you----"

"But I didn't mention him to Miss Hinsdale. In fact, I didn't mention
_anything_ to Miss Hinsdale. What have I done? The young man is making his
living by his work--and my living, too, for that matter. It only seems to
me that his tariff editorials are rather humorous."

She laughed suddenly--ringingly. "Of course they are! How should I know?
Immensely humorous! And the good creature knows nothing beyond smuggling
and the custom-house and chalk marks? Why, even _I_--ha, ha, ha!--even
_I_--should have known better than that. What a little fool your
enterprising idiot must be!--with his work-baskets and currant jelly and
his trying to make the 'Herald' a daily!--It will be a ludicrous failure,
of course. No doubt he thought he was being quite wise, and was pleased
over his tariff editorials--his funny, funny editorials--his best--to
please you! Ha, ha, ha! How immensely funny!"

"Do you know him?" he asked abruptly.

"I have not the honor of the gentleman's acquaintance. Ah," she rejoined
bitterly, "I see what you mean; it is the old accusation, is it? I am a
woman, and I 'sound the personal note.' I could not resent a cruelty for
the sake of a man I do not know. But let it go. My resentment is personal,
after all, since it is against a man I do know--_you_!"

He leaned toward her because he could not help it. "I'd rather have
resentment from you than nothing."

"Then I will give you nothing," she answered quickly.

"You flout me!" he cried. "That is better than resentment."

"I hate you most, I think," she said with a tremulousness he did not
perceive, "when you say you do not care to go back to Plattville."

"Did I say it?"

"It is in every word, and it is true; you don't care to go back there."

"Yes, it is true; I don't."

"You want to leave the place where you do good; to leave those people who
love you, who were ready to die to avenge your hurt!" she exclaimed
vehemently. "Oh, I say that is shameful!"

"Yes, I know," he returned gravely. "I am ashamed."

"Don't say that!" she cried. "Don't say you are ashamed of it. Do you
suppose I do not understand the dreariness it has been for you? Don't you
know that I see it is a horror to you, that it brings back your struggle
with those beasts in the dark, and revivifies all your suffering, merely
to think of  it?" Her turns and sudden contradictions left him tangled in
a maze; he could not follow, but must sit helpless to keep pace with her,
while the sheer happiness of being with her tingled through his veins. She
rose and took a step aside, then spoke again: "Well, since you want to
leave Carlow, you shall; since you do not wish to return, you need not.--
Are you laughing at me?" She leaned toward him, and looked at him
steadily, with her face close to his. He was not laughing; his eyes shone
with a deep fire; in that nearness he hardly comprehended what she said.
"Thank you for not laughing," she whispered, and leaned back from him. "I
suppose you think my promises are quite wild, and they are. I do not know
what I was talking about, or what I meant, any better than you do. You may
understand some day. It is all--I mean that it hurts one to hear you say
you do not care for Carlow." She turned away. "Come."

"Where?"

"It is my turn to conclude the interview. You remember, the last time it
was you who--" She broke off, shuddering, and covered her face with her
hands. "Ah, that!" she exclaimed. "I did not think--I did not mean to
speak of that miserable, miserable night. And _I_ to be harsh with you for
not caring to go back to Carlow!"

"Your harshness," he laughed. "A waft of eider."

"We must go," she said. He did not move, but sat staring at her like a
thirsty man drinking.  With an impulsive and pretty gesture she reached
out her hand to him. Her little, white glove trembled in the night before
his eyes, and his heart leaped to meet its sudden sweet generosity; his
thin fingers closed over it as he rose, and then that hand he had likened
to a white butterfly lay warm and light and quiet in his own. And as they
had so often stood together in their short day and their two nights of the
moon, so now again they stood with a serenading silence between them. A
plaintive waltz-refrain from the house ran through the blue woof of
starlit air as a sad-colored thread through the tapestry of night; they
heard the mellow croon of the 'cello and the silver plaints of violins,
the chiming harp, and the triangle bells, all woven into a minor strain of
dance-music that beat gently upon their ears with such suggestion of the
past, that, as by some witchcraft of hearing, they listened to music made
for lovers dancing, and lovers listening, a hundred years ago.

"I care for only one thing in this world," he said, tremulously. "Have I
lost it? I didn't mean to ask you, that last night, although you answered.
Have I no chance? Is it still the same? Do I come too late?"

The butterfly fluttered in his hand and then away.

She drew back and looked at him a moment.

"There is one thing you must always understand," she said gently, "and
that is that a woman can be grateful. I give you all the gratitude there
is in me, and I think I have a great deal; it is all yours. Will you
always remember that?"

"Gratitude? What can there--"

"You do not understand now, but some day you will. I ask you to remember
that my every act and thought which bore reference to you--and there have
been many--came from the purest gratitude. Although you do not see it now,
will you promise to believe it?"

"Yes," he said simply.

"For the rest--" She paused. "For the rest--I do not love you."

He bowed his head and did not lift it.

"Do you understand?" she asked.

"I understand," he answered, quietly.

She looked at him long, and then, suddenly, her hand to her heart, gave a
little, pitying, tender cry and moved toward him. At this he raised his
head and smiled sadly. "No; don't you mind," he said. "It's all right. I
was such a cad the other time I needed to be told; I was so entirely silly
about it, I couldn't face the others to tell them good-night, and I left
you out there to go in to them alone. I didn't realize, for my manners
were all gone. I'd lived in a kind of stupor, I think, for a long time;
then being with you was like a dream, and the sudden waking was too much
for me. I've been ashamed often, since, in thinking of it--and I was well
punished for not taking you in. I thought only of myself, and I behaved
like a whining, unbalanced boy. But I had whined from the moment I met
you, because I was sickly with egoism and loneliness and self-pity. I'm
keeping you from the dancing. Won't you let me take you back to the
house?"

A commanding and querulous contralto voice was heard behind them, and a
dim, majestic figure appeared under the Japanese lantern.

"Helen?"

The girl turned quickly. "Yes, mamma."

"May I ask you to return to the club-house for supper with me? Your father
has been very much worried about you. We have all been looking for you."

"Mamma, this is Mr. Harkless."

"How do you do?" The lady murmured this much so far under her breath that
the words might have been mistaken for anything else--most plausibly,
perhaps, for, "Who cares if it is?"--nor further did she acknowledge
John's profound inclination. Frigidity and complaint of ill-usage made a
glamour in every fold of her expensive garments; she was large and
troubled and severe. A second figure emerged from behind her and bowed
with the suave dignity that belonged to Brainard Macauley. "Mr. Macauley
has asked to sit at our table," Mrs. Sherwood said to Helen. "May I beg
you to come at once? Your father is holding places for us."

"Certainly," she answered. "I will follow you with Mr. Harkless."

"I think Mr. Harkless will excuse you," said the elder lady. "He has an
engagement. Mr. Meredith has been looking everywhere for him to take Miss
Hinsdale out to supper."

"Good-night, Miss Sherwood," said John in a cheerful voice. "I thank you
for sitting out the dance with me."

"Good-night," she said, and gave him her hand. "I'm so sorry I shan't see
you again; I am only in Rouen for this evening, or I should ask you to
come to see me. I am leaving to-morrow morning. Good-night.--Yes, mamma."

The three figures went toward the bright lights of the club-house. She was
leaning on Macauley's arm and chatting gaily, smiling up at him brightly.
John watched her till she was lost in the throng on the veranda. There, in
the lights, where waiters were arranging little tables, every one was
talking and moving about, noisily, good-humored and happy. There was a
flourish of violins, and then the orchestra swung into a rampant march
that pranced like uncurbed cavalry; it stirred the blood of old men with
militant bugle calls and blast of horns; it might have heralded the
chariot of a flamboyant war god rioting out of sunrise, plumed with youth.
Some quite young men on the veranda made as if they were restive horses
champing at the bit and heading a procession, and, from a group near by,
loud laughter pealed.

John Harkless lifted to his face the hand that had held hers; there was
the faint perfume of her glove. He kissed his own hand. Then he put that
hand and the other to his forehead, and sank into her chair.

"Let me get back," he said. "Let me get back to Plattville, where I
belong."

Tom Meredith came calling him. "Harkless? John Harkless?"

"Here I am, Tom."

"Come along, boy. What on earth are you doing out here all alone? I
thought you were with--I thought some people were with you. You're bored
to death, I know; but come along and be bored some more, because I
promised to bring you in for supper. Then we'll go home. They've saved a
place for you by Miss Hinsdale."

"Very well, lad," answered Harkless, and put his hand on the other's
shoulder. "Thank you."

The next day he could not leave his bed; his wounds were feverish and his
weakness had returned. Meredith was shaken with remorse because he had let
him wander around in the damp night air with no one to look after him.




CHAPTER XVII


HELEN'S TOAST

Judge Briscoe was sitting out under the afternoon sky with his chair
tilted back and his feet propped against the steps. His coat was off, and
Minnie sat near at hand sewing a button on the garment for him, and she
wore that dreamy glaze that comes over women's eyes when they sew for
other people.

From the interior of the house rose and fell the murmur of a number of
voices engaged in a conversation, which, for a time, seemed to consist of
dejected monosyllables; but presently the judge and Minnie heard Helen's
voice, clear, soft, and trembling a little with excitement. She talked
only two or three minutes, but what she said stirred up a great commotion.
All the voices burst forth at once in ejaculations--almost shouts; but
presently they were again subdued and still, except for the single soft
one, which held forth more quietly, but with a deeper agitation, than any
of the others.

"You needn't try to bamboozle me," said the judge in a covert tone to his
daughter, and with a glance at the parlor window, whence now issued the
rumble of Warren Smith's basso. "I tell you that girl would follow John
Harkless to Jericho."

Minnie shook her head mysteriously, and bit a thread with a vague frown.

"Well, why not?" asked the judge crossly.

"Why wouldn't she have him, then?"

"Well, who knows he's asked her yet?"

Minnie screamed derisively at the density of man, "What made him run off
that way, the night he was hurt? Why didn't he come back in the house with
her?"

"Pshaw!"

"Don't you suppose a woman understands?"

"Meaning that you know more about it than I do, I presume," grunted the
old gentleman.

"Yes, father," she replied, smiling benignantly upon him.

"Did she tell you?" he asked abruptly.

"No, no. I guess the truth is that women don't know more than men so much
as they see more; they understand more without having to read about it."

"That's the way of it, is it?" he laughed. "Well, it don't make any
difference, she'll have him some time."

"No, father; it's only gratitude."

"Gratitude!" The judge snorted scornfully. "Girls don't do as much as
she's done for him out of gratitude. _Look_ what she's doing; not only
running the 'Herald' for him, but making it a daily, and a good daily at
that. First time I saw her I knew right away she was the smartest girl I
ever laid eyes on;--I expect she must have got it from her mother.
Gratitude! Pooh! Look how she's studied his interests, and watched like a
cat for chances for him in everything. Didn't she get him into Eph Watts's
company? She talked to Watts and the other fellows, day after day, and
drove around their leased land with 'em, and studied it up, and got on the
inside, and made him buy. Now, if they strike it--and she's sure they
will, and _I_'m sure she knows when to have faith in a thing--why, they'll
sell out to the Standard, and they can all quit work for the rest of their
lives if they want to; and Harkless gets as much as any without lifting a
finger, all because he had a little money--mighty little, too--laid up in
bank and a girl that saw where to put it. She did that for him, didn't
she?"

"Don't you see what fun it's been for her?" returned Minnie. "She's been
having the best time she ever had; I never knew any one half so happy."

"Yes; she went up and saw him at that party, and she knows he's still
thinking about her. I shouldn't be surprised if he asked her then, and
that's what makes her so gay."

"Well, she couldn't have said 'yes,' because he went back to his bed the
next day, and he's been there most of the time since."

"Pshaw! He wasn't over his injuries, and he was weak and got malaria."

"Well, she couldn't be so happy while he's sick, if she cared very much
about him."

"He's not very sick. She's happy because she's working for him, and she
knows his illness isn't serious. He'll be a well man when she says the
word. He's love-sick, that's what he is; I never saw a man so taken down
with it in my life."

"Then it isn't malaria?" Minnie said, with a smile of some superiority.

"You're just like your poor mother," the old gentleman answered, growing
rather red. "She never could learn to argue. What I say is that Helen
cares about him, whether she says she does or not, whether she acts like
it or not--or whether she thinks she does or not," he added irascibly. "Do
you know what she's doing for him to-day?"

"Not exactly."

"Well, when they were talking together at that party, he said something
that made her think he was anxious to get away from Plattville--you're not
to repeat this, child; she told me, relying on my discretion."

"Well?"

"Do you know why she's got these men to come here to-day to meet her--
Warren Smith and Landis and Homer, and Boswell and young Keating of Amo,
and Tom Martin and those two fellows from Gaines County?"

"Something about politics, isn't it?"

"'Something about politics!'" he echoed. "I should say it is! Wait till
it's done, and this evening I'll tell you--if you can keep a secret."

Minnie set her work-basket on the steps. "Oh, I guess I can keep a
secret," she said. "But it won't make any difference."

"You mean you've said it, and you'll stick to it that it's gratitude till
their wedding day."

"She knows he gave her father something to do, and helped him in other
ways, when no one else did."

"I know all about that. She reproaches herself for having neglected Fisbee
while a stranger took care of him, and saved him from starving--and worse.
She's unreasonable about it; she didn't know he was in want till long
after. That's just like Fisbee, to tell her, afterwards. He didn't tell
her how low he got; but he hinted at it to her, and I guess she
understood; I gathered that much from him. Of course she's grateful, but
gratefulness don't account for everything."

"Yes it does."

"Well, I never expected to have the last word with a woman."

"Well, you needn't," said Minnie.

"I don't. I never do," he retorted. She did not answer, but hummed a
little tune and looked up at the tree-tops.

Warren Smith appeared in the doorway. "Judge," he said, "will you step
inside? We need you."

Briscoe nodded and rose at once. As he reached the door, Minnie said in a
piercing whisper:

"It's hard to be sure about her, but I'm right; it's gratitude."

"There," he replied, chuckling, "I thought I shouldn't have the last
word." Minnie began to sing, and the judge, after standing in the doorway
till he was again summoned from within, slowly retired.



Briscoe had persisted in his own explanation of Helen's gaiety;
nevertheless he did not question his daughter's assumption that the young
lady was enjoying her career in Carlow. She was free as a bird to go and
come, and her duties and pleasures ran together in a happy excitement. Her
hands were full of work, but she sought and increased new tasks, and
performed them also. She came to Carlow as unused to the soil as was
Harkless on his arrival, and her educational equipment for the work was
far less than his; her experience, nothing. But both were native to the
State; and the genius of the American is adaptability, and both were
sprung from pioneers whose means of life depended on that quality.

There are, here and there, excrescent individuals who, through stock
decadence, or their inability to comprehend republican conditions, are not
assimilated by the body of the country; but many of these are imports,
while some are exports. Our foreign-born agitators now and then find
themselves removed by the police to institutions of routine, while the
romantic innocents who set up crests in the face of an unimpressionable
democracy are apt to be lured by their own curious ambitions, or those of
their women-folk, to spend a great part of their time in or about the
villas of Albion, thus paid for its perfidy; and, although the anarchists
and the bubble-hunters make a noise, it is enormously out of proportion to
their number, which is relatively very small, and neither the imported nor
the exported article can be taken as characteristic of our country. For
the American is one who soon fits any place, or into any shaped hole in
America, where you can set him down. It may be that without going so far
as to suggest the halls of the great and good and rich, one might mention
a number of houses of entertainment for man and beast in this country, in
which Mr. Martin of the Plattville Dry Goods Emporium would find himself
little at ease. But even in the extreme case, if Mr. Martin were given his
choice of being burned to death, or drowned, or of spending a month at the
most stupendously embellished tavern located in our possessions, and
supposing him to have chosen the third alternate, it is probable that he
would have grown almost accustomed to his surroundings before he died; and
if he survived the month, we may even fancy him really enjoying moments of
conversation with the night-clerks.

As Mr. Parker observed, Miss Sherwood did not do the Grand Duchess, giving
the Carlow tenants a treat. She felt no duchess symptoms within herself,
and though, of course, she had various manners tucked away to wear as one
suits garments to occasions--and it was a Rouen "party-gown" wherewith she
chose to abash poor John Harkless at their meeting--here in Carlow, she
was a woman of affairs, lively, shrewd, engaging, capable; she was herself
(at least she was that side of herself). And it should be explained that
Harkless had based his calumny regarding the tariff on a paragraph or two
that crept inadvertently into an otherwise statesmanlike article, and that
"H. Fisbee" understood the tariff as well as any woman who ever lived. But
the tariff inspired no more articles from that pen.

Rodney McCune had lifted his head, and those who had followed his stricken
enemy felt that the cause was lost, without the leader. The old ring that
the "Herald" had crushed was a ring once more, and the heelers had
rallied--"the boys were in line again." The work had been done quietly,
and Halloway was already beaten, and beaten badly. John Harkless lay sick,
and Rodney McCune would sit in Congress, for the nomination meant
election. But one day the Harkless forces, demoralized, broken, almost
hopeless, woke up to find that they had a leader. Many of them were
content with the belief that this was a young lawyer named Keating, who
had risen up in Amo; but Mr. Keating himself had a different impression.

Helen was a little nervous, and very much excited, over the political
conference at Judge Briscoe's. She planned it with careful diplomacy, and
arranged the details with a fine sense of the dramatic. There was a
suggestion she desired to have made in this meeting, which she wished
should emanate from the Amo and Gaines County people, instead of
proceeding from Carlow--for she thought it better to make the outsiders
believe her idea an inspiration of their own--so she made a little comedy
and provided for Briscoe's entrance at an effective moment. The judge was
a substantial influence, strong in the councils of his party when he chose
to be; and though of late years he had contented himself with voting at
the polls, every one knew what weight he carried when he saw fit to bestir
himself.

When he entered the parlor, he found the politicians in a state of subdued
excitement. Helen sat by the window, blushing, and talking eagerly to old
Fisbee. One of the gentlemen from Gaines County was walking about the room
exclaiming, "A glorious conception! A glorious conception!" addressing the
bric-a-brac, apparently. (He thought the conception his own.) Mr. Martin
was tugging at his beard and whispering to Landis and Homer, and the two
Amo men were consulting in a corner, but as the judge came in, one of them
turned and said loudly, "That's the man."

"What man am I, Keating?" asked Briscoe, cheerily.

"We better explain, I guess," answered the other; and turning to his
compatriot: "You tell him, Boswell."

"Well--it's this way--" said Boswell, and came at once to an awkward
pause, turning aside sheepishly and unable to proceed.

"So that's the way of it, is it?" said the old gentleman.

Helen laughed cheerfully, and looked about her with a courageous and
encouraging eye. "It is embarrassing," she said. "Judge Briscoe, we are
contemplating 'a piece of the blackest treachery and chicanery.' We are
going to give Mr. Halloway the--the go-by!" The embarrassment fell away,
and everybody began to talk at once.

"Hold on a minute," said the judge; "let's get at it straight. What do you
want with me?"

"I'll tell you," volunteered Keating. "You see, the boys are getting in
line again for this convention. They are the old file that used to rule
the roost before the 'Herald' got too strong for them, and they rely on
Mr. Harkless's being sick to beat Kedge Halloway with that Gaines County
man, McCune. Now, none of us here want Rod McCune I guess. We had trouble
enough once with him and his heelers, and now that Mr. Harkless is down,
they've taken advantage of it to raise a revolution: Rod McCune for
Congress! He's a dirty-hearted swindler--I hope Miss Sherwood will pardon
the strong expression--and everybody thought the 'Herald' had driven him
out of politics, though it never told how it did it; but he's up on top
again. Now, the question is to beat him. We hold the committees, but the
boys have been fighting the committees--call 'em the 'Harkless Ring,' and
never understood that the 'Herald' would have turned us down in a second
if it thought we weren't straight. Well, we saw a week ago that Kedge
Halloway was going to lose to McCune; we figured it out pretty exactly,
and there ain't a ray of hope for Kedge. We wrote to Mr. Harkless about
it, and asked him to come down--if he'd been on the ground last Monday and
had begun to work, I don't say but what his personal influence might have
saved Halloway--but a friend of his, where he's staying, answered the
letter: said Mr. Harkless was down with a relapse and was very fretful;
and he'd taken the liberty of reading the letter and temporarily
suppressing it under doctor's orders; they were afraid he'd come, sick as
he was, from a sense of duty, and asked us to withdraw the letter, and
referred us to Mr. Harkless's representative on the 'Herald.' So we
applied here to Miss Sherwood, and that's why we had this meeting. Now,
Halloway is honest--everybody knows that--and I don't say but what he's
been the best available material Mr. Harkless had to send to Washington;
but he ain't any too bright----"

Mr. Martin interrupted the speaker. "I reckon, maybe, you never heard that
lecture of his on the Past, Present, and Future'?"

"Besides that," Keating continued, "Halloway has had it long enough, and
he's got enough glory out of it, and, except for getting beat by Rod
McCune, I believe he'd almost as soon give it up. Well, we discussed all
this and that, and couldn't come to any conclusion. We didn't want to keep
on with a losing fight if there was any way to put up a winner, though of
course we all recognized that Mr. Harkless would want us to support Kedge
to the death, and that's what he'd do if he was on the ground. But Miss
Sherwood mentioned that she'd had one note since his last illness began,
and he'd entrusted her and her associates on the paper with the entire
policy, and she would take the responsibility for anything we determined
on. Mr. Smith said the only thing to do was to give up Halloway and get a
man that could beat McCune; Kedge would recognize it himself, that that
was the only thing to do, and he could retire gracefully. Miss Sherwood
said she was still more or less a stranger, and asked what man we could
find who was strong enough to do it by popularity alone and who was also a
man we wanted; somebody that had worked a good deal, but had never had any
office. It was to such a man she could promise the 'Herald's' support, as
for a time the paper was being operated almost independently, it might be
said, of Mr. Harkless. Well, I expect it came to all of us at the same
time, but it was Mr. Bence here that said it first."

Mr. Bence was the gentleman who had walked about saying "A glorious
conception," and he now thrust one hand into his breast and extended the
other in a wide gesture, and looked as impressive as a very young man with
white eyebrows can look.

"The name of Harkless," he said abruptly, "the name of Harkless will sweep
the convention like the fire of a Western prairie; the name of Harkless
will thunder over their astonished heads and strike a peal of joy bells in
every home in the district; it will re-echo in the corridors of posterity
and teem with prosperity like a mighty river. The name of Harkless will
reverberate in that convention hall, and they shall sit ashamed."

"Harkless!" exclaimed the judge. "Why didn't some one think of that long
ago?"

"Then you approve?" asked Keating.

"Yes, I think I do!"

The Amo man shook hands with him. "We'll swim out," he exclaimed. "It will
be the same everywhere. A lot of the old crowd themselves will be swept
along with us when we make our nomination. People feel that that Cross-
Roads business ought never to have been allowed to happen, and they'd like
to make it up to him some way. There are just two difficulties, Halloway
and Mr. Harkless himself. It's a sure thing that he wouldn't come out
against Kedge and that he'd refuse to let his name be used against him.
Therefore, we've got to keep it quiet from him; the whole thing has to be
worked quietly. The McCune folks were quiet until they thought they were
sure; we've got to be quieter still. Well, we've made out a plan."

"And a plan that will operate," added Mr. Bence. "For the name of Harkless
shall--" Mr. Keating interrupted him energetically:

"We explain it to all the Halloway delegates, you see, and to all the
shaky McCune people, and interview all the undecided ones. The McCune
crowd may see them afterwards, but they can't fix men in this district
against John Harkless. All we've got to do is to pass the word. It's all
kept quiet, you understand. We go into the convention, and the names of
Halloway and McCune are placed before it. Then will come a speech naming
Harkless--and you want to stuff your ears with cotton! On the first ballot
Harkless gets the scattering vote that was going to nominate McCune if
we'd let things run, and Halloway is given every vote he'd have got if
he'd run against McCune alone; it's as a compliment; it will help him see
how things were, afterwards; and on the second ballot his vote goes to
Harkless. There won't be any hitch if we get down to work right off; it's
a mighty short campaign, but we've got big chances. Of course, it can't be
helped that Halloway has to be kept in the dark; he won't spend any money,
anyway."

"It looks a little underhanded at first glance," said Warren Smith; "but,
as Miss Sherwood said, you've got to be a little underhanded sometimes,
especially when you're dealing with as scrupulous a man as John Harkless.
But it's a perfectly honest deal, and it will be all right with him when
he finds it's all over and he's nominated."

"It's a plain case," added Boswell. "We want him, and we've got to have
him."

"There's one danger," Mr. Keating continued.  "Kedge Halloway is honest,
but I believe he's selfish enough to disturb his best friend's deathbed
for his own ends, and it's not unlikely that he will get nervous towards
the last and be telegraphing Harkless to have himself carried on a cot to
the convention to save him. That wouldn't do at all, of course, and Miss
Sherwood thinks maybe there'd be less danger if we set the convention a
little ahead of the day appointed. It's dangerous, because it shortens our
time; but we can fix it for three days before the day we'd settled on, and
that will bring it to September 7th. What we want of you, judge, is to go
to the convention as a delegate, and make the nominating speech for Mr.
Harkless. Will you do it?"

"Do it?" cried the old man, and he struck the table a resounding blow with
his big fist. "Do it? I'd walk from here to Rouen and back again to do
it!"

They were all on their feet at this, and they pressed forward to shake
Briscoe's hand, congratulating him and each other as though they were
already victorious. Mr. Martin bent over Helen and asked her if she minded
shaking hands with a man who had voted for Shem at the first election in
the Ark.

"I thought I'd rightly ort to thank you for finishin' off Kedge Halloway,"
he added. "I made up my mind I'd never vote for him again, the night he
killed that intellectual insect of his."

"Intellectual insect, Mr. Martin?" she asked, puzzled.

He sighed. "The recollection never quits ha'ntin' me. I reckon I haven't
had a restful night since June. Maybe you don't remember his lecture."

"Oh, but I do," she laughed; "and I remember the story of the fly,
vividly."

"I never was jest what you might exactly call gushin' over Kedge," Mr.
Martin drawled. "He doesn't strike me as havin' many ideas, precisely--he
had kind of a symptom of one once, that he caught from Harkless, but it
didn't take; it sloshed around in his mind and never really come out on
him. I always thought his brain was sort of syrupy. Harkless thought there
was fruit in it, and I reckon there is; but some way it never seems to
jell."

"Go on," said Helen gayly. "I want to hear him abused. It helps me to feel
less mean about the way we are treating him."

"Yes; I'm slickin' over my conscience, too. I feel awnrier about it
because he done me a good turn once, in the Hayes and Wheeler campaign. I
went to a meetin' to hear him speak, and he got sick and couldn't."

Warren Smith addressed the company. "Well, is this all for the present?"
he asked. "Is everything settled?"

"Wait a minute," said Keating.  "I'd like to hear from the 'Herald' about
its policy, if Miss Sherwood will tell us."

"Yes, indeed," she answered. "It will be very simple. Don't you think
there is only one course to pursue? We will advocate no one very
energetically, but we will print as much of the truth about Mr. McCune as
we can, with delicacy and honor, in this case, but, as I understand it,
the work is almost all to be done amongst the delegates. We shall not
mention our plan at all--but--but, when the convention is over, and he is
nominated, we will get out an extra; and I am so confident of your success
that I'll tell you now that the extra will be ready the night before the
convention. We will contrive that Mr. Harkless shall not receive his copy
of the paper containing the notice of the change of date, and I think the
chance of his seeing it in any Rouen paper may be avoided. That is all, I
think."

"Thank you," said Keating. "That is certainly the course to follow." Every
one nodded, or acquiesced in words; and Keating and Bence came over to
Helen and engaged her in conversation. The others began to look about for
their hats, vaguely preparing to leave.

"Wait a minute," said the judge. "There's no  train due just now." And
Minnie appeared in the doorway with a big pitcher of crab-apple cider,
rich and amber-hued, sparkling, cold, and redolent of the sweet-smelling
orchard where it was born. Behind Miss Briscoe came Mildy Upton with
glasses and a fat, shaking, four-storied jelly-cake on a second tray. The
judge passed his cigars around, and the gentlemen took them blithely, then
hesitatingly held them in their fingers and glanced at  the ladies,
uncertain of permission.

"Let me get you some matches," Helen said, quickly, and found a box on the
table and handed it to Keating. Every one sat beaming, and fragrant veils
of smoke soon draped the room.

"Why do you call her 'Miss Sherwood'?" Boswell whispered in Keating's ear.

"That's her name."

"Ain't she the daughter of that old fellow over there by the window? Ain't
her name Fisbee?"

"No; she's his daughter, but her legal name's Sherwood; she's an adop----"

"Great Scott! I know all about that. I'd like to know if there's a man,
woman, or child in this part of the country that doesn't. I guess it won't
be Fisbee or Sherwood either very long. She can easy get a new name,
_that_ lady! And if she took a fancy to Boswell, why, I'm a bach----"

"I expect she won't take a fancy to Boswell very early," said Keating.
"They say it will be Harkless."

"Go 'way," returned Mr. Boswell. "What do you want to say that for? Can't
you bear for anybody to be happy a minute or two, now and then?"

Warren Smith approached Helen and inquired if it would be asking too much
if they petitioned her for some music; so she went to the piano, and sang
some darky songs for them, with a quaint suggestion of the dialect--two or
three old-fashioned negro melodies of Foster's, followed by some
rollicking modern imitations with the movement and spirit of a tinshop
falling down a flight of stairs. Her audience listened in delight from the
first; but the latter songs quite overcame them with pleasure and
admiration, and before she finished, every head in the room was jogging
from side to side, and forward and back, in time to the music, while every
foot shuffled the measures on the carpet.

When the gentlemen from out of town discovered that it was time to leave
if they meant to catch their train, Helen called to them to wait, and they
gathered about her.

"Just one second," she said, and she poured all the glasses full to the
brim; then, standing in the centre of the circle they made around her, she
said:

"Before you go, shan't we pledge each other to our success in this good,
home-grown Indiana cider, that leaves our heads clear and our arms strong?
If you will--then--" She began to blush furiously and her voice trembled,
but she lifted the glass high over her head and cried bravely, "Here's to
'Our Candidate'!"

The big men, towering over her, threw back their heads and quaffed the
gentle liquor to the last drop. Then they sent up the first shout of the
campaign, and cheered John Harkless till the rafters rang.

"My friends," said Mr. Keating, as he and Boswell and the men from Gaines
drove away in Judd Bennett's omnibus, "my friends, here is where I begin
the warmest hustling I ever did. I want Harkless, everybody wants him----"

"It is a glorious idea," said Mr. Bence. "The name of Harkless----"

Keating drowned the oratory. "But that isn't all. That little girl wants
him to go to Congress, and that settles it. He goes."

That evening Minnie and her father were strolling up and down the front
walk together, between the flowered borders.

"Do you give up?" asked the judge.

"Give up what? No!" returned his daughter.

"She hasn't told you?"

"Not yet; she and Mr. Fisbee left for the office  right after those men
went."

"Haven't you discovered what the 'something about politics' she's doing
for him is? Did you understand what she meant by 'Our Candidate'?"

"Not exactly."

"Did you see her blush when she proposed that toast?"

"Yes. So would anybody--with all those men, and their eyes hanging out on
their cheeks!"

"Pooh! She got up the whole show. Do you know why?"

"I only know it's politics."

"Politics!" He glanced over his shoulder, and then, leaning toward her, he
said, in a low tone: "I'll tell you in confidence, Minnie; she's sending
him to Congress!"

"Ah!" she cried triumphantly. "If she loved him she wouldn't do _that_,
would she?"

"Minnie!" Briscoe turned upon her sternly. "I don't want to hear any more
talk like that. It's the way with some papers to jibe at our great
institutions, and you've been reading them; that's the trouble with you.
The only criticism any one has any business making against Congress is
that it's too good for some of the men we send there. Congress is our
great virtue, understand; the congressmen are our fault."

"I didn't mean anything like that," protested the girl. "I haven't been
reading any papers except the 'Herald.' I meant why should she send him
away if she cared about him?"

"She'll go with him."

"They couldn't both go. What would become of the 'Herald'?"

"They'd fix that easy enough; there are plenty of smart young fellows in
Rouen they could get to run it while they are in Washington."

"Mr. Harkless is sure to be elected, is he?"

"He is, if he's nominated."

"Can't he get the nomination?"

"Get it! Nobody ever happened to think of him for it till it came into
_her_ head; and the only thing I look to see standing in the way of it is
Harkless himself; but I expect we can leave it to her to manage, and I
guess she will. She's got more diplomacy than Blaine. Kedge Halloway is up
the spout all right, but they want to keep it quiet; that's why she had
them come here instead of the office."

"She wouldn't marry him a minute sooner because he went to Congress," said
Minnie thoughtfully.

"You're giving up," he exclaimed. "You know I'm right."

"Wait and see. It might--No, you're wrong as wrong can be! I wish you
weren't. Don't you see? You're blind. She _couldn't_ do all these things
for him if she loved him. That's the very proof itself. I suppose you--
well, you can't understand."

"I'll tell you one thing," he returned. "If she doesn't, the rest of it
won't amount to a rip with John Harkless."

"Yes, it will. Nobody could help liking to find himself as big a man as
he'll be when he comes back here. Besides, don't you see, it's her way of
making it up to him for not liking him as much as he wants. _You_ give up,
don't you?"

"No," he cried, with feeble violence, "I don't. She'll find out some
things about herself when she sees him again."

Minnie shook her head.

There was a sound of wheels; the buckboard drew up at the gate, and Helen,
returning from her evening's labor, jumped out lightly, and ran around to
pat the horses' heads. "Thank you so much, Mr. Willetts," she said to the
driver. "I know you will handle the two delegates you are to look after as
well as you do the judge's team; and you ought to, you know, because the
delegates are men. You dears!" She stroked the sleek necks of the colts
and handed them bunches of grass.

Briscoe came out, and let the friendly animals nose his shoulder as he
looked gravely down on the piquant face beside him in the dusk. "Young
lady," he said, "go East. Wait till we get on to Washington, and sit in
the gallery, and see John Harkless rise up in his place, and hear the
Speaker say: 'The Gentleman from Indiana!' I know the chills would go up
and down my spine, and I guess you'd feel pretty well paid for your day's
work. I guess we all would."

"Aren't you tired, Helen?" asked Minnie, coming to her in the darkness and
clasping her waist.

"Tired? No; I'm happy. Did you ever see the stars so bright?"




CHAPTER XVIII


THE TREACHERY OF H. FISBEE

An Indiana town may lie asleep a long time, but there always comes a day
when it wakes up; and Plattville had wakened in August when the "Herald"
became a daily and Eph Watts struck oil. It was then that history began to
be made. The "Herald" printed News, and the paper was sold every morning
at stands in all the towns in that section of the State. Its circulation
tripled. Parker talked of new presses; two men were added to his staff,
and a reporter was brought from Rouen to join Mr. Fisbee. The "Herald"
boomed the oil-field; people swarmed into town; the hotel was crowded;
strangers became no sensation whatever. A capitalist bought the whole
north side of the Square to erect new stores, and the Carlow Bank began
the construction of a new bank building of Bedford stone on Main Street.
Then it was whispered, next affirmed, that the "Herald" had succeeded in
another of its enterprises, and Main Street was to be asphalted. That was
the end of the "old days" of Plattville.

There was a man who had laid the foundation upon which the new Plattville
was to be built; he who, through the quiet labor of years, had stamped his
spirit upon the people, as their own was stamped upon him; but he lay sick
in his friend's house and did not care. One day Meredith found him propped
up in bed, reading a letter--reading it listlessly, and with a dull eye.

"PLATTVILLE, _September 1st_.

"_Dear Mr. Harkless_: Yours of the 30th received. Every one here is very
glad to know that your health is so far improved as to admit of your
writing; and it is our strongest hope that you will soon be completely
recovered.

"New subscriptions are coming in at a slightly advanced rate since my last
letter; you will see they are distributed over several counties, when you
examine the books on your return; and I am glad to state that with our
arrangement for Gainesville the 'Herald' is now selling every morning at a
prominent store in all the towns within the radius we determined on. Our
plan of offering the daily with no advance on the price of the former
tri-weekly issue proves a success. I now propose making the issue a quarto
every day (at the same price) instead of once a week. I think our
experience warrants the experiment. It is my belief that our present
circulation will be increased forty per cent. Please advise me if you
approve. Of course this would mean a further increase of our working
force, and we should have to bring another man from Rouen--possibly two
more--but I think we need not fear such enlargements.

"I should tell you that I have taken you at your word entrusting me with
the entire charge of your interests here, and I had the store-room
adjoining the office put in shape, and offered it to the telegraph company
for half the rent they were paying in their former quarters over the
post-office. They have moved in; and this, in addition to giving us our
despatches direct, is a reduction of expense.

"Mr. Watts informs me that the Standard's offer is liberal and the terms
are settled. The boom is not hollow, it is simply an awakening; and the
town, so long a dependent upon the impetus of agriculture or its trade, is
developing a prosperity of its own on other lines as well. Strangers come
every day; oil has lubricated every commercial joint. Contracts have been
let for three new brick business buildings to be erected on the east side
of the Square. The value of your Main Street frontage will have doubled by
December, and possibly you may see fit to tear away the present building
and put up another, instead; the investment might be profitable. The
'Herald' could find room on the second and third floors, and the first
could be let to stores.

"I regret that you find your copy of the paper for the 29th overlooked in
the mail and that your messenger could find none for you at the newspaper
offices in Rouen. Mr. Schofield was given directions in regard to
supplying you with the missing issue at once.

"I fear that you may have had difficulty in deciphering some of my former
missives, as I was unfamiliar with the typewriter when I took charge of
the 'Herald'; however, I trust that you find my later letters more
legible.

"The McCune people are not worrying us; we are sure to defeat them. The
papers you speak of were found by Mr. Parker in your trunk, and are now in
my hands.

"I send with this a packet of communications and press clippings
indicative of the success of the daily, and in regard to other
innovations. The letters from women commendatory of our 'Woman's Page,'
thanking us for various house-keeping receipts, etc., strike me as
peculiarly interesting, as I admit that a 'Woman's Page' is always a
difficult matter for a man to handle without absurdity.

"Please do not think I mean to plume myself upon our various successes; we
attempted our innovations and enlargements at just the right time--a time
which you had ripened by years of work and waiting, and at the moment when
you had built up the reputation of the 'Herald' to its highest point.
Everything that has been done is successful only because you paved the
way, and because every one knows it is your paper; and the people believe
that whatever your paper does is interesting and right.

"Trusting that your recovery will be rapid, I am

"Yours truly,

"H. FISBEE."

Harkless dropped the typewritten sheets with a sigh.

"I suppose I ought to get well," he said wearily.

"Yes," said Meredith, "I think you ought; but you're chock full of malaria
and fever and all kinds of meanness, and----"

"You 'tend to your own troubles," returned the other, with an imitation of
liveliness. "I--I don't think it interests me much," he said querulously.
He was often querulous of late, and it frightened Tom. "I'm just tired. I
am strong enough--that is, I think I am till I try to move around, and
then I'm like a log, and a lethargy gets me--that's it; I don't think it's
malaria; it's lethargy."

"Lethargy comes from malaria."

"It's the other way with me. I'd be all right if  I only could get over
this--this tiredness. Let me have that pencil and pad, will you, please,
Tom?"

He set the pad on his knee, and began to write languidly:

                                        "ROUEN, _September 2d_.

"_Dear Mr. Fisbee_: Yours of the 1st to hand. I entirely approve all
arrangements you have made. I think you understand that I wish you to
regard _everything_ as in your own hands. You are the editor of the
'Herald' and have the sole responsibility for everything, including
policy, until, after proper warning, I relieve you in person. But until
that time comes, you must look upon me as a mere spectator. I do not fear
that you will make any mistakes; you have done very much better in all
matters than I could have done myself. At present I have only one
suggestion: I observe that your editorials concerning Halloway's
renomination are something lukewarm.

"It is very important that he be renominated, not altogether on account of
assuring his return to Washington (for he is no Madison, I fear), but the
fellow McCune must be so beaten that his defeat will be remembered for
twenty years. Halloway is honest and clean, at least, while McCune is
corrupt to the bone. He has been bought and sold, and I am glad the proofs
of it are in your hands, as you tell me Parker found them, as directed, in
my trunk, and gave them to you.

"The papers you hold drove him out of politics once, by the mere threat of
publication; you should have printed them last week, as I suggested. Do so
at once; the time is short. You have been too gentle; it has the air of
fearing to offend, and of catering, as if we were afraid of antagonizing
people against us; as though we had a personal stake in the convention.
Possibly you consider our subscription books as such; I do not.  But if
they are, go ahead twice as hard. What if it does give the enemy a weapon
in case McCune is nominated; if he is (and I begin to see a danger of it)
we will be with the enemy. I do not carry my partisanship so far as to
help elect Mr. McCune to Congress. You have been as non-committal in your
editorials as if this were a fit time for delicacy and the cheaper
conception of party policy. My notion of party policy--no new one--is that
the party which considers the public service before it considers itself
will thrive best in the long run. The 'Herald' is a little paper (not so
little nowadays, after all, thanks to you), but it is an honest one, and
it isn't afraid of Rod McCune and his friends. He is to be beaten,
understand, if we have to send him to the penitentiary on an old issue to
do it. And if the people wish to believe us cruel or vengeful, let them.
Please let me see as hearty a word as you can say for Halloway, also. You
can write with ginger; please show some in this matter.

"My condition is improved.

                    "I am, very truly yours,

                                          "JOHN HARKLESS."

When the letter was concluded, he handed it to Meredith. "Please address
that, put a 'special' on it, and send it, Tom. It should go at once, so as
to reach him by to-night."

"H. Fisbee?"

"Yes; H. Fisbee."

"I believe it does you good to write, boy," said the other, as he bent
over him. "You look more chirrupy than you have for several days."

"It's that beast, McCune; young Fisbee is rather queer about it, and I
felt stirred up as I went along." But even before the sentence was
finished the favor of age and utter weariness returned, and the dark lids
closed over his eyes.  They opened again, slowly, and he took the others
hand and looked up at him mournfully, but as it were his soul shone forth
in dumb and eloquent thanks.

"I--I'm giving you a jolly summer, Tom," he said, with a quivering effort
to smile. "Don't you think I am? I don't--I don't know what I should have
--done----"

"You old Indian!" said Meredith, tenderly.

Three days later, Tom was rejoiced by symptoms of invigoration in his
patient. A telegram came for Harkless, and Meredith, bringing it into the
sick room, was surprised to find the occupant sitting straight up on his
couch without the prop of pillows. He was reading the day's copy of the
"Herald," and his face was flushed and his brow stern.

"What's the matter, boy?"

"Mismanagement, I hope," said the other, in a strong voice. "Worse,
perhaps. It's this young Fisbee. I can't think what's come over the
fellow. I thought he was a rescuing angel, and he's turning out bad. I'll
swear it looks like they'd been--well, I won't say that yet. But he hasn't
printed that McCune business I told you of, and he's had two days. There
is less than a week before the convention, and--" He broke off, seeing the
yellow envelope in Meredith's hand. "Is that a telegram for me?" His
companion gave it to him. He tore it open and read the contents. They were
brief and unhappy.

"Can't you do something? Can't you come down? It begins to look the other
way. "K. H."

"It's from Halloway," said John. "I have got to go. What did that doctor
say?"

"He said two weeks at the earliest, or you'll run into typhoid and
complications from your hurts, and even pleasanter things than that. I've
got you here, and here you stay; so lie back and get easy, boy."

"Then give me that pad and pencil." He rapidly dashed off a note to H.
Fisbee:

"_September 5th_.

"H. FISBEE,

"Editor 'Carlow Herald.'

"_Dear Sir_: You have not acknowledged my letter of the 2d September by
a note (which should have reached me the following morning), or by the
alteration in the tenor of my columns which I requested, or by the
publication of the McCune papers which I directed. In this I hold you
grossly at fault. If you have a conscientious reason for refusing to carry
out my request it should have been communicated to me at once, as should
the fact--if such be the case--that you are a personal (or impersonal, if
you like) friend of Mr. Rodney McCune. Whatever the motive, ulterior or
otherwise, which prevents you from operating my paper as I direct, I
should have been informed of it. This is a matter vital to the interests
of our community, and you have hitherto shown yourself too alert in
accepting my slightest suggestion for me to construe this failure as
negligence. Negligence I might esteem as at least honest and frank; your
course has been neither the one nor the other.

"You will receive this letter by seven this evening by special delivery.
You will print the facts concerning McCune in to-morrow morning's paper.

"I am well aware of the obligations under which your extreme efficiency
and your thoughtfulness in many matters have placed me. It is to you I owe
my unearned profits from the transaction in oil, and it is to you I owe
the 'Herald's' extraordinary present circulation, growth of power and
influence. That power is still under my direction, and is an added
responsibility which shall not be misapplied.

"You must forgive me if I write too sharply. You see I have failed to
understand your silence; and if I wrong you I heartily ask your pardon in
advance of your explanation. Is it that you are sorry for McCune? It would
be a weak pity that could keep you to silence. I warned him long ago that
the papers you hold would be published if he ever tried to return to
political life, and he is deliberately counting on my physical weakness
and absence. Let him rely upon it; I am not so weak as he thinks.
Personally, I cannot say that I dislike Mr. McCune. I have found him a
very entertaining fellow; it is said he is the best of husbands, and a
friend to some of his friends, and, believe me, I am sorry for him from
the bottom of my heart. But the 'Herald' is not.

"You need not reply by letter. To-morrow's issue answers for you. Until I
have received a copy, I withhold my judgment.

"JOHN HARKLESS."

The morrow's issue--that fateful print on which depended John Harkless's
opinion of H. Fisbee's integrity--contained an editorial addressed to the
delegates of the convention, warning them to act for the vital interest of
the community, and declaring that the opportunity to be given them in the
present convention was a rare one, a singular piece of good fortune
indeed; they were to have the chance to vote for a man who had won the
love and respect of every person in the district--one who had suffered for
his championship of righteousness--one whom even his few political enemies
confessed they held in personal affection and esteem--one who had been the
inspiration of a new era--one whose life had been helpfulness, whose hand
had reached out to every struggler and unfortunate--a man who had met and
faced danger for the sake of others--one who lived under a threat for
years, and who had been almost overborne in the fulfilment of that threat,
but who would live to see the sun shine on his triumph, the tribute the
convention would bring him as a gift from a community that loved him. His
name needed not to be told; it was on every lip that morning, and in every
heart.

Tom was eagerly watching his companion as he read. Harkless fell back on
the pillows with a drawn face, and for a moment he laid his thin hand over
his eyes in a gesture of intense pain.

"What is it?" Meredith said quickly.

"Give me the pad, please."

"What is it, boy?"

The other's teeth snapped together.

"What is it?" he cried. "What is it? It's treachery, and the worst I ever
knew. Not a word of the accusation I demanded--lying _praises_ instead!
Read that editorial--there, _there_!" He struck the page with the back of
his hand, and threw the paper to Meredith. "Read that miserable lie! 'One
who has won the love and respect of every person in the district!'--'One
who has suffered for his championship of righteousness!'  _Righteousness!_
Save the mark!"

"What does it mean?"

"Mean! It means McCune--Rod McCune, 'who has lived under a threat for
years'--_my_ threat! I swore I would print him out of Indiana if he ever
raised his head again, and he knew I could. 'Almost overborne in the
fulfilment of that threat!' _Almost_! It's a black scheme, and I see it
now. This man came to Plattville and went on the 'Herald' for nothing in
the world but this. It's McCune's hand all along. He daren't name him even
now, the coward! The trick lies between McCune and young Fisbee--the old
man is innocent. Give me the pad. Not _almost_ overborne. There are three
good days to work in, and, by the gods of Perdition, if Rod McCune sees
Congress it will be in his next incarnation!"

He rapidly scribbled a few lines on the pad, and threw the sheets to
Meredith. "Get those telegrams to the Western Union office in a rush,
please. Read them first."

With a very red face Tom read them. One was addressed to H. Fisbee:

"You are relieved from the cares of editorship. You will turn over the
management of the 'Herald' to Warren Smith. You will give him the McCune
papers. If you do not, or if you destroy them, you cannot hide where I
shall not find you.

                                    "JOHN HARKLESS."

The second was to Warren Smith:
"Take possession 'Herald.' Dismiss H. Fisbee. This your authority. Publish
McCune papers so labelled which H. Fisbee will hand you. Letter follows.
Beat McCune.

                                    "JOHN HARKLESS."

The author of the curt epistles tossed restlessly on his couch, but the
reader of them stared, incredulous and dumfounded, uncertain of his
command of gravity. His jaw fell, and his open mouth might have betokened
a being smit to imbecility; and, haply, he might be, for Helen had written
him from Plattville, pledging his honor to secrecy with the first words,
and it was by her command that he had found excuses for not supplying his
patient with all the papers which happened to contain references to the
change of date for the Plattville convention. And Meredith had known for
some time where James Fisbee had found a "young relative" to be the savior
of the "Herald" for his benefactor's sake.

"You mean--you--intend to--you discharge young Fisbee?" he stammered at
last.

"Yes! Let me have the answers the instant they come, will you, Tom?" Then
Harkless turned his face from the wall and spoke through his teeth: "I
mean to see H. Fisbee before many days; I want to talk to him!"

But, though he tossed and fretted himself into what the doctor pronounced
a decidedly improved state, no answer came to either telegram that day or
night. The next morning a messenger boy stumbled up the front steps and
handed the colored man, Jim, four yellow envelopes, night messages. Three
of them were for Harkless, one was for Meredith. Jim carried them
upstairs, left the three with his master's guest, then knocked on his
master's door.

"What is it?" answered a thick voice. Meredith had not yet risen.

"A telegraph. Mist' Tawm."

There was a terrific yawn. "O-o-oh! Slide it--oh--under the--door."

"Yessuh."

Meredith lay quite without motion for several minutes, sleepily watching
the yellow rhomboid in the crevice. It was a hateful looking thing to come
mixing in with pleasant dreams and insist upon being read. After a while
he climbed groaningly out of bed, and read the message with heavy eyes,
still half asleep. He read it twice before it penetrated:

"Suppress all newspapers to-day. Convention meets at eleven. If we succeed
a delegation will come to Rouen this afternoon. They will come.

                                          "HELEN."


Tom rubbed his sticky eyelids, and shook his head violently in a Spartan
effort to rouse himself; but what more effectively performed the task for
him were certain sounds issuing from Harkless's room, across the hall. For
some minutes, Meredith had been dully conscious of a rustle and stir in
the invalid's chamber, and he began to realize that no mere tossing about
a bed would account for a noise that reached him across a wide hall and
through two closed doors of thick walnut. Suddenly he heard a quick, heavy
tread, shod, in Harkless's room, and a resounding bang, as some heavy
object struck the floor. The doctor was not to come till evening; Jim had
gone down-stairs. Who wore shoes in the sick man's room? He rushed across
the hall in his pyjamas and threw open the unlocked door.

The bed was disarranged and vacant. Harkless, fully dressed, was standing
in the middle of the floor, hurling garments at a big travelling bag.

The horrified Meredith stood for a second, bleached and speechless, then
he rushed upon his friend and seized him with both hands.

"Mad, by heaven! Mad!"

"Let go of me, Tom!"

"Lunatic! Lunatic!"

"Don't stop me one instant!"

Meredith tried to force him toward the bed. "For mercy's sake, get back to
bed. You're delirious, boy!"

"Delirious nothing. I'm a well man."

"Go to bed--go to bed."

Harkless set him out of the way with one arm. "Bed be hanged!" he cried.
"I'm going to Plattville!"

Meredith wrung his hands. "The doctor----"!

"Doctor be damned!"

"Will you tell me what has happened, John?"

His companion slung a light overcoat, unfolded, on the overflowing,
misshapen bundle of clothes that lay in the bag; then he jumped on the lid
with both feet and kicked the hasp into the lock; a very elegantly
laundered cuff and white sleeve dangling out from between the fastened
lids. "I haven't one second to talk, Tom; I have seventeen minutes to
catch the express, and it's a mile and a half to the station; the train
leaves here at eight fifty, I get to Plattville at ten forty-seven.
Telephone for a cab for me, please, or tell me the number; I don't want to
stop to hunt it up."

Meredith looked him in the eyes. In the pupils of Harkless flared a fierce
light. His cheeks were reddened with an angry, healthy glow, and his teeth
were clenched till the line of his jaw stood out like that of an embattled
athlete in sculpture; his brow was dark; his chest was thrown out, and he
took deep, quick breaths; his shoulders were squared, and in spite of his
thinness they looked massy. Lethargy, or malaria, or both, whatever were
his ailments, they were gone. He was six feet of hot wrath and cold
resolution.

Tom said: "You are going?"

"Yes," he answered, "I am going."

"Then I will go with you."

"Thank you, Tom," said the other quietly.

Meredith ran into his own room, pressed an electric button, sprang out of
his pyjamas like Aphrodite from the white sea-foam, and began to dive into
his clothes with a panting rapidity astonishingly foreign to his desire.
Jim appeared in the doorway.

"The cart, Jim," shouted his master. "We want it like lightning. Tell the
cook to give Mr. Harkless his breakfast in a hurry. Set a cup of coffee on
the table by the front door for me. Run like the deuce! We've got to catch
a train.--That will be quicker than any cab," he explained to Harkless.
"We'll break the ordinance against fast driving, getting down there."

Ten minutes later the cart swept away from the house at a gait which
pained the respectable neighborhood. The big horse plunged through the
air, his ears laid flat toward his tail; the cart careened sickeningly;
the face of the servant clutching at the rail in the rear was smeared with
pallor as they pirouetted around curves on one wheel--to him it seemed
they skirted the corners and Death simultaneously--and the speed of their
going made a strong wind in their faces.

Harkless leaned forward.

"Can you make it a little faster, Tom?" he said.

They dashed up to the station amid the cries of people flying to the walls
for safety; the two gentlemen leaped from the cart, bore down upon the
ticket-office, stormed at the agent, and ran madly at the gates,
flourishing their passports. The official on duty eyed them wearily, and
barred the way.

"Been gone two minutes," he remarked, with a peaceable yawn.

Harkless stamped his foot on the cement flags; then he stood stock still,
gazing at the empty tracks; but Meredith turned to him, smiling.

"Won't it keep?" he asked.

"Yes, it will keep," John answered. "Part of it may have to keep till
election day, but some of it I will settle before night. And that," he
cried, between his teeth, "and that is the part of it in regard to young
Mr. Fisbee!"

"Oh, it's about H. Fisbee, is it?"

"Yes, it's H. Fisbee."

"Well, we might as well go up and see what the doctor thinks of you;
there's no train."

"I don't want to see a doctor again, ever--as long as I live. I'm as well
as anybody."

Tom burst out laughing, and clapped his companion lightly on the shoulder,
his eyes dancing with pleasure.

"Upon my soul," he cried, "I believe you are! It's against all my
tradition, and I see I am the gull of poetry; for I've always believed it
to be beyond question that this sort of miracle was wrought, not by rage,
but by the tenderer senti--" Tom checked himself. "Well, let's take a
drive."

"Meredith," said the other, turning to him gravely, "you may think me a
fool, if you will, and it's likely I am; but I don't leave this station
except by train. I've only two days to work in, and every minute lessens
our chances to beat McCune, and I have to begin by wasting time on a
tussle with a traitor. There's another train at eleven fifty-five; I don't
take any chances on missing that one."

"Well, well," laughed his friend, pushing him good-humoredly toward a door
by a red and white striped pillar, "we'll wait here, if you like; but at
least go in there and get a shave; it's a clean shop. You want to look
your best if you are going down to fight H. Fisbee."

"Take these, then, and you will understand," said Harkless; and he thrust
his three telegrams of the morning into Tom's hand and disappeared into
the barber-shop. When he was gone, Meredith went to the telegraph office
in the station, and sent a line over the wire to Helen:

"Keep your delegation at home. He's coming on the 11.55."

Then he read the three telegrams Harkless had given him. They were all
from Plattville:

"Sorry cannot oblige. Present incumbent tenacious. Unconditionally refuses
surrender. Delicate matter. No hope for K. H. But don't worry. Everything
all right.

                                             "WARREN SMITH."


"Harkless, if you have the strength to walk, come down before the
convention. Get here by 10.47. Looks bad. Come if it kills you.

                                             "K. H."

"You entrusted me with sole responsibility for all matters pertaining to
'Herald.' Declared yourself mere spectator. Does this permit your
interfering with my policy for the paper? Decline to consider any
proposition to relieve me of my duties without proper warning and
allowance of time.

                                             "H. FISBEE."




CHAPTER XIX

THE GREAT HARKLESS COMES HOME

The accommodation train wandered languidly through the early afternoon
sunshine, stopping at every village and almost every country post-office
on the line; the engine toot-tooting at the road crossings; and, now and
again, at such junctures, a farmer, struggling with a team of prancing
horses, would be seen, or, it might be, a group of school children,
homeward bound from seats of learning. At each station, when the train
came to a stand-still, some passenger, hanging head and elbows out of his
window, like a quilt draped over a chair, would address a citizen on the
platform:

"Hey, Sam, how's Miz Bushkirk?"

"She's wal."

"Where's Milt, this afternoon?"

"Warshing the buggy." Then at the cry, "All 'board"--"See you Sunday over
at Amo."

"You make Milt come. I'll be there, shore. So long."

There was an impatient passenger in the smoker, who found the stoppages at
these wayside hamlets interminable, both in frequency and in the delay at
each of them; and while the dawdling train remained inert, and the moments
passed inactive, his eyes dilated and his hand clenched till the nails bit
his palm; then, when the trucks groaned and the wheels crooned against the
rails once more, he sank back in his seat with sighs of relief. Sometimes
he would get up and pace the aisle until his companion reminded him that
this was not certain to hasten the hour of their arrival at their
destination.

"I know that," answered the other, "but I've got to beat McCune."

"By the way," observed Meredith, "you left your stick behind."

"You don't think I need a club to face----"

Tom choked. "Oh, no. I wasn't thinking of your giving H. Fisbee a
thrashing. I meant to lean on."

"I don't want it. I've got to walk lame all my life, but I'm not going to
hobble on a stick." Tom looked at him sadly; for it was true, and the
Cross-Roaders might hug themselves in their cells over the thought. For
the rest of his life John Harkless was to walk with just the limp they
themselves would have had, if, as in former days, their sentence had been
to the ball and chain.

The window was open beside the two young men, and the breeze swept in,
fresh from the wide fields, There was a tang in the air; it soothed like a
balm, but there was a spur to energy and heartiness in its crispness, the
wholesome touch of fall. John looked out over the boundless aisles of corn
that stood higher than a tall man could reach; long waves rippled across
them. Here, where the cry of the brave had rung in forest glades, where
the painted tribes had hastened, were marshalled the tasselled armies of
peace. And beyond these, where the train ran between shadowy groves,
delicate landscape vistas, framed in branches, opened, closed, and
succeeded each other, and then the travellers were carried out into the
level open again, and the intensely blue September skies ran down to the
low horizon, meeting the tossing plumes of corn.

It takes a long time for the full beauty of the flat lands to reach a
man's soul; once there, nor hills, nor sea, nor growing fan leaves of palm
shall suffice him. It is like the beauty in the word "Indiana." It may be
that there are people who do not consider "Indiana" a beautiful word; but
once it rings true in your ears it has a richer sound than "Vallombrosa."

There was a newness in the atmosphere that day, a bright invigoration,
that set the blood tingling. The hot months were done with, languor was
routed. Autumn spoke to industry, told of the sowing of another harvest,
of the tawny shock, of the purple grape, of the red apple, and called upon
muscle and laughter; breathed gaiety into men's hearts. The little
stations hummed with bustle and noise; big farm wagons rattled away and
raced with cut-under or omnibus; people walked with quick steps; the
baggage-masters called cheerily to the trainmen, and the brakemen laughed
good-bys to rollicking girls.

As they left Gainesville three children, clad in calico, barefoot and
bareheaded, came romping out of a log cabin on the outskirts of the town,
and waved their hands to the passengers. They climbed on the sagging gate
in front of their humble domain, and laughed for joy to see the monstrous
caravan come clattering out of the unknown, bearing the faces by. The
smallest child, a little cherubic tow-head, whose cheeks were smeared with
clean earth and the tracks of forgotten tears, stood upright on a fence-
post, and blew the most impudent of kisses to the strangers on a journey.

Beyond this they came into a great plain, acres and acres of green
rag-weed where the wheat had grown, all so flat one thought of an enormous
billiard table, and now, where the railroad crossed the country roads,
they saw the staunch brown thistle, sometimes the sumach, and always the
graceful iron-weed, slender, tall, proud, bowing a purple-turbaned head,
or shaking in an agony of fright when it stood too close to the train. The
fields, like great, flat emeralds set in new metal, were bordered with
golden-rod, and at sight of this the heart leaped; for the golden-rod is a
symbol of stored granaries, of ripe sheaves, of the kindness of the season
generously given and abundantly received; more, it is the token of a land
of promise and of bounteous fulfilment; and the plant stains its blossom
with yellow so that when it falls it pays tribute to the ground which has
nourished it.

From the plain they passed again into a thick wood, where ruddy arrows of
the sun glinted among the boughs; and, here and there, one saw a courtly
maple or royal oak wearing a gala mantle of crimson and pale brown,
gallants of the forest preparing early for the October masquerade, when
they should hold wanton carnival, before they stripped them of their
finery for pious gray.

And when the coughing engine drew them to the borders of this wood, they
rolled out into another rich plain of green and rust-colored corn; and far
to the south John Harkless marked a winding procession of sycamores,
which, he knew, followed the course of a slender stream; and the waters of
the stream flowed by a bank where wild thyme might have grown, and where,
beyond an orchard and a rose-garden, a rustic bench was placed in the
shade of the trees; and the name of the stream was Hibbard's Creek. Here
the land lay flatter than elsewhere; the sky came closer, with a gentler
benediction; the breeze blew in, laden with keener spices; there was the
flavor of apples and the smell of the walnut and a hint of coming frost;
the immeasurable earth lay more patiently to await the husbandman; and the
whole world seemed to extend flat in line with the eye--for this was
Carlow County.

All at once the anger ran out of John Harkless; he was a hard man for
anger to tarry with. And in place of it a strong sense of home-coming
began to take possession of him.  He was going home. "Back to Plattville,
where I belong," he had said; and he said it again without bitterness, for
it was the truth. "Every man cometh to his own place in the end."

Yes, as one leaves a gay acquaintance of the playhouse lobby for some
hard-handed, tried old friend, so he would wave the outer world God-speed
and come back to the old ways of Carlow. What though the years were dusty,
he had his friends and his memories and his old black brier pipe. He had a
girl's picture that he should carry in his heart till his last day; and if
his life was sadder, it was infinitely richer for it. His winter fireside
should be not so lonely for her sake; and losing her, he lost not
everything, for he had the rare blessing of having known her. And what man
could wish to be healed of such a hurt? Far better to have had it than to
trot a smug pace unscathed.

He had been a dullard; he had lain prostrate in the wretchedness of his
loss. "A girl you could put in your hat--and there you have a strong man
prone." He had been a sluggard, weary of himself, unfit to fight, a
failure in life and a failure in love. That was ended; he was tired of
failing, and it was time to succeed for a while. To accept the worst that
Fate can deal, and to wring courage from it instead of despair, that is
success; and it was the success that he would have. He would take Fate by
the neck. But had it done him unkindness? He looked out over the
beautiful, "monotonous" landscape, and he answered heartily, "No!" There
was ignorance in man, but no unkindness; were man utterly wise he were
utterly kind. The Cross-Roaders had not known better; that was all.

The unfolding aisles of corn swam pleasantly before John's eyes. The earth
hearkened to man's wants and answered; the clement sun and summer rains
hastened the fruition.  Yonder stood the brown haystack, garnered to feed
the industrious horse who had earned his meed; there was the straw-
thatched shelter for the cattle. How the orchard boughs bent with their
burdens! The big red barns stood stored with the harvested wheat; and,
beyond the pasture-lands, tall trees rose against the benign sky to feed
the glance of a dreamer; the fertile soil lay lavender and glossy in the
furrow. The farmhouses were warmly built and hale and strong; no winter
blast should rage so bitterly as to shake them, or scatter the hospitable
embers on the hearth. For this was Carlow County, and he was coming home.

They crossed a by-road. An old man with a streaky gray chin-beard was
sitting on a sack of oats in a seatless wagon, waiting for the train to
pass. Harkless seized his companion excitedly by the elbow.

"Tommy!" he cried. "It's Kim Fentriss--look! Did you see that old fellow?"

"I saw a particularly uninterested and uninteresting gentleman sitting on
a bag," replied his friend.

"Why, that's old Kimball Fentriss. He's going to town; he lives on the
edge of the county."

"Can this be true?" said Meredith gravely.

"I wonder," said Harkless thoughtfully, a few moments later, "I wonder why
he had them changed around."

"Who changed around?"

"The team. He always used to drive the bay on the near side, and the
sorrel on the off."

"And at present," rejoined Meredith, "I am to understand that he is
driving the sorrel on the near side, and bay on the off?"

"That's it," returned the other. "He must have worked them like that for
some time, because they didn't look uneasy. They're all right about the
train, those two. I've seen them stand with their heads almost against a
fast freight. See there!" He pointed to a white frame farmhouse with green
blinds. "That's Win Hibbard's. We're just outside of Beaver."

"Beaver? Elucidate Beaver, boy!"

"Beaver? Meredith, your information ends at home. What do you know of your
own State if you are ignorant of Beaver. Beaver is that city of Carlow
County next in importance and population to Plattville."

Tom put his head out of the window. "I fancy you are right," he said. "I
already see five people there."

Meredith had observed the change in his companion's mood. He had watched
him closely all day, looking for a return of his malady; but he came to
the conclusion that in truth a miracle had been wrought, for the lethargy
was gone, and vigor seemed to increase in Harkless with every turn of the
wheels that brought them nearer Plattville; and the nearer they drew to
Plattville the higher the spirits of both the young men rose. Meredith
knew what was happening there, and he began to be a little excited. As he
had said, there were five people visible at Beaver; and he wondered where
they lived, as the only building in sight was the station, and to satisfy
his curiosity he walked out to the vestibule. The little station stood in
deep woods, and brown leaves whirled along the platform. One of the five
people was an old lady, and she entered a rear car. The other four were
men. One of them handed the conductor a telegram.

Meredith heard the official say, "All right. Decorate ahead. I'll hold it
five minutes."

The man sprang up the steps of the smoker and looked in. He turned to
Meredith: "Do you know if that gentleman in the gray coat is Mr. Harkless?
He's got his back this way, and I don't want to go inside. The--the air in
a smoker always gives me a spell."

"Yes, that's Mr. Harkless."

The man jumped to the platform. "All right, boys," he said. "Rip her out."

The doors of the freight-room were thrown open, and a big bundle of
colored stuffs was dragged out and hastily unfolded. One of the men ran to
the further end of the car with a strip of red, white and blue bunting,
and tacked it securely, while another fastened the other extremity to the
railing of the steps by Meredith. The two companions of this pair
performed the same operation with another strip on the other side of the
car. They ran similar strips of bunting along the roof from end to end, so
that, except for the windows, the car was completely covered by the
national colors. Then they draped the vestibules with flags. It was all
done in a trice.

Meredith's heart was beating fast. "What's it all about?" he asked.

"Picnic down the line," answered the man in charge, removing a tack from
his mouth. He motioned to the conductor, "Go ahead."

The wheels began to move; the decorators remained on the platform, letting
the train pass them; but Meredith, craning his neck from the steps, saw
that they jumped on the last car.

"What's the celebration?" asked Harkless, when Meredith returned.

"Picnic down the line," said Meredith.

"Nipping weather for a picnic; a little cool, don't you think? One of
those fellows looked like a friend of mine. Homer Tibbs, or as Homer might
look if he were in disgrace. He had his hat hung on his eyes, and he
slouched like a thief in melodrama, as he tacked up the bunting on this
side of the car."  He continued to point out various familiar places,
finally breaking out enthusiastically, as they drew nearer the town,
"Hello! Look there--beyond the grove yonder! See that house?"

"Yes, John."

"That's the Bowlders'. You've got to know the Bowlders."

"I'd like to."

"The kindest people in the world. The Briscoe house we can't see, because
it's so shut in by trees; and, besides, it's a mile or so ahead of us.
We'll go out there for supper to-night. Don't you like Briscoe? He's the
best they make. We'll go up town with Judd Bennett in the omnibus, and
you'll know how a rapid-fire machine gun sounds. I want to go straight to
the 'Herald' office," he finished, with a suddenly darkening brow.

"After all, there may be some explanation," Meredith suggested, with a
little hesitancy. "H. Fisbee might turn out more honest than you think."

Harkless threw his head back and laughed; it was the first  time  Meredith
had heard him laugh since the night of the dance in the country. "Honest!
A man in the pay of Rodney McCune! Well, we can let it wait till we get
there. Listen! There's the whistle that means we're getting near home.  By
heaven, there's an oil-well!"

"So it is."

"And another--three--five--seven--seven in sight at once! They tried it
three miles south and failed; but you can't fool Eph Watts, bless him! I
want you to know Watts."

They were running by the outlying houses of the town, amidst a thousand
descriptive exclamations from Harkless, who wished Meredith to meet every
one in Carlow. But he came to a pause in the middle of a word.

"Do you hear music?" he asked abruptly. "Or is it only the rhythm of the
ties?"

"It seems to me there's music in the air," answered his companion.  "I've
been fancying I heard it for a minute or so. There! No--yes. It's a band,
isn't it?"

"No; what would a band----"

The train slowed up, and stopped at a watertank, two hundred yards east of
the station, and their uncertainty was at an end.

From somewhere down the track came the detonating boom of a cannon. There
was a dash of brass, and the travellers became aware of a band playing
"Marching through Georgia." Meredith laid his hand on his companion's
shoulder. "John," he said, "John----" The cannon fired again, and there
came a cheer from three thousand throats, the shouters all unseen.

The engine coughed and panted, the train rolled on, and in another minute
it had stopped alongside the station in the midst of a riotous jam of
happy people, who were waving flags and banners and handkerchiefs, and
tossing their hats high in the air, and shouting themselves hoarse. The
band played in dumb show; it could not hear itself play. The people came
at the smoker like a long wave, and Warren Smith, Briscoe, Keating, and
Mr. Bence of Gaines were swept ahead of it. Before the train stopped they
had rushed eagerly up the steps and entered the car.

Harkless was on his feet and started to meet them. He stopped.

"What does it mean?" he said, and began to grow pale. "Is Halloway--did
McCune--have you----"

Warren Smith seized one of his hands and Briscoe the other. "What does it
mean?" cried Warren; "it means that you were nominated for Congress at
five minutes after one-o'clock this afternoon."

"On the second ballot," shouted the Judge, "just as young Fisbee planned
it, weeks ago."


It was one of the great crowds of Carlow's history. They had known since
morning that he was coming home, and the gentlemen of the Reception
Committee had some busy hours; but long before the train arrived,
everything was ready. Homer Tibbs had done his work well at Beaver, and
the gray-haired veterans of a battery Carlow had sent out in '61 had
placed their worn old gun in position to fire salutes. At one-o'clock,
immediately after the nomination had been made unanimous, the Harkless
Clubs of Carlow, Amo, and Gaines, secretly organized during the quiet
agitation preceding the convention, formed on parade in the court-house
yard, and, with the Plattville Band at their head, paraded the streets to
the station, to make sure of being on hand when the train arrived--it was
due in a couple of hours. There they were joined by an increasing number
of glad enthusiasts, all noisy, exhilarated, red-faced with shouting, and
patriotically happy. As Mr. Bence, himself the spoiled child of another
county, generously said, in a speech, which (with no outrageous pressure)
he was induced to make during the long wait: "The favorite son of Carlow
is returning to his Lares and Penates like another Cincinnatus accepting
the call of the people; and, for the first time in sixteen years, Carlow
shall have a representative to bear the banner of this district and the
flaming torch of Progress sweeping on to Washington and triumph like a
speedy galleon of old. And his friends are here to take his hand and do
him homage, and the number of his friends is as the number given in the
last census of the population of the counties of this district!"

And, indeed, in this estimate the speaker seemed guilty of no great
exaggeration. A never intermittent procession of pedestrians and vehicles
made its way to the station; and every wagon, buckboard, buggy, and
cut-under had its flags or bunting, or streamer of ribbons tied to the
whip. The excitement increased as the time grew shorter; those on foot
struggled for better positions, and the people in wagons and carriages
stood upon seats, while the pedestrians besieged them, climbing on the
wheels, or balancing recklessly, with feet on the hubs of opposite wagons.
Everybody was bound to see _him_. When the whistle announced the coming of
the train, the band began to play, the cannon fired, horns blew, and the
cheering echoed and reechoed till heaven's vault resounded with the noise
the people of Carlow were making.

There was one heart which almost stopped beating. Helen was standing on
the front seat of the Briscoe buckboard, with Minnie beside her, and, at
the commotion, the horses pranced and backed so that Lige Willetts ran to
hold them; but she did not notice the frightened roans, nor did she know
that Minnie clutched her round the waist to keep her from falling. Her
eyes were fixed intently on the smoke of the far-away engine, and her
hand, lifted to her face in an uncertain, tremulous fashion, as it was one
day in a circus tent, pressed against the deepest blush that ever mantled
a girl's cheek. When the train reached the platform, she saw Briscoe and
the others rush into the car, and there ensued what was to her an almost
intolerable pause of expectation, while the crowd besieged the windows of
the smoker, leaning up and climbing on each other's shoulders to catch the
first glimpse of _him_. Briscoe and a red-faced young man, a stranger to
Plattville, came down the steps, laughing like boys, and then Keating and
Bence, and then Warren Smith. As the lawyer reached the platform, he
turned toward the door of the car and waved his hand as in welcome.

"Here he is, boys!" he shouted, "Welcome Home!" At that it was as if all
the noise that had gone before had been mere leakage of pent-up
enthusiasm. A thousand horns blared deafeningly, the whistles of the
engine and of Hibbard's mill were added to the din, the court-house bell
was pealing out a welcome, and the church bells were ringing, the cannon
thundered, and then cheer on cheer shook the air, as John Harkless came
out under the flags, and passed down the steps of the car.

When Helen saw him, over the heads of the people and through a flying
tumult of flags and hats and handkerchiefs, she gave one frightened glance
about her, and jumped down from her high perch, and sank into the back
seat of the buckboard with her burning face turned from the station and
her eyes fixed on the ground. She wanted to run away, as she had run from
him the first time she had ever seen him. Then, as now, he came in
triumph, hailed by the plaudits of his fellows; and now, as on that long-
departed day of her young girlhood, he was borne high over the heads of
the people, for Minnie cried to her to look; they were carrying him on
their shoulders to his carriage. She had had only that brief glimpse of
him, before he was lost in the crowd that was so glad to get him back
again and so proud of him; but she had seen that he looked very white and
solemn.

Briscoe and Tom Meredith made their way through the crowd, and climbed
into the buckboard. "All right, Lige," called the judge to Willetts, who
was at the horses' heads. "You go get into line with the boys; they want
you. We'll go down on Main Street to see the parade," he explained to the
ladies, gathering the reins in his hand.

He clucked to the roans, and by dint of backing and twisting and turning
and a hundred intricate manoeuvres, accompanied by entreaties and
remonstrances and objurgations, addressed to the occupants of surrounding
vehicles, he managed to extricate the buckboard from the press; and once
free, the team went down the road toward Main Street at a lively gait. The
judge's call to the colts rang out cheerily; his handsome face was one
broad smile. "This is a big day for Carlow," he said; "I don't remember a
better day's work in twenty years."

"Did you tell him about Mr. Halloway?" asked Helen, leaning forward
anxiously.

"Warren told him before we left the car," answered Briscoe. "He'd have
declined on the spot, I expect, if we hadn't made him sure it was all
right with Kedge."

"If I understood what Mr. Smith was saying, Halloway must have behaved
very well," said Meredith.

The judge laughed. "He saw it was the only way to beat McCune, and he'd
have given his life and Harkless's, too, rather than let McCune have it."

"Why didn't you stay with him, Tom?" asked Helen.

"With Halloway? I don't know him."

"One forgives a generous hilarity anything, even such quips as that," she
retorted. "Why did you not stay with Mr. Harkless?"

"That's very hospitable of you," laughed the young man. "You forget that I
have the felicity to sit at your side. Judge Briscoe has been kind enough
to ask me to review the procession from his buckboard and to sup at his
house with other distinguished visitors, and I have accepted."

"But didn't he wish you to remain with him?"

"But this second I had the honor to inform you that I am here distinctly
by his invitation."

"_His_?"

"Precisely, his. Judge Briscoe, Miss Sherwood will not believe that you
desire my presence. If I intrude, pray let me--" He made as if to spring
from the buckboard, and the girl seized his arm impatiently.

"You are a pitiful nonsense-monger!" she cried; and for some reason this
speech made him turn his glasses upon her gravely. Her lashes fell before
his gaze, and at that he took her hand and kissed it quickly.

"No, no," she faltered. "You must not think it. It isn't--you see, I--
there is nothing!"

"You shall not dull the edge of my hilarity," he answered, "especially
since so much may be forgiven it."

"Why did you leave Mr. Harkless?" she asked, without raising her eyes.

"My dear girl," he replied, "because, for some inexplicable reason, my
lady cousin has not nominated me for Congress, but instead has chosen to
bestow that distinction upon another, and, I may say, an unworthier and
unfitter man than I. And, oddly enough, the non-discriminating multitude
were not cheering for me; the artillery was not in action to celebrate me;
the band was not playing to do me honor; therefore why should I ride in
the midst of a procession that knows me not? Why should I enthrone me in
an open barouche--a little faded and possibly not quite secure as to its
springs, but still a barouche--with four white horses to draw it, and
draped with silken flags, both barouche and steeds? Since these things
were not for me, I flew to your side to dissemble my spleen under the
licensed prattle of a cousin."

"Then who _is_ with him?"

"The population of this portion of our State, I take it."

"Oh, it's all right," said the judge, leaning back to speak to Helen.
"Keating and Smith and your father are to ride in the carriage with him.
You needn't be afraid of any of them letting him know that H. Fisbee is a
lady. Everybody understands about that; of course they know it's to be
left to you to break it to him how well a girl has run his paper." The old
gentleman chuckled, and looked out of the corner of his eye at his
daughter, whose expression was inscrutable.

"I!" cried Helen. "_I_ tell him! No one must tell him. He need never know
it."

Briscoe reached back and patted her cheek. "How long do you suppose he
will be here in Plattville without it's leaking out?"

"But they kept guard over him for months and nobody told him."

"Ah," said Briscoe, "but this is different."

"No, no, no!" she exclaimed. "It _must_ be kept from him somehow!"

"He'll know it by to-morrow, so you'd better tell him this evening."

"This evening?"

"Yes. You'll have a good chance."

"I will?"

"He's coming to supper with us. He and your father, of course, and Keating
and Bence and Boswell and Smith and Tom Martin and Lige. We're going to
have a big time, with you and Minnie to do the honors; and we're all
coming into town afterwards for the fireworks; I'll let him drive you in
the phaeton. You'll have plenty of time to talk it over with him and tell
him all about it."

Helen gave a little gasp. "Never!" she cried. "Never!"

The buckboard stopped on the "Herald" corner, and here, and along Main
Street, the line of vehicles which had followed it from the station took
their places. The Square was almost a solid mass of bunting, and the north
entrance of the court-house had been decorated with streamers and flags,
so as to make it a sort of stand. Hither the crowd was already streaming,
and hither the procession made its way. At intervals the cannon boomed,
and Schofields' Henry was winnowing the air with his bell; nobody had a
better time that day than Schofields' Henry, except old Wilkerson, who was
with the procession.

In advance, came the boys, whooping and somersaulting, and behind them,
rode a band of mounted men, sitting their horses like cavalrymen, led by
the sheriff and his deputy and Jim Bardlock; then followed the Harkless
Club of Amo, led by Boswell, with the magnanimous Halloway himself
marching in the ranks; and at sight of this the people shouted like
madmen. But when Helen's eye fell upon his fat, rather unhappy face, she
felt a pang of pity and unreasoning remorse, which warned her that he who
looks upon politics when it is red must steel his eyes to see many a man
with the heart-burn. After the men of Amo, came the Harkless Club of
Gainesville, Mr. Bence in the van with the step of a grenadier. There
followed next, Mr. Ephraim Watts, bearing a light wand in his hand and
leading a detachment of workers from the oil-fields in their stained blue
overalls and blouses; and, after them, came Mr. Martin and Mr. Landis at
the head of an organization recognized in the "Order of Procession,"
printed in the "Herald," as the Business Men of Plattville. They played in
such magnificent time that every high-stepping foot in all the line came
down with the same jubilant plunk, and lifted again with a unanimity as
complete as that of the last vote the convention had taken that day. The
leaders of the procession set a brisk pace, and who could have set any
other kind of a pace when on parade to the strains of such a band, playing
such a tune as "A New Coon in Town," with all its might and main?

But as the line swung into the Square, there came a moment when the tune
was ended, the musicians paused for breath, and there fell comparative
quiet. Amongst the ranks of Business Men ambled Mr. Wilkerson, singing at
the top of his voice, and now he could be heard distinctly enough for
those near to him to distinguish the melody with which it was his
intention to favor the public:

            "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
               As we go marching on."

The words, the air, that husky voice, recalled to the men of Carlow
another day and another procession, not like this one. And the song
Wilkerson was singing is the one song every Northern-born American knows
and can sing. The leader of the band caught the sound, signalled to his
men; twenty instruments rose as one to twenty mouths; the snare-drum
rattled, the big drum crashed, the leader lifted his baton high over his
head, and music burst from twenty brazen throats:

             "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!"

Instantaneously, the whole procession began to sing the refrain, and the
people in the street, and those in the wagons and carriages, and those
leaning from the windows joined with one accord, the ringing bells caught
the time of the song, and the upper air reverberated in the rhythm.

The Harkless Club of Carlow wheeled into Main Street, two hundred strong,
with their banners and transparencies. Lige Willetts rode at their head,
and behind him strode young William Todd and Parker and Ross Schofield and
Homer Tibbs and Hartley Bowlder, and even Bud Tipworthy held a place in
the ranks through his connection with the "Herald." They were all singing.

And, behind them, Helen saw the flag-covered barouche and her father, and
beside him sat John Harkless with his head bared.

She glanced at Briscoe; he was standing on the front seat with Minnie
beside him, and both were singing. Meredith had climbed upon the back seat
and was nervously fumbling at a cigarette.

"Sing, Tom!" the girl cried to him excitedly.

"I should be ashamed not to," he answered; and dropped the cigarette and
began to sing "John Brown's Body" with all his strength. With that she
seized his hand, sprang up beside him, and over the swelling chorus her
full soprano rose, lifted with all the power in her.

The barouche rolled into the Square, and, as it passed, Harkless turned,
and bent a sudden gaze upon the group in the buckboard; but the western
sun was in his eyes, and he only caught a glimpse of a vague, bright shape
and a dazzle of gold, and he was borne along and out of view, down the
singing street.

             "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
              Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
              Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
                   As we go marching on!"

The barouche stopped in front of the courthouse, and he passed up a lane
they made for him to the steps. When he turned to them to speak, they
began to cheer again, and he had to wait for them to quiet down.

"We can't hear him from over here," said Briscoe, "we're too far off. Mr.
Meredith, suppose you take the ladies closer in, and I'll stay with the
horses. You want to hear his speech."

"He is a great man, isn't he?" Meredith said to Helen, gravely, as he
handed her out of the buckboard. "I've been trying to realize for the last
few minutes, that he is the same old fellow I've been treating so
familiarly all day long."

"Yes, he is a great man," she answered. "This is only the beginning."

"That's true," said Briscoe, who had overheard her. "He'll go pretty far.
A man that people know is steady and strong and level-headed can get
whatever he wants, because a public man can get anything, if people know
he's safe and honest and they can rely on him for _sense_. It sounds like
a simple matter; but only three or four public men in the country have
convinced us that they are like that. Hurry along, young people."

Crossing the street, they met Miss Tibbs; she was wiping her streaming
eyes with the back of her left hand and still mechanically waving her
handkerchief with her right. "Isn't it beautiful?" she said, not ceasing
to flutter, unconsciously, the little square of cambric. "There was such a
throng that I grew faint and had to come away. I don't mind your seeing me
crying. Pretty near everybody cried when he walked up to the steps and we
saw that he was lame."

Standing on the outskirts of the crowd, they could hear the mellow ring of
Harkless's voice, but only fragments of the speech, for it was rather
halting, and was not altogether clear in either rhetoric or delivery; and
Mr. Bence could have been a good deal longer in saying what he had to say,
and a thousand times more oratorical. Nevertheless, there was not a man or
woman present who did not declare that it was the greatest speech ever
heard in Plattville; and they really thought so--to such lengths are
loyalty and friendship sometimes carried in Carlow and Amo and Gaines.

He looked down upon the attentive, earnest faces and into the kindly eyes
of the Hoosier country people, and, as he spoke, the thought kept
recurring to him that this was the place he had dreaded to come back to;
that these were the people he had wished to leave--these, who gave him
everything they had to give--and this made it difficult to keep his tones
steady and his throat clear.

Helen stood so far from the steps (nor could she be induced to penetrate
further, though they would have made way for her) that only fragments
reached her, but what she heard she remembered:

"I have come home . . . Ordinarily a man needs to fall sick by the wayside
or to be set upon by thieves, in order to realize that nine-tenths of the
world is Samaritan, and the other tenth only too busy or too ignorant to
be. Down here he realizes it with no necessity of illness or wounds to
bring it out; and if he does get hurt, you send him to Congress. . . .
There will'be no other in Washington so proud of what he stands for as I
shall be. To represent you is to stand for realities--fearlessness, honor,
kindness. . . . We are people who take what comes to us, and it comes
bountifully; we are rich--oh, we are all Americans here! . . . This is the
place for a man who likes to live where people are kind to one another,
and where they have the old-fashioned way of saying 'Home.' Other places,
they don't seem to get so much into it as we do. And to come home as I
have to-day. . . . I have come home. . . ."

Every one meant to shake hands with him, and, when the speech was over,
those nearest swooped upon him, cheering and waving, and grasping at his
hand. Then a line was formed, and they began to defile by him, as he stood
on the steps, and one by one they came up, and gave him hearty greetings,
and passed on through the court-house and out at the south door. Tom
Meredith and Minnie Briscoe came amongst the others, and Tom said only,
"Good old boy," as he squeezed his friend's hand; and then, as he went
down the hall, wiping his glasses, he asked Minnie if she believed the
young man on the steps had risen from a sick bed that morning.

It was five-o'clock when Harkless climbed the stairs to the "Herald"
office, and his right arm and hand were aching and limp. Below him, as he
reached the landing, he could see boys selling extras containing his
speech (taken by the new reporter), and long accounts of the convention,
of the nominee's career, and the celebration of his home-coming. The sales
were rapid; for no one could resist the opportunity to read in print
descriptions of what his eyes had beheld and his ears had heard that day.

Ross Schofield was the only person in the editorial room, and there was
nothing in his appearance which should cause a man to start and fall back
from the doorway; but that was what Harkless did.

"What's the matter, Mr. Harkless?" cried Ross, hurrying forward, fearing
that the other had been suddenly reseized by illness.

"What are those?" asked Harkless, with a gesture of his hand which seemed
to include the entire room.

"Those!" repeated Ross, staring blankly.

"Those rosettes--these streamers--that stovepipe--all this blue ribbon."

Ross turned pale. "Ribbon?" he said, inquiringly. "Ribbon?" He seemed
unable to perceive the decorations referred to.

"Yes," answered John; "these rosettes on the chairs, that band, and----"

"Oh!" Ross exclaimed. "That?" He fingered the band on the stovepipe as if
he saw it for the first time. "Yes; I see."

"But what are they for?" asked Harkless, touching one of the streamers
curiously.

"Why--it's--it's likely meant for decorations."

John picked up the ink-well, staring in complete amazement at the hard
knot of ribbon with which it was garnished.

"They seem to have been here some time."

"They have; I reckon they're almost due to be called in. They've be'n up
ever sence--sence----"

"Who put them up, Ross?"

"We did."

"What for?"

Ross was visibly embarrassed. "Why--fer--fer the other editor."

"For Mr. Fisbee?"

"Land, no! You don't suppose we'd go to work and bother to brisken things
up fer that old gentleman, do you?"

"I meant young Mr. Fisbee--he is the other editor, isn't he?"

"Oh!" said Ross, coughing. "Young Mr. Fisbee? Yes; we put 'em up fer him."

"You did! Did he appreciate them?"

"Well--he seemed to--kind of like 'em."

"Where is he now? I came here to find him."

"He's gone."

"Gone? Hasn't he been here this afternoon?"

"Yes; some 'the time. Come in and stayed durin' the leevy you was holdin',
and saw the extra off all right."

"When will he be back?"

"Sence it's be'n a daily he gits here by eight, after supper, but don't
stay very late; the new man and old Mr. Fisbee and Parker look after
whatever comes in late, unless it's something special. He'll likely be
here by half-past eight at the farthest off."

"I can't wait till then." John took a quick turn about the room. "I've
been wanting to see him every minute since I got in," he said impatiently,
"and he hasn't been near me. Nobody could even point him out to me. Where
has he gone? I want to see him _now_."

"Want to discharge him again?" said a voice from the door, and turning,
they saw that Mr. Martin stood there observing them.

"No," said Harkless; "I want to give him the 'Herald.' Do you know where
he is?"

Mr. Martin stroked his beard deliberately. "The person you speak of hadn't
ort to be very hard to find--in Carlow.   The committee was reckless
enough to hire that carriage of yours by the day, and Keating and Warren
Smith are setting in it up at the corner, with their feet on the cushions
to show they're used to ridin' around with four white horses every day in
the week. It's waitin' till you're ready to go out to Briscoe's. It's an
hour before supper time, and you can talk to young Fisbee all you want.
He's out there."

As they drove along the pike, Harkless's three companions kept up a
conversation sprightly beyond the mere exhilaration of the victorious; but
John sat almost silent, and, in spite of their liveliness, the others eyed
him a little anxiously now and then, knowing that he had been living on
excitement through a physically exhausting day, and they were fearful lest
his nerves react and bring him to a breakdown. But the healthy flush of
his cheek was reassuring; he looked steady and strong, and they were
pleased to believe that the stirring-up was what he needed.

It had been a strange and beautiful day to him, begun in anger, but the
sun was not to go down upon his wrath; for his choleric intention had
almost vanished on his homeward way, and the first words Smith had spoken
had lifted the veil of young Fisbee's duplicity, had shown him with what
fine intelligence and supreme delicacy and sympathy young Fisbee had
worked for him, had understood him, and had _made_ him. If the open
assault on McCune had been pressed, and the damnatory evidence published
in Harkless's own paper, while Harkless himself was a candidate and rival,
John would have felt dishonored. The McCune papers could have been used
for Halloway's benefit, but not for his own; he would not ride to success
on another man's ruin; and young Fisbee had understood and had saved him.
It was a point of honor that many would have held finicky and
inconsistent, but one which young Fisbee had comprehended was vital to
Harkless.

And this was the man he had discharged like a dishonest servant; the man
who had thrown what was (in Carlow's eyes) riches into his lap; the man
who had made his paper, and who had made him, and saved him. Harkless
wanted to see young Fisbee as he longed to see only one other person in
the world. Two singular things had happened that day which made his
craving to see Helen almost unbearable--just to rest his eyes upon her for
a little while, he could ask no more. And as they passed along that well-
remembered road, every tree, every leaf by the wayside, it seemed, spoke
to him and called upon the dear memory of his two walks with her--into
town and out of town, on show-day. He wondered if his heart was to project
a wraith of her before him whenever he was deeply moved, for the rest of
his life. For twice to-day he had seen her whom he knew to be so far away.
She had gone back to her friends in the north, Tom had said. Twice that
afternoon he had been momentarily, but vividly, conscious of her as a
living presence. As he descended from the car at the station, his eyes,
wandering out over the tumultuous crowd, had caught and held a picture for
a second--a graceful arm upraised, and a gloved hand pressed against a
blushing cheek under a hat such as is not worn in Carlow; a little figure
poised apparently in air, full-length above the crowd about her; so, for
the merest flick of time he had seen her, and then, to his straining eyes,
it was as though she were not. She had vanished. And again, as his
carriage reached the Square, a feeling had come to him that she was near
him; that she was looking at him; that he should see her when the carriage
turned; and in the same instant, above the singing of a multitude, he
heard her voice as if there had been no other and once more his dazzled
eyes beheld her for a second; she was singing, and as she sang she leaned
toward him from on high with the most ineffable look of tenderness and
pride and affection he had ever seen on a woman's face; such a look, he
thought, as she would wear if she came to love some archangel (her love
should be no less) with all of her heart and soul and strength. And so he
knew he had seen a vision. But it was a cruel one to visit a man who loved
her. He had summoned his philosophy and his courage in his interview with
himself  on the way to Carlow, and they had answered; but nothing could
answer if his eyes were to play  him tricks and bring her visibly before
him, and  with such an expression as he had seen upon her face. It was too
real. It made his eyes yearn for the sight of her with an ache that was
physical. And even at that moment, he saw, far ahead of them on the road,
two figures standing in front of the brick house. One was unmistakable at
any distance. It was that of old Fisbee; and the other was a girl's: a
light, small figure without a hat, and the low, western sun dwelt on a
head that shone with gold. Harkless put his hand over his eyes with a pain
that was like the taste of hemlock in nectar.

"Sun in your eyes?" asked Keating, lifting his hat, so as to shield the
other's face.

"Yes."

When he looked again, both figures were gone. He made up his mind that he
would think of the only other person who could absorb his attention, at
least for a time; very soon he would stand face to face with the six feet
of brawn and intelligence and manhood that was young Fisbee.

"You are sure he is there?" he asked Tom Martin.

"Yes," answered Martin, with no need to inquire whom the editor meant. "I
reckon," he continued, solemnly, peering at the other from under his rusty
hat-brim, "I reckon when you see him, maybe you'll want to put a kind of
codicil to that deed to the 'Herald.'"

"How's that, Martin?"

"Why, I guess maybe you'll--well, wait till you see him."

"I don't want to wait much longer, when I remember what I owe him and how
I have used him, and that I have been here nearly three hours without
seeing him."

As they neared the brick house Harkless made out, through the trees, a
retreative flutter of skirts on the porch, and the thought crossed his
mind that Minnie had flown indoors to give some final directions toward
the preparation of the banquet; but when the barouche halted at the gate,
he was surprised to see her waving to him from the steps, while Tom
Meredith and Mr. Bence and Mr. Boswell formed a little court around her.
Lige Willetts rode up on horse back at the same moment, and the judge was
waiting in front of the gate. Harkless stepped out of the barouche and
took his hand.

"I was told young Fisbee was here."

"Young Fisbee is here," said the judge.

"Where, please, Briscoe?"

"Want to see him right off?"

"I do, very much."

"You'll withdraw his discharge, I expect, now?"

"Ah!" exclaimed the other. "I want to make him a present of the 'Herald,'
if he'll take it." He fumed to Meredith, who had come to the gate. "Tom,
where is he?"

Meredith put his hand on his friend's shoulder, and answered: "I don't
know. God bless you, old fellow!"

"The truth is," said the judge, as they entered the gate, "that when you
drove up, young Fisbee ran into the house. Minnie--" He turned, but his
daughter had disappeared; however, she came to the door, a moment later,
and shook her head mysteriously at her father.

"Not in the house," she said.

Mr. Fisbee came around the corner of the porch and went toward Harkless.
"Fisbee," cried the latter, "where is your nephew?"

The old man took his hand in both his own, and looked him between the
eyes, and thus stood, while there was a long pause, the others watching
them.

"You must not say that I told you," he said at last. "Go into the garden."

But when Harkless's step crunched the garden path there was no one there.
Asters were blooming in beds between the green rose-bushes, and their
many-fingered hands were flung open in wide surprise that he should expect
to find young Fisbee there.  It was just before sunset. Birds were
gossiping in the sycamores on the bank. At the foot of the garden, near
the creek, there were some tall hydrangea bushes, flower-laden, and,
beyond them, one broad shaft of the sun smote the creek bends for a mile
in that flat land, and crossed the garden like a bright, taut-drawn veil.
Harkless passed the bushes and stepped out into this gold brilliance. Then
he uttered a cry and stopped.

Helen was standing beside the hydrangeas, with both hands against her
cheeks and her eyes fixed on the ground. She had run away as far as she
could run; there were high fences extending down to the creek on each
side, and the water was beyond.

"_You_!" he said. "_You--you_!"

She did not lift her eyes, but began to move away from him with little
backward steps. When she reached the bench on the bank, she spoke with a
quick intake of breath and in a voice he scarcely heard. It was the merest
whisper, and her words came so slowly that sometimes minutes separated
them.

"Can you--will you keep me--on the 'Herald'?"

"Keep you----"

"Will you--let me--help?"

He came near her. "I don't understand. Is it you--you--who are here
again?"

"Have you--forgiven me? You know now why I wouldn't--resign? You forgive
my--that telegram?"

"What telegram?"

"That one that came to you--this morning."

"_Your_ telegram?"

"Yes."

"Did you send me one?"

"Yes."

"It did not come to me."

"Yes--it did."

"But there--What was it about?"

"It was signed," she said, "it was signed--" She paused and turned half
way, not lifting the downcast lashes; her hand, laid upon the arm of the
bench, was shaking; she put it behind her. Then her eyes were lifted a
little, and, though they did not meet his, he saw them, and a strange,
frightened glory leaped in his heart. Her voice fell still lower and two
heavy tears rolled down her cheeks. "It was signed," she whispered, "it
was signed--'H. Fisbee.'"

He began to tremble from head to foot. There was a long silence. She had
turned quite away from him. When he spoke, his voice was as low as hers,
and he spoke as slowly as she had.

"You mean--then--it was--you?"

"Yes."

"You!"

"Yes."

"And you have been here all the time?"

"All--all except the week you were--hurt, and that--that one evening."

The bright veil which wrapped them was drawn away, and they stood in the
silent, gathering dusk.

He tried to loosen his neck-band; it seemed to be choking him. "I--I
can't--I don't comprehend it. I am trying to realize what it----"

"It means nothing," she answered.

"There was an editorial, yesterday," he said, "an editorial that I thought
was about Rodney McCune. Did you write it?"

"Yes."

"It was about--me--wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"It said--it said--that I had won the love of every person in Carlow
County."

Suddenly she found her voice. "Do not misunderstand me," she said rapidly.
"I have done the little that I have done out of gratitude." She faced him
now, but without meeting his eyes. "I told you, remember, that you would
understand some day what I meant by that, and the day has come. I owed you
more gratitude than a woman ever owed a man before, I think, and I would
have died to pay a part of it. I set every gossip's tongue in Rouen
clacking at the very start, in the merest amateurish preparation for the
work Mr. Macauley gave me. That was nothing. And the rest has been the
happiest time in my life. I have only pleased myself, after all!"

"What gratitude did you owe me?"

"What gratitude? For what you did for my father."

"I have only seen your father once in my life--at your table at the dance
supper, that night."

"Listen. My father is a gentle old man with white hair and kind eyes. You
saw my uncle, that night; he has been as good to me as a father, since I
was seven years old, and he gave me his name by law and I lived with him.
My father came to see me once a year; I never came to see him. He always
told me everything was well with him; that his life was happy. Once he
lost the little he had left to him in the world, his only way of making
his living. He had no friends; he was hungry and desperate, and he
wandered. I was dancing and going about wearing jewels--only--I did not
know. All the time the brave heart wrote me happy letters. I should have
known, for there was one who did, and who saved him. When at last I came
to see my father, he told me. He had written of his idol before; but it
was not till I came that he told it all to me. Do you know what I felt?
While his daughter was dancing cotillions, a stranger had taken his hand--
and--" A sob rose in her throat and checked her utterance for a moment;
but she threw up her head and met his eyes proudly. "Gratitude, Mr.
Harkless!" she cried. "I am James Fisbee's daughter."

He fell back from the bench with a sharp exclamation, and stared at her
through the gray twilight. She went on hurriedly, again not looking at
him:

"When you showed me that you cared for me--when you told me that you did--
I--do you think I wanted to care for you? I wanted to do something to show
you that I could be ashamed of my vile neglect of him--something to show
you his daughter could be grateful. If I had loved you, what I did would
have been for that--and I could not have done it. And how could I have
shown my gratitude if I had done it for love? And it has been such dear,
happy work, the little I have done, that it seems, after all, that I have
done it for love of myself. But--but when you first told me--" She broke
off with a strange, fluttering, half inarticulate little laugh that was
half tears; and then resumed in another tone: "When you told me you cared
that night--that night we were here--how could I be sure? It had been only
two days, you see, and even if I could have been sure of myself, why, I
couldn't have told you. Oh! I had so brazenly thrown myself at your head,
time and again, those two days, in my--my worship of your goodness to my
father and my excitement in recognizing in his friend the hero of my
girlhood, that you had every right to think I cared; but if--but if I had
--if I had--loved you with my whole soul, I could not have--why, no woman
could have--I mean the sort of girl I am couldn't have admitted it--must
have denied it. And what I was trying to do for you when we met in Rouen
was--was courting you. You surely see I couldn't have done it if I had
cared. It would have been brazen! And do you think that then I could have
answered--'Yes'--even if I wanted to--even if I had been sure of myself?
And now--" Her voice sank again to a whisper. "And now----"

From the meadows across the creek, and over the fields, came a far
tinkling of farm-bells. Three months ago, at this hour, John Harkless had
listened to that sound, and its great lonesomeness had touched his heart
like a cold hand; but now, as the mists were rising from the water and the
small stars pierced the sky one by one, glinting down through the dim,
immeasurable blue distances, he found no loneliness in heaven or earth. He
leaned forward toward her; the bench was between them. The last light was
gone; evening had fallen.

"And now--" he said.

She moved backward as he leaned nearer.

"You promised to remember on the day you understood," she answered, a
little huskily, "that it was all from the purest gratitude."

"And--and there is nothing else?"

"If there were," she said, and her voice grew more and more unsteady, "if
there were, can't you see that what I have done--" She stopped, and then,
suddenly, "Ah, it would have been _brazen_!"

He looked up at the little stars and he heard the bells, and they struck
into his heart like a dirge. He made a singular gesture of abnegation, and
then dropped upon the bench with his head bowed between his hands.

She pressed her hand to her bosom, watching him in a startled fashion, her
eyes wide and her lips parted. She took a few quick, short steps toward
the garden, still watching him over her shoulder.

"You mustn't worry," he said, not lifting his bent head, "I know you're
sorry. I'll be all right in a minute."

She gave a hurried glance from right to left and from left to right, like
one in terror seeking a way of escape; she gathered her skirts in her
hand, as if to run into the garden; but suddenly she turned and ran to
him--ran to him swiftly, with her great love shining from her eyes. She
sank upon her knees beside him. She threw her arms about his neck and
kissed him on the forehead.

"Oh, my dear, don't you see?" she whispered, "don't you see--don't you
see?"

When they heard the judge calling from the orchard, they went back through
the garden toward the house. It was dark; the whitest asters were but gray
splotches.  There was no one in the orchard; Briscoe had gone indoors.
"Did you know you are to drive me into town in the phaeton for the
fireworks?" she asked.

"Fireworks?"

"Yes; the Great Harkless has come home."

Even in the darkness he could see the look the vision had given him when
the barouche turned into the Square. She smiled upon him and said, "All
afternoon I was wishing I could have been your mother."

He clasped her hand more tightly. "This wonderful world!" he cried.
"Yesterday I had a doctor--a doctor to cure me of love-sickness!"

They went on a little way. "We must hurry," she said. "I am sure they have
been waiting for us." This was true; they had.

From the dining-room came laughter and hearty voices, and the windows were
bright with the light of many lamps. By and by, they stood just outside
the patch of light that fell from one of the windows.

"Look," said Helen. "Aren't they good, dear people?"

"The beautiful people!" he answered.





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