Captivating Mary Carstairs
Henry Sydnor Harrison
Part 5 out of 6
meant to do came back to him hazily, like the plot of a half-forgotten
play. The hobgoblins in a nightmare seemed not more unreal to him now.
His heart sang with the knowledge that he was to see her again, this
time with no shadow between.
Two nights' rain had left the road dustless: it was silent and empty.
All about him fell the pleasant evening noises of the wood, but he did
not hear them. As he walked, his mind was rehearsing the whole story of
his coming to Hunston, as he was now free to confess it to Uncle
Elbert's daughter. That she would forgive him he never entertained a
doubt. For he would throw himself wholly on her mercy--telling her
everything, painting himself as blackly as he could--and suing for
pardon only because he had failed.
But when suddenly he saw her, sooner than he had expected, his polished
and elaborate phrases dropped from his mind as cleanly as had the
recollection of the roguery of Higginson.
It was at that hour when the skies remember the set sun in a gold and
pink glow. A little kink in the road straightened out under his swift
feet, and a small cottage in a fair-sized lawn jumped out of the woods
into vision, almost upon him. On the small square porch, her back to the
road, stood Miss Carstairs, talking through the open window to some one
in the room beyond.
Varney, having stopped short at the first sudden sight of her, walked on
very slowly. Her voice came to him distinctly, and now and then he
caught scattering words of what she was saying. She wore her blue dress
of the luncheon and the hat which Mrs. Marne, and others, had so
admired; and she gave him the odd impression of being somehow _older_
than she had ever seemed before.... Yet she was ten years his junior and
three days ago, at this very hour, he had never so much as laid eyes
"I'll come Saturday morning, then," she was saying, "and you'll
certainly have them ready for me, won't you? Good-bye."
She turned from the window, came towards the steps. At the top of them,
she saw Varney standing at the gate, not twenty yards away, and stopped
dead. Then she came on down the stairs, down the graveled walk towards
"I'm going away at eight o'clock," he began without greeting, striving
to make his voice casual. "I went to your house first--and--"
"You--followed me here?"
"Yes," he said, unsmiling. "I had to see you before I went--on matters
She was nearer to him now: for the first time he could see her eyes. In
them lay a faint shadowiness like the memory of shed tears; but sweeping
over that and blotting it out he saw a look which struck him like a
"There is nothing for you to see me about, I think--any more," she said
with a little laugh. "The game is up--isn't that what they say in
melodrama? My mother has told me all about it."
"Your mother has _told you_!" he echoed stupidly, as one to whom the
words conveyed no meaning.
"She had not expected to see me so soon again, when I went off to lunch
on my father's yacht. The surprise was a little too much for her. You
must try to forgive her," said Mary, and punctuated the observation with
a small, final bow. "Will you open the gate for me?"
"No," said Varney, pulling himself sharply together. "Not like that."
The shock of her voice and look, even more than her words, had been
stunning in their first unexpectedness. But now he remembered, with
infinite relief, that of course she did not understand the matter at
all; of course she would speak and look very differently when he had
made his explanation.
"You think," Varney said, "that I _mind_ your knowing about our poor
little plot--that I am found out and my plans are all upset? How on
earth could you think that? Why, that's all like something in another
life. Don't you know what my being here at this moment means? The thing
is all over, Miss Carstairs--all past and done with an hour before you
ever saw your mother. I gave it up voluntarily. When the time came, just
now on the yacht, I found out that it was impossible--unthinkable--I
couldn't do it. The game was up then. That is one thing that your mother
could not tell you, and it was to tell you this, and all the rest of it,
that I followed you here."
She stood on the other side of the gate, hardly an arm's length from
him, looking at him; a figure so pretty, so dainty, so extremely
decorative that she seemed incapable of giving anything but pleasure.
But in the eyes that met his own so unwaveringly, he read at once the
contradiction of this.
"Yes, I suppose that would always be the way, wouldn't it?--that
whenever I found out, you were just going to tell me?"
If she had searched her mind for a way to strangle his headlong
self-defence, she could not possibly have done it more effectually.
There followed a horrible pause.
"You mean ... that you do not believe me?"
"In the little while that I have known you, have you given me much
"Can't you see that that is exactly the reason I wanted to tell you all
the truth now?"
"Why did you wait till _now_? Weren't there chances to tell me this
afternoon on my father's yacht? But--there's no use to speak of all
this. It is enough that I know it now."
He was aware that her voice had lost that hard and polished lightness
with which she had first struck at him; on this last sentence, he
thought that it trembled a little; and in a flash, he saw the whole
matter from her side of it, and for the moment ceased to think about
He leaned his arms upon the green panel of the gate and looked down at
"Don't think that I blame you for not taking my word. Probably I
couldn't expect it. We can't very well argue about that.... And of
course I have known all along--how you would feel about me, when you
found out what I came here to do. I was ready for that--ready for you to
be angry. But I don't seem to have taken it in that you would be ...
hurt. That makes it a good deal worse."
She made no reply. She had lowered her heavy-fringed eyes; her slim,
gloved hands were busily furling and unfurling her white parasol.
"There is nothing in this that need hurt you. Believe me in this, at any
rate. Only three people are concerned in it. You will have no doubt of
your mother. That she told you shows how impossible it was to her, even
with Uncle Elbert wanting you so much. You will not mind about your
father--not in any personal way. He is a stranger to you. That leaves
Still she said nothing. It seemed to him that he had never looked at so
still a face.
"For me, I might make you angry as any--acquaintance might--any
stranger. But that is all. It is not ... as if we had been friends."
She raised her eyes, and the look in them seemed to give the lie to
every word he had said.
"What do you call a friend? Did I not trust you--put myself in your
power--fall confidingly in with your hateful plot--after I had been
plainly warned not to? Oh, if I had only listened to Mr. Higginson, I
should not have the humiliation of remembering that--hour on the yacht!"
The name stung him into instant recollection. He stood staring at her,
and his face darkened.
In the first staggering revelation of her look, his sub-conscious mind
had leapt instantly to the conclusion that his cunning enemy, having
found out his secret, had betrayed it to Miss. Carstairs. Her first
words had disposed of that. It was the tortured mother, not the
professional sneak, who had been before him with his explanation. But
now it rushed over him that he had an infinitely deeper grudge against
the vanished spy. For it was Higginson, with his bribe-money, who had
broken down the yacht; Higginson who would, in any case, have forced the
return to Hunston; Higginson who had given this girl the right to think,
as she did think, that she owed her escape wholly to an "accident" to
He had thought that he had saved Uncle Elbert's daughter from himself,
and lo, his enemy had plucked the honor from him. The world should not
be big enough for this man to elude his vengeance.
"You mention Mr. Higginson. Where is he?"
She glanced at him, impersonally, struck by the unconscious sternness of
"I do not know, but I am most anxious to see him--to thank him--"
"I am told that he left town at four o'clock. Perhaps you know his
address in New York?"
"I do not," she answered coldly. "No doubt he went away hurriedly ...
frightened of you because of his kindness to me."
She came a step forward to the gate. Instantly his thought veered back
to her and his tense face softened.
"How can I blame you," he said hurriedly, "for thinking the worst of me?
I've been thinking badly enough of myself, God knows. But don't you
know, can't you imagine, that nothing could have held me to the
miserable business a single moment after I saw you, had I not been bound
by a solemn promise to your poor father?"
"My father! Oh, if he is the sort of man to plot a thing like this, and
to bludgeon my mother into it, how could you endure to _promise_ to do
it for him?"
"Because he is breaking his heart for you, and you didn't know it. It
seemed right that he should see you, since he wants to so much."
All her sense of the wrong he had done her flared up in anger at that.
"How do _you_--_dare_ say what seems right between my father and me? He
is breaking his heart for me, he told you? Did he mention to you that
she had _broken_ hers for him? Don't you suppose that I have had
time--and reasons--to decide which of them I belong to?"
"All this," he said, "was before I knew you."
About them hung the stillness of the country and the long empty road.
The woods stirred; a bird called; a portly hare poked his nose through
the brush over the way, and suddenly scuttled off, his white flag up. In
Mrs, Thurston's yard, the quiet was profound.
"All his life," said Mary Carstairs, "my father has thought about
nothing but himself. I am sorry for him--but he must take the
consequences of that now. If he is lonely, it is his own making. If my
mother has been lonely till it has almost killed her, that is his doing,
too. For you--there was never any place in this. As for me, I owe him
nothing. He must beg my mother's forgiveness before he shall ever get
She came forward another half-step and laid her hand upon the gate-latch
with a movement whose definiteness did not escape him.
"You may take back that answer from me if you wish. And so, good-bye."
"Not good-bye," said Varney, instantly. "You must not say that."
"I am quite sure that I have nothing else left to say."
Her eyes went past him over the gate, out into the wood beyond. Dusk was
falling about them; it shaded her face, intangibly altered it, made it
for the moment almost as he had known it before. She looked very young,
and tired. This was the picture of her, and he knew it then as he looked
at her, that he would carry with him to the longest day he lived.
"Is it nothing to you," he cried in a rush, "that when the time came I
couldn't do it? The yacht's breaking down had nothing in the world to do
with it. I had already decided to turn back, to break my promise. That
the--accident happened just then was only a wretched chance. I was going
to put about at that moment."
She hesitated almost imperceptibly, seemed for a brief second to waver.
But perhaps she dared not let herself believe him now: perhaps the
strongest wish of her heart was to hurt him as deeply as she could.
"To say the least," she said with a little deliberate movement of
distaste, "your coincidences are unfortunate. You--won't mind if I go on
being grateful to the--_gear_?"
Under that crowning taunt, his self-restraint snapped like an
"You shall not say that. You shall not. Miss Carstairs, you _know_ I
could have kept you on the yacht if I had wanted to. You _know_ how I
gave the order to put about and bring you back to Hunston. Did I look in
the least then like a man whose hopes and plans had been ruined? You
know I did not. You know I said to you that I--I was the happiest man in
America. Will you tell me what on earth that could mean--except that I
had decided to give up a thing that has been a millstone around my neck
ever since--I met you?"
She made no reply, did not look at him. The dusk shadowed her eyes; and
whether her silence meant good or ill he could not tell.
"You cannot answer, you see. We both know why. You will not be fair to
me, Miss Carstairs. It is that night in the Academy box-office over
again. Because I _had_ to deceive you once--not for my own sake--you
will not look at the plain facts. But in your heart--just like that
other night--_I know you believe me."_
Of course she could not let that pass now. "I do not!" she said. "I do
not. I must ask you, please, not to keep me here any longer."
Varney's face went a shade paler. Arguing about his own veracity was
even less bearable than he had thought; his manner all at once became
"The merest moment, if you will. I can prove what I say," he answered
slowly, "but of course I won't do that. You must believe what _I_ say,
believe _me_. Nothing else matters but that.... Don't you know that it
took a very strong reason to make me break faith with my old friend,
your father--to make me stand here begging to be believed, like this?
You have only to look at me, I think. Don't you know that I couldn't
possibly deceive you now ... after what has happened to me?"
"I don't know what you mean. I don't understand. Don't tell me. Nothing
has happened ..."
"Everything has happened," he said still more quietly. "I've fallen
crazily in love with you."
She did not lift her eyes; neither moved nor spoke; gave no sign that
she had heard. He went on slowly:
"This--might be hard to believe, except that it must be so easy to see.
I've known you less than three days, and I never wanted to--even like
you. My one idea was to think of you as my enemy. That was what Maginnis
and I agreed--plotting together like a pair of nihilists. It all seems
so preposterous now. Everything was against me from the beginning. I
wouldn't face it till to-day, this afternoon. Then it all came over me
in a rush, and, of course, your happiness became a great deal more to me
than your father's. So we turned around, and it was then that I told you
how happy I was. Didn't you know then what I meant? Of course it was
because I had just found out ... how you were the one person in the
world who mattered to me."
There was a long silence. It deepened, grew harder to break. Little
Jenny Thurston, watching these two through an upstairs shutter, marveled
what adults found to say to each other in these interminable colloquies.
A young cock-sparrow, piqued by their stillness, alighted on the fence
near by and studied them, eye cocked inquisitively.
"Of course, I'm not--asking anything," said Varney. "About this, I mean.
I am answered, and over-answered, already. But ... do you believe now
that I--voluntarily gave it up?"
"Oh," said Mary, "you--you must not ask me that. You must not talk to me
like this. I did trust you once--fully--when you were almost a stranger;
last night--and then this afternoon--"
"Do you believe me," said Varney, "or do you not?"
Her lower lip was trembling very slightly, and she set her white teeth
upon it. The sudden knowledge that she was near to tears terrified her,
goaded her to lengths. She gathered all her pride of opinion and young
sense of wrong and frightened feminine instinct, for a final desperate
stand; and so flung at him more passionately than she knew: "How many
times must I tell you? _I do not! I do not_!"
Varney gave her a last look, stamping her face upon his mind, and took a
step backward from the gate.
"Then," said he ... "this is good-bye, indeed."
Presently Mary raised her eyes. He had turned southward, toward the
town, but at a pace so swift that he was already far down the road. A
jutting curve came soon, and he vanished behind it, out of her sight.
Dusk was falling fast on the wood now. The green of the trees deepened
and blackened, turning into a crooked smudge upon the sky-line. The road
fell between them like a long gray ribbon. Nothing was to be seen upon
it; nothing was to be heard but the rustle of the early night wind and
the pleasant sounds of the open road.
Varney's mind as he walked, was a blank white wall. He had forgotten
Elbert Carstairs, forgotten the train he was to take, forgotten even the
unendurable injury that Higginson had put upon him. His one blind
instinct had been to get away as quickly and completely as possible. But
now, slowly, it was borne in upon him that he knew this road, that he
had walked it once before like this, at the end of the day. His first
night in Hunston--he remembered it all very well. It must have been
just here--or here--that the rain had caught him, and he had gone on to
The cottage which had sheltered them that night must be close at hand.
His eyes, which had been upon the ground, lifted and went off down the
road. They fell upon the dark figure of a man, shuffling slowly along in
the gloom, not twenty yards ahead of him.
He was an old man, shambling and gray-whiskered, and stooped as he
walked. If he was aware that another wayfarer followed close behind, he
gave no sign. Suddenly he stopped short with a feeble exclamation, and
began peering about the ground at his feet. The young man was up with
him directly, and his vague impression of recognition suddenly became
fitted to a name.
The bowed form straightened and turned. Through the thickening twilight
the two men looked at each other.
"You were not by any chance waiting for me?"
The darkness hid old Orrick's eyes; he shook his head slowly a number of
times. "I passed you when you was at Miz Thurston's, sir. I can' walk
fas' like you can." And he bent down over the road again.
"What's the matter with you?" asked Varney. "Have you lost something?"
"Los' my luck-piece," said the other, slowly, not looking up. "I was
carryin' it in my hand 's I come along an' it jounced out. A 1812 penny
it was an' vallyble."
He cut rather a pitiful figure, squatting down in the dirt and
squinting about with short-sighted old eyes; and Varney felt
unaccountably sorry for him.
"I wouldn' los' my luck-piece for nothin'," he added, dropping to his
knees. "I'm a kind of a stoop'sitious man, an' I allus was."
"Perhaps I can help you; my eyes are good."
He went back a step or two, bending down and scrutinizing the brown
earth. Orrick, presently announcing that the coin might have rolled,
made a slow way across the road on his knees, patting the ground with
his hand as he moved. Near the edge of it, half in the woods, lay a
thick piece of split firewood, long as a man's arm and stouter. The
knotted old fingers stealthily closed on it.
"It could n't have rolled far on this soft road," said Varney presently.
"Just where do you think you dropped it?"
Sam Orrick rose behind his stooping figure with upraised club, a blaze
of triumph in his sodden old eyes.
"There!" he cried with a senseless laugh. "It's _there_, Stanhope!"
The club fell with a thud; and Varney, meeting it as he straightened up,
toppled over like a log, face downward.
Old Orrick stared down at the prostrate figure, and presently touched it
with his tattered foot. It did not stir. His fierce joy died. He looked
about him apprehensively, and his eye fell at once upon a dim-lit
cottage off the road just back of him. _His_ cottage--how had he
forgotten that? Was that dark thing--a man--standing there at the gate?
Suddenly a great terror seized the old man. He threw his stick into the
woods and slunk away, toward the town. A loud yell from behind brought
his heart to his throat, and he broke into a wild, lumbering run.
MR. FERRIS STANHOPE MEETS HIS DOUBLE; AND LETS THE DOUBLE MEET
In the new-made study of his Remsen road cottage, Ferris Stanhope,
Hunston's returned celebrity, sat under a green-shaded lamp and frowned
down at a sheaf of his own neat manuscript. Behind him, in a corner,
books and various knick-knacks lay spilled over the floor around an open
trunk. The room was, in fact, in the litter incident to getting to
rights. But this did not act as a stay on the great man's habit of
industry, which happened to be of the most persistent variety.
The study blinds were drawn, and the rest of the house was in darkness.
The author noted three emendations upon his manuscript, made three more.
Then, with a muttered exclamation, he stripped off the interlined sheet
altogether, tore it into shreds, threw the shreds on the floor and
reached for a pad of white paper. At that moment he became aware of
footsteps and heavy breathing in the hall, and looked up inquiringly.
His man-servant, Henry, was standing in the doorway, the long limp body
of a man in his arms.
Mr. Stanhope sprang hurriedly to his feet. In his face the servant saw
that same odd look of fleeting anxiety which he had noted there when
they descended from the train that morning.
"In the name of heaven--what have you there?"
"Harskin' your pardon, sir," gasped Henry, staggering into the room,
"I'm honcertain whether 'e 's kilt or not. Struck down from behind by an
old codger with long 'air and gray whiskers. Hi was at the gate--"
"But what do you mean by hauling the carcass in here? Do you think I'm
running a private morgue?"
Henry, who had been in his present employment a bare month, came to a
wobbly pause, surprised. The body grew very heavy in his stout arms. Now
the man's head slid off Henry's shoulder and tumbled backwards, hanging
down in the full glow of the lamp.
"Hi thought, sir--" began the servant with panting dignity.
"O my God!" said the author suddenly.
Henry, who had not had a look at his burden, misunderstood.
"Ghastly sight, hain't it, sir--that bloody gash on 'is 'ead?"
"Quick! Put him on the sofa.--Now some water."
The servant, whose limbs were numb from the long carry, obeyed with
alacrity. But returning hurriedly with the water, he was met at the door
by his perverse master, who took the glass from his hands with the curt
announcement that that would do.
Henry looked as displeased as his subservient position made advisable.
"Hif you please, sir, I have quite a 'and with the hinjured and--"
"He's only stunned," said his master impatiently. "I 'll attend to him
And he banged the door in the servant's face.
The man lay on the lounge precisely as Henry had happened to place him,
his averted face half buried in the pillows. Investigation showed that
he had no bloody gash on his head: that was Henry's imagination. There
did not, in fact, seem to be a mark on him beyond three small scratches
on his forehead.
Stanhope put his hand under the chin and turned it toward him, none too
gently. For a full moment he stood motionless, staring down at that
white face so like his own. Then he dipped his hand in the glass, and
splashed a handful of water upon the closed eyes.
At the first touch of it, the still figure of the injured man stirred
with faint signs of returning consciousness. Far down in a black and
utter void, he sensed the first glimmer of distant light. Slowly,
slowly, the glimmer grew. The silence within gave place to a vast
roaring in his ears and indescribable pain in his head; and the dull
glow which had seemed to him the shining frontier of some far new world
whither he was gratefully journeying, resolved itself into a circle of
"Drink this," said a soft but peremptory voice.
He drank, incuriously; and the fiery liquid ran to his head and heart
and shot new life into his dead limbs. But the more his lost strength
came back to his body, the more he was aware of the terrible pain in his
head. It occurred to him vaguely that when once he opened his eyes,
which he would have to do some time, there would be a horrible explosion
and his head would go off like a sky-rocket.
"You feel better now," asserted rather than inquired the voice.
"Much. Thanks to you. It's only--my head. Something seems to be wrong
with it, a little."
"Somebody hit you there with a club, from behind. You remember now,
don't you? Who was it?"
"I don't know," said Varney wearily.
"Oh, come! Your head isn't as bad as all that--there's not even a bump
on it. Think a moment. An old man, with long hair and gray whiskers. You
must know who it was."
Varney pressed his hand upon his racking forehead. "Oh! So it was
he--then. Poor old Orrick."
The author's face lost something of its color. "Orrick!... What--what
has this fellow got against you?"
Varney did not answer. The name had started remote memories to working,
and, very slowly, returning comprehension advanced to meet them. He and
old Orrick had been standing together on a woodland road. They were
hunting for something. An 1812 penny and valuable. That was it. Before
that, he had stood a long time near a green gate somewhere, looking at a
pair of dark-blue eyes. He remembered distinctly what merciless eyes
they were, though something in a far corner of his mind recalled that he
had once, oddly enough, associated them with pleasant things. Then,
like one rounding a sharp corner in a driveway, his memory came face to
face with everything; and he turned his head to the wall.
But there was no escape from that insistent voice, so eager for an
explanation. A hand fell upon his shoulder, shook it almost roughly.
"Don't let yourself drop off again. Here! You want another drink?"
"No, I'm quite all right now--thank you."
To prove it, and to make ready to get away where he could be quiet, he
performed the herculean task of opening his eyes. A tall man was bending
over him, an anxious expression on his handsome face. More than the
liquor, more even than the jostling hand upon his shoulder, the look of
that face, so strange yet so familiar, braced Varney to action.
The two pairs of gray-blue eyes, so oddly matched in tint and shape,
stared into each other steadily. Presently Varney dragged his feet
around to the floor, with difficulty, as was natural to their thousand
tons of weight, and taking hold of a chair pulled himself up on them. He
raised his hands, slowly and cautiously, to his head. Good! It was still
there. The impression that it had left his shoulders and was floating
around in the air a foot or two above them thus turned out to be an
"There!" he heard the author saying briskly. "A little effort was all
you needed, as I thought."
"That was all. Thank you. You must have pulled me in from the road,
didn't you? It was very kind. You have just arrived in Hunston--I
"I came only this morning," his good Samaritan replied. "In the nick of
time, it seems, to be of assistance. And you?" he added, with a slight
bow. "You are a native here, perhaps?"
"Do you remember me," asked Varney quietly, "when you were here twelve
Mr. Stanhope selected a cigarette from a large open box on the table,
lit it carefully, took several long inhalations. "No," he said easily.
"But for that matter, I fear that I remember few of my boyhood
acquaintances in Hunston. But--this man--Orrick, you said?--has there
been bad blood between you two for some time then?"
"No," said Varney, simply. "He struck me, I believe, because he thought
I was you?"
"_What_!" cried the author with overdone surprise.
"I am glad--to meet you so soon after your arrival," continued Varney.
"Some one should tell you that your boyhood acquaintances have longer
memories. You came here for your health, I believe? I think you might do
well to leave for the same reason."
Stanhope's eyes became little slits behind his trim glasses. "What do
you mean by these extraordinary remarks?"
Varney, whose brain seemed to have changed into a ball of shooting pains
and brilliant fireworks, endeavored to think out clearly just what he
had meant by his extraordinary remarks.
"Possibly you think that I resemble you somewhat?" he said, slowly. "A
number of people here seem to hold that view. In fact, they have
mistaken me for you--everybody has. Doubtless you know why they should
feel unkindly towards you. I make myself perfectly clear, do I not? Only
this afternoon I heard that a little party was being gotten together for
The author dropped his nervous-looking eyes; he tugged uncertainly at
his wisp of a mustache.
"This thump on the head from poor old Orrick may satisfy them,"
continued Varney. "But my idea is that it won't. I think Orrick was
acting independently this afternoon. A kind of free lance, you know. I
think he met me by accident. There's a train to New York at eight-ten,"
he added, looking about for his hat. "I believe I'd clear out if I were
"Something's back of this!" broke out Stanhope suddenly. "Some dirty
scheme--some infamous plot--"
"Yes, you are right," said Varney with an effort. "There is a plot back
of it. But I don't know that that makes it any better for you--"
"I insist that you explain yourself at once!"
"I was just about to. I came here three days ago, a stranger--on a
little stay. A friend who is with me got interested in a reform movement
here. Politics, you understand. The other side to injure him, published
the story that I was you, under an _alias_. Naturally we didn't like
that. We bought the paper just to say that I wasn't. I supposed that had
settled it. It seems I was wrong. You see, a good deal of feeling had
been worked up meantime--"
"Hello!" exclaimed Stanhope suddenly raising his hand. "What's that?"
Varney listened. "Men's voices," he said slowly.
The door flew open and a man whose ordinary impassivity was touched with
a pleasurable excitement stood on the threshold.
"If you please, sir, there's some rough-looking men just sneaked up on
the lawn. Ten or twelve--sort of a mob-like, Hi should say--"
"What do they want?" demanded Stanhope in a high voice.
"No good, sir, I'm thinking," said the servant shaking his head. "I was
at an upstairs window and saw 'em come sneaking up one by one, hentering
at different places. I made a noise not honlike the click of a 'ammer of
a gun, and they took alarm and scattered back. But they hain't gone
away, sir. Not by a long shot they hain't."
Henry's master leaned against his handsome writing table, his face white
as a sheet. It appeared to be a moment when quick action was rather
"They'll try the bell first," said Varney. "Lock all the doors and
windows downstairs, my man. Quick! When they ring, open a window
upstairs, and ask what they want."
Henry recognized the note of competent authority. He assumed, anyway,
that it was the strange gentleman's quarrel they had so fortunately been
let into, and it was only fair that he should manage it. "Very good,
sir," he said and flew.
"But I'm afraid," added Varney to Stanhope, "there is no doubt what they
A single quiet footfall sounded on the porch and the door-bell pealed.
In the silence that followed, the noise of the turning of locks and the
drawing of bolts was distinctly audible in the study.
"Damn you!" cried Stanhope, pale with the sudden white-hot passion of
the unstable. "This is your doing--you--you masquerader!"
The two men stood facing each other, hardly a yard apart. They were
almost exactly of a figure, Stanhope being if anything a shade the
taller. Each was conscious as he regarded the other that he might be
looking at himself, intangibly altered, in a mirror; and the fancy was
pleasing to neither.
"I suppose I might as reasonably call you that," said Varney quietly. "I
might as reasonably say that this knock on the head from Sam Orrick was
your doing. The fact is that you were a fool to come back here. But as
for those poor fellows out there--"
The door-bell rang again, insistently, and he broke off. A window
upstairs rattled open, and they heard a man's steady voice:
"'I there on the piazza! What do you want?"
"I want to see Mr. Stanhope a minute," called a thicker voice from
below. "On important business."
"'E's not 'ere," said faithful Henry. "'E's expected to arrive
"You're a ---- ---- liar!"
Immediately a general yelling arose, from farther back in the darkness.
Diplomacy, it seemed, was about to be abandoned for immediate action.
But over the sudden hubbub, that cool voice at the window rang out
"Hif it's fight you want, Hi'll say we were expectin' you. There's ten
of us 'ere, hall armed--"
A derisive voice was heard in answer. "We'll see about that, my buck,
"Men! Hi've got a brace of six-shooters 'ere in my 'and. The first of
you as comes into the light gets a couple of 'oles drilled into 'is
hinside, neat and clean."
Having launched this threat from his inky window to gain a little time,
Henry silently withdrew, flung downstairs and broke into the study, his
scrape and bow forgotten, to inquire whether either of the gentlemen
had, in Gawd's mercy, hanythink that would shoot.
His master, whose well-kept hands were opening and shutting by his side,
did not answer.
"No," said Varney, "I am unarmed."
"Heven without a gun, sir," said Henry to Stanhope, and his look was not
such as a servant wears to his master, "we could lick a harmy of them
"We could never do it!" cried Mr. Stanhope shrilly.
The shouting outside, though still a discreet distance back, grew more
articulate. Very fearful were their menaces.
"Come out, Stanhope! Your time's come!"
"We'll string yer to a tree, yer----"
"Fellers, let's burn the damn rat out!"
Stanhope's face went from white to pale green. He steadied himself
against the table with a hand that quivered, and looked at Varney.
"It's--it's you they want," he said.
"O my Gawd," cried Henry and put his face into his hands.
"Yes," said Varney, averting his eyes also, "it's I they want." And he
started for the door.
But Henry, who had noted the marked resemblance between the two men and
had caught faint glimmerings of what these strange things meant, barred
his way with an immortal rejoinder.
"Hif you please, sir, Stanhope was the name they called."
Varney gave a tired laugh. His terrible headache made him chafe at any
prolonging of the scene. Moreover, it made rational thought difficult,
twisting common-sense into fanciful shapes. It seemed to him an
unendurable thing that he should protect himself under the wing of such
a man as Stanhope; and the thought of fierce action drew him like a
"You're a good fellow, Henry," he said quietly. "However, your master
and I agree perfectly."
But at that moment, the small window at the back of the room, which no
one had thought to fasten, flew open and a man slipped nimbly through
it--a big, hard-breathing, iron-faced man, with perspiration streaming
rivers down his sun-tanned cheeks.
Mr. Stanhope, with a weak exclamation, moved so as to bring the table
between himself and the intruder. Varney's eyes grew suddenly anxious.
"Thank God, you're safe, Larry!" gasped Peter, looking hurriedly about
him, and characteristically asking no questions. "Four of us!
Magnificent! We can hold this room for a year against those drunken
The din outside grew deafening. One man, braving Henry's threat, had
made a bolt across the star-lit space to the house, and no shot had rung
out from the upstairs window. Others had instantly followed, and the
little front porch now echoed under many feet. Yet, boisterous as they
were, the mobbers seemed to hesitate at taking the front door at a rush,
as though fearful of what reception might await them in the dark and
silent hall beyond.
But now a stone crashed through a front window downstairs, and a man's
voice rang out suddenly so close that it seemed to be inside the parlor:
"One minute to come out fair in the open, Stanhope, or we'll set a light
to this house, so help us God!"
Mr. Stanhope gave a low cry. "Call to them, Henry!" he ordered, wildly.
"Quick! Tell them I'm coming out this minute."
Henry, his back against the door, did not stir.
"_Hare_ you goin' out, sir?"
"No," said Varney, "he isn't. But I am."
Peter came further into the pretty room, impatient eyes fixed on Varney.
"What fool's talk is this?" he demanded roughly. "Nobody is going out.
Another loud crash of broken glass drowned him out. In Varney's eye the
look of anxiety had deepened. He understood everything at a glance.
Adroit proddings of a few poor Hackleys, some cheap liquor, the word
passed to Maginnis as from a friend--this was how the boss of Hunston
had plotted to set his heel upon Reform and stamp it out forever. He
came three steps back into the room, sternly.
"You were a monumental fool to let them send you here, Peter--"
But the swelling tumult without made parley out of the question.
"No time for talk!" roared Peter. "It's fight now--before they are in on
us! Lights out--and to the front, all of us!"
"Right hoh!" cried Henry, man to man, and ran out the door.
"No, no!" protested Mr. Stanhope thickly, "it is n't fair--"
Peter wheeled and looked at him, personally, for the first time. He had
recognized him instantly, and now when he saw what he saw on that sickly
green face, his fine eyes hardened.
"Four, I said? I see there are only three men here. No matter--three
good ones are more than enough. Larry, stay here! I'll take the front
door--the man the front windows--"
But Varney blocked his way to the door with a face more resolute than
"Stand back, Peter. We'll do nothing of the sort. Those are Ryan's men
out there. They don't want Mr. Stanhope--you know that. I don't like
this place anyhow--I'm going to get out--"
"I'll sizzle in hell if you do!" bellowed Peter, and violently pinioned
But Stanhope, clutching at the chance, struck again for the safety of
his skin. "He ought to go," he cried swiftly. "It is n't my
quarrel--don't you see? Let go his arm there--you bully!--let him go!"
The shock of that, curiously, surprised Peter into complying. He
dropped Varney's arms, turned swiftly to the author and fixed him with a
look for which, alone, another man would have cried for his blood. "Did
I hear you aright?" he said in an oddly still voice. "Do I understand
you to suggest that he be sent out there alone?"
Mr. Stanhope shrank before that look, but this was the utmost concession
"It's not my quarrel," he said moistening his lips--and suddenly,
glancing over Peter's shoulder, his eyes lit with a frightened gleam of
triumph. "It's he they--"
Over the shouting a single hoarse cry rang out very close at hand.
"Curse you for the cowardliest dog God ever made!" cried Peter, his
passion breaking its thin veil of calmness like a bullet. "If you
interfere in this, you'll not hide afterward where I'll not find you.
Larry! You'll--" Peter turned and broke off short with an exclamation
which was a good deal like a groan.
Varney was not there. Taking advantage of Peter's momentary distraction,
he had slipped through the door and fled down the hall.
Shaken with the rushing sense of his friend's danger, Peter started
wildly for the door. But in that fraction of a second, the lamp on the
center table was blown suddenly out and he found himself in inky
darkness. At the same moment something thrust itself dexterously between
his moving legs and he fell heavily to the floor. Falling he struck out
blindly, and his whirling fist collided with something warm and soft.
The next instant he was up and groping madly for the door, his sense of
direction all gone from him. But the author lay where he had fallen,
quite still, and, for the moment, afraid no longer.
The moment's gain, however, was all that Stanhope needed, though it was
no more. In the dark hall where a single candle burned, Varney had met
Henry. The instant before, a man's head and shoulders had protruded
suddenly through the broken-in parlor window, and Henry, waiting
patiently in the shadow of the wall had flatted him to the floor with a
heavy chair, which broke in his hands. Then he heard swift footsteps in
the hall, and divining what had happened, bounded out.
"Stand clear, man!" cried Varney loudly. "I'm going out."
A prolonged shouting indicated that the promise was heard with approval
outside. But not so with Henry, who closed in on him fiercely, crying:
"Not hon your bloomin' life, you don't--harskin' your pardon, sir!"
Varney, however, was a thing of nerves and passion now, all energy and
muscle and concentrated purpose. He shook the man off like a rat, and
the next moment burst open the front door.
All this had happened far more quickly than it can be set down. Five
minutes had hardly passed since Henry's first challenge had rung from
the upstairs window. This would have been ample time to carry the house
by storm, front and back, had the invaders had the leadership and wit;
but these things they lacked. They were still massed on the front porch,
pell-mell, in a turbulent group, ramping, raging, thirsty for action,
but as yet ineffective; though one of them had at that moment set a
match to a torch of newspapers and kindling wood. Delay had loosed the
hunter's instinct in the half-drunken band: it broke into flame at sight
of the quarry. Varney had scarcely shown himself in the half-opened door
when some one struck him a savage blow on the chin that sent him reeling
He had come out to them with no plan, no sense of hostility, and only
because, in his disturbed mood, he despised Stanhope so utterly that he
would take no protection from him, or give him any share in his own
troubles. But at that blow, a demon sprang to life in him which knew no
law but an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. His left arm shot out
like a piston at the dim flushed face before him, and the face bobbed
downward out of sight.
At the same moment, the heavy back of a chair in supple hands descended
out of space behind him with a thud; and a great tall fellow, staggering
backward with the unexpected pain of that stroke, for the moment
obstructed his comrades. For Henry had followed where he could not lead,
and now ranged himself joyously at Varney's side in the narrow
The setback, however, was trivial. In the next breath, they closed round
him with a great shout, thrusting Henry violently to one side. Three men
were required for this latter task, who so missed the real sport of the
night. Another was caught when the front porch fell in with a crash, and
was pulled out with a broken leg an hour later. But enough remained.
Varney was instantly lost in a struggling and kicking hurly-burly of
arms and legs, and was borne with them in a rush down the short flight
of steps to the lawn. All, of course, could not reach him. So it
happened that two or three, on the outskirts of the tossing group, heard
the feet of reinforcements in the hallway and wheeled at that sound.
Even in the faint light, Peter's great size made him easily
recognizable; and a young man of Hare's party named Bud Spinks, who
admired him intensely and had partaken of his hospitality in the town,
was still enough himself to cry out:
"Keep away, Mr. Maginnis! This ain't your fuss!"
"You'll see!" shouted Peter, and cleared the wrecked porch at a bound.
In his dash through the darkness for the door he had stumbled over the
fragments of Henry's broken chair. One stout leg of it remained in his
hand now. Peter's prowess with that weapon has passed into legend in
Hunston. They tell to this day of a great giant, eight feet tall,
watchful eyes in all parts of him, impervious to all blows,
hundred-handed and every hand like the kick of a mule, who met ten men
almost single-handed that night and routed them utterly.
He was the biggest man in Hunston, the strongest and the most terrible
in anger. Bud Spinks, because he did not know whose fuss that was, felt
the bite of that anger, and toppled beneath it like a sapling under the
woodman's axe. So did poor old Orrick, who had met the others on the
road and returned with them, and who was the only man of them all that
Peter recognized. Two of those who were looking after Henry, having laid
him to rest by this time, rushed Peter from behind. One of them struck
him heavily on the point of the jaw as he swung around, and was
astonished that he did not appear to notice it. The next instant he fell
senseless under a blow that crushed through his upraised fists as a
hammer might go through a drumhead. One Peter hit a glancing blow upon
the shoulder, and as long as he lived he could never raise that arm
above his head again.
Thus Peter was free to fling himself on that violently swaying mass
which he knew held Varney. Even those on the further side knew precisely
the moment he struck it. The whole body quivered with the shock of that
impact. Those nearer that chair leg and that equally terrible fist had
more personal testimony to his presence. There was no resisting either.
They got in many blows upon him, as his bruised body and discolored face
showed next morning. But he never once faltered. To himself, with a
precious moment lost back in the study and a heart afire to know if he
were yet in time, his progress seemed desperately slow; yet he cleft a
path for himself as by magic.
Knocking some down, thrusting others aside or frightening them away, he
found his answer at last with sudden directness. A big raw-boned fellow,
fiercely drunk and working with his feet at something on the ground,
wheeled and struck passionately at Peter's face. A blow like a cannon
shot was his reply, and, for the second time under the impact of that
fist, Jim Hackley (though Peter did not know him) measured his length
upon the ground. Two or three scattering ones, still up, were hovering
in Peter's rear with a discreetness which, it chanced was now quite
superfluous. For at that instant, he caught sight of his friend, and
immediately all the fight went out of him and his knees shook.
Varney lay anyhow on the trodden grass, dappled with blood, his head
curved fantastically beneath his shoulders. Another had gone down with
him and lay half over him, a long arm locked about him in a curious
gesture that oddly suggested protection. This one lay face downward, but
Varney, as it happened, was on his back, and his upturned face looked in
the dusky night the image of death.
Peter dropped his club with a strangled cry, and went down on his hands
and knees. No reassuring flutter met the hand which he thrust inside the
trampled bosom. That heart seemed stilled. He gathered the limp form in
his arms like a child's and turned a dreadful face upon the beaten
fragments of the mobbing-party.
"By God!" he shouted passionately. "You've killed him!"
They faded away into the darkness, such of them as could walk, sobered
by the horror of that cry, frightened more at that face than at all the
blows which had gone before.
So Peter stood alone in the little lawn, dark figures of his enemies
stretched here and there about him, his great arms clutching the inert
body of his friend, groaning his pain to the four winds. But the next
instant, flying hoof-beats sounded on the road, raced near, and a
two-horse buggy, overloaded with men, pulled up sharply at the gate. A
very small pale man, in a frock-coat plastered with dirt, and stuttering
violently as he shouted Peter's name, tore up the path.
"You're too late, Hare!" cried Peter wildly. "They've killed him!"
RELATING HOW VARNEY FAILS TO DIE; AND WHY SMITH REMAINED IN HUNSTON; AND
HOW A RECEPTION IS PLANNED FOR MR. HIGGINSON
Thus it happened that the southbound local, which went through at
eight-ten, did not acquire Varney as a passenger that night; and his old
friend, Elbert Carstairs, did not meet his emissary at nine-thirty, or
indeed at any hour that evening. But two travelers for New York did
board the local at Hunston, and both of them, as it chanced, repaired to
the car provided for smokers, each for his own reasons.
One of them straightway lighted a long cigar, which a gentleman had
given him that morning, doubtless unwisely, for he was not above twelve
years old. The other, who happened to sit in the seat just before him,
did not smoke. He was rendered conspicuous by the fact that he wore no
hat, and by the deadly pallor of his face, relieved only by a reddening
bump beneath the right eye. His clothes also were dirty and disheveled
till he seemed scarcely the superior in elegance of the little
ragamuffin behind him.
So that it was not surprising that the amiable conductor, standing by
for the tickets and struck by the obvious likeness, should have
"Your son's pretty young to be a-smokin' seegars, ain't he?"
Mr. Stanhope, not knowing what this remark meant, and caring less,
answered with a cold stare, though inwardly he cursed the man for his
fatuous impertinence. That done, he relapsed dully into his own
thoughts, which were all of the house he had scurried from, terrified by
Peter's cry, half an hour before....
In that house, in Mr. Stanhope's own deserted bed, Varney lay at his
ease, as quiet as a statued man. Over the bed, industriously at work,
hung the keen-faced town doctor, whom Hare had gotten with a speed which
passed all understanding. At the foot of the bed stood Peter Maginnis,
his face like the face of a carven image.
At the very moment when the garrulous conductor was trying to foist off
poor little Tommy Orrick upon Mr. Stanhope, the old doctor raised his
"He's not dead _yet_. An excellent chance I should say."
Peter's face did not change. His hand tightened on the foot-board till
his nails whitened. It was as though he had pulled a signal cord which
ran unseen under the bed-clothes and rung a mysterious bell in some
remote corner of his friend's head. Varney immediately opened one eye,
let it rest on Peter and said in a clear voice:
"You all right, Peter?"
That done he relapsed immediately into unconsciousness again. The doctor
took out a large handkerchief, wiped his brow and smiled. Peter, his
quick relief like a storm of joy, went downstairs to tell his friends
of the Reform Committee, and do a thousand other things.
By nine o'clock the town was ringing with the wild story, and in the
still watches of the later night the telegraph flung it to far places,
to be read in wonder next morning in a million homes. Overnight, the
great eye of the country turned like an unwinking searchlight upon the
dingy town by the Hudson where happened to dwell Mrs. Elbert Carstairs
and her only daughter, Mary. And all the world read how two men who were
doubles had strangely met in a lonely house with a drunken mob outside;
how one of them, who had earned the mob, turned the other out to face
it; how the son of a famous captain of industry had shamed the
Berserkers in his passionate muscularity: how one "double" had fled to
save his skin and how the other, battered almost beyond recognition, now
lay trembling between life and death.
In Hunston, there followed next day a whirl of police activity, of which
the net results were tame in the extreme. Of all the fierce band which
had stormed the house of Mr. Stanhope, only poor old Orrick and Mr.
British, the bookseller--he who had been pulled out senseless from under
the beams of the porch--were identified. Mr. British flatly and
resolutely declined to testify as to who his comrades were, and old Sam
Orrick, terrified though he was by prospective horrors of the law,
loyally perjured his immortal soul by swearing that the men were all
strangers to him and that he believed them to be visitors from another
The count against these two proved to be only assault and battery,
though for three days and nights it was a toss of the coin whether they
would not have to answer for a graver charge. Peter's joy had soon
proved premature and the doctor's smile faded in unexpected
bewilderment. The sick man did not improve in the least. Delirium
followed hard upon deadly stupor and there seemed no rousing him from
The yellow cottage with the trampled flower-beds and smashed windows,
which looked so bare-faced with its front porch shaved away, had passed
to Peter for the moment by right of conquest. In it everything that
conducted to the comfort of ill man had been quickly and lavishly
installed. Everybody was wonderfully kind and thoughtful. Mrs. Marne,
who reached the cottage with Mrs. Carstairs half an hour after the
doctor the first night, and had done wonders before the nurses arrived,
was simply invaluable. Hare came night and morning, horribly formal and
ill at ease, begging for something to do. Flowers and inquiries from
total strangers were an hourly occurrence. From Charlie Hammerton came a
quart of magnificent Scotch, followed on the second day by a pile of
clippings from the _Gazette's_ exchanges which must have gratified the
injured man extremely if only he had been able to read them. His own
leading article, headed "Laurence Varney, Hero," Editor Hammerton
modestly suppressed. By the hand of sad-faced McTosh came a hideous
floral piece, in fact, a red, white, and blue star, bearing the label
"From the sorrowing crew of the _Cypriani_." Mrs. Carstairs, whose
emotions at the time were hardly fully understood in the yellow cottage,
called daily and sent beautiful roses and chicken jelly. The roses faded
and the chicken jelly was considerably enjoyed by the nurses. But from
Mrs. Carstairs's daughter, whose filial relations had invoked all these
things, there came neither flower nor word.
The fight had taken place upon a Thursday night. On Friday, the Hunston
doctor, at his wits' end, had asked for a consultation. On Saturday, the
great doctor from the city had spent an hour in the sick-room, first
examining the patient in a bodily way, and then prodding him with a
tireless stream of questions, however futile--anything to make him talk.
At the end of that time he had whispered awhile with the town doctor and
drawn Peter into the study downstairs.
"What's the matter with him, Mr. Maginnis?" he asked abruptly.
"Matter?" echoed Peter. "Wasn't he beaten to a pulp?"
"Kicks don't kill a man with that kind of physique. What has he got on
"I don't know," said Peter, miserably. "The last time I saw him--"
"Find out," said the great doctor, briefly. "If you don't, he may die.
He seems to have had a shock of some kind. You must work upon that line.
There is nothing the matter with his body that he can't throw off. But
he will not get well unless you put the idea into his head that he
And glancing at his watch, he bowed stiffly, and was whirled away to
Peter was utterly at a loss. He had no idea what had taken Varney up the
road to Stanhope's that afternoon, much less of any shock that could
conceivably have come to him. But he set himself to find out. By the
next morning, partly through inquiry, partly through patching two and
two together, he had worked out a theory. Guesswork, of course, was
rather dangerous in a delicate matter such as this; but the doctor's
report after breakfast had been the very worst yet. Peter never
faltered. He picked up his hat from the study table, in front of which
he had been figuring these things out, and started down the hall.
Mrs. Marne was sitting quietly on the bottom step of the stairway, her
dark head in her hands; and Peter was glad to see her.
"I've found out a little about that," said Peter, in a low voice. "I
believe it was--to see Miss Carstairs that he came up the road that
"Yes," said Mrs. Marne. "I have heard that too."
"She struck me," said Peter, "as a nice little girl. Probably she
doesn't understand the situation. I am going to see her now."
"She won't see you," said Mrs. Marne.
"Yes, she will," said Peter quietly, and started for the door.
But Mrs. Marne caught him by the hand, protectingly, like an elder
sister, and drew him into the parlor and shut the door.
Half an hour later Peter came out and went up the stairs. At the
landing he paused to take off his shoes, and went on up in his stocking
It was Sunday morning, near eleven o'clock, a brilliant morning all sun
and wind. The far church bells of Hunston were ringing on the clear air
like chimes from another world. Never afterward could Peter hear the
Sunday bells without thinking of that moment. At the door, he met Miss
Nevin, the day-nurse, coming out. She said she was going to telephone
Peter slipped into the darkened room and shut the door noiselessly
behind him. After a moment, he tipped over to the bed and sat down in
the nurse's chair, silently. The bed looked very fresh and white and
unrumpled, and that was because the injured man had for two days lain
almost wholly quiet. The thin coverlet defined his long frame perfectly.
Many bandages about the limbs and trunk made it look grotesquely bumpy
and misshapen. One arm, wrapped from shoulder to finger-tip was outside
the coverlet; now and then the hand, which was muffled large as a
boxing-glove, moved a little. Cloths ran slantwise about chin, brow, and
head, leaving only breathing space and one eye uncovered.
Presently, as he became more used to the darkness, Peter observed that
the eye was open and regarding him incuriously: and he started in some
confusion. "Do you feel much pain now, old chap?" he began rather
"Pain?" repeated Varney, vaguely. "No, I don't feel any pain."
"No pain! That's fine!" said Peter with lying cheerfulness, for he knew
that this deadness to sensation was the worst feature in the case.
"That--left leg is rather badly bruised, it seems. I was a little afraid
_that_ might be troubling you some."
"Did Miss Nevin show you all your flowers? They 've just been pouring in
all day every day. We could turn florists to-day without spending a
penny for stock. Couldn't we, Larry, eh?"
"Yes," said Varney laboriously. "We could."
"Everybody has been so kind," continued Peter, desperately, "that upon
my word it's hard to pick and choose. If I were asked to say who had
really been kindest--let me see--yes, I'd name--Mrs. Carstairs. Flowers
and something to eat, some little dainty or delicacy, twice a day. The
fact is, old chap, to put it plainly, though I don't want to distress
you, you know--she is blaming herself about this. Blaming herself
"She oughtn't to do that," said Varney after a time.
"Of course she ought n't to. Yet it's natural enough in a way. Of
course, I'm blaming myself, too--like the mischief--I'd had so many
warnings, you know. Little Hare is blaming himself. And Mr.
Carstairs--poor old fellow! I'll show you his letters when--the light's
a little better for reading. They're fine, honestly. Of course, he
wanted to come on right away, but I wouldn't let him."
"So you see how many of us," continued Peter, nearing his awkward
climax, "have been worried, _personally_, about this--trouble. And how
much, well--how much--happiness is bound up in your getting well. And by
the way--I declare I nearly forgot Miss Carstairs--I declare!"
There was a long silence, which Peter resolved not to break. Through the
shuttered window, the distant bells chimed faintly into the room. The
sick man's stray arm moved restlessly on the coverlet, but otherwise he
lay quite still.
At length Varney said: "When did you see Miss Carstairs? She
But poor Peter's errand was not so easy as that. He had no glad shaft of
promise with which to pierce that deadly Nessus-coat of apathy.
"She couldn't come here, old chap," said Peter, very gravely. "You
hadn't heard, of course. Miss Carstairs is very ill."
"Miss Carstairs is very ill," repeated Varney, not inquiringly, but like
a child saying over a lesson.
"Awfully ill," said Peter encouragingly. "It seems that she came home
Thursday night a little after seven, looking very pale and badly, but
insisting that there was nothing the matter. She sat upstairs with her
mother until about eight, when somebody called her down to the
telephone. Well, she didn't come back. So after a while Mrs. Carstairs
sent down to find out why. The maid found her in the hall--in fact, on
the floor, I believe. She had fainted, you know. Yes--that was it.
Fainted dead away--poor little girl."
After what seemed an eternity of waiting, Varney asked: "What was
it--do you know? At the telephone?"
"Yes. It was Mrs. Marne. She called up Miss Carstairs in the first
excitement of--of your accident, it seems, and I'm afraid she gave a
very exaggerated and alarming account, you know. They put her to bed,"
continued Peter clearing his throat, "and there she's been ever since.
The great shock, you know. Mrs. Marne saw her this morning--the first
time she had been admitted. It's all quite sad. Quite sad. We'll talk of
it again when--you're feeling a bit stronger."
Varney, who had lain like a statue for two days and nights, had begun
moving a little under the coverlet, stirring first one swathed leg, then
the other, as though seeking vainly to shift his position. Now he said
at once: "I want to hear now."
Peter gave a deep sigh. He thought, and rightly, that this was the best
thing that had happened yet.
"Well, it's all very strange, Larry. When I said that it was the shock
of the accident that had made her ill, I did not tell the whole truth.
It seems that she is suffering from a terrible hallucination about it.
She feels in some strange way that the responsibility for all this--is
hers. She told Mrs. Marne that she was responsible for your being on the
road that night, and that she had been unfair about something or other,
and that but for that the--trouble would never have happened. I don't
pretend to understand it. But feeling as she does now--if anything were
to--to go wrong, the poor child would count herself--she would count
"Don't!" said Varney very clearly and distinctly.
His face looked all at once so ghastly that Peter's heart stopped
beating. He thought in a horrible flash that the end had come, and that
he, Peter Maginnis, had brought it by tearing at the worst wound his
friend had. His clumsy diplomacy fell from him as at the last trump. He
dropped on his knees beside the bed with a groan.
"For God's sake, Larry, don't leave _that_ mark to a child like her.
Don't give us all _that_ sorrow to carry to our graves--"
But Varney had pulled his arms free and was clutching wildly at his
head-bandages with heavily swathed fingers.
"You needn't worry about me," he said in a sharp anguished voice. "Great
Scott! What's--what's wrong with my _head_! It's killing me."
He recovered with a speed which puzzled the old Hunston doctor even more
than his previous lethargy had done. Five days later he was well enough
to be lifted downstairs to the small back piazza, and here he lay
blanketed up in a reclining chair for half the sunny afternoon.
A bundle of letters and telegrams lay on his covered knees; and going
slowly through them, he came presently to one from Elbert Carstairs,
arrived only that morning:
"MY DEAR BOY:
Words are feeble things at their best,
and I know of none that would convey to you my great
joy at the news that you are out of danger. By the same
mail, I have learned that my other dear sick one in Hunston
is quite herself again, and I say to God in gratitude
upon my knees that my cup is full."
A pause in the reading here. The long hand of the nurse's clock on the
window-sill had crawled half around the dial before Varney raised the
letter again from his blanketed lap:
"There is much in my heart to tell you, much to beg your
forgiveness for, but I shall keep it to say to you face to
face. Just now the keenest point in my grief is that all
this suffering I have brought upon you has been worse
than unnecessary. Light has come to me in these sleepless
nights, and I see now that there was a much better
way to seek what I sought, a far happier path."
The letter slipped down upon the swathed knees again, and he lay staring
at the blown and sunny tree-tops. Presently the door at his side opened;
a man started to come through it, stopped short, and stood motionless on
Varney slowly turned his head. In the doorway, to his dim surprise,
stood Mr. Stanhope's man, Henry, bowing, unobtrusive, apologetic, ready
to efface himself at a gesture like the well-trained servant he was.
"Why--is that you, Henry?"
"Harskin' your pardon for the hintrusion, sir," said Henry with a wooden
face. "I didn't know you were 'ere, sir. 'Opin' you are feeling improved
to-day, sir--if you please, Hi'll withdraw--"
"Henry," said Varney, "that is no way for you to speak to me--after the
way you stood up for me that night. Come here."
And he disentangled from his covers and held out a rather maimed-looking
Then he saw the soul of the man whip through the livery of the menial
like a knife, and Henry, stumbling forward with a working face, clasped
that hand proudly in his strong white one: only he dropped on one knee
to do it, as if to show that, though gentlemen might be pleased to show
him kindness now and then, he perfectly understood that he was not as
"Ho, sir," he broke out in a tone very different from his
well-controlled voice of service, "I never seen a pluckier thing done,
nor a gamer fight put up. You make me too proud, sir, with your
'and--man to man ... I was shamed, sir, till I couldn't bear it when I
came to and learned that I 'ad not stayed with you, sir, to the end.
Three of them closed in on me, sir, and harskin' your pardon, sir, I was
whippin' hof 'em to standstill when one of them tripped me from be'ind,
"Stand up, Henry," said Varney, rather agitated, "like the man you are."
Henry stood up, with a jerky "Thank you, sir," striving with momentary
ill-success to get a lackey's mask back upon that quivering face.
"I'll always remember you," said Varney with some difficulty, "as a good
and brave man. I don't think I'll ever forget how you disobeyed an
order--to try to save me. And now tell me--what became of your master?"
"'E's in the village, sir," said Henry rather bothered by his throat
"I'm expecting 'im in any moment, sir--"
"In the village?" repeated Varney, surprised. "Mr. Stanhope is in
"_Mr. Stanhope_!" said Henry with an insufferable contemptuousness for
which he at once apologized. "Harskin' your pardon, sir--I thought you
inquired for my master. Mr. Stanhope, I 'ave 'eard, sir, has sailed for
"Well, who's your master, then?"
"Mr. Maginnis is my master, sir."
Varney deliberated on this, and slowly smiled. "Well, you've got a good
"Thank you, sir. That's 'im now, sir. I 'ear 'is motor in the road. If
you'll excuse me, sir--I'll go and let 'im in."
And he bowed and went away, only pausing in the entry to attend a moment
to his blurred eyes with the back of a supple hand.
Peter stepped out into the porch with a cheery greeting and dropped into
a rocking-chair, looking worn and tired. The instant his heavy anxiety
over Varney was relieved, he had thrown himself back into the fight for
reform with a desperate vigor which entirely eclipsed all his previous
"We-ell," he said in answer to Varney's question, "we're humping
along--just humping along. Time's so confoundedly short, though. You
know, Larry, this business the other night is proving the best card
we've got. Fact. I haven't tried to tell you how worked up the people
have been about your--accident, and how most of them don't stand for it
for a minute. It's pretty well understood around town that politics was
back of it all in some way, though nobody can state a single fact, and
I've scoured the town for evidence without finding a scrap. Anyway, it's
the solemn fact, and the committee can prove it, that that feeling is
bringing over a lot of votes that we never could have reached otherwise
with a long distance 'phone."
"Praise be that they're coming over, anyhow."
"This fight," continued Peter, absorbedly, "is confoundedly interesting
because it is typical of what's going on all over the country. Hunston
is just a dingy little microcosm of the whole United States of America.
You can't blame these poor beggars here much, afraid of their jobs as
they are. It takes courage to make a break for virtue when the devil's
holding you by your bread and meat. But--well, I'd hate like the
mischief to lose, particularly since we've managed to come in for such a
beautiful lot of lime-light. You know this fight is being watched all
over the country, since that trouble? And hang it, it does make a
difference when the Associated Press carries half a column about you
every night. Do you remember that first night in Hunston, Larry," he
continued, "when you said that our part in the town's affairs must be
that of quiet onlookers only? Quiet onlookers! And now everybody in the
country is playing quiet onlookers on us. Our names are household words
in California, and I'm credibly informed that they're naming babies
after you all through the middle West. Funny, isn't it?"
Varney assented with a laugh. Presently he said rather constrainedly:
"Peter--I want you to tell me a little about that night. Who was
Peter named the two. "They wouldn't testify," he explained, "and I
couldn't. Old Orrick was the only man I spotted. He will get punished
for assault. I don't see that they've got a case against British. He was
knocked out when the porch fell, and he hadn't done a thing then, except
yell probably. You can't hang a man for yelling in this State."
"No. Did you--you--was anybody killed?"
"Bless your heart, no!" cried Peter. "Why, it was only a little old
kicking-match and hair-pulling, you know, hardly worse than a college
Varney looked suddenly and strangely relieved.
"I'm mighty glad to hear that," he said, and presently added: "Have you
"Smith! He went to New York some days ago. I remember--it was the very
day you pulled up and got well. Why, what about him?"
"Didn't you know? He was there that night," said Varney. "Right in the
thick of it, helping me."
"Helping _you_! Smith!"
Varney nodded. "The minute they closed in on me," he said after a
moment, "and we all bunched together, I felt that there was somebody in
there fighting on my side. Pretty soon I heard a voice in my ear, it
said: '_Keep on your pins as long as you can: these dogs'll trample you
if they get you down_.' I said, 'Is that you, Smith?' and he laughed
and said, '_Still on my studies_.' Then somebody hit me over the head
with something, and I went down and he went with me. He had one arm
around me, I remember. I've been thinking, ever since I could think at
all, that they might--might have finished him. I believe he saved my
life, Smith did."
"Well--bully for him!" said Peter slowly, much impressed. "What on earth
struck him to do that, do you suppose? Well, well! I'll certainly look
that old boy up in New York and shake him by the hand."
There was a considerable silence. At just the moment when Varney was
about to put another question, Peter opened his mouth and answered it.
"However," he said, an irrepressible note of irritation creeping into
his honest voice, "even that was not the strangest thing that happened
that night. Not by a long shot."
Varney's gaze fixed with sudden interest. "Higginson? You don't mean to
say that he turned up?"
"I do. And got away with it again--confound his soul!"
"What happened? Any more dirty work? Did anything get into the papers?"
"No--oh, no! You've got that sized up wrong, Larry. He's no yellow
journalist or anything like that. He's only the slickest underground
worker this town ever saw--with his confounded apologetic,
worried-looking mask of a face. As for more dirty work--well, I guess
the bloodshed the other night scared him up so--"
"But go on and tell me! Where'd you see him? What did you say and--"
"Sitting in our front parlor, if you please, like a dear old friend of
The remembrance of the way he had been affronted and outwitted chafed
Peter's spirit uncontrollably. He rose and began pacing up and down the
little porch, hands thrust deep into his trousers pockets.
"About an hour after we put you to bed," he exploded, "I slipped
downstairs to tell Hare to keep everybody off the place. However, a lot
of people had already come in. I glanced in at the parlor and it seemed
full of them--Mrs. Carstairs and Mrs. Marne--they were the first to get
here after Hare's delegation--Hammerton and another man from the
_Gazette_, the committeemen, and several I'd never laid eyes on before.
Well, there in a corner, looking like a hired mourner at a nigger
funeral, sat that fellow Higginson. You could have knocked me flat with
a pin feather. I'm as sure as I stand here that it was he who worked up
that mob for Ryan, and the whole dirty scheme--and then coming around
with his tongue in his cheek to inquire after the victim! Can you beat
"Not easily. What happened?"
"They asked me how you were. I told'em. Then I said before the
room-full: 'I was very sorry to find you out this afternoon, Mr.
Higginson, when I called at your hotel.' The fellow looked white as a
sheet and mumbled something I couldn't catch. Well--I couldn't smash him
there before all the women, so I said: 'Please don't go away this time
until I see you. I'm most anxious to have a little private conversation
with you.' Oh, of course that was a mistake--I hate to think about it!
But--well, I was a good deal worried just then," he explained, rather
sheepishly, "and fact is, for the minute I wasn't thinking very much
about Higginson. I needn't add that he had sneaked when I came down
again. Had the cheek to leave behind a message with Hare saying he
regretted to miss me, but felt it his duty to escort the ladies home."
Varney, though he had grounds for animosity which Peter never even
guessed, laughed aloud. But it was a brief laugh, which quickly faded.
"And he's never been seen or heard of from that day to this? Well, for
my part," he went on, rather constrainedly, "I'm almost ready to believe
the man's a myth--a mere personification of evil--an allegorical name
for the powers of darkness--"
"Myth!" cried Peter. "You'll see! Why, he's certain to turn up again,
Larry--absolutely certain. You couldn't keep him away with a flock of
cannon. If he doesn't come before, it's dead sure that he'll appear
among us again on election day--four days from now--just to see the
results of his pretty work. And when he does--"
"Well?" said Varney, amused through his own heartsoreness by Peter's
vehemence. "When he does?"
"I've got two men watching every train, day and night," said Peter.
"When Higginson sets foot in this town again, one man trails him, and
the other runs for me.... Well, I'm a generous and forbearing man,
Larry, and I recall that you havn't had much fun here. I'll--yes, hang
it all!--I'll bring the old rogue to you, dead or alive, and stand by in
silence while you speak him your little piece."
IN WHICH VARNEY, AFTER ALL, REDEEMS HIS PROMISE
From the roaring ovation which followed Peter's brief remarks there
emerged again the sudden, clean-cut silence. Mayor Hare--Mayor by the
narrowest margin in the heaviest vote ever cast in that town--stood upon
the improvised little stand and looked out over the packed square. He
rested one small hand upon the gay-clothed rail, and many people saw
that it quivered. The showy "demonstration" of Peter's planning,
brilliantly launched the moment the count was announced--the imported
brass-band, the triumphal procession with the bugles, the streamers and
the flag-wrapped carriages, and now the rostrum ready set and waiting in
the heart of the dense crowd--all had taken him completely by surprise.
His face showed it; yet he was not thinking of that exactly. All at once
the Mayor's mind had harked back to another moment, not so many days
before, when he had stood in this square to make a speech; and at the
rushing thought of the great contrast between that moment and this,
there rose in him a sense of gratefulness so deep that it took palpable
form, and stuck, suffocatingly, in his throat.
The square swam before his blinded eyes. He took off his glasses and
wiped them frankly. Stiff formality left him, without a nod at parting,
carrying along the "few remarks" he had nervously thrown together in his
Roman progress up Main Street.
"The modesty of the man who has just addressed you," he began
unsteadily, "will deceive no one. You all know what I owe to him--what
our town owes to him. You all know that if I am almost too proud and too
happy to speak at all just now, it is because a kindly chance sent Mr.
Maginnis to Hunston."
Cheers, more cheers, and yet again cheers; cheers running on and on as
though they never meant to stop; spontaneous waves of applause that
meant, what nearly all knew, that Maginnis personally had captured
Hunston, and that his efficiency with a chair-leg had reared him into a
kind of demi-god among certain rough fellows of the baser sort.
The speaker was resuming, not yet through with his tributes. His eye
flitting over the shouting crowd had fallen upon a face.
"I know that both honesty and logic were on the side which Mr. Maginnis,
coming here a stranger, elected to support. But honesty does not always
make a winning cause, nor does logic. What I may call sympathy is often
better than both. The splendid help that we got from Mr. Maginnis
received this supplement. Sympathy came to aid Reform. A brutal outrage
sullied the name of our town--an outrage which, there is sad reason to
believe, was born of politics. The victim of that outrage, and the hero
of that terrible night, is happily with us to-day.... I will not offend
him with any words of praise. But may I not say in the market-place what
is the truism of the committee-room ... that when this gentleman did
what he did, he brought to Reform the sympathy which ... has made me
Mayor of Hunston."
Every eye followed the direction of the speaker's glance and his grave
bow; and by the chance of good position, it happened that nearly all
could see. Upon a dingy porch, a few yards up the Main Street side of
the square, stood a tall, young man leaning on a cane, a wide felt hat
shading a rather badly marked face. And--there was no possibility of any
mistake--it was Jim Hackley's porch that he stood upon, and--yes--it was
Jim Hackley himself, a sober and genial Jim Hackley, who stood by his
side, in intimate pose, and grinning somewhat sheepishly into the glare
of fame which suddenly enveloped him.
What part Hackley had borne in the events to which the orator had
referred was never officially known, but it may be said without
exaggeration that there had been suspicions abroad against him. His
present friendliness with the victim of those events, therefore, seemed
the gauge and symbol of penitence and reconciliation.
It was the first time that Hunston had seen Varney since the night he
was hurt, and the first time that most of Hunston had ever seen him. The
story of his deeds and his sufferings, doubtless considerably
embellished and known to every one, made him a figure of keen popular
interest, and the cheers and hand-clappings now were thunderous,
compelling him to lift his hat again and again. Some even started a
swift descent upon the Hackley residence with the evident intention of
carrying the young man to the stand on their shoulders. But Hackley came
down to his gate to meet them and buffeted them away, explaining loudly,
like an old friend and generally acknowledged sponsor: "He ain't up to
it to-day, boys! Stand back!"
"Go on with your speech," said Peter in a fierce undertone to Hare.
"He's going to faint."
"Let us give honor to whom honor is due," cried Hare, hastily, and so
resumed his remarks.
Peter's melancholy prediction, though it spread quickly among the crowd
after Varney left the porch, was quite unfounded. Varney had not the
least idea of fainting. At Hare's tribute, which was as unexpected as he
felt it to be totally undeserved, and the sudden rain of eyes upon him,
an unaccountable dizziness had seized him, while he stood reluctantly
bowing; he had thrust out his hand and caught hold of the post. This
blackness passed as quickly as it had come. The next instant he felt as
fit a man as ever; and to the tender requests of his host, Mr. Hackley,
that he should withdraw into the house for a "leetle rest-up," he
returned a laughing refusal. For this was his last appearance in
Hunston, as well as his first in recent days, and very strongly did he
desire to make it testify to his warm interest in the town's great day
and the personal triumph of his friend, Peter Maginnis.
What removed Varney so abruptly from the Hackley porch and the public
view was the sudden fulfilment of quite another prediction of Peter's:
the one about the return to Hunston of the gum-shod Mr. Higginson.
The news came without warning. At just the moment when the Mayor
replunged into his interrupted oratory, Varney became aware that a low,
anxious voice behind him was insistently calling his name. He turned,
and saw the figure of a man standing in Hackley's entryway, just inside
the door; he had evidently slipped in from the rear; and now, catching
the young man's eye, he began mysteriously beckoning and making signs.
"Kin I speak to you a minute, Mr. Varney?" he called in the same
Varney, in some surprise, advanced to the doorway and stepped inside the
entry after the stranger--a poorly dressed fellow with an unshaven chin
and a collarless neck.
"Well? What do you want, my man? And how do you know my name?"
At that the man gave the air of exploding, though his voice remained
only a whisper, at once apologetic and immensely reproachful.
"_Know_ your _name_, sir! Why, _excuse_ me for usin' it so free, but I
guess there ain't nobody in Hunston don't know _you_, Mr. Varney! Why,
Mr. Varney, my six-year-old kid c'd pick you right out o' that crowd out
there, same as 't was her pa, what with seein' your picture in the
papers an' all, an' I guess there ain't anything you'd ever want in
_Hunston_ you couldn't have just for the trouble o' namin' it."
The random assertion struck some of the blood from the young man's
cheek, but he said good-humoredly: "Well, I'm glad to hear it. But tell
me who you are, and what I can do for you."
The man's face, which had grown rather loose and mobile, instantly
became business-like and alert.
"I'm 'Lije Stobo, Mr. Varney--Hackley'll tell you. I was hired a week
ago by Mr. Maginnis to watch trains for a certain party kind of expected
to show up here." His voice, already very low, dropped several tones
lower, as he hurriedly went on: "Well, Mr. Varney, the party come in on
Number 14 just now. It ain't five minutes ago since he stepped down on
the deepo platform--disguised in some pretty good glad rags, he was, but
o' course we spotted him right off, and--"
The man nodded. "My partner was with me--Callery--and we shadows our
party to the Palace Hotel where he takes Room 41 and sneaks upstairs.
Callery's sitting in the lobby now, and I runs out to take the tip to
Mr. Maginnis--but Lord bless you, Mr. Varney--" He pointed out the open
door in the direction of the little speaker's stand where Peter sat
impregnably walled in on all sides by dense human masses. "It might be
an hour before I could get to him through _that_. I was up against it,
f'r he'd sure kill me if I let our party give us the slip again, and
then I heard 'em all cheerin' you, and thinks I, _there's_ my man,
Varney interrupted gratefully but briskly.
"You did exactly right, Mr. Stobo. I have long been anxious to see
Mr.--that is, this party. In fact," he added, putting on his hat with
significant firmness, "it is because of some business that I have with
this party that Mr. Maginnis asked you to look out for him."
Mr. Stobo's eyes ardently approved the young man's readiness for
"Well, _sir_--that's took a load off'n my mind, I tell you! I'll just
skip on--will I, Mr. Varney?--and try to get the tip to Mr. Maginnis, as
my orders was. He was _that set_ on interviewin' this here party--but
Lor', he'd give him to you, same's himself. Only--are you _sure_ you're
feelin' up to it to-day, Mr. Varney? If mebbe you'd let me'r Callery go
along now, just in case, y' know--"
Varney gave an answer which Mr. Stobo found completely reassuring. At
the same time, he rapidly produced his pocket-book and pulled out a bill
of alluring complexion.
"I owe you a great deal for bringing me this information, Mr.
Stobo--more than I can repay. But perhaps you would let me--"
He stopped suddenly, for the man had started backing off down the
entryway, a dull unaccustomed color showing in his grimy face.
"You didn't mean it, Mr. Varney! Why, how'd I look my missus in the
face--let alone myself--and tell her I took money off'n _you_--"
He disappeared out of the back door, and Varney, feeling uncomfortable
and disproportionately touched, put his spurned bill back in his
pocket. Hackley, now perceiving that his guest's visitor was gone,
turned his back on the speechmaking and hurried forward solicitously.
"I could 'a' hit that Stobo sneakin' in a-botherin' and a-'noyin' you,"
he said in tones of great sympathy. "I know how it is, Mr. Varney. Bit
of a inverlid myself, I am--no health and no constitootion whatsomever,
sir. Feelin' a leetle stiddier now, are you? Better lie down on my
parlor sofy a while and git rested up nice, hadn't ye?--many's the day
I've lazied there, Lord knows, tryin' f'r to coddle my strength back."
Varney regretfully declined the offer. In fact, he must be going at
once, he said, as he had a rather important business engagement; and
would Mr. Hackley kindly show him the quiet back-exit to the street and
the outer world?
Hackley, a tireless host, re-urged the charms of his sofy and cool
well-water for invalids; but his guest remained politely firm. So there,
on the little rear veranda, the two men parted with mutual esteem:
Varney expressing sincere thanks for all Mr. Hackley's courtesies;
Hackley compassionate over Mr. Varney's impaired constitution, but
boggling over what regrets might haply betray him into the grip of the
law's long arm.
Varney traversed the clothes-hung backyard, came out into the dingy
alley, and made rapidly for the cross-street, where a string of
carriages showed that "the quality" of Hunston was not without interest
in the day's proceedings. He did not see the carriages; to himself he
seemed suddenly to walk in a great and silent solitude. There was noise
enough about him, in all conscience, for every sentence that fell from
Hare's lips was punctuated by a salvo; but the tumult beat itself to
stillness against the closed fastness of his mind.
Under his eye, half way down the block to which he drew near, rose the
weatherworn flank of the Palace Hotel. Somewhere within the ugly pile
was his mortal enemy Higginson, trapped to his reckoning at last. Within
five minutes they two would stand face to face; and he had long since
promised himself that Higginson would remember the meeting for as long
as he lived. A moment ago, the thought had filled him with a strange
exhilaration: the prospect of a final accounting with the intriguing
fly-by-night who had wronged him past all forgiveness had set his blood
to leaping. But, exactly because that wrong went so deep, his
pleasurable excitement ebbed faster than it had mounted. The wound that
he had had from Higginson was one that no vengeance would heal. And with
the recurrence of this knowledge his battle-joy flickered and went out
like a spent match, and the little alley was a war-list no longer but a
stretch without end of dry and dusty years....
"I was lookin' for yer, Mist' Varney," said a husky, abashed voice.
Varney stared down at the small apparition before him with momentary
"Why--Tommy! Heaven bless us! Where did you spring from, boy?"
Tommy's eyes fell in awe, but sure enough, he was sticking out his
small flipper in salutation. In fact, he had shaken hands a number of
times since that first memorable occasion, and, in his way, was
gradually beginning to catch the spirit of the thing.
"Kem up on the two-forty-five. Wit' Hauser's band. Got a loan of t'ree
bucks off a frien'."
"The mischief you did! Where do you find friends like that nowadays? But
what on earth made you pop back here? To hear Hauser's play and see all
Tommy examined his toe with affected interest and shook his head.
"What then? Don't you like it in New York?"
"Yasser. Noo York's all right, it is." And reluctantly he added: "You
be'n sick, ain't you? Thought I'd come and see how you was makin' it.
Come afore now, on'y I couldn't get next to de price."
"Tommy," said Varney, snuggling the boy's left hand into his own right
and resuming the promenade, "you're a mighty good friend to me."
They emerged into the street where a double line of vehicles, some of
them gay with bright hats and parasols, flanked the curb on either side,
and Varney turned north, his back to the square, unconscious of the many
curious glances that were flung at him as he passed.
"Tommy," said Varney, "I'm bound for the hotel on business, but I'm not
going to pull you away from all the fun--"
"Wut, that? That ain't no fun, sir."
"Don't you suppose I know fun when I meet it in the road, you little
rascal? You stay here till it's all over and then I want you to come
down to the yacht, and we'll have some dinner. Then I'll put you up for
the night and to-morrow morning we'll go to New York together, eh? How's
But Tommy said: "Nawser. We can't go yet. Somebody sent me to bring you.
We got a car'dge here--"
"A victori'," emphasized Tommy.
"A victoria! All this on three bucks, Tommy! Well, well! You are the
"Here's _our_ victori'!" said Tommy proudly.
They halted abruptly before an open carriage ... a victoria, indeed: a
handsome double victoria, all polished dark wood and blue upholstery and
shining nickeled harness, and sleek bay horses. This he saw in the first
flash, wondering by what miracle Tommy Orrick had secured control of so
glorious an equipage. And then ... there was the pretty edge of a
furbelowed skirt upon the carriage-floor ... a dainty patent-leather toe
upon the foot-rest ... an unrolling panorama of white-gloved hands, pale
buff dress, great plumed hat, eyes not seen yet known to be blue to
match the upholstery ... an exquisite lady sitting in the victoria. And
this lady had recognized his presence, first with a faint frightened
"Oh!" and then with a movement of those great hat-plumes which was
beyond all doubt or cavil a bow ... a bow of proper and civil greeting.
For him that meeting was stunning in its entire unexpectedness. The
landscape went off in protest, exploded in pyrotechnic marvels; the
earth spun and cavorted; the solar system was disrupted and planets ran
amuck with din unbelievable. But he was used to these cataclysms now,
and out of the roar of breakage he heard a voice much like his own
"Tommy refers to this calmly as _his_ carriage, Miss Carstairs. See what
a week of New York has done for him. Where did he disappear to--did you
notice? A great day it has been"--in the rising inflection of
Came out of space in answer, like a fluttering bird from nowhere, a
voice that had once seemed music in his ears:
"I sent him ... to look for you. They said that you were ... ill.
Perhaps you would let us drive you to the river?"
"And make you miss the speech?" continued this easy and agreeable young
man, whom Laurence Varney, a great distance off, stood dumbly and
watched from the swirling void with a certain remote admiration. "Of
course not. I was never better in my life and the walk will be pleasant
on so nice an afternoon. But thank you very much."
Again his tone held the faint inflection of finality, of leave-taking.
Came again the voice like tossed chimes out of space:
"Then ... won't you stay and hear the end? It would please Mr. Hare.
From this carriage ... you can see and hear everything very well."
"Thank you," said the debonair spirit, rather carelessly--while
Laurence Varney, off in another world, clutched at the invitation,
fought for it, lied, thieved, prayed, lived and died for it--"I'm afraid
I must go on now."
"There is something I wanted to say. And ... a message."
A shuffling of the cosmos, a shrieking readjustment of the universe, and
he found himself sitting on a blue upholstered seat staring at two great
golden moons, which later on turned out to be, after all, mere burnished
buttons upon a coachman's purple back.
So, not for the first time, the sudden meeting with a lady knocked from
the young man's head all recollection of his enemy. And if their parting
had taken place in the entire privacy of a country road, their
re-meeting, certainly, was in the fullest view of the many. Only,
luckily, nobody chanced to be looking, or within eavesdropping distance;
and even the coachman presently removed himself to stand at his horses'
restive heads. Tommy's carriage happened to be the last one in the line.
Behind it the street was a desert. Before it was nothing but a packed
army of backs.
"I did not know that you were here until Mr. Hare spoke. And they all
began to look...."
"Mr. Hackley especially invited me to share his porch ..." and the other
Varney, not the one who sat so stiff and mute, desperate eyes glued on
the far horizon, but the easy, negligent Varney, gay dare-devil that he
was, actually achieved a pleasant laugh. "I must show you his note. It's
been a long time since I have had anything to please me so much."
He unfolded and held out into the blue empyrean a rather soiled bit of
paper, which a small white-gloved hand descended from heaven like a dove
and took. Then, presumably, this was duly read:
MR. VARNEY. dear sir: Announcment of Election will
be made in the Squair this p.m. around 6 p.m. Would
feel onered if you would come to my Poarch where everthink
can be seen & heard & no crouding, Josle ect.
Will call at your Yot with horse and Bugy around 5 p.m.
this p.m. if agreble though you don't nead no eskort anywairs
in Hunston, the Unfortunit mistaik having been
diskovered. Noing your intrest in our Poltix will add
that I voated for Mister Hair, first think this a.m. with
sorro for the Past and hoapes for your Speady convlessense,
S.P.--Should you come to my Poarch all would no as
bygorns was bygorns.
"Wasn't that kind of him?" he asked when the note had again come down
into the ornamental lap, which was the upper line of his range of
vision. "And thoughtful. But then everybody has been so wonderfully kind
to me. I think I shall remember Hunston as altogether the kindest town I
There was quite a silence after that.
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