Elder Conklin and Other Stories
Part 3 out of 4
Opening the door he found himself face to face with his Deacons. Before
he could speak, Deacon Hooper began:
"Mr. Letgood! We, the Deacons of your church, hev come to see you. We
want to tell you how we appreciate your decision this mornin'. It was
Christ-like! And we're all proud of you, an' glad you're goin' to stay
with us. But we allow that it ain't fair or to be expected that you
should refuse ten thousand dollars a year with only five. So we've made
a purse for this year among ourselves of two thousand five hundred
dollars extry, which we hope you'll accept. Next year the pew-rents can
be raised to bring in the same sum; anyway, it shall be made up.
"There ain't no use in talkin'; but you, sir, hev jest sot us an example
of how one who loves the Lord Jesus, and Him only, should act, and we
ain't goin' to remain far behind. No, sir, we ain't. Thar's the cheque."
As he finished speaking, tears stood in the kind, honest, blue eyes.
Mr. Letgood took the cheque mechanically, and mechanically accepted at
the same time the Deacon's outstretched hand; but his eyes sought Mrs.
Hooper's, who stood behind the knot of men with her handkerchief to her
face. In a moment or two, recalled to himself by the fact that one after
the other all the Deacons wanted to shake his hand, he tried to sustain
his part in the ceremony. He said:
"My dear brothers, I thank you each and all, and accept your gift, in
the spirit in which you offer it. I need not say that I knew nothing of
your intention when I preached this morning. It is not the money that
I'm thinking of now, but your kindness. I thank you again."
After a few minutes' casual conversation, consisting chiefly of praise
of the "wonderful discourse" of the morning, Mr. Letgood proposed that
they should all have iced coffee with him; there was nothing so
refreshing; he wanted them to try it; and though he was a bachelor, if
Mrs. Hooper would kindly give her assistance and help him with his cook,
he was sure they would enjoy a glass. With a smile she consented.
Stepping into the passage after her and closing the door, he said
hurriedly, with anger and suspicion in his voice:
"You didn't get this up as my answer? You didn't think I'd take money
instead, did you?"
Demurely, Mrs. Hooper turned her head round as he spoke, and leaning
against him while he put his arms round her waist, answered with arch
"You are just too silly for anythin'."
Then, with something like the movement of a cat loath to lose the
contact of the caressing hand, she turned completely towards him and
slowly lifted her eyes. Their lips met.
21 APRIL, 1891.
* * * * *
The evening on which Charley Muirhead made his first appearance at
Doolan's was a memorable one; the camp was in wonderful spirits. Whitman
was said to have struck it rich. Garotte, therefore, might yet become
popular in the larger world, and its evil reputation be removed.
Besides, what Whitman had done any one might do, for by common consent
he was a "derned fool." Good-humour accordingly reigned at Doolan's,
and the saloon was filled with an excited, hopeful crowd. Bill Bent,
however, was anything but pleased; he generally was in a bad temper, and
this evening, as Crocker remarked carelessly, he was "more ornery than
ever." The rest seemed to pay no attention to the lanky, dark man with
the narrow head, round, black eyes, and rasping voice. But Bent would
croak: "Whitman's struck nothin'; thar ain't no gold in Garotte; it's
all work and no dust." In this strain he went on, offending local
sentiment and making every one uncomfortable.
Muirhead's first appearance created a certain sensation. He was a fine
upstanding fellow of six feet or over, well made, and good-looking. But
Garotte had too much experience of life to be won by a stranger's
handsome looks. Muirhead's fair moustache and large blue eyes counted
for little there. Crocker and others, masters in the art of judging men,
noticed that his eyes were unsteady, and his manner, though genial,
seemed hasty. Reggitt summed up their opinion in the phrase, "looks as
if he'd bite off more'n he could chaw." Unconscious of the criticism,
Muirhead talked, offered drinks, and made himself agreeable.
At length in answer to Bent's continued grumbling, Muirhead said
pleasantly: "'Tain't so bad as that in Garotte, is it? This bar don't
look like poverty, and if I set up drinks for the crowd, it's because
I'm glad to be in this camp."
"P'r'aps you found the last place you was in jes' a leetle too warm,
eh?" was Bent's retort.
Muirhead's face flushed, and for a second he stood as if he had been
struck. Then, while the crowd moved aside, he sprang towards Bent,
exclaiming, "Take that back--right off! Take it back!"
"What?" asked Bent coolly, as if surprised; at the same time, however,
retreating a pace or two, he slipped his right hand behind him.
Instantly Muirhead threw himself upon him, rushed him with what seemed
demoniac strength to the open door and flung him away out on his back
into the muddy ditch that served as a street. For a moment there was a
hush of expectation, then Bent was seen to gather himself up painfully
and move out of the square of light into the darkness. But Muirhead did
not wait for this; hastily, with hot face and hands still working with
excitement, he returned to the bar with:
"That's how I act. No one can jump me. No one, by God!" and he glared
round the room defiantly. Reggitt, Harrison, and some of the others
looked at him as if on the point of retorting, but the cheerfulness was
general, and Bent's grumbling before a stranger had irritated them
almost as much as his unexpected cowardice. Muirhead's challenge was not
taken up, therefore, though Harrison did remark, half sarcastically:
"That may be so. You jump them, I guess."
"Well, boys, let's have the drink," Charley Muirhead went on, his manner
suddenly changing to that of friendly greeting, just as if he had not
heard Harrison's words.
The men moved up to the bar and drank, and before the liquor was
consumed, Charley's geniality, acting on the universal good-humour,
seemed to have done away with the discontent which his violence and
Bent's cowardice had created. This was the greater tribute to his
personal charm, as the refugees of Garotte usually hung together, and
were inclined to resent promptly any insult offered to one of their
number by a stranger. But in the present case harmony seemed to be
completely reestablished, and it would have taken a keener observer than
Muirhead to have understood his own position and the general opinion. It
was felt that the stranger had bluffed for all he was worth, and that
Garotte had come out "at the little end of the horn."
A day or two later Charley Muirhead, walking about the camp, came upon
Dave Crocker's claim, and offered to buy half of it and work as a
partner, but the other would not sell; "the claim was worth nothin'; not
good enough for two, anyhow;" and there the matter would have ended, had
not the young man proposed to work for a spell just to keep his hand in.
By noon Crocker was won; nobody could resist Charley's hard work and
laughing high spirits. Shortly afterwards the older man proposed to
knock off; a day's work, he reckoned, had been done, and evidently
considering it impossible to accept a stranger's labour without
acknowledgment, he pressed Charley to come up to his shanty and eat. The
simple meal was soon despatched, and Crocker, feeling the obvious
deficiencies of his larder, produced a bottle of Bourbon, and the two
began to drink. Glass succeeded glass, and at length Crocker's reserve
seemed to thaw; his manner became almost easy, and he spoke half
"I guess you're strong," he remarked. "You threw Bent out of the saloon
the other night like as if he was nothin'; strength's good, but 'tain't
everythin'. I mean," he added, in answer to the other's questioning
look, "Samson wouldn't have a show with a man quick on the draw who
meant bizness. Bent didn't pan out worth a cent, and the boys didn't
like him, but--them things don't happen often." So in his own way he
tried to warn the man to whom he had taken a liking.
Charley felt that a warning was intended, for he replied decisively: "It
don't matter. I guess he wanted to jump me, and I won't be jumped, not
if Samson wanted to, and all the revolvers in Garotte were on me."
"Wall," Crocker went on quietly, but with a certain curiosity in his
eyes, "that's all right, but I reckon you were mistaken. Bent didn't
want to rush ye; 'twas only his cussed way, and he'd had mighty bad luck.
You might hev waited to see if he meant anythin', mightn't ye?" And he
looked his listener in the face as he spoke.
"That's it," Charley replied, after a long pause, "that's just it. I
couldn't wait, d'ye see!" and then continued hurriedly, as if driven to
relieve himself by a full confession: "Maybe you don't _sabe_. It's
plain enough, though I'd have to begin far back to make you understand.
But I don't mind if you want to hear. I was raised in the East, in Rhode
Island, and I guess I was liked by everybody. I never had trouble with
any one, and I was a sort of favourite.... I fell in love with a girl,
and as I hadn't much money, I came West to make some, as quick as I knew
how. The first place I struck was Laramie--you don't know it? 'Twas a
hard place; cowboys, liquor saloons, cursin' and swearin', poker and
shootin' nearly every night. At the beginning I seemed to get along all
right, and I liked the boys, and thought they liked me. One night a
little Irishman was rough on me; first of all I didn't notice, thought
he meant nothin', and then, all at once, I saw he meant it--and more.
"Well, I got a kind of scare--I don't know why--and I took what he said
and did nothin'. Next day the boys sort of held off from me, didn't
talk; thought me no account, I guess, and that little Irishman just rode
me round the place with spurs on. I never kicked once. I thought I'd get
the money--I had done well with the stock I had bought--and go back East
and marry, and no one would be any the wiser. But the Irishman kept
right on, and first one and then another of the boys went for me, and I
took it all. I just," and here his voice rose, and his manner became
feverishly excited, "I just ate crow right along for months--and tried
to look as if 'twas quail.
"One day I got a letter from home. She wanted me to hurry up and come
back. She thought a lot of me, I could see; more than ever, because I
had got along--I had written and told her my best news. And then, what
had been hard grew impossible right off. I made up my mind to sell the
stock and strike for new diggings. I couldn't stand it any longer--not
after her letter. I sold out and cleared.... I ought to hev stayed in
Laramie, p'r'aps, and gone for the Irishman, but I just couldn't. Every
one there was against me."
"I guess you oughter hev stayed.... Besides, if you had wiped up the
floor with that Irishman the boys would hev let up on you."
"P'r'aps so," Charley resumed, "but I was sick of the whole crowd. I
sold off, and lit out. When I got on the new stage-coach, fifty miles
from Laramie, and didn't know the driver or any one, I made up my mind
to start fresh. Then and there I resolved that I had eaten all the crow
I was going to eat; the others should eat crow now, and if there was any
jumpin' to be done, I'd do it, whatever it cost. And so I went for Bent
right off. I didn't want to wait. 'Here's more crow,' I thought, 'but I
won't eat it; he shall, if I die for it,' and I just threw him out
"I see," said Crocker, with a certain sympathy in his voice, "but you
oughter hev waited. You oughter make up to wait from this on, Charley.
'Tain't hard. You don't need to take anythin' and set under it. I'm not
advisin' that, but it's stronger to wait before you go fer any one. The
boys," he added significantly, "don't like a man to bounce, and what
they don't like is pretty hard to do."
"Damn the boys," exclaimed Charley vehemently, "they're all alike out
here. I can't act different. If I waited, I might wait too long--too
long, d'you _sabe?_ I just can't trust myself," he added in a
"No," replied Crocker meditatively. "No, p'r'aps not. But see here,
Charley, I kinder like you, and so I tell you, no one can bounce the
crowd here in Garotte. They're the worst crowd you ever struck in your
life. Garotte's known for hard cases. Why," he went on earnestly, as if
he had suddenly become conscious of the fact, "the other night Reggitt
and a lot came mighty near goin' fer you--and Harrison, Harrison took up
what you said. You didn't notice, I guess; and p'r'aps 'twas well you
didn't; but you hadn't much to spare. You won by the odd card.
"No one can bounce this camp. They've come from everywhere, and can only
jes' get a livin' here--no more. And when luck's bad they're"--and he
paused as if no adjective were strong enough. "If a man was steel, and
the best and quickest on the draw ever seen, I guess they'd bury him if
he played your way."
"Then they may bury me," retorted Charley bitterly, "but I've eaten my
share of crow. I ain't goin' to eat any more. Can't go East now with the
taste of it in my mouth. I'd rather they buried me."
And they did bury him--about a fortnight after.
* * * * *
THE BEST MAN IN GAROTTE.
Lawyer Rablay had come from nobody knew where. He was a small man,
almost as round as a billiard ball. His body was round, his head was
round; his blue eyes and even his mouth and chin were round; his nose
was a perky snub; he was florid and prematurely bald--a picture of good-
humour. And yet he was a power in Garotte. When he came to the camp, a
row was the only form of recreation known to the miners. A "fuss" took
men out of themselves, and was accordingly hailed as an amusement;
besides, it afforded a subject of conversation. But after Lawyer
Rablay's arrival fights became comparatively infrequent. Would-be
students of human nature declared at first that his flow of spirits was
merely animal, and that his wit was thin; but even these envious ones
had to admit later that his wit told, and that his good-humour was
Crocker and Harrison had nearly got to loggerheads one night for no
reason apparently, save that each had a high reputation for courage, and
neither could find a worthier antagonist. In the nick of time Rablay
appeared; he seemed to understand the situation at a glance, and broke
"See here, boys. I'll settle this. They're disputin'--I know they are.
Want to decide with bullets whether 'Frisco or Denver's the finest city.
'Frisco's bigger and older, says Crocker; Harrison maintains Denver's
better laid out. Crocker replies in his quiet way that 'Frisco ain't
dead yet." Good temper being now re-established, Rablay went on: "I'll
decide this matter right off. Crocker and Harrison shall set up drinks
for the crowd till we're all laid out. And I'll tell a story," and he
began a tale which cannot be retold here, but which delighted the boys
as much by its salaciousness as by its vivacity.
Lawyer Rablay was to Garotte what novels, theatres, churches, concerts
are to more favoured cities; in fact, for some six months, he and his
stories constituted the chief humanizing influence in the camp.
Deputations were often despatched from Doolan's to bring Rablay to the
bar. The miners got up "cases" in order to give him work. More than once
both parties in a dispute, real or imaginary, engaged him, despite his
protestations, as attorney, and afterwards the boys insisted that, being
advocate for both sides, he was well fitted to decide the issue as
judge. He had not been a month in Garotte before he was christened
Judge, and every question, whether of claim-boundaries, the suitability
of a nickname, or the value of "dust," was submitted for his decision.
It cannot be asserted that his enviable position was due either to
perfect impartiality or to infallible wisdom. But every one knew that
his judgments would be informed by shrewd sense and good-humour, and
would be followed by a story, and woe betide the disputant whose
perversity deferred that pleasure. So Garotte became a sort of
theocracy, with Judge Rablay as ruler. And yet he was, perhaps, the only
man in the community whose courage had never been tested or even
One afternoon a man came to Garotte, who had a widespread reputation.
His name was Bill Hitchcock. A marvellous shot, a first-rate poker-
player, a good rider--these virtues were outweighed by his desperate
temper. Though not more than five-and-twenty years of age his courage
and ferocity had made him a marked man. He was said to have killed half-
a-dozen men; and it was known that he had generally provoked his
victims. No one could imagine why he had come to Garotte, but he had not
been half an hour in the place before he was recognized. It was
difficult to forget him, once seen. He was tall and broad-shouldered;
his face long, with well-cut features; a brown moustache drooped
negligently over his mouth; his heavy eyelids were usually half-closed,
but when in moments of excitement they were suddenly updrawn, one was
startled by a naked hardness of grey-green eyes.
Hitchcock spent the whole afternoon in Doolan's, scarcely speaking a
word. As night drew down, the throng of miners increased. Luck had been
bad for weeks; the camp was in a state of savage ill-humour. Not a few
came to the saloon that night intending to show, if an opportunity
offered, that neither Hitchcock nor any one else on earth could scare
them. As minute after minute passed the tension increased. Yet Hitchcock
stood in the midst of them, drinking and smoking in silence, seemingly
Presently the Judge came in with a smile on his round face and shot off
a merry remark. But the quip didn't take as it should have done. He was
received with quiet nods and not with smiles and loud greetings as
usual. Nothing daunted, he made his way to the bar, and, standing next
to Hitchcock, called for a drink.
"Come, Doolan, a Bourbon; our only monarch!"
Beyond a smile from Doolan the remark elicited no applause. Astonished,
the Judge looked about him; never in his experience had the camp been in
that temper. But still he had conquered too often to doubt his powers
now. Again and again he tried to break the spell--in vain. As a last
resort he resolved to use his infallible receipt against ill-temper.
"Boys! I've just come in to tell you one little story; then I'll have to
From force of habit the crowd drew towards him, and faces relaxed.
Cheered by this he picked up his glass from the bar and turned towards
his audience. Unluckily, as he moved, his right arm brushed against
Hitchcock, who was looking at him with half-opened eyes. The next moment
Hitchcock had picked up his glass and dashed it in the Judge's face.
Startled, confounded by the unexpected suddenness of the attack, Rablay
backed two or three paces, and, blinded by the rush of blood from his
forehead, drew out his handkerchief. No one stirred. It was part of the
unwritten law in Garotte to let every man in such circumstances play his
game as he pleased. For a moment or two the Judge mopped his face, and
then he started towards his assailant with his round face puckered up
and out-thrust hands. He had scarcely moved, however, when Hitchcock
levelled a long Navy Colt against his breast:
"Git back, you ---- "
The Judge stopped. He was unarmed but not cowed. All of a sudden those
wary, long eyes of Hitchcock took in the fact that a score of revolvers
With lazy deliberation Dave Crocker moved out of the throng towards the
combatants, and standing between them, with his revolver pointing to the
ground, said sympathetically:
"Jedge, we're sorry you've been jumped, here in Garotte. Now, what would
"A fair fight," replied Rablay, beginning again to use his handkerchief.
"Wall," Crocker went on, after a pause for thought. "A square fight's
good but hard to get. This man," and his head made a motion towards
Hitchcock as he spoke, "is one of the best shots there is, and I reckon
you're not as good at shootin' as at--other things." Again he paused to
think, and then continued with the same deliberate air of careful
reflection, "We all cotton to you, Jedge; you know that. Suppose you
pick a man who kin shoot, and leave it to him. That'd be fair, an' you
kin jes' choose any of us, or one after the other. We're all willin'."
"No," replied the Judge, taking away the handkerchief, and showing a
jagged, red line on his forehead. "No! he struck _me_. I don't want
any one to help me, or take my place."
"That's right," said Crocker, approvingly; "that's right, Jedge, we all
like that, but 'tain't square, and this camp means to hev it square. You
bet!" And, in the difficult circumstances, he looked round for the
approval which was manifest on every one of the serious faces. Again he
began: "I guess, Jedge, you'd better take my plan, 'twould be surer. No!
Wall, suppose I take two six-shooters, one loaded, the other empty, and
put them under a _capote_ on the table in the next room. You could
both go in and draw for weapons; that'd be square, I reckon?" and he
waited for the Judge's reply.
"Yes," replied Rablay, "that'd be fair. I agree to that."
"Hell!" exclaimed Hitchcock, "I don't. If he wants to fight, I'm here;
but I ain't goin' to take a hand in no sich derned game--with the cards
stocked agen me."
"Ain't you?" retorted Crocker, facing him, and beginning slowly. "I
reckon _you'll_ play any game we say. _See_! any damned game
_we_ like. D'ye understand?"
As no response was forthcoming to this defiance, he went into the other
room to arrange the preliminaries of the duel. A few moments passed in
silence, and then he came back through the lane of men to the two
"Jedge," he began, "the six-shooters are there, all ready. Would you
like to hev first draw, or throw for it with him?" contemptuously
indicating Hitchcock with a movement of his head as he concluded.
"Let us throw," replied Rablay, quietly.
In silence the three dice and the box were placed by Doolan on the bar.
In response to Crocker's gesture the Judge took up the box and rolled
out two fives and a three--thirteen. Every one felt that he had lost the
draw, but his face did not change any more than that of his adversary.
In silence Hitchcock replaced the dice in the box and threw a three, a
four, and a two--nine; he put down the box emphatically.
"Wall," Crocker decided impassively, "I guess that gives you the draw,
Jedge; we throw fer high in Garotte--sometimes," he went on, turning as
if to explain to Hitchcock, but with insult in his voice, and then,
"After you, Jedge!"
Rablay passed through the crowd into the next room. There, on a table,
was a small heap covered with a cloak. Silently the men pressed round,
leaving Crocker between the two adversaries in the full light of the
"Now, Jedge," said Crocker, with a motion towards the table.
"No!" returned the Judge, with white, fixed face, "he won; let him draw
first. I only want a square deal."
A low hum of surprise went round the room. Garotte was more than
satisfied with its champion. Crocker looked at Hitchcock, and said:
"It's your draw, then." The words were careless, but the tone and face
spoke clearly enough.
A quick glance round the room and Hitchcock saw that he was trapped.
These men would show him no mercy. At once the wild beast in him
appeared. He stepped to the table, put his hand under the cloak, drew
out a revolver, dropped it, pointing towards Rablay's face, and pulled
the trigger. A sharp click. That revolver, at any rate, was unloaded.
Quick as thought Crocker stepped between Hitchcock and the table. Then
"It's your turn now, Jedge!"
As he spoke a sound, half of relief and half of content came from the
throats of the onlookers. The Judge did not move. He had not quivered
when the revolver was levelled within a foot of his head; he did not
appear to have seen it. With set eyes and pale face, and the jagged
wound on his forehead whence the blood still trickled, he had waited,
and now he did not seem to hear. Again Crocker spoke:
"Come, Jedge, it's your turn."
The sharp, loud words seemed to break the spell which had paralyzed the
man. He moved to the table, and slowly drew the revolver from under the
cloak. His hesitation was too much for the crowd.
"Throw it through him, Jedge! Now's your chance. Wade in, Jedge!"
The desperate ferocity of the curt phrases seemed to move him. He raised
the revolver. Then came in tones of triumph:
"I'll bet high on the Jedge!"
He dropped the revolver on the floor, and fled from the room.
The first feeling of the crowd of men was utter astonishment, but in a
moment or two this gave place to half-contemptuous sympathy. What
expression this sentiment would have found it is impossible to say, for
just then Bill Hitchcock observed with a sneer:
"As he's run, I may as well walk;" and he stepped towards the bar-room.
Instantly Crocker threw himself in front of him with his face on fire.
"Walk--will ye?" he burst out, the long-repressed rage flaming up--
"walk! when you've jumped the best man in Garotte--walk! No, by God,
you'll crawl, d'ye hear? crawl--right out of this camp, right now!" and
he dropped his revolver on Hitchcock's breast.
Then came a wild chorus of shouts.
"That's right! That's the talk! Crawl, will ye! Down on yer hands and
knees. Crawl, damn ye! Crawl!" and a score of revolvers covered the
For a moment he stood defiant, looking his assailants in the eyes. His
face seemed to have grown thinner, and his moustache twitched with the
snarling movement of a brute at bay. Then he was tripped up and thrown
forwards amid a storm of, "Crawl, damn ye--crawl!" And so Hitchcock
crawled, on hands and knees, out of Doolan's.
Lawyer Rablay, too, was never afterwards seen in Garotte. Men said his
nerves had "give out."
* * * * *
GULMORE, THE BOSS
The habits of the Gulmore household were in some respects primitive.
Though it was not yet seven o'clock two negro girls were clearing away
the breakfast things under the minute supervision of their mistress, an
angular, sharp-faced woman with a reedy voice, and nervously abrupt
movements. Near the table sat a girl of nineteen absorbed in a book. In
an easy-chair by the open bay-window a man with a cigar in his mouth was
reading a newspaper. Jonathan Byrne Gulmore, as he always signed
himself, was about fifty years of age; his heavy frame was muscular, and
the coarse dark hair and swarthy skin showed vigorous health. There was
both obstinacy and combativeness in his face with its cocked nose, low
irregular forehead, thick eyebrows, and square jaw, but the deep-set
grey eyes gleamed at times with humorous comprehension, and the usual
expression of the countenance was far from ill-natured. As he laid the
paper on his knees and looked up, he drew the eye. His size and strength
seemed to be the physical equivalents of an extraordinary power of
character and will. When Mrs. Gulmore followed the servants out of the
room the girl rose from her chair and went towards the door. She was
stopped by her father's voice:
"Ida, I want a talk with you. You'll be able to go to your books
afterwards; I won't keep you long." She sat down again and laid her book
on the table, while Mr. Gulmore continued:
"The election's next Monday week, and I've no time to lose." A moment's
silence, and he let his question fall casually:
"You know this--Professor Roberts--don't you? He was at the University
when you were there--eh?" The girl flushed slightly as she assented.
"They say he's smart, an' he ken talk. I heard him the other night; but
I'd like to know what you think. Your judgment's generally worth
Forced to reply without time for reflection, Miss Gulmore said as little
as possible with a great show of frankness:
"Oh, yes; he's smart, and knows Greek and Latin and German, and a great
many things. The senior students used to say he knew more than all the
other professors put together, and he--he thinks so too, I imagine," and
she laughed intentionally, for, on hearing her own strained laughter,
she blushed, and then stood up out of a nervous desire to conceal her
embarrassment. But her father was looking away from her at the glowing
end of his cigar; and, as she resumed her seat, he went on:
"I'm glad you seem to take no stock in him, Ida, for he's makin' himself
unpleasant. I'll have to give him a lesson, I reckon, not in Greek or
Latin or them things--I never had nothin' taught me beyond the 'Fourth
Reader,' in old Vermont, and I've forgotten some of what I learned then
--but in election work an' business I guess I ken give Professor Roberts
points, fifty in a hundred, every time. Did you know he's always around
with Lawyer Hutchin's?"
"Is he? That's because of May--May Hutchings. Oh, she deserves him;" the
girl spoke with sarcastic bitterness, "she gave herself trouble enough
to get him. It was just sickening the way she acted, blushing every time
he spoke to her, and looking up at him as if he were everything. Some
people have no pride in them."
Her father listened impassively, and, after a pause, began his
"Wall, Ida, anyway he means to help Hutchin's in this city election.
'Tain't the first time Hutchin's has run for mayor on the Democratic
ticket and come out at the little end of the horn, and I propose to whip
him again. But this Professor's runnin' him on a new track, and I want
some points about _him_. It's like this. At the Democratic meetin'
the other night, the Professor spoke, and spoke well. What he said was
popcorn; but it took with the Mugwumps--them that think themselves too
highfalutin' to work with either party, jest as if organization was no
good, an' a mob was as strong as an army. Wall, he talked for an hour
about purity an' patriotism, and when he had warmed 'em up he went bald-
headed for me. He told 'em--you ken read it all in the 'Tribune'--that
this town was run by a ring, an' not run honestly; contracts were given
only to members of the Republican party; all appointments were made by
the ring, and never accordin' to ability--as if sich a ring could last
ten years. He ended up by saying, though he was a Republican, as his
father is, he intended to vote Democratic--he's domiciled here--as a
protest against the impure and corrupt Boss-system which was disgracin'
American political life. 'Twas baby talk. But it's like this. The
buildin' of the branch line South has brought a lot of Irish here--
they're all Democrats--and there's quite a number of Mugwumps, an' if
this Professor goes about workin' them all up--what with the flannel-
mouths and the rest--it might be a close finish. I'm sure to win, but if
I could get some information about him, it would help me. His father's
all right. We've got him down to a fine point. Prentiss, the man I made
editor of the 'Herald,' knows him well; ken tell us why he left
Kaintucky to come West. But I want to know somethin' about the
Professor, jest to teach him to mind his own business, and leave other
folk to attend to theirs. Ken you help me? Is he popular with the
students and professors?"
She thought intently, while the colour rose in her cheeks; she was eager
"With the students, yes. There's nothing to be done there. The
professors--I don't think they like him much; he is too clever. When he
came into the class-room and talked Latin to Johnson, the Professor of
Latin, and Johnson could only stammer out a word or two, I guess he
didn't make a friend;" and the girl laughed at the recollection.
"I don't know anything else that could be brought against him. They say
he is an Atheist. Would that be any use? He gave a lecture on 'Culture
as a Creed' about three months ago which made some folk mad. The other
professors are Christians, and, of course, all the preachers took it up.
He compared Buddha with Christ, and said--oh, I remember!--that
Shakespeare was the Old Testament of the English-speaking peoples. That
caused some talk; they all believe in the Bible. He said, too, that
'Shakespeare was inspired in a far higher sense than St. Paul, who was
thin and hard, a logic-loving bigot.' And President Campbell--he's a
Presbyterian--preached the Sunday afterwards upon St. Paul as the great
missionary of Protestantism. I don't think the professors like him, but
I don't know that they can do anything, for all the students, the senior
ones, at least, are with him," and the girl paused, and tried to find
out from her father's face whether what she had said was likely to be of
"Wall! I don't go much on them things myself, but I guess somethin' ken
be done. I'll see Prentiss about it: send him to interview this
President Campbell, and wake him up to a sense of his duty. This is a
Christian country, I reckon," the grey eyes twinkled, "and those who
teach the young should teach them Christian principles, or else--get
out. I guess it ken be worked. The University's a State institution. You
don't mind if he's fired out, do you?" And the searching eyes probed her
with a glance.
"Oh! I don't mind," she said quickly, in a would-be careless tone,
rising and going towards him, "it has nothing to do with me. He belongs
to May Hutchings--let her help him, if she can. I think you're quite
right to give him a lesson--he needs one badly. What right has he to
come and attack you?" She had passed to her father's side, and was
leaning against his shoulder. Those grey eyes saw more than she cared to
reveal; they made her uncomfortable.
"Then I understand it's like this. You want him to get a real lesson? Is
that it? You ken talk straight to me, Ida. I'm with you every time. You
The feminine instinct of concealment worked in her, but she knew this
father of hers would have plain speech, and some hidden feeling forced
her violent temper to an outburst of curiously mingled hatred of the
Professor and exultation in her power of injuring him.
"Why, father, it's all the same to me. I've no interest in it, except to
help you. You know I never said a word against him till you asked me.
But he has no business to come down and attack _you_," and the
voice grew shrill. "It's shameful of him. If he were a man he'd never do
it. Yes--give him a _real_ lesson; teach him that those he despises
are stronger than he is. Let him lose his place and be thrown out of
work, then we'll see if May Hutchings," and she laughed, "will go and
help him. We'll see who is--"
Her father interrupted her in the middle of a tirade which would have
been complete self-revelation; but it is not to be presumed that he did
this out of a delicate regard for his daughter's feelings. He had got
the information he required.
"That's all right, Ida. I guess he'll get the lesson. You ken count on
me. You've put me on the right track, I believe. I knew if any one could
help me, you'd be able to. Nobody knows what's in you better'n I do.
You're smarter'n any one I know, and I know a few who think they're real
In this vein he continued soothing his daughter's pride, and yet
speaking in an even, impersonal tone, as if merely stating facts.
"Now I've got to go. Prentiss'll be waiting for me at the office."
While driving to the office, Mr. Gulmore's thoughts, at first, were with
his daughter. "I don't know why, but I suspicioned that. That's why she
left the University before graduatin', an' talked of goin' East, and
makin' a name for herself on the stage. That Professor's foolish. Ida's
smart and pretty, and she'll have a heap of money some day. The ring has
a few contracts on hand still--he's a fool. How she talked: she
remembered all that lecture--every word; but she's young yet. She'd have
given herself away if I hadn't stopped her. I don't like any one to do
that; it's weak. But she means business every time, just as I do; she
means him to be fired right out, and then she'd probably go and cry over
him, and want me to put him back again. But no. I guess not. That's not
the way I work. I'd be willin' for him to stay away, and leave me alone,
but as she wants him punished, he shall be, and she mustn't interfere at
the end. It'll do her good to find out that things can't both be done
and undone, if she's that sort. But p'r'aps she won't want to undo them.
When their pride's hurt women are mighty hard--harder than men by
far.... I wonder how long it'll take to get this Campbell to move. I
must start right in; I hain't got much time."
As soon as her father left her, Miss Ida hurried to her own room, in
order to recover from her agitation, and to remove all traces of it. She
was an only child, and had accordingly a sense of her own importance,
which happened to be uncorrected by physical deficiencies. Not that she
was astonishingly beautiful, but she was tall and just good-looking
enough to allow her to consider herself a beauty. Her chief attraction
was her form, which, if somewhat flat-chested, had a feline flexibility
rarer and more seductive than she imagined. She was content to believe
that nature had fashioned her to play the part in life which, she knew,
was hers of right. Her name, even, was most appropriate--dignified. Ida
should be queen-like, stately; the oval of her face should be long, and
not round, and her complexion should be pallid; colour in the cheeks
made one look common. Her dark hair, too, pleased her; everything, in
fact, save her eyes; they were of a nameless, agate-like hue, and she
would have preferred them to be violet. That would have given her face
the charm of unexpectedness, which she acknowledged was in itself a
distinction. And Miss Ida loved everything that conduced to distinction,
everything that flattered her pride with a sense of her own superiority.
It seemed as if her mother's narrowness of nature had confined and shot,
so to speak, all the passions and powers of the father into this one
characteristic of the daughter. That her father had risen to influence
and riches by his own ability did not satisfy her. She had always felt
that the Hutchingses and the society to which they belonged, persons who
had been well educated for generations, and who had always been more or
less well off, formed a higher class. It was the longing to become one
of them that had impelled her to study with might and main. Even in her
school-days she had recognized that this was the road to social
eminence. The struggle had been arduous. In the Puritan surroundings of
middle-class life her want of religious training and belief had almost
made a pariah of the proud, high-tempered girl, and when as a clever
student of the University and a daughter of one of the richest and most
powerful men in the State, she came into a circle that cared as little
about Christian dogmas as she did, she attributed the comparative
coolness with which her companions treated her, to her father's want of
education, rather than to the true cause, her own domineering temper. As
she had hated her childish playmates, who, instructed by their mothers,
held aloof from the infidel, so she had grown to detest the associates
of her girlhood, whose parents seemed, by virtue of manners and
education, superior to hers. The aversion was acrid with envy, and had
fastened from the beginning on her competitor as a student and her rival
in beauty, Miss May Hutchings. Her animosity was intensified by the fact
that, when they entered the Sophomore class together, Miss May had made
her acquaintance, had tried to become friends with her, and then, for
some inscrutable reason, had drawn coldly away. By dint of working twice
as hard as May, Ida had managed to outstrip her, and to begin the Junior
year as the first of the class; but all the while she was conscious that
her success was due to labour, and not to a larger intelligence. And
with the coming of the new professor of Greek, this superiority, her one
consolation, was called in question.
Professor Roberts had brought about a revolution in the University. He
was young and passionately devoted to his work; had won his Doctor's
degree at Berlin _summa cum laude_, and his pupils soon felt that
he represented a standard of knowledge higher than they had hitherto
imagined as attainable, and yet one which, he insisted, was common in
the older civilization of Europe. It was this nettling comparison,
enforced by his mastery of difficulties, which first aroused the ardour
of his scholars. In less than a year they passed from the level of
youths in a high school to that of University students. On the best
heads his influence was magical. His learning and enthusiasm quickened
their reverence for scholarship, but it was his critical faculty which
opened to them the world of art, and nerved them to emulation.
"Until one realizes the shortcomings of a master," he said in a lecture,
"it is impossible to understand him or to take the beauty of his works
to heart. When Sophocles repeats himself--the Electra is but a feeble
study for the Antigone, or possibly a feeble copy of it--we get near the
man; the limitations of his outlook are characteristic: when he deforms
his Ajax with a tag of political partisanship, his servitude to
surroundings defines his conscience as an artist; and when painting by
contrasts he poses the weak Ismene and Chrysothemis as foils to their
heroic sisters, we see that his dramatic power in the essential was
rudimentary. Yet Mr. Matthew Arnold, a living English poet, writes that
Sophocles 'saw life steadily and saw it whole.' This is true of no man,
not of Shakespeare nor of Goethe, much less of Sophocles or Racine. The
phrase itself is as offensively out of date as the First Commandment."
The bold, incisive criticism had a singular fascination for his hearers,
who were too young to remark in it the crudeness that usually attaches
Miss Hutchings was the first of the senior students to yield herself to
the new influence. In the beginning Miss Gulmore was not attracted by
Professor Roberts; she thought him insignificant physically; he was neat
of dress too, and ingenuously eager in manner--all of which conflicted
with her ideal of manhood. It was but slowly that she awoke to a
consciousness of his merits, and her awakening was due perhaps as much
to jealousy of May Hutchings as to the conviction that with Professor
Roberts for a husband she would realize her social ambitions. Suddenly
she became aware that May was passing her in knowledge of Greek, and was
thus winning the notice of the man she had begun to look upon as worthy
of her own choice. Ida at once addressed herself to the struggle with
all the energy of her nature, but at first without success. It was
evident that May was working as she had never worked before, for as the
weeks flew by she seemed to increase her advantage. During this period
Ida Gulmore's pride suffered tortures; day by day she understood more
clearly that the prize of her life was slipping out of reach. In mind
and soul now she realized Roberts' daring and charm. With the
intensified perceptions of a jealous woman, she sometimes feared that he
sympathized with her rival. But he had not spoken yet; of that she was
sure, and her conceit enabled her to hope desperately. A moment arrived
when her hatred of May was sweetened by contempt. For some reason or
other May was neglecting her work; when spoken to by the Professor her
colour came and went, and a shyness, visible to all, wrapped her in
confusion. Ida felt that there was no time to be lost, and increased her
exertions. As she thought of her position she determined first to
surpass her competitor, and then in some way or other to bring the
Professor to speech. But, alas! for her plans. One morning she
demonstrated her superiority with cruel clearness, only to find that
Roberts, self-absorbed, did not notice her. He seemed to have lost the
vivid interest in the work which aforetime had characterized him, and
the happiness of the man was only less tell-tale than the pretty
contentment and demure approval of all he said which May scarcely tried
to conceal. Wild with fear, blinded by temper, Ida resolved to know the
One morning when the others left the room she waited, busying herself
apparently with some notes, till the Professor returned, as she knew he
would, in time to receive the next class. While gathering up her books,
she asked abruptly:
"I suppose I should congratulate you, Professor?"
"I don't think I understand you."
"Yes, you do. Why lie? You are engaged to May Hutchings," and the girl
looked at him with flaming eyes.
"I don't know why you should ask me, or why I should answer, but we have
no motive for concealment--yes, I am."
His words were decisive; his reverence for May and her affection had
been wounded by the insolent challenge, but before he finished speaking
his manner became considerate. He was quick to feel the pain of others
and shrank from adding to it--these, indeed, were the two chief articles
of the unformulated creed which directed his actions. His optimism was
of youth and superficial, but the sense of the brotherhood of human
suffering touched his heart in a way that made compassion and tenderness
appear to him to be the highest and simplest of duties. It was Ida's
temper that answered his avowal. Still staring at him she burst into
loud laughter, and as he turned away her tuneless mirth grew shriller
and shriller till it became hysterical. A frightened effort to regain
her self-control, and her voice broke in something like a sob, while
tears trembled on her lashes. The Professor's head was bent over his
desk and he saw nothing. Ida dashed the tears from her eyes
ostentatiously, and walked with shaking limbs out of the room. She would
have liked to laugh again scornfully before closing the door, but she
dared not trust her nerves. From that moment she tried to hate Professor
Roberts as she hated May Hutchings, for her disappointment had been very
sore, and the hurt to her pride smarted like a burn. On returning home,
she told her father that she had taken her name off the books of the
University; she meant to be an actress, and a degree could be of no use
to her in her new career. Her father did not oppose her openly; he was
content to postpone any decisive step, and in a few days she seemed to
have abandoned her project. But time brought no mitigation of her spite.
She was tenacious by nature, and her jealous rage came back upon her in
wild fits. To be outdone by May Hutchings was intolerable. Besides, the
rivalry and triumphs of the class-room had been as the salt of life to
her; now she had nothing to do, nothing to occupy her affections or give
object to her feverish ambition. And the void of her life she laid to
the charge of Roberts. So when the time came and the temptation, she
struck as those strike who are tortured by pain.
Alone in her room, she justified to herself what she had done. She
thought with pleasure of Professor Roberts' approaching defeat and
punishment. "He deserves it, and more! He knows why I left the
University; drew myself away from him for ever. What does he care for my
suffering? He can't leave me in peace. I wasn't good enough for him, and
my father isn't honest enough. Oh, that I were a man! I'd teach him that
it was dangerous to insult the wretched.
"How I was mistaken in him! He has no delicacy, no true manliness of
character. I'm glad he has thrown down the challenge. Father may not be
well-educated nor refined, but he's strong. Professor Roberts shall find
out what it means to attack _us_. I hope he'll be turned out of the
University; I hope he will. Let me think. I have a copy of that lecture
of his; perhaps there's something in it worse than I remembered. At any
rate, the report will be proof."
She searched hurriedly, and soon found the newspaper account she wanted.
Glancing down the column with feverish eagerness, she burst out: "Here
it is; this will do. I knew there was something more."
"... Thus the great ones contribute, each his part, towards the
humanization of man. Christ and Buddha are our teachers, but so also,
and in no lower degree, are Plato, Dante, Goethe, and Shakespeare....
"But strange to say, the _Divina Commedia_ seems to us moderns more
remote than the speculations of Plato. For the modern world is founded
upon science, and may be said to begin with the experimental philosophy
of Bacon. The thoughts of Plato, the 'fair humanities' of Greek
religion, are nearer to the scientific spirit than the untutored
imaginings of Christ. The world to-day seeks its rule of life in exact
knowledge of man and his surroundings; its teachers, high-priests in the
temple of Truth, are the Darwins, the Bunsens, the Pasteurs. In the
place of God we see Law, and the old concept of rewards and punishments
has been re-stated as 'the survival of the fittest.' If, on the other
hand, you need emotions, and the inspiration of concrete teaching, you
must go to Balzac, to Turgenief, and to Ibsen...."
"I think that'll do," said the girl half-aloud as she marked the above
passages, and then sent the paper by a servant to her father's office.
"The worst of it is, he'll find another place easily; but, at any rate,
he'll have to leave this State.... How well I remember that lecture. I
thought no one had ever talked like that before. But the people disliked
it, and even those who stayed to the end said they wouldn't have come
had they known that a professor could speak against Christianity. How
mad they made me then! I wouldn't listen to them, and now--now he's with
May Hutchings, perhaps laughing at me with her. Or, if he's not so base
as that, he's accusing my father of dishonesty, and I mean to defend
him. But if, ah, if--" and the girl rose to her feet suddenly, with
* * * * *
The house of Lawyer Hutchings was commodious and comfortable. It was
only two storeys high, and its breadth made it appear squat; it was
solidly built of rough, brown stone, and a large wooden verandah gave
shade and a lounging-place in front. It stood in its own grounds on the
outskirts of the town, not far from Mr. Gulmore's, but it lacked the
towers and greenhouse, the brick stables, and black iron gates, which
made Mr. Gulmore's residence an object of public admiration. It had,
indeed, a careless, homelike air, as of a building that disdains show,
standing sturdily upon a consciousness of utility and worth. The study
of the master lay at the back. It was a room of medium size, with two
French windows, which gave upon an orchard of peach and apple-trees
where lush grass hid the fallen fruit. The furniture was plain and
serviceable. A few prints on the wall and a wainscoting of books showed
the owner's tastes.
In this room one morning Lawyer Hutchings and Professor Roberts sat
talking. The lawyer was sparely built and tall, of sympathetic
appearance. The features of the face were refined and fairly regular,
the blue eyes pleasing, the high forehead intelligent-looking. Yet--
whether it was the querulous horizontal lines above the brows, or the
frequent, graceful gestures of the hands--Mr. Hutchings left on one an
impression of weakness, and, somehow or other, his precise way of
speaking suggested intellectual narrowness. It was understood, however,
that he had passed through Harvard with honours, and had done well in
the law-course. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that when he
went West, he went with the idea that that was the shortest way to
Washington. Yet he had had but a moderate degree of success; he was too
thoroughly grounded in his work not to get a good practice, but he was
not the first in his profession. He had been outdone by men who fought
their cases, and his popularity was due to affable manners, and not to
admiration of his power or talents. His obvious good nature had got with
years a tinge of discontent; life had been to him a series of
One glance at Professor Roberts showed him to be a different sort of a
man, though perhaps harder to read. Square shoulders and attenuated
figure--a mixture of energy and nervous force without muscular strength;
a tyrannous forehead overshadowing lambent hazel eyes; a cordial
frankness of manner with a thinker's tricks of gesture, his nervous
fingers emphasizing his words.
Their talk was of an article assailing the Professor that had appeared
that morning in "The Republican Herald."
"I don't like it," Mr. Hutchings was saying. "It's inspired by Gulmore,
and he always means what he says--and something more."
"Except the suggestion that my father had certain good, or rather bad,
reasons for leaving Kentucky, it seems to me merely spiteful. It's very
"He only begins with your father. Then he wonders what the real motives
are which induce you to change your political creed. But the affectation
of fairness is the danger signal. One can't imagine Gulmore hesitating
to assert what he has heard, that you have no religious principles.
Coming from him, that means a declaration of war; he'll attack you
without scruple--persistently. It's well known that he cares nothing for
religion--even his wife's a Unitarian. What he's aiming at, I don't
know, but he's sure to do you harm. He has done me harm, and yet he
never gave me such a warning. He only went for me when I ran for office.
As soon as the elections were over, he left me in peace. He's eminently
practical, and rather good-natured. There's no small vicious malice or
hate in him; but he's overbearing and loves a fight. Is it worth your
while to make an enemy of him? We're sure to be beaten."
"Of course it isn't worth my while in that sense, but it's my duty, I
think, as you think it yours. Remark, too, that I've never attacked Mr.
Gulmore--never even mentioned him. I've criticised the system, and
"He won't take it in that way. He is the system; when you criticise it,
you criticise him. Every one will so understand it. He makes all the
appointments, from mayor down to the boy who sweeps out an office; every
contract is given to him or his appointees; that's how he has made his
fortune. Why, he beat me the second time I ran for District Court Judge,
by getting an Irishman, the Chairman of my Committee, to desert me at
the last moment. He afterwards got Patrick Byrne elected a Justice of
the Peace, a man who knows no law and can scarcely sign his own name."
"How disgraceful! And you would have me sit down quietly under the
despotism of Mr. Gulmore? And such a despotism! It cost the city half a
million dollars to pave the streets, and I can prove that the work could
have been done as well for half the sum. Our democratic system of
government is the worst in the world, if a tenth part of what I hear is
true; and before I admit that, I'll see whether its abuses are
corrigible. But why do you say we're sure to be beaten? I thought you
"Yes," Mr. Hutchings interrupted, "I said that this railway extension
gives us a chance. All the workmen are Irishmen, Democrats to a man,
who'll vote and vote straight, and that has been our weak point. You
can't get one-half the better classes to go to the polls. The negroes
all vote, too, and vote Republican--that has been Gulmore's strength.
Now I've got the Irishmen against his negroes I may win. But what I feel
is that even if I do get to be Mayor, you'll suffer for it more than I
shall gain by your help. Do you see? And, now that I'm employed by the
Union Pacific I don't care much for city politics. I'd almost prefer to
give up the candidature. May'll suffer, too. I think you ought to
consider the matter before going any further."
"This is not the time for consideration. Like you I am trying to put an
end to a corrupt tyranny. I work and shall vote against a venal and
degrading system. May and I will bear what we must. She wouldn't have me
run away from such adversaries. Fancy being governed by the most
ignorant, led on by the most dishonest! It's incomprehensible to me how
such a paradoxical infamy can exist."
"I think it'll become comprehensible to you before this election's over.
I've done my best for years to alter it, and so far I've not been very
successful. You don't seem to understand that where parties are almost
equal in strength, a man who'll spend money is sure to win. It has paid
Gulmore to organize the Republican party in this city; he has made it
pay him and all those who hold office by and through him. 'To the
victors, the spoils.' Those who have done the spoiling are able to pay
more than the spoiled--that's all."
"Yes, but in this case the spoilers are a handful, while the spoiled are
the vast majority. Why should it be impossible to convince the majority
that they're being robbed?"
"Because ideas can't get into the heads of negroes, nor yet into the
heads of illiterate Irishmen. You'll find, too, that five Americans out
of every ten take no interest in ordinary politics, and the five who do
are of the lowest class--a Boss is their natural master. Our party
politics, my friend, resembles a game of faro--the card that happens to
be in the box against the same card outside--and the banker holding the
box usually manages to win. Let me once get power and Gulmore'll find his
labour unremunerative. If it hadn't been for him I'd have been in Congress
long ago. But now I'll have to leave you. Talk it over with May and--you
see that Gulmore challenges you to prove the corruption or else withdraw
the imputation? What do you mean to do?"
"I'll prove it, of course. Long before I spoke I had gone into that
paving contract; it was clearly a fraud."
"Well, I'd think, if I were you, before I acted, though you're a great
help to me; your last speech was very powerful."
"Unfortunately I'm no speaker, but I'll do as well as I can, and you may
rely on me to go on to the end. The rich at least must be forced to
refrain from robbing the poor.... That malicious sneer at my father
hurts me. It can only mean that he owed money in Kentucky. He was always
careless in money matters, too careless, but he's very generous at
heart. I owe him everything. I'll find out about it at once, and if it
is as I fear, the debt shall be paid. That'll be one good result of Mr.
Gulmore's malice. As for me, let him do his worst. At any rate I'm
"A poor satisfaction in case--but here's May, and I must go. I've stayed
too long already. You should look through our ticket; it's strong, the
men are all good, I think--anyway, they're the best we can get. Teach
him to be careful, May; he's too bold."
"I will, father," replied a clear, girlish voice; "it's mother who
spoils him," and then, as the door shut, she moved to her lover, and
holding out both her hands, with a little air of dignity, added, "He
tries to spoil _me_. But, dear, what's the matter? You seem
"It's nothing. An article in that paper strikes at my father, and hurts
me; but it can be made right, and to look at you is a cure for pain."
"Let me read it--no, please! I want to help you, and how can I do that
if I don't know what pains you?" The girl took the "Herald" and sat down
to read it.
May Hutchings was more than good-looking, were it only by reason of a
complexion such as is seldom given even to blondes. The inside of a sea-
shell has the same lustre and delicacy, but it does not pale and flush
as did May's cheeks in quick response to her emotions. Waves of maize-
coloured hair with a sheen of its own went with the fairness of the
skin, and the pretty features were redeemed from a suspicion of
insipidity by large violet eyes. She was of good height and lissom, with
small feet and hands, but the outlines of her figure were Southern in
grace and fulness.
After reading the article, she put down the paper without saying a word.
"Why, May, you seem to take it as seriously as your father does. It's
nothing so very terrible, is it?"
"What did father say?"
"That it was inspired by Gulmore, and that he was a dangerous man; but I
don't see much in it. If my father owed money in Kentucky it shall be
repaid, and there the matter ends."
"'Tisn't that I'm troubling about; it's that lecture of yours. Oh, it
was wonderful! but I sat trembling all the time. You don't know the
people. If they had understood it better, they'd have made a big fuss
about it. I'm frightened now."
"But what fuss can they make? I've surely a right to my own opinions,
and I didn't criticise any creed offensively."
"That's it--that's what saved you. Oh, I wish you'd see it as I do! You
spoke so enthusiastically about Jesus, that you confused them. A lot of
them thought, and think still, that you're a Christian. But if it's
brought up again and made clear to them--Won't you understand? If it's
made quite clear that Jesus to you was only a man, and not superior even
to all other men, and that you believe Christianity has served its
purpose, and is now doing harm rather than good in the world, why, they'd
not want to have you in the University. Don't you know that?"
"Perhaps you're right," returned the Professor thoughtfully. "You see I
wasn't brought up in any creed, and I've lived in so completely
different an atmosphere for years past, that it's hard to understand
such intolerant bigotry. I remember enough, though, to see that you are
right. But, after all, what does it matter? I can't play hypocrite
because they're blind fanatics."
"No, but you needn't have gone _quite_ so far--been _quite_ so
frank; and even now you might easily--" She stopped, catching a look of
surprise in her lover's face, and sought confusedly to blot out the
effect of her last words. "I mean--but of course you know best. I want
you to keep your place; you love the work, and no one could do it so
well as you. No one, and--"
"It doesn't matter, May. I'm sure you were thinking of what would be
best for both of us, but I've nothing to alter or extenuate. They must
do as they think fit, these Christians, if they have the power. After
all, it can make no difference to us; I can always get work enough to
keep us, even if it isn't such congenial work. But do you think Gulmore's
at the bottom of it? Has he so much influence?"
"Yes, I think so," and the girl nodded her head, but she did not give
the reasons for her opinion. She knew that Ida Gulmore had been in love
with him, so she shrank instinctively from mentioning her name, partly
because it might make him pity her, and partly because the love of
another woman for him seemed to diminish her pride of exclusive
possession. She therefore kept silence while seeking for a way to warn
her lover without revealing the truth, which might set him thinking of
Ida Gulmore and her fascinating because unrequited passion. At length
"Mr. Gulmore has injured father. He knows him: you'd better take his
"Your father advises me to have nothing more to do with the election."
He didn't say it to try her; he trusted her completely. The girl's
answer was emphatic:
"Oh, that's what you should do; I'm frightened for you. Why need you
make enemies? The election isn't worth that, indeed it isn't. If father
wants to run for Mayor, let him; he knows what he's about. But you, you
should do great things, write a great book; and make every one as proud
of you as I am." Her face flushed with enthusiasm. She felt relieved,
too; somehow she had got into the spirit of her part once more. But her
lover took the hot face and eager speech as signs of affection, and he
drew her to him while his face lit up with joy.
"You darling, darling! You overrate me, dear, but that does me good:
makes me work harder. What a pity it is, May, that one can't add a cubit
to his stature. I'd be a giant then.... But never fear; it'll be all
right. You wouldn't wish me, I'm sure, to run away from a conflict I
have provoked; but now I must see my father about those debts, and then
we'll have a drive, or perhaps you'd go with me to him. You could wait
in the buggy for me. You know I have to speak again this evening."
The girl consented at once, but she was not satisfied with the decision
her lover had come to. "It's too plain," she thought in her clear,
common-sense way, "that he's getting into a 'fuss' when he might just as
well, or better, keep out of it."
May was eminently practical, and not at all as emotional as one might
have inferred from the sensitive, quick-changing colour that at one
moment flushed her cheeks and at another ebbed, leaving her pallid, as
with passion. Not that she was hardhearted or selfish. Far from it. But
her surroundings had moulded her as they do women. Her mother had been
one of the belles of Baltimore, a Southerner, too, by temperament. May
had a brother and a sister older than herself (both were now married),
and a younger brother who had taken care that she should not be spoiled
for want of direct personal criticism. It was this younger brother, Joe,
who first called her "Towhead," and even now he often made disparaging
remarks about "girls who didn't weigh 130"--in Joe's eyes, a Venus of
Rubens would have seemed perfect. May was not vain of her looks; indeed,
she had only come to take pleasure in them of recent years. As a young
girl, comparing herself with her mother, she feared that she would
always be "quite homely." Her glass and the attentions of men had
gradually shown her the pleasant truth. She did not, however, even now,
overrate her beauty greatly. But her character had been modified to
advantage in those schoolgirl days, when, with bitter tears, she
admitted to herself that she was not pretty. Her teacher's praise of her
quickness and memory had taught her to set her pride on learning. And
indeed she had been an intelligent child, gifted with a sponge-like
faculty of assimilating all kinds of knowledge--the result, perhaps, of
generations of educated forbears. The admiration paid to her looks did
not cause her to relax her intellectual efforts. But when at the
University she found herself outgrowing the ordinary standards of
opinion, conceit at first took possession of her. It seemed to her
manifest that she had always underrated herself. She was astonished by
her own excessive modesty, and keenly interested in it. She had thought
herself ugly and she was beautiful, and now it was evident that she was
a genius as well. With soul mightily uplifted by dreams of all she would
do and the high part she would play in life, always nobly serious, yet
with condescension of exquisite charming kindliness, taking herself
gravely for a perfect product of the race and time, she proceeded to
write the book which should discover to mankind all her qualities--the
delicacy, nobility, and sweetness of an ideal nature.
During this period she even tried to treat Joe with sweet courtesy, but
Joe told her not to make herself "more of a doggoned fool" than she was.
And soon the dream began to lose its brightness. The book would not
advance, and what she wrote did not seem to her wonderful--not inspired
and fascinating as it ought to have been. Her reading had given her some
slight critical insight. She then showed parts of it to her admirers,
hoping thus to justify vanity, but they used the occasion to pay
irrelevant compliments, and so disappointed her--all, save Will
Thornton, who admitted critically that "it was poetic" and guessed "she
ought to write poetry." Accordingly she wrote some lyrics, and one on
"Vanished Hopes" really pleased her. Forthwith she read it to Will, who
decided "'twas fine, mighty fine. Tennyson had written more, of course,
but nothing better--nothing easier to understand." That last phrase killed
her trust in him. She sank into despondence. Even when Ida Gulmore, whom
she had learned to dislike, began to outshine her in the class, she made
no effort. To graduate first of her year appeared a contemptible
ambition in comparison with the dreams she had foregone. About this
period she took a new interest in her dress; she grew coquettish even,
and became a greater favourite than ever. Then Professor Roberts came to
the University, and with his coming life opened itself to her anew,
vitalized with hopes and fears. She was drawn to him from the first, as
spirit is sometimes drawn to spirit, by an attraction so imperious that
it frightened her, and she tried to hold herself away from him. But in
her heart she knew that she studied and read only to win his praise. His
talents revealed to her the futility of her ambition. Here was one who
stood upon the heights beyond her power of climbing, and yet, to her
astonishment, he was very doubtful of his ability to gain enduring
reputation. Not only was there a plane of knowledge and feeling above
the conventional--that she had found out by herself--but there were also
table-lands where teachers of repute in the valley were held to be blind
guides. Her quick receptivity absorbed the new ideas with eagerness; but
she no longer deluded herself. Her practical good sense came to her aid.
What seemed difficult or doubtful to the Professor must, she knew, be
for ever impossible to her. And already love was upon her, making her
humility as sweet as was her admiration. At last he spoke, and life
became altogether beautiful to her. As she learned to know him
intimately she began to understand his unworldliness, his scholar-like
idealism, and ignorance of men and motives, and thus she came to self-
possession again, and found her true mission. She realized with joy, and
a delightful sense of an assured purpose in life, that her faculty of
observation and practical insight, though insufficient as "bases for
Eternity," would be of value to her lover. And if she now and then fell
back into the part of a nineteenth-century Antigone, it was but a
momentary relapse into what had been for a year or so a dear familiar
habit. The heart of the girl grew and expanded in the belief that her
new _rôle_ of counsellor and worldly guide to her husband was the
highest to which any woman could attain.
A few days later Mr. Hutchings had another confidential talk with
Professor Roberts, and, as before, the subject was suggested by an
article in "The Republican Herald." This paper, indeed, devoted a column
or so every day to personal criticism of the Professor, and each attack
surpassed its forerunner in virulence of invective. All the young man's
qualities of character came out under this storm of unmerited abuse. He
read everything that his opponents put forth, replied to nothing, in
spite of the continual solicitation of the editor of "The Democrat," and
seemed very soon to regard "The Herald's" calumnies merely from the
humorous side. Meanwhile his own speeches grew in knowledge and vigour.
With a scholar's precision he put before his hearers the inner history
and significance of job after job. His powers of study helped him to
"get up his cases" with crushing completeness. He quickly realized the
value of catch-words, but his epigrams not being hardened in the fire of
life refused to stick. He did better when he published the balance-sheet
of the "ring" in pamphlet form, and showed that each householder paid
about one hundred and fifty dollars a year, or twice as much as all his
legal taxes, in order to support a party organization the sole object of
which was to enrich a few at the expense of the many. One job, in
especial, the contract for paving the streets, he stigmatized as a
swindle, and asserted that the District Attorney, had he done his duty,
would long ago have brought the Mayor and Town Council before a criminal
court as parties to a notorious fraud. His ability, steadfastness, and
self-restraint had had a very real effect; his meetings were always
crowded, and his hearers were not all Democrats. His courage and
fighting power were beginning to win him general admiration. The public
took a lively though impartial interest in the contest. To critical
outsiders it seemed not unlikely that the Professor (a word of good-
humoured contempt) might "whip" even "old man Gulmore." Bets were made
on the result and short odds accepted. Even Mr. Hutchings allowed
himself to hope for a favourable issue.
"You've done wonderfully well," was the burden of his conversations with
Roberts; "I should feel certain of success against any one but Gulmore.
And he seems to be losing his head--his perpetual abuse excites sympathy
with you. If we win I shall owe it mainly to you."
But on this particular morning Lawyer Hutchings had something to say to
his friend and helper which he did not like to put into plain words. He
"You've seen the 'Herald'?"
"Yes; there's nothing in it of interest, is there?"
"No; but 'twas foolish of your father to write that letter saying you
had paid his Kentucky debts."
"I was sorry when I saw it. I know they'll say I got him to write the
letter. But it's only another incident."
"It's true, then? You did pay the money?"
"Yes; I was glad to."
"But it was folly. What had you to do with your father's debts? Every
house to-day should stand on its own foundation."
"I don't agree with you; but in this case there was no question of that
sort. My father very generously impoverished himself to send me to
Europe and keep me there for six years. I owed him the five thousand
dollars, and was only too glad to be able to repay him. You'd have done
"Would I, indeed! Five thousand dollars! I'm not so sure of that." The
father's irritation conquered certain grateful memories of his younger
days, and the admiration which, in his heart, he felt for the
Professor's action, only increased his annoyance. "It must have nearly
cleaned you out?"
"Well, of course it's your affair, not mine; but I think you foolish.
You paid them in full, I suppose? Whew!
"Do you see that the 'Herald' calls upon the University authorities to
take action upon your lecture? 'The teaching of Christian youth by an
Atheist must be stopped,' and so forth."
"Yes; but they can do nothing. I'm not responsible to them for my
"You're mistaken. A vote of the Faculty can discharge you."
"Impossible! On what grounds?"
"On the ground of immorality. They've got the power in that case. It's a
loose word, but effective."
"I'd have a cause of action against them."
"Which you'd be sure to lose. Eleven out of every twelve jurymen in this
state would mulct an Agnostic rather than give him damages."
"Ah! that's the meaning, then, I suppose, of this notice I've just got
from the secretary to attend a special Faculty meeting on Monday
"Let me see it. Why, here it is! The object of the meeting is 'To
consider the anti-Christian utterances of Professor Roberts, and to take
action thereon.' That's the challenge. Didn't you read it?"
"No; as soon as I opened it and saw the printed form, I took it for the
usual notification, and put it aside to think of this election work. But
it would seem as if the Faculty intended to out-herald the 'Herald.'"
"They are simply allowed to act first in order that the 'Herald,' a day
later, may applaud them. It's all worked by Gulmore, and I tell you
again, he's dangerous."
"He may be; but I won't change for abuse, nor yet to keep my post. Let
him do his worst. I've not attacked him hitherto for certain reasons of
my own, nor do I mean to now. But he can't frighten me; he'll find that
"Well, we'll see. But, at any rate, it was my duty to warn you. It would
be different if I were rich, but, as it is, I can only give May a
"My dear Hutchings, don't let us talk of that. In giving me May, you
give me all I want." The young man's tone was so conclusive that it
closed the conversation.
* * * * *
Mr. Gulmore had not been trained for a political career. He had begun
life as a clerk in a hardware store in his native town. But in his early
manhood the Abolition agitation had moved him deeply--the colour of his
skin, he felt, would never have made him accept slavery--and he became
known as a man of extreme views. Before he was thirty he had managed to
save some thousands of dollars. He married and emigrated to Columbus,
Ohio, where he set up a business. It was there, in the stirring years
before the war, that he first threw himself into politics; he laboured
indefatigably as an Abolitionist without hope or desire of personal
gain. But the work came to have a fascination for him, and he saw
possibilities in it of pecuniary emolument such as the hardware business
did not afford. When the war was over, and he found himself scarcely
richer than he had been before it began, he sold his store and emigrated
again--this time to Tecumseh, Nebraska, intending to make political
organization the business of his life. He wanted "to grow up" with a
town and become its master from the beginning. As the negroes
constituted the most ignorant and most despised class, a little
solicitation made him their leader. In the first election it was found
that "Gulmore's negroes" voted to a man, and that he thereby controlled
the Republican party. In the second year of his residence in Tecumseh he
got the contract for lighting the town with gas. The contract was to run
for twenty years, and was excessively liberal, for Mr. Gulmore had
practically no competitor, no one who understood gas manufacture, and
who had the money and pluck to embark in the enterprise. He quickly
formed a syndicate, and fulfilled the conditions of the contract. The
capital was fixed at two hundred thousand dollars, and the syndicate
earned a profit of nearly forty per cent, in the first year. Ten years
later a one hundred dollar share was worth a thousand. This first
success was the foundation of Mr. Gulmore's fortune. The income derived
from the gas-works enabled him to spend money on the organization of his
party. The first manager of the works was rewarded with the position of
Town Clerk--an appointment which ran for five years, but which under Mr.
Gulmore's rule was practically permanent. His foremen became the most
energetic of ward-chairmen. He was known to pay well, and to be a kind
if strenuous master. What he had gained in ten years by the various
contracts allotted to him or his nominees no one could guess; he was
certainly very rich. From year to year, too, his control of the city
government had grown more complete. There was now no place in the civil
or judicial establishment of the city or county which did not depend on
his will, and his influence throughout the State was enormous.
A municipal election, or, indeed, any election, afforded Mr. Gulmore
many opportunities of quiet but intense self-satisfaction. He loved the
struggle and the consciousness that from his office-chair he had so
directed his forces that victory was assured. He always allowed a broad
margin in order to cover the unforeseen. Chance, and even ill-luck,
formed a part of his strategy; the sore throat of an eloquent speaker;
the illness of a popular candidate; a storm on polling-day--all were to
him factors in the problem. He reckoned as if his opponents might have
all the luck upon their side; but, while considering the utmost malice
of fortune, it was his delight to base his calculations upon the
probable, and to find them year by year approaching more nearly to
absolute exactitude. As soon as his ward-organization had been
completed, he could estimate the votes of his party within a dozen or
so. His plan was to treat every contest seriously, to bring all his
forces to the poll on every occasion--nothing kept men together, he used
to say, like victory. It was the number of his opponent's minority which
chiefly interested him; but by studying the various elections carefully,
he came to know better than any one the value as a popular candidate of
every politician in the capital, or, indeed, in the State. The talent of
the man for organization lay in his knowledge of men, his fairness and
liberality, and, perhaps, to a certain extent, in the power he possessed
of inspiring others with confidence in himself and his measures. He was
never satisfied till the fittest man in each ward was the Chairman of
the ward; and if money would not buy that particular man's services, as
sometimes though rarely happened, he never rested until he found the
gratification which bound his energy to the cause. Besides--and this was
no small element in his successes--his temper disdained the applause of
the crowd. He had never "run" for any office himself, and was not nearly
so well known to the mass of the electorate as many of his creatures.
The senator, like the mayor or office-messenger of his choice, got all
the glory: Mr. Gulmore was satisfied with winning the victory, and
reaping the fruits of it. He therefore excited, comparatively speaking,
no jealousy; and this, together with the strength of his position,
accounts for the fact that he had never been seriously opposed before
Professor Roberts came upon the scene.
Better far than Lawyer Hutchings, or any one else, Mr. Gulmore knew that
the relative strength of the two parties had altered vastly within the
year. Reckoning up his forces at the beginning of the campaign, he felt
certain that he could win--could carry his whole ticket, including a
rather unpopular Mayor; but the majority in his favour would be small,
and the prospect did not please him, for the Professor's speeches had
aroused envy. He understood that if his majority were not overwhelming
he would be assailed again next year more violently, and must in the
long run inevitably lose his power. Besides, "fat" contracts required
unquestionable supremacy. He began, therefore, by instituting such a
newspaper-attack upon the Professor as he hoped would force him to
abandon the struggle. When this failed, and Mr. Gulmore saw that it had
done worse than fail, that it had increased his opponent's energy and
added to his popularity, he went to work again to consider the whole
situation. He must win and win "big," that was clear; win too, if
possible, in a way that would show his "smartness" and demonstrate his
adversary's ignorance of the world. His anger had at length been
aroused; personal rivalry was a thing he could not tolerate at any time,
and Roberts had injured his position in the town. He was resolved to
give the young man such a lesson that others would be slow to follow his
The difficulty of the problem was one of its attractions. Again and
again he turned the question over in his mind--How was he to make his
triumph and the Professor's defeat sensational? All the factors were
present to him and he dwelt upon them with intentness. He was a man of
strong intellect; his mind was both large and quick, but its activity,
owing to want of education and to greedy physical desires, had been
limited to the ordinary facts and forces of life. What books are to most
persons gifted with an extraordinary intelligence, his fellow-men were
to Mr. Gulmore--a study at once stimulating and difficult, of an
incomparable variety and complexity. His lack of learning was of
advantage to him in judging most men. Their stock of ideas, sentiments
and desires had been his for years, and if he now viewed the patchwork
quilt of their morality with indulgent contempt, at least he was
familiar with all the constituent shades of it. But he could not make
the Professor out--and this added to his dislike of him; he recognized
that Roberts was not, as he had at first believed, a mere mouthpiece of
Hutchings, but he could not fathom his motives; besides, as he said to
himself, he had no need to; Roberts was plainly a "crank," book-mad, and
the species did not interest him. But Hutchings he knew well; knew that
like himself Hutchings, while despising ordinary prejudices, was ruled
by ordinary greeds and ambitions. In intellect they were both above the
average, but not in morals. So, by putting himself in the lawyer's
place, a possible solution of the problem occurred to him.
A couple of days before the election, Mr. Hutchings, who had been hard
at work till the evening among his chief subordinates, was making his
way homeward when Mr. Prentiss accosted him, with the request that he
would accompany him to his rooms for a few minutes on a matter of the
utmost importance. Having no good reason for refusing, Mr. Hutchings
followed the editor of the "Herald" up a flight of stairs into a large
and comfortable room. As he entered and looked about him Mr. Gulmore
"I wanted a talk with you, Lawyer, where we wouldn't be disturbed, and
Prentiss thought it would be best to have it here, and I guess he was
about right. It's quiet and comfortable. Won't you be seated?"
"Mr. Gulmore!" exclaimed the surprised lawyer stopping short. "I don't
think there's anything to be discussed between us, and as I'm in a hurry
to get home to dinner, I think I'll--"
"Don't you make any mistake," interrupted Mr. Gulmore; "I mean business
--business that'll pay both you and me, and I guess 'twon't do you any
damage to take a seat and listen to me for a few minutes."
As Lawyer Hutchings, overborne by the authority of the voice and manner,
sat down, he noticed that Mr. Prentiss had disappeared. Interpreting
rightly the other's glance, Mr. Gulmore began:
"We're alone, Hutchin's. This matter shall be played fair and square. I
guess you know that my word can be taken at its face-value." Then,
settling himself in his chair, he went on:
"You and I hev been runnin' on opposite tickets for a good many years,
and I've won right along. It has paid me to win and it has not paid you
to lose. Now, it's like this. You reckon that those Irishmen on the line
give you a better show. They do; but not enough to whip me. You appear
to think that that'll have to be tried the day after tomorrow, but you
ought to know by now that when I say a thing is so, it's so--every time.
If you had a chance, I'd tell you: I'm playin' square. I ken carry my
ticket from one end to the other; I ken carry Robinson as Mayor against
you by at least two hundred and fifty of a majority, and the rest of
your ticket has just no show at all--you know that. But, even if you
could get in this year or next what good would it do you to be Mayor?
You're not runnin' for the five thousand dollars a year salary, I
reckon, and that's about all you'd get--unless you worked with me. I
want a good Mayor, a man like you, of position and education, a fine
speaker that knows everybody and is well thought of--popular. Robinson's
not good enough for me; he hain't got the manners nor the knowledge, nor
the popularity. I'd have liked to have had you on my side right along.
It would have been better for both of us, but you were a Democrat, an'
there wasn't any necessity. Now there is. I want to win this election by
a large majority, an' you ken make that sartin. You see I speak square.
Will you join me?"
The question was thrown out abruptly. Mr. Gulmore had caught a gleam in
the other's eye as he spoke of a good Mayor and his qualifications. "He
bites, I guess," was his inference, and accordingly he put the question
Mr. Hutchings, brought to himself by the sudden interrogation,
hesitated, and decided to temporize. He could always refuse to join
forces, and Gulmore might "give himself away." He answered:
"I don't quite see what you mean. How are we to join?"
"By both of us givin' somethin'."
"What am I to give?"
"Withdraw your candidature for Mayor as a Democrat."
"I can't do that."
"Jest hear me out. The city has advertised for tenders for a new Court
House and a new Town Hall. The one building should cover both, and be
near the middle of the business part. That's so--ain't it? Well,
land's hard to get anywhere there, and I've the best lots in the town. I
guess" (carelessly) "the contract will run to a million dollars; that
should mean two hundred thousand dollars to some one. It's like this,
Hutchin's: Would you rather come in with me and make a joint tender, or
run for Mayor and be beaten?"
Mr. Hutchings started. Ten years before the proposal would have won
him. But now his children were provided for----all except Joe, and his
position as Counsel to the Union Pacific Railroad lifted him above
pecuniary anxieties. Then the thought of the Professor and May came to
him--No! he wouldn't sell himself. But in some strange way the
proposition excited him; he felt elated. His quickened pulse-beats
prevented him from realizing the enormity of the proposed transaction,
but he knew that he ought to be indignant. What a pity it was that
Gulmore had made no proposal which he might have accepted--and then
"If I understand you, you propose that I should take up this contract,
and make money out of it. If that was your business with me, you've made
a mistake, and Professor Roberts is right."
"Hev I?" asked Mr. Gulmore slowly, coldly, in sharp contrast to the
lawyer's apparent excitement and quick speech. Contemptuously he thought
that Hutchings was "foolisher" than he had imagined--or was he sincere?
He would have weighed this last possibility before speaking, if the
mention of Roberts had not angered him. His combativeness made him
"If you don't want to come in with me, all you've got to do is to say
so. You've no call to get up on your hind legs about it; it's easy to do
settin'. But don't talk poppycock like that Professor; he's silly. He
talks about the contract for street pavin', and it ken be proved--'twas
proved in the 'Herald'--that our streets cost less per foot than the
streets of any town in this State. He knows nothin'. He don't even know
that an able man can make half a million out of a big contract, an' do
the work better than an ordinary man could do it who'd lose money by it.
At a million our Court House'll be cheap; and if the Professor had the
contract with the plans accordin' to requirement to-morrow, he'd make
nothin' out of it--not a red cent. No, sir. If I ken, that's my
business--and yours, ain't it? Or, are we to work for nothin' because
he's a fool?"
While Mr. Gulmore was speaking, Mr. Hutchings gave himself to thought.
After all, why was he running for Mayor? The place, as Gulmore said,
would be of no use to him. He was weary of fighting which only ended in
defeat, and could only end in a victory that would be worthless. Mayor,
indeed! If he had a chance of becoming a Member of Congress, that would
be different. And across his brain flitted the picture so often evoked
by imagination in earlier years. Why not? Gulmore could make it certain.
"What you say seems plausible enough, but I don't see my way. I don't
feel inclined to go into business at my time of life."
"You don't need to go into the business. I'll see to that."
"No. I don't need money now particularly."
"Next year, Hutchin's, I'll have a better man than Robinson against you.
Lawyer Nevilson's as good as ken be found, I reckon, and he wouldn't
refuse to join me if I gave him the chance." But while he was speaking,
Mr. Gulmore kept his opponent's answer in view. He considered it
thoughtfully; "I don't need money now particularly." What did the man
need? Congress? As a Republican? That would do as well. When Mr.
Hutchings shook his head, careless of the menace, Mr. Gulmore made up
his mind. His obstinacy came out; he would win at any price. He began:
"It's what I said at first, Hutchin's; we've each got to give what the
other wants. I've told you what I want; tell me squarely what you want,
an' p'r'aps the thing ken be settled."
As Mr. Hutchings did not answer at once, the Boss went on:
"You're in politics for somethin'. What is it? If you're goin' to buck
agen me, you might as well draw out; you'll do no good. You know that.
See here! Is it the State Legislature you're after, or--Congress?"
The mere words excited Mr. Hutchings; he wanted to be back again in the
East as a victor; he longed for the cultivated amenities and the social
life of Washington. He could not help exclaiming:
"Ah! if it hadn't been for you I'd have been in Congress long ago."
"As a Democrat? Not from this State, I guess."
"What does it matter? Democrat or Republican, the difference now is only
in the name."
"The price is high, Hutchin's. I ask you to give up runnin' for Mayor,
and you ask me for a seat in Congress instead. But--I'll pay it, if you
do as I say. You've no chance in this State as a Democrat; you know that
yourself. To run for Mayor as a Democrat hurts you; that must stop right
now--in your own interest. But what I want from you is that you don't
announce your withdrawal till the day after to-morrow, an' meantime you
say nothin' to the Professor or any one else. Are you agreed?"
Mr. Hutchings paused. The path of his desire lay open before him; the
opportunity was not to be missed; he grew eager. But still there was
something disagreeable in an action which demanded secrecy. He must
think coolly. What was the proposal? What was he giving? Nothing. He
didn't wish to be Mayor with Gulmore and all the City Council against
him. Nothing--except the withdrawal on the very morning of the election.
That would look bad, but he could pretend illness, and he had told the
Professor he didn't care to be Mayor; he had advised him not to mix in
the struggle; besides, Roberts would not suspect anything, and if he did
there'd be no shadow of proof for a long time to come. In the other
scale of the balance he had Gulmore's promise: it was trustworthy, he
"Do you mean that you'll run me for the next term and get me elected?"
"I'll do all I know, and I guess you'll succeed."
"I have nothing but your word."
Again Mr. Hutchings paused. To accept definitively would be dangerous if
the conversation had had listeners. It was characteristic of the place
and time that he could suspect a man of laying such a trap, upon whose
word he was prepared to rely. Mr. Gulmore saw and understood his
"I said we were alone, Hutchin's, and I meant it. Jest as I say now, if
you withdraw and tell no one and be guided by me in becoming a
Republican, I'll do what I ken to get you into Congress," and as he
spoke he stood up.
Mr. Hutchings rose, too, and said, as if in excuse: "I wanted to think
it over, but I'm agreed. I'll do as you say," and with a hurried "Good
night!" he left the room.
Mr. Gulmore returned to his chair and lit a cigar. He was fairly
satisfied with the result of his efforts. His triumph over the Professor
would not be as flagrant, perhaps, as if Hutchin's' name had been linked
with his in a city contract; but, he thought with amusement, every one
would suspect that he had bought the lawyer for cash. What a fool the
man was! What did he want to get into Congress for? Weak vanity! He'd
have no weight there. To prefer a seat in Congress to wealth--silly.
Besides, Hutchin's would be a bad candidate. Of course the party name
would cover anythin'. But what a mean skunk! Here Mr. Gulmore's thoughts
reverted to himself. Ought he to keep his word and put such a man into
Congress? He hated to break a promise. But why should he help the
Professor's father-in-law to power? Wall, there was no hurry. He'd make
up his mind later. Anyway, the Professor'd have a nice row to hoe on the
mornin' of the election, and Boss Gulmore'd win and win big, an' that
was the point. The laugh would be on the Professor--
* * * * *
On the morning of the election Professor Roberts was early afoot. He
felt hopeful, light-hearted, and would not confess even to himself that
his good spirits were due chiefly to the certainty that in another
twelve hours his electioneering would be at an end. The work of
canvassing and public speaking had become very disagreeable to him. The
mere memory of the speeches he had listened to, had left, as it were, an
unpleasant aftertaste. How the crowds had cheered the hackneyed
platitudes, the blatant patriotic appeals, the malevolent caricature of
opponents! Something unspeakably trivial, vulgar, and evil in it all
reminded him of tired children when the romping begins to grow ill-
And if the intellectual side of the struggle had been offensive, the
moral atmosphere of the Committee Rooms, infected as it was by the
candidates, had seemed to him to be even worse--mephitic, poisonous. He
had shrunk from realizing the sensations which had been forced upon him
there--a recoil of his nature as from unappeasable wild-beast greeds,
with their attendant envy, suspicion, and hatred seething like lava
under the thin crust of a forced affability, of a good-humour assumed to
make deception easy. He did not want to think of it; it was horrible.
And perhaps, after all, he was mistaken; perhaps his dislike of the work
had got upon his nerves, and showed him everything in the darkest
colours. It could scarcely be as bad as he thought, or human society
would be impossible. But argument could not blunt the poignancy of his
feelings; he preferred, therefore, to leave them inarticulate, striving
to forget. In any case, the ordeal would soon be over; it had to be
endured for a few hours more, and then he would plunge into his books
again, and enjoy good company, he and May together.
He was still lingering over this prospect when the servant came to tell
him that some gentlemen were waiting for him, and he found in the
sitting-room half-a-dozen of his favourite students. One of the Seniors,
named Cartrell, a young man of strong figure, and keen, bold face,
remarked, as he shook hands, that they had come to accompany him--
"Elections are sometimes rough, and we know the ropes." Roberts thanked
them warmly, and they set off.
The Committee Rooms of the Democratic party were situated near the Court
House, in what had been once the centre, but was now the edge of the
town. The little troop had to pass through the negro quarter--small
frame-houses, peppered over grassless, bare lots, the broken-down fences
protesting against unsociable isolation. The Rooms, from the outside,
reminded one of a hive of angry bees. In and out of the door men were
hurrying, and a crowd swarmed on the side-walk talking in a loud,
excited hum. As soon as the Professor was recognized, a silence of
astonishment fell upon the throng. With stares of curiosity they drew
aside to let him enter. Slightly surprised by the reception, the
Professor passed into the chief room. At a table in the middle a man was
speaking in a harsh, loud voice--one Simpson, a popular orator, who had
held aloof from the meetings of the party. He was saying:
"It's a put-up game between them, but the question is, who's to go on
the ticket in--"
As Simpson's eyes met those of Roberts he stopped speaking.
"Good morning, gentlemen. Please continue, Mr. Simpson; I hope I'm not
The Professor did not like Mr. Simpson. The atrabilious face, the
bitter, thin lips, and grey eyes veined with yellow, reminded him
indefinably of a wild beast. Mr. Simpson seemed to take the courteous
words as a challenge. Drawing his wiry figure up he said, with insult in
voice and manner:
"Perhaps you've come to nominate a Mayor; we'd all like to know your
"I don't understand you."
The Professor's tone was frank, his sincerity evident, but Simpson went
"Don't ye? Perhaps Hutchin's has sent you to say, as he's sick it'd be
well to run Robinson on both tickets--eh?"
"I don't know what you mean. I expected to meet Mr. Hutchings here. Is
"He'll get well soon, I reckon; but after taking a perscription from
Gulmore, he's mighty bad and can't leave the house."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that Hutchings has withdrawn his candidature as Mayor. I mean
that the 'Herald' has the announcin' of it. I mean it's a put-up job
between him and Gulmore to ruin the Democratic party in this town. I
As the Professor drew back in amazement, young Cartrell stepped in front
of him and addressed Simpson:
"What proof have you of what you say?"
"Proof! Proof enough. Does an honest man resign a candidature on the
morning of an election, and give the other side the news before his own
The interruption had given Roberts time for reflection. He felt that
Simpson's facts must be right. It was characteristic of him that his
first thought was, Had Hutchings withdrawn in order to save him from
further attacks? No. If he had he'd have told him before the event. A
sort of nausea overpowered him as he remembered that Hutchings had
related how Gulmore had bought Patrick Byrne--and now he, too, had sold
himself. As in a flash Hutchings' weakness of fibre was laid bare to
him. "That's the reason I couldn't find him yesterday." His heart sank
within him. "How could Hutchings have been so--?" With the belief in the
lawyer's guilt came the understanding that he too was concerned,
suspected even. Disgust of traitorism, conscious innocence impelled him
to clear himself--but how? To his surprise he found that companionship
with these men had given him some insight into their character. He put
the question to Simpson:
"Can anything be done now?"
The steadiness of the tone, the resolve in his face, excited a certain
curiosity. Shrugging his shoulders, Simpson replied:
"We've not got a candidate. It's too late to get the party together. New
tickets'd have to be printed. I--"
"Will you accept the candidature?" Reading the man at once, Roberts
turned to the others: "Gentlemen, I hope some one will second me; I
nominate Mr. Simpson as Mayor, and propose that his name should be
substituted for that of Mr. Hutchings. To show that I'm in earnest I'll
contribute five hundred dollars towards the expense of printing the
The Professor's offer of money seemed to exercise a magical influence
upon the crowd; the loud tones, the provocative rudeness of speech and
bearing, disappeared at once; the men began to show him the respect of
attention, and Mr. Simpson was even quicker than the rest in changing
his attitude--perhaps because he hoped to gain more than they did.
"I had no idee," he began, "but if the Committee thinks I oughter run
I've no objection. I hain't ever cared for office, but I'm a party-man,
an' what the party wants me to do I'll do every time. I'm a Democrat
right through. I guess Lawyer Hutchin's has gone back on us, but that's
not your fault, Professor, and five hundred dollars--an' your work will
do a pile. The folk all like you an'--respect you an'--"
Roberts looked at the man; his offer had been a movement of indignant
contempt, and yet it had succeeded. He could have laughed; the key to
the enigma was in his hands; these men answered to the motive of self-
interest as a ship answers to the helm, and yet--how revolting it all
was! The next moment he again banished reflection.
"I'll go and get the money, and return as soon as possible. In the
meantime, perhaps you, Mr. Simpson, will see that the printing is begun
without delay. Then if you'll tell us what polling-stations need
superintendence, my friends and I will do our best."
The appeal found an immediate response--in a few minutes order and
energetic work had taken the place of the former angry excitement and
To Professor Roberts the remainder of the day was one whirl of restless
labour; he hastened from one polling-station to another, and when the
round was completed drove to the Central Rooms, where questions had to
be answered, and new arrangements made without time for thought. Then he
was off again on his hurried round as canvasser. One incident, however,
made a definite impression upon him. Returning for the second or third
time to the Central Rooms he found himself in a crowd of Irish labourers
who had come in deference to priestly bidding to record their votes. Mr.
Hutchings' retirement had excited their native suspiciousness; they felt
that they had been betrayed, and yet the peremptory orders they had
received must be followed. The satisfaction of revolt being denied to
them, their anger became dangerous. Professor Roberts faced them
quietly; he soon saw that they were sincere, or were playing the part of
sincerity; he therefore spoke for the cause, for the party to which they
belonged; surely they wouldn't abandon the struggle because a leader had
deserted them! His words and manner; his appeal to their combativeness;
his earnestness and good temper were successful. The storm of invective
gradually subsided, and although one or two, for the sake of a row,
sought to insult him, they did not go to extremes in face of the
resolute disapprobation of the American party-leaders. Loyalty to their
shibboleth was beginning to draw them, still grumbling and making use of
expressive imprecations, on the way to the nearest polling-station, when
one of their leaders drew Professor Roberts aside, and asked him:
"Are the bhoys to have nothin' for their throuble? Half a day they'll
lose, so they will--a dollar each now would be no more than fair--"
The Professor shook his head; he was not rich, he said, and had already
spent more money in the contest than he could afford.
"Be gob, it's poor worruk this talkin' an' votin' for us that gets
nothin' by it"--the phrase stuck in his memory as illustrating the
paltry baseness of the whole affair. It was with a sense of relief that
he threw himself again into the turmoil that served to deaden thought.
As the day wore towards evening he became conscious of fatigue, a
weariness that was not of the body alone, but of the head and heart.
After the closing of the polls he returned to the Central Rooms. They
were filled with an enthusiastic crowd, most of whom professed to
believe that the Democratic party had won all along the line. Roberts
found it hard to bear their self-gratulation and the exuberance of their
triumph, but when Simpson began to take the liberties of comradeship
with him, the cup ran over. He cut the man short with a formally polite
phrase, and betook himself to his house. He would not think even of May;
her image brought him face to face with her father; and he wanted rest.
In the morning the Professor awoke with a feeling of utter depression.
Before he opened the paper he was sure that his hopelessness had been
justified. He was right--Gulmore had carried his whole ticket, and
Simpson had been beaten by a majority of more than a thousand. The
Democratic organ did not scruple to ascribe the defeat to the fact that
Lawyer Hutchings had sold his party. The simulated indignation of the
journalist found expression in phrases which caricatured the simplicity
of sincere condemnation. "Never did shameless corruption...." Roberts
could not read the stuff. Yet the feigned passion and tawdry rhetoric in
some way stirred up his bile; he would see Hutchings and--but if he
unpacked his heart's bitterness upon her father, he would hurt May. He
must restrain himself; Hutchings would understand from his manner, and
May would be sympathetic--as she always was.
Another thought exasperated him afresh. His idealism had made him
ridiculous in the eyes of the townsfolk. He had spent money he could ill
spare in a hopeless cause, which was not even a worthy one. And now
everybody was laughing at him or sneering--he grew hot with shame. That
his motives were honourable only heightened the ludicrousness of his
action: it seemed as if he had made a fool of himself. He almost wished
that he had left the Democrats to their own devices. But no! he had done
the right, and that was the main point. The sense of failure, however,
robbed him of confidence in regard to the future. How should he act?
Since high motives were ineffectual, Quixotic, ought he to discard them
and come down to the ordinary level? 'Twould be better not to live at
all. The half-life of a student, a teacher, dwelling apart from the
world, would be preferable to such degradation; but----
The situation appeared to him to be so difficult that as soon as he had
taken his breakfast he went out for a walk away from the town in order
to avoid importunate visits, and to decide upon a course of conduct. The
air and exercise invigorated him; the peace and solitude of the prairie,
the beauty of earth and sky, the unconsciousness of nature consoled him,
reduced his troubles to relative unimportance, and allowed him to regain
Even his ideas in regard to Hutchings underwent a change. After all it
was not his part to condemn; his indignation owed its heat to baffled
egotism and paltry vanity. When the personal element was abstracted from
the causes of his vexation, what remained? Were Hutchings a figure in
history, would he judge him with the same intolerance? No; weakness,
corruptibility even, would then excite no harsher feeling than a sort of
amused contempt. The reflection mitigated his anger. He began to take an
intellectual pleasure in the good-humoured acceptance of the wrong
inflicted upon him. Plato was right, it was well to suffer injustice
without desiring to retaliate. He had yet to learn that just as oil only
smoothes the surface of waves, so reason has merely a superficial effect
Early in the afternoon he made his way to May's home. According to his
habit he passed by the servant-girl and entered the study--to find
himself face to face with the lawyer.
The shock of disappointment and a certain latent antagonism caused him
to speak with a directness which was in itself discourteous.
"Is Miss May in? I wished to see her." After a momentary pause he added,
with a tinge of sarcasm, "Your illness wasn't serious, I see."
Mr. Hutchings was not taken by surprise; he had prepared for this
meeting, and had resolved to defend himself. The task, he believed,
would be easy. He had almost persuaded himself that he had acted in the
Professor's interest. Roberts was singularly unworldly; he might accept
the explanation, and if he didn't--what did it matter? His own brighter
prospects filled him with a sense of triumph; in the last three days his
long-repressed vanity had shot up to self-satisfaction, making him
callous to what Roberts or any one else might think. But the sneer in
his visitor's words stung him, induced him to throw off the mask of
illness which he had intended to assume. He replied with an indifference
that was defiant:
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