Peter: A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero
F. Hopkinson Smith
Part 6 out of 8
window, and the first delightful old gentleman was at the precise
moment standing on the top step of the Exeter, overlooking the
street, where he had caught sight of Jack wending his way toward
"Jack! JACK!" Peter cried, waving his hand at the boy.
"Oh! that's you, Uncle Peter, is it? Shall I--?"
"No, Jack, stay where you are until I come to you."
"And where are you going now?" burst out Jack, overjoyed at
reaching his side.
"To luncheon, my dear boy! We'll go to Favre's, and have a stuffed
pepper and a plate of spaghetti an inch deep, after my own
receipt. Botti cooks it deliciously;--and a bottle of red wine,
my boy,--WINE,--not logwood and vinegar. No standing up at a
trough, or sitting on a high stool, or wandering about with a
sandwich between your fingers,--ruining your table manners and
your digestion. And now tell me about dear Ruth, and what she says
about coming down to dinner next week?"
It was wonderful how young he looked, and how happy he was, and
how spry his step, as the two turned into William Street and so on
to the cheap little French restaurant with its sanded floor,
little tables for two and four, with their tiny pots of mustard
and flagons of oil and red vinegar,--this last, the "left-overs"
of countless bottles of Bordeaux,--to say nothing of the great
piles of French bread weighing down a shelf beside the
proprietor's desk, racked up like cordwood, and all of the same
color, length, and thickness.
Every foot of the way through the room toward his own table--his
for years, and which was placed in the far corner overlooking the
doleful little garden with its half-starved vine and hanging
baskets--Peter had been obliged to speak to everybody he passed
(some of the younger men rose to their feet to shake his hand)--
until he reached the proprietor and gave his order.
Auguste, plump and oily, his napkin over his arm, drew out his
chair (it was always tipped back in reserve until he arrived),
laid another plate and accessories for his guest, and then bent
his head in attention until Peter indicated the particular brand
of Bordeaux--the color of the wax sealing its top was the only
label--with which he proposed to entertain his friend.
All this time Jack had been on the point of bursting. Once he had
slipped his hand into his pocket for Breen's letter, in the belief
that the best way to get the most enjoyment out of the incident of
his visit and the result,--for it was still a joke to Jack,--would
be to lay the half sheet on Peter's plate and watch the old
fellow's face as he read it. Then he decided to lead gradually up
to it, concealing the best part of the story--the prospectus and
how it was to be braced--until the last.
But the boy could not wait; so, after he had told Peter about
Ruth,--and that took ten minutes, try as hard as he could to
shorten the telling,--during which the stuffed peppers were in
evidence,--and after Peter had replied with certain messages to
Ruth,--during which the spaghetti was served sizzling hot, with
entrancing frazzlings of brown cheese clinging to the edges of the
tin plate--the Chief Assistant squared his elbows and plunged
head-foremost into the subject.
"And now, I have got a surprise for you, Uncle Peter," cried Jack,
smothering his eagerness as best he could.
The old fellow held up his hand, reached for the shabby, dust-
begrimed bottle, that had been sound asleep under the sidewalk for
years; filled Jack's glass, then his own; settled himself in his
chair and said with a dry smile:
"If it's something startling, Jack, wait until we drink this," and
he lifted the slender rim to his lips. "If it's something
delightful, you can spring it now."
"It is both," answered Jack. "Listen and doubt your ears. I had a
letter from Uncle Arthur this morning asking me to come and see
him about my Cumberland ore property, and I have just spent an
hour with him."
Peter put down his glass:
"You had a letter from Arthur Breen--about--what do you mean,
"Just what I say."
Peter moved close to the table, and looked at the boy in
"Well, what did he want?" He was all attention now. Arthur Breen
sending for Jack!--and after all that had happened! Well--well!
"Wants me to put the Cumberland ore property father left me into
one of his companies."
"That fox!" The explosion cleared the atmosphere for an instant.
"That fox!" answered Jack, in a confirmatory tone; and then
followed an account of the interview, the boy chuckling at the end
of every sentence in his delight over the situation.
"And what are YOU going to do?" asked Peter in an undecided tone.
He had heard nothing so comical as this for years.
"Going to do nothing,--that is, nothing with Uncle Arthur. In the
first place, the property is worthless, unless half a million of
money is spent upon it."
"Or is SAID to have been spent upon it," rejoined Peter with a
smile, remembering the Breen methods.
"Exactly so;--and in the second place, I would rather tear up the
deed than have it added to Uncle Arthur's stock of balloons."
Peter drummed on the table-cloth and looked out of the window. The
boy was right in principle, but then the property might not be a
balloon at all; might in fact be worth a great deal more than the
boy dreamed of. That Arthur Breen had gone out of his way to send
for Jack--knowing, as Peter did, how systematically both he and
his wife had abused and ridiculed him whenever his name was
mentioned--was positive evidence to Peter's mind not only that the
property had a value of some kind but that the discovery was of
"Would you know yourself, Jack, what the property was worth,--that
is, do you feel yourself competent to pass upon its value?" asked
Peter, lifting his glass to his lips. He was getting back to his
normal condition now.
"Yes, to a certain extent, and if I fail, Mr. MacFarlane will help
me out. He was superintendent of the Rockford Mines for five
years. He received his early training there,--but there is no use
talking about it, Uncle Peter. I only told you to let you see how
the same old thing is going on day after day at Uncle Arthur's. If
it isn't Mukton, it's Ginsing, or Black Royal, or some other gas
"What did you tell him?"
"Nothing,--not in all the hour I talked with him. He did the
talking; I did the listening."
"I hope you were courteous to him, my boy?"
"I was,--particularly so."
"He wants your property, does he?" ruminated Peter, rolling a
crumb of bread between his thumb and forefinger. "I wonder what's
up? He has made some bad breaks lately and there were ugly rumors
about the house for a time. He has withdrawn his account from the
Exeter and so I've lost sight of all of his transactions." Here a
new idea seemed to strike him: "Did he seem very anxious about
getting hold of the land?"
A queer smile played about Jack's lips:
"He seemed NOT to be, but he was"
"Very sure; and so would you be if you knew him as well as I do. I
have heard him talk that way to dozens of men and then brag how
he'd 'covered his tracks,' as he used to call it."
"Then, Jack," exclaimed Peter in a decided tone, "there is
something in it. What it is you will find out before many weeks,
but something. I will wager you he has not only had your title
searched but has had test holes driven all over your land. These
fellows stop at nothing. Let him alone for a while and keep him
guessing. When he writes to you again to come and see him, answer
that you are too busy, and if he adds a word about the ore beds
tell him you have withdrawn them from the market. In the meantime
I will have a talk with one of our directors who has an interest,
so he told me, in a new steel company up in the Cumberland
Mountains, somewhere near your property, I believe. He may know
something of what's going on, if anything is going on."
Jack's eyes blazed. Something going on! Suppose that after all he
and Ruth would not have to wait. Peter read his thoughts and laid
his hand on Jack's wrist:
"Keep your toes on the earth, my boy:--no balloon ascensions and
no bubbles,--none of your own blowing. They are bad things to have
burst in your hands--four hands now, remember, with Ruth's. If
there's any money in your Cumberland ore bank, it will come to
light without your help. Keep still and say nothing, and don't you
sign your name to a piece of paper as big as a postage stamp until
you let me see it."
Here Peter looked at his watch and rose from the table.
"Time's up, my boy. I never allow myself but an hour at luncheon,
and I am due at the bank in ten minutes. Thank you, Auguste,--and
Auguste! please tell Botti the spaghetti was delicious. Come,
It was when he held Ruth in his arms that same afternoon--behind
the door, really,--she couldn't wait until they reached the room,
--that Jack whispered in her astonished and delighted ears the good
news of the expected check from Garry's committee.
"And daddy won't lose anything; and he can take the new work!" she
cried joyously. "And we can all go up to the mountains together!
Oh, Jack!--let me run and tell daddy!"
"No, my darling,--not a word, Garry had no business to tell me
what he did; and it might leak out and get him into trouble:--No,
don't say a word. It is only a few days off. We shall all know
He had led her to the sofa, their favorite seat.
"And now I am going to tell you something that would be a million
times better than Garry's check if it were only true,--but it
"Tell me, Jack,--quick!" Her lips were close to his.
"Uncle Arthur wants to buy my ore lands."
"Buy your--And we are going to be--married right away! Oh, you
"Wait,--wait, my precious, until I tell you!" She did not wait,
and he did not want her to. Only when he could loosen her arms
from his neck did he find her ear again, then he poured into it
the rest of the story.
"But, oh, Jack!--wouldn't it be lovely if it were true,--and just
think of all the things we could do."
"Yes,--but it Isn't true."
"But just suppose it WAS, Jack! You would have a horse of your own
and we'd build the dearest little home and--"
"But it never can be true, blessed,--not out of the Cumberland
property--" protested Jack.
"But, Jack! Can't we SUPPOSE? Why, supposing is the best fun in
the world. I used to suppose all sorts of things when I was a
little girl. Some of them came true, and some of them didn't, but
I had just as much fun as if they HAD all come true."
"Did you ever suppose ME?" asked Jack. He knew she never had,--he
wasn't worth it;--but what difference did it make what they talked
"Yes,--a thousand times. I always knew, my blessed, that there was
somebody like you in the world somewhere,--and when the girls
would break out and say ugly things of men,--all men,--I just knew
they were not true of everybody. I knew that you would come--and
that I should always look for you until I found you! And now tell
me! Did you suppose about me, too, you darling Jack?"
"No,--never. There couldn't be any supposing;--there isn't any
now. It's just you I love, Ruth,--you,--and I love the 'YOU' in
you--That's the best part of you."
And so they talked on, she close in his arms, their cheeks
together; building castles of rose marble and ivory, laying out
gardens with vistas ending in summer sunsets; dreaming dreams that
lovers only dream,
The check "struck" MacFarlane just as the chairman had said it
would, wiping out his losses by the flood with something ahead for
his next undertaking.
That the verdict was a just one was apparent from the reports of
both McGowan's and the Railroad Company's experts. These showed
that the McGowan mortar held but little cement, and that not of
the best; that the backing of the masonry was composed of loose
rubble instead of split stone, and that the collapse of his
structure was not caused by the downpour, but by the caving in of
culverts and spillways, which were built of materials in direct
violation of the provisions of the contract. Even then there might
have been some doubt as to the outcome but for Holker Morris's
testimony. He not only sent in his report, but appeared himself,
he told the Council, so as to answer any questions Mr. McGowan or
his friends might ask. He had done this, as he said openly at the
meeting, to aid his personal friend, Mr. MacFarlane, and also that
he might raise his voice against the slipshod work that was being
done by men who either did not know their business or purposely
evaded their responsibilities. "This construction of McGowan's,"
he continued, "is especially to be condemned, as there is not the
slightest doubt that the contractor has intentionally slighted his
work--a neglect which, but for the thorough manner in which
MacFarlane had constructed the lower culvert, might have resulted
in the loss of many lives."
McGowan snarled and sputtered, denouncing Garry and his "swallow-
tails" in the bar rooms and at the board meetings, but the
decision was unanimous, two of his friends concurring, fearing, as
they explained afterward, that the "New York crowd" might claim
even a larger sum in a suit for damages.
The meeting over, Morris and Jack dined with MacFarlane and again
the distinguished architect won Ruth's heart by the charm of his
personality, she telling Jack the next day that he was the only
OLD MAN--fifty was old for Ruth--she had ever seen with whom she
could have fallen in love, and that she was not sure after all but
that Jack was too young for her, at which there was a great
scrimmage and a blind-man's-buff chase around the table, up the
front stairs and into the corner by the window, where she was
finally caught, smothered in kisses and made to correct her
This ghost of damages having been laid--it was buried the week
after Jack had called on his uncle--the Chief, the First
Assistant, and Bangs, the head foreman, disappeared from
Corklesville and reappeared at Morfordsburg.
The Chief came to select a site for the entrance of the shaft; the
First Assistant came to compare certain maps and documents, which
he had taken from the trunk he had brought with him from his
Maryland home, with the archives resting in the queer old
courthouse; while Foreman Bangs was to help with the level and
target, should a survey be found necessary.
The faded-out old town clerk looked Jack all over when he asked to
see the duplicate of a certain deed, remarking, as he led the way
to the Hall of Records,--it was under a table in the back room,--
"Reckon there's somethin' goin' on jedgin' from the way you New
Yorkers is lookin' into ore lands up here. There come a lawyer
only last month from a man named Breen, huntin' up this same
The comparisons over and found to be correct, "starting from a
certain stone marked 'B' one hundred and eighty-seven feet East by
South," etc., etc., the whole party, including a small boy to help
carry the level and target and a reliable citizen who said he
could find the property blindfold--and who finally collapsed with
a "Goll darn!--if I know where I'm at!"--the five jumped onto a
mud-encrusted vehicle and started for the site.
Up hill and down hill, across one stream and then another; through
the dense timber and into the open again. Here their work began,
Jack handling the level (his Chief had taught him), Bangs holding
the target, MacFarlane taking a squint now and then so as to be
sure,--and then the final result,--to wit:--First, that the
Maryland Company's property, Arthur Breen & Co., agents, lay under
a hill some two miles from Morfordsburg; that Jack's lay some
miles to the south of Breen's. Second, that outcroppings showed
the Maryland Mining Company's ore dipped, as the Senior Breen had
said, to the east, and third, that similar outcroppings showed
Jack's dipped to the west.
And so the airy bubble filled with his own and Ruth's iridescent
hopes,--a bubble which had floated before him as he tramped
through the cool woods, and out upon the hillside, vanished into
For with Ruth's arms around him, her lips close to his, her
boundless enthusiasm filling his soul, the boy's emotions had for
the time overcome his judgment. So much so that all the way up in
the train he had been "supposing" and resupposing. Even the reply
of the town clerk had set his heart to thumping; his uncle had
sent some one then! Then came the thought,--Yes, to boom one of
his misleading prospectuses--and for a time the pounding had
ceased: by no possible combination now, either honest or
dishonest, could the two properties be considered one and the same
Again his thoughts went back to Ruth. He knew how keenly she would
be disappointed. She had made him promise to telegraph her at once
if his own and her father's inspection of the ore lands should
hold out any rose-colored prospects for the future. This he had
not now the heart to do. One thing, however, he must do, and at
once, and that was to write to Peter, or see him immediately on
his return. There was no use now of the old fellow talking the
matter over with the director; there was nothing to talk over,
except a bare hill three miles from anywhere, covering a possible
deposit of doubtful richness and which, whether good or bad, would
cost more to get to market than it was worth.
They were on the extreme edge of the forest when the final
decision was reached, MacFarlane leaning against a rock, the level
and tripod tilted against his arm, Jack sitting on a fallen tree,
the map spread out on his knees.
For some minutes Jack sat silent, his eyes roaming over the
landscape. Below him stretched an undulating mantle of velvet,
laid loosely over valley, ravine and hill, embroidered in tints of
corn-yellow, purplings of full-blossomed clover and the softer
greens of meadow and swamp. In and out, now straight, now in
curves and bows, was threaded a ribbon of silver, with here and
there a connecting mirror in which flashed the sun. Bordering its
furthermost edge a chain of mountains lost themselves in low,
rolling clouds, while here and there, in its many crumplings, were
studded jewels of barn stack and house, their facets aflame in the
Jack absorbed it all, its beauty filling his soul, the sunshine
bathing his cheeks. Soon all trace of his disappointment vanished:
with Ruth here,--with his work to occupy him,--and this mighty,
all-inspiring, all-intoxicating sweep of loveliness spread out,
his own and Ruth's every hour of the day and night, what did ore
beds or anything else matter?
MacFarlane's voice woke him to consciousness. He had called to him
before, but the boy had not heard.
"As I have just remarked, Jack," MacFarlane began again, "there is
nothing but an earthquake will make your property of any use. It
is a low-grade ore, I should say, and tunnelling and shoring would
eat it up. Wipe it off the books. There are thousands of acres of
this kind of land lying around loose from here to the Cumberland
Valley. It may get better as you go down--only an assay can tell
about that--but I don't think it will. To begin sinking shafts
might mean sinking one or a dozen; and there's nothing so
expensive. I am sorry, Jack, but wipe it out. Some bright
scoundrel might sell stock on it, but they'll never melt any of it
up into stove plate."
"All right, sir," Jack said at last, with a light laugh. "It is
the same old piece of bread, I reckon, and it has fallen on the
same old buttered side. Uncle Peter told me to beware of bubbles--
said they were hard to carry around. This one has burst before I
got my hand on it. All right--let her go! I hope Ruth won't take
it too much to heart. Here, boy, get hold of this map and put it
with the other traps in the wagon. And now, Mr. MacFarlane, what
Before the day was over MacFarlane had perfected his plans. The
town was to be avoided as too demoralizing a shelter for the men,
and barracks were to be erected in which to house them. Locations
of the principal derricks were selected and staked, as well as the
sites for the entrance to the shaft, for the machine and
blacksmith's shops and for a storage shanty for tools: the
Maryland Mining Company's work would require at least two years to
complete, and a rational, well-studied plan of procedure was
"And now, Jack, where are you going to live,--in the village?"
asked his Chief, resting the level and tripod carefully against a
tree trunk and seating himself beside Jack on a fallen log.
"Out here, if you don't mind, sir, where I can be on top of the
work all the time. It's but a short ride for Ruth and she can come
and go all the time. I am going to drop some of these trees; get
two or three choppers from the village and knock up a log-house
like the one I camped in when I was a boy."
"Where will you put it?" asked MacFarlane with a smile, as he
turned his head as if in search of a site. It was just where he
wanted Jack to live, but he would not have suggested it.
"Not a hundred yards from where we sit, sir--a little back of
those two big oaks. There's a spring above on the hill and sloping
ground for drainage; and shade, and a great sweep of country in
front. I've been hungry for this life ever since I left home; now
I am going to have it."
"It will be rather lonely, won't it?" The engineer's eyes softened
as they rested on the young fellow, his face flushed with the
enthusiasm of his new resolve. He and Ruth's mother had lived in
just such a shanty, and not so very long ago, either, it seemed,--
those were the happiest years of his life.
"No!" exclaimed Jack. "It's only a step to the town; I can walk it
in half an hour. No, it won't be lonely. I will fix up a room for
Uncle Peter somewhere, so he can be comfortable,--he would love to
come here on his holidays; and Ruth can come out for the day,--
she will be crazy about it when I tell her. No, I will get along.
If the lightning had struck my ore beds I would probably have
painted and papered some musty back room in the village and lived
a respectable life. Now I am going to turn savage."
The next day the contracts were signed: work to commence in three
months. Henry MacFarlane, Engineer-in-Chief, John Breen in charge
It was on that same sofa in the far corner of the sitting-room
that Jack told Ruth,--gently, one word at a time,--making the best
of it, but telling her the exact truth.
"And then we are not going to have any of the things we dreamed
about, Jack," she said with a sigh.
"I am afraid not, my darling,--not now, unless the lightning
strikes us, which it won't."
She looked out of the window for a moment, and her eyes filled
with tears. Then she thought of her father, and how hard he had
worked, and what disappointments he had suffered, and yet how,
with all his troubles, he had always put his best foot foremost--
always encouraging her. She would not let Jack see her chagrin.
This was part of Jack's life, just as similar disappointments had
been part of her father's.
"Never mind, blessed. Well, we had lots of fun 'supposing,' didn't
we, Jack. This one didn't come true, but some of the others will
and what difference does it make, anyway, as long as I have you,"
and she nestled her face in his neck. "And now tell me what sort
of a place it is and where daddy and I are going to live, and all
And then, to soften the disappointment the more and to keep a new
bubble afloat, Jack launched out into a description of the country
and how beautiful the view was from the edge of the hill
overlooking the valley, with the big oaks crowning the top and the
lichen-covered rocks and fallen timber blanketed with green moss,
and the spring of water that gushed out of the ground and ran
laughing down the hillside, and the sweep of mountains losing
themselves in the blue haze of the distance, and then finally to
the log-cabin he was going to build for his own especial use.
"And only two miles away," she cried in a joyous tone,--"and I can
ride out every day! Oh, Jack!--just think of it!" And so, with
the breath of this new enthusiasm filling their souls, a new
bubble of hope and gladness was floated, and again the two fell to
planning, and "supposing," the rose-glow once more lightening up
For days nothing else was talked of. An onslaught was at once made
on Carry's office, two doors below Mrs. Hicks, for photographs,
plans of bungalows, shanties, White Mountain lean-tos, and the
like, and as quickly tucked under Ruth's arm and carried off, with
only the permission of the office boy,--Garry himself being absent
owing to some matters connected with a big warehouse company in
which he was interested, the boy said, and which took him to New
York on the early train and did not allow his return sometimes,
until after midnight.
These plans were spread out under the lamp on the sitting-room
table, the two studying the details, their heads together,
MacFarlane sitting beside them reading or listening,--the light of
the lamp falling on his earnest, thoughtful face,--Jack consulting
him now and then as to the advisability of further extensions, the
same being two rooms shingled inside and out, with an annex of
bark and plank for Ruth's horse, and a kitchen and laundry and no
end of comforts, big and little,--all to be occupied whenever
their lucky day would come and the merry bells ring out the joyful
tidings of their marriage.
Nor was this all this particularly radiant bubble contained. Not
only was there to be a big open fireplace built of stone, and
overhead rafters of birch, the bark left on and still glistening,
--but there were to be palms, ferns, hanging baskets, chintz
curtains, rugs, pots of flowers, Chinese lanterns, hammocks, easy
chairs; and for all Jack knew, porcelain tubs, electric bells,
steam heat and hot and cold water, so enthusiastic had Ruth become
over the possibilities lurking in the 15 X 20 log-hut which Jack
proposed to throw together as a shelter in his exile.
The news of MacFarlane's expected departure soon became known in
the village. There were not many people to say good-by, the
inhabitants having seen but little of the engineer and still less
of his daughter, except as she flew past, in a mad gallop, on her
brown mare, her hair sometimes down her back. The pastor of the
new church came, however, to express his regrets, and to thank Mr.
MacFarlane for his interest in the church building. He also took
occasion to say many complimentary things about Garry, extolling
him for the wonderful manner in which that brilliant young
architect had kept within the sum set apart by the trustees for
its construction, and for the skill with which the work was being
done, adding that as a slight reward for such devotion the church
trustees had made Mr. Minott treasurer of the building fund,
believing that in this way all disputes could the better be
avoided,--one of some importance having already arisen (here the
reverend gentleman lowered his voice) in which Mr. McGowan, he was
sorry to say, who was building the masonry, had attempted an
overcharge which only Mr. Minott's watchful eye could have
detected, adding, with a glance over his shoulder, that the
collapse of the embankment had undermined the contractor's
reputation quite as much as the freshet had his culvert, at which
MacFarlane smiled but made no reply.
Corinne also came to express her regrets, bringing with her a
scrap of an infant in a teetering baby carriage, the whole
presided over by a nurse in a blue dress, white cap, and white
apron, the ends reaching to her feet: not the Corinne, the Scribe
is pained to say, who, in the old days would twist her head and
stamp her little feet and have her way in everything. But a woman
terribly shrunken, with deep lines in her face and under her eyes.
Jack, man-like, did not notice the change, but Ruth did.
After the baby had been duly admired, Ruth tossing it in her arms
until it crowed, Corinne being too tired for much enthusiasm, had
sent it home, Ruth escorting it herself to the garden gate.
"I am sorry you are going," Corinne said in Ruth's absence. "I
suppose we must stay on here until Garry finishes the new church.
I haven't seen much of Ruth,--or of you, either, Jack. But I don't
see much of anybody now,--not even of Garry. He never gets home
until midnight, or even later, if the train is behind time, and it
"Then he must have lots of new work," cried Jack in a cheerful
tone. "He told me the last time I saw him on the train that he
expected some big warehouse job."
Corinne looked out of the window and fingered the handle of her
"I don't believe that is what keeps him in town, Jack," she said
slowly. "I hoped you would come and see him last Sunday. Did Garry
give you my message? I heard you were at home to-day, and that is
why I came."
"No, he never said a single word about it or I would have come, of
course. What do you think, then, keeps him in town so late?"
Something in her voice made Jack leave his own and take a seat
beside her. "Tell me, Corinne. I'll do anything I can for Garry
and you too. What is it?"
"I don't know, Jack,--I wish I did. He has changed lately. When I
went to his room the other night he was walking the floor; he said
he couldn't sleep, and the next morning when he didn't come down
to breakfast I went up and found him in a half stupor. I had hard
work to wake him. Don't tell Ruth,--I don't want anybody but you
to know, but I wish you'd come and see him. I've nobody else to
turn to,--won't you, Jack?"
"Come! of course I'll come, Corinne,--now,--this minute, if he's
home, or to-night, or any time you say. Suppose I go back with you
and wait. Garry's working too hard, that's it,--he was always that
way, puts his whole soul into anything he gets interested in and
never lets up until it's accomplished." He waited for some reply,
but she was still toying with the handle of her parasol. Her mind
had not been on his proffered help,--she had not heard him, in
"And, Jack," she went on in the same heart-broken tone through
which an unbidden sob seemed to struggle.
"Yes, I am listening, Corinne,--what is it?"
"I want you to forgive me for the way I have always treated you. I
"Why, Corinne, what nonsense! Don't you bother your head about
"Yes, but I do, and it is because I have never done anything but
be ugly to you. When you lived with us I--"
"But we were children then, Corinne, and neither of us knew any
better. I won't hear one word of such. nonsense. Why, my dear
girl--" he had taken her hand as she spoke and the pair rested on
his knee--" do you think I am--No--you are too sensible a woman to
think anything of the kind. But that is not it, Corinne--something
worries you;" he asked suddenly with a quick glance at her face.
"What is it? You shall have the best in me, and Ruth will help
Her fingers closed over his. The touch of the young fellow, so
full of buoyant strength and hope and happiness, seemed to put new
life into her.
"I don't know, Jack." Her voice fell to a whisper. "There may not
be anything, yet I live under an awful terror. Don't ask me;--only
tell me you will help me if I need you. I have nobody else--my
stepfather almost turned me out of his office when I went to see
him the other day,--my mother doesn't care. She has only been here
half a dozen times, and that was when baby was born. Hush,--here
comes Ruth,--she must not know."
"But she MUST know, Corinne. I never have any secrets from Ruth,
and don't you have any either. Ruth couldn't be anything but kind
to you and she never misunderstands, and she is so helpful. Here
she is. Ruth, dear, we were just waiting for you. Corinne is
nervous and depressed, and imagines all sorts of things, one of
which is that we don't care for her: and I've just told her that
Ruth looked into Jack's eyes as if to get his meaning--she must
always get her cue from him now--she was entirely unconscious of
the cause of it all, or why Corinne should feel so, but if Jack
thought Corinne was suffering and that she wanted comforting, all
she had was at Corinne's and Jack's disposal. With a quick
movement she leaned forward and laid her hand on Corinne's
"Why, you dear Corinne,--Jack and I are not like that. What has
gone wrong,--tell me," she urged.
For a brief instant Corinne made no answer. Once she tried to
speak but the words died in her throat. Then, lifting up her hands
appealingly, she faltered out:
"I only said that I--Oh, Ruth!--I am so wretched!" and sank back
on the lounge in an agony of tears.
At ten o'clock that same night Jack went to the station to meet
Garry. He and Ruth had talked over the strange scene--
unaccountable to both of them--and had determined that Jack should
see Garry at once.
"I must help him, Ruth, no matter at what cost. Garry has been my
friend for years; he has been taken up with his work, and so have
I, and we have drifted apart a little, but I shall never forget
him for his kindness to me when I first came to New York. I would
never have known Uncle Peter but for Garry, or Aunt Felicia, or--
you, my darling."
Jack waited under the shelter of the overhanging roof until the
young architect stepped from the car and crossed the track. Garry
walked with the sluggish movement of a tired man--hardly able to
drag his feet after him.
"I thought I'd come down to meet you, Garry," Jack cried in his
old buoyant tone. "It's pretty rough on you, old fellow, working
Garry raised his head and peered into the speaker's face.
"Why, Jack!" he exclaimed in a surprised tone; the voice did not
sound like Garry's. "I didn't see you in the train. Have you been
in New York too?" He evidently understood nothing of Jack's
"No, I came down to meet you. Corinne was at Mr. MacFarlane's to-
day, and said you were not well,--and so I thought I'd walk home
"Oh, thank you, old man, but I'm all right. Corinne's nervous;--
you mustn't mind her. I've been up against it for two or three
weeks now,--lot of work of all kinds, and that's kept me a good
deal from home. I don't wonder Cory's worried, but I can't help
They had reached an overhead light, and Jack caught a clearer view
of the man. What he saw sent a shiver through him. A great change
had come over his friend. His untidy dress,--always so neat and
well kept; his haggard eyes and shambling, unsteady walk, so
different from his springy, debonair manner, all showed that he
had been and still was under some terrible mental strain. That he
had not been drinking was evident from his utterance and gait.
This last discovery when his condition was considered, disturbed
him most of all, for he saw that Garry was going through some
terrible crisis, either professional or financial.
As the two advanced toward the door of the station on their way to
the street, the big, burly form of McGowan, the contractor, loomed
"I heard you wouldn't be up till late, Mr. Minott," he exclaimed
gruffly, blocking Garry's exit to the street. "I couldn't find you
at the Council or at your office, so I had to come here. We
haven't had that last payment on the church. The vouchers is all
ready for your signature, so the head trustee says,--and the
money's where you can git at it."
Garry braced his shoulders and his jaw tightened. One secret of
the young architect's professional success lay in his command over
his men. Although he was considerate, and sometimes familiar, he
never permitted any disrespect.
"Why, yes, Mr. McGowan, that's so," he answered stiffly. "I've
been in New York a good deal lately and I guess I've neglected
things here. I'll try to come up in the morning, and if
everything's all right I'll get a certificate and fill it up and
you'll get a check in a few days."
"Yes, but you said that last week." There was a sound of defiance
in McGowan's voice.
"If I did I had good reason for the delay," answered Garry with a
flash of anger. "I'm not running my office to suit you."
"Nor for anybody else who wants his money and who's got to have
it, and I want to tell you, Mr. Minott, right here, and I don't
care who hears it, that I want mine or I'll know the reason why."
Garry wheeled fiercely and raised his hand as if to strike the
speaker, then it dropped to his side.
"I don't blame you, Mr. McGowan," he said in a restrained, even
voice. "I have no doubt that it's due you and you ought to have
it, but I've been pretty hard pressed lately with some matters in
New York; so much so that I've been obliged to take the early
morning train,--and you can see yourself what time I get home.
Just give me a day or two longer and I'll examine the work and
straighten it out. And then again, I'm not very well."
The contractor glared into the speaker's face as if to continue
the discussion, then his features relaxed. Something in the sound
of Carry's voice, or perhaps some line of suffering in his face
must have touched him.
"Well, of course, I ain't no hog," he exclaimed in a softer tone,
which was meant as an apology, "and if you're sick that ends it,
but I've got all them men to pay and--"
"Yes, I understand and I won't forget. Thank you, Mr. McGowan, and
good-night. Come along, Jack,--Corinne's worrying, and will be
till I get home."
The two kept silent as they walked up the hill Garry, because he
was too tired to discuss the cowardly attack; Jack, because what
he had to say must be said when they were alone,--when he could
get hold of Garry's hand and make him open his heart.
As they approached the small house and mounted the steps leading
to the front porch, Corinne's face could be seen pressed against a
pane in one of the dining-room windows. Garry touched Jack's arm
and pointed ahead:
"Poor Cory!" he exclaimed with a deep sigh, "that's the way she is
every night. Coming home is sometimes the worst part of it all,
The door flew open and Corinne sprang out: "Are you tired, dear?"
she asked, peering into his face and kissing him. Then turning to
Jack: "Thank you, Jack!--It was so good of you to go. Ruth sent me
word you had gone to meet him."
She led the way into the house, relieving Garry of his hat, and
moving up an easy chair stood beside it until he had settled
himself into its depths.
Again she bent over and kissed him: "How are things to-day, dear?
--any better?" she inquired in a quavering voice.
"Some of them are better and some are worse, Cory; but there's
nothing for you to worry about. That's what I've been telling
Jack. How's baby? Anybody been here from the board?--Any letters?"
"Baby's all right," the words came slowly, as if all utterance
gave her pain. "No, there are no letters. Mr. McGowan was here,
but I told him you wouldn't be home till late."
"Yes, I saw him," replied Garry, dropping his voice suddenly to a
monotone, an expression of pain followed by a shade of anxiety
settling on his face: McGowan and his affairs were evidently
unpleasant subjects. At this instant the cry of a child was heard.
Garry roused himself and turned his head.
"Listen--that's baby crying! Better go to her, Cory,"
Garry waited until his wife had left the room, then he rose from,
his chair, crossed to the sideboard, poured out three-quarters of
a glass of raw whiskey and drank it without drawing a breath.
"That's the first to-day, Jack. I dare not touch it when I'm on a
strain like this. Can't think clearly, and I want my head,--all of
it. There's a lot of sharks down in New York,--skin you alive if
they could. I beg your pardon, old man,--have a drop?"
Jack waved his hand in denial, his eyes still on his friend: "Not
now, Garry, thank you."
Garry dropped the stopper into the decanter, pushed back the empty
tumbler and began pacing the floor, halting now and then to toe
some pattern in the carpet, talking all the time to himself in
broken sentences, like one thinking aloud. All Jack's heart went
out to his friend as he watched him. He and Ruth were so happy.
All their future was so full of hope and promise, and Garry--
brilliant, successful Garry,--the envy of all his associates, so
harassed and so wretched!
"Garry, sit down and listen to me," Jack said at last. "I am your
oldest friend; no one you know thinks any more of you than I do,
or will be more ready to help. Now, what troubles you?"
"I tell you, Jack, I'm not troubled!"--something of the old
bravado rang in his voice,--"except as everybody is troubled when
he's trying to straighten out something that won't straighten. I'm
knocked out, that's all,--can't you see it?"
"Yes, I see it,--and that's not all I see. Is it your work here or
in New York? I want to know, and I'm going to know, and I have a
right to know, and you are not going to bed until you tell me,--
nor will I. I can and will help you, and so will Mr. MacFarlane,
and Uncle Peter, and everybody I ask. What's gone wrong?--Tell
Garry continued to walk the floor. Then he wheeled suddenly and
threw himself into his chair.
"Well, Jack," he answered with an indrawn sigh,--"if you must
know, I'm on the wrong side of the market."
"Not exactly. The bottom's fallen out of the Warehouse Company."
Jack's heart gave a rebound. After all, it was only a question of
money and this could be straightened out. He had begun to fear
that it might be something worse; what, he dared not conjecture.
"And you have lost money?" Jack continued in a less eager tone.
"A whole lot of money."
"I don't know, but a lot. It went up three points to-day and so I
am hanging on by my eyelids."
"Well, that's not the first time men have been in that position,"
Jack replied in a hopeful tone. "Is there anything more,--
something you are keeping back?"
"Yes,--a good deal more. I'm afraid I'll have to let go. If I do
Jack kept silent for a moment. Various ways of raising money to
help his friend passed in review, none of which at the moment
seemed feasible or possible.
"How much will make your account good?" he asked after a pause.
"About ten thousand dollars."
Jack leaned forward in his chair. "Ten thousand dollars!" he
exclaimed in a startled tone. "Why, Garry--how in the name of
common-sense did you get in as deep as that?"
"Because I was a damned fool!"
Again there was silence, during which Garry fumbled for a match,
opened his case and lighted a cigarette. Then he said slowly, as
he tossed the burnt end of the match from him:
"You said something, Jack, about some of your friends helping.
Could Mr. MacFarlane?"
"No,--he hasn't got it,--not to spare. I was thinking of another
kind of help when I spoke. I supposed you had got into debt, or
something, and were depending on your commissions to pull you out,
and that some new job was hanging fire and perhaps some of us
could help as we did on the church."
"No," rejoined Garry, in a hopeless tone, "nothing will help but a
certified check. Perhaps your Mr. Grayson might do something," he
continued in the same voice.
"Uncle Peter! Why, Garry, he doesn't earn ten thousand dollars in
Again there was silence.
"Well, would it be any use for you to ask Arthur Breen? He
wouldn't give me a cent, and I wouldn't ask him. I don't believe
in laying down on your wife's relations, but he might do it for
you now that you're getting up in the world."
Jack bent his head in deep thought. The proposal that his uncle
had made him for the ore lands passed in review. At that time he
could have turned over the property to Breen. But it was worthless
now. He shook his head:
"I don't think so." Then he added quickly--"Have you been to Mr.
"No, and won't. I'd die first!" this came in a sharp, determined
voice, as if it had jumped hot from his heart.
"But he thinks the world of you; it was only a week ago that he
told Mr. MacFarlane that you were the best man he ever had in his
"Yes,--that's why I won't go, Jack. I'll play my hand alone and
take the consequences, but I won't beg of my friends; not a friend
like Mr. Morris; any coward can do that. Mr. Morris believes in
me,--I want him to continue to believe in me. That's worth twenty
times ten thousand dollars." His eyes flashed for the first time.
Again the old Garry shone out.
"When must you have this money?"
"By the end of the week,--before next Monday, anyhow."
"Then the situation is not hopeless?"
"No, not entirely. I have one card left;--I'll play it to-morrow,
then I'll know."
"Is there a chance of its winning?"
"Yes and no. As for the 'yes,' I've always had my father's luck.
Minotts don't go under and I don't believe I shall, we take risks
and we win. That's what brought me to Corklesville, and you see
what I have made of myself. Just at present I've got my foot in a
bear trap, but I'll pull out somehow. As for the 'no' part of it,
--I ought to tell you that the warehouse stock has been knocked
endways by another corporation which has a right of way that cuts
ours and is going to steal our business. I think it's a put-up job
to bear our stock so they can scoop it and consolidate; that's why
I am holding on. I've flung in every dollar I can rake and scrape
for margin and my stocking's about turned inside out. I got a tip
last week that I thought would land us all on our feet, but it
worked the other way." Something connected with the tip must have
stirred him for his face clouded as he rose to his feet,
exclaiming: "Have a drop, Jack?--that last one braced me up."
Again Jack shook his head, and again Garry settled himself back in
"I am powerless, Garry," said Jack. "If I had the money you should
have it. I have nothing but my salary and I have drawn only a
little of that lately, so as to help out in starting the new work.
I thought I had something in an ore bank my father left me, but it
is valueless, I find. I suppose I could put some life in it if I
would work it along the lines Uncle Arthur wants me to, but I
can't and won't do that. Somehow, Garry, this stock business
follows me everywhere. It drove me out of Uncle Arthur's office
and house, although I never regretted that,--and now it hits you.
I couldn't do anything to help Charlie Gilbert then and I can't do
anything to help you now, unless you can think of some way. Is
there any one that I can see except Uncle Arthur,--anybody I can
Garry shook his head.
"I've done that, Jack. I've followed every lead, borrowed every
dollar I could,--been turned down half a dozen times, but I kept
on. Got it in the neck twice to-day from some fellows I thought
would help push."
Jack started forward, a light breaking over his face.
"I have it, Garry! Suppose that I go to Mr. Morris. I can talk to
him, maybe, in a way you would not like to."
Garry lifted his head and sat erect.
"No, by God!--you'll do nothing of the kind!" he cried, as he
brought his fist down on the arm of his chair. "That man I love as
I love nothing else in this world--wife--baby--nothing! I'll go
under, but I'll never let him see me crawl. I'll be Garry Minott
to him as long as I breathe. The same man he trusted,--the same
man he loved,--for he does love me, and always did!" He hesitated
and his voice broke, as if a sob clogged it. After a moment's
struggle he went on: "I was a damned fool to leave him or I
wouldn't be where I am. 'Garry,' he said to me that last day when
he took me into his office and shut the door,--'Garry, stay on
here a while longer; wait till next year. If it's more pay you
want, fix it to suit yourself. I've got two boys coming along;
they'll both be through the Beaux Arts in a year or so. I'm
getting on and I'm getting tired. Stay on and go in with them.'
And what did I do? Well, what's the use of talking?--you know it
Jack moved his chair and put his arm over his shoulder as a woman
would have done. He had caught the break in his voice and knew how
manfully he was struggling to keep up.
"Garry, old man."
"If Mr. Morris thought that way, then, why won't he help you now?
What's ten thousand to him?"
"Nothing,--not a drop in the bucket! He'd begin drawing the check
before I'd finished telling him what I wanted it for. I'm in a
hole and don't know which way to turn, but when I think of what
he's done for me I'll rot in hell before I'll take his money."
Again his voice had the old ring.
"But, Garry," insisted Jack, "if I can see Morris in the morning
and lay the whole matter before him--"
"You'll do nothing of the kind, do you hear!--keep still--
somebody's coming downstairs. Not a word if it is Corinne. She is
carrying now all she can stand up under."
He passed his hand across his face with a quick movement and
brushed the tears from his cheeks.
"Remember, not a word. I haven't told her everything. I tried to,
but I couldn't."
"Tell her now, Garry," cried Jack. "Now--to-night," his voice
rising on the last word. "Before you close your eyes. You never
needed her help as you do now."
"I can't--it would break her heart. Keep still!--that's her
Corinne entered the room slowly and walked to Garry's chair.
"Baby's asleep now," she said in a subdued voice, "and I'm going
to take you to bed. You won't mind, Jack, will you? Come, dear,"
and she slipped her hand under his arm to lift him from his chair.
Garry rose from his seat.
"All right," he answered assuming his old cheerful tone, "I'll go.
I AM tired, I guess, Cory, and bed's the best place for me. Good-
night, old man,--give my love to Ruth," and he followed his wife
out of the room.
Jack waited until the two had turned to mount the stairs, caught a
significant flash from Garry's dark eyes as a further reminder of
his silence, and, opening the front door, closed it softly behind
Ruth was waiting for him. She had been walking the floor during
the last half hour peering out now and then into the dark, with
ears wide open for his step.
"I was so worried, my precious," she cried, drawing his cheek down
to her lips. "You stayed so long. Is it very dreadful?"
Jack put his arm around her, led her into the sitting-room and
shut the door. Then the two settled beside each other on the sofa.
"Pretty bad,--my darling--" Jack answered at last,--"very bad,
"Has he been drinking?"
"Worse,--he has been dabbling in Wall Street and may lose every
cent he has."
Ruth leaned her head on her hand: "I was afraid it was something
awful from the way Corinne spoke. Oh, poor dear,--I'm so sorry!
Does she know now?"
"She knows he's in trouble, but she doesn't know how bad it is. I
begged him to tell her, but he wouldn't promise. He's afraid of
hurting her--afraid to trust her, I think, with his sufferings.
He's making an awful mistake, but I could not move him. He might
listen to you if you tried."
"But he must tell her, Jack," Ruth cried in an indignant tone. "It
is not fair to her; it is not fair to any woman,--and it is not
kind. Corinne is not a child any longer;--she's a grown woman, and
a mother. How can she help him unless she knows? Jack, dear, look
into my eyes;" her face was raised to his;--"Promise me, my
darling, that no matter what happens to you you'll tell me first."
And Jack promised.
When Jack awoke the next morning his mind was still intent on
helping Garry out of his difficulties. Where the money was to come
from, and how far even ten thousand dollars would go in bridging
over the crisis, even should he succeed in raising so large a sum,
were the questions which caused him the most anxiety.
A letter from Peter, while it did not bring any positive relief,
shed a ray of light on the situation:
I have just had another talk with the director of our bank--the
one I told you was interested in steel works in Western Maryland.
He by no means agrees with either you or MacFarlane as to the
value of the ore deposits in that section, and is going to make an
investigation of your property and let me know. You may, in fact,
hear from him direct as I gave him your address.
Dear love to Ruth and your own good self.
This was indeed good news if anything came of it, but it wouldn't
help Garry. Should he wait till Garry had played that last card he
had spoken of, which he was so sure would win, or should he begin
at once to try and raise the money?
This news at any other time would have set his hopes to
fluttering. If Peter's director was made of money and intent on
throwing it away; and if a blast furnace or a steel plant, or
whatever could turn worthless rock into pruning-hooks and
ploughshares, should by some act of folly be built in the valley
at the foot of the hill he owned, why something might come of it.
But, then, so might skies fall and everybody have larks on toast
for breakfast. Until then his concern was with Garry.
He realized that the young architect was too broken down
physically and mentally to decide any question of real moment. His
will power was gone and his nerves unstrung. The kindest thing
therefore that any friend could do for him, would be to step in
and conduct the fight without him. Garry's wishes to keep the
situation from Corinne would be respected, but that did not mean
that his own efforts should be relaxed. Yet where would he begin,
and on whom? MacFarlane had just told him that Morris was away
from home and would not be back for several days. Peter was out of
the question so far as his own means--or lack of means--was
concerned, and he could not, of course, ask him to go into debt
for a man who had never been his friend, especially when neither
he nor Garry had any security to offer.
He finally decided to talk the whole matter over with MacFarlane
and act on his advice. The clear business head of his Chief
cleared the situation as a north-west wind blows out a fog.
"Stay out of it, Jack," he exclaimed in a quick, positive voice
that showed he had made up his mind long before Jack had finished
his recital. "Minott is a gambler, and so was his father before
him. He has got to take his lean with his fat. If you pulled him
out of this hole he would be in another in six months. It's in his
blood, just as much as it is in your blood to love horses and the
woods. Let him alone;--Corinne's stepfather is the man to help;
that's his business, and that's where Minott wants to go. If there
is anything of value in this Warehouse Company, Arthur Breen & Co.
can carry the certificates for Minott until they go up and he can
get out. If there is nothing, then the sooner Garry sells out and
lets it go the better. Stay out, Jack. It's not in the line of
your duty. It's hard on his wife and he is having a devil of a row
to hoe, but it will be the best thing for him in the end."
Jack listened in respectful silence, as he always did, to
MacFarlane's frank outburst, but it neither changed his mind nor
cooled his ardor. Where his heart was concerned his judgment
rarely worked. Then, loyalty to a friend in distress was the one
thing his father had taught him. He did not agree with his Chief's
view of the situation. If Garry was born a gambler, he had kept
that fact concealed from him and from his wife. He recalled the
conversation he had had with him some weeks before, when he was so
enthusiastic over the money he was going to make in the new
Warehouse deal. He had been selected as the architect for the new
buildings, and it was quite natural that he should have become
interested in the securities of the company. This threatened
calamity was one that might overtake any man. Get Garry out of
this hole and he would stay out; let him sink, and his whole
career would be ruined. And then there was a sentimental side to
it even if Garry was a gambler--one that could not be ignored when
he thought of Corinne and the child.
Late in the afternoon, his mind still unsettled, he poured out his
anxieties to Ruth. She did not disappoint him. Her big heart
swelled only with sympathy for the wife who was suffering. It made
no difference to her that Corinne had never been even polite,
never once during the sojourn of the Minotts in the village having
manifested the slightest interest either in her own or Jack's
affairs--not even when MacFarlane was injured, nor yet when the
freshet might have ruined them all. Ruth's generous nature had no
room in it for petty rancors or little hurts. Then, too, Jack was
troubled for his friend. What was there for her to do but to
follow the lamp he held up to guide her feet--the lamp which now
shed its glad effulgence over both? So they talked on, discussing
various ways and means, new ties born of a deeper understanding
binding them the closer--these two, who, as they sometimes
whispered to each other, were "enlisted for life," ready to meet
it side by side, whatever the day developed.
Before they parted, she promised again to go and see Corinne and
cheer her up. "She cannot be left alone, Jack, with this terrible
thing hanging over her," she urged, "and you must meet Garry when
he returns to-night. Then we can learn what he has done--perhaps
he will have fixed everything himself." But though Jack went to
the station and waited until the arrival of the last train had
dropped its passengers, there was no sign of Garry. Nor did Ruth
find Corinne. She had gone to the city, so the nurse said, with
Mr. Minott by the early train and would not be back until the next
day. Until their return Jack and Ruth found their hands tied.
On the afternoon of the second day a boy called at the brick
office where Jack was settling up the final accounts connected
with the "fill" and the tunnel, preparatory to the move to
Morfordsburg, and handed him a note. It was from Corinne.
"I am in great trouble. Please come to me at once," it read. "I am
here at home."
Corinne was waiting for him in the hall. She took his hand without
a word of welcome, and drew him into the small room where she had
seen him two nights before. This time she shut and locked the
"Mr. McGowan has just been here," she moaned in a voice that
showed how terrible was the strain. "He tried to force his way up
into Garry's room but I held him back. He is coming again with
some one of the church trustees. Garry had a bad turn in New York
and we came home by the noon train, and I have made him lie down
and sent for the doctor. McGowan must not see him; it will kill
him if he does. Don't leave us, Jack!"
"But how dare he come here and try to force his--"
"He will dare. He cursed and went on dreadfully. The door was
shut, but Garry heard him. Oh, Jack!--what are we to do?"
"Don't worry, Corinne; I'll take care of Mr. McGowan. I myself
heard Garry tell him that he would attend to his payments in a few
days, and he went away satisfied."
"Yes, but McGowan says he has been to the bank and has also seen
the Rector, and will stop at nothing."
Jack's fingers tightened and his lips came together.
"He will stop on that threshold," he said in a low, determined
voice, "and never pass it--no matter what he wants. I will go up
and tell Garry so."
"No, not yet--wait," she pleaded, in nervous twitching tones--with
pauses between each sentence. "You must hear it all first. Garry
had not told me all when you were here two nights ago; he did not
tell me until after you left. Then I knelt down by his bed and put
my arms around him and he told me everything--about the people he
had seen--and--McGowan--everything." She ceased speaking and hid
her eyes with the back of one hand as if to shut out some spectre,
then she stumbled on. "We took the early train for New York, and I
waited until my stepfather was in his office and went into his
private room. It was Garry's last hope. He thought Mr. Breen would
listen to me on account of mother. I told him of our dreadful
situation; how Garry must have ten thousand dollars, and must have
it in twenty-four hours, to save us all from ruin. Would you
believe, Jack--that he laughed and said it was an old story; that
Garry had no business to be speculating; that he had told him a
dozen times to keep out of the Street; that if Garry had any
collaterals of any kind, he would loan him ten thousand dollars or
any other sum, but that he had no good money to throw after bad. I
did all I could; I almost went down on my knees to him; I begged
for myself and my mother, but he only kept saying--'You go home,
Corinne, and look after your baby--women don't understand these
things.' Oh, Jack!--I could not believe that he was the same man
who married my mother--and he isn't. Every year he has grown
harder and harder; he is a thousand times worse than when you
lived with him. Garry was waiting outside for me, and when I told
him he turned as white as a sheet, and had to hold on to the iron
railing for a moment. It was all I could do to get him home. If he
sees Mr. McGowan now it will kill him; he can't pay him and he
must tell him so, and it will all come out."
"But he will pay him, Corinne, when he gets well."
There came a pause. Then she said slowly as if each word was wrung
from her heart:
"There is no money. Garry took the trust funds from the church."
"No money, Corinne! You don't mean--you can't--Oh! My God! Not
Garry! No--not Garry!"
"Yes! I mean it. He expected to pay it back, but the people he is
with in New York lied to him, and now it is all gone." There was
no change in her voice.
She stood gazing into his face; not a tear in her eyes; no quiver
of her lips. She had passed that stage; she was like a victim led
to the stake in whom nothing but dull endurance is left.
Jack backed into a chair and sat with bowed head, his cheeks in
his hands. Had the earth opened under him he could not have been
more astounded. Garry Minott a defaulter! Garry a thief!
Everything seemed to whirl about him--only the woman remained
quiet--still standing--her calm, impassive eyes fixed on his
bowed head; her dry, withering, soulless words still vibrating in
the hushed room.
"When did this happen, Corinne--this--this taking of Mr. McGowan's
money?" The words came between his closed fingers, as if he, too,
would shut out some horrible shape.
"Some two weeks ago."
"When did you know of it?"
"Night before last, after you left him. I knew he was in trouble,
but I did not know it was as bad as this. If Mr. Breen had helped
me everything would have been all right, for Garry sold out all
the stock he had in the Warehouse Company, and this ten thousand
dollars is all he owes." She shivered as she spoke, and her pale,
tired eyes closed as if in pain. Nothing was said between them for
a while, and neither of them stirred. During the silence the front
door was heard to open, letting in the village doctor, who mounted
the stairs, his footfalls reverberating in Garry's room overhead.
Jack raised his eyes at last and studied her closely. The frail
body seemed more crumpled and forlorn in the depths of the chair,
where she had sunk, than when she had been standing before him.
The blonde hair, always so glossy, was dry as hemp; the small,
upturned nose, once so piquant and saucy, was thin and pinched--
almost transparent; the washed-out, colorless eyes, which in her
girlhood had flashed and sparkled so roguishly, were half hidden
under swollen lids. The arms were flat, the hands like bird claws.
The white heat of a furnace of agony had shrivelled her poor body,
drying up all the juices of its youth.
And yet with the scorching there had crept into the wan face, and
into the tones of her tired, heart-broken voice something Jack had
never found in her as a girl--something of tenderness,
unselfishness--of self-sacrifice for another and with it there
flamed up in his own heart a determination to help--to wipe out
everything--to sponge the record, to reestablish the man who in a
moment of agony had given way to an overpowering temptation and
brought his wife to this condition. A lump rose in his throat, and
a look of his old father shone out of his face--that look with
which in the years gone by he had defied jury, district attorney,
and public opinion for what he considered mercy. And mercy should
be exercised now. Garry had never done one dishonest act before,
and never, God helping, should he be judged for this.
He, John Breen, let Garry be called a common thief! Garry whose
every stand in Corklesville had been for justice; Garry whom
Morris loved, whose presence brought a cheery word of welcome from
every room he entered! Let him be proclaimed a defaulter, insulted
by ruffians like McGowan, and treated like a felon--brilliant,
lovable, forceful Garry! Never, if he had to go down on his knees
to Holker Morris or any other man who could lend him a dollar.
Corinne must have seen the new look in his face, for her own eyes
brightened as she asked:
"Have you thought of something that can help him?"
Jack did not answer. His mind was too intent on finding some
thread which would unravel the tangle.
"Does anybody else know of this, Corinne?" he asked at last in a
"Nobody must," he exclaimed firmly. Then he added gently--"Why did
you tell me?"
"He asked me to. It would all have come out in the end, and he
didn't want you to see McGowan and not know the truth. Keep still
--some one is knocking," she whispered, her fingers pressed to her
lips in her fright. "I know it is McGowan, Jack. Shall I see him,
or will you?"
"I will--you stay here."
Jack lifted himself erect and braced back his shoulders. He
intended to be polite to McGowan, but he also intended to be firm.
He also intended to refuse him any information or promise of any
kind until the regular monthly meeting of the Church Board which
would occur on Monday. This would give him time to act, and
perhaps to save the situation, desperate as it looked.
With this in his mind he turned the key and threw wide the door.
It was the doctor who stood outside. He seemed to be laboring
under some excitement.
"I heard you were here, Mr. Breen--come upstairs."
Jacked obeyed mechanically. Garry had evidently heard of his being
downstairs and had some instructions to give, or some further
confession to make. He would save him now from that humiliation;
he would get his arms around him, as Corinne had done, and tell
him he was still his friend and what he yet intended to do to pull
him through, and that nothing which he had done had wrecked his
affection for him.
As these thoughts rushed over him his pace quickened, mounting the
stairs two steps at a time so that he might save his friend even a
moment of additional suffering. The doctor touched Jack on the
shoulder, made a sign for him to moderate his steps, and the two
moved to where his patient lay.
Garry was on the bed, outside the covering, when they entered. He
was lying on his back, his head and neck flat on a pillow, one
foot resting on the floor. He was in his trousers and shirt; his
coat and waistcoat lay where he had thrown them.
"Garry," began Jack in a low voice--"I just ran in to say that--"
The sick man did not move.
Jack stopped, and turned his head to the doctor.
"Asleep?" he whispered.
"No;--drugged. That's why I wanted you to see him before I called
his wife. Is he accustomed to this sort of thing?" and he picked
up a bottle from the table.
Jack took the phial in his hand; it was quite small, and had a
"What is it, doctor?"
"I don't know. Some preparation of chloral, I should think; smells
and looks like it. I'll take it home and find out. If he's been
taking this right along he may know how much he can stand, but if
he's experimenting with it, he'll wake up some fine morning in the
next world. What do you know about it?"
"Only what I have heard Mrs. Minott say," Jack whispered behind
his hand. "He can't sleep without it, she told me. He's been under
a terrible business strain lately and couldn't stand the pressure,
"Well, that's a little better," returned the doctor, moving the
apparently lifeless arm aside and placing his ear close to the
patient's breast. For a moment he listened intently, then he drew
up a chair and sat down beside him, his fingers on Garry's pulse.
"You don't think he's in danger, do you, doctor?" asked Jack in an
"No--he'll pull through. His breathing is bad, but his heart is
doing fairly well. But he's got to stop this sort of thing." Here
the old doctor's voice rose as his indignation increased (nothing
would wake Garry). "It's criminal--it's damnable! Every time one
of you New York people get worried, or short of money or stocks,
or what not, off you go to a two-cent drug shop and buy enough
poison to kill a family. It's damnable, Breen--and you must tell
Minott so when he wakes up"
Jack made no protest against being included in the denunciation.
He was too completely absorbed in the fate of the man who lay in a
"Is there anything can be done for him?" he asked.
"I can't tell yet. He may only have taken a small dose. I will
watch him for a while. But if his pulse weakens we must shake him
awake somehow. You needn't wait I'll call you if I want you,
You've told me what I wanted to know."
Again Jack bent over Garry, his heart wrung with pity and dismay.
He was still there when the door opened softly and a servant
entered, tiptoed to where he stood, and whispered in his ear:
"Mrs. Minott says, sir, that Mr. McGowan and another man are
The contractor was standing in the hall, his hat still on his
head. The other man Jack recognized as Murphy, one of the church
building trustees. That McGowan was in an ugly mood was evident
from the expression on his face, his jaw setting tighter when he
discovered that Jack and not Garry was coming down to meet him;
Jack having been associated with MacFarlane, who had "robbed him
of damages" to the "fill."
"I came to see Mr. Minott," McGowan blurted out before Jack's feet
had touched the bottom step of the stairs. "I hear he's in--come
home at dinner time."
Jack continued his advance without answering until he had reached
their side. Then with a "Good-evening, gentlemen," he said in a
perfectly even voice:
"Mr. Minott is ill and can see no one. I have just left the doctor
sitting beside his bed. If there is anything I can do for either
of you I will do it with pleasure."
McGowan shoved his hat back on his forehead as if to give himself
"That kind of guff won't go with me no longer," he snarled, his
face growing redder every instant. "This ill business is played
out. He promised me three nights ago he'd make out a certificate
next day--you heard him say it--and I waited for him all the
morning and he never showed up. And then he sneaks off to New York
at daylight and stays away for two nights more, and then sneaks
home again in the middle of the day when you don't expect him, and
goes to bed and sends for the doctor. How many kinds of a damned
fool does he take me for? That work's been finished three weeks
yesterday; the money is all in the bank to pay for it just as soon
as he signs the check, and he don't sign it, and ye can't get him
to sign it. Ain't that so, Jim Murphy?"
Murphy nodded, and McGowan blazed on: "If you want to know what I
think about it--there's something crooked about the whole
business, and it gets crookeder all the time. He's drunk, if he's
anything--boiling drunk and--"
Jack laid the full weight of his hand on the speaker's shoulder:
"Stop short off where you are, Mr. McGowan." The voice came as if
through tightly clenched teeth. "If you have any business that I
can attend to I am here to do it, but you can't remain here and
abuse Mr. Minott. My purpose in coming downstairs was to help you
if I could, but you must act like a man, not like a ruffian."
Murphy stepped quickly between the two men:
"Go easy, Mac," he cried in a conciliatory tone. "If the doctor's
with him ye can't see him. Hear what Mr. Breen has to say; ye got
to wait anyhow. Of course, Mr. Breen, Mr. McGowan is het up
because the men is gettin' ugly, and he ain't got money enough for
his next pay-roll, and the last one ain't all paid yit."
McGowan again shifted his hat--this time he canted it on one side.
His companion's warning had had its effect, for his voice was now
pitched in a lower key.
"There ain't no use talking pay-roll to Mr. Breen, Jim," he
growled. "He knows what it is; he gits up agin' it once in a while
himself. If he'll tell me just when I'm going to get my money I'll
wait like any decent man would wait, but I want to know, and I
want to know now."
At that instant the door of the sitting-room opened, and Corinne,
shrinking as one in mortal fright, glided out and made a hurried
escape upstairs. Murphy sagged back against the wall and waited
respectfully for her to disappear. McGowan did not alter his
position nor did he remove his hat, though he waited until she had
reached the landing before speaking again:
"And now, what are you going to do, Mr. Breen?" he demanded in
"Nothing," said Jack in his same even voice, his eyes never moving
from the contractor's. "Nothing, until you get into a different
frame of mind." Then he turned to Murphy: "When Mr. McGowan
removes his hat, Mr. Murphy, and shows some sign of being a
gentleman I will take you both into the next room and talk this
McGowan flushed scarlet and jerked his hat from his head.
"Well she come on me sudden like and I didn't see her till she'd
got by. Of course, if you've got anything to say, I'm here to
listen, Where'll we go?"
Jack turned and led the way into the sitting-room, where he
motioned them both to seats.
"And now what is the exact amount of your voucher?" he asked, when
he had drawn up a chair and sat facing them.
McGowan fumbled in his inside pocket and drew forth a slip of
"A little short of ten thousand dollars," he answered in a
business-like tone of voice. "There's the figures," and he handed
the slip to Jack.
"When is this payment to be made?" continued Jack, glancing at the
"Why, when the money is due, of course," he cried in a louder key.
"Here's the contract--see--read it; then you'll know."
Jack ran his eye over the document until it fell on the payment
clause. This he read twice, weighing each word.
"It says at the monthly meeting of the Board of Trustees, does it
not?" he answered, smothering all trace of the relief the words
McGowan changed color. "Well, yes--but that ain't the way the
payments has always been made," he stammered out.
"And if I am right, the meeting takes place on Monday next?"
continued Jack in a decided tone, not noticing the interruption.
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Well, then, Monday night, Mr. McGowan, either Mr., Minott or I
will be on hand. You must excuse me now. Mrs. Minott wants me, I
think," and he handed McGowan the contract and walked toward the
door, where he stood listening. Something was happening upstairs.
McGowan and his friend looked at each other in silence. The
commotion overhead only added to their discomfiture.
"Well, what do you think, Jim?" McGowan said at last in a subdued,
"Well, there ain't no use thinkin', Mac. If it's writ that way,
it's writ that way; that's all there is to it--" and the two
joined Jack who had stepped into the hall, his eyes up the
stairway as if he was listening intensely.
"Then you say, Mr. Breen, that Mr. Minott will meet us at the
Board meeting on Monday?"
Jack was about to reply when he caught sight of the doctor, his
hand sliding rapidly down the stair-rail as he approached.
McGowan, fearing to be interrupted, repeated his question in a
"Then you say I'll see Mr. Minott on Monday?"
The doctor crossed to Jack's side. He was breathing heavily, his
lips quivering; he looked like a man who had received some sudden
"Go up to Mrs. Minott," he gasped. "It's all over, Breen. He's
dying. He took the whole bottle."
At this instant an agonizing shriek cut the air. It was the voice
No one suspected that the young architect had killed himself.
Garry was known to have suffered from insomnia, and was supposed
to have taken an overdose of chloral. The doctor so decided, and
the doctor's word was law in such MATTERS, and so there was no
coroner's inquest. Then again, it was also known that he was doing
a prosperous business with several buildings still in course of
construction, and that his wife's stepfather was a prominent
McGowan and his friends were stupefied. One hope was left, and
that was Jack's promise that either he or Garry would be at the
trustees' meeting on Monday night.
Jack had not forgotten. Indeed nothing else filled his mind. There
were still three days in which to work. The shock of his friend's
death, tremendous as it was, had only roused him to a greater need
of action. The funeral was to take place on Sunday, but he had
Saturday and Monday left. What he intended to do for Garry and his
career he must now do for Garry's family and Garry's reputation.
The obligation had really increased, because Garry could no longer
fight his battles himself; nor was there a moment to lose. The
slightest spark of suspicion would kindle a flame of inquiry, and
the roar of an investigation would follow. McGowan had already
voiced his own distrust of Garry's methods. No matter what the
cost, this money must be found before Monday night.
The secret of both the suicide and the defalcation was carefully
guarded from MacFarlane, who, with his daughter, went at once to
Minott's house, proffering his services to the stricken widow, but
nothing was withheld from Ruth. The serious financial obligations
which Jack was about to undertake would inevitably affect their
two lives; greater, therefore, than the loyalty he owed to the
memory of his dead friend, was the loyalty which he owed to the
woman who was to be his wife, and from whom he had promised to
hide no secrets. Though he felt sure what her answer would be, his
heart gave a great bound of relief when she answered impulsively,
without a thought for herself or their future:
"You are right, dearest. These things make me love you more. You
are so splendid, Jack. And you never disappoint me. It is Garry's
poor little boy who must be protected. Everybody would pity the
wife, but nobody would pity the child. He will always be pointed
at when he grows up. Dear little tot! He lay in my arms so sweet
and fresh this morning, and put his baby hands upon my cheek, and
looked so appealingly into my face. Oh, Jack, we must help him. He
has done nothing."
They were sitting together as she spoke, her head on his shoulder,
her fingers held tight in his strong, brown hand. She could get
closer to him in this position, she always told him: these hands
and cheeks were the poles of a battery between which flowed and
flashed the vitality of two sound bodies, and through which
quivered the ecstasy of two souls.
Suddenly the thought of Garry and what he had been, in the days of
his brilliancy, and of what he had done to crush the lives about
him came to her. Could she not find some excuse for him, something
which she might use as her own silent defence of him in the years
that were to come?
"Do you think Garry was out of his mind, Jack? He's been so
depressed lately?" she asked, all her sympathy in her voice.
"No, my blessed, I don't think so. Everybody is more or less
insane who succumbs to a crisis. Garry believed absolutely in
himself and his luck, and when the cards went against him he
collapsed. And yet he was no more a criminal at heart than I am.
But that is all over now. He has his punishment, poor boy, and it
is awful when you think of it. How he could bring himself to prove
false to his trust is the worst thing about it. This is a queer
world, my darling, in which we live. I never knew much about it
until lately. It is not so at home, or was not when I was a boy--
but here you can take away a man's character, rob him of his home,
corrupt his children. You can break your wife's heart, be cruel,
revengeful; you can lie and be tricky, and no law can touch you--
in fact, you are still a respectable citizen. But if you take a
dollar-bill out of another man's cash drawer, you are sent to jail
and branded as a thief. And it is right--looked at from one
standpoint--the protection of society. It is the absence of all
mercy in the enforcement of the law that angers me."
Ruth moved her head and nestled the closer. How had she lived all
the years of her life, she thought to herself, without this
shoulder to lean on and this hand to guide her? She made no
answer. She had never thought about these things in that way
before, but she would now. It was so restful and so blissful just
to have him lead her, he who was so strong and self-reliant, and
whose vision was so clear, and who never dwelt upon the little
issues. And it was such a relief to reach up her arms and kiss him
and say, "Yes, blessed," and to feel herself safe in his hands.
She had never been able to do that with her father. He had always
leaned on her when schemes of economies were to be thought out, or
details of their daily lives planned. All this was changed now.
She had found Jack's heart wide open and had slipped inside, his
strong will henceforth to be hers.
Still cuddling close, her head on his shoulder, her heart going
out to him as she thought of the next morning and the task before
him, she talked of their coming move to the mountains, and of the
log-cabin for which Jack had already given orders; of the
approaching autumn and winter and what they would make of it, and
of dear daddy's plans and profits, and of how long they must wait
before a larger log-cabin--one big enough for two--would be
theirs for life--any and every topic which she thought would
divert his mind--but Garry's ghost would not down.
"And what are you going to do first, my darling?" she asked at
last, finding that Jack answered only in monosyllables or remained
"I am going to see Uncle Arthur in the morning," he answered
quickly, uncovering his brooding thoughts. "It won't do any good,
perhaps, but I will try it. I have never asked him for a cent for
myself, and I won't now. He may help Corinne this time, now that
Garry is dead. There must be some outside money due Garry that he
has not been able to collect--commissions on unfinished work. This
can be turned in when it is due. Then I am going to Uncle Peter,
and after that to some of the people we trade with."
Breen was standing by the ticker when Jack entered. It was a busy
day in the Street and values were going up by leaps and bounds.
The broker was not in a good humor; many of his customers were
short of the market.
He followed Jack into his private office and faced him.
"Funeral's at one o'clock Sunday, I see," he said in a sharp
voice, as if he resented the incident. "Your aunt and I will be
out on the noon train. She got back this morning, pretty well
bunged up. Killed himself, didn't he?"
"That is not the doctor's opinion, sir, and he was with him when
"Well, it looks that way to me. He's busted--and all balled up in
the Street. If you know anybody who will take the lease off
Corinne's hands, let me know. She and the baby are coming to live
Jack replied that he would make it his business to do so, with
pleasure, and after giving his uncle the details of Garry's death
he finally arrived at the tangled condition of his affairs.
Breen promptly interrupted him.
"Yes, so Corinne told me. She was in here one day last week and
wanted to borrow ten thousand dollars. I told her it didn't grow
on trees. Suppose I had given it to her? Where would it be now.
Might as well have thrown it in the waste-basket. So I shut down
on the whole business--had to."
Jack waited until his uncle had relieved his mind. The state of
the market had something to do with his merciless point of view;
increasing irritability, due to loss of sleep, and his habits had
more. The outburst over, Jack said in a calm direct voice,
watching the effect of the words as a gunner watches a shell from
"Will you lend it to me, sir?"
Arthur was pacing his private office, casting about in his mind
how to terminate the interview, when Jack's shot overhauled him.
Garry's sudden death had already led him to waste a few more
minutes of his time than he was accustomed to on a morning like
this, unless there was business in it.
He turned sharply, looked at Jack for an instant, and dropped into
the revolving chair fronting his desk.
Then he said in a tone of undisguised surprise:
"Lend you ten thousand dollars! What for?"
"To clear up some matters of Garry's at Corklesville. The
Warehouse matter has been closed out, so Corinne tells me."
"Oh, that's it, is it? I thought you wanted it for yourself. Who
signs for it?"
"On what collateral?"
Breen leaned back in his chair. The unsophisticated innocence of
this boy from the country would be amusing if it were not so
"What are you earning, Jack?" he said at last, with a half-
derisive, half-humorous expression on his face.
"A thousand dollars a year." Jack had never taken his eyes from
his uncle's face, nor had he moved a muscle of his body.
"And it would take you ten years to pay it if you dumped it all
"Got anything else to offer?" This came in a less supercilious
tone. The calm, direct manner of the young man had begun to have
"Nothing but my ore property."
"That's good for nothing. I made a mistake when I wanted you to
put it in here. Glad you didn't take me up."
"So am I. My own investigation showed the same thing."
"And the ore's of poor quality," continued Breen in a decided
"Very poor quality, what I saw of it," rejoined Jack.
"Well, we will check that off. MacFarlane got any thing he could
"No--and I wouldn't ask him."
"And you mean to tell me, Jack, that you are going broke yourself
to help a dead man pay his debts?"
"If you choose to put it that way,"
"Put it that way? Why, what other way is there to put it? You'll
excuse me, Jack--but you always were a fool when your damned
idiotic notions of what is right and wrong got into your head--and
you'll never get over it. You might have had an interest in my
business by this time, and be able to write your check in four
figures; and yet here you are cooped up in a Jersey village,
living at a roadside tavern, and getting a thousand dollars a
year. That's what your father did before you; went round paying
everybody's debts; never could teach him anything; died poor, just
as I told him he would."
Jack had to hold on to his chair to keep his mouth closed. His
father's memory was dangerous ground for any man to tread on--even
his father's brother; but the stake for which he was playing was
too great to be risked by his own anger.
"No, Jack," Breen continued, gathering up a mass of letters and
jamming them into a pigeon-hole in front of him, as if the whole
matter was set forth in their pages and he was through with it
forever. "No--I guess I'll pass on that ten thousand-dollar loan.
I am sorry, but A. B. & Co, haven't any shekels for that kind of
tommy-rot. As to your helping Minott, what I've got to say to you
is just this: let the other fellow walk--the fellow Garry owes
money to--but don't you butt in. They'll only laugh at you. Now
you will have to excuse me--the market's kiting, and I've got to
watch it. Give my love to Ruth. Your aunt and I will be out on the
noon train for the funeral. Good-by."
It was what he had expected. He would, perhaps, have stood a
better chance if he had read him Peter's encouraging letter of the
director's opinion of his Cumberland property, and he might also
have brought him up standing (and gone away with the check in his
pocket) if he had told him that the money was to save his own
wife's daughter and grandchild from disgrace--but that secret was
not his. Only as a last, desperate resource would he lay that fact
bare to a man like Arthur Breen, and perhaps not even then. John
Breen's word was, or ought to be, sacred enough on which to borrow
ten thousand dollars or any other sum. That meant a mortgage on
his life until every cent was paid.
Do not smile, dear reader. He is only learning his first lesson in
modern finance. All young men "raised" as Jack had been--and the
Scribe is one of them--would have been of the same mind at his
age. In a great city, when your tea-kettle starts to leaking, you
never borrow a whole one from your neighbor; you send to the shop
at the corner and buy another. In the country--Jack's country, I
mean--miles from a store, you borrow your neighbor's, who promptly
borrows your saucepan in return. And it was so in larger matters:
the old Chippendale desk with its secret drawer was often the
bank--the only one, perhaps, in a week's journey. It is
astonishing in these days to think how many dingy, tattered or
torn bank-notes were fished out of these same receptacles and
handed over to a neighbor with the customary--"With the greatest
pleasure, my dear sir. When you can sell your corn or hogs, or
that mortgage is paid off, you can return it." A man who was able
to lend, and who still refused to lend, to a friend in his
adversity, was a pariah. He had committed the unpardonable sin.
And the last drop of the best Madeira went the same way and with
Peter, at Jack's knock, opened the door himself. Isaac Cohen had
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