The Vision Splendid The Vision Spendid
William MacLeod Raine
Part 2 out of 5
suggested. "Say, Jeff, can you let me have fifty dollars?"
Jeff considered. He had been thinking of a new spring overcoat,
but his winter one would do well enough. From the office he could
get an advance of the balance he needed to make up the fifty.
"Sure. I'll bring it to your rooms to-morrow night."
"Much obliged. Hate to trouble you," James said lightly. "Well, I
won't keep you longer from your anarchist friends. Good-night."
"The cure for the evils of Democracy is more Democracy."
THE REBEL HUMBLY ASSISTS AT THE UNVEILING OF A HERO'S STATUE
On the occasion when his cousin was graduated with the highest
honors from the law school of Verden University Jeff sat
inconspicuously near the rear of the chapel. James, as class
orator, rose to his hour. From the moment that he moved slowly to
the front of the platform, handsome and impassive, his calm gaze
sweeping over the audience while he waited for the little bustle
of expectancy to subside, Jeff knew that the name of Farnum was
going to be covered with glory.
The orator began in a low clear voice that reached to the last
seat in the gallery. Jeff knew that before he finished its echoes
would be ringing through the hall like a trumpet call to the
emotions of those present.
It was not destined that Jeff should hear a word of that stirring
peroration. His eye fell by chance upon a young woman seated in a
box beside an elderly man whom he recognized as Peter C. Frome.
From that instant he was lost to all sense perception that did not
focus upon her. For he was looking at the dryad who had come upon
him out of the ferns three years before. She would never know it,
but Alice Frome had saved him from the weakness that might have
From that day he had been a total abstainer. Now as he looked at
her the vivid irregular beauty of the girl flowed through him like
music. Her charm for him lay deeper than the golden gleams of
imprisoned sunlight woven in her hair, than the gallant poise of
the little head above the slender figure. Though these set his
heart beating wildly, a sure instinct told him of the fine and
exquisite spirit that found its home in her body.
She was leaning forward in her chair, her eyes fixed on James
almost as if she were fascinated by his oratory. Her father
watched her, a trifle amused at her eagerness. In her admiration
she was frank as a boy. When Farnum's last period was rounded out
and he made to leave the stage her gloved hands beat together in
After the ceremonies were over James came straight to her. Jeff
missed no detail of their meeting. The young lawyer was swimming
on a tide of triumph, but it was easy to see that Alice Frome's
approval was the thing he most desired. His cousin had never seen
him so gay, so handsome, so altogether irresistible. For the first
time a little spasm of envy shot through Jeff, That the girl liked
James was plain enough. How could any girl help liking him?
The orator was so much the center of attention that Jeff postponed
his congratulations till evening. He called on his cousin after
midnight at his rooms. James had just returned from a class
banquet where he had been the toastmaster. He was still riding the
"It's been a great day for me, Jeff," he broke out after his
cousin had congratulated him. "I've earned it, too. For seven
years I've worked toward this day as a climax. Did you see me
talking to P. C. Frome and his daughter? I'm going to be accepted
socially in the best houses of the city. I'll make them all open
"I don't doubt it."
"And the best of it is that I've made my own success."
"Yes, you've worked hard," Jeff admitted with a little gleam of
humor in his eyes. He would not remind his cousin that he had
lent him most of the money to see him through law school.
"Oh, worked!" James was striding up and down the room to get rid
of some of his nervous energy. "I've done more than work. I've
made opportunities . . . grabbed them coming and going. Young as I
am Verden expects big things of me. And I'll deliver the goods,
"What's the program?" Jeff asked, much amused.
"Don't know yet. I'm going into politics and I mean to get ahead.
I'll make a big splash and keep in the public eye."
His cousin could not help laughing. "You always were a pretty good
press agent for J. K. Farnum."
"Why shouldn't I be?"
"I don't know why you shouldn't. A man who gets ahead puts himself
in a position where he can bring about reforms."
"That's it exactly. I mean to make myself a power."
"Get hold of one good practical reform and back it. Pound away on
it until the people identify you with it. Take direct legislation
as your text, say. There's going to be a strong drift that way in
the next ten years. Machines and bosses are going to be swept to
the junk heap."
"How do you know?"
Jeff could give no adequate justification for the faith that was
in him. It would be no answer to tell James that he knew the plain
people of the state better than the politicians did. However, he
mentioned a few facts.
"It's all very well for you to be a radical, but I have to
conserve my influence," James objected. "I've got to be practical.
If I were just going to be a reporter it would be different."
"Don't be too practical, James. You've got to have some vision if
you're going to lead the people. Nobody is so blind to the future
as practical politicians and business men." He stopped, smiling
quizzically. "But you're the orator of the family. I don't want to
infringe on your copyright. Only you have the personality to be a
real leader. Get started right. Remember that America faces
forward, and that we're going to move with seven league boots to
James mused out loud. "If a man could be a Lincoln to save the
people from industrial slavery it would be worth while."
Jeff did not laugh at his conceit. "Go to it. I'll promise you the
backing of the _World_."
"What have you to do with the _World_?"
"Beginning with next Monday I'm to be managing editor."
"Even so. Captain Chunn has bought the paper."
"Chunn, the man who made millions in a lucky strike in Alaska?"
James was still incredulous. "How did Chunn happen to pick you for
"He's an old friend of mine. 'Member the day I had the fight with
Ned Merrill. Captain Chunn was the man who stood up for me."
"And you've known him ever since?"
"I've always corresponded with him."
"Well, I'll be hanged. Talk about luck." James looked his cousin
over with increased respect. He always took off his hat to
success, but he had been so long accustomed to thinking of Jeff as
a failure that he could not adjust his mind to the situation.
"Why, you can't run a paper. Can you?"
Jeff smiled. "I told Captain Chunn he was taking a big chance."
"If he's as rich as they say he is he can afford to lose some
James took the news of his cousin's good fortune a little
peevishly. He did not grudge Jeff's advancement, but he resented
that it had befallen him to-day of all days. The promotion of the
reporter took the edge off his own achievements.
As James understood his own genius, it was as a statesman that he
was fitted preeminently to shine. He had the urbanity, the large
impassive manner, and the magnetic eloquence of the old-style
congressman. All he needed was the chance.
With the passing months he grew more restless at the delay. There
were moments in the night when he trembled lest some stroke of
evil fate might fall upon him before he had carved his name in the
niche of fame. To sit in an empty law office and wait for clients
took more patience than he could summon. He wanted an opportunity
to make speeches in the campaign that was soon to open. That he
finally went to Big Tim himself about it instead of to his ward
committeeman was characteristic of James K.
After he sent his card in the young lawyer was kept waiting for
thirty-five minutes in an outer office along with a Jew peddler, a
pugilist ward heeler, an Irish saloonkeeper, and a brick
contractor. Naturally he was exceedingly annoyed. O'Brien ought to
know that James K. Farnum did not rank with this riff-raff.
When at last James got into the holy of holies he found Big Tim
lolling back in his swivel chair with a fat cigar in his mouth.
The boss did not take the trouble to rise as he waved his visitor
to a chair.
Farnum explained that he was interested in the political situation
and that he was prepared to take an active part in the campaign
about to open. The big man listened, watching him out of half shut
attentive eyes. He had never yet seen a kid glove politician that
was worth the powder to blow him up. Moreover, he had special
reasons for disliking this one. His cousin was editor of the
_World_, and that paper was becoming a thorn in his side.
O'Brien took the cigar from his mouth. "Did youse go to the
primary last night?' he asked.
James did not even know there had been one. He had in point of
fact been at a Country Club dance.
"Can youse tell me what the vote of your precinct was at the last
The budding statesman could not.
"What precinct do youse live in?"
Farnum was not quite sure. He explained that he had moved
Big Tim grunted scornfully. He was pleased to have a chance to
take down the cheek of any Farnum.
"What do youse think you can do?"
"I can make speeches. I'm the best orator that ever came out of
"Tommyrot! How do youse stand in your precinct? Can youse get the
vote out to go down the line for us? That's what counts. Oratory
James was pale with rage. The manner of the boss was nothing less
"Then you decline to give me a chance, Mr. O'Brien?"
"I do not. In politics a man makes his own chance. He gets along
by being so useful we can't get along without him. See? He learns
the game. You don't know the A B C of it. It's my opinion youse
O'Brien's hard cold eye triumphed over him as a principal does
over a delinquent schoolboy.
His vanity stung, the lawyer sprang to his feet. "Very well, Mr.
O'Brien. I'll show you a thing or two about what I can and can't
For just an instant a notion flitted across Big Tim's mind that he
might be making a mistake. He was indulging an ugly temper, and he
knew it. This was a luxury he rarely permitted himself. Now he
decided to "go the whole hog," as he phrased it to himself later.
His lips set to an ugly snarl.
"It's like the nerve of ye to come to me. Want to begin at the top
instid of at the bottom. Go to Billie Gray if youse want to have
some wan learn youse the game. If you're any good he'll find it
James got himself out of the office with all the dignity of which
he was capable. Go to Billie Gray, the notorious ballot box
stuffer! Take orders from the little rascal who had shaved the
penitentiary only because of his pull! James saw himself doing it.
He was sore in every outraged nerve of him. Never before in his
life had anybody sat and sneered at him openly before his eyes. He
would show the big boss that he had been a fool to treat him so.
And he would show P. C. Frome and Ned Merrill that he was a very
How? Why, by fighting the corporations! Wasn't that the way that
all the big men got their start nowadays as lawyers? As soon as
they discovered his value Frome and his friends would be after his
services fast enough. James was no radical, but he believed Jeff
knew what he was talking about when he predicted an impending
political change, one that would carry power back from the machine
bosses to the people. The young lawyer decided to ride that wave
as far as it would take him. He would be a tribune of the people,
and they in turn would make of him their hero. With the promised
backing of the _World_ he would go a long way. He knew that Jeff
would fling him at once into the limelight. And he would make
good. He would be the big speaker for the reform movement. Nobody
in the state could sway a crowd as he could. James had not the
least doubt about that. It was glory and applause he wanted, not
the drudgery of dirty ward politics.
Under Jeff's management the _World_ had at once taken the
leadership in the fight for political reform in the state. He made
it the policy of the paper to tell the truth as to corruption both
in and out of his own party. Nor would he allow the business
office, as influenced by the advertisers, to dictate the policy of
the paper. The result was that at the end of the first year he
went to the owner with a report of a deficit of one hundred and
twenty-five thousand dollars for the twelve months just ended.
Captain Chunn only laughed. "Keep it up, son. I've had lots of fun
out of it. You've given this town one grand good shaking up. The
whole state is getting its fighting clothes on. We've got Merrill
and Frome scared stiff about their supreme court judges. Looks to
me as if we were going to lick them."
The political campaign was already in progress. Hitherto the
public utility corporations of Verden had controlled and
practically owned the machinery of both parties. The _World_ had
revolted, rallied the better sentiment in the party to which it
belonged, and forced the convention to declare for a reform
platform and to nominate a clean ticket composed of men of
Jeff agreed. "I think we're going to win. The people are with us.
The _World_ is booming." It's the advertising troubles me. Frome
and Merrill have got at the big stores and they won't come in with
any space worth mentioning."
"Damn the big advertisers," exploded Chunn. "I've got two million
cold and I'm going to see this thing out, son. That's what I told
Frome last week when he had the nerve to have me nominated to the
Verden Club. Wanted to muzzle me. Be a good fellow and quit
agitating. That was the idea. I sent back word I'd stuck by Lee to
Appomattox and I reckoned I was too old a dog to learn the new
trick of deserting my flag."
"If you're satisfied I ought to be," Jeff laughed. "As for the
advertising, the stores will come back soon. The managers all want
to take space, but they are afraid of spoiling their credit at the
banks while conditions are so unsettled."
"Oh, well. We'll stick to our guns. You fire'em and I'll supply
the ammunition." The little man put his hand on Jeff's shoulder
with a chuckle. "We're both rebels--both irreconcilables, son. I
reckon we're going to be well hated before we get through with
"Yes. They're going about making people believe we're cranks and
agitators who are hurting business for our own selfish ends."
"I reckon we can stand it, David." Chunn had no children of his
own and he always called Jeff son or David. "By the way, how's
that good looking cousin of yours coming out? I see you're giving
his speeches lots of space."
A light leaped to the eyes of the younger man. "He's doing fine.
James is a born orator. Wherever he goes he gets a big ovation."
Chunn grunted. "Humph! That'll please him. He's as selfish as the
devil, always looking out for James Farnum."
"He wins the people, Captain."
"You talk every evening yourself, but I don't see reports of any
of your speeches."
"I don't talk like James. There's not a man in the state to equal
him, young as he is."
Captain Chunn grumbled a good deal about the way Jeff was always
pushing his cousin forward and keeping in the background himself.
In his opinion "David" was worth a hundred of the other.
"Spirits of old that bore me,
And set me, meek of mind,
Between great deeds before me,
And deeds as great behind,
Knowing Humanity my star
As forth of old I ride,
0 help me wear with every scar
Honor at eventide."
THE REBEL DISCOVERS THAT ADHESION IS A PROPERTY OF MUD; ALSO THAT
A SOLDIER MUST SOMETIMES TURN HIS BACK AND BURN THE BRIDGES BEHIND
The fight for the control of the state developed unprecedented
bitterness. The big financial interests back of the political
machines poured out money like water to elect a ticket that would
be friendly to capital. An eight-hour-day bill to apply to miners
and underground workers had been passed by the last legislature
and a supreme court must be elected to declare this law
unconstitutional. Moreover, a United States senator was to be
chosen, so that the personnel of the assembly was a matter of
Through the subsidized columns of the _Advocate_ and the _Herald_
all the venom of outraged public plunder was emptied on the heads
of Jeff Farnum and Captain Chunn. They were rebels, blackmailers,
and anarchists. Jeff's life was held up to public scorn as
dissolute and licentious. He had been expelled from college and
consorted only with companions of the lowest sort. A free thinker
and an atheist, he wanted to tear down the pillars which upheld
society. Unless Verden and the state repudiated him and his gang
of trouble breeders the poison of their opinions would infect the
healthy fabric of the community.
There was about Jeff a humility, a sort of careless generosity,
that could take with a laugh a hit at himself. But in the days
that followed he was often made to wince when good men drew away
from him as from a moral pervert. Twice he was hissed from the
stage when he attempted to talk, or would have been, if he had not
quietly waited until the indignant protesters were exhausted. It
amused him to see that his old college acquaintance "Sissie"
Thomas and Billy Gray, the ballot box stuffer of the Second Ward,
were among the most vehement of those who thus scorned him. So do
the extremes of virtue and vice find common ground when the
blasphemer raises his voice against intrenched capital.
The personal calumny of the enemy showed how hard hit the big
bosses were, how beneath their feet they felt the ground of public
opinion shift. It had been only a year since Big Tim O'Brien, boss
of the city by permission of the public utility corporations, had
read Jeff's first editorial against ballot box stuffing. In it the
editor of the _World_ had pledged that paper never to give up the
fight for the people until such crookedness was stamped out. Big
Tim had laughed until his paunch shook at the confidence of this
young upstart and in impudent defiance had sent him a check for
fifty dollars for the Honest Election League.
Neither Big Tim nor the respectable buccaneers back of him were
laughing now. They were fighting with every ounce in them to sweep
back the wave of civic indignation the _World_ had gathered into a
compact aggressive organization.
Young Ned Merrill, who represented the interests of the allied
corporations, had Big Tim on the carpet. The young man had not
been out of Harvard more than three years, but he did not let any
nonsense about fair play stand in his way. In spite of the clean-
cut look of him--he was broadshouldered and tall, with an effect
of decision in the square cleft chin that would some day
degenerate into fatness--Ned Merrill played the game of business
without any compunctions.
"You're making a bad fight of it, O'Brien. Old style methods won't
win for us. These crank reformers have got the people stirred up.
Keep your ward workers busy, but don't expect them to win." He
leaned forward and brought his fist down heavily on the desk.
"We've got to smash Farnum--discredit him with the bunch of sheep
who are following him."
"What more do youse want? We're callin' him ivery black name under
Merrill shook his head decisively. "Not enough. Prove something.
Catch him with the goods."
"If youse'll show me how?"
"I don't care how, You've got detectives, haven't you? Find out
all about him, where he comes from, who his people were. Rake his
life with a fine tooth comb from the day he was born. He's a bad
egg. We all know that. Dig up facts to prove it."
Within the hour detectives were set to work. One of them left next
day for Shelby. Another covered the neighborhoods where Jeff had
lived in Verden. Henceforth wherever he went he was shadowed.
It was about this time that Samuel Miller lost his place in the
city library on account of his political opinions. For more than a
year he and Jeff had roomed together at a private boarding house
kept by a Mrs. Anderson. Within twentyfour hours of his dismissal
Miller was on the road, sent out by the campaign committee of his
party to make speeches throughout the state.
Jeff himself was speaking nearly every night now that the day of
election was drawing near. This, together with the work of editing
the paper and the strain of the battle, told heavily on a vitality
never too much above par. He would come back to his rooms fagged
out, often dejected because some friend had deserted to the enemy.
One cold rainy evening he met Nellie Anderson in the hall. She had
been saying good-bye to some friends who had been in to call on
"You're wet, Mr. Farnum," the young woman said.
She stood hesitating in the doorway leading to the apartment of
herself and her mother, then yielded shyly to a kindly impulse.
"We've been making chocolate. Won't you come in and have some? You
Jeff glimpsed beyond her the warm grate fire in the room. He, too,
yielded to an impulse. "Since you're so good as to ask me, Miss
She took charge of his hat and overcoat, making him sit down in a
big armchair before the fire. He watched her curiously as she
moved lightly about waiting on him. Nellie was a soft round little
person with constant intimations of a childhood not long outgrown.
Jeff judged she must be nineteen or twenty, but she had moments of
being charmingly unsure of herself. The warm color came and went
in her clear cheeks at the least provocation.
"Mother's gone to bed. She always goes early. You don't mind," she
Jeff smiled. She was, he thought, about as worldly wise as a
fluffy kitten. "No, I don't mind at all," he assured her.
Nor did he in the least. His weariness was of the spirit rather
than the body, and he found her grace, her shy sweetness, grateful
to the jaded senses. It counted in her favor that she was not
clever or ultra-modern. The dimpling smiles, the quick sympathy of
this innocent, sensuous young creature, drew him out of his
depression. When he left the pleasant warmth of the room half an
hour later it was with a little glow at the heart. He had found
comfort and refreshment.
How it came to pass Jeff never quite understood, but it soon was
almost a custom for him to drop into the living room to get a cup
of chocolate when he came home. He found himself looking forward
to that half hour alone with Nellie Anderson. Whoever else
criticized him, she did not. The manner in which she made herself
necessary to his material comfort was masterly. She would be
waiting, eager to help him off with his overcoat, hot chocolate
and sandwiches ready for him in the cozy living-room. To him, who
for years had lived a hand-to-mouth boarding house existence, her
shy wholesome laughter made that room sing of home, one which her
personality fitted to a dot. She was always in good humor, always
trim and neat, always alluring to the eye. And she had the pretty
little domestic ways that go to the head of a bachelor when he
eats alone with an attractive girl.
Their intimacy was not exactly a secret. Mrs. Anderson, who was
rather deaf and admitted to being a heavy sleeper, knew that Jeff
dropped in occasionally. He suspected she did not know how
regularly, but she was one of that large class of American mothers
who let their daughters arrange their own love affairs and would
not have interfered had she known.
Once or twice it flashed upon Jeff that this ought not to go on.
Since he had no intention of marrying Nell he must not let their
relationship reach the emotional climax toward which he guessed it
was racing. But his experience in such matters was limited. He did
not know how to break off their friendship without hurting her,
and he was eager to minimize the possibility of danger. His
modesty made this last easy. Out of her kindness she was good to
him, but it was not to be expected that so pretty a girl would
fall in love with a man like him.
The most potent argument for letting things drift was his own
craving for her. She was becoming necessary to him. Whenever he
thought of her it was with a tender glow. Her soft long-lashed
eyes would come between him and the editorial he was writing. A
dozen times a day he could see a picture of the tilted little
coaxing mouth. The gurgle of her laughter called to him for hours
before he left the office.
He got into the habit of talking to her about the things that were
troubling him--the tactics of the enemy, the desertion of friends,
the dubious issue of the campaign. Curled up in a big chair, her
whole attention absorbed in what he was saying Nellie made a good
listener. If she did not show a full understanding of the
situation, he could always sense her ready sympathy. Her naive,
indignant loyalty was touching.
"I read what the _Advocate_ said about you today," she told him
one night, a tide of color in her cheeks. "It was horrid. As if
anybody would believe it."
"I'm afraid a good many people do," he said gravely.
"Nobody who knows you," she protested stoutly.
"Yes, some who know me."
He let his eyes dwell on her. It was easy to see how undisciplined
of life she was, save where its material aspects had come into
impact with her on the economic side.
"None of your real friends."
"How many real friends has a man--friends who will stand by him no
matter how unpopular he is?"
"I don't know. I should think you'd have lots of them."
He shook his head, a hint of a smile in his eyes. "Not many. They
keep their chocolate and sandwiches for folks whose trolley
do'esn't fly the wire."
"What wire?" she asked, her forehead knitted to a question.
"Oh, the wire that's over the tracks of respectability and vested
interests and special privilege."
She had been looking at him, but now her gaze went to the fire
with that slow tilt of the chin he liked. Another color wave swept
the oval of the soft cheeks.
"You've got more friends than you think," she said in a low voice.
"I've got one little friend I wouldn't like to lose."
She did not speak and his hand moved forward to cover hers.
Instantly a wild and insurgent emotion tingled through him. He
felt himself trembling and could not steady his nerves.
Without a word Nellie looked up and their eyes met. Something
electric flashed from one to another. Her shy fear of him was
"Oh, don't, don't!" she murmured. "What will you think of me now?"
He had leaned forward and kissed her on the lips.
Jeff sprang to his feet, the muscles in his lean cheeks standing
out. Some bell of warning was ringing in him. He was a man, young
and desirous, subject to all the frailties of his sex, holding
experiences in his past that had left him far from a puritan. And
she was a woman, of unschooled impulses, with unsuspected banked
passions, an innocent creature in whom primeval physical life
He moved toward the door, his left fist beating into the palm of
his right hand. He must protect her, against himself--and against
her innocent affection for him.
She fluttered past him, barring the way. Her cheeks were flaming
"You despise me. Why did I let you?" A sob swelled up into her
soft round throat.
"You blessed lamb," he groaned.
"You're going to leave me. You--you don't want me for a friend any
Her lips trembled--the red little lips that always reminded him of
a baby's with its Cupid's bow. She was on the verge of breaking
down. Jeff could not stand that. He held out his hands, intending
to take hers and explain that he was not angry or disappointed at
her. But somehow he found her in his arms instead, supple and
warm, vital youth flowing in the soft cheeks' rich coloring and in
the eyes quick and passionate with the tender abandon of her sex.
He set his teeth against the rush of desire that flooded him as
her soft body clung to his. The emotional climax he had vaguely
feared had leaped upon them like an uncaged tiger. He fought to
stamp down the fires that blazed up in him. Time to think--he must
have time to think.
"You don't despise me then," she cried softly, a little catch in
"No," he protested, and again "No."
"But you think I've done wrong."
"No. I've been to blame. You're a dear girl--and I've abused your
kindness. I must go away--now."
"Then you--you do hate me," she accused with a quivering lip.
"No . . . no. I'm very fond of you."
"But you're going to leave me. It's because I've done wrong."
"Don't blame yourself, dear. It has been all my fault. I ought to
Her hands fell from him. The life seemed to die out of her whole
figure. "You do despise me."
Desire of her throbbed through him, but he spoke very quietly.
"Listen, dear. There is nobody I respect more . . . and none I
like so much. I can't tell you how. . . fond of you I am. But I
must go now. You don't understand."
She bit her lip to repress the sobs that would come and turned
away to hide her shame. Jeff caught her in his arms, kissed her
passionately on the lips, the eyes, the soft round throat.
"You do . . . like me," she purred happily.
Abruptly he pushed her from him. Where were they drifting? He must
get his anchors down before it was too late.
Somehow he broke away, leaving her there hurt and bewildered at
his apparent fickleness, at the stiffness with which he had beaten
back the sweet delight inviting them.
Jeff went to his rooms, his mind in a blind chaotic surge. He sat
before the table for hours, fighting grimly to persuade himself he
need not put away this joy that had come to him. Surely friendship
was a good thing . . . and love. A man ought not to turn his back
It was long past midnight when he rose, took his father's sword
from the wall where it hung, and unsheathed it. A vision of an
open fireplace in a log house rose before him, his father in the
foreground looking like a picture of Stonewall Jackson. The kind
brave eyes that were the soul of honor gazed at him.
"You damned scoundrel! You damned scoundrel!" Jeff accused himself
in a low voice.
He knew his little friend was good and innocent, but he knew too
she had inherited a temperament that made her very innocence a
anger to her. Every instinct of chivalry called upon him to
protect her from the weakness she did not even guess. She had
given him her kindness and her friendship, the dear child! It was
up to him to be worthy of them. If he failed her he would be a
creature forever lost to decency.
There was a sob in his throat as Jeff pushed the blade back into
the worn scabbard and rehung the sword upon the wall. But the eyes
in his lifted face were very bright. He too would keep his sword
unstained and the flag of honor flying.
All through the next day and the next his resolution held. He took
pains not to see her alone, though there was not an hour of the
day when he could get away from the thought of her. The uneasy
consciousness was with him that the issue was after all only
postponed, that decisions of this kind must be made again and
again so long as opportunity and desire go together. And there
were moments of reaction when his will was like a rope of sand,
when the longing for her swept over him like a great wave.
As Jeff slipped quietly into the hall the door of her room opened.
Their eyes met, and presently hers fell. She was troubled and
ashamed at what she had done, but plainly eager in her innocence
to be forgiven.
Jeff spoke gently. "Nellie."
Her eyes suddenly filled with tears. "Aren't we ever going to be
Through the open door he could see the fire glowing in the grate
and the chocolate set on the little table. He knew she had
prepared for his coming and how greatly she would be hurt if he
rejected her advances.
"Of course we're friends."
"Then you'll come in, just for a few minutes."
"Please," she whispered. "Or I'll know you don't like me any
Jeff followed her into the room and closed the door behind him.
Two days before the election Big Tim's detective wired from
Shelby, Tennessee, the outline of a story that got two front page
columns in both the _Advocate_ and the _Herald._ Jefferson Davis
Farnum was the son of a thief, of a rebel soldier who had spent
seven years in the penitentiary for looting the bank of which he
was cashier. In addition to featuring the news story both papers
handled the subject at length in their editorial columns. They
wanted to know whether the people of this beautiful state were
willing to hand over the Commonwealth to be plundered by the
reckless gang of which this son of a criminal was the head.
The paper reached Jeff at his rooms in the morning. He had lately
taken the apartments formerly occupied by his cousin, James moving
to Mrs. Anderson's until after the election. The exchange had been
made at the suggestion of the editor, who gave as a reason that he
wanted to be close to his work until the winter was past. It
happened that James was just now very glad to get a cheaper place.
He was very short of funds and until after the election had no
time for social functions. All he needed with a room was to sleep
Jeff was still reading the story from Shelby when his cousin came
in hurriedly. James was excited and very white.
"My God, Jeff! It's come at last. I knew it would ruin me some
day," the lawyer cried, after he had carefully closed the door of
"It won't ruin you, James. Your name isn't mentioned yet. Perhaps
it may not be. It can't hurt you, even if it is."
"I tell you it will ruin me both socially and politically. Once it
gets out nobody will trust me. I'll be the son of a thief," James
"You're the son of a man who made a slip and has paid for it,"
answered Jeff steadily. "Don't let your ideas get warped. This
town is full of men who have done wrong and haven't paid for it."
"That's one of your fool socialist theories." James spoke sharply
and irritably. "No man's guilty till the law says so. They haven't
been in the penitentiary. He has. That's what damns me if it gets
Jeff laid a hand affectionately on his cousin's shoulder. "Don't
you believe it for a moment. There's no moral distinction between
the man who has paid and the man who hasn't paid for his sins
toward society. There is good and there is bad in all of us,
closely intertwined, knit together into the very warp and woof of
our lives. We're all good and we're all bad."
It was with James a purely personal equation. He could not forget
its relation to himself.
"My name is to be voted on at the University Club next month. I'll
be blackballed to a dead certainty," he said miserably.
"Probably, if the story gets out. It's tough, I know." Jeff's eyes
gleamed angrily. "And why should they? You're just as good a man
to-day as you were yesterday. But there's nothing so fettering, so
despicable as good form. It blights. Let a man bow down to the
dead hand of custom and he can never again be true to what he
thinks and knows. His judgment gets warped. Soon Madame Grundy
does his thinking for him, along well-grooved lines."
"Oh, well! That's just talk. What am I to do?" James broke out
"I know what I would do in your case."
"Come out with a short statement telling the exact facts. I'd make
no apologies or long explanation. Just the plain story as simply
as you can."
"Well, I'll not," the lawyer broke out. "Easy enough for you to
say what I ought to do. Look at who my friends are--the Fromes
and the Merrills and the Gilmans. Best set in town. I strained a
point when I broke loose from them to take up this progressive
fight. They'd cut me dead if a story like this came out."
"I daresay. Communities are loaded to the guards with respectable
cowards. But if you stand on your own feet like a man they'll
think more of you for it. Most of them will be glad to know you
again inside of five years. For you're going to be successful, and
people like the Merrills and the Gilmans bow down to success."
The lawyer shook his head doggedly. "I'm not going to tell a thing
I don't have to tell. That's settled." He hesitated a moment
before he went on. "I've got a reason why I want to stand well
with the Fromes, Jeff. I'm not in a position to risk anything."
Jeff waited. He thought he knew that reason.
"I'm going to marry Alice Frome if I can."
"You've asked her." Jeff's voice sounded to himself as if it
belonged to another man.
"No. Not yet. Ned Merrill's in the running. Strong, too. He's
being backed by his father and old P. C. Frome. The idea is to
consolidate interests by this marriage. But I've got a fighting
chance. She likes me. Since I went into this political fight
against her father she's taken pains to show me how friendly she
feels. But if this story gets out--I'm smashed. That's all."
"Go to her. Tell her the truth. She'll stand by you," his cousin
"You don't understand these people, Jeff. I do. Even if she wanted
to stand by me she couldn't. They wouldn't let her. Right now I'm
carrying all the handicap I can."
Jeff walked to the window and stood looking out with his hands in
his pockets. The hum of the busy street rose to his ears, but he
did not hear it. Nor did he see the motor cars whizzing past, the
drays lumbering along, the thronged sidewalks of Powers Avenue. A
door that had for years been ajar in his heart had swung to with a
crash. The incredible folly of his dream was laid bare to him.
Despised, distrusted and disgraced, there was no chance that he
might be even a friend to her. She moved in another world, one he
could not reach if he would and would not if he could. All that he
believed in she had been brought up to disregard. Much that was
dear to her he must hammer down so long as there was life in him.
But James--he had fought his way up to her. Why shouldn't he have
his chance? Better--far better James than Ned Merrill. He had
heard the echoes of a disgraceful story about that young man in
his college days, the story of how he had trampled down a working
girl for his pleasure. James was clean and honorable . . . and she
loved him. Jeff's mind fastened on that last as a thing assured.
Had he not seen her with starry eyes fixed on her hero, held fast
as a limed bird? She too was entitled to her chance, and there was
a way he could give it to her.
He turned back to James, who was sitting despondently at the
managing editor's desk, jabbing at the blotting sheet with a
Jeff touched the _Advocate_ he still held in his hand. "Did you
read this story carefully?"
"No. I just ran my eye down it. Why?"
"Whoever dug it up has made a mistake. He has jumped to the
conclusion that I'm Uncle Robert's son. Why not let it go at
His cousin looked up with a flash of eager hope. "You mean--"
"I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Let it go the
way they have it."
The lawyer's heart leaped, but he could not let this go without a
protest. "No, I--I couldn't do that. It's awfully good of you,
The managing editor smiled in his whimsical way. "My reputation
has long been in tatters. A little more can't hurt it."
James conceded a reflective assent with a manner of impartiality.
"Of course your friends wouldn't think any the less of you.
They're not so--so--"
"respectable as yours," Jeff finished for him.
"I was going to say so hidebound."
"All the same, isn't it?"
"But it would be a sacrifice for you. I recognize that. And I'm
not sure that I could accept it. I will have to think that over,"
the lawyer concluded magnanimously.
"You'll find it is best. But I think I would tell Miss Frome, even
if I didn't tell anybody else. She has a right to know."
"You may depend upon me to do whatever is best about that."
James was hardly out of the office before Captain Chunn blew in
like a small tornado. He was boiling with rage.
"What's this infernal lie about you being the son of a convict,
David?" he demanded, waving a copy of the Herald.
"Sit down, Captain. I'll tell you the story because you're
entitled to it. But I shall have to speak in confidence."
"Confidence! Dad burn it, what are you talking about? Are you
trying to tell me that Phil Farnum was a thief and a convict?"
Jeff's steel-blue eyes looked straight into his. "Nothing so
impossible as that, Captain. I'm going to tell you the story of
Jeff told it, but he and the owner of the _World_ disagreed
radically about the best way to answer the attack.
"Why must you always stand between that kid glove cousin of yours
and trouble? Let him stand the gaff himself. It will do him good,"
But Jeff had his way. The _World_ made no denial of the facts
charged. In a statement on the front page that covered less than
three sticks he told the simple story of the defalcation of Robert
Farnum. One thing only he added to the account given in the
opposition papers. This was that during the past two years the
shortage of the bank cashier had been paid in full to the
Planters' First National at Shelby.
There were many forecasts as to what the effect of the Farnum
story would be on the election returns. It is enough to say that
the ticket supported by the _World_ was chosen by a small
majority. James was elected to the legislature by a plurality of
fifteen hundred votes over his antagonist, a majority unheard of
in the Eleventh District.
Is not this the trouble with our whole man-made world, that the
game is played with loaded dice? Against the poor, the weak and
the unfortunate have the cards been stacked. A tremendous
percentage is in favor of the crook, the scoundrel, the smug
robber of industry by whom the hands are dealt.
Wealth, created by the many, is more and more flowing into the
vaults of the few. Legislatures, Congress, the courts, all the
machinery of government, answer to the crack of the whip wielded
by Big Business. The creed of the allied plunderers is that he
should take who has the power and he should keep who can.
Until we mutiny against the timidity of our times Democracy and
Prosperity will be dreams. The poor and the parasite we shall have
always with us.
In that new world which is to be MEN and not THINGS will be
supreme, property a means and not an end. The heart of the world
will be born anew under an economic reconstruction that will give
freedom for individual development. For our social and industrial
life will be founded not on a denial of God but on an affirmation
of Brotherhood.--From the Note Book of a Dreamer.
THE HERO MEETS AND ADMIRES A MONA LISA SMILE. HE IS TENDERED AN
APOLOGY FOR A PAST DISCOURTESY
Came James Farnum down Powers Avenue carrying with buoyant dignity
the manner of greatness that sat so well on him. His smile was
warm for a world that just now was treating him handsomely. There
could be no doubt that for a first term he was making an
extraordinary success of his work in the legislature. He had
worked hard on committees and his speeches had made a tremendous
hit. Jeff had played him up strong in the world too, so that he
was becoming well known over the state. That he had risen to
leadership of the progressives in the House during his first term
showed his quality. His ambition vaulted. Now that his feet were
on the first rungs of the ladder it would be his own fault if he
did not reach the top.
His progress down the busy street was in the nature of an ovation.
Everywhere he met answering smiles that told of the people's pride
in their young champion. Already James had discovered that
Americans are eager for hero worship. He meant to be the hero of
his state, the favorite son it would delight to honor. This was
what he loved: the cheers for the victor, not the clash of the
"Good morning, Farnum. What are the prospects?" It was Clinton
Rogers, of the big shipbuilding firm Harvey & Rogers, that stopped
"Still anybody's fight, Mr. Rogers." The young lawyer's voice fell
a note to take on a frankly confidential tone, an accent of
friendliness that missed the fatal buttonholing familiarity of the
professional politician. "If we can hold our fellows together
we'll win. But the Transcontinental is bidding high for votes--and
there's always a quitter somewhere."
"Does Frome stand any chance?"
"It will be Hardy or Frome. The least break in our ranks will be
the signal for a stampede to P. C. The Republicans will support
him when they get the signal. It's all a question of our fellows
"From what I can learn it won't be your fault if Hardy isn't
elected. I congratulate you on the best record ever made by a
ember in his first term."
"Oh, we all do our best," James answered lightly. "But I'm
grateful for your good opinion. I hope I deserve it."
James could afford to be modest about his achievements so long as
Jeff was shouting his praises through the columns of the _World_
to a hundred thousand readers of that paper. What the shipbuilder
had said pleased him mightily. For Clinton Rogers was one of the
few substantial moneyed men of Verden who had joined the reform
movement. Not a single member of the Verden Club, with the
exception of Rogers, was lined up with those making the fight for
direct legislation. Even those who had no financial interest in
the Transcontinental or the public utility corporations supported
that side from principle.
James himself had thought a long time before casting in his lot
with the insurgents led by his cousin. He had made tentative
approaches both to Frome and to Edward B. Merrill. Both of these
gentlemen had been friendly enough, but James had made up his mind
they undervalued his worth. The way to convince them of this was
to take the field against them.
He smiled now as he swung along the avenue. Both Frome and Merrill
--yes, and Big Tim too, for that matter!--knew by this time
whether they had made a mistake in sizing him up as a raw college
boy with his eye teeth not cut.
A passing electric containing two young women brought his gloved
hand to his hat. The long slant eyes of the lady on the farther
side swept him indolently. In answer to her murmured suggestion
the girl who was driving brought the machine round in a half
circle which ended at the edge of the curb in front of Farnum.
The lawyer's hat came off again with easy grace. The slim young
driver leaned back against the cushions and merely smiled a
greeting, tacitly yielding command of the situation to her cousin,
an opulent young widow adorned demurely with that artistic touch
of mourning that suggests a grief not inconsolable.
"Good morning, Miss Frome--Mrs. Van Tyle," James distributed
impartially before turning to the latter lady. "Isn't this a day
to be alive in? Who says it always rains in Verden?"
"I do--or nearly always. At least it finds no difficulty in giving
a good imitation," returned the young woman addressed.
"A libel--I vow a libel," Farnum retorted gaily. "I was just going
to hope you might be tempted to forget New York and Vienna and
Paris to pay us a long visit. We're all hoping it. I'm merely the
spokesman." He waved a hand to indicate the busy street black with
A hint of pleasant adventure quickened the eyes of the young widow
who surveyed lazily his wellgroomed good looks. She judged him a
twentieth century American emerging from straightened
circumstances and eager to trample even the memory of it under
"Did the Chamber of Commerce appoint you a committee to hope that
I would impose on my relatives longer? Or was it resoluted at a
mass meeting?" she asked with her Mona Lisa smile.
He laughed. "Well, no! I'm a self-appointed committee voicing a
personal desire that has universal application. But if it would
have more weight with you I'll have the Chamber take it up and get
myself an accredited representative."
"So kind of you. But do you think the committee could do itself
justice on the street curb?"
She had among other sensuous charms a voice attuned to convey
slightest shades of meaning. James caught her half-shuttered
smoldering glance and divined her a woman subtle and complex,
capable of playing the world-old game of the sexes with unusual
dexterity. The hint of challenging mystery in the tawny depths of
the mocking eyes fired his imagination. She was to him a new find
in women, one altogether different from those he had known. He had
a curiosity to meet at close range this cosmopolitan heiress of
such cultivation as Joe Powers' millions could purchase.
What Verden said of her he knew: that she was too free, too
scornful, too independent of conventions. All the tabby cats
whispered it to each other with lifted eyebrows that suggested
volumes, the while they courted her eager and unashamed. But he
had a feeling that perhaps Verden was not competent to judge. The
standards of this town and of New York were probably vastly
different. James welcomed the chance to enlarge his social
experience. Promptly he accepted the lead offered.
"I'm sure it can't. To present the evidence cogently will take at
least two hours. May I make the argument this evening, if it
please the court, during a call?"
"But I understood you were too busy saving the state--from my
father and my uncle by the way--to have time for a mere woman,"
The good humor of her irony flattered him because it implied that
she offered him a chance to cultivate her--he was not at all sure
how much or how little that might mean--regardless of his
political affiliations. Not many women were logical enough to
accept so impersonally his opposition to the candidacy of an uncle
and the plans of a father. "I AM busy," he admitted, "but I need a
few hours' relaxation. It will help me to work more effectively
to-morrow--against your father and your uncle," he came back with
a smile that included them both.
Alice Frome took up the challenge gaily. "We're going to beat you.
Father will be elected."
"Then I'll be the first to congratulate him," he promised. Turning
to Mrs. Van Tyle, "Shall we say this evening?" he added.
"You're not afraid to venture yourself into the hands of the
enemy," drawled that young woman, her indolent eyes daring him.
Again he studiously included them both in his answer. "I'm afraid
all right, but I'm not going to let you know it. Did I hear you
set a time?"
"If you are really willing to take the risk we shall be glad to
see you this afternoon."
James observed that Alice Frome did not second her cousin's
invitation. He temporized.
"Oh, this afternoon! I have an engagement, but I am tempted to
forget it in remembering a subsequent one."
His smiling gaze passed to Alice and gave her another chance.
Still she did not speak.
"The way to treat a temptation is to yield to it," the older
"In order to be done with it, I suppose. Very well. I yield to
mine. This afternoon I will have the pleasure of calling at The
Alice nodded a curt good-bye, but her cousin offered him a
beautifully gloved hand to shake. A delightful tingle of triumph
warmed him. The daughter of Big Joe Powers, the grim gray pirate
who worked the levers of the great Transcontinental Railroad
system, had taken pains to be nice to him. The only fly in the
ointment of his self-satisfaction had been Alice Frome's
Why had she not shown any desire to have him call? He could guess
at one reason. The campaign for the legislature and the subsequent
battle for the senatorship had been bitter. Charges of corruption
had been flung broadcast. A dozen detectives had been hired to get
evidence on one side or the other. If he were seen going to The
Brakes just now fifty rumors might be flying inside of the hour.
His guess was a good one. Alice drove the car forward several
blocks without speaking, Valencia Van Tyle watching with good-
humored contempt the little frown that rested on her cousin's
"I perceive that my uncompromising cousin is moved to protest,"
she suggested placidly.
"You ought not to have asked him, Val. It isn't fair to him or to
father," answered Alice promptly. "People will talk. They will say
father is trying to influence him unfairly. I wish you hadn't
asked him till this fight is over."
"My dear Nora, does it matter in the least what people say?"
yawned Valencia behind her hand.
"Not to you because you consider yourself above criticism. But it
matters to me that two honest men should be brought into unjust
obloquy without cause."
"My dear Hothead, they are big enough to look out for themselves."
"Nobody is big enough to kill slander."
"Nonsense, child. You make a mountain out of a mole hill. People
WILL gossip. It really isn't of the least importance what they
"Especially when you want to amuse yourself by making a fool of
Mr. Farnum," retorted the downright Alice with a touch of
Valencia already half regretted having asked him. The chances were
that he would prove a bore. But she did not choose to say so. "If
I'm treading on your preserves, dear," she ventured sweetly.
"That's ridiculous," flushed Alice. "I only suggested that you
wait till after the election before chaining him to your chariot
"You're certainly an _enfant terrible_, my dear," murmured the
widow, with the little rippling laugh of cynicism her cousin found
so annoying. "But that young man does need a lesson. He's eaten up
with conceit of himself. Somebody ought to take him in hand."
"So you're going to sacrifice yourself to duty," scoffed Alice as
she brought the electric to a stop under the porte-cochere of the
Mrs. Van Tyle folded her hands demurely. "It's sweet of you to see
it that way, Alice."
James turned in at the Century Building. In the elevator he met
his cousin. Both of them were bound for the office of the
candidate being supported by the progressives for the Senate.
"Anything new?" Jeff asked.
"A rumor that Killen has fallen by the wayside. Big Tim was with
him for an hour last night at the Pacific."
"I've not been sure of Killen for quite a while. He's a weak
"He'd better not go wrong if he expects to keep on living in this
state," James imparted, a hard light in his eyes.
At the third floor they left the elevator and turned to the right
under an arch bearing the sign Hardy, Elliott & Carson. Without
knocking they passed into Hardy's private office.
Of the three men they found there it was plain that one was being
pushed doggedly to bay. He was small and insignificant, with weak
blinking eyes. Standing with his back to the wall, he moistened
his lips with the tip of his tongue.
"Who says it?" he whined shrilly. "Who says I sold out?"
An apoplectic, bull-necked ruffian stood directly in front of him
and sawed the air violently with a fat forefinger.
"I ain't sayin' it, Killen--I'm askin' if you have. What I say is
that you'd better make your will before you vote for Frome. Make
'em pay fat, for by thunder! you'll be political junk, Mr. Sam
Killen, sweating agony, turned appealingly to Jeff. "I haven't
said I was going to vote for Frome. Mr. Rawson's got no right to
bulldoze me and I'm not going to stand it."
"The hell you ain't," roared Rawson, shaking his fist at the
unhappy legislator. "I guess you'll stand the gaff till you
"Just a moment, Bob," interrupted Jeff. "Let's get at the facts.
Don't convict the prisoner till the evidence is in."
Rawson hobbled his wrath for the moment. "That's all right, Jeff.
You ask Hardy. I'm giving you straight goods."
The keen-eyed, smooth-shaven man in a gray business suit who had
been listening silently to the gathering storm contributed
information briefly and impartially.
"Mr. Killen spent an hour last night with Big Tim at the Pacific
"Sneaked in by the side entrance and took the elevator to the
seventh floor. The deal was arranged in Room 743," added Rawson.
"You spied on me," burst from Killen's lips.
"Sure thing. And we caught you with the goods," sneered the red-
"I'll not stand it. I'll not support a man that won't trust me."
"You won't, eh?" Rawson was across the floor in two jumps,
worrying his victim as a terrier does a rat. "Forget it. You were
elected to support R. K. Hardy, sewed up with a pledge tight and
fast. We're not in the primer class, Killen. Don't get a notion
you're going to do as you damn please. You'll--vote--for--R.--K.--
Hardy. Get that?"
"I refuse to be moved by threats, and I decline to discuss the
matter further," retorted Killen with a pitiable attempt at
Rawson laughed with insulting menace. "That's a good one. I've
sold out, but it's none of your business what I got. That what you
"You surely must recognize our right to an explanation, Killen,"
Jeff said gently.
"No, sir, I don't," flushed the little man with sullen bravado. "I
ain't got a thing against you, but Rawson goes too far."
"I think he does," Jeff agreed. "Killen is all right. Gentlemen,
suppose you let him and me talk it over alone. We can reach an
agreement that is satisfactory."
Hardy's face cleared. This was not the first waverer Jeff had
brought back into line, not the first by several. There was
something compelling in his friendly smile and affectionate
"I'm sure Mr. Killen intends only what is right. I'm content to
leave the matter entirely with you and him," Hardy said.
Jeff turned to Rawson. "And you, old warhorse?"
"Have it your own way, but don't forget there's a nigger in the
Jeff and Killen walked to the office of the latter, which was on
the next floor of the Century Building, the legislator stiffening
his will to resist the assaults he felt would be made upon it. But
as soon as the door was shut Jeff surprised him by laying a hand
on his shoulder.
"Tell me all about it, Sam."
Killen gasped. He got an impossible vision of young Farnum as his
brother in trouble. "About what? I didn't say--"
"I've known for a week something was wrong. I couldn't very well
ask you, but since I've blundered in you'd better let me help you
if I can."
Killen was touched. His lip trembled. "It don't do any good to
talk about things. I guess a fellow has to carry his own griefs.
Nobody else is hunting for a chance to invest in them."
"What's a friend for?" Jeff wanted to know gently.
The little man gulped. "I guess I've got no friends. Anyhow they
don't count when a fellow's in hard luck. It's every man for
The younger man's smile was warm as summer sunshine. "Wrong guess,
Sam. We're in this little old world to help each other when we
The wretched man drew the back of a trembling hand across his
moist eyes. He inhaled a long sobbing breath and broke into
apology for his weakness. "Haven't slept for a week except from
trional. The back of my head pricks day and night. Can't think of
anything but my troubles."
"Unload them on me," Jeff said lightly.
"It's that mortgage on my mill," Killen blurted out. "It falls due
this month and I can't meet it. Things haven't been going well
"Can't you get it renewed?"
"Through a dummy Big Tim has bought it up. He won't renew, unless
--" Killen broke off, to continue in a moment: "And that ain't
all. My little girl needs an operation awful badly. The doctor
says she had ought to go to Chicago. I just can't raise the
"How much is the mortgage?"
"Three thousand," replied the man; and he added with a gust of
weak despair, "My God, man! That mill's all I've got to keep bread
in the mouths of my motherless children."
"I reckon Big Tim has offered to cancel the mortgage notes and
give you about a thousand to go on," Jeff suggested casually.
Killen nodded. "It would put me on my feet again and give the
kiddie her chance." The answer had slipped out naturally, but now
the fear chilled him that he had been lured into making a
confession. "I didn't say I was going to take it," he added
"You're quite safe with me, Killen," Jeff told him. He was
wondering whether he could not get Captain Chunn to take over the
"I'm not so much struck on Hardy myself," grumbled the legislator.
"He's a rich man, just as Frome is. Six of one and half a dozen of
the other, looks like to me."
"No, Killen. Frome represents the Transcontinental and the utility
corporations. Hardy stands for the people. And you're pledged to
support Hardy. You mustn't forget that."
"I ain't likely to forget that mortgage either," Killen came back
"I think I can arrange about having the mortgage renewed. Will
"Yes. We're going to have a good year in the lumber business.
Probably in twelve months I could clear it off."
"Good! And about the little girl--she'll have her chance. I
promise you that."
The mill man wrung his hand, tears in his eyes. "You're a white
man, Jeff, and a dashed good friend. I tell you I'd hate like
poison to go back on Hardy. A fellow can't afford to do a thing
like that. But what else could I do? A fellow's got to stand by
the children he brings into the world, ain't he?"
Farnum evaded with a smile this discussion of moral issues. "Well,
you can stand by them and us, too, if I can fix up this mortgage
proposition for you."
"When will you let me know?" asked Killen anxiously.
"Will to-morrow morning do? In James' office, say."
"I'll have to know before noon," Killen reminded him, flushing
"If I can arrange to get the money--and I think I can--I'll let
you know at eleven. Don't worry, Sam. It will be all right."
The legislator shook hands again. "I ain't going to forget what
you're doing for me. No, sir!"
Jeff laughed his thanks easily. "That's all right. I reckon you
would have done as much for me. Sam Killen isn't the man to throw
his friends down."
"That's right," returned the other with a sudden valiant infusion
of courage. "I stand pat. I'm not going to lie down before the
Transcontinental. Not on your life, I ain't."
They were walking toward the outer door as Killen's speech
overflowed. "The Transcontinental doesn't own this state yet. No,
sir! Nor Frome and Merrill either. We'll show 'em--"
The valor of the big voice collapsed like a rent balloon. For the
office door had opened to let in Big Tim O'Brien. His shrewd eyes
passed with whimsical disgust over Killen and rested on Farnum.
The situation made for amusement, since Jeff knew that Big Tim had
heard over the transom enough to show that Killen's vote had been
recaptured for Hardy.
"You've stumbled on a red hot Hardy ratification meeting. Did you
come to get into the bandwagon while there is time, Tim?" Jeff
asked with twinkling eyes.
"No sinking ship for mine. I guess I wouldn't ratify yet a while
if I were youse, Farnum."
He stood aside to let the editor of the _World_ pass. Jeff
laughed. "Go to it, Tim."
"I haven't got anything to say to you, Mr. O'Brien," the mill man
announced with heightened color.
"Maybe I've got something to say to youse, Mr. Killen."
Jeff passed out smiling. "Well, I'll not interrupt you. See you
Big Tim sat down heavily in a chair and pulled from his vest
pocket a fat black cigar.
"No, thanks." The legislator spoke with stiff dignity.
Big Tim looked at the other man and his paunch shook with the
merriment that appeared to convulse him.
"What's the matter?" snapped the mill man.
"I'm laughin' at the things I see, Killen. Man, but you're an easy
"Can't you see they're stringin' youse for a sucker?"
"No, I can't see it. I've made up my mind. I'm going to stand by
"Fine! Now I'll tell youse one thing. We're goin' to elect Frome
to-morrow." O'Brien rose as one who has no time for unprofitable
talk. "Your friends have sold youse out. I'm going to call on one
of thim right now."
"I don't believe it."
"Of course you don't." Tim's projecting balcony shook with the
humor of it. "But you'll be convinced when they take your mill
from youse, me boy. It's a frame-up--and you're the goat."
With which shot he took his departure, too shrewd to attempt any
argument. He had left behind him a doubt. That was all he could do
Before Tim was out of the building Killen was gumshoeing after
him. He meant to find out whether O'Brien had been lying when he
said he was going to call on one of his friends. Fifty yards
behind him Killen followed, along Powers Avenue, down Pacific
Street, to the Equitable Building. From the pilot of one of the
elevators he learned that the big boss had got off at the seventh
floor and gone straight into James Farnum's office.
His mind was instantly alive with suspicions tumbling over each
other in chaotic incoherency. There was a deal of some kind on
foot. Jeff's cousin was in it. Then Jeff must be playing him for a
sucker. His teeth set with a snap.
Meanwhile Big Tim was having a heart to heart talk with James K.
The young lawyer had risen in surprise at the entrance of O'Brien.
The big fellow, laughing easily, had helped himself to a chair.
"Make yourself at home, Tim," he said jauntily.
"Anything I can do for you, Mr. O'Brien?" James asked with stiff
"Sure. Or I wouldn't be here. Sit down. I'll not bite ye."
The lawyer continued to stand.
"I've come to tell you that I'm a dammed fool, Mr. Farnum," the
James bowed slightly. He did not know what was coming, but he had
no intention of committing himself to anything as yet.
"In ever lettin' youse get away from me. I mistook yez for a kid
Big Tim gazed with palpable admiration at the cleancut figure, at
the square cleft chin in the strong handsome face. It was his
opinion this young man would go far, and that every step of the
way would be in the interests of James K. Farnum. Shrewdly he
guessed that the way to pierce that impassive front was through an
appeal to vanity and to selfinterest.
James waited, alert and expressionless, but O'Brien, having made
his apology, puffed in silence.
"I think you suggested some business that brought you," James
"You've got in you the makings of a big man. Nothing on the coast
to touch youse, Mr. Farnum. And I didn't see it. I was sore on
your name. That was what was bitin' me. It's sure on Big Tim this
None of the triumph that flooded Farnum reached the surface.
"I think I don't quite understand," he said quietly.
"I'm eatin' humble pie because youse slipped wan over on me.
You're the best campaign speaker in the state, bar none, boy as
James could not keep his gratified smile down. "This heart-felt
testimonial comes free, I take it," he pretended to mock.
"Come off with youse," O'Brien flung back good humoredly. "I'm not
here to hand you booquets, but to talk business. Here's the nub of
it, me boy. You need me, and I need you."
"I don't quite see how I need you, Mr. O'Brien."
"That's because you're young yet and don't know the game. Let me
tell you this." The boss leaned forward, his hard eyes focused on
Farnum. "You'll never get anywhere so long as youse trail with
that reform bunch. It's all hot air and tomfool theory. Populism
and socialism! Take my wor-rd for it, there's nothin' to 'em."
"I'm neither a populist nor a socialist, Mr. O'Brien."
"Coorse you're not. I can see that with wan eye shut. That's why I
hate to see youse ruin yourself with them that are. I've no need
to tell you that this country's run by business men and not
cranks. Me, I'm a business man, and I run the city. P. C. Frome's
a business man; so's Merrill. That's why they're on top. Old Joe
Powers is a business man from first to last. You'll never get
anywhere, me boy, until youse look at things from a business point
If James was impressed he gave no sign of it. "Which means you
want me to support P. C. for the Senate. Is that it?"
"I don't care whether you do or don't. We've got this fight won.
But this is only the beginning. I can see that. Agitators and
trouble breeders are busy iverywhere. Line up right and you've got
a big future before you. Joe Powers himself has noticed your
speeches. P. C. told me that last night."
For a moment the lawyer felt an exultant paeon of victory beat in
his blood. His imagination saw the primrose path of the future
stretch before him in a golden glow. The surge of triumph passed
and he was himself again, cool and wary. His eyes met Big Tim's
full and straight. "I was elected to support Hardy. I expect to
stay with him."
The political boss waved aside this declaration. "Sure. Of course
you've got to VOTE for him. I've got too much horse sense to try
to buy YOU. But after this election? Your whole future's not tied
up with fool reformers, is it? Say, what's the matter with you
havin' a talk with P. C.?"
"Oh, I'll talk with him. P. C. and I are good friends."
"When can you see him? Why not to-night?"
"No hurry, is there?" James paused an instant before he added:
"I'm going to The Brakes this afternoon on a social call. If
Frome happens to be at home we might talk then. So far as making a
direct appointment with him, I wouldn't care to do that until the
senatorial election is decided. You understand that I pledge
myself to nothing."
"That's right," agreed Big Tim. "It don't do any harm to hear both
sides of a proposition. I guess that cousin o' yours kind of
hypnotized you. He's got more fool schemes for redeemin' this
state. Far as I can see it don't need any redeemin'. It's loaded
to the rails with prosperity and clippin' off its sixty miles an
hour. I say, let well enough alone. Where youse keep your matches,
Mr. Farnum? Thanks! Well, talk it over with P. C. I reckon you can
get together. So long, me boy."
Not until he was safe in the street did the big boss of Verden
allow his satisfaction expression.
"We've got him! We've got the boob hooked!" he told himself
A little man standing behind a showcase was watching him tensely.
"Man is for woman made,
And woman made for man
As the spur is for the jade,
As the scabbard for the blade,
As for liquor is the can,
So man's for woman made,
And woman made for man."
THE HERO STUDIES THE MONA LISA SMILE IN ITS PROPER SETTING.
INCIDENTALLY, HE MEETS AN EMPIRE BUILDER
Since James was not courting observation he took as inconspicuous
a way as possible to The Brakes. He was irritably conscious of the
incongruity of his elaborate afternoon dress with the habits of
democratic Verden, which had been too busy "boosting" itself into
a great city, or at least one in the making, to have found time to
establish as yet a leisure class.
Leaving the car at the entrance to Lakeview Park, he cut across it
by sinuous byways where madronas and alders isolated him from the
twilit green of the open lawn. Though it was still early the soft
winter dusk of the Pacific Northwest was beginning to render
objects indistinct. This perhaps may have been the reason he
failed to notice the skulking figure among the trees that dogged
him to his destination.
James laughed at himself for the exaggerated precaution he took to
cover a perfectly defensible action. Why shouldn't he visit at the
house of P. C. Frome? Entirely clear as to his right, he yet
preferred his call not to become a matter of public gossip. For he
did not need to be told that there would be ugly rumors if it
should get out that Big Tim had called at his office for a
conference and he had subsequently been seen going to The Brakes.
Dunderheads not broad enough to separate social from political
intercourse would be quick to talk unpleasantly about it.
Deflecting from the path into a carriage driveway, he came through
a woody hollow to the rear of The Brakes. The grounds were
spacious, rolling toward the road beyond in a falling sweep of
wellkept lawn. He skirted the green till he came to a "raveled
walk that zig-zagged up through the grass, leaving to the left the
rough fern-clad bluff that gave the place its name.
The man who let him in had apparently received his instructions,
for he led Farnum to a rather small room in the rear of the big
house. Its single occupant was reclining luxuriantly among a
number of pillows on a lounge. From her lips a tiny spiral of
smoke rose like incense to the ceiling. James was conscious of a
little ripple of surprise as he looked down upon the copper crown
of splendid hair above which rested the thin nimbus of smoke. He
had expected a less intimate reception.
But the astonishment had been sponged from his face before
Valencia Van Tyle rose and came forward, cigarette in hand.
"You did find time."
"Was it likely I wouldn't?"
"How should I know?" her little shrug seemed to say with an
indifference that bordered on insolence.
James was piqued. After all then she had not opened to him the
door to her friendship. She was merely amusing herself with him as
a provincial _pis aller._
Perhaps she saw his disappointment, for she added with a touch of
warmth: "I'm glad you came. Truth is, I'm bored to death of
"Then I ought to be welcome, for if I don't exorcise the devils of
ennui you can now blame me."
"I shall. Try that big chair, and one of these Egyptians."
He helped himself to a cigarette and lit up as casually as if he
had been in the habit of smoking in the lounging rooms of the
ladies he knew. She watched him sink lazily into the chair and let
his glance go wandering over the room. In his face she read the
indolent sense of pleasure he found in sharing so intimately this
sanctum of her more personal life.
The room was a bit barbaric in its warmth of color, as barbaric as
was the young woman herself in spite of her super-civilization.
The walls, done in an old rose, were gilded and festooned to meet
a ceiling almost Venetian in its scheme of decoration. Pink
predominated in the brocaded tapestries and in the rugs, and the
furniture was a luxurious modern compromise with the Louis Quinze.
There were flowers in profusion--his gaze fell upon the American
Beauties he had sent an hour or two ago--and a disorder of popular
magazines and French novels. Farnum did not need to be told that
the room was as much an exotic as its mistress.
"You think?" her amused voice demanded when his eyes came back to
her. "that the room seems made especially for you."
She volunteered information. "My uncle gave me a free hand to
arrange and decorate it."
As he looked at her, smoking daintily in the fling of the fire
glow, every inch the pampered heiress of the ages, his blood
quickened to an appreciation of the sensuous charm of sex she
breathed forth so indifferently. The clinging crepe-de-chine--
except in public she did not pretend even to a conventional
mourning for the scamp whose name she bore lent accent to her
soft, rounded curves, and the slow, regular rise and fall of her
breathing beneath the filmy lace promised a perfect fullness of
bust and throat. He was keenly responsive to the physical allure
of sex, and Valencia Van Tyle was endowed with more than her share
of magnetic aura.
"You have expressed yourself. It's like you," he said with
Her tawny eyes met his confident appraisal ironically. "Indeed!
You know then what I am like?"
"One uses his eyes, and such brains as heaven has granted him," he
"And what am I like?" she asked indolently.
"I'm hoping to know that better soon--I merely guess now."
"They say all women are egoists--and some men." She breathed her
soft inscrutable ripple of laughter. "Let me hasten to confess,
and crave a picture of myself."
"But the subject deserves an artist," he parried.
"He's afraid," she murmured to the fire. "He makes and unmakes
senators--this Warwick; but he's afraid of a girl."
James lit a fresh cigarette in smiling silence.
"He has met me once--twice--no, three times," she meditated aloud.
"But he knows what I'm like. He boasts of his divination and when
one puts him to the test he repudiates."
"All I should have claimed is that I know I don't know what you
"Which is something," she conceded.
"It's a good deal," he claimed for himself. "It shows a beginning
of understanding. And--given the opportunity--I hope to know
more." He questioned of her eyes how far he might go. "It's the
incomprehensible that lures. It piques interest and lends magic.
Behind those eyelids a little weary all the subtle hidden meaning
of the ages shadows. The gods forbid that I should claim to hold
the answer to the eternal mystery of woman."
"Dear me! I ask for a photograph and he gives me a poem," she
mocked, touching an electric button.
"I try merely to interpret the poem."
She looked at him under lowered lids with a growing interest. Her
experience had not warranted her in hoping that he would prove
worth while. It would be clear gain if he were to disappoint her
"I think I have read somewhere that the function of present-day
criticism is to befog the mind and blur the object criticised."
He considered an answer, but gave it up when a maid appeared with
a tray, and after a minute of deft arrangement disappeared to
return with the added paraphernalia that goes to the making and
consuming of afternoon tea.
James watched in a pleasant content the easy grace with which the
flashing hands of his hostess manipulated the brew. Presently she
flung open a wing of the elaborate cellaret that stood near and
disclosed a gleaming array of cut-glass decanters. Her fingers
hovered over them.
"Think I'll take my tea straight just as you make it."
"Most Western men don't care for afternoon tea. You should hear my
father on the subject."
"I can imagine him." He smiled. "But if he has tried it with you I
should think he'd be converted."
She laughed at him in the slow tantalizing way that might mean
anything or nothing. "I absolve you of the necessity of saying
pretty things. Instead, you may continue that portrait you were
drawing when the maid interrupted."
"It's a subject I can't do justice."
She laughed disdainfully. "I thought it was time for the flattery.
As if I couldn't extort that from any man. It's the A B C of our
education. But the truth about one's self--the unpalatable, bitter
truth--there's a sting of unexpected pleasure in hearing that
"And do you get that pleasure often?"
"Not often. Men are dreadful cowards, you know. My father is about
the only man who dares tell it to me."
Farnum put down his cup and studied her. She was leaning back with
her fingers laced behind her head. He wondered whether she knew
with what effectiveness the posture set off her ripe charms--the
fine modeling of the full white throat, the perfect curves of the
dainty arms bare to the elbows, the daring set of the tawny,
tilted head. A spark glowed in his eyes.
"Far be it from me to deny you an accessible pleasure, though I
sacrifice myself to give it. But my sketch must be merely
subjective. I draw the picture as I see it."
She sipped her tea with an air of considering the matter. "You
promise at least a family likeness, with not an ugly wrinkle of
character smoothed away."
"I don't even promise that. For how am I to know what meaning
lurks behind that subtle, shadowy smile? There's irony in it--and
scorn--and sensuous charm--but back of them all is the great
"He's off," she derided slangily.
"And that enigma is the complex YOU I want to learn. Of course
you're a specialized type, a product of artistic hothouse
propagation. You're so exquisite in your fastidiousness that to be
near you is a luxury. Simplicity and you have not a bowing
acquaintance. One looks to see your most casual act freighted with
intentions not obvious."
"The poor man thinks I invited him here to propose to him," she
told the fire gravely, stretching out her little slippered feet
He laughed. "I'm not so presumptuous. You wouldn't aim at such
small game. You would be quite capable of it if you wanted to, but
you don't. But I'm devoured with curiosity to know why you asked
me, though of course I shan't find out."
Her narrowed eyes swept him with amusement. "If I knew myself!
Alice says it was to make a fool of you. I don't think she is
right. But if she is I'm in to score a failure. You're too
coolheaded and--" She stopped, her eyes sparkling with the daring
of her unvoiced suggestion.
"Say it," he nodded.
"--and selfish to be anybody's fool. Perhaps I asked you just in
the hope you might prove interesting."
He got up and stood with his arm on the mantel. From his superior
height he looked down on her dainty insolent perfection, answering
not too seriously the challenge of her eyes. No matter what she
meant--how much or how little she was wonderfully attractive. The
provocation of the mocking little face lured mightily.
"I am going to prove interested at any rate. Let's hope it may be
a preliminary to being interesting."
"But it never does. Symptoms of too great interest bore one. I
enjoy more the men who are impervious to me. Now there's my
father. He comes nearer understanding me than anybody else, but
he's quite adamantine to my wiles."
"I shall order a suit of chain armor at once."
"An unnecessary expense. Your emotions are quite under control,"
she told him saucily.
"I wish I were as sure."
"I thought you promised to be interesting," she complained.
"Now you're afraid I'm going to make love to you. Let me relieve
your mind. I'm not."
"I knew you wouldn't be so stupid," she assured him.
"No objection to my admiring your artistic effect at a distance,
as a spectator in a gallery?"
"I shall expect that," she rippled.
"Just as one does a picture too expensive to own."
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