The Vision Splendid The Vision Spendid
William MacLeod Raine
Part 5 out of 5
The muscles stood out on Jeff's lean jaw. James was a subject he
could not yet discuss. "We're nailing the No Compromise flag to
our masthead, Jenkins. We've got to prevent them from forcing
through Garman's bill to-morrow. After that every day will be in
our favor. Unless I'm mistaken the state will waken up as it never
has before. The people will see how nearly they've been euchred
out of what they want."
Jenkins came bluntly to another point. "This story would carry a
lot more weight if those charges made against your character by
the other papers had been answered."
"Then we'll answer them."
The night editor looked at him dubiously. "They've got four
affidavits to back their story."
"Only four?" A gay smile was dancing in Jeff's eyes.
"Both the _Herald_ and the _Advocate_ have been playing it strong.
Every day they rehash the story and challenge a denial."
"It will all be free advertising for us if we can make them eat
"If we can!" Jenkins did not see how any effective answer was
possible and he knew that in the present state of public opinion
an unsupported bluff would be fatal.
"How would this do for a starter?"
Jeff handed him two typewritten sheets. The night editor read them
through. He looked straight at Jeff.
"Can you back this up?"
"But--what about those affidavits?"
Farnum grinned. "We'll take care of them when we come to them."
"It's your funeral," Jenkins admitted.
The whole front page of the _World_ next morning was filled with
the Farnum story. As part of it there were interviews with Alice
Frome, with Captain Barclay, and with other passengers. The deadly
note from O'Brien to Green of the _Nancy Hanks_ occupied the
place usually held by the cartoon. Beneath it, exactly in the
center of the page, was a leaded box with the caption "A
Challenge." It ran as follows:
The editor of the _World_ does not think his reputation important
enough to protect it at the expense of a woman. Yet he denies
absolutely the import of the charges made by the _Herald_ and the
_Advocate._ That the matter may be forever set at rest the _World_
challenges the papers named to a searching investigation. It
(1) That the names of five representative citizens of Verden be
submitted to Governor Hawley by each of the three papers, and that
from this number be select a committee of five to sift thoroughly
(2) That the meetings of the committee be held in secret, no
members of the press being admitted, and that those composing it
pledge themselves never to divulge the names of any witnesses who
may appear to give evidence;
(3) That the _Herald,_ the _Advocate,_ and the _World_ severally
agree to print on the front page for a week the findings of the
committee as soon as received and exactly as received, without any
editorial or other comment whatsoever.
By the decision of this committee Jefferson Farnum pledges himself
to abide. If found guilty, he will at once resign from the
editorial charge of the _World_ and will leave Verden forever.
The practical man is the man who knows what can't be done. When he
begins to let hope take the place of information in this regard,
he becomes a conservative. When prejudice takes the place of hope,
the mere conservative graduates into a tory, or a justice of the
supreme court. It's all a matter of the chemistry of substitution.
THE SAFE MAN FURNISHES DIVERSION
For once the machine had overplayed its hand. Caught unexpectedly
by Jeff's return, no effective counter attack was possible. Dunn's
story in the _World_ swept the city and the state like wildfire.
It was a crouched dramatic narrative and its effect was telling.
From it only one inference could be drawn. The big corporations,
driven to the wall, had attempted a desperate coup to save the
day. It was all very well for Big Tim to file a libel suit. The
mind of the public was made up.
The mass meeting at the State House drew an enormous crowd, one so
great that overflow meetings had to be held. Every corridor in the
building was full of excited jostling people. They poured into the
gallery of the Senate room and packed the rear of the floor
itself. Against such a demonstration the upper house did not dare
pass the Garman bill immediately. It was held over for a few days
to give the public emotion a chance to die. Instead, the
resentment against machine and corporate domination grew more
bitter. Stinging resolutions from the back counties were wired to
members who had backslidden. Committees of prominent citizens from
up state and across the mountains arrived at Verden for heart-to-
heart talks with the assemblymen from their districts.
At a hurried meeting of the managers of the public utilities
companies it was decided that the challenge of the _World_ must
be accepted. For many who had believed in the total depravity of
Jefferson Farnum were beginning to doubt. Unless the man's
character could be impeached successfully the day was lost. And
with four witnesses against him how could the trouble maker
The committee of investigation consisted of Senator Frome; Clinton
Rogers, the shipbuilder; Thomas Elliott, a law partner of Hardy;
James Moran, a wholesale wheat shipper, and the leading clergyman
of Verden. It sat behind locked doors, adjourning from one office
to another to obtain secrecy.
For the defense appeared as witnesses Marchant, Miller, Mrs.
Anderson and Nellie. To doubt the truth of the young wife's story
was impossible. The agony of shyness and shame that flushed her,
the simple broken words of her little tragedy, bore the stamp of
minted gold. It was plain to see that she was a victim of
betrayal, being slowly won back to love of life by her husband and
The committee in its report told the facts briefly without giving
names. Even P. C. Frome could find no excuse for not signing it.
The effect was instantaneous. On this one throw the machine had
staked everything. That it had lost was now plain. In a day Jeff
was the hero of Verden, of the state at large. His long fight for
reform, the dramatic features of the shanghaing and his return,
the collapse of the charges against his character, all contributed
to lift him to dizzy popularity. He was the very much embarrassed
man of the hour.
All the power of the Transcontinental, of the old city hall gang,
of the money that had been spent to corrupt the legislature, was
unable to roll back the tide of public determination. White-faced
assemblymen sneaked into offices at midnight to return the bribe
money for which they dared not deliver the goods. Two days after
the report of the investigating committee Jeff's bill passed the
Senate. Within three hours it was signed by Governor Hawley. That
it would be ratified by a vote of the people and so become a part
of the state constitution was a foregone conclusion.
Jeff and his friends had forged the first of the tools they needed
to rescue the government of the state from the control of the
In the days following her return to Verden Alice Frome devoured
the newspapers as she never had before. They were full of the
dramatic struggle between Jeff Farnum and the forces which
hitherto had controlled the city and state. To her the battle was
personal. It centered on the attacks made upon the character of
her friend and his pledge to refute them.
When she read in the _Advocate_ the report of the committee Alice
wept. It was like her friend, she thought, to risk his reputation
for some poor lost wanderer of the streets. Another man might have
done it for the girl he loved or for the woman he had married. But
with Jeff it would be for one of the least of these. There flashed
into her mind an old Indian proverb she had read. "I met a hundred
men on the road to Delhi, and they were all my brothers." Yes!
None were too deep sunk in the mire to be brothers and sisters to
Ever since her return Alice had known herself in disgrace with her
father and that small set in which she moved. Her part in the big
_World_ story had been "most regrettable." It was felt that in
letting her name be mentioned beside that of one who was a
thoroughly disreputable vagabond she had compromised her
exclusiveness and betrayed the cause of her class. Her friends
recalled that Alice had always been a queer girl.
Her father and Ned Merrill agreed over a little luncheon at the
Verden Club that girls were likely to lose themselves in
sentimental foolishness and that the best way to stop such
nonsense was for one to get married to a safe man. Pending this
desirable issue she ought to be diverted by pleasant amusements.
The safe man offered to supply these.
The farthest thing from Merrill's thoughts had been to discuss
with her the confounded notions she had somehow absorbed. The
thing to do, of course, was to ignore them and assume everything
was all right. After all, of what importance were the opinions of
a girl about practical things?
How the thing cropped up he did not afterward remember, but at the
thirteenth green he found himself mentioning that all reformers
were out of touch with facts. They were not practical.
The smug finality of his verdict nettled her. This may or may not
have been the reason she sliced her ball, quite unnecessarily. But
it was probably due to her exasperation at the wasted stroke that
she let him have it.
"I'm tired of that word. It means to be suicidally selfish.
There's not another word in the language so abused."
"Didn't catch the word that annoys you," the young man smiled.
"Practical! You used it yourself. It means to tear down and not
build up, to be so near-sighted you can't see beyond your reach.
Your practical man is the least hopeful member of the community.
He stands only for material progress. His own, of course!"
"You sound like a Farnum editorial, Alice."
"Do I?" she flashed. "Then I'll give you the rest of it. He--your
practical man--is rutted to class traditions. This would not be
good form or respectable. That would disturb the existing order.
So let's all do nothing and agree that all's well with the world."
Merrill greeted this outburst with a complacent smile. "It's a
pretty good world. I haven't any fault to find with it--not this
But Alice, serious with young care and weighted with the problems
of a universe, would have none of his compliments.
"Can't you see that there's a--a " She groped and found a fugitive
phrase Jeff had once used--"a want of adjustment that is
"It doesn't appall me. I believe in the survival of the fittest."
Her eyes looked at him with scornful penetration. They went
through the well-dressed, broad-shouldered exterior of him, to see
a suave, gracious Pharisee of the modern world. He believed in the
God-of-things-as-they-are because he was the man on horseback. He
was a formalist because it paid him to be one. That was why he and
his class looked on any questioning of conditions as almost
atheistic. They were born to the good things of life. Why should
they doubt the ethics of a system that had dealt so kindly with
She gave him up. What was the use of talking about such things to
him? He had the sense of property ingrained in him. The last thing
he would be likely to do was to let any altruistic ideas into his
head. He would play safe. Wasn't he a practical man?
She devoted herself to the game. To see her play was a pleasure to
the eye. The long lines and graceful curves of her supple young
body never appeared to better advantage than at golf. Her motions
showed the sylvan freedom of the woods. Ned Merrill appreciated
the long, light tread of her, the harmony of movement as of a
perfect young animal, together with the fine spiritual quality
that escaped her personality so unconsciously.
At the fifteenth hole he continued her education. "This country is
founded upon individualism. It stands for the best chance of
development possible to all its citizens. When you hamper
enterprise you stop that development."
She took him up dryly. "I see. So you and father and Uncle Joe
have developed your individualism at the expense of a million
other people's. You have gobbled up franchises, forests, ore
lands, coal mines, and every other opportunity worth having. As a
result you're making them your slaves and crushing out all
"Not at all. We're really custodians for the people. We administer
these things for their benefit because we are more fit to do it."
"How do you know you are?"
"The very fact that we have succeeded in getting what we have is
evidence of it."
"All I can see is that our getting it and keeping it--you and I
and Uncle Joe and a thousand like us--is responsible for all the
poverty in the world. We're helping to make it every time we eat a
dinner we didn't work to get."
Alice made a beautiful approach that landed her ball within four
feet of the hole. Presently Merrill joined her.
"That was a dandy shot," he told her, and watched Alice hole out.
"I don't agree with you. For instance, I work as hard as other
"But you're not working for the common good."
His impatience reached words. "That sort of talk is nonsense,
Alice. I don't know what has come over you of late."
She smiled provokingly and changed the subject. Why argue with
him? The slant with which they got at things was different. Like
her father, he had the mental rigidity that is death to open-
Briskly she returned to small talk. "You're only three up."
On their way back to the club house the safe man recurred to one
phase of their talk.
"You ought not to need any telling as to why I work, Alice."
She shot one swift annoyed glance at him. When Ned Merrill tried
the sentimental she liked him least.
"Oh, all men like to work, I suppose. Uncle Joe says it's half the
fun of life."
"Most men work for some woman. I'm working for you," he told her
A little giggle of laughter floated across to him.
"What are you laughing about?" he demanded.
"Oh, the things I notice. Just now it's you, Ned."
"If you'll explain the joke."
"You wouldn't understand it. Dear me, what are you so stiff
Merrill brought things to an issue. "Look here, Alice! What's the
use of playing fast and loose? I'd like to know where we're at."
"Yes, I would. You know all about the arrangement just as well as
I do. I haven't pushed you. I've stood back and let you have your
good times. Don't you think it's about time for us to talk
"Just as soon as you like, Ned."
"Well, then, let's announce it."
"That we're not engaged to be married and never will be! Is that
what you want to announce?"
He flushed angrily. "What's the use of talking that way? You know
it has been arranged for years."
"I'm not going through with it. I told Father so. The thing is
outrageous," she flamed.
"I don't see why. Our people want it. We are fond of each other. I
never cared for any girl but you."
"Let's stick to the business reasons, Ned."
"Hang it, you're so acid about it! I do care for you "
Her dry anger spurted out. "That's unfortunate, since I don't care
"I know you do. Just now you're vexed at me."
"Yes, I am," she admitted, nodding her head swiftly. "But it
doesn't make any difference whether I am or not. I've made up my
mind. I'm not going through with it."
"I didn't, not in so many words. And I was pushed into it. None of
you gave me a fair chance. But I'll not go on with it."
"Because I'm an American girl, and here we don't have to marry to
amalgamate business interests. I won't do it. I'd rather be " She
gave a little shrug of her shoulders. The passion died out of her
voice. "Oh, well! No need getting melodramatic about it. Just the
same, I won't do it. My mind's made up."
"A pretty figure I'll cut, after all these years," he complained
sulkily. "Everyone will know you jilted me."
Alice turned to him, mischief sparkling in her eyes. "I wouldn't
stand it if I were you. Show your spunk."
He stared. "What do you mean?"
"Why don't you jilt ME?"
Her head went up and down in a dozen little nods of affirmation.
"Yes. Marry Pauline Gillam. You know you'd like to, but you
haven't had the courage to give me up. Now that you've got to give
me up anyhow--"
"I'm very much obliged, Miss Frome. But I don't think it will be
necessary for you to select another wife for me."
"Have you been married once. I didn't know it."
"You know what I mean?" He was stiff as a poker.
"I believe I do." She was in a perfectly good humor again now.
"But you better take my advice, Ned. Think what a joke it will be
on me. Everybody will say you could have had me."
"We'll not discuss the subject if you please."
Nevertheless Alice knew that she had dropped a seed on good
Now poor Tom Dunstan's cold,
Our shop is duller;
Scarce a tale is told,
And our talk has lost the old
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
'She's coming, she's coming!' said he;
'Courage, boys I wait and see!
THE HERO IS LURED TO AN ADVENTURE INTO THE UNCONVENTIONAL AND
HEARS MUCH THAT IS PAINFUL TO A WELL-REGULATED MIND
Near the close of a fine spring afternoon James Farnum and Alice
Frome were walking at the lower end of Powers Avenue. In the
conventional garb he affected since he had become a man of
substance the lawyer might have served as a model of fashion to
any aspiring youth. His silk hat, his light trousers, the double-
breasted coat which enfolded his manly form, were all of the
latest design. The weather, for a change, was behaving itself so
as not to soil the chaste glory of Solomon thus displayed. There
had been rain and would be more, but just now they passed through
a dripping world shot full of sunlight.
"Of course I'm no end flattered at being allowed to go with you.
But I'm dying of curiosity to know where we are going."
The young woman gave James her beguiling smile. "We're going to
call on a sick man. I'm taking you along as chaperon. You needn't
be flattered at all. You're merely a convenience, like a hat pin
or an umbrella."
"But I'm not sure this is proper. Now as your chaperone--"
"You're not that kind of a chaperon, Mr. Farnum. You haven't any
privileges. Nothing but duties. Unless it's a privilege to be
chosen. That gives you a chance to say something pretty."
They crossed Yarnell Way. James, looking around upon the wrecks of
humanity they began to meet, was very sure that he did not enjoy
this excursion. An adventure with Miss Frome outside of the
conventions was the very thing he did not want. What in the world
did the girl mean anyhow? Her vagaries were beginning to disturb
her relatives. So much he had gathered from Valencia.
Before he had got as far as a protest Alice turned in to the
entrance of a building and climbed a flight of stairs. She pushed
a button. A woman of rather slatternly appearance came to the
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Maloney. I've come to see how Mr. Marchant
The landlady brushed into place some flying strands of hair.
"Well, now, Miss Frome, he's better to-day. The nurse is with him.
If you'll jist knock at the door 'twill be all right."
While they were in the passage James interposed an objection. "My
dear Miss Frome, I really don't think--"
She interrupted brightly. "I'm glad you don't. You're not expected
to, you know. I'm commanding this expedition. Yours not to answer
why. Yours but to do and die." And she knocked on the door of the
room at which they had stopped.
It was opened by a nurse in uniform. James observed that she, too,
like Mrs. Maloney, brightened at sight of the visitor.
"Mr. Marchant will be pleased to see you, Miss Frome."
He was. His gladness illuminated the white face through the skin
of which the cheek bones appeared about to emerge. A thin blue-
veined hand shot forward to meet hers.
"Oh, comrade, but I'm glad to meet you."
"I think you know Mr. Farnum."
The man propped up in bed nodded a little grin at the lawyer.
"We've met. It was years ago in Jeff's rooms."
"Oh--er--yes. Yes, I remember."
Presently Jeff and Sam Miller dropped in to see the invalid. From
chance remarks the lawyer gathered that the little cobbler had
brought himself so low by giving his overcoat one bitter night to
a poor girl he had found shivering in the streets.
The frankness with which they discussed before Alice Frome things
never referred to in good society shocked James.
It appeared that the story of this little factory girl who had
been led astray was still urgent in Marchant's mind. At the time
of their arrival he had just finished scribbling some verses hot
from his heart. Jeff read them aloud, in spite of the poet's
modest insistence that they were only a first draft.
"This is a story that two may tell,
I am the one, the other's in hell;
A story of passionate amorous fire,
With the glamor of love to attune the lyre.
She traveled the road at breakneck speed,
I opened the gates and saddled the steed;
"Ride free!" I cried as we dashed along.
Her sweet voice echoed a mocking song."
"'Fraid it doesn't always scan. They seldom do," apologized the
author of the verses.
Jeff rapped for order. "The sense of the meeting is that the
blushing poet will please not interrupt."
"Nights of the wildest revel and mirth,
Days of sorrow, remorse, and dearth,
A heaven of love and a hell of regret--
But there's always the woman to pay my debt.
'Sin,' says the preacher, 'shall be washed free,
The blood of the Lamb was shed for thee.'
Smugly I pass the sacred wine,
The woman in hell pays toll for mine.
'I am a pillar of Church and State,
She but the broken sport of Fate;
This is a story that two may tell,
I am the one, the other's in hell.'"
There was a moment's silence after Jeff had finished.
"What are you going to call your verses?" the nurse asked.
"I'll call them, 'She Pays.' That's the idea of it."
James was distinctly uneasy. There was positively something
indecent about this. He had an aversion to thinking about
unpleasant things. Every well-regulated mind ought to have. He
would like to make a protest, but he could not very well do that
here. He promised himself to let Alice Frome know as soon as they
were alone what he thought about her escapades into this world
below the dead line.
He moved uncomfortably in his chair, and in doing so his gaze fell
full into the eyes of Sam Miller. The fat librarian was staring at
him out of a very white face. Before James could break the spell
an unvoiced question had been asked and answered.
Marchant was already riding the hobby that was religion to him.
"Four dollars a week. That's what she was getting. And her
employer is worth two millions. Think of it. All her youth to be
sold for four dollars a week. Just enough to keep body and soul
together. And when she went to the head of her department to ask
for a raise he leered at her and said a good looking girl like her
could always find someone to take care of her. Eight months she
stuck it out, getting more ragged every day. Then enter the man,
offering her some comfort and pleasure and love. Do you blame
"You must give me her address," Alice said softly.
Oscar nodded. "Good enough, comrade. Jeff has looked out for her,
but she needs a woman friend." With a sweep of the hand he went
back to the impersonal. "Her trouble was economic, just as ours
is. Look at it. We've got a perfect self-regulating system that
adjusts itself automatically to bring hard times when we're most
prosperous. Give us big crops and boom times, and we head straight
for a depression. Why?" He interrupted himself with a fit of
coughing, but presently began again, talking also with his swift
supple hands. "Because then the foreign market will be glutted.
Surplus goods won't sell abroad. The manufacturer, unable to
dispose of his produce, will cut down his force or close his
plant. Labor, out of work, cannot buy. So every branch of industry
suffers because we're too well off. It's a vicious absurd circle
born of the system under which we live. Under socialism the remedy
would be merely to work less for a time until the surplus was
used. It would affect nobody injuriously. The whole thing's as
simple as A B C."
It had been plain to the first casual glance of James that the
little Socialist was far gone. The amazing thing was the eagerness
with which his spirit dominated the body in such ill case. He was
alive to the fingertips, though he was already in the Valley of
the Shadow. To the lawyer there was something eerie about it all.
Marchant was done with the business of living. Why didn't he lie
down and accept the verdict?
But to Alice it was God-like, a thing to stand uncovered before.
His remedies might be all wrong. Probably they were. None the less
his vital courage for life took her by the throat.
Jeff nodded at the invalid cheerfully. "We're going to change all
that, Oscar. Into this little old world a new soul is being born.
Or perhaps the old soul is being born again."
The Socialist caught at this swiftly. "Yes, we're going to change
this terrible waste of human lives. I see a new world, where men
will live like brothers and not like wolves rending each other.
There poverty will be blotted out . . . and disease and all mean
and cruel things that hamper and destroy life. Law and justice
will walk hand in hand through a land of peace and plenty. Our
cities, the expression of our social life, will be clean and sunny
and beautiful because the lives of the common people are so. There
strong men and deep-breasted women will work for the joy of
working, since all is for the common good. Their children will be
free and happy and well fed . . . yes, and equal to each other.
From that highly socialized state, because it is tied together by
love, will come that restrained freedom which is the most perfect
The nurse forced him gently back upon the pillows. "There! You've
talked enough to-day."
He lay coughing, a hectic flush above the high cheek bones.
Presently, at a look from the nurse, his guests departed.
Outside the building Miller left the rest abruptly. Flanked by the
two cousins, Alice crossed Yarnell Way back to that world to which
she had always belonged.
James laid down the law to her concerning the folly of such
excursions into the unconventional. Alice listened. She discovered
that his viewpoint was exactly like that of Ned Merrill. Any
deviation from the conventional was a mistake. Any attempt to
escape from existing conditions was a form of treason. Trade,
property, business, respectability, good form; these were the
shibboleth they worshipped. It was just because she did not want
to believe this of James Farnum that she had taken him with her to
call on Marchant. It was in a sense a test, and he was answering
it by showing himself complacently callous and hidebound.
Surely he had not always been like this, a smug and well-clad
Pharisee, afraid to look at the truth. In those early days, when
they had been friends, with the possibility of being a good deal
more, there had been an impetuous touch of ardor she could no
longer find. Her cool glance ran down his figure. The man was
taking on flesh, the plump well-fed look of one who has escaped
moral conduct by giving up the fight. Fat cushioned the square jaw
and detracted from its strength. For the first time she observed a
hardening of the eye. The visible deterioration of an inner
collapse was being writ on him.
Alice sighed. After all she might have spared herself the trouble.
He had chosen his path and he must follow it.
At the corner of Powers Avenue and Van Ault Street James left
them. It was natural that the talk should revert to Marchant.
"Oscar finds your visits a very great pleasure," Jeff told her.
"The dear madman!" Her eyes were shining softly. "Isn't he brave
Both of them were thinking how soon the arm of that unseen God of
love and law he worshipped would enfold him.
Alice smiled tenderly, and for the moment the street in front of
her danced in a mist. "And his perfect state! Shall we ever
"We must hope so. Perhaps not in the form he sees it, but in the
way we work it out through a species of evolution. Think of the
progress we have made in the last five years. How many dark
corners in the long disused houses of our minds have been flooded
"Yes. Why have we made more progress in the past few years?"
Jeff's eyes held a gleam of humor. "This is a big country with
enormous resources. There used to be room for all the most active
plunderers to grab something. But lately the grabbing hasn't been
so good. We have discoveredthat the most powerful robbers are
doing their snatching from us. So we've suffered a moral
"You don't believe that," she said quickly.
"There's a good deal in the bread and butter interpretation of
history. The push of life, its pressure, drives us to think. Out
of thought grow new hopes and a broader vision."
"Pretty soon the thought will flood the world that we make our own
poverty, that God and nature have nothing to do with it. After
that we'll proceed to eliminate it."
"By means of Mr. Marchant's perfect state?"
"Not by any revolution of an hour probably. Society cannot change
its nature in a day. We'll pass gradually from our present state
to a better one, the new growing out of the old by generations of
progress. But I think we will pass into a form of socialism. It
will be necessary to repress the predatory instinct in us that has
grown strong under the present system. I don't much care whether
you call it democracy or socialism. We must recognize how
interdependent we are and work together for the common good."
They had come to the car line that would take her home. Up the
hill a trolley car was coming.
"May I not see you home?" Jeff dared to ask.
They left the car at Lakeview Park and crossed it to The Brakes.
Every step of that walk led Jeff deeper into an excursion of
endearment. It was amazingly true that he trod beside her an
acknowledged friend, a secret lover. The turn of her head, the
shadowy smile bubbling into laughter, the gracious undulations of
the body, indeed the whole dear delight of her presence, belonged
for that hour to him alone.
Many a man has kept his self-respect through a long lifetime of
decalog breaking, only to go to smash like a crushed eggshell when
he commits the crime of being found out.
--From the Note Book of a Dreamer.
THE HERO IS PAINED TO FIND THAT EVEN IN A WELL-REGULATED WORLD THE
GODS ARE JUST, AND OF OUR PLEASANT VICES MAKE INSTRUMENTS TO
Going back across the park Jeff trod the hilltops. He was not
thinking about society, except that small unit of it represented
by a slender, golden girl who had just bidden him good-bye. And
because his heart sang within him his footsteps turned toward the
office of his cousin. There had been between them of late an
estrangement. Since the lawyer had been appointed general attorney
for the Transcontinental and had formed a partnership with Scott,
thus bringing to the firm the business of the public utility
corporations, James had not found much time for Jeff. He was a
member of the most important law firm on the Pacific Coast, judged
by the business it was doing, and he had definitely cut loose
politically from his former associates. His cousin blamed himself
for the change in their personal relations, and he meant to bring
things back to the old basis if he could.
It was past office hours, but a light in the window of the junior
member's private office gave promise that James might be in.
Leaving the elevator at the fourth floor, he walked down the
corridor toward the suite occupied by the firm.
Before he reached the door Jeff stopped. Something unusual was
happening within. There came to him the sounds of shuffling feet,
of furniture being smashed, of an angry oath. Almost at once there
was a thud, as if something heavy had fallen. The listener judged
that a live body was thrashing around actively. The impact of
blows, a heavy grunt, a second stifled curse, decided Farnum.
Pushing through the outer office, he entered the one usually
occupied by James.
Two men were on the floor, one astride of the other. The man on
top was driving home heavy jarring blows against his opponent's
face and head. Jeff ran forward and dragged him away.
"Good heavens, Sam! What's the matter?" his friend demanded in
Miller waited panting, his fists still doubled, the lust of battle
in his eyes.
"The damned cad! The damned cad!" was all he could get out.
From the floor James Farnum was rising. His forehead, his cheek,
and his lips were bleeding from cuts. One of his eyes was closing
rapidly. There was a dogged look of fear in the battered face.
"I tripped over a chair, he explained, glaring at his foe.
"Damn you then, stand up and fight!"
Disgust and annoyance were pictured on the damaged countenance of
the lawyer. "I don't fight with riff raff from the streets."
With a lurch Miller was free from Jeff and at him again. James
lashed straight out and cut open his lip without stopping him.
Jeff wrenched the furious man back again. A moment later he made a
discovery. The fear of his cousin was not physical.
"Here! Stop it, man! What's the row about?" Jeff hung on with a
strangle hold while he fired his questions.
Sam turned a distorted face toward him. "Nellie."
The truth crashed home like a bolt of lightning. James was the man
who had betrayed Nellie Anderson. The thing was incredible, but
Jeff knew instantly it was so.
Except where the blood streamed down it the face of the lawyer was
colorless. His lips twitched.
"Is this true, James?"
The sullen eyes of the detected man fell. "It will ruin me. It
will ruin my career. And all because in a moment of fearful
temptation I yielded, God help me."
"God help you!" The angry scorn in Miller's voice burned like
vitriol. "God help you! you selfish villain and coward! You
pursued her! You hounded her. You made your own temptation--and
hers. And afterward you left her to bear a lifetime of shame--to
kill herself if she couldn't stand it. When I think of you, smug
liar and hell hound, I know that killing isn't good enough for
"Steady, old man," counseled Jeff.
Miller began to tremble violently. Tears gathered in his eyes and
coursed down his fat cheeks. "And I can't stamp him out. I can't
expose him without hurting her worse. I've got to stand it without
Faintly Jeff smiled. James did not look quite untouched. He was a
much battered statue of virtue, his large dignity for once torn to
Miller flung himself down heavily in a chair and buried his face
in his hands. James began to talk, and as he talked his fluency
came back to him.
"It's the only stain on my life record . . . the only one. My life
has been an open book but for that. I was only a boy--and I made a
slip. Ought that to spoil my whole life, a splendid career of
usefulness for the city and the state? Ought I to be branded for
that one error?"
Miller looked up whitely. "Shut up, you liar! If it had been a
slip you would have stood by her, you would have married the girl
you had ruined. But you left her--to death or worse. She was loyal
to you. She kept your secret, you damned villain. I wrung it out
of her to-day when I went home only by pretending that I knew....
And you let Jeff bear the blame of it without saying a word. I
know now why her name wasn't unearthed by the reporters. You
killed the story because you were afraid the truth would leak out.
You haven't a straight hair in your head. You sold out Jeff's
bill. You're for yourself first and last, no matter who pays the
"That's your interpretation of my career. But what does Verden
think of me? No man stands higher among the best people of the
"To hell with you and your best people. I say you're nothing but a
whited sepulchre," snarled Miller.
Suddenly he reached for his hat and left the office. He was
He knew that if he stayed he could not keep his hands from his
James wrung his hands. "My God, Jeff, it's awful! To think that a
little fault should come out now to ruin me. After I've gone so
far and am on the way to bigger things. It's ghastly luck. Can't
you do something? Can't you keep the fellow quiet? I'll pay
anything in reason."
Jeff looked at him steadily. "I wouldn't say that to him if I were
"Oh, I don't know what I'm saying." He mopped the blood from his
face with a handkerchief. "I'm half crazy. Did he mark me up
badly?" James examined himself anxiously in the glass. "He's just
chopped my face to pieces. I'll have to get out of the city
to-night and stay away till the marks are gone. But the main point
is to keep him from talking. Can you do it?"
For once Jeff's toleration failed him. "He's right. You are a
selfish beggar. Don't you ever think of anyone except yourself?"
"I'm not thinking of myself at all, but of--of someone else.
You're wronging me, Jeff. This is not the time to go back on me,
now that I'm in trouble. You've got to help me out. You've got to
keep Miller quiet. If he talks I'm done for."
His cousin looked at him with contemptuous eyes. "Can't you see--
haven't you fineness enough to see that Sam Miller would cut an
arm off before he would expose his wife to more talk? Your
precious secret's safe."
"It's all very well for you to talk that way," James complained.
"I don't suppose you ever were put into temptation by a woman.
You're not a lady's man. I'm the kind they take a shine to for
some reason. Now this Anderson woman--"
Sharply Jeff cut in. "That's enough. When you speak of her it
won't be in that tone of voice. You'll speak respectfully of her.
She's the wife of my friend; and before she met you was innocent
as a child."
"What do you know of her? I tell you, Jeff, there's a type of
woman that's always smiling round the corner at you. I don't say I
did right to yield to her. Of course I didn't. But, hang it, I'm
not a block of wood. I've got red blood in my veins. The whip of
youth drove me on. You've probably never noticed it, but she was a
devilish pretty girl."
He was swimming into his phrases so fluently that Jeff knew he
would soon persuade himself that he had been the victim of her
wiles. So, no doubt, in one sense, he had. She had laid her
innocent bait to win his friendship, with never a thought of what
was to come of it.
"It happened of course while you were rooming there," the editor
shot at him.
James nodded sullenly.
His cousin knew now that more than once he had put away doubts of
James. When Sam Miller told him of her disappearance he had
thought of the lawyer and had dismissed his suspicions as
unworthy. He had always believed James to be a more moral man than
himself, and he had turned his own back on the temptation lest it
might prove too great for him. It would have been better for
Nellie if he had stayed and fought it out to a finish.
James began further explanations. "Look at it the way it is. She
put herself in my way."
Two steps carried Jeff to him. Without touching James he stood
close to him, arms rigid and eyes blazing. "Don't say that again,
you liar. You ruined her life. You let her suffer. She might have
died for all of you. She nursed your child and never whispered the
name of its father. Sam Miller is charging himself with the keep
of your daughter. Do you think she hasn't paid a hundred times for
her mistake? Now, by God, keep your mouth shut! Be decent enough
not to fling mud at her, you of all men."
James shrugged his shoulders and turned away in petulant disgust.
"I see. You've heard her side of it and you've made up your mind.
All right. I've nothing more to say."
"I've never heard her side of it. Her own mother doesn't know the
truth. Sam didn't know not till to-day. But I know her--and now I
"That's no way to talk, Jeff. I admit I did wrong. Can a man say
more than that? Do you want me to crawl on my hands and knees?"
"It's easy for you to forgive yourself."
"Maybe you think I haven't suffered too. I've lain awake nights
worrying over this."
"Yes. For fear you might be found out."
"I intended to look out for the girl, but she disappeared without
letting me know where she was going. What could I do?" The lawyer
was studying his face very carefully in the glass. "My face is a
sight. It will be weeks before that eye is fit to be seen."
Jeff turned away and left him. He walked to his rooms and found
his uncle waiting for him. Robert Farnum had sold out his
interests in Arkansas and returned to Verden with the intention of
buying a small mill in the vicinity. Meanwhile he had the
apartment next to the one used by his nephew.
"Seen anything of James lately?" he inquired as they started down
the street to dinner.
"Yes. I saw him to-day. He's leaving town for a week or so."
"On business, I suppose. He didn't mention it when I saw him
"It's a matter that came up suddenly, I understand."
The father agreed proudly. There were moments when he had doubts
of James, but he always stifled them by remembering what a
splendid success he was. "Probably something nobody else could
attend to but him."
"It's amazing how that boy gets along. His firm has the cream of
the corporation business of Verden. I never saw anything like it."
The younger man assented, rather wearily. Somehow to-night he did
not feel like sounding the praises of James.
His uncle's kindly gaze rested on him. "Tired, boy?"
"I think I am a little. I'll be all right after we've had
something to eat."
But when your arms are full of girl and fluff
You hide your nerve behind a yard of grin;
You'd spit into a bulldog's face, or bluff
A flock of dragons with a safety pin.
Life's a slow skate, but love's the dopey glim
That puts a brewery horse in racing trim.
CANARIES SING FOR THE HERO
James Farnum had been back in Verden twenty-four hours. A few
little scars still decorated his handsome visage, but he explained
them away with the story of a motor car accident. Just now he was
walking to the bank, and he had spoken his piece five times in a
distance of three blocks. From experience he was getting letter
perfect as to the details. Even the idiotic joke about the clutch
seemed now a necessary part of the recital.
It was just as he was crossing Powers that a motor car whirled
around the corner and down upon a man descending from a street
car. The chauffeur honked wildly and rammed the brakes home.
Simultaneously James leaped, flinging his weight upon the man
standing dazed in the path of the automobile. The two went down
together, and for a moment Farnum knew only a crash of the senses.
He was helped to his feet. Voices, distant and detached, asked
whether he was hurt. Blood trickled into his eyes from a cut in
the head. It came to him oddly enough that his story about the
motor car accident would now be true.
A slender figure in gray slipped swiftly past him and knelt beside
the still shape lying on the asphalt.
"Bring water, Roberts!"
James knew that clear, sweet voice. It could belong only to Alice
"Are you much hurt, Mr. Farnum?"
"No, I think not--a cut over my eye and a few bruises."
"I'm so glad. But this poor old man--I'm afraid he's badly hurt."
"Was he run over?"
"No. You saved him from that. You don't know him, do you?"
The lawyer looked at the unconscious man and could not repress a
start. It was his father. For just an eyebeat he hesitated before
he said, "I've seen him before somewhere."
"We must take him to the hospital. Isn't there a doctor here?
Someone run for a doctor." The young woman's glance swept the
crowd in appeal.
"I'll take care of him. Better get away before the crowd is too
large, Miss Frome."
"No. It was our machine did it. Oh, here's a doctor."
A pair of lean, muscular shoulders pushed through the press after
the doctor. "Much hurt, James?" inquired their owner.
"No. For heaven's sake, get Miss Frome away, Jeff," implored his
"Miss Frome!" Jeff stepped forward with an exclamation.
The young woman looked up. She was kneeling in the street and
supporting the head of the wounded man. Her face was almost as
bloodless as his.
"We almost ran him down. Your cousin jumped to save him. He isn't
dead, doctor, is he?"
Jeff turned swiftly to his cousin and spoke in a low voice. "It's
The lawyer pushed forward with a manner of authority.
"This won't do, doctor. The crowd's growing and we're delaying the
traffic. Let us lift him into the machine and take him to the
"Very good, Mr. Farnum."
"Doctor, will you go with him to the hospital? And Jeff . . . you,
too, if you please."
A minute later the car pushed its way slowly through the crush of
people and disappeared. James was left standing on the curb with
He spoke brusquely. "Someone call a cab, please....I'll send you
home, Miss Frome."
"No, to the hospital," she corrected. "I couldn't go home now
without knowing how he is."
"Very well. Anything to get away from here."
"And you can have your cut attended to there."
"Oh, that's nothing. A basin of cold water is all I need. Here's
the cab, thank heaven."
The girl's gaze followed the automobile up the hill as she waited
for the taxicab to stop. "I do hope he isn't hurt badly," she
"Probably he isn't. Just stunned, the doctor seemed to think.
Anyhow it was an unavoidable accident."
The eyes of the young woman kindled. "I'll never forget the way
you jumped to save him. It was splendid."
James flushed with pleasure. "Nonsense. I merely pushed him
"You merely risked your life for his. A bagatelle--don't mention
it," the girl mocked.
Farnum nodded, the old warmth for her in his eyes. "All right,
I'll take all the praise you want to give me. It's been a good
while since you have thought I deserved any."
Alice looked out of the window in a silence that appeared to
"Yet once"--She felt in his fine voice the vibration of feeling--
"once we were friends. We met on the common ground of--of the
spirit," he risked.
Her eyes came round to meet his. "Is it my fault that we are not
"I don't know. Something has come between us. What is it?"
"If you don't know I can't tell you."
"I think I know." He folded his handkerchief again to find a spot
unstained. "You wanted me to fit into some ideal of me you had
formed. Am I to blame because I can't do it? Isn't the fault with
your austerity? I've got to follow my own convictions--not Jeff's,
not even yours. Life's a fight, and it's every man for himself. He
has to work out his own salvation in his own way. Nobody can do it
for him. The final test is his success or failure. I'm going to
"Are you?" The compassion of her look he could not understand.
"But how shall we define success?"
"It's getting power and wielding it."
"But doesn't it depend on how one wields it?"
"Yes. It must be made to produce big results. Now my idea of a
successful man is your uncle, Joe Powers."
"And my idea of one is your cousin, Jefferson Farnum."
The young man sat up. "You're not seriously telling me that you
think Jeff is successful as compared with Joe Powers?"
"Yes. In my opinion he is the most successful man I ever met."
James was annoyed. "I expect you have a monopoly in that opinion,
Miss Frome--unless Jeff shares it."
The lawyer laughed irritably. "No, I shouldn't think he would." He
added a moment later: "I don't suppose Jeff is worth a hundred
"And Joe Powers is worth a hundred millions."
"That settles it. I must have been wrong." Alice looked at him
with a flash of demure daring. "Valencia said something to me the
other day I didn't quite understand. Ought I to congratulate you?"
"What did she say?" he asked eagerly.
"Oh, I'll not tell you what she said. My question was in first."
"You may as well, though it's still a secret. Nobody knows it but
you and me."
"I didn't know she knew it yet."
Alice stared. "Not know that she is going to marry you? Then it
isn't really arranged?"
"It is and it isn't."
"I know it and she suspects it."
"Is this a riddle?"
"Riddle is a good word when we speak of your cousin," he admitted
"Perhaps I asked a question I ought not to have."
"Not at all. I'm trying to answer you as well as I can. Last time
I mentioned the subject she laughed at me."
"So you've asked her?"
"No, I told her."
"And she said?"
"Regretted that other plans would not permit her to fall in with
"Then I don't quite see how you are so sure."
"That's just what she says, but I've a notion she is planning the
Alice flashed a sidelong look at him. Was he playing with her? Or
did he mean it?
"You'll let me know when I may safely congratulate you," she
"Now is the best time. I may not see you this evening."
"Oh, it's to be this evening, is it?"
"To the best of my belief and hope."
His complacency struck a spark from her. "You needn't be so cock
sure. I daresay she won't have you."
His smile took her into his confidence. "That's what I'm afraid of
myself, but I daren't let her see it."
"That sounds better."
"I think she wants to eat her cake and have it, too."
"That she likes me, but would rather hold me off a while."
Alice nodded. "Yes, that would be like Val."
"Meanwhile I don't know whether I'm to be a happy man or not."
Her fine eyes looked in their direct fashion right into his. "I
must say you appear greatly worried."
"Yes," he smiled.
"You must be tremendously in love with her."
"Ye-es, thank you."
"Why are you going to marry her then--if she'll let you?"
"Now I'm having Joe Powers' railroads and his steamboats and his
mines thrown at me, am I not?" he asked lightly.
"No, I don't think that meanly of you. I know you're a victim of
ambition, but I don't suppose it would take you that far."
He gave her an ironical bow. "Thanks for this testimonial of
respect. You're right. It wouldn't. I'm going to marry Joe Power's
daughter, _Deo volente_ because she is the most interesting woman
I know and the most beautiful one."
"Oh! That's the reason."
"These, plus a sentimental one which I can't uncover to the
cynical eyes of my young cousin that is to be, are my motives;
though, mind you, I'm not fool enough to be impervious to the
railroads and the ocean liners and the mines you didn't mention. I
hope my reasons satisfy you," he added coolly.
"If they satisfy Val they do me, but very likely you'll find they
"The doubt adds a fillip to the situation."
Her eyes had gone from time to time out of the window. Now she
gave a sigh of relief. "Here we are at the hospital. Oh, I do hope
that poor man is all right!"
"I'm sure he is. He was recovering consciousness when they left.
James helped her out of the cab and they went together up the
steps. In the hall they met Jeff. He had just come down stairs.
"Everything's all right. His head must have struck the asphalt,
but there seems to be no danger."
Alice noticed that the newspaper man spoke to his cousin and not
Though Valencia Van Tyle had not made up her mind to get married,
James hit the mark when he guessed that she was interesting
herself in the accessories that would go with such an event. The
position she took in the matter was characteristic. She had gone
the length of taking expert counsel with her New York modiste
concerning gowns for the occasion, without having at all decided
that she would exchange her present independence for another
venture into stormy matrimonial seas.
"Perhaps I shatn't have to make up my mind at all," she found
amusement in chuckling to herself. "What a saving of trouble it
would be if he would abduct me in his car. I could always blame
him then if it did not turn out well."
Something of this she expressed to James the evening of the day of
the accident, watching him through half-shuttered eyes to see how
he would take her first concession that she was considering him.
He took without external disturbance her gay, embarrassed
suggestion, the manner of which might mean either shyness or the
highest expression of her art.
"I'd kidnap you fast enough except that I don't want to rob you of
the fun of getting ready. How long will it take you? Would my
birthday be too soon? It's on the fourth of June."
"Too soon for what?" she asked innocently.
"For my birthday present--Valencia Powers."
She liked it that he used her maiden surname instead of her
married one. It seemed to imply that he loved her in the swift,
ardent way of youth.
"Are you sure you want it?"
The lawyer appreciated her soft, warm allurement, the appeal of
sex with which she was so prodigally endowed. His breath came a
"He won't be happy till he gets it."
Her faint laughter rippled out. "That's just the point, my friend.
Will he be happy then? And, which is more important to her, will
"That's what I'm here to see. I'm going to make you happy."
She laced her fingers behind her tawny head, not quite unaware
perhaps that the attitude set off the perfect modeling of her
soft, supple body.
"I don't doubt your good intentions, but it takes more than that
to make marriage happy when the contracting parties are not
"But we are--we are."
Valencia shook her head. "Oh, no! There will be no rapturous song
of birds for us, none of that fine wantonness that doesn't stop to
count the cost. If we marry no doubt we'll have good reasons, but
not the very best one--that we can't help it."
He would not consent to that. "You're not speaking for me. The
birds sing, Valencia."
"Canaries in a cage," she mocked.
"You've forgotten two things."
"That you are the most beautiful woman on earth, and that I'm a
man, with red blood in my veins."
Under lowered lids she studied him. This very confident, alert
American, modern from head to heel, attracted her more than any
other man. There was a dynamic quality in him that stirred her
blood. He was efficient, selfish enough to win, and yet
considerate in the small things that go to make up the sum of
existence. Why not then? She must marry some time and she was as
nearly in love as she would ever be.
"What ARE your reasons for wanting me?"
"We smoke the same Egyptians," he mocked.
"That's a good reason, so far as it goes."
"And you're such a charming puzzle that I would like to
domesticate it and study the eternal mystery at my leisure."
"Then it's as a diversion that you want me."
"A thing of beauty and a joy forever, the poet puts it. But
diversion if you like. What greater test of charming versatility
for a woman than that she remain a diversion to her husband,
unstaled by custom and undulled by familiarity?"
After all her father would be pleased to have her marry an
American business man. The Powers' millions could easily buy for
her a fine old dukedom if she wanted one. At present there was
more than one available title-holder on her horizon. But Valencia
did not care to take up the responsibilities that go with such a
position. She was too indolent to adapt her life to the standards
of others--and perhaps too proud. Moreover, it happened that she
had had enough of the club man type in the late lamented Van Tyle.
This man was a worker. He would not annoy her or interfere with
her careless pleasures. Again she asked herself, Why not?
"I suppose you really do like me." Her face was tilted in gay
"I'm not going to tell you how much. It wouldn't be good for
discipline in the house."
Her soft little laugh bubbled over. "We seem to have quite settled
it. And I hadn't the slightest notion of agreeing to anything so
ridiculous when I ventured that indiscreet remark about an
abduction." She looked up at him with smiling insolence. "You're
only an adventurer, you know. I daresay you haven't even paid for
the car in which you were going to kidnap me."
"No," he admitted cheerfully.
"I wonder what Dad will think of it,"
"He'll thank Heaven you didn't present him with a French or
Italian count to support."
"I believe he will. His objection to Gus was that he looked like a
foreigner and never had done a day's work in his life. Poor Gus!
He didn't measure up to Dad's idea of a man. Now I suppose you
could earn a living for us."
"I'm not expecting you to take in sewing."
"Are you going to do the independent if Dad cuts up rough?" she
"Independent is the word." He smiled with a sudden appreciation of
the situation. "And I take it he means to cut up rough. I wired
him to-day I was going to ask you to marry me."
"But wasn't that a little premature? Perhaps it wouldn't have been
necessary. Or did you take me for granted"
"There was always the car for a kidnapping in case of necessity,"
"Why did you do it?"
"I wanted to be above board about it even if I am an adventurer."
"What did he say? How could you put it in a telegram?"
"Red consoles marooned sweet post delayed."
"Dear me! What gibberish is that?"
"It's from our private code. It means, 'Going to marry your
daughter if she is willing. With your consent, I hope.'"
"And he answered? I'll take the English version, please."
"'Consent refused. No fortune hunters need apply.' That is not a
direct quotation, but it conveys his meaning accurately enough."
"So I'm to be cut off with a shilling." Her eyes bubbled with
"I reckon so. Of course I had to come back at him."
"How, may I ask?" She was vastly amused at this novel
"Oh, I merely said in substance that I was glad to hear it because
you couldn't think now I wanted to marry you for your money. I
added that if things came my way we would send him cards later.
One doesn't like to slang one's wife's father, so I drew it mild."
"I don't believe a word of it. You wouldn't dare."
That she admired and at the same time distrusted was so apparent
that he drew a yellow envelope from his pocket and handed it to
"This is his latest contribution to the literature of frankness.
You see his feelings overflowed so promptly he had to turn loose
in good American talk right off the bat. Couldn't wait for the
She read aloud. "Your resignation as General Counsel
Transcontinental will be accepted immediately. Turn over papers to
Walker and go to the devil." It was signed "Powers."
"That's all, is it? No further exchange of compliments," she
wanted to know.
"That's all, except that he is reading my resignation by this
time. I sent it two hours ago. In it I tried to convey to him my
sense of regret at being obliged to sever business relations owing
to the fact that I was about to contract family ties with him. I
hoped that he would command me in any way he saw fit and was sorry
we couldn't come to an agreement in the present instance."
"I don't believe you're a bit sorry. Don't you realize what an
expensive luxury you're getting in me and how serious a thing it
is to cast off heaven knows how many millions?"
"Oh, I realize it!"
"But you expect him to come round when he has had time to think it
"It's hard for me to conceive of anybody not wanting me for a
son-in-law," he admitted cheerfully.
Valencia nodded. "He'll like you all the better for standing up to
him. He's fond of Alice because she's impudent to him."
"I didn't mean to be impudent, but I couldn't lie down and let him
prove me what he called me."
"If you're that kind of a man I'm almost glad you're going to make
me marry you," she confided.
He leaned over her chair, his eyes shining. "I'll make you more
than almost glad, Valencia. You're going to learn what it is to--
oh, damn it!"
He was impersonally admiring her Whistler when the maid brushed
aside the portieres. She had come to bring Mrs. Van Tyle a
"No answer, Pratt."
After the maid had retired her mistress called James to her side.
Over her shoulder he read it.
"Glad he is an American and not living on his father. Didn't think
you had so much sense. Tell that young man I want to see him in
New York immediately."
The message was signed with the name of her father.
"What do you suppose he wants with you in New York?"
James was radiant. He kissed the perfect lips turned toward him
before he answered. "Oh, to make me president of the
Transcontinental maybe. How should I know? It's an olive branch.
Isn't that enough?"
"When shall you go?"
He looked at his watch. "The limited leaves at nine-thirty. That
gives me nearly an hour."
"You're not going to-night?"
"I'm going to-night. I must, dear. Those are the orders and I've
got to obey them."
"But suppose I give you different orders. Surely I have some
rights, to-night of all nights. Why, we haven't been engaged ten
minutes. Business doesn't always come first."
James hesitated. "It's the last thing I want to do, but when Joe
Powers says 'Come!' I know enough to jump."
"But when I say stay?" she pleaded.
"Then I stop the prettiest mouth in the world with kisses and run
away before I hear the order." Gaily he suited the action to the
But, for once swift, she reached the door before him.
"Wait. Don't go, dear."
The last word came faintly, unexpectedly. The enticement of the
appeal went to his head. He had shaken her out of the indifference
that was her pride. One arm slipped round her waist. His other
hand tilted back her head until he could look into the eyes in
which a new fire had been kindled.
"What about that almost glad? If I stay will you forget all
qualifying words and be just glad?"
She nodded quickly, laughing ever so softly. "Yes, I'll help you
listen to the birds sing. Do you know I can almost hear them?"
James drew a deep breath and caught her swiftly to him. "New York
will have to wait till to-morrow. The birds will sing to-night and
we will not count the cost."
"Yes, my lord," she answered demurely.
For to-night she wanted to forget that their birds were only caged
"And what are the names of the Fortunate Isles,
Lo! duty and love and a large content;
And these are the Isles of the watery miles
That God let down from the firmament.
Lo! duty and love and a true man's trust,
Your forehead to God and your feet in the dust:
Lo! duty and love and a sweet babe's smiles,
And these, O friends, are the Fortunate Isles."
AND LARKS FOR THE REBEL
Beneath a sky faintly pink with the warning of the coming sunrise
Jeff walked an old logging trail that would take him back to camp
from his morning dip. Ferns and blackberry bushes, heavy with dew,
reached across the road and grappled with each other. At every
step, as he pushed through the tangle, a shower of drops went
His was the incomparable buoyant humor of a lover treading a
newborn world. A smile was in his eyes, tender, luminous,
cheerful. He thought of the woman whom he had not seen for many
months, and he was buoyed up by the fine spiritual edge which does
not know defeat. Win or lose, it was clear gain to have loved her.
With him he carried a vision of her, young, ardent, all fire and
flame. One spoke of things beautiful and her face lit from within.
Her words, motions, came from the depths, half revealed and half
concealed dear hidden secrets. He recalled the grace of the
delicate throat curve, little tricks of expression, the sweetness
of her energy.
The forest broke, opening into a clearing. He stood to drink in
its beauty, for the sun, peeping over a saddle in the hills, had
painted the place a valley of gold and russet. And while he waited
there came out of the woods beyond, into that splendid setting,
the vision that was in his mind.
He was not surprised that his eyes were playing him tricks. This
was after all the proper frame for the picture of his golden
sweetheart. Lance-straight and slender, his wood nymph waded knee
deep through the ferns. Straight toward him she came, and his
temples began to throb. A sylph of the woods should be
diaphanous. The one he saw was a creature of color and warmth and
definiteness. Life, sweet and mocking, flowed through her
radiantly. His heart sang within him, for the woman he loved out
of a world of beautiful women was coming to him, light-footed as
Daphne, the rhythm of the morning in her step.
She spoke, commonplace words enough. "Last night I heard you were
"And I didn't know you were within a thousand miles."
"We came back to Verden Thursday and are up over Sunday," she
He was lost in the witchery of the spell she cast over him. Not
the drooping maidenhair ferns through which she trailed were more
delicate or graceful than she. But some instinct in him played
surface commonplaces against the insurgent emotion of his heart.
"You like Washington?"
"I like home better."
"But you were popular at the capital. I read a great deal in the
papers about your triumphs."
The dye in her cheeks ran a little stronger. There had been much
gossip about a certain Italian nobleman who had wooed her openly
and madly. "They told a lot of nonsense."
"And some that wasn't nonsense."
"Not much." She changed the subject lightly. "You read all about
the wedding, of course."
He quoted. "Miss Alice Frome as maid of honor preceded the bride,
appearing in a handsome gown of very delicate old rose satin with
an overdress of--"
"Very good. You may go to the head of the class, sir. Valencia was
beautiful and your cousin never looked more handsome."
"Which is saying a good deal."
"And we're all hoping they will live happy ever after."
"You know he is being talked of for United States Senator
"You will oppose him?" she asked quickly.
"I shall have to."
"Still an irreconcilable." Her smile could be vivid, and just now
"Still a demagogue and a trouble maker," he admitted.
"You've won the recall and the direct primary since I left."
"Yes. We've been busy."
"And our friends--how are they?"
"You should see Jefferson Davis Farnum Miller. He's two months old
and as fat as a dumpling."
"I've seen him. He's a credit to his godfather."
"Isn't he? That's one happy family."
"I wonder who's to blame for that," she said, the star flash in
"Nellie told you?"
"She told me."
"They exaggerate. Nobody could have done less than I."
"Or more." She did not dwell upon the subject. "Tell me about Mr.
He went over for her the story of the little poet's gentle death.
She listened till he made an end.
"Then it was not hard for him?"
"No. He had one of his good, eager days, then guietly fell
"And passed to where, beyond these voices, there is rest and
peace," she quoted, ever so softly.
"Perhaps he knows now all about his Perfect State." Her wistful
smile was very tender.
They walked together slowly across the valley.
"It is nearly six months since I have seen you."
"Five months and twenty-seven days." The words had slipped out
almost without her volition. She hurried on, ashamed, the color
flying in her cheeks, "I remember because it was the day we ran
down your cousin and that old gentleman. It has always been a
great comfort to me to know that he was not seriously injured."
"No. It was only the shock of his fall."
"What was his name? I don't think I heard it."
There was just an instant's silence before he pronounced,
"Farnum--Mr. Robert Farnum."
"A relative of yours?"
Across her brain there flashed a fugitive memory of three words
Jeff had spoken to his cousin the day of the accident. "It's your
But how could that be? She had always understood that both the
parents of James were dead. The lawyer had denied knowing the man
whose life he had saved. And yet she had been sure of the words
and of a furtive, frightened look on the face of James. According
to the story of the _Herald_ the father of Jefferson, a former
convict, was named Robert. But once, when she had made some
allusion to it Captain Chunn had exploded into vigorous denial. It
was a puzzle the meaning of which she could not guess.
"He has several times mentioned his wish to thank you for your
kindness," Jeff mentioned.
"I'll be glad to meet him." Swiftly she flashed a question at him.
"Is he James Farnum's father?"
"Haven't you read the papers? He is said to be mine."
"But he isn't. He isn't. I see it now. James was ashamed to
acknowledge a father who had been in prison. Your enemies made a
mistake and you let it go."
"It's all long since past. I wouldn't say anything about it to
"Of course you wouldn't," she scoffed. Her eyes were very bright.
She wanted to laugh and to weep at her discovery.
"You see it didn't matter with my friends. And my reputation was
beyond hope anyhow. It was different with James."
She nodded. "Yes. It wouldn't have improved his chances with
Valencia," her cousin admitted.
Jeff permitted himself a smile. "My impression was that he did not
have Mrs. Van Tyle in mind at the time."
They had waded through the wet ferns to the edge of the woods. As
her eyes swept the russet valley through which they had passed
Alice drew a deep breath of pleasure. How good it was to be alive
in such a world of beauty! A meadow lark throbbed its three notes
at her joyfully to emphasize their kinship. An English pheasant
strutted across the path and disappeared into the ferns. Neither
the man nor the woman spoke. All the glad day called them to the
emotional climax toward which they were racing.
Womanlike, Alice attempted to evade what she most desired. He was
to be her mate. She knew it now. But the fear of him was in her
"Were you so fond of him? Is that why you did it for him?" she
"I didn't do it for him."
"For whom then?"
He did not answer. Nor did his eyes meet hers. They were fixed on
the moving ferns where the pheasant had disappeared.
Alice guessed. He had done it for the girl because he thought her
in love with his cousin. A warm glow suffused her. No man made
such a sacrifice for a woman unless he cared for her.
The meadow lark flung out another carefree ecstasy. The theme of
it was the triumphant certainty that love is the greatest thing in
the world. Jeff felt that it was now or never.
"I love you. It's been hidden in my heart more than eight years,
but I find I must tell you. All the arguments against it I've
rehearsed a thousand times. The world is at your feet. You could
never love a man like me. To your friends I'm a bad lot. They
never would consider me a moment."
Gently she interrupted. "Is it my friends you want to marry?"
The surprise of it took him by the throat. His astonished eyes
questioned for a denial. In that moment a wonderful secret was
born into the world. She held out both hands with a divine
frankness, a sweetness of surrender beyond words.
"But your father--your people!"
"'Where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my
people."' She murmured it with a broken little laugh that was a
Even then he did not take her in his arms. The habit of reverence
for her was of many years' growth and not to be broken in an
"You are sure, dear--quite sure?"
"I've been sure ever since the day of our first talk on the
Still he fought the joy that flooded him. "I must tell you the
truth so that you won't idealize me . . . and the situation. I am
enlisted in this fight for life. Where it will lead me I don't
know. But I must follow the road I see. You will lose your
friends. They will think me a crank, an enemy to society; and they
will think you demented. But even for you I can't turn back."
A tender glow was in her deep eyes. "If I did not know that do you
think I would marry you?"
"But you've always had the best things. You've never known what it
is to be poor."
"No, I've never had the best things, never till I knew you, dear.
I've starved for them and did not know how to escape the prison I
was in. Then you came . . . and you showed me. The world is at my
feet now. Not the world you meant, of idleness and luxury and
ennui . . . but that better one of the spirit where you and I
shall walk together as comrades of all who work and laugh and
"If I could be sure!"
"Of me, Jeff?"
"That I can make you happy. After all it's a chance."
"We all live on a chance. I'll take mine beside the man I love.
There is one way under heaven by which men may be saved. I'm going
to walk that way with you, dear."
Jeff threw away the reins of a worldly wise prudence.
"For ever and ever, Alice," he cried softly, shaken to his soul.
As their lips met the lark throbbed a betrothal song.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
They went slowly through the wet ferns, hand in hand. It was
amazingly true that he had won her, but Jeff could scarce believe
the miracle. More than once he recurred to it.
"You saw what no other young woman of your set in Verden did, the
human in me through my vagabondage. But why? There's nothing in my
appearance to attract."
"Valiant in velvet, light in ragged luck," she laughed. "And I
won't have you questioning my taste, sir. I've always thought you
very good-looking, if you must have it."
"If you're as far gone as that!" His low laughter rang out to meet
hers, for no reason except the best of reasons--that they walked
alone with love through a world wonderful.
Back to Full Books