Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Destiny
Author: Buck, Charles Neville, 1879-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Destiny" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



page images generously made available by the Kentuckiana Digital Library
(http://kdl.kyvl.org/)



Note: Images of the original pages are available through the Electronic
      Text Collection of the Kentuckiana Digital Library. See
      http://kdl.kyvl.org/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=kyetexts;cc=kyetexts;xc=1&idno=B92-178-30418584&view=toc



DESTINY

by

CHARLES NEVILLE BUCK

Author of
The Call of the Cumberlands, Etc.



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers
Copyright, 1916, by
W.J. Watt & Company



OTHER BOOKS BY
CHARLES NEVILLE BUCK

   THE KEY TO YESTERDAY
   THE LIGHTED MATCH
   THE PORTAL OF DREAMS
   THE CALL OF THE CUMBERLANDS
   THE BATTLE CRY
   THE CODE OF THE MOUNTAINS



DESTINY



Part I

THE LAND OF PROMISE


CHAPTER I


Outside the subtle clarion of autumn's dying glory flamed in the torches
of the maples and smoldered in the burgundy of the oaks. It trailed a
veil of rose-ash and mystery along the slopes of the White Mountains,
and inside the crumbling school-house the children droned sleepily over
their books like prisoners in a lethargic mutiny.

Frost had brought the chestnuts rattling down in the open woods, and
foraging squirrels were scampering among the fallen leaves.

Brooding at one of the front desks, sat a boy, slender and undersized
for his thirteen years. The ill-fitting crudity of his neatly patched
clothes gave him a certain uniformity with his fellows, yet left him as
unlike them as all things else could conspire to make him. The long hair
that hung untrimmed over his face seemed a black emphasis for the cameo
delicacy of his features, lending them a wan note of pathos. On his
thin temples, bluish veins traced the hall-mark of an over-sensitive
nature, and eyes that were deep pools of somberness gazed out with the
dreamer's unrest.

Occasionally, he shot a furtively terrified glance across the aisle
where another boy with a mop of red hair, a freckled face and a mouth
that seemed overcrowded with teeth, made faces at him and conveyed in
eloquent gestures threats of future violence. At these menacing
pantomimes, the slighter lad trembled under his bulging coat, and he sat
as one under sentence.

Had any means of escape offered itself, Paul Burton would have embraced
it without thought of the honors of war. He had no wish to stand upon
the order of his going. He earnestly desired to go at once. But under
what semblance of excuse could he cover his retreat? Suddenly his
necessity fathered a crafty subterfuge. The bucket of drinking water
stood near his desk--and it was well-nigh empty. Becoming violently
thirsty, he sought permission to carry it to the spring for refilling,
and his heart leaped hopefully when the tired-eyed teacher indifferently
nodded her assent. He meant to carry the pail to the spring. He even
meant to fill it for the sake of technical obedience. Later, some one
else could go out and fetch it back.

Paul's object would be served when once he was safe from the stored-up
wrath of the Marquess kid. As he carried the empty bucket down the
aisle, he felt upon him the derisive gaze of a pair of blue eyes
entirely surrounded by freckles, and his own eyes drooped before their
challenge and contempt. They drooped also as he met the questioning gaze
of his elder brother, Ham, whose seat was just at the door. Ham had a
disquieting capacity for reading Paul's thoughts, and an equally
disquieting scorn of cowardice. But Paul closed the door behind him,
and, in the freedom of the outer air, set his lips to whistling a casual
tune. He could never be for a moment alone without breaking into some
form of music. It was his nature's language and his soul's soliloquy.

Of course tomorrow would bring a reckoning for truancy and a probable
renewal of his danger, but tomorrow is after all another day and for
this afternoon at least he felt safe.

But Ham Burton's uncanny powers of divination were at work, and out of
his seat he slipped unobserved. Through the door he flitted shadow-like
and strolled along in the wake of his younger brother.

Down where the spring crooned softly over its mossy rocks and where
young brook trout darted in phantom flashes, Ham Burton found Paul with
his face tight-clasped in his nervous hands. Back there in the
school-house had been only terror, but out here was something else. A
specter of self-contempt had risen to contend with physical trepidation.
The song of the water and the rustle of the leaves where the breeze
harped among the platinum shafts of the birches were pleading with this
child-dreamer, and in his mind a conflict swept backward and forward.
Paul did not at once see his brother, and the older boy stood over him
in silence, watching the mental fight; watching until he knew that it
was lost and that timidity had overpowered shame. His own eyes at first
held only scorn for such a poltroon attitude, but suddenly there leaped
into them a fierce glow of tenderness, which he as quickly masked. At
the end of his silent contemplation he brusquely demanded, "Well, Paul,
how long is it going to take you to fill that bucket with water?"

The younger lad started violently and stammered. Chagrined tears welled
into his deep eyes, and a flush spread over his thin cheeks.

"I just--just got to thinkin'," he exculpated lamely, "an' I fogot to
hurry. Listen at that water singin', Ham!" His voice took on a rapt
eagerness. "An' them leaves rustlin'. It's all like some kind of music
that nobody's ever played an' nobody ever can play."

Ham's face, looking down from the commanding height of his sixteen
years, hardened.

"Do you figure that Pap sends you to school to set out here and listen
at the leaves rattlin'?" was the dry inquiry. "To hear you talk a
feller'd think there ain't anything in the world but funny noises. What
do they get you?"

"Noises!" the slight lad's voice filled and thrilled with remonstrance,
"Can't you ever understand music, Ham? There's all the world of
difference between music an' noise. Music's what the Bible says the
angels love more'n anything."

Ham's lips set themselves sternly. He was not one to be turned aside
with quibbles.

"Look here, Paul," he accused, "you didn't come out here to get water
and you didn't come to listen to the fishes singin' songs either. You
sneaked out to run away because you're scared of Jimmy Marquess an'
because you know he's goin' to punch your face after school."

The younger lad flushed crimson and he began an unconvincing denial. "I
ain't--I ain't afraid of him, neither," he protested. "That ain't the
truth, Ham."

"All right then." The elder boy filled the bucket and straightened up
with business-like alacrity. "If you ain't scared of him we might as
well go on back there an' tell him so. He thinks you are."

Instinctively Paul flinched and turned pallid. He gazed about him like
a trapped rabbit, but his brother caught him roughly by the shoulder and
wheeled him toward the school-house.

"But--Ham--but--" The younger brother's voice faltered and again tears
came to his eyes. "But I don't b'lieve in fightin'. I think it's
wicked."

"Paul," announced the other relentlessly, "you're a coward. Maybe it
ain't exactly your fault, but one thing's dead certain. There's just one
kind of feller that can't afford to run away--an' that's a coward, like
you. Everybody picks on a kid that's yeller. You've got to have one good
fight to save a lot of others an' this is the day you're goin' to have
it. After school you've got to smash Jimmy Marquess a wallop on his
front teeth an' if you don't shake 'em plumb loose I'm goin' to take you
back in the woods an' give you a revelation in lickin's that'll linger
with you for years." Ham paused and then added ominously, "Now you can
do just exactly as you like. I don't want to try to influence you, but
that Marquess kid is your softest pickin'."

Facing the dread consequences of such a dilemma, Paul went slowly and
falteringly forward with the unhappy consciousness of his brother
following warily at his heels.

"Come to think of it," suggested Ham casually, "I guess you'd better
write a note before we go in--it seems a kind of shame to treat Jimmy
like that without givin' him any warnin'." He set the bucket in the path
and fumbled in his pocket for a scrap of paper. "I'll just help you
out," he volunteered graciously. "Start with his name--like this--'James
Marquess; Sir--.'"

Paul hesitated, and Ham took a step forward with a cool glint in his
eyes before which the other quailed. "I'll write it, Ham," he hastily
whimpered.

     "James Marquess; Sir--" continued the laconic voice of the
     directing mind. "If you think I am afraid of you, you have erred in
     judgment. I don't like you and I don't care for your personal
     appearance. If you so much as squint at me after school today I
     intend to change the general appearance of your face. It won't be
     handsome when I get through, but I guess it will be an improvement,
     at that.

                         "Respectfully,

                                        "Paul Burton."

The coerced writer groaned deeply as he scrawled the signature which
pledged him so irretrievably to battle. He felt that his autograph to
such a missive was distinctly inappropriate, and invited sure calamity.
Ham, however, only nodded approval as he commanded, "When you take the
bucket up, lay that on his desk and be sure he gets it."

Yet as Paul plodded on, a piteous little shape of quaking terror, Ham
let the glance of militant tenderness flash once more into his eyes, and
his voice came in sympathetic timbre.

"Paul, I can't always do your fightin' for you. If I could I wouldn't
make _you_ do it--but you've got to learn how to stand on your own legs.
It ain't only the Marquess kid you're fightin'. You've got to lick the
yeller streak out of yourself before it ruins you." He paused, then
magnanimously added, "If you trim him down good and proper, I'll get you
a new violin string in place of the one you busted."

It was a very unmilitary shape that huddled in its seat, watching his
adversary read the ultimatum. As for the heir of the house of Marquess,
he allowed his freckled face for a moment to pucker in blank
astonishment, then a smile of beatitude enveloped it. It was such
beatitude as might appear on the visage of a cat who has unexpectedly
received a challenge to mortal combat from a mouse.

An hour of the afternoon session yet intervened between the present and
the awful future and upon Paul Burton it rested with its incubus of dire
suspense. It was an hour which the Marquess kid employed congenially
across the aisle. Whenever the tired eyes of the teacher were not upon
him he gave elaborate pantomimes wherein he felt the swelling biceps of
his right arm, and made as if to spit belligerently upon his doubled
fist. Sometimes his left hand seemed struggling to restrain the deadly
right, lest it leap forth untimely in its hunger for smiting. These
wordless pleasantries were in no wise lost on the shrinking Paul in
whose slight body slept the spirit of the artist unfortified with
martial iron of combat.

The world of boyhood has little understanding or sympathy for a soul
like Paul's; a soul woven of dreams and harmonies which knows no means
of attuning itself to the material. This lad walked with his head in the
clouds and his thoughts in visions. His playmates were invisible to
human eyes and he heard the crashing of vast symphonies where others
felt only the silences. Now in a little while he was to have his face
punched by a material and normal young savage whose very freckles shone
with anticipation.

Ham Burton, looking on from his desk, recognized that in the frail lad
who "wouldn't stick up for himself" burned the thin hot fire of genius
without the stamina that alone could fan it into effective blaze. For
Ham, whose face revealed as little of what went on back of his eyes as
an Indian's, was the dreamer, too, though his dreams were cut to a
different pattern. As he dealt in visions, so William the Conqueror may
have dealt when a boy in his father's bakeshop; so Napoleon may have
dreamed before the world had heard his name. The younger lad dreamed as
the hasheesh-eater, for the vague and iridescent glory of visioning, but
the elder dreamed otherwise, in preface to achievement.

The teacher rose at length to dismiss the classes, and as the children
piled out into the crisp air, the Marquess kid was first on the
hard-trodden soil of the school-yard--for there triumph awaited his
coming. Paul was less impulsive. He collected his books with the most
deliberate care, dusting them off with an unwonted solicitude. Then he
spent an indefinite period searching for a stub of slate-pencil, which
at another time would not have interested him. He hoped against hope
that Jimmy Marquess would not have time to wait for him.

At last, the laggard in war felt Ham's strong hand on his coat-collar.
Vainly protesting and sniffling, he was hustled toward the rotting
threshold and catapulted upon his enemy so abruptly and skillfully that
to the casual eye he might have seemed bursting with impatience for
battle.

And as he stumbled, willy-nilly, upon the Marquess kid, the Marquess kid
joyously gathered him in and began raining enthusiastic rights and lefts
upon the blanched and blue-veined face.

Suddenly Paul Burton woke to the fact that at his back was an extremely
solid wall; on his right an equally impassable fence; on his left his
implacable brother and at his front--nothing but the Marquess kid.

Of the four obstacles Jimmy seemed the most vulnerable, and upon him
Paul hurled himself with the exalted frenzy of a single idea: an idea of
boring his way out of an insupportable position. That Jimmy's blows hurt
him so little astonished him, and under the spur of fear he fought with
such abandon that to Ham's face came a slow grin of contentment and to
that of the Marquess kid an expression of pained amazement, followed by
one of sudden panic. Of this particular mouse, the cat had had enough
and amid jeers of derision the cat withdrew with more of haste than of
dignity in his departure.

But five minutes later as Paul trudged along the forest path toward his
home, the unaccustomed light of battle that had momentarily kindled in
his eyes began to fade. There glowed in them no such lasting triumph as
should come from a boy's first victory. Instead, they wore again the
far-away look of dreamy pensiveness. Already, his thoughts were back in
their own world, a world peopled with fancies and panoplied with
imaginings. Suddenly he halted, and threw back his head, intently
listening. High and far away came the honking cry of wild geese in
flight; travelers of the upper air-paths, winging their way southward.
Distance softened the harshness of their journeying clamor into a note
of appealing wanderlust.

Paul's lips were parted and his eyes aglow. The memory of the fight he
had dreaded was effaced; the bruises on his sensitive face were
forgotten. His heart was drinking an elixir through his ears, and at the
sounds floating down from the heights new fancies leaped within him.

Ham with his eyes shrewdly fixed upon his brother swung his books to his
other hand and shrugged his shoulders. He, too, was looking in fancy
beyond the misty hills, but not to the flight of geese. He saw cities
with shaft-like structures biting the sky and dark banners of smoke
floating above the clash of conflict. His heart was burning to be at the
center of that conflict.

He, too, heard a song of sirens, but it was such a song as Richard
Whittington heard when bare-footed in Pauntley the notes of the Bow
bells stole out to him:

    "Sang of a city that was blazoned like a missal-book,
      Black with oaken gables, carven and inscrolled;
    Every street a colored page, every sign a hieroglyph,
      Dusky with enchantments, a city paved with gold."

Then he gazed about the desolate country where morning wore to night in
a sequence of hard chore upon hard chore, and he groaned between his set
teeth.

Here and there along the way stood deserted houses where the wind
searched the interiors through the eyeless sockets of unglazed windows
and where the roof-trees were broken and twisted. They were blighting
symbols of this soul-breaking existence in a land of abandoned farms
where Opportunity never came. They were mutely eloquent of surrender
after struggle. They summed up the hazard of life where to abate the
fight and rest meant to lose the fight and starve.

His heart told him that no other battle-field was hard enough or
desperate enough to spell his defeat. The world was his if he could go
out into the world to claim it, but here in this meager land of
barrenness his soul would strangle without a fight. The things that had
long flamed in his heart had flamed secretly, like a smothered blaze
which gnaws the vitals out of a ship whose hatches are battened down.
He, too, had kept the hatches of silence battened. But through many
wakeful nights the voice that speaks to those whom the gods have chosen
cried to him with the certainty of a herald's bugle. "What the greatest
have been, you can be! Of the few to whom impossibility is a jest, you
are one! Nothing can halt your onward march save--want of opportunity.
You have kinship with the world's mightiest, but you must go out into
the world and claim your own." For that was how Ham Burton dreamed.

As the Burton boys came to the farm-house where they had been born, the
sun was sinking behind the ragged spears of the mountain-top, and its
last fires were mirrored in the lake whose name was like an epitome of
their lives--Forsaken.

The house seemed to huddle in the gathering shadows with melancholic
despair. Its walls looked out over the unproductive acres around it as
grimly as a fortress overlooks a hostile territory, and its occupants
lived with as defensive a frugality as if they were in fact a
beleaguered garrison cut off from fresh supplies. This was the prison in
which Ham Burton must serve his life sentence--unless he responded to
that urgent call which he heard when the others slept. Tonight he must
share with his father the raw chores of the farm, and, when his studies
were done, he must go to his bed, exhausted in body and mind, to be
awakened at sunrise and retread the cheerless round of drudgery. Every
other tomorrow while life fettered him here held a repetition of just
that and nothing more.

The white fire of rebellion leaped mutinously up in Ham's heart. He
would go away. He would answer the loud clarion that called to him from
beyond the horizons. The first line of hills should no longer be his
remotest frontier. And if he did that--a whispering voice of loyalty and
conscience argued insistently--who would wear the heavy harness here at
home? His father would never leave, and upon his father the infirmities
of age would some day come creeping. There was Paul--but, at the thought
of Paul with his strong imagination and his weak muscles, Ham laughed.
If he went away he must go without consent or parental blessing; he must
slip away in the night with his few possessions packed in his battered
bag. Very well; if that were the only way, it must be his way. The
voices were calling--always calling--and it might as well be tonight.
Destiny is impatient of temporizing. Yes, tonight he would start out
there, somewhere, where the battles were a man's battles, and the
rewards a man's rewards.

But at the door his mother met him. There was a moisture of unshed tears
in her eyes, and she spoke in the appeal of dependence--dependence upon
her eldest son who had never failed her.

"Son, your father's in bed--he's had some sort of stroke. He's feelin'
mighty low in his mind, an' he says he's played out with the fight of
all these years. I told him that he needn't fret himself because we have
you. You've always been so strong an' manly--even when you were a little
feller. You'd better see him, Ham, an' cheer him up. Tell him you can
take right hold an' run the farm."

Ham turned away a face suddenly drawn. A lemon afterglow hung above the
hills, and where it darkened into the evening sky, a single star shone
in a feeble point of light. It was setting--not rising--and to the boy
it seemed to be his star.

"I'll go in and see him," he said curtly.

Thomas Burton lay on his bed with his face turned to the wall. When his
son entered, he raised it and shifted it so that the yellow light of an
oil lamp shone on it above the faded quilt.

It was a hopeless, beaten face, and for the first time in his life Ham
saw the calloused hand which crept out to his own shake feebly.

He took it, and the father said slowly:

"Ham, somehow I feel like an old hoss that just goes as long as he can
an' then lays down. Right often he don't get up no more. It's a hard
fight for a boy to take up, this fight with rocks and poor soil, but I
guess you'll have to tackle it. I didn't quit so long as I could keep
goin'."

The boy nodded. He composed his face and answered steadily: "I guess you
can depend on me."

But outside by the barn fence he set down his milk-pail a few minutes
later and in the coming night his face twitched and blackened.

"So after all," Ham told himself bitterly, "I've got to stay."

He reached out mechanically and began loosing the top bar from its
sockets, while he called in the cows to be milked. So many times had he
taken down and put up that panel of bars that his hands knew from habit
every roughness and knot in every rail.

"Mornin' an' evenin' for three hundred and sixty-five days a year;" the
boy said to himself in a low and very bitter voice. "That makes seven
hundred and thirty times a year I do this same, identical thing. I ain't
nothin' more than servant to a couple of cows." He stood and watched the
two heifers trot through the opening to the water-trough by the pump.
"By the time I'm thirty-five," he continued, "I'll do it fourteen
thousand and six hundred times more--When Napoleon was thirty-five--"
But there he broke off with an inarticulate sound in his browned young
throat that was very like a groan.



CHAPTER II


Mary Burton was eleven. Of late, thoughts which had heretofore not
disturbed her had insistently crept into the limelight of consciousness.
One morning as she stood, dish-towel in hand, over the kitchen table,
her eyes stole ever and anon to the cracked mirror that hung against the
wall, and after each glance she turned defiantly away with something
like sullenness about her lips. Elizabeth Burton, the mother, and Hannah
Burton, the spinster aunt, went about their accustomed tasks with no
thought more worldly than the duties of the moment. It never occurred to
Aunt Hannah to complain of anything that was. If her life spelled
unrelieved drudgery she accepted it as the station to which it had
pleased God to call her, and conceived that complaint would be a form of
blasphemy. Now as she wielded her broom, her angular shoulders ached
with rheumatism, and, in a voice as creaking as her joints, she sang,
"For the Master said there is work to do!" Such was Aunt Hannah's creed,
and it pleased her while she moiled over the work to announce in song
that she acted upon divine command. To Aunt Hannah's mind, this lent an
august dignity to a dust-rag.

When Mary savagely threw down her dish-towel and burst unaccountably
into tears, both women looked up, startled. Mary was normally a sunny
child and one not given to weeping.

"For the name of goodness!" exclaimed the mother in bewilderment. "What
in the world can have struck the child?" It was to Aunt Hannah that she
put the question, but it was Mary who answered, and answered with a
sudden flow of vehemence:

"Why didn't God make me pretty?" demanded the girl in an impassioned
voice. "They call me spindle-legs at school, and yesterday Jimmy
Marquess said,

    'If I had a sister Mary that had eyes like that,
    I'd put her out of pain with a baseball bat.'

"It ain't fair that I've got to be ugly."

Mrs. Burton, confronted with a situation she had not anticipated, found
herself unequipped with a reply, but Aunt Hannah's face became severe.

"You are as God made you, child," she announced in a tone of finality,
"and it's sinful to be dissatisfied."

But, if dissatisfaction was wicked, Mary was resolved upon sin. For the
first time in her eleven years of life she stood forth mutinous. Her
eyes blazed, and she trembled passionately through her slender
child-body, with her hands clenched into tight little fists.

"If God made me this way on purpose, He didn't treat me fair," she
rebelliously flamed out. "What good can it do God to have me skinny and
white, with eyes that don't even match?"

Aunt Hannah's face paled as though she feared that she must fall an
innocent victim to the avenging bolt which might momentarily be expected
to crash through the roof.

"Elizabeth," she gasped, "stop the child! Don't let her invite the wrath
of the Almighty like that! Tell her how wicked it is to complain an'
rebel against Infinite Wisdom."

They heard a low, rather contemptuous laugh, and saw Ham standing in the
door. His coarse lumberman's socks were pulled up over his trousers'
legs and splashed with mud of the stable lot.

"Aunt Hannah, what gave you the notion that there's anything wrong about
complainin'?" he demanded shortly, and Mary knew that she had acquired a
champion.

"Complainin' against God's will is a sin. Every person knows that." Aunt
Hannah spoke with the aggrieved uncertainty of one unexpectedly called
upon to defend an axiom. "An' for a girl to fret about her looks is
worldly."

"Oh, I see," the boy nodded slowly, but his voice was insurgent. "I
guess you think Almighty God wants the creatures He made to sit around
and sing about there bein' work to do. I wonder you don't feel afraid to
eat buckwheat cakes that He doesn't send down to you by an angel with
His compliments. My idea is that He wants folks to do things for
themselves and not to sing about it. As for being discontented, that's
the one thing that drives the world around. I think God made discontent
just for that."

Aunt Hannah moistened her lips. For decades she had been the member of a
God-fearing, toiling family whose righteousness was the righteousness of
stagnation. Now she stood face to face with radical heresy.

"But," she argued with some dumb feeling that she was defending
Divinity, "the Scriptures teach contentment an' it's worldly to be
vain."

"Why not be worldly?" flared the boy with a new and indomitable light in
his eyes. "As for me I'm sick of this life in a place that's
dry-rotting. What I want is the world--the whole of it, good an' bad. I
want what you can win out of fighting. Mary wants to be pretty. Why
shouldn't she? What does any woman get out of life except what men give
her--and what man gives much to the ugly ones?"

"It ain't what men give that's to be counted a prize," came the pious
rejoinder. "It's what heaven gives."

"Heaven gave you a dust-rag and rheumatism. If they suit you, all well
and good. I'm going to see that the world gives Mary what she wants. If
a girl can be made pretty Mary's going to be pretty. It's what a woman's
got a right to want and I'm going to get it for her."

With a violent gesture the boy flung himself from the room and slammed
the door behind him.

Because it was Saturday and there was no school that day, Ham left the
house and turned into the woods. He tramped with his brow drawn and a
hundred insurgent thoughts swirling in his brain.

He passed across hills holding to their final flare of color, where
leaves were drifting down from trees of yellow and crimson. He threaded
alder thickets and passed through groves of silver birches that shivered
fastidiously in the breeze. Wild apple trees raised gnarled branches
under which the "punches" of hooves told of deer that had been feeding.
At last, he came to a clearing where fire had eaten its way and charred
the ruins of the forest. There a large buck lifted its antlered head
among the berry bushes and stood for a moment at startled gaze. But Ham
made no movement to raise the rifle that swung at his side, and as the
red-brown shape disappeared with a soft clatter, the boy did not even
throw a glance after it. He was saying to himself: "William the
Conqueror was a baker's son; Napoleon was the friend of a washer-woman;
Cecil Rhodes was a poor boy--but they didn't stay tied down too long."

Now and again, a rabbit scuttled off to cover, and often with the whir
of drumming wings a grouse rose noisily and lumbered away with spread
tail into the painted foliage. But all the beauty of it was a beauty of
wildness and of nature's victory over man. For such beauty Ham felt no
answer of pulse or heart.

Of the cabins he passed, most were empty and those quiet vandals,
Weather and Decay, were noiselessly at work wrecking them. Here a door
swung askew; there a chimney teetered. Every such tenantless lodging was
an outpost surrendered on a field scarred with human defeat; a place
where a family had fought poverty and been put to flight. Once he paused
and looked down a long slope to a habitation by the roadside. The
miserable battle was just ending there, and, though he stood a quarter
of a mile away, he stopped to watch the final act. The family that had
dwelt there for two generations was leaving behind everything that it
had known. John Marrow was at that moment nailing a padlock to the front
door, a lock at which the quiet vandals would laugh silently.

In a farm wagon was heaped the litter of household effects. These people
were whipped, starved out, beaten. Ham Burton turned on his heel and
trudged away. His father's farm was little more productive than this
one, but his father had that uncompromising iron in his blood that comes
from Pilgrim forebears. He would hold on to the end--but to what end and
how long?

       *       *       *       *       *

That Saturday afternoon, Mary was walking along the sandy road that led
to the village. She had no purpose, except to be alone, and she carried
an old fashion paper which she meant to con. This newly discovered
necessity of beauty was a very serious affair, and since she meant to
devote herself to its study she conceived that these pages should give
tidings from the fountain head.

She did not expect to meet anyone, and she was quite content to spend
that Indian-summer afternoon with her companions of the printed page.
These were beautiful ladies, appareled in the splendid vogues of Paris
and Vienna. There were delightful bits of information concerning some
mysterious thing called the _haute monde_ and likewise pictures that
instructed one how to dress one's hair and adorn the coiffure with
circlets of pearls. Mary's sheer delight in such mysteries was not
marred by any suspicion that the text she devoured told of fashions long
extinct and supplanted by newer edicts.

On the great rock which jutted out from the wooded tangle into the
margin of Lake Forsaken, with lesser sentinel rocks about it, she sat
cross-legged until she glanced up at last to see that the west was
kindling, and that she must start back to the duller realities of home.
She had been interrupted by no break in the silence except the little
forest twitter of birds and now and then the cool splash where a bass
leaped in the lake.

But as she made her way along the twisting road she heard the rattle of
wheels on the rocks and turned to see a vehicle driven by a man who
obviously had no kinship with stony farms or lumber camps. She paused,
and the buggy came up. Its driver drew his horse down, and in a
singularly pleasing and friendly voice inquired:

"Can you tell me, little sister, how I can get to Middle Fork?"

Middle Fork was the village at the end of the six-mile mountain descent,
and Mary, who knew every trail and woodland path, told him, not only of
the road, but of a passable short-cut.

The girl had come to judge human faces through the eyes of her own
circumstance, and those of the men and women about her wore for the most
part the resignation of surrender and hardship, but this man's face was
different. He was a man to her eleven years, though a more experienced
eye would have seen that he was hardly more than a prematurely old boy.
Lines traced a network around his eyes, but they were whimsical lines
such as come from persistent laughter--the sort of laughter that insists
on expressing itself even in the face of misfortune. His open mackinaw
collar revealed a carelessly knotted scarf decorated with a large black
pearl, and as he drew off a glove she noticed that his brown hand was
slender and that one finger wore a heavily carved ring, from whose
quaint setting glowed the cool, bright light of an emerald. Her frank
curiosity showed so plainly in her face that the fine wrinkles about the
young man's eyes became little radiants of amusement centering around
gray pupils and his lips parted in a smile over very even teeth.

There are a few men in the world whom we feel that we have always known,
when once we have seen them, and upon whom we find ourselves bestowing
confidences as soon as we have said, "Good-day." Perhaps they are the
isolated survivors of knight-errant days, whose business it is to
listen to the troubles of others.

It was only the matter of minutes before Mary was chatting artlessly
with this traveler of the mountain road, and since she was a child she
was talking of herself, while he nodded gravely and listened with a
deference of attention that was to her new and disarmingly charming.

He, too, was just now an exile here in the hills, he explained, but
before he came he had lived all over the world. He had studied under
tutors while traveling about the Continent, and being prepared to take
up his work in the banking house which his grandfather had established
and his father had extended in scope. Then it had happened.

"What happened?" The child of Lake Forsaken put the question eagerly,
and his reply was laconic, though he smiled down from the buggy seat
with a peculiarly naïve twist of his lips. "Bugs," he told her.

"What kind of bugs?" It seemed strange to Mary that a man would let such
small creatures as flies or spiders or even big beetles stand between
himself and a great bank.

"I beg your pardon," he laughed. "I forgot that you lived in a world
unsullied by such argot. You know what a lunger is?"

That she did know. It is a term familiar enough in the mountains to
which come refugees from the white plague, seeking in the tonic air a
healing for their sickened lungs.

"And so you see," said the strange young man, "I have built me a log
shack back in the hills where I amuse myself writing verses--which,
fortunately, no one reads--and doing equally inconsequential things.
Now I'm going down for a few days in the city. I can only go when the
weather is fine and when winter sets in, I must come back and bury
myself with no companions except some books and a pair of snowshoes."

"Are you going to die?" she asked him in large-eyed concern.

"Some day I am," he laughed. "But I'm rather stubborn. I'm going to
postpone that as long as possible. Several doctors tell me that I have
an even chance. It seems to be a sort of fifty-fifty bet between the
bugs and me. I suppose a fellow oughtn't to ask more than an even
break."

She stood regarding him with vast interest. She had never known a man
before who chatted so casually about the probable necessity of dying. He
grew as she watched him to very interesting and romantic proportions.

"What's your name?" she demanded.

"My last name's Edwardes," he told her. And it was only her own
out-of-the-world ignorance that kept her from recognizing in the name a
synonym for titanic finance. "In front of that they put a number of
ridiculous prefixes when I was quite young and helpless. There is
Jefferson and Doorland and others. At college they called me Pup."

In return for his confidence, the girl told him who she was and where
she lived and how old she was.

"You say your name is Mary Burton? I must remember that because in, say
ten years, provided I last that long, I expect to hear of you."

"Hear of me? Why?" she demanded.

The stranger bent forward and coughed, and when the paroxysm had ended
he smiled whimsically again.

"I'll tell you a secret, though God knows it's a perilous thing to feed
a woman's vanity--even a woman of eleven. Did anyone ever tell you that
you are possessed of a marvelous pair of eyes?"

Instinctively little Mary Burton flinched as though she had been struck
and she raised one hand to her face to touch her long lashes. Silent
tears welled up; tears of indignant pain because she thought she was
being cruelly ridiculed.

But the stranger had no such thought. If to the uneducated opinion of
Lake Forsaken, Mary's face was a matter for jest and libel, the
impression made on the young man who had been reared in the capitals of
Europe was quite different. He had been sent, on the verge of manhood,
into the hermit's seclusion with the hermit's opportunity of reflecting
on all he had seen, and digesting his experience into a philosophy
beyond his years.

Perhaps had Mary been born into her own Puritan environment two
centuries earlier, she might have faced even sterner criticism, for
there was without doubt a strange uncommonplaceness about her which the
thought of that day might have charged to the attendance of witches
about her birth. The promise of beauty she had, but a beauty unlike that
of common standards. It was a quality that at first caught the beholder
like the shock of a plunge into cold water, and then set him tingling
through his pulses--also like a plunge into an icy pool.

To the farmer folk Mary was merely "queer," but as the man in the buggy
sat looking down at her he realized the promise of something strangely
gorgeous. As she shifted her position a shaft of mellow sunlight struck
her face and it was as though her witch--or fairy--godmother had
switched on a blaze of color.

"I wasn't making fun of you," declared the stranger; and his voice held
so simple and courteous a note that Mary smiled again and was reassured.

The child was still thin and awkward and undeveloped of line or
proportion, but color, which many painters will tell you is the
soul-essence of all beauty, she had in the same wasteful splendor that
the autumn woods had it in their carnival abundance.

Her hair was heavy, and its gold was of the lustrous and burnished sort
that seems to tangle in its meshes a captive fire glowing between the
extremes of amber and tawny copper. Yet hair and cheeks and lips were
only the minors of her color scheme. The eyes were regnantly dominant
and it was here that the surprising witch-like quality held sway. The
school-children had said they did not match, and they did not, for with
the sun shining on her the man in the buggy realized that the right one
was a rich brown like illuminated agate with a fleck or two of jet
across the iris, while the left, its twin, was of a colorful violet and
deeply vivid. Young Edwardes had read of the weird beauty of such
mismated eyes, but had never before seen them.

"Jove!" he exclaimed, and he let the reins hang on his knees as he bent
forward and talked enthusiastically.

"There are eyes and eyes," he smiled down. "Some are merely lenses to
see with and some are stars. Of the star kind, a few are lustrous and
miraculous, and control destinies. I think yours are like that. One can
flash lambent fire and the other can soften like the petals of a black
pansy--it has just that touch of inky purple--and in their range are
many possibilities."

"But--but," she stammered for a moment, irresolute and almost tearful,
"they aren't even mates and anyway eyes aren't all." For a moment she
hesitated, then with childish abandon confided, "I'd give anything in
the world to be pretty."

The stranger threw back his head and laughed. "And when they are misty,
let men beware," he commented half-aloud, then he went on: "What makes
you think you'll be ugly?"

"They call me spindle-legs at school and--and--" she broke off, failing
to particularize further.

The man glanced smilingly down at the slight figure.

"Well, now," he conceded, "in general effect you are a bit chippendale,
aren't you? But that can be outgrown. The rarest beauty isn't that which
comes before the 'teens. If you never have anything else, be grateful
for your eyes--and remember this afterward. Be merciful with them,
because unless I'm a poor prophet there will come times when you will do
well to remember that."

"I'm going to tell the boys and girls at school that I'm not ugly after
all." She spoke with no trace of vanity, merely with a frankness which
had yet to learn the arts of coyness.

"No," counseled her new adviser, "don't do anything of the sort. Simply
wait and after awhile everyone will be telling you."

"But nobody ever told me before that having eyes that didn't match was
pretty," she argued.

"Some day, if you happen to live where men make fine phrases, which
after all may not be such a blessing," he assured her, "they will
whisper to you that you are a miraculous color-scheme. It's a bit hard
to express, but I can give you examples--" He broke off suddenly and
laughed at himself. "After all," he began again in a different voice,
"what's the use? I forgot that the things I should compare you with are
all things you haven't seen. They would mean nothing."

"Tell me, anyhow," she commanded.

"Very well. There is a style of architecture in the Orient: The Temple
of Omar at Jerusalem has it. The Taj Mahal has it. Interiors crusted
with the color of gems and mosaics and rich inlay; the Italian
renaissance has it; splashed from a palette that knew no stint--no
economy. It's a brilliant, triumphant sort of pæan in which the notes
are all notes of color. You have it, too--and now I'm going to drive on.
But don't forget that it's easier to be kind when people call you
spindle-legs than it will be when they come with offerings of flattery."

"You must have seen a lot of things." Mary Burton's voice was that of
admiring wonder, and the young man's face became grave, almost pained
for an instant.

"In a way," he answered, "I have. But I may not see much more. Most men
look back on life when they are old and wise, but I am doing it while
still young and perhaps the backward glance is the same in age or youth.
It's a summary."

"I don't understand half of what you are saying," she confessed a little
regretfully. It seemed to her from what she did grasp that the rest
would be well worth while.

"If it were otherwise," he laughed with a return of the whimsical glint
to his pupils and the little wrinkles about the corners of his eyes, "I
should not have said half of it. A good part of my conversation has been
in the manner of soliloquy. Hermits often talk to themselves. I shall
now say something else you won't understand. Wield leniently the
dangerous gift of your witchcraft--the freakish beauty of your perfect
unmatched eyes."

And all the way home Mary Burton walked on air, and the lonely woods
seemed to have grown of a sudden spicy and glorious. When she stole up
to the room under the eaves and looked again into the little mirror, she
did not turn away so unhappy as she had been. The brown eye dared to
meet the brown eye in the glass--and the violet eye, the violet.

Under her breath she repeated over and over, lest she forget some of its
polysyllables, a sentence which was half-incomprehensible to her, yet
which was sonorous enough and grandiloquent enough to impress her
deeply. At last, also lest memory prove illusive, she wrote the sentence
down: "Wield leniently the dangerous gift of your witchcraft--the
freakish beauty of your perfect unmatched eyes."

       *       *       *       *       *

Down the road, two miles from the Burton home, was the wayside church
with its small and unpretentious organ, and this afternoon Paul had been
pumping its wheezy bellows while the young woman who contributed the
Sabbath music practised. As he came out of the small building and took
his way across the hills, Paul was exalted as he always was by music.

Once he had passed through the gates of dream, which swung wide to a key
of sound, he wandered on, fancy led, until some actuality broke the
spell, bringing him back with a shock and an inward sigh for the
awakening.

But when he drew near the house, a footstep crackled in the underbrush,
and Ham emerged from the woods. As the elder boy came up, Paul, roused
out of his dreams, gave a start and then fell into step.

"Been out there listenin' to the leaves fallin' again?" inquired Ham
shortly.

"I've been pumping the organ." Paul's reply was half-apologetic.

"You don't think about much except music, do you, Paul?"

"Isn't music all right?" For once the lad spoke almost aggressively in
defense of his single enthusiasm.

"I wasn't exactly finding fault, Paul. Only, I don't see much hope for a
feller in this country that doesn't think about anything else. You're in
pretty much the same fix as an Esquimo that can't be happy without
flowers. Grand opera doesn't come as often as the circus, and some years
the circus doesn't come. Listen!" He put one hand into his trousers'
pockets, and noisily rattled a handful of coins. "_That_ music is
understood everywhere. Even in this God-forsaken place, they know how to
dance to its tune."

"Where did you get it?" For an instant Paul halted in his tracks and
forgot his air-castles. Money was so rare a thing in their narrow little
world that even to his impracticability it partook of magic.

Yesterday Ham's pockets had been as empty as his own and today there
emanated from them the clash of silver--not the tinkle of light nickels
and dimes, but the substantial clatter of halves and dollars.

"I sold some lambs to Slivers Martin," was the succinct reply, "and I
got ten dollars for 'em."

"Some lambs?" Paul's face puckered with perplexity. "But, Ham, you
haven't got any lambs."

Ham laughed with a debonair indulgence. "Sure I haven't," he cheerfully
acquiesced, "but I've got the ten."

Paul shook his head, baffled. "I don't see," he persisted, "how you
could sell something you didn't have." They were drawing near the house
now, and Ham stopped him in the road.

"Who sells more wheat than all us farmers, Paul? Men in Wall street,
don't they? And how much wheat do you suppose those fellers have got
amongst the lot of them? Not enough to feed a sick pigeon with. I sold
these lambs first--for ten dollars. Then I bought them off of Bill
Heffers, an' Henry Berry an' Ben Best--for seven dollars."

He paused a moment, then added, while a grin of satisfaction spread over
his face: "What's more, Slivers Martin had to go an' get 'em, an' he had
to go in three directions. If he'd had sense enough, he could have got
'em himself in the first place for seven instead of ten. The three
dollars I got clear was my margin of profit, Paul, an' a margin of
profit is what a feller gets by turnin' his margin of brain into money."

The younger lad looked up with a mist of perplexity in his deep eyes. He
realized vaguely that Ham had accomplished a feat somehow savoring of
business acumen, which was a matter he could not hope to comprehend. Yet
some comment seemed expected of him, so out of a slack interest he
inquired, "Were they good lambs, Ham? What were they like?"

The embryonic speculator favored his brother with an indulgent laugh. "I
guess they were all right," he enlightened casually. "As for me, I
didn't see 'em--any more than the Wall-street men see the wheat they buy
an' sell."

"Oh!" The little boy with the cameo face found himself still more at
sea. For a while they trudged along in silence; then, with an
impulsive, almost impassioned gesture, Ham clapped his hand on the
other's shoulder and halted. Paul, too, stopped, and, looking up, was
startled to behold features set in a rapt expression and dominated by
eyes glowing with an inward ardor.

"Listen to me, Paul," began Ham in a voice which carried an electric
thrill into the dreamy soul of the listener. "You love music and you
live in a place where they don't know the difference between Tannhäuser
and a tom-tom. Mary would like to be pretty and she lives in a place
where if she was as beautiful as Cinderella, nobody but a bunch of
hill-bullies would ever see her. I want power, power that the world's
got to bow down to and acknowledge--and I might just as well be locked
up in somebody' hen-house. Well, maybe it's enough for you only to dream
about the music you don't ever expect to hear, but as for me, I dream,
too, and a dream ain't much use to me unless I can turn it into facts.
I'm going to make your dreams come true--every one of 'em. I'm going to
make Mary's dreams come true. There ain't no better blood in the world,
Paul, than you an' me have got in our veins an' I'm goin' to see that we
get what we're entitled to."

Paul's pale cheeks colored for an instant and something deep within him
stirred in response to the trumpet-like confidence of the voice which
spoke with such assurance of the absurdly impossible. Suddenly he awoke
to the innate music of the inspired human tongue, and there was that in
the face and figure of the taller stripling which abashed him, as though
he had intruded on a prophet in his moment of exaltation. Ham was
listening to voices silent to other ears, and in his eyes glowed such
resolve and invincible purpose as must have characterized the minute
men when they steeled their hearts to meet and conquer the seemingly
unconquerable.

"Out there beyond them piled-up rocks and God-forsaken fields," swept on
the other, "there's a _real_ world where the tides are tides of gold,
an' for me they are goin' to sweep in with a plunder of riches an' power
that all hell can't stop! Out yonder there are cities where men are
doing things an' ships are lyin' at the wharves with stuff that comes
from the ends of the earth--an' those ships are goin' to go an' come
when and where I tell 'em! They're goin' to carry cargoes at my biddin'
an' my people are goin' to have what they want. Instead of a wheezy
little bellows organ that acts like it had the asthma and cracked voices
singin' hymns out of tune, you're goin' to listen to operas, an' Mary's
goin' to have men that the world knows come courtin' her--in the place
of ignorant lumber-jacks." The young speaker paused for breath, and when
he spoke again it was in a voice that defied contradiction or doubt.
"I'm goin' to make the name of Hamilton Montagu Burton the best-known
name in the United States of America!"

"How do you know you can do all them things, Ham?" The question stole
from lips that trembled excitedly under the hypnotic spell of the
announcement, and the answer came quickly, unfalteringly, gravely.

"I know it by something that tells me. It don't say 'maybe you can': it
says 'there isn't power enough between heaven an' hell to stop you.'"

Paul's eyes were large, but as his brother paused he timidly inquired:
"Where did the Montagu come from, Ham? I didn't know you had any middle
name."

"I took it," announced Ham imperiously. "I took it because it's the
name of one of the biggest financiers the world ever knew, but not as
big as I'm goin' to be. I took it because I'm a brother to men like
that--but I'm going to go beyond 'em all, an' I'll carry the name
further than it was ever carried before. I haven't ever talked about
this to any livin' soul else. Folks wouldn't understand. First of all,
I'm goin' to leave this country an' get out into the world."

"Will Pap let you go?"

Ham laughed again. "Pap can't stop me. Nobody can't ever stop me. You
can't hold a river back from the ocean. That's the difference between a
river an' a pond. It's the difference between followin' a star of
destiny an' just goin' on livin' the same as an animal in a God-forsaken
country like this."

"This ain't such a bad country, Ham," argued Paul weakly, with the timid
demurrer of one who sees only the difficulties. "There are some
mighty-good people here, an' out there in the big cities a feller's got
to fight mighty hard to get along, I guess."

"It's a good country to come from," was the swift and contemptuous
rejoinder, "and a damn' poor one to stay in. They've got raw material
here that's all right--like us--but you've got to take it away to finish
it up. As for the hard fight you talk about, Paul, that's what I'm
huntin' for. No man's ever lived that had it in him to be greater than
me."

Upon Paul, with his measureless faith in his brother and his passion for
dreams, the mad arrogance of the declaration was lost. The ecstasy with
which Ham spoke tinged the promise with a fire of conviction--so that
Paul wondered and believed.



CHAPTER III


In the Burton household that fall, a leaven was working. Mary's
mismatched eyes held a tranquillity of quiet self-satisfaction. She had
found somewhere a second fashion magazine and often when she was alone
in the little room under the eaves she snipped industriously away at the
imaginary patterns of gorgeous gowns, or listened to the fervent
pleadings of make-believe suitors.

But the secret was all her own of how something in her had awakened.
This little girl would never again be precisely the same Mary Burton who
had started out that Saturday afternoon with a heart full of rebellion
and who had come back appeased.

And Ham, his mother feared, was finding his burdens too heavy for young
shoulders. He had made no complaint, but an expression of settled
abstraction had come into his face and at home he was always silent.

After the falling of the first heavy snow neither Paul nor Mary ventured
out to school, but Ham's avid hunger for education lost no coveted day
of the term. When his morning work was ended, wrapped in patched
mackinaw and traveling on snowshoes, he made the trip across the white
slopes, where only the pines were green, and came back at the day's end
for his evening chores. The trip was a bit shortened now because the
lake was ice-locked and he could cross between the flag-marked holes of
the pickerel-fishers. He had been afraid to speak of those things which
were burning consumingly in his mind; afraid that if once he let slip
the leash of restraint he would be carried away on a tide of passion.
But some day he must speak, and, strangely enough, the match that
lighted the train of powder was the second coming of the young man who
had met Mary on the road.

He came near nightfall, on snowshoes, and when he knocked it was the
girl who opened the door. At first, she did not recognize him because
the mountain tan had given way to a pallor of recent illness and the
face was very thin. But as soon as he smiled, the whimsical eyes
proclaimed him.

"You--you haven't died yet," Mary Burton spoke instinctively, and stood
holding the door open to the blustering of the sharp wind, quite
forgetful that she was barring his way. But the young man who had come
out of the thickening twilight laughed. He shook the snow off his
mackinaw, for a fresh downfall was making the air almost as white as the
drifts below.

"Not yet," he assured her, "but unless you let me come in out of the
cold I shall probably perish on your doorstep."

Tom Burton, the father, sat gazing at the stove in the center of the
room. He was propped in a heavy chair with cushions about him, and he,
too, had grown thinner and rawer of joint. He had been for some time
thus silently staring ahead with a pipe long forgotten and dead of ash
in his hand and an old newspaper--so old as to be no longer a
newspaper--lying where it had dropped near his side. A painter might
have seen in the pose a picture of the felled and beaten fighter; the
burden-bearer chafing under enforced idleness and the imprisonment of an
irritable convalescence.

"Yes, come in, or go out, whoever you are--and _shut the door_!" There
was no hospitality in the irascible greeting of the manor's lord, and
the face he half-turned to inspect the stranger was devoid of welcome.
It was mirthless from its deep eyes to the lips and chin that were
hidden in a patriarchal spread of beard.

Mary for some reason flushed deeply as she stood aside and timidly
smiled as though in amends of courtesy.

The young man went straight to the stove and began loosening the collar
of his heavy mackinaw. For a moment, without rising or taking any notice
beyond a curt nod, old Tom Burton bent upon him eyes of incurious
gravity.

"I take it you are Thomas S. Burton," began the young stranger. "My
name's Edwardes and I have a shack back in the hills. The snowstorm has
delayed me and I must throw myself on your hospitality for the night."

"Yes." Thomas Burton spoke slowly and dully, and this, too, was a result
of his illness, for in past days his voice had rung stentorian above the
blows of axes in the timber. "Yes, I've heard of you. You're the
millionaire hobo. When a man's got plenty of money and chooses to live
alone in a country that 'most everybody else is leavin', he's tolerable
apt to be heard of."

The comment was not softened with the modification of banter, but rasped
with the twang of suspicion as though the speaker expected to give
offense--and did not care. Young Edwardes received it with a peal of
laughter so infectious that the man in the chair looked up, surprised.

"So that's how they figure me out, is it?" inquired the traveler. "I
suppose though," he added as if in answer to his own question, "no man
knows what portrait public opinion paints of him. At all events I'm a
harmless hobo and quite willing to pay when I put my fellow-man to
inconvenience. I live in the mountains by the sentence of my doctors."

"Lunger, eh?" Burton nodded his head comprehensively, but quite without
sympathy; and the guest bowed his assent.

"Some folks turns lungers away," commented the host reflectively, "but
that's only in the summertime when the vacation boarders kicks on 'em.
As for me, I don't take in boarders summer _nor_ winter, but when the
snow drives a man in I don't drive him out."

"So they accept us in the winter, do they, and cast us out in the summer
when the ribbon-clerks come?" Edwardes spoke musingly, yet amusedly, and
in his accustomed manner of self-communion. "After all, men are much
alike everywhere, aren't they? The lepers must not walk the streets of
Jerusalem, but they may sit in full concourse at the Jaffa and Damascus
gates where their wrappings are brushed by every caravan that goes in or
out."

Ham, who was just entering, stood on the kitchen threshold in time to
hear a man, whom he had never seen before, talking casually of the world
beyond the seas. Perhaps this man knew, too, the cities that brought
conquerors as well as prophets into their own; perhaps to him the
sepia-tinted monuments of Rome and the great tomb in the Place des
Invalides were familiar spots! And the man was young himself--almost a
boy. For an instant, Ham stood there while his eyes traveled around the
room, contemptuously taking in the cheap lithographs and offensive
ornaments which he knew so well and hated so sincerely. He straightened
resolutely, and his hands clenched. There would be a time when the
earth's greatest artists should contribute paintings for his walls, and
palaces give up to him their bronzes and tapestries.

When a half-hour later Ham Burton was alone with the stranger he found
himself asking and answering many questions. He had not meant to impart
his secret of discontent, but just as Mary had confided her troubles at
the roadside, so Ham told his as he sat on the edge of the bed in the
chilly attic-room of the farm-house. Perhaps it was because this man had
actually seen the things that existed beyond the sky-line, and had
walked through the veil of mystery which the boy himself so burned to
penetrate. At all events it transpired. Ham had shown his little store
of greedily conned books and had bared to the gaze of the other his
naked and scorching torture of ambition. The lad knew something of the
men who had made themselves masters of the world and wished to know
more. Edwardes had not even laughed when Ham declared with naïve
conviction: "None of them men ever did anything I couldn't do, if I got
the chance." It was impossible to laugh, though listening to such
boundless egotism, in the face of so deep a sincerity and such an
implicit self-belief as shone from those young eyes.

"Sometimes the great man knows his greatness in advance," said the
visitor gravely. "Sometimes it surprises himself. But most of the
mightiest _made_ their own chance."

"I know that. I'm going to make mine. Power is what I want an' it's what
I'm goin' to have. But I've got to get away from here. Julius Cæsar
couldn't do nothin' here."

When Jefferson Edwardes came down stairs Mary, who had slipped timidly
away, edged into the room, bashful and adorned. She had put on her best
dress, and her lustrous hair was braided and coiled on her head, after
the instruction of one of her fashion plates. As the visitor saw her he
once more checked his inclination to laugh, for the marvelous mismated
eyes were fixed on his face and they held an almost passionate anxiety
to be approved by the man who had prophesied her beauty. The thin child
with her hair so inappropriately dressed in the style of her fashionable
elders--or what she fondly believed to be their style--would have been a
ludicrous little figure had she not been, in her eagerness, too serious
for humor. The one detail in which she thought she could follow the
dictates of Fashion's decree was this arrangement of her hair, and that
she had attempted. Now she stood first on one foot then on the other,
watching in suspense to see if she had succeeded.

So the stranger slipped over unobserved and with a courtier's smile
raised a tiny hand to his lips.

"I am a good prophet," he assured her, and now he let the suppressed
merriment dance at will in his pupils, "but don't forget that a queen's
queenliest necessity is--kindness."

And so, while Mrs. Burton and the elderly aunt busied themselves over
the stove and the father napped restlessly, the sleeping thing that had
not heretofore given warning was ripening for its outburst.

When the evening meal was finished and the family sat listening to the
stranger's talk, Thomas Burton suddenly demanded: "Are they still
quittin' over your way?"

Young Edwardes nodded.

"Except for one or two shiftless fellows like myself," he responded,
"my immediate section is deserted. A half-dozen families moved out this
fall. The general verdict seems to be that the fight's not worth while."

Tom Burton growled deeply. "The country mayn't be much," he grudgingly
admitted, "but how do these fellers that are leavin' all they own behind
'em expect to better themselves? Ain't a few rocky acres better'n none
at all? That's what I asks 'em and they ain't got no answer to give me.
Ain't a little bit better than nothin' whatsoever?"

The visitor did not immediately reply. He seemed to be reflecting, and,
when his answer came, Ham straightened himself in his seat and sat rigid
as if struggling to fix a seal on his own lips and remain a silent
listener.

"Perhaps so and perhaps not," suggested Edwardes. "The open sea doesn't
offer much prospect in a storm, but it may be better than a sinking
ship."

Tom Burton's eyes lighted with the same stubborn glint that had given
his Pilgrim forefathers kinship with the granite of their shores.

"My ancestors have lived here since they ran the Indians out," he said
quietly. "They're buried here an' they fought for this country an' won
it. I guess what they bled for is worth holdin'."

"Your forefathers fought for the whole land, not only this section of
it," suggested Edwardes mildly. "Right here the acres are stony and
unproductive. You can't hope to compete with the farmer whose crops grow
near arteries of transportation."

"All we need is roads--an' aqueducts--an' some day they'll come."

"Perhaps," admitted the younger man. "The question is how many can hold
out till then?"

Tom Burton looked up and for an instant his eyes blazed. "Well, for one,
I can! By God, I don't mean to be run away from my home by a panicky
notion of hard times. I can stay here an' fight to a finish--an' when
I'm licked, my boys can go on fightin'."

His eldest son rose and paced the floor with the restlessness of a caged
leopard. At the black window he halted to gaze out on the bitterness of
the night. The ultimatum of his father's obstinacy galled him beyond
endurance. He heard himself pledged to the emptiness and futility of a
life-sentence which he loathed; from which he was seeking escape and his
soul clamored to rise in its vehement repudiation. Yet he felt that just
now his heart was in too hot a conflagration to make speech safe. If he
spoke at this moment he must speak in violent passion and bitter
denunciation, and so with his hands tautly clutched at his back he held
his counsel and paced the floor. Old Tom Burton's unaccustomed hours in
the confinement of convalescence had left him petulant. The courtesy of
the stranger's argument was lost upon him. All he saw was that it was
argument, and he was in a condition to be irritated by little things.

For a while he watched the restless wanderings of his son from window to
stove and from stove back to window, then his voice broke out sharply in
dictatorial peevishness.

"What ails you, boy?" he demanded. "Have you got St. Vitus' dance? Sit
down an' quit frettin' people with your eternal trampin' about."

Even then, though his face was white with suppressed feeling, Ham held
hard to the curb of silence and took a chair, apart, where he sat rigid.

"It's them that sticks to their guns that wins out," declared the
bearded man, looking around as if challenging contradiction, and, when
none came, frowning on in silence. Then suddenly his eyes fell on the
figure of little Mary, who sat behind the table with her thin face
resting in her hands and her eyes burning with thoughts of that great
wonder-world which their visitor knew so well. His presence in the room
seemed to the child to bring its marvels almost within touch. For the
first time the father recognized the ludicrous massing of coils on the
top of the little head instead of the simple braids that should be
falling over her shoulders, and, in his mood of irritation, the
affectation of grown-up adornment angered him inordinately.

"What damned foolishness is that?" he demanded. "What started you to
putting on a lot of new airs all of a sudden? Do you think you're the
Queen of Sheba?"

The girl shrank back into the shadows at the edge of the room, and, as
young Edwardes glanced that way, he heard a muffled sob and knew that
she had fled up the stairs in chagrin, a pitiful little would-be
princess whose dream splendor had been shattered with a reprimand. His
intuition told him that she already lay curled up on her bed, sobbing
bitterly against the pillow where the coiled hair--now angrily torn down
from its burnished coronal--lay heaped and tangled about her head.

"I'm afraid," volunteered the guest with deep embarrassment, "I'm to
blame. I met Mary on the roadside once as I went down to the city, and
she told me how the children had been teasing her because she wasn't
pretty, I tried to comfort her with a prophecy that her wonderful eyes
and hair would establish her claims to beauty."

"So it was you, was it?" demanded Tom Burton shortly, "that set her
thoughts upon vanity--well, I don't thank you."

The boy, sitting with every nerve under painful control, felt his breath
come quick and deep until his chest heaved, and words leaped to his lips
which, with a supreme effort, he bit back. This whole intolerable
fallacy of outgrown and hard-shelled narrow-mindedness was spurring him
to outbreak, yet for a moment more he held himself in check.

But to the father the incident of Mary's offending was closed, his mind
was already back with his problem and his next words were a stubborn
reiteration: "Yes, sir, me an' my boys will fight it out here where we
belong."

Suddenly spots of orange and red swam before Ham's eyes. Deep in his
being something snapped, and, as a fuse spark reaches and ignites its
charge, so something fired the eruption that broke volcanically in each
nerve.

He rose suddenly and stood before his father, and his words came with
the molten heat of overflowing lava.

"An' when you've fought yourself to death an' I've fought myself to
death, an' we're both licked, what in hell have we been fightin' for?"

The passionate question fell with the sudden violence of a bursting
bomb, and the father's jaw stiffened. For an instant, amazement stood
out large-writ in every feature. Ham had thought much, but, in his home,
he had never before voiced a syllable of his fevered restlessness.

"We're fightin' for our rights. We're fightin' for what the men that
came in the _Mayflower_ fought for," said Tom Burton gravely. "Our homes
an' our rightful claim to live by the soil we till." Strangely enough,
for the moment, the older man's voice held no excitement.

"That may suit you." Now the boy's vehemence was fully unleashed. "You
may be willin' to die fightin' for a couple of cows and a few hundred
rocks that you bump your knees on when you try to plow. As for me, I
ain't! When I fight, I want it to be a fight that counts, for a reward
that's worth winnin'."

The bearded face darkened with the hard intolerance of the patriarchal
order; an order which brooks no insubordination. But the lad spoke
before the words of discipline found utterance.

"Let me finish, father, before you say anything. What I've got to say is
somethin' that ain't just come into my mind. It's somethin' that's kept
me awake of nights an' I've got to say it. I've sat here an' listened,
an' I ain't put in my oar, but I can't be muzzled, an' you might as well
hear me out--because there ain't power enough in the world to stop me."

"An' supposin'--" Tom Burton spoke brusquely, yet with something more
like amusement in his eyes than had previously shown there--"supposin' I
ain't inclined to listen to you?"

"Then you'll just force me to leave you here--an' you can't hardly get
on without me."

"You mean you'd run away?"

"I'd hate to, but once I was going to. I stayed because you needed me."

"I guess I could keep a watch on you, if I had to," announced the father
shortly.

"You couldn't keep a ball an' chain on me," retorted the son. "I
wouldn't be much use that way about the farm."

The elder Burton very deliberately lighted his pipe. Like many men who
fly suddenly into passions at nothing, he had the surprising faculty of
remaining calm when anger might be expected. Now he said only, "Let's
hear your notion, son. What's been keepin' you awake of nights?"

"It hasn't been just thinkin' about myself that's done it," began Ham,
steadying his voice, though it still held a throb of fervor which
neither his father nor mother had ever heard before. "I've been thinkin'
about all of you. You an' mother are workin' your fingers to the bone
an' your hearts to the breakin' point--for what? Just now you sent Mary
away cryin' to bed because she wanted to be pretty. Why shouldn't she
want to be? Isn't it part of a woman's mission? You call a thing vanity
that's just havin' some life an' ambition in her heart. What's life got
in store here for Mary or for Paul or for me? We're startin'--not endin'
up. We have our ambitions. If we stay here Mary will be drudgin' till
she dies. Paul's got the soul of a great musician, an' he might as well
be dead right now as to stay here, an' as for me I'd a heap rather be
dead."

"Oh, I see," commented Tom Burton very drily. "You figure that it'll be
pleasanter for us to move into a palace somewhere, an' have a dozen or
two servants waitin' on us. All right, where's the palace comin' from?"

Ham spoke in absolute confidence. "I'll get it for you--as many palaces
as you want," he declared with steady-eyed effrontery; "if only you give
me the chance. All I ask is this. For God's sake, take the chain off
me--let me get into the fight."

Ham Burton was a tall and well-thewed lad for his age. His muscle fiber
had drawn strength from the ax and the log-pole, but as yet it had not
become heavy with decades of hard labor. He still stood slender and
gracefully tapering from shoulders to waist and just now there was
something trance-like in his earnestness which made wild prophecies seem
almost inspired. The hard-headed father eyed him with good-humored
irony.

"And how do you figure to get us all these things, son?" he inquired.

"I'll show you," came the quick and undoubting response. "All I want you
to do is to leave this place and educate me. Every year you stay here
you're spending part of what you've laid by, an' none of it ever comes
back. Gamble it on me, an' I'll attend to all the rest."

At that the bearded farmer broke into a loud laugh.

"I reckon you're fixed to give me a written guarantee, ain't you?" he
demanded. "But maybe just for the sake of makin' talk you'd better tell
how you know you can swing such a man-sized contract."

"I know"--the lad's voice mounted into a positive crescendo of
conviction--"I know by somethin' that tells me, an' it's somethin' that
can't lie. The prophets knew that God had picked 'em out because He told
'em so in visions. I haven't just heard voices in dreams I've had the
voice in me and I know--_know_ I tell you--that, with a chance, I can be
as great a man as any man ever was. I'm not guessin' or deludin' myself.
I tell you, I _know_! I've always known."

"I reckon, Ham," said the father gravely, "I can tell you the name of
this thing that's been informin' you how great a man you can get to be.
It ain't nothin' under God's heaven but self-conceit."

But the boy swept on. "Napoleon's first friends were folks that ran a
laundry, but afterward kings couldn't talk to him unless he gave 'em
permission. John Hayes Hammond, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Frick, were all
poor boys. None of those men had any better blood in their veins than
I've got in mine, an' if you want to call it that, none of 'em had more
self-conceit."

"I reckon you've got good enough blood to have better sense," observed
the father shortly. Then with a very human inconsistency he added, "I
don't often brag about it, but my middle name is Standish and Miles
Standish was an ancestor of mine."

"And my name," retorted the boy, "is Hamilton, and Alexander Hamilton's
family were ancestors of my mother's. I reckon neither of those men
would feel very proud to see us settin' down here, wearin' our lives
away in a country where the ends won't meet."

"This damned foolishness has gone far enough," ruled the elder in a
voice of finality, his amusement suddenly giving way once more to
sternness. "I've listened to you because you seemed to be full of talk
an' I was willin' to let you get it off your chest, but I don't need
counsel from any cub of a boy. I'm nigh onto fifty years old an' I've
run my family all these years. I had enough brains to get on with before
you was born an' if you've got all the sense you think you've got, you
got it from me an' your mother. Until you get to be twenty-one, you'll
do what I bid you. Heretofore you've done it willin'ly. I hope you'll go
on doin' it that way--but if you don't, I guess I'm still man enough to
make you. Now go to bed--an' go quick."

The lad flushed to his cheekbones and for a moment he made no move to
obey. Under the tyrannizing manner of his father's voice his spirit rose
in rebellion. Tom Burton strode over and his attitude was threatening.
"Did you hear what I said to you?" he inquired. "Are you going by
yourself, or have I got to take you upstairs?"

Slowly and with a strong self-mastery, Ham came to his feet. "I'll go to
bed now," he replied quietly, "because it would be a pity for us to
quarrel--but I've got a few more things to say, and, after awhile, I
guess you'll have to listen to 'em. We'll talk about this thing some
more."

"We'll talk about it some more--when I get good an' ready--if I ever
do--an' if I don't we won't never talk about it any more. Go to bed!"

When the lad disappeared up the stairway, he left a long and constrained
silence behind him. From the mother's chair came a sound that hinted at
secret weeping, and at last Tom Burton straightened his hunched
shoulders and gazed across at young Edwardes, whose eyes were no longer
smiling, but very sober.

"I hope you're satisfied now," said the host bitterly. "You've played
merry hell with this family. Yesterday my son did my bidding without
question. My daughter was an obedient child an' a natural one without
foolishness. You've been under my roof three hours an' my house rises
rebellious against me in my old age. And you bear a name that's always
stood for order an' wisdom--not for stirrin' up trouble. I reckon I
ought to turn you out in the snow, but I won't--I only hope you're
satisfied."

"Mr. Burton," answered the young millionaire quietly, "I should be
sorry to have you think that. If I have kindled a spark in little Mary
that you never saw before it is nothing of which either you or she need
feel ashamed. As for the boy, it was not I who incited him. He has been
suppressing thoughts until now that reached the point of eruption,
that's all." He paused, then added very thoughtfully: "Even if I did
influence them both, it was as the unconscious tool upon which the hand
of Destiny chanced to fall. The boy only seeks fulfilment; fulfilment
that will make life better for all of you--if he succeeds."

"Yes--if he succeeds. All he's got to do is to start out empty-handed
and lick the world to a frazzle. All I've got to do is to gamble the
little savings of twenty-five years of frugal living on his being able
to do it."

"That," said Edwardes, "was hardly what I meant. If you'll let me make
one suggestion, since you credit me with already having done so much, it
is this. That boy may be, or may not be, the genius he thinks himself,
but he's got a brain that drives and torments him. He _thinks_! If you
will treat him as a counsellor and argue with him without sternness it
will pay you. The final decision will rest with you, but let him argue.
Don't choke him off and make a vassal of him instead of a son. His type
of brain can't be leashed."

The father sat moody and did not at once reply. Finally he shook himself
out of his reverie and repeated: "Argue with him? How can a man argue
with a boy that thinks he's a genius and a miracle-worker? Besides,
while he's gabbin' nonsense he can look at you with somethin' in his
eyes that makes you feel like a fool."

"Let me remind you of one thing." The young man from the outer world
spoke very quietly. "The chapters of history that stand out in boldest
relief are chapters dealing with men who _were_ miracle-workers, men who
had something in their eyes that dominated other men. I have been reared
close enough to the center of financial achievement to have seen
something of that. Perhaps that boy of yours is born with the stamp of
victory upon him--who knows? Given the chance, he may fulfill his own
visions. Both of your sons are dreamers, but the elder may be a doer of
dreams as well as a dreamer of dreams. He's an unquenchable flame. Don't
force him to smolder until he bursts into blaze. Give him a chance to
talk. Give him a safety-valve."

Tom Burton drew his brows close over perplexed and baffled eyes; eyes
full of foreboding and anxiety. His voice was full of bewilderment.
"What does it all mean?" he murmured half-aloud. "What's the cause of
all these voices an' protests where everything's been quiet an'
peaceable up to now? Why ain't we never heard nothin' about all this
before if it's such a big thing an' a thing that the Lord intended?" He
gazed about him helplessly and with the face of one who sees omens and
cannot construe them, but who feels a nameless fear of their portent.

"At all events," reiterated the guest, "you will do well to hear what
the boy wants to say, and now I will bid you good-night."

When he had gone, the older man sat in thought for awhile, and, when
next his voice broke the silence, it was in a much softened timbre, a
voice tinged with tenderness.

"Mother," he called in an undertone, and the woman who had borne his
children and stood shoulder to shoulder with him through the years of
fight, came over and knelt at his knee. He took her hand and held it for
a while in silence, and then he said a little brokenly: "Mother, when we
first came here from the little church down there, this house looked
pretty good to us, didn't it?"

"To me, Tom," she said softly, "it has always looked good."

"Do you remember," he went on irrelevantly, "when we brought that slip
of vine from the mountain and planted it by the porch? It's over the
roof now."

The woman only pressed his hand; and after a moment he went on.

"There are a couple of graves out there in the churchyard that I'd hate
mightily to leave."

"The two we lost," she whispered.

"An' yet maybe if we stay here we'll lose 'em all." Tom Burton was
making a decided effort to hold his voice steady.

"Don't--don't, Tom," protested the woman.

"When you married me, Elizabeth," he went on with the air of one
resolved to take full account, "I reckon you could have done a good deal
better, it's been a long fight here an' a hard one."

"I've been happy," she told him.

"Your hand was right slim then, an' now it's hard from work. To me,
there ain't no other hand as beautiful, mother, but there's no use
denying that we can't hold out much longer, unless the children stand by
an' help us."

"They will, Tom. They will. Ham may talk, but he won't desert."

"I know that, but the question is, have we got the right to hold them
here? Is Ham raving, or is he right? That's the question you an' me
have got to decide, mother."

"Do you think, Tom," she demanded, rising and anxiously looking at him,
"do you think that even if we had all the things money could give
us--we'd be any happier in the long run? Life's been hard with us, but
it's always been wholesome."

"I'm contented, mother, but what does well enough for old blood may not
satisfy the young. It ain't the first time I've thought about this
thing. They're quittin' all round us, an' they're quittin' because
they're beat. I've always thought this country could be redeemed. If
boys like Ham thought so, too, it might be done, but it takes young
blood, and if a feller's heart ain't in it, he can't do it."

Her only answer was a sigh, and he continued: "We've still got enough
laid by in the bank to live somewhere for a few years an' give the
children decent educations. If we stay here too long maybe we can't even
do that. What shall we do?"

For a while they sat without talk, and then the mother brokenly
suggested: "Let's hear what Ham says an' let's make up our minds slow."

Together they rose, and, blowing out the lamp, went up the stairs. As
they passed Ham's door they paused, and the father whispered, "I don't
want the boy to think I'm hard on him."

Inside, there was no light, but they could hear the eldest son thrashing
restlessly about in his bed, and they knew that he was not sleeping.

Outside the snow was still falling with quiet relentlessness. It was
wrapping deeper and deeper the white slopes of the mountains and piling
feathery drifts against the windward sides of the sighing pines. Here
and there a burdened branch creaked under its travail. Now and then the
wind that drove the snow rose to a gusty whisper, and a stark limb
scraped the eaves of the house with grating, lifeless fingers. But
between the occasional stress-cries of the storm, there came the low,
dirge-like monotony of the sifting snowfall. And as always in old houses
there were the little voices and the minute nameless stirrings of the
night. The ghost-moan of drafty chimneys and the creak of warped timbers
became audible accentuators of the silence.

Ham heard them all and to him they were like the wretched echoes of a
jail where the small clicking night-sounds creep into dreams and poison
them with reminders of confinement. His brain was hot with a fever of
restiveness and beyond his cell-like room he saw the world from which he
was barred: the world which the tongueless voice in his heart kept
heralding to him as his own world to conquer.

In another bed across the carpetless floor rose and fell the even breath
of Edwardes, who was sleeping as a man sleeps after fighting a blizzard.
Under the boy's own hot cheek was the roughness of a slipless pillow and
his limbs thrashed between coarse sheets that covered a lumpy mattress.

Out beyond the barriers of the snow-stifled mountains stretched endless
continents and seas inviting his soul. Men of alien races and alien
thought trod lands where palm trees nodded along white beaches and where
the sea was blue as sapphire. Thousands of miles away were deserts
agleam with gold and caravans swinging between the burning arch of the
sky and the scorching sands. Great cities rose before his eyes,
beckoning him, calling to him: brooding cities of gray turrets and foggy
streets; strange cities lit with sunset fires on domes and minarets;
laughing cities gay with festivals. All these things he was hungry to
see; to see as a master of the world walking its varied ways, achieving
its affairs. Through his waking dreams marched a parade of great
figures, Hannibal, Cæsar the Corsican, Talleyrand, Disraeli, Montagu,
Pitt, the men with whom this tongueless voice proclaimed his
brotherhood; the men who had found life's granite as hard as that which
lay heaped about him, who had conquered it and chiseled it into
monuments of history. His hand slipped under his pillow and closed on
the dollars he had made. His troubled face smoothed into a smile.

"Slivers Martin paid me ten dollars," he murmured to himself, "an' I
bought the lot of 'em for seven."



CHAPTER IV


When young Jefferson Edwardes set out the next morning for his winter's
imprisonment in the shack where he must fight the white specter of slow
death, amid the white isolation of the snow, he left behind him a
household to all outward seeming as quiet as it had ever been. But all
that morning and afternoon while Ham was away at school, Tom Burton sat
deeply engrossed in calculations involving scraps of paper upon which he
was laboriously figuring, and frequent consultation of a slender
bank-book. And Ham, as he trudged back across the snow, came with a face
set for combat. Hitherto he had obeyed and now the time had come when
his inherent power of leadership must assert itself. If the world could
not conquer him--and he was utterly certain it could not--he must not
flinch from the task of riding down the first opposition he met--even
though it be the opposition of his own blood. Afterward his family
should know only tenderness and ease and luxury, but now they must
acknowledge his mastery.

Of the possibility of failure he never dreamed. His star was in the
heavens and Destiny had spoken. Just as the cork plunged to the bottom
of the pail must inevitably rise to the top, so he must rise. He was of
the oligarchy of the great, of the chosen of the gods, and now the
voices of Destiny were calling him to the undertaking of his mission.
Tonight the question must be thrashed out, yet when he arrived at the
house he went quietly about the round of monotonous chores and after
that sat through the evening meal with no mention of the things in his
heart. It was his father who first broached the subject and he broached
it bluntly while the family sat about him, in the spirit of the
primitive family council.

"Ham," he said slowly, "I've been sittin' here all day turnin' your
notions over in my mind. You want to go away from here and to abandon
this place where you was born; where your mother and me started
housekeepin'; where we've lived for twenty years. If we decided to do
that--an' it wouldn't be no easy thing for either your mother or
me--what plans would you aim to carry out?"

The boy shook his head. He did not shake it in the abashed fashion of
one confronted with a question for which he has no answer, but with the
frank manner of one brushing aside a trivial and irrelevant question.

"I don't know yet. First I've got to have an education, then I'll decide
what I'm going to do, and when I decide I'll succeed."

The father's brows knitted themselves gravely and with displeasure.
"Then, after all your talk and bragging, you haven't got no definite
plan. All you argue for is cutting loose from the roof over us an'
livin' up our little savin's."

"I know that I can give you big things in the place of little things."
The lad's voice again mounted and into his face came the flush of
assured inspiration. "The thing that tells me is something you wouldn't
understand. I can't any more put it into words for you than I can tell
you why the moon swings the tides, but it's just as dead sure as that
an' I can feel it here." He clapped his hands over his heart and went on
with quiet certainty: "I don't know no name to call it by except a
feelin' of power. There's only one thing in God's whole world that can
stop me, an' that's ignorance and lonesomeness. You call it all
dreamin'--well, give me a chance and I'll make it all so real that you
can't have any more doubts."

"I thought," said Tom Burton a bit wearily, "that maybe you might have
some sensible argument, but all you've got is moonshine. I've been
settin' here figurin' all day so that, if you could convince me, I'd
know where I stood with the bank, but it don't hardly seem worth talkin'
about."

"I can't make you understand," declared the boy unwaveringly, "because
you're thinkin' in hundreds where I'm thinkin' in millions. You ask me
about details. All I know is that I've got a destiny to be as great as
any man can be an' that success is goin' to be my slave. I don't know
what I'm going to do because I haven't seen yet what battle-field is
best worth winnin'. When I see what's the biggest--I'll win it."

"So you want us to take what we've saved and gamble it all on your good
opinion of yourself. Do you realize, my son, that we ain't got much and
that we've saved what we have got by goin' without all our lives? When
that's gone, we won't have nothin' left to gamble with a second time.
Ain't it a good deal to pay for learnin' the folly of self-conceit?"

The boy's answer was direct and swift and confident. "One chance is all
I need. It's only a coward that wants a guarantee of more chances, if he
fails once. What sort of a farmer do you think Paul will ever make? He
couldn't heft a second-growth log of timber. But out there in the world
where a man's rated higher than a mule maybe Paul's got it in him to be
great. Some day Mary's goin' to be a woman and a beautiful woman. She's
got a right to life. Don't you ever see the difference between life an'
just livin'? It's the difference between havin' a soul and havin'
nothin' but a belly."

"Do you suppose"--the father spoke petulantly despite his resolution to
hear his son to the end--"do you suppose we've always been poor because
we liked it?"

"If you stay poor," came the prompt retort, "it's because you won't let
me change it. We're stayin' here an' slowly starvin' our hearts an'
brains an' souls because Money's got us bluffed. I'm goin' to make money
my slave an' not my master--an' if you'll trust me you can have it to
play with."

"You tell me that you are one of the almightiest great men that was ever
born, an' that somethin' keeps on tellin' you so. You tell me that I
can't understand the voice you hear," said Tom Burton slowly. "Don't you
know that all the lunatic asylums are full of Emperors of Germany and
Kings of England--an' they all hear them same kind of voices? That's why
they're there."

"But there's one Emperor of Germany and one King of England outside them
places--an' they're on thrones. All the masters of the world have felt
their power an' folks have laughed at 'em--at first." Ham spoke with
desperate seriousness that made his eyes glow steadily and forcefully.
"And yet the big things have been done by those men, and from the first
_they_ knew that they were different. You say I've been braggin'. Did
you ever hear me say one word before yesterday about bein' different
from any other boy? I'm sayin' it now because there isn't any use in
lyin'. I _know_ just as well as if I'd already done it, that I can look
down on other successful men as far as a mountain-top looks down on a
little hill. I've done my work here on this farm, an' I haven't ever
shirked. Now I want my chance--an' I don't want my family to go to seed.
I want the blood of the Standishes and the Hamiltons to climb up and not
to run down hill and die out in a rotting puddle at the bottom. I want
these things and I'm goin' to have 'em--This farm an' you have fought
for a lifetime an' the farm's whipped you. I tell you there is just one
thing in God Almighty's world that can whip me--just one thing that I'm
afraid of--an' it's this farm. If you stay here I reckon I can't hardly
desert you, but I'd rather you'd kill me outright. That's all I've got
to say."

Tom Burton rose from his chair and took two or three turns across the
frayed strips of carpet. His eyes were no longer the eyes of a father
irritated by the insubordinate fret of a fledgling son begging
permission to test his wings. His bearded face bore the seamed
uncertainty of his deeply vexed spirit. Perhaps in that moment there
came to him some sense of conversion to the prophet-like assurance of
his son. Perhaps he felt the dread of transplanting and a vague wonder
whether the gifts of wealth, if they came, might not bring disaster in
their wake. At last he turned, cramming his hands into his trousers'
pockets, and swept the little family circle with eyes in which flashed
something of patriarchal fire.

"Mother," he demanded, "you have heard what the boy says. Does it sound
like reason to you, or is it just a stripling's restlessness?"

Elizabeth Burton looked from her husband's face to that of her eldest
child. It seemed to her that the father's eyes were wistful and sorely
distressed, and that the son's face was tightly drawn with a feverish
burning of the eyes. Suddenly she felt like an arbiter called to judge
between them. Her boy with his Cæsar's ambition was breaking his heart
to go. Her husband, with much of life behind, could only yield with
something like a break in his own. Her eyes moistened.

"If he feels called into the world, Tom--" she began, then halted. The
husband waited, and she went on again. "If he feels it so strong, maybe
it must mean something. It's mighty hard to say. But, Tom, I know Ham
better than anybody else does. He's not the kind of boy to leave us
alone. If we need him he'll stay."

"That's not the question, mother." The father who had yesterday been
dictatorial and intolerant was now the just judge who refused to be
beguiled by personal preferences. Only his pupils betrayed the pathos of
his inward suffering. "It's a right hard question as I see it. This
place means home to me, but I'm about played out. If we stay it's Ham
that's got to wear the harness, an' I know just how heavy the harness
is. It would gall him an' blister him even if he wasn't already chafin'
with discontent. It seems like he can't do it willin'ly. Can we let him
do it any other way? We're lookin' back, mother, but I reckon life runs
forward."

"It ain't just my life I'm thinkin' about--" broke in Ham's voice, but
his father stopped him with an uplifted hand.

"You've had your say, son, for the present," he reminded; and the boy
fell silent.

Tom Burton turned to the maiden aunt who sat under the lamplight with
her sewing on her lap. He saw that her lips were intolerantly
compressed and that her needle came and went in protesting little jabs.
"Hannah," he quietly inquired, "what do you think?"

The elderly woman whose sternness of view had been tempered by neither
maternity nor breadth of experience shook her head.

"I don't know as I'm called on to express what I think, Tom," she
replied with cold disapproval. "I've always held that it's a sinful
thing to be dissatisfied with what God wills. He put us here an' I
reckon if He hadn't meant us to live here He'd have put us somewhere
else."

"I guess, Hannah--" Tom Burton's eyes for just a moment lighted into a
humorous smile--"we couldn't hardly expect God to move us bodily. But if
we do go away from here you can have the comfort of figuring that if He
hadn't wanted us to go there we wouldn't be there." He looked over at
little Mary, who alone had not spoken.

"Daughter," he suggested, "you're too young to have to decide such
things, but you might as well speak up, too. It looks like the day has
come for children to lay down the law to their elders. What do you think
about leavin' the old home, the only home we've ever known?"

The child, surprised at being called into the council, dropped her eyes,
then, suddenly glancing up and meeting Ham's gaze, she felt a courage
beyond her own, and stammered: "I'd like to see the world
and--and--well, just to see all the wonderful things--and to know
everything."

Tom Burton's lips stiffened. "A long time ago a couple of people lived
in the Garden of Eden," he said shortly. "And I reckon what Eve said
wasn't much diff'rent from that. Well, they moved away all right."

There was a long silence in the room, and the father at last broke it
with his eyes fixed on his eldest son.

"Those great men you talk about, Ham--" he spoke with deliberate
gravity--"them fellers you seem to think are sort of brothers of
yours--most of them came to times when they saw things topplin' down all
round 'em. They sent your Napoleon to St. Helena an' a lot of others
didn't do much better in the long run. Julius Cæsar was pretty great an'
pretty ambitious. He fell. There's a heap to be said fer livin' straight
an' simple. We're self-respectin' men an' women with clean blood in our
veins that don't have to bow down to no man. We've lived honest an'
worked hard, but sometimes when spring comes on an' I'm followin' the
plow an' the blackbirds are followin' me along the furrow, I feel like
God ain't so far away. When they buries me out there amongst those I've
loved an' been true to, I reckon I'll rest."

"Your father," the son reminded him, "wasn't a young feller when Lincoln
called for volunteers, but he didn't stay here because he wanted to
rest. He went, an' now he's restin' down there at Shiloh. I want to
answer my call. I'm willin' to take my chance of restin' where death
finds me."

Outside, across the ice-locked lake and through the snow-burdened forest
swept the wolf-like howl of the wind.

Inside, there was the silence of a deeply troubled indecision. At last,
Tom Burton said:

"It's a right-hard thing to stake the welfare of a family on a boy's
notion of his own greatness--a notion that ain't never been tried out.
There's just one thing you've convinced me of, and it's this: You may
not be able to do anything worth-while in the world outside. You may be
a failure there, but I'm pretty sure, in your frame of mind, you'll be a
failure here. The man that makes a fight here has got to have his heart
in it an' he's got to love the soil. That don't fit your case! I ain't
ready to admit yet that I ain't the head of my own family. I ain't made
up my mind yet what we'll do. Maybe we'll stay right here an' maybe
we'll go away." The father ran one hand wearily through the thick hair
on his forehead and shook his head. "I've heard you out, an' we'll all
think on it an' dream on it. I've found right often when a feller's
perplexed an' can't reach a conclusion, he goes to sleep an' wakes up
with a clearer judgment. Once a mistake is made, it can't be unmade; but
I don't want you to think that I ain't ponderin' this question."

Ahead of him Ham saw Paul and Mary slip up the stairway and his aunt
rise, with the stiff disapproval of silence, and leave the room. He
himself remained only a few minutes longer and then with a low-voiced
good-night he pressed his father's hand, and felt the grip of stern
affection on his own. He took up and lighted the small lamp that was to
light him to bed, and as he climbed the boxed-in stairway, the shadows
wavered on the walls at each side, and he heard the wail of the wind
around the eaves.

When he set the lamp down and began undressing he realized for the first
time the gnawing weariness of muscles that the day had taxed with chores
and tramping. Tomorrow morning he must rise while the windows still let
in only the chilling gray of dawn. Yet he stopped with half his clothes
removed, and, going to an improvised shelf in the corner, took down a
battered volume. It was not until the lamp warned him of the spent hours
with its dying sputter that he laid aside the resonant sentences in
which Carlyle had been talking to him of heroes and their worship. In
another room across the hall he had heard stirrings for an hour after
the silence of sleep had fallen on the rest of the house.

There Mary, unable to compose herself at once, had been snipping at the
pattern of a gown with which, in her fancy, she was to charm those men
who did not wear lumbermen's socks and neglect their razors. But now
even Mary was asleep. It was cold in the room, and outside the world was
bitter, but Ham was far from sleep. In his mind still worked and seethed
the unresting ferment which had become a torment. The annals of the
great had fired him to passion. The littleness of his room and of his
life stifled him. He wanted to breathe freer, and, drawing on his
mackinaw, he tiptoed noiselessly down the stairs and let himself out
into the night.

There he found a frozen world, shut in by low-drifting clouds and
swallowed in a smother of darkness. Even the snow was gray, but at least
there he could look out across space.

As though his eyes followed a compass needle, he slowly swung them until
his gaze set toward his desire, and because vaguely he thought of New
York as the center of the great outer world, his face was to the south.

The wind moaned about him and somewhere far off he heard the ripping
groan of an overladen tree giving way under its paralysis of sleet. In
himself he felt something also breaking away from its old place. He
felt forces rending their bonds and straining for freedom, and it
almost seemed to his burning eyes that while he gazed toward that spot
hundreds of miles away which he had never seen, there slowly kindled in
the sky a pale and luminous aura, such as hangs over the spires and
shafts of a giant city. His fancy pictured the unsainted halo that
gleams above thronged and never-sleeping streets: streets that always
beckon. Vague echoes of sounds came toward him, warring in the teeth of
the wind; sounds of the many voices and the many clamors that merge into
one dull, insistent roar: the voice of the city.

So he stood there shivering and not realizing that the frost was
shrewdly biting him. His spirit was the spirit of a hatching eaglet
impatiently rapping at the shell which too slowly opens to give it
freedom.

"What I did to Slivers Martin," he told himself, "I can do to the rest
of them. There ain't much difference between doin' big things an' little
things, except that you've got to be where there are big things to do
an' you've got to _know_ you can do 'em."



Part II

THE BOOK OF LIFE

IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

CHAPTER V


It was eight o'clock, and the year as well as the day was in its
morning. The watch which young Carl Bristoll drew from his pocket was
very thin and exquisite, and he did not look at its face. Instead he
touched a delicate spring with his finger-nail and listened to the
tinkle of its low, silvery chime. This watch might have spoken the hour
to a blind man as well as to eyes as clear and engaging as those of its
present possessor.

In some Swiss shop, where for generations an hereditary skill of adept
fingers had come down from father to son, a master of his craft had
toiled long and lovingly over this thin disc of gold which epitomized in
its small circumference a perfection of accuracy and beauty. Because it
was a prince's plaything and because the young Titan of finance who
employed Carl Bristoll as his confidential secretary had brought it back
by way of an affectionate gift from his last trip to the Continent, the
lad prized it above other possessions. To young Bristoll, who was no
unwilling wage-earner, but a hero-worshiper in all the intensity of
strong youth, it had been as if an emperor had pinned on his breast the
insignia of personal regard.

He put the trinket back into his waistcoat pocket, and strolled to the
windows that gave off over the Drive and the Hudson. The softly arching
sky found its color echo in the blue of broad waters and beyond them the
Palisades were already beginning to show tenderly green and alluring in
spring's resurrection. Out in midstream lay the crouching hulk of a
battleship, and its somber gray was the one note that contradicted the
softness of the morning.

Bristoll turned his face again to the interior, where a flood of sun
from the broad window at the back filled the place with eastern light.
He never tired of that room, the library where his chief dispatched
those matters of more urgent business that pursued him even to his home.
It was a room that might have served a potentate as a council-chamber
with its treasury of almost priceless art, yet it reflected everywhere
the quiet of faultless taste and the elegance born of a restrained and
sure discernment.

"And all of it," Carl Bristoll murmured to himself, as he awaited the
coming of its master, "he made for himself in a scant ten years, and he
stands only at the threshold of his career!" That often repeated formula
was a sort of daily tonic with which his ambition reminded itself that
life holds no prize locked behind impossible barriers for him who has
the courage and resolution to grasp it. Yet had he been older he would
have added, "The impossible is only possible to the child of Destiny."

He heard a quiet movement behind him, and turned to find the butler
standing at his elbow with a tray of early mail, into which the
secretary plunged, separating the purely personal from those letters
which the great man saw only through his subordinate's eyes.

"I'm not at all sure, Mr. Bristoll, that the master will rise early,"
volunteered the servant. "He was with his sister until midnight, and
after that Mr. Paul came in and I heard him playing the piano, sir, as
late as three o'clock."

Carl laughed. "I had a call from him on the 'phone an hour ago," he
answered. "He spoke of a busy day ahead, and suggested an early start.
There are some men, Harrow, who find rest simply in changing the brain's
occupation."

"Yes, sir, quite so," admitted the butler dubiously. "Still, as the poet
says, sir, it's sleep that 'knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,' sir.
Sometimes I have apprehensions that the master will overtax his
strength."

"I didn't know, Harrow," smiled the secretary, "that you were a disciple
of the poets."

"Only, sir, in an unostentatious way," deprecated the man. "It has been
my good fortune to serve in families where such niceties have been
highly regarded, sir, and, I take it, advantageous associations reflect
themselves in one's tastes, sir. But--" he dropped his voice, and came a
step nearer--"but, sir, if you will pardon me, sir, I should like to ask
a question. You know, of course, that the master's sister arrived last
night from Europe?"

Bristoll nodded. He himself had not yet had the privilege of seeing the
young woman, the fame of whose loveliness had preceded her: a loveliness
which had enthralled men from the Irish Sea to Suez.

"Of course, sir, it's not for me to entertain opinions, but--" The
butler paused in evident embarrassment, and the secretary's eyes
narrowed a little.

"You are quite right, Harrow," he asserted shortly. "I can't see that
you are required to express any opinion."

"Of course, sir, I was only going to say--"

"Well--don't say it."

But, for all his obsequiousness, the admirable Harrow was a persistent
diplomat.

"No, sir, of course I sha'n't. I was only going to ask you--"

The secretary looked up with an impatient frown on a forehead shaped for
resolution.

"All right. Ask me and have it over."

"I was going to inquire, sir, whether you regard it likely that the new
mistress would--as I might say, sir--institute any sweeping changes of
régime in our _milieu_? Things have gone on very well, sir, as they
were." The interrogation carried a note of sharp anxiety: the
apprehension of a petty monarch who might face the fate of being
deposed.

"I don't know." The reply was curt, and Harrow with a bow said only,
"Yes, sir, thank you. I was just speculating on the possibilities, sir."

For a while there was silence in the library as Bristoll ran through
letter after letter, his hand racing over the stenographer's pad upon
which he reduced their purport to succinct notes. He always enjoyed
these responsible mornings with his chief because they were times of
intimate association with a mind that directed colossal operations, and
they savored almost of the importance of cabinet meetings.

Often, as he read the fluctuations of the ticker tape or glanced at
financial scareheads in the evening papers, he smiled knowingly with the
memory of a sentence spoken at the breakfast-table or an edict uttered
in this library, which had been the motive power behind the news; and
which to the world at large remained an unseen impulse.

Now Bristoll heard a quick step coming down the stairs with a
schoolboy's buoyant lightness and the whistling of a popular air. It
might have been a college sophomore arriving light-heartedly from his
cold plunge, rather than the Titan whose word in the Street was already
a thing which no one of the older money-kings could ignore.

Carl Bristoll rose, and Hamilton Burton broke off his whistling to smile
gaily as he clapped the younger man on the shoulder and inquired with a
voice remarkably soft and musical, "Well, how is our young Minister of
Finance this morning?"

Hamilton Montagu Burton stood an even six feet, and from a generous
breadth of shoulders, swung back in free erectness, he tapered to a trim
slenderness of waist and thigh. In the immaculate elegance of his dress
he justified his reputation as the best-clothed man in New York, even
while he retained the grace of a seeming carelessness. His eyes, though
he had slept a scant four hours, looked out clear-pupiled and tireless,
but it was the shape and carriage of the head that proclaimed mastery.
The pattern of brow and jaw and clean-cut lip and indomitable eye gave
that head an alert power which made it the head of one born to command.
The illuminating smile could give way to a sternness and a decision that
became ruthless in its dominance, and the eyes could harden like
diamonds as swiftly as they could melt.

Carl Bristoll laughed, and after the custom of badinage that had grown
up between them he made a bow of mock ceremony as he replied.

"Quite fit, Sire, and your Majesty's appearance proclaims you equally
so."

It was hardly the sort of greeting that the outsider might have
expected, but neither financier nor secretary was an ordinary type and
between them throve an excellent understanding.

As Bristoll read from his notes Hamilton Burton's face lost its smile
and became instantly attentive while his questions snapped out
clear-clipped and comprehensive.

It seemed that the brain was separated into many zones, each carrying
forward its separate functions without interference or confusion.
Through the channels of vision, hearing and quick independent thought,
varied propositions were at one time being absorbed while the master
instinct of coördination was weighing all and planning yet other
affairs.

"And now," announced the financier, when the stenographic notes had been
read and others written in swift adjudication of their problems, "the
rest can wait till we get down-town. There's Harrow calling us to
breakfast--and breakfast is an institution I particularly venerate." The
master of the establishment turned to the butler and inquired, "Hasn't
Miss Burton come down?"

"Miss Burton, sir," replied the man with a shade of uneasiness in his
voice, "sent word by her maid that she would breakfast in her room."

The naïve smile faded from Hamilton Burton's face and for an instant it
took on something of that aggressive set which men in the Stock-Exchange
had come to recognize as precursor of a frenzied day.

"Send word to my sister," he directed quietly, "that I insistently
request her to join us at breakfast. I must see her before I leave the
house." He strode with a resilient step about the room, pausing idly
before a favorite landscape here and prized bronze there. Patience was
one quality which Hamilton Burton had not spent great effort in
acquiring. It was his custom to let others adapt themselves to his
convenience, yet his eyes were unruffled as he smilingly turned to his
secretary. "'Serene I wait--with folded hands,'" he murmured.

But when Harrow returned it was as bearer of a message which marred the
serenity of this waiting.

"Miss Burton sends word, sir, that she will receive you in her boudoir
in a half-hour. She does not find it convenient to come down to
breakfast."

For a moment, Hamilton Burton remained standing and his gray eyes
flashed forebodingly, though the line of his lips was not deflected.
Then he led the way to the breakfast-room.

"Tell Miss Burton," he ordered shortly, "that we are awaiting her in the
breakfast-room. Say to her that I trust she will make the delay short."
Then as the butler turned, the master halted him again. "No," he
amended, "I'll send a note--give me a sheet of paper."

As the embarrassed servant laid a note-card by his plate, he hastily
scribbled:

"Dear Mary, While you are mistress of my house I shall expect you to
appear at the breakfast-table. The rest of the day is yours. This is
final. Mr. Bristoll and I are waiting and my time is not to be valued
lightly. Please do not tax my patience longer."

When Harrow had gone, Burton turned again to Bristoll, and with that
systematic quality which made his brain so versatile he dismissed the
annoyance for another matter.

"I want your opinion on the coffee," he said lightly. "It came from the
Jungus valley in Bolivia. Men who have drunk it there are not satisfied
with any other. In the local market it is costly and as an export it is
unattainable."

"Yet you have obtained it," smiled the secretary. "How?"

Burton laughed. "I wanted it," he announced briefly. "So I got it."

"Mr. Burton," the younger man spoke hesitantly, "you look very fit and
seem absolutely on edge, but I'm afraid you're rather overdoing things.
I don't mean any impertinence of suggestion, but the trout are jumping
in the mountain brooks just now. Can't you drop things for a few days
and climb into a flannel shirt--and rest? You could go somewhere where
the leaves are rustling in the woods and things are as God made them,
close to His immortal granite. I don't want to see you break yourself
down."

Hamilton Burton was looking at the percolator in which the Bolivian
coffee was bubbling as restively as the fires of the volcano at whose
base it grew from berry to lush plant and came again to berry. He was
balancing a spoon on his forefinger, and smiling with quiet amusement.

"Now that's very thoughtful of our young Minister of Finance." He spoke
softly as the fugitive smile played around the corners of his lips.
"Very thoughtful indeed, but the suggestion is, after all, unavailable."
He paused, and the smile died. "I don't think I've ever become
autobiographical with you, have I, Carl?"

The secretary shook his head. "But, of course, you know I should feel
honored at any time you did," he declared with whole-hearted and boyish
enthusiasm.

"Very well. Until I was sixteen years old I lived very close to
mountains built of God's immortal granite. Whenever I went out to do my
chores I barked my shins on God's immortal granite. Whenever I plowed I
had to do acrobatics to save as much of the plowshare as possible from
God's immortal granite. It's all very pastoral to talk about milk fresh
from the sweet-breathed cow, but for ten years I was lady's maid to two
singularly repulsive cows--and in time they cloyed upon me. Whenever
those Juno-eyed kine lowed for a drink of water, it was up to me to
hustle out and serve them--and I never got a tip for my service. To this
good day, Carl, the sight of a cow gives me cramps in the fingers and
melancholy in the soul. Henceforth I'll take my milk in hermetically
sealed jars from one of my own model dairies--and I'll try to forget
that its origin is--cows. That cream in the pitcher there came from a
farm of mine up in Westchester. Bulk for bulk, it costs me about the
same as old champagne, but it's mighty cheap compared to what that other
milk came to." He paused and gazed at the spoon balanced on a steady
forefinger.

"As for the whisper of the breeze through the silver birches, I've heard
it with chilblains on my feet and bruises on my heart and henceforth
when I want to see the shadows fall, I'll go and stand under Cheops'
pyramid or the Coliseum at Rome or some other edifice reared with human
hands as the monument to human achievement that helped to build the
world. When I die they'll once more lay me close to Nature's breast,
and, being dead, I sha'n't object--but until that time I'll stay
away--as far away as possible."

The financier ended his good-humored tirade and glanced up to meet the
frankly alarmed gaze of Harrow, who at that moment reappeared in the
door.

"Miss Burton says," announced the butler, his usual suavity shaken
beyond control, "that there is no answer to your note. She says you
already have her reply."

The coffee in the percolator was bubbling furiously, and the ice about
the grape-fruit was beginning to melt. Hamilton Burton rose abruptly
from his chair. "Please excuse me for a moment, Carl," he said in a low
voice. "I will go up and bring my sister down to breakfast."

The furnishing and decorating of Mary Burton's apartments had engrossed
her brother's interest for some weeks prior to her arrival and when in
answer to his rap a silvery voice said, "Come in," he stood on the
threshold of a boudoir as richly and tastefully detailed as a princess
of the blood royal could have asked.

But the girl, who sat indolently before her mirror, clad in a morning
negligée of exquisite delicacy, was so like a colorful and lustrous
pearl that one forgot her surroundings. Hamilton's eyes, the eyes that
could change so swiftly from implacability to disarming softness,
flashed into pride as he looked at her.

"Mary," he amiably began, "I think there must be some misunderstanding.
I asked you to come down."

The girl looked up with a serene smile. "Did they not then give you my
message?" she inquired softly. "I told them to say that I would
breakfast here."

The man's eyes narrowed and darkened. Something in his domineering
spirit bristled, as it always bristled under questioning or opposition.

"Why? You are fully dressed, are you not?"

"Assuredly."

"Then what reason can you have for refusing to come when I ask it? Is it
simply that you wish to defy me? I am not accustomed to being
disobeyed."

"Are you then so sure of obedience, _mon cher_?" She raised her gorgeous
eyes and laughed up at him with indulgent amusement. Her manner was that
of a young empress who regards any criticism of herself as an audacious
jest, so unprecedented as to be diverting. "Are you sure that you have
nothing yet to learn? I said I should not come down to the
breakfast-room--because I did not wish to come."

"You mean that you still refuse?"

"If you desire to call it that. I would not seem ungracious.... I should
prefer the word 'decline.'"

"Then that is reason enough why you _are_ coming."

Mary lifted her brows in incredulous amusement, but Hamilton Burton did
not smile in response. He came a step nearer her chair and said very
quietly: "While you are in my house I wish you to appear at the
breakfast-table. This morning is a good time to begin. Will you
accompany me on your own feet, or will you make your initial appearance
kicking those same feet, while I carry you down like a child in a
tantrum? There are about five seconds available for you to give the
question mature deliberation."

"Thank you, _cheri_." Her mirthful pupils were not flecked with
annoyance. "Five seconds are four seconds more than I need. I shall not
go either way."

Hamilton made no further comment. With the apparent ease of one taking
up a child from its cradle, he bent down and gathered her slender figure
in his arms, then, lifting her bodily from her chair, he turned toward
the door.

For an instant, she lay against his shoulder, too astounded for protest.
Then her satin slippers began beating a furious tattoo and her small
fists pummeling him as her cheeks flamed and her mismatched eyes burst
into indignant fire. These demonstrations her brother ignored as he
carried her in effortless fashion out into the broad hall and half-way
down the stairs. She had ceased to struggle by that time and was gasping
in wordless wrath. But at the turn of the stairway into the lower hall
he paused and stood still, while their eyes met and locked in a brief,
hot duel of wills.

"Now," he inquired calmly, "shall this be the manner of your first
appearance before my secretary and butler, or will you make the rest of
the journey on your own power?"

For the first time she recovered her voice. It was a wild mingling of
frustrated wrath and outraged dignity, and for once she found that her
fluency had forsaken her. She had been taught--Hamilton had seen to
that--that when she spoke others should obey. She had not yet learned to
bow to even his autocracy.

"_Ham!_" she exclaimed tensely, though even now she spoke in a cautious
voice so that no echo might reach other ears. "Put me down! How dare
you?"

He did not answer the question; instead he asked another.

"Will you enter as mistress of the house or will you go in kicking?"

During a long defiant pause, their eyes held, both pairs unwavering;
then the girl said quietly: "I'll go in myself."



CHAPTER VI


Harrow had not overstated the facts when he said that it had been his
privilege to serve in families "where niceties were highly regarded." He
was the accomplished servant, seeing and hearing only such things as his
betters intended for his eyes and ears. If he had human emotions he
ordinarily revealed them only when his livery was doffed. Yet even the
impeccably correct serving man has his moments of weakness, and, as
Hamilton Burton left the room, he muttered low, but quite audibly, "My
God!" Then, feeling Carl Bristoll's chilling glance upon him, he sought
to cover his indiscretion in an apologetic cough.

But the secretary himself felt the disturbing uneasiness that had
prompted that exclamation. Hamilton Burton had been defied, and when
that occurred peace fled and punishment fell.

Evidently the girl upstairs, the girl just returned from years of study
and travel in Europe, had something of that same spirit which made her
brother's will a thing of adamant, but she had not done well to begin
her new life by measuring lances with the autocratic Hamilton. Probably
at the moment she was being reprimanded, perhaps rebuked into tears
which, since she was young and beautiful, became a disquieting thought.
Carl Bristoll felt the discomfort of the outsider in the shadow of a
family scene.

He would now have to meet Mary Burton under the most inauspicious
circumstances, and she would always remember that he had first seen her
with tear-stained eyes at a moment of humiliation and defeat. It was too
much to expect that a woman could forget this, and the young secretary
had the wish that it should be otherwise. So he sat rather moodily
contemplating his plate and when he heard steps on the stairs he was
surprised at the brevity of the interval. Hamilton Burton had evidently
subdued this insurrection in his household with the same whirlwind
swiftness that he employed toward enemies beyond his walls.

Bristoll saw the young financier draw back the portières and he himself
rose hastily and came forward, but he halted half-way and stood
transfixed. He had been told that he was to expect beauty, and he had
expected it, yet now for the moment he found himself standing
astonished, and as devoid as a raw schoolboy of his usually
imperturbable poise. From this trance-like condition he was recalled by
the quizzical amusement of his employer and, bowing from the hips, he
found himself murmuring some well-bred inanity.

The girl standing there in the door was a sight to make men gasp and
lose their tongues, and because this was not the first who had done so,
her own perfect lips curved into a smile of purest graciousness, and in
her voice as she spoke was a quality of zylophone music made the more
charming by that slight French accent which years abroad had given her.
Beauty is so variant of type, so often vaunted and so rarely found in
true perfectness, that Carl Bristoll had accepted the newspaper reports
of this girl's loveliness with a discounted credence. Now he was
convinced. The quality of her coloring and expression would have made
her face beautiful even had it lacked its allurement of line and
delicacy of proportion; even had the chin tilted less regally and the
eyes looked out under their long lashes with less serene queenliness,
though ready to twinkle at the instant into the merriment of a
mischief-loving child.

She was tall, but not too tall, lithe and slim and sinuous as a mermaid,
yet well enough rounded to make each delicate curve a charm, not merely
of promise but of fulfilment. She wore a flowing morning-gown that made
negligée seem to the suddenly intoxicated secretary the glorified
costume for a woman. It was a richly embroidered thing from China and on
her head was a crown of lace. Bristoll knew that its material name would
be a boudoir cap, but on her head it became a crown--no, it was too
filmy and ethereal for that: rather it was a sort of halo. Beneath it,
and imprisoning pale fire in its amber softness, escaped a truant mass
of curls. From the cap to the foamy whiteness of a lacy petticoat that
peeped out just above the silk-clad ankles, she was exquisite. And all
these things stamped themselves on young Carl Bristoll's brain as he
bowed. Then he realized the delicate white-and-pink glow of her
complexion and a marvelous pair of mismated eyes.

Later when trying to defend to his own sophisticated mind his
unaccountable loss of poise, he assured himself that it was these eyes.
They should have spoiled her beauty, just as any other thing that
destroyed symmetry of balance in form or color would have marred the
effect. Yet, on the contrary, they were gorgeous and wonderful, and when
he looked at them he felt as if he had plunged into some icy pool and
come out glowing.

"It is a pleasure indeed, Mr. Bristoll," she smiled when he had been
presented. "You see we must be good and informal friends since the--"
she shrugged her slim shoulders and quite unconsciously fell into French
idiom as she continued--"since the so great impatience of my big brother
compels me to meet you like this--all untidy and unprepared." She made a
little gesture with both hands and her rippling laugh seemed to envelop
the young secretary with a deep sense of obligation for her
graciousness. "I have been so long from America, and I have not yet come
back to the American ways. In France they do not so rush from their beds
to their business. In France they take the time to live."

In Hamilton Burton's face there remained no echo of the impatience of a
few minutes past. In his serene eyes was no hint of remembered
annoyance. As he drew back his sister's chair, one saw in his masterful
face only the satisfied pride of a man fastidious of taste in all things
from neck-scarfs to women.

"I'm truly sorry, Mary," he declared, "to have inconvenienced you, but
you must let me be a little selfish. The only time I can be sure of
seeing you will be across the breakfast-table, and that privilege you
must grant--because you are too delectable a sister to do without."

"Ah," she laughed, "but I did not know that here in America the men knew
how to say the pretty things--and to their own sisters, too! But it is
for me to apologize. It is I who let the coffee grow cold. I have been
spoiled abroad where people are very lazy." Under her smiling eyes the
two men sat content while she made of serving the Bolivian coffee a
ceremonial as pretty as a fête.

Young Bristoll, usually loquacious enough, was not talkative this
morning. What had happened to more hardened philanderers abroad was
happening to him, and the shield which he had always succeeded in
holding safely before his heart was being lowered under the bright
archery of Mary Burton's eyes.

At last he rose, and his chief said quietly, "Carl, I shall be an hour
late. Will you run down to the office and sit on the lid until I get
there?"

The secretary's brows went up. "You were to meet several of the
directors of the Inter-Ocean Coal and Ore at ten-fifteen," he reminded.

"Let them wait," retorted Burton placidly. "I'm usually punctual
enough."

"Ah!" exclaimed Mary with an adorable show of penitence, "and it is I
who am causing Monsieur Coal and Monsieur Ore to wait--I am so sorry!"

But, when Bristoll had gone and Hamilton had led the way into the
library, safe from the overhearing of the servants, the girl's manner
abruptly changed. She stood by the broad desk, resting her slender
fingers lightly on the mahogany top, and turned to her brother. Her
attitude was very straight and regal, and her voice, though still soft
and musical, had in it the quiet ring of defiance.

"So!" she said. "So, in my brother's house I come and go under orders?
So, I rise when he commands it and go to bed at his direction."

Hamilton Burton paused with his fingers on the knob of a wall-safe from
which he had meant to take a package that he had placed there as a gift
in celebration of her home-coming. It had pleased him, as he was shown
that rope of splendidly matched pearls in the establishment of the
continent's premier jeweller, that he was able to buy such gifts. Of the
twenty millions of families in America, nineteen million would have
regarded their cost as a large fortune upon whose income they could live
at ease while life lasted. But Hamilton Burton had been even prouder
that on his sister's throat their beauty would after all be the
secondary beauty, and with the eye of the connoisseur he had rejected
several of the graduated gems and demanded that in their place more
perfect ones be substituted. Agents of the great house, skilled in the
nuances of selection, had sought far to better them until the result was
satisfactory to the exacting taste of the purchaser.

Hamilton Burton was spoken of as a woman-hater. Society saw him rarely.
Power was his mistress and success his passion. His egotism, centering
on no deep love of his own and too fastidious for mere "affairs," left
him opportunity for an exaggerated family pride.

Now he halted with his fingers on the combination knob of the safe and
straightened up. The sun fell upon a face very attractive and winning,
and a figure very strong and graceful, but at the same moment the
features hardened and the eyes wore their fighting glint.

"Mary," he said very slowly, "I thought that you understood. I thought
from the way you spoke in there that you realized it was you who had
acted like a very lovely and a very selfish little pig."

"Did you suppose then," she queried as her chin went a shade higher and
the long lashes dropped a little over the vivid eyes, "that I should
make a scene before your servants?"

"If you include Mr. Bristoll in that category, I must ask you to correct
your impression. Carl is my closest friend. A man who happens to stand
on an eminence has few such friends and he values those he has."

"Mr. Bristoll seemed to me"--she shrugged her shoulders and spread her
palms--"what shall I say--a nice boy? Yet I should hardly have discussed
in his presence such matters as we have now to discuss. It seems, _mon
cher_, that we do not yet quite understand each other. Is it not so?"

She seated herself and glanced up at him with a half-challenge in her
eyes, even though her lips smiled charmingly.

"Mary"--the voice was now hard and the face was very fixed--"there is
very little to understand and I have very little time for discussion.
You have been abroad, enjoying every human advantage that money could
buy you. When you were a little kid washing dishes in the White
Mountains you cried to be pretty. If you had cried for the moon I'd have
tried to get it for you. If I'd failed it would have been my first
failure. The beauty I didn't give you. God had already done that, but
everything that can enhance beauty, I did give you--education, culture,
social standing of the highest. You have come back home with every
exquisite accomplishment that a woman can have. I'm willing to admit
that from my point of view you've been a good investment. You have
instinctively the perfection that most women only strive after. I'm so
proud of you that I've chosen to make you the mistress of my house. What
you want you have only to ask for, but you will please remember that I
am head of my family. I shall make few demands--and those must be
complied with. That is all there is to understand."

"I had understood," she answered very quietly, "that I was to regard
this house as my own and that I was to be mistress here. That, you
pointed out in your letters, was why I should find it preferable to
going to my mother's. Was it not so?"

"If you had gone to mother's, would you have expected to upset the
entire schedule of family affairs?" he demanded.

In reply she rose and stood drumming lightly with her fingers on the
table-top.

"'Daughter am I in my mother's house, but Mistress in mine own,'" she
quoted.

Hamilton Burton took several turns back and forth across the floor. The
whole situation was surprising and intolerable. Never had son or brother
been more lavish in waving the magician's wand for the pleasure of his
family, but never had any other member forgotten for an instant the
obedience they owed to his paramount genius. Men who fought him, he
could crush, and did crush ruthlessly and with no afterthought, but his
own sister, crossing his will, became a problem of more difficult
solution.

"It is a trifle whether you breakfast in bed or not," he said suddenly,
halting in his walk and standing before her. "It is vital that you
remember that you are a girl and that I am the head of this family,
whose right and duty it is to direct you. It was I who brought this
family out of obscurity and drudgery. But for me you would now be
mending some lumberjack's socks and washing his dishes and living in the
gray monotony of unvaried days. There has been only one productive
member in our household and that is myself. There has been just one who
could, with no outside aid, meet the world and conquer it, and the
family which I have brought up with me from an abandoned farm to the
high places of success must regard my wishes."

"You have summarized with the modesty of a tyrant and a czar," she
replied as her eyes suddenly broke into an unexpected fire and her
uptilted chin set itself defiantly, "the many favors that your hand of
self-made royalty has conferred upon your suppliant family." Her musical
voice took on a deeper thrill. "You have reminded me that my father and
mother, my brother and myself, are all but parasites that feed upon your
so-great powers of achievement. _Eh bien_, you have made a mistake. My
mother is a saint--"

"If any one dared to contradict that--" interrupted Hamilton hotly, but
she halted him with an imperious wave of her hand.

"If my czar-like brother will permit his sister to address his throne,"
she said with quiet sarcasm, "I shall esteem it a gracious favor. Let us
be frank with each other. My mother is a saint and my father a good man.
My brother, Paul, is a genius in music--and a weakling--but, as you say,
each of them is without power. Each of them is a parasite and you are
the oak upon which they grow and bloom. But as for me--" She stopped and
laughed, and suddenly Hamilton Burton realized that his sister Mary was
not the child he had always regarded her: not the slip of a girl that
had been sent away in the infancy of his fortune to be educated abroad,
but a woman of twenty-five, and an unusual woman.

"As for me," she continued slowly, "I think you have made a mistake.
Whence, _mon cher_, came this fire in your soul which told you back
there in the barren hills that you were not like little men? May it not
be that this genius came to you from some remote ancestor? May it not
be that also into my veins crept some of that fire? _Alors!_ Whether
that be true or no, this I do of a certainty believe. The spirit of
fight that is in you, is likewise in me. You will not find in me the
_jeune fille_ who shall obey without knowing why. My feet are small--for
which I thank _le bon Dieu_--but I can stand quite stanchly upon them.
You boast of the princely gifts that you have bestowed upon me. For
those I am not unthankful, but I shall not regard them as the price of
blind obedience. If they have been given in that spirit, you have done
for me nothing more than other men have done for--for their mistresses."

She ended and stood very calm in her anger while the brother who had
never before been successfully defied gazed into her face with an
expression of amazement. Then slowly there came over his own a glow of
keen admiration.

He came over and bowed with almost courtly ceremony, then he laughed.

"Mary," he exclaimed, "we shall fight, you and I, but we shall reign
together. By God, you are my sister! Not just by coincidence of birth,
but by the deeper kinship of our two souls. Great heavens, girl, since I
came here to fight and to win, I've been lonely. It's not egotism but
truth that makes me say this. I have been a conqueror--and all
conquerors are lonely. You are mistress here. Do as you wish." He went
back to the safe, but he looked up and laughed in a naïve and winning
fashion that was quite irresistible.

"By the way," he suggested, "are you going to do me the honor to
breakfast with me hereafter?"

The girl laughed, too, and her eyes were as serenely gracious as a
queen's may afford to be when, of her own will, she makes a royal
concession.

"Yes, I shall breakfast with you, _mon cher_ brother," she replied. Then
she added with perfect mimicry of his own overbearing voice, "It's a
trifle whether I breakfast in bed or not. It is vital that you remember
who is mistress of this house. _C'est moi!_"

A moment later, the man whose frown carried punishment for his
adversaries and whose smile was so frank and winning for his friends,
stood before his sister, watching her eyes as eagerly as a schoolboy
while he opened the satin case and held out to her the string of pearls.

"Mary," he said simply, "I'm not a man that curries favor with women.
Paul looks after that gentle art for this family. You are the only girl
I care about. When I give presents to a woman, it will be to you. There
is no other woman in New York who could wear that rope of pearls and not
look as if the pearls were wearing her. On your throat they are what
jewels should always be--a subordinate decoration; partly eclipsed
stars. I thought you might like them."

She took the gift and raised it to the light, while her eyes kindled and
her lips parted in delight, and as she looked at the pearls, her brother
looked at her.

"They are beautiful, aren't they?" she exclaimed and as she gazed at
their well-matched perfection a glow kindled in her cheeks.

"With such gifts," she murmured softly, "you could buy the souls of many
women, _mon cher_. If you insist on being a master, at least, you are a
generous one."

Possibly at that moment, back of her delight, there rose a little
ghost-like doubt. He had said, "We shall fight--but we shall reign
together." She wondered vaguely how complete would be her participation
in that reign. So far as they had fought, each had won a victory and he
had paid a handsome indemnity--in future how would it be? Then he took
the thing from her and fastened it around her neck and led her very
gently to one of the great mirrors, standing at her shoulder and gazing
at her through the glass.

"So," she exclaimed, turning and laying her hands on his shoulders while
her eyes twinkled with merriment, "they tell me that you compel men to
wear your collar. Already, I, too, am wearing it."

"At least," he laughed back at her, "you will always find it as light
and pleasant to wear as pearls."

At the door he paused and spoke, with no trace of his former dictatorial
authority. His tone was very pleasant and unassuming. "May I make
another suggestion?" he asked, and the girl nodded with smiling eyes.

"You are too fine a woman to need theatric affectations, Mary. I am
proudest of all that we are unalloyed American in blood. Be American.
Cut out the pidgin English and the interlarding of French idiom and
phrases, won't you?"

She raised her brows, and after a moment's pause said, "Certainly. I
have no wish to appear affected. It seemed natural. The habit had grown
on me, but I shall accept that advice, my dear brother."



CHAPTER VII


Even in the days of his first, forced marches toward fortune, when
besides his unshakable plunger's nerve he stood almost without an asset,
Hamilton Burton's policy had been that the limelight paid, and as he had
mounted from moderate success into the millionaire class, and thence
into the division rated in a plurality of millions, he had always
adhered to the plan of letting nothing which reflected his personality
fall below the standards of superlative worth and cost.

At first, he thought of the conspicuousness of wealth as a credential
tending to enlarge the scope and standing of its possessor. In a city
whose public is surfeited with a show of splendor, the man who would
find himself underscored must pitch such conspicuousness to a scale of
rajah-like magnificence.

With a thoroughness born of gigantic gambling instinct Hamilton Burton
directed his policy of the outward show and trappings of wealth through
every artery of his life and the lives of his family. Yet, because his
taste was discriminating and sound, he was able to combine the maximum
effect of expenditure with the simplicity of the artistic and to shun
the pitfall of the offensive.

In those earlier days when the family was fresh from the frugality of
the hills, its elder members had constantly been appalled by the youth's
extravagance. Yet, even then, he had overruled them with an autocratic
assurance, which knew no doubt. It had not at first been easy for the
gentle mother, whose hands were red from decades of tub and dishpan, and
the father whose fingers had gripped the plow, to adapt themselves to
the idle and effortless régime of this new order.

It had for a long while been impossible for them to escape the fear of a
crash in which all this iridescent and artificial seeming must collapse.
But his attitude remained unaltered. "I do not mean to let money be my
master," he had obstinately reiterated. "To me it shall be a slave.
Money conquers the man who fears it. It is an insolent, inanimate
underling, which, if not treated with contempt, becomes a tyrant. Scorn
it and it serves you blindly. I must _seem_ a rich man before I can
become one. It is my wish that my family appear the family of a rich
man. Economies that are apparent are confessions of failure."

In the first chapters they protested, but Ham swept their protests
intolerantly aside, and as the years went on he piled miracle upon
miracle until every promise of his unsupported egotism had become an
accomplished and undeniable reality. Then they ceased to fear and
trusted implicitly in the star that led him. Gradually they yielded to
the blandishments of the new life and drifted pleasantly before the
breezes of luxury. The man who had been a bearded and Calvinistic
countryman for almost a half-century became in less than a decade an
ease-loving and slothful old gentleman, dapper of appearance, rosy of
face and inclining toward _embonpoint_.

Now it is fundamentally written in the edicts of Truth that a man must
go forward or back, and if his hands hang idle at his sides, he will not
advance. Thomas Standish Burton was born to buffet the storms of his
mountains, and as long as he followed his destiny he could look his
fellow-man in the face with the level eyes of independence. Within his
limitations, he could think wholesomely and soundly. But here he was a
different man, a Samson shorn, and the things which he had first
contemptuously waved aside or accepted with a growl in his throat, he
now welcomed. The hard brown face was rounded and pink and where there
had been rawhide muscles on his torso there was now soft and fatty
flesh; for Tom Burton whom men had accounted a giant of immovable
resolution back there among the forests was, in these days, a gentleman
and wore a gardenia or a carnation in his lapel. It was not originally
his fault. The process of becoming a gentleman had pained and irked him,
but he had a masterful son who could not afford that his father should
wear a shaggy bark, and that masterful son had been suffocating him with
opulence until his powers of resistance had become atrophied.

And the mother, too, had altered, though, in her, the change had been a
sweeter thing. The making of a lady of this remote descendant of
Alexander Hamilton's blood had not been difficult.

Some strains of heredity can awaken from the submerged sleep of relapse
as quickly and keenly as a woodsman throws off the mists of slumber.

Ham had never feared that his mother would reveal the taint of the
parvenue when she faced the batteries of criticism which guard the
outposts of the social world to which his own prominence gave the
entrée. And Paul, with his gentle love of comfort and his thoughts that
strayed into dreams and music, found the perfumed atmosphere of a
drawing-room very congenial. He breathed the incense of praise from
women who were enraptured as his long fingers stole over the piano keys.
Had his road to artistic recognition lain along the broken trail of
struggle, Paul would have fainted, undiscovered, by the wayside, but
with every difficulty made smooth before his feet and every puddle
carpeted by Hamilton's cloth of gold, he found himself the lionized pet
of inner circles and the favorite of the elect.

Of these things Hamilton Burton was thinking as he left his door for the
car that awaited him. From the start he had never deviated from his
well-laid course of determination. Power was his goal and by power he
meant no mean modicum, but limitless strength. He had picked finance as
his field of endeavor because in this day the scepter that sways affairs
must be the scepter of gold. But Hamilton Burton knew that he was only
starting and his plans ran to the future. As he looked ahead he never
forgot that the fighter must be well conditioned. With the discipline of
the boxer in training, he regulated his habits of personal life and held
his splendid nerves steady and above par. No man had ever seen the
dimming cloud of dissipation in his eye nor any gossip-monger whispered
of unwise indulgence. He was spoken of as fastidiously clean of life,
and yet it is doubtful whether any shadow of self-illusion found harbor
in his own mind. In morals as a code inspired of conscience he had no
interest; in rigid self-restraint from all that might impair the highest
efficiency of nerve and brain he was as unyielding as a Trappist. To the
mandate of his single deity, Ambition, he clove with unswerving
sternness. His lavish generosity to his family was a strong and clannish
passion--yet even that was a sort of greater selfishness and all the
world outside he held in ruthless disregard--a realm to conquer. That
one may conquer, many must fall--and to conquer was his one resolve.

Even now, awaited by several men who were not accustomed to cooling
their heels in anterooms, he halted at the curb, when he saw another
automobile draw up and recognized his brother Paul.

The younger Burton was not so greatly changed. On his cameo features
still lingered the delicate hall-mark of the over-sensitive and about
his lips played the petulant expression of one who could not cope with
the material. His eyes were still pools of brooding darkness, and as he
glanced up and met his brother's smile his expression of pleasure was
boyish and spontaneous.

"I came in for a moment to see Mary," he explained as he took his older
brother's hand. "How is she this morning?"

"Have your car follow, and drive down-town with me. I want a word with
you and I'm more than an hour late now. You can see Mary afterward."
Ham's suggestions were always couched in mandatory terms, and Paul with
a nod gave the necessary instructions to his own driver. When he was
seated his elder brother inquired with a keen glance of appraisal,
"What's the matter with you, Paul? You look tired."

"I am a bit fagged." The answer was almost plaintive. "After I went to
bed last night, or this morning, the scheme of an aria began running
through my head and I couldn't sleep. I had to get up and work it out on
the piano. Listen--it goes like this." Forgetful of time and place, the
musician began whistling the opening bars of his latest composition.

Hamilton Burton gazed at the dreamy and fatigued eyes of the other for
a moment before he broke out bluntly: "For heaven's sake, spare me! At
least save it for some more suitable time. Can't you fix it to do some
of your dreaming while you sleep? It seems to me that for a man who has
nothing to do you keep yourself unnecessarily exhausted. Why the devil
aren't you in bed now if you haven't slept during the night?"

"I had an appointment for breakfast at twelve."

"With some woman, I suppose: some woman who wants to break it to you
gently that when she hears your music a realization steals over her that
she has a soul; that, listening to you, she knows that life holds higher
and nobler things. That sort of appointment, eh?"

The younger man flushed deeply. "In point of fact, it is with a lady,"
he admitted.

Hamilton Burton frowned. The car was turning into the avenue and the
traffic officer saluted in recognition of the familiar figure, while the
financier with a smile waved one gloved hand. Then the smile disappeared
and the frown returned.

"You say you are tired, Paul, and sometimes--I might as well
confess--you make me tired. Your trouble is that you are stifled with
boudoir perfume and suffocated by over-petting. Why don't you try
breathing outdoors sometime? You might like it if you ever made the
experiment."

Paul only shook his head. He could never argue with Hamilton and yet on
one or two subjects he was gently and immovably stubborn. So the older
brother shrugged his shoulders and changed the subject.

"What progress with the new organ?" he inquired.

The responsive face lighted and weariness gave place to the glow of
enthusiasm. Hamilton was installing at the younger man's quarters a
splendid music-room with such an organ as might have graced a cathedral.
There the ardent composer might shut himself off with the swelling
strains of his own music and fare out on the far tide of his dreams.

At Madison square the car swung to the left of the Flatiron's sharp prow
and took its course down Broadway, and when it reached Union square the
spring sunlight was shining softly on the spot which has often served as
the people's forum. At the north end a crowd had gathered and from a
drygoods box a speaker was haranguing them. From the violence of the
gestures and the truculence of the voice whose words did not reach him,
Hamilton Burton knew that it was an agitator whose burden was the
hardness of the times and the inequality of living conditions. His lips
shaped themselves for an instant into a smile of satirical amusement.
One who held his fingers so constantly on the pulse of finance was not
in ignorance of the feverish heat that burned through the nation's
arteries. He knew that a rumble of protest was rising from the Battery
to the Golden Gate and that this rumble might be the warning thunder
that runs ahead of a panic's hurricane.

But, as his car was passing the crowd, he found himself looking out
across the near heads of the listeners, and upon all the faces he read a
sullen discontent. Some of those men, he surmised, had waited their
turns in the bread line. Some of them came from lodgings where larders
were empty.

The chauffeur had swung east to take the more open way and even here he
had to throttle down his gas because of the scattered loungers who had
overflowed the curb. One man of tramp-like appearance stepped directly
in front of the radiator and at the warning of the horn made no effort
to seek safety. He swaggered along with insolent manner at snail's pace,
so that the driver, with a muttered imprecation, brought the car to a
jerking halt, and even then almost grazed with his fender the frayed
sleeve of the trouble-maker.

In Union square, as on Riverside Drive, the foliage was tenderly green
and the sunlight was a golden smile. Pushcarts freighted with potted
plants and fruit gave scraps of festal color, and a stand canopied with
a yellow-and-blue umbrella offered pies and sandwiches for sale.

But the crowd itself was colorless and somber of mood, and as the car
stopped the speaker pointed to it with a passion-shaken hand, so that
its principal occupant knew that he was recognized and being made the
target of a verbal onslaught. Those men standing nearest turned and
gazed at him with an idle curiosity. They were seeing a
multi-millionaire at close range. But from a few near the center of the
throng came jeers and shouts of insult for the man whom they chose to
regard as a representative of Capital's tyranny. A black-visaged
malcontent of humorless eyes made his way to the margin of the gathering
and, with a pie for which he neglected to pay, opened a fusillade upon
the rich man's car. After that came an orange or two contributed by some
one whose position was strategically close to the fruit-vender's cart
and at last a sounder missile struck and shivered the wind-shield.

For just a moment the situation had a precarious seeming for the
reviled young master of finance, and Paul's delicate face blanched a
little. Hamilton Burton regarded himself as the brother of monarchs and
it devolves upon the Crown to face the envious animosity of groundlings.

He leaned forward and said quietly to the chauffeur, "Swing around into
the open and drive on."

But recognition of the often-photographed face was not confined to the
assailants and instantly the focused humanity was being broken into
scattering factors by police officers who had not hitherto been visible.
The capitalist saw two struggling offenders being roughly hustled away
in the custody of uniformed captors and a patrolman swung to the running
board of the car and remained there as it rounded the square, with his
loosened club swinging ready for service in his right hand.

"You weren't struck, were you, Mr. Burton?" he asked in the tone of
solicitude to which Hamilton had grown accustomed, and which he accepted
as a part of his right.

He smiled. "No harm done but a broken glass--and the less noise made
about the incident the better I'll be pleased."

The car had now reached the south end of the area, where the bronze
Washington stands with his hand raised as if in dignified rebuke for the
noisy demonstrations he so often looks down upon, and where the Marquis
de Lafayette turns his back on the square and gazes at the
moving-picture posters of Fourteenth street.

For a minute or two the younger brother sat in nervous silence, and,
when he spoke, he put his question in a voice of anxious concern.
"Aren't you alarmed, Hamilton?"

"Alarmed?" The other raised his brows and smiled. His face was placid.
"Don't you remember, Paul, what Charles Fox once had to say on the
subject? At least he got the credit for saying it, which comes to the
same thing. 'A man of power has no other such luxury as being mobbed in
his carriage.'"

"I wasn't thinking of just that. I know you aren't afraid of any
physical attack. I was wondering what it all prophesies. We musicians
can feel the crescendo coming from the first mounting bars. Everywhere
there is a spirit of unrest; of revolution. Doesn't it mean a crash--a
panic?"

Again the man whose brain had turned the base metal of poverty into the
gold of Croesus smiled.

"I'm not a betting man, Paul, but I'd be willing to lay a moderate wager
that within the next year or two we shall see a panic that will leave
many scars and not a few wrecks."

"And that conviction doesn't alarm you?" The musician let his features
mirror his nervous surprise. If the principal had no fear, at least the
dependent was in terror.

The amusement left Hamilton Burton's eyes and into them came the harder
gleam. "Paul, you know as little about finance as I know about music.
I've done what I've done by following one law: the leashing of forces.
Electricity is force, but electricity unharnessed is lightning which
devastates. Fire, uncontrolled, ravages, but, held in check, makes
power. Every force in a man's nature that is not curbed becomes a
weakness. The only difference between success and failure is the twist
given to the initial impulse. Every danger and peril, if foreseen and
met, becomes opportunity."

Paul shook his head. "As you say," he admitted, "I don't understand
these things. I thought panics were hurricanes that swept fortunes
away."

The elder brother laid an immaculately gloved hand on the coat-sleeve of
the younger.

"It's a thing I wouldn't confide to any one else, but I trust you even
if I don't give a damn for your judgment. As you say, hurricanes mean
ruin--for the unprepared, but there are also men to whom hurricanes
mean--salvage."

For an instant, the hard fire of ruthless conquest burned so fiercely in
Hamilton Burton's eyes that Paul drew back and shuddered, then he heard
the quiet voice continuing. "I am now rated among the first few in the
world of American finance. There are others above me. I am one of twelve
or fifteen. When this storm has taken its toll and spent its rage--then
I shall be one of one, and above me there will be--no other man."

       *       *       *       *       *

At the same time, though the twenty-four figured dials of Italian clocks
recorded a later hour, a young man of more than ordinarily likable
appearance sat alone at a terrace table of a Capri inn. Near by a
company of sashed and spangled peasants danced to the accompaniment of
guitars and mandolins, but he did not seem to see them and when they
presented their tambourines for largesse, he roused himself almost with
a start to search his pockets for _lire_.

Behind him were the colorful and steep vistas that lay along the zig-zag
roads where ramshackle victorias clattered at crazy speed. Below him was
the world's most vivid spread of sun-kissed color; the Bay of Naples
curving nobly from his point of view to Ischia's misty bulwark, in a
glistening spread of sapphire. Standing guard over the picture was the
great cone of Vesuvius. But of these things also the solitary young man
seemed oblivious.

Against his wicker-bound carafe of pale Capri wine stood propped an old
Paris edition of the _New York Herald_. It was folded so that a portrait
of a woman could be seen to the best advantage, and to the exclusion of
flagstoned courtyards and trellised, overhanging vines; to the exclusion
of the bay's great jewel of beauty, this picture held the eyes of the
man who lunched alone. They were good eyes, of the sort that look life
straight in the face, and their pupils were such as impress the beholder
with a conviction of fearless integrity. Now they were preoccupied, and
a little annoyed. Even in the lifelessness of black and white the face
he studied was one of remarkable beauty, and it pleased him to imagine
the wonderful difference and illumination which color and swift play of
expression would bring to its features.

For several reasons, the face was of more than commonplace interest to
him. Years ago he had seen it by a roadside in the White Mountains, and
often since he had thought of it until the thought had taken deep root
in his mind and become one of the pleasant dreams of his life. But Fate
had further spurred his curiosity by a series of mischances which had
prevented his meeting this girl, though often in his travels his
arrivals had followed close enough on her departures to permit his
hearing talk of her great charm and her many conquests.

For several years Jefferson Edwardes had been in control of that branch
of his firm's business which operated from St. Petersburg. Now he was
returning to New York to take up larger affairs. An uncle's death had
necessitated his personal supervision of the home office.

He had heard that Mary Burton was in Naples and had decided to break his
own journey there in the hope of meeting her--and perhaps returning on
the same steamer. Now he learned that once more he was too late.

But what annoyed the young millionaire more poignantly was the thinly
veiled hint that the Duke de Metuan had also sailed for America as one
of her fellow-passengers.

The whimsical little laughter wrinkles about Edwardes' eyes radiated
from twinkling pupils as he calmly asked himself what concern this was
of his; this news of a woman he had never known except once long ago in
a world of abandoned farms. But the laughter died quickly, because,
absurd as it was by all practical standards, he knew that he had let his
dream become too important for abandonment without the test of renewed
acquaintanceship. He resented the Duke de Metuan. He was not unfamiliar
with Continental affairs and some of the nobleman's financial troubles
had sought solution through his banking house. Of course, the Mary
Burton of his dreams might have no existence in reality. This woman had
had ample opportunity to be spoiled--but if she had not been--There he
broke off and took a long breath. If the girl's heart had worthy kinship
with her beauty, she would be a miracle worth following over seas. At
all events, he was sailing tomorrow and her world would also be his. It
would not be difficult to learn the truth.



CHAPTER VIII


When he had stepped from the car to the sidewalk, Hamilton Burton stood
there for a while in apparent abstraction. A private policeman in cadet
gray waited deferentially with his hand on the knob of the grilled
bronze door which gave entrance to the office building. Burton's eyes
were resting on Paul's face, but the pupils were focused for no such
circumscribed range. Their vistas were of the future and empire-wide.
The fire that had wakened in them with the pronunciamento, "Above me
there shall be no one," lingered and the smile which hovered on the lips
held a certain grimness in its curve. It was not a reassuring smile for
such interests as ran counter to his own. A passing reporter who fancied
himself wise in the lore of the Street, halted to observe, and muttered
to himself, "Ursus Major wearing his fighting face! This may prove a day
worth watching."

A floor representative of a brokerage office caught the expression, too,
and into his memory came flooding the events of another day when this
same man, wearing the same smile, hurled himself upon the
Stock-Exchange, in a bear raid which had cost bull millions.

"The Great Bear, damn him!" he exclaimed with savage vehemence. "The
buccaneer's got some fresh piracy on foot if I know that sardonic grin."
Within the half-hour a mysteriously fathered rumor passed from mouth to
mouth on the floor of the Exchange, that Hamilton Burton was drawing
his battle-lines and that somewhere his bolt would fall. Because the
report was untraceable it was the more disquieting, and the
Stock-Exchange is ever ready to rock to an alarm. Yet just now, the man
whose silent smile could give birth to such sweeping potentialities did
nothing more significant than gaze absently at the tide of life which
eddied through Broadway's cañon and at the disintegrating tombstones
which spoke of death in the shadow of Trinity.

There was something of tawny and tigerish splendor about this young man
who had sprung with mushroom swiftness from nowhere into the fierce
eminence of a financial conqueror. The supple grace of his movements
attested ready power. The immaculate elegance of his apparel challenged
notice by a flawlessness which went beyond the art of the tailor who
clothed him and assumed a distinction as though it had been the belted
uniform of a field marshal. Though pronounced the best-dressed man in
New York, he escaped all seeming of foppishness. Each small detail, from
the flower in his lapel to his gloves and shoes, seemed a significant
touch.

Hamilton Burton lent qualities from himself to everything that marked
him--and these qualities seemed to go like heralds at his front,
proclaiming, "This man is led by a star--his head overlooks the crowd!"

Men and women staring out from a sight-seeing car turned their heads
with a common accord, their attention arrested by something intangible.

Then as the megaphone operator lowered his voice it became pregnant with
importance. To visitors from Paris, Kentucky, Berlin, Iowa, and Cairo,
Illinois, he confided, "The gentleman by the car with the broken
wind-shield is Hamilton Burton." It was enough. It conjured up to memory
newspaper stories of a genie to whose wand fabulous tides of gold
responded. These sight-seers were beholding a man credited with the
power to cause or avert panics; one of the most lauded, the most hated
and the most feared men in finance, and, for some inexplicable reason,
after they looked at him it was no longer difficult to believe the
stories of his wizardry.

He nodded to Paul and turned toward the door. Once more he repeated,
"Then above me there shall be--no other man," and though he said it with
all the arrogant and ruthless spirit of a tyrant who would take no count
of razed cities as he rode to his victory, yet he said it in a low and
pleasant voice; a voice even tinged with musical gentleness.

At the twentieth floor where the elevator stopped to let him alight,
Hamilton's eyes were aglow with the reflected light of his thoughts. He
was still young and before him lay conquests that should dwarf those of
the past. Posterity should link his name with achievements so titanic
that history would be beggared for a precedent. Kingdoms would be his
clients and kings his vassals.

Of late, a persistent idea had been creeping into his thoughts. The
world was to know him as one of its mightiest rulers--so mighty that for
him a crown would be too tawdry a toy--but some day he must die. Who
then, demanded his sublimely arrogant self-appraisement, would carry on
the work that had called him on to conquest from hills where the burned
stumps stood up stark and black in the forest? It is the hallucination
of superlative egotism to imagine that the world demands of her great
sons--a succession.

Whatever gods looked on must have laughed as they read the vast audacity
of this man's conceit. Never had it occurred to him that such an
ambition as his own meant a mere greed for power--that no great cause or
motive impelled him forward. Never had a whisper come to his soul that
power is a trust which should make its recipient a crusader. The world
thought of him as a man of great potentiality. He thought of himself
grown to the proportions and stature of his dreams--the financial Titan
expanded to the _n_th power. There must be an heir to this empire of
his building.

"I suppose I could marry any woman in the world I wanted," he reflected
as he strode along the hall to the door of his office suite, "but the
devil of it is I don't want any of them." A fresh thought brought to his
face an expression a shade saner and less self-centered. "Mary is as
beautiful and as charming as I am efficient, moreover she has brains,"
he soliloquized. "Mary must marry brilliantly and her son shall be my
successor."

In a sort of audience hall waited the Coal and Ore directors who had
been burning up valuable time and burning up as well a patience
unschooled to such delays, but as the door opened and the young field
marshal of great business appeared on the threshold, they masked their
irritation in smiles. These men were neither sycophants nor fawning
suppliants. Each of them held high prominence in the aristocracy of
wealth, but Hamilton Burton topped them--and the singular power upon
which he had risen was one-half pure charm and hypnotism of personality.
Men might swear at the Hamilton Burton who kept them twiddling their
thumbs until he came, yet _when_ he came it seemed that the sunlight
came with him and the mists of impatience were dissipated. A half-hour
later he bowed them out, and they went smiling and telling one another
as they left, "Remarkable fellow, Burton! Absolutely surmounts ordinary
rules and ordinary difficulties. Most remarkable and able man!"

He next passed through the outer offices to the door marked "private,"
and there, near the window of his sanctum, sat a stout and elderly
gentleman. In the unsparing revelation of the morning sunshine the
visitor's face declared all its wrinkles. The whitening hair, growing
sparse, was carefully combed across an arid patch of scalp. Hamilton
Burton's smile died and his face grew for a moment solicitous as he read
his father's troubled eyes. Old Thomas Burton was shaven and manicured
and betailored into a model of well-nourished--possibly
over-nourished--senectitude. His mustaches and beard were waxed and
pointed. Once he had deplored the necessity and trouble of the Sabbath
shave--and his hair had known no law of shears or shampoo. In his lapel
a gardenia was carefully placed so that it should not obscure the button
which proclaimed him a Son of the American Revolution. He restlessly
tapped his gaitered boots with a stick upon whose gold head was carven
the Burton crest.

As Hamilton came forward the elder man rose and turned with some
embarrassment. In his movements the son read with a pang of sudden
realization the approaching atrophy of age. "I'm sorry to intrude on
your office hours, Hamilton," began the father, "but the fact
is--I--er--I--" he broke off confusedly.

Tom Burton was mightily changed, but now and again an echo of the old
self harassed his reincarnation. He had never learned to beg for money
with the unabashed ease of an aristocratic parasite. While it was in his
pocket he could top the extravagance of a drunken sailor, but when its
lack drove him again to his bountiful son he came haltingly--covered
with confusion.

"What is it, father?" Hamilton clapped the old gentleman on the shoulder
and declared, "When you come others can wait."

Tom Burton flushed deeply. "I--er--well, I've had a notice of over-draft
from my bank."

Hamilton Burton's brows contracted.

"Did they keep you sitting here, cooling your heels like a book-agent
until I arrived? Why didn't you go direct to Corbin? He has _carte
blanche_ to accommodate you in every demand you choose to make."

Again Tom Burton spoke hesitantly.

"I did--er--mention it to Mr. Corbin. He was very polite, but he
suggested that, unless I was in urgent haste, I'd better wait until you
came in.... He reminded me that--er--that I'd made rather heavy demands
of late, and I'm bound to say it's true."

The young financier threw back his head and his eyes burst into a blaze
of white-hot anger.

"Hell-fire and damnation!" he stormed. "Is my money my own or is it to
be doled out by parsimonious hirelings? Must I beg my servants' consent
to supply my family with funds?"

"Mr. Corbin was very courteous," placated the old man in a mild voice.

"Courteous!" The word crackled like a mule whip. "Who is Corbin to be
patronizingly courteous to my father? Are you to approach me only
through a cordon of lackeys?" He broke off and started to slam his palm
down on a table-bell that should bring the too-careful subordinate face
to face with his anger, but he stayed his hand half-way, and began
talking again.

"Back there in those damned hills, when I begged you to gamble on me,
didn't I tell you that I meant to give you more than you could ever
want? Didn't I tell you that it would be my pride to anticipate and
outdo your whims--to dwarf them with bigger things? You _did_ gamble on
me, when a little money was a frail barrier between you and the
wolf--you gambled to go stark-broke." He was pacing the room now as he
talked, and his voice mounted. "To me money is a passionless slave, the
eunuch that serves my bidding, and serves blindly. Cash has been my
watchword. There is not outside the United States Treasury another sum
of unencumbered cash equal to that which I command. Any part of it is
yours at any time; how much do you want?"

"Why--er--a few thousand for the present."

"Just state your figure and I'll triple it. You don't have to make
explanations--or apologies." Then with a rather grim smile Ham added:
"That's for Corbin to do."

Tom Burton carefully drew down his waistcoat over his rotund middle and
settled his hat on his head at an exact angle. His son accompanied him
to the elevator with an arm about his shoulder and as he returned to the
outer office he directed curtly, "Carl, come into my room. I want to see
you."

Inside he pointed to the bell. "I had my hand three inches from that
button a few minutes back to call Corbin in here and fire him. I think I
meant to sack everybody in this damned office--except yourself, Carl.
I'm sick of these economists that hedge me round with unsolicited
safeguards and try to defend me against myself and my family."

"If Mr. Burton had come to me--" began the secretary, but Hamilton
Burton interrupted him.

"Have I failed to make myself entirely clear to my employees?" he
inquired. "Do I have to tell them every day that they need not be so
damned economical with my money? Haven't I ordered that my father and my
brother shall always be accommodated without question?" Bristoll nodded,
but made no comment.

"Carl, please try once more to make Corbin understand that one of the
things I pay him for is to obey orders. Please make it plain beyond
cavil that one of my most explicit orders is this: When the Governor
comes for money, his job is to begin digging. Find out how much the
Governor wants and give him some more."

The secretary was valuable in part because he was frank and because in
his sincere loyalty dwelt no taint of sycophant fawning.

"To be entirely just, sir, I think Corbin does understand you, but a
cashier who gives out money with no check on disbursements feels the
burden of his responsibility. Any item that your father forgot would
leave Corbin unpleasantly close to seeming a thief. Of late, your
father's demands have been heavy."

"Yes, yes, I know about all that." A sudden change of mood brought a
twinkle to the financier's eyes. "My father has been under very heavy
expenses of late, Carl. If you had known him as I knew him--back there
close to 'God's immortal granite,' as you so aptly phrased it, you would
agree with me that the humor of the situation is worth whatever it
costs. He had to count the pennies, Carl, and when one threatened to get
away he had to chase around it and head it off. He led the simple life
and though his middle name was Standish, he regarded it as a sinful
vanity to think of his ancestors."

Hamilton's smile was one of whimsical and naïve humor as he fished from
a desk drawer a thick sheaf of papers and laid them before the other.

"Times have changed. Cast your eye on those. They represent some of the
Governor's expenses. They are bills from the Anglo-Saxon Bureau of
Genealogy."

"What is this bureau?" inquired Carl, and Burton raised his brows.

"Don't you know? Why, it's a concern that outfits one with a full line
of ancestors. My father is now prominent in many orders predicated on
ancestors. His mail runs over with epistles beginning, 'Dear Sir and
Compatriot.' Such excavating of tombs and catacombs is costly." The
young money baron paused and grinned.

"Once the old gentleman got warmed up, he went the full route and took
all the jumps, Carl. He started out modestly enough to establish his
descent from Miles Standish, but when they had run the Plymouth captain
to earth, the trail was hot and their appetites were whetted. They had
tasted blue blood. Now they've worked back to a king or two, and the
Governor spoke recently of going to England to consult cathedral
records. I believe he secretly covets William the Conqueror."

Hamilton shook his head and added sadly, "I hate to think how Corbin
will grieve when he learns what William the Conqueror costs. Also,
father has a beautiful family crest--you may have noticed it on his
walking stick. I haven't yet mastered the niceties of heraldry so I
can't properly describe it, but, to me, it looks like a rabbit leaping
over an Edam cheese with sprigs of lettuce on either side. A
delicatessen shop will steal it some day and father's heart will break."

Carl Bristoll filled and lighted a pipe and Hamilton Burton seated
himself on the edge of the desk with his eyes fixed on a swinging foot.

"We all have our vanities," he mused. "I named myself
Montagu--arbitrarily and of my own unbiased will. I nominated and
elected myself a Montagu, Carl, and I had an equal right to be a
Capulet."

"I call that a moderately innocent offense," admitted the secretary.
There were moments when these two came near forgetting the relationship
of chief and lieutenant, meeting on the level of a joint affection.

"But that is not all. My father has other even more burdensome expenses
at the present time," continued the elder young man. "He is deeply
interested in charity."

"Really?" The inquiry was courteously vague, and Ham's nod of response
was solemn.

"Yes, sir. There are various sorts of charities, Carl. Some folks send
silk hats and neckties to the heathen in their blindness, and some found
hospitals for three-legged dogs. My father does none of these
impractical things. He has dedicated himself to establishing a fund for
supplying Havana cigars and motor cars to the Idle Rich. Each day finds
him waiting for a quorum up at the National Union Club. When enough are
gathered together for a rubber he makes it royal and doubles until
everyone save his partner feels a warm glow of wealth stealing
gratefully through his arteries." Hamilton broke off and smiled, shaking
his head. "Far be it from me to criticize my father," he declared with
mock plaintiveness, "but I sometimes wonder why the devil he doesn't
learn to play bridge or stop trying."

Then the April change of mood came once more and his eyes darkened into
seriousness. "Well, if it amuses him, why not?" he demanded, almost as
fiercely as though someone had contradicted old Tom Burton's right to
mellow into a self-indulgent decay.

"All his hard life until ten years ago he sweated and toiled for those
he loved. I thought recently it might amuse him to take charge of one of
my country places--to try farming with no hardships. He was as much good
there as an armless man in a billiard tournament. All his farming had
been done with calloused hands on the plowshare. All he knew of dairies
was nestling his head against the flank of a flea-bitten cow. Let him
take his pleasure as he fancies. Thank God he can."



CHAPTER IX


An imagination verging toward the figurative finds on entering the New
York Stock-Exchange a strong suggestion of having penetrated a die with
which Giants have been casting lots. The first impression is one of
cubical dimensions--and unless the curb be drawn, a fancy so spurred
will plunge to yet other conceits that bring home the cynical parallel.

On the particular morning when Hamilton Burton's car had been pelted by
agitators in Union square the opening gong sounded from the president's
gallery on every promise of a quiet day. Here in Money's cardinal
nerve-center there had been inevitable rumblings of future eruptions
from pent-up apprehensions of panic, but this morning the spring sun
came laughing through the great windows at the east and the idle brokers
laughed back.

The psychology of this mart where the world trades with neither counter
nor show-case nor tangible wares is fitful. It responds nervously and
swiftly to the gloom of fog or the smile of sun, as well as to the
pulse-beat of the telegraph. Around the sixteen "posts" where the little
army of operators drifted as idly as though they met there by chance, no
urgency of business manifested itself. But back of this tricky calm hung
a cloud of anxiety. A sense of delicate balance, which a gust might
capsize, lay at the back of each mind, troubling it with vague
forebodings. Conditions were ripe for sudden hysteria. Meanwhile
well-groomed young men in pongee office coats and their equally sleek
elders killed time with newspapers or resumed threads of conversation
broken off at parting last night in drawing-room or theater-foyer. The
circular benches around the posts blossomed with magazines and a group
formed about two brokers who gravely fought out chess problems on a
pocket board. Noise of a sort there was, for on the floor of the
Exchange a "quiet" day is not as a quiet day elsewhere. Unimportant bids
and sales elicited sporadic shouts and clamor, but for the most part
these demonstrations were tinged with laughter and badinage. Seemingly
the membership of Finance's College of Cardinals was skylarking with
indecorous levity. Activity of a sort there was, too, as the litter of
torn-up slips and memoranda on the floor attested. Yet the silent goings
and comings of the floor attendants in their cadet-gray livery were
placid, and for that environment unhurried. Around none of the posts
surged the pandemonium of real activity and the two great blackboards
that break the marble whiteness of the walls at the north and south
twinkled no feverish signals from brokerage offices to floor operators.

But within two hours the smile of the spring sun died behind a cloud and
a rumor insinuatingly whispered itself about the floor. Magnet-wise it
drew men from scattered points into focal groups and panic-wise it
stamped a growing apprehension on faces that had been expressionless.

"Where did this ridiculous canard originate?" demanded a pompous and
elderly gentleman as he tugged at his closely cropped mustache with a
nervousness belying his scepticism. His vis-à-vis shook a dubious head.

"All I get is that Hamilton Burton is out in war paint for a bear
raid--damn him!"

"And why not?" a third broker truculently demanded. "He brought on the
'little panic' of two years ago and mopped up enough to double his
fortune. House after house went to the wall that day, but it was a
glorious victory for him. History repeats, gentlemen."

"Where will he be most likely to hit?" The question came nervously from
a thin man who chewed at a pencil. About his inquiring eyes were the
harassed little crow-feet of anxiety.

"When he smashes us, we'll know all right. There's nothing ambiguous
about his wallops. I hoped the damned pirate was satisfied. He ought to
be."

"Vat you mean, sadisfied?" A passing figure with a strong Teutonic
countenance halted at the edge of the crowd and glared--but his hatred
was for Hamilton Burton. "Sadisfied--not till der American toller and
der sovereign and der louis d'or vear his portrait vill he pe
sadisfied."

"There's one comfort," hazarded a lone optimist, "Hamilton Burton
recognizes no conventions of finance; he heeds no laws. He's the most
brilliant brigand in the Street--and every hand is against him. He's
always just one jump behind a billion dollars--but also he may find
himself just one jump ahead of the wolf."

But for one optimist there were scores of pessimists and disquiet
mounted like a fever. The floor was nervous.

Across from the president's gallery is another balcony like it, for in
all but its processes of business this is a temple of justly balanced
symmetry and proportion.

There sits an operator, controlling an electric switchboard provided
with one button for each floor member. When one of these buttons is
pressed a flap swings down on the great wall blackboards and a white
number flashes into sight. It stands for a while, then twinkles again
into blackness, but in the meantime it has summoned its man to telephone
communication with his office. In periods of stress these imperative
signals register the rise and fall of anxiety's barometer.

Now the quiet boards began to break into a sudden epidemic of appearing
and vanishing numerals and men hurried to the booths where wires linked
the central floor with outlying offices. Each line buzzed to the same
portent.

"Rumor credits Burton with plans for a bear raid. Watch him. Send word
of his first move. The time is ripe for an avalanche."

Suddenly around one post voices rose. They went from calm to shouts,
from shouts to yells, then broke in a crescendo of turmoil. Collars came
loose and voices grew hoarse. The restrained anxiety had swept into an
open furore of fear. It looked as if the bottom were dropping out of
Coal Tar Products. At once a dozen operators raced for their telephones.
Hamilton Burton had struck, and his first blow was on Coal Tars! That
was the whispered word that ran like wild fire.

While this turbulence was going forward, Hamilton Burton sat in his
twentieth-floor office, gazing fixedly up at a portrait of Napoleon.
About the walls were several other portraits of the emperor. Busts in
bronze and marble gazed down with those same inscrutable eyes. One
important likeness was missing. It was that which shows the face of a
man broken in defeat--the wistful St. Helena eyes that seem always
brooding out over the ruins of mighty dreams.

Carl Bristoll opened the door, and the musing face turned with the
impatient frown of a broken revery.

"Mr. Malone's secretary on the 'phone," announced the young man. "Mr.
Malone wants to know if you can come at once to his office."

"Tell Mr. Malone"--Burton snapped his words out irritably--"that if he
wants to find me I will be here in my own office for just thirty
minutes."

The employee hesitated in momentary embarrassment, then he added:

"Of course, you know that I mean J.J. Malone himself, sir?"

Burton laughed. "In the world of finance, Carl, I didn't know there
_was_ more than one Malone."

Also, reflected the secretary as he closed the door behind him, there
was in the world of finance only one who would care to ignore a summons
from that source.

A few minutes afterward the door opened again, opened to frame the bulky
figure of a man who had swept by those who sought to announce his
coming. The heavy brows of J.J. Malone were contracted over smoldering
gray eyes which many men feared and all but a few obeyed. At his elbow
followed the slight wiry figure of a companion with nervous eyes, and a
cigar which was always chewed and never lighted. This man had come, as
Ham had come, from the hardness of some barren farm and had obdurately
hammered his path by the sheer insistence of his brain into the inner
circle of an oligarchy. These two greatest of America's money barons
ignored the gesture with which the younger Warwick invited them to be
seated. In the brief silence that followed upon their entrance was the
portent of a brewing tempest. At last Malone said crisply:

"I sent for you, Mr. Burton. Most men come to me when I send for them."

"In several respects I differ from most men." The reply was too quiet to
ring flippant. It was merely the assurance of invincible self-faith, and
for an instant the man who had not in years been compelled to soften the
iron grip of his mastery gazed his astonishment.

Then Malone burst into an oriflamme of anger. He was a whirlwind of fury
before whose raging any small or timid man must have shriveled. The eyes
that shone out under the heavy lashes as he paced the place, with
clenched hands, were batteries raining shrapnel of wrath.

From their gray depths they blackened into ink, across which shot the
red and yellow flocks of a fiery and passionate autocracy. The iron jaw,
inherited from seafaring forefathers, snapped on words of threat,
rebuke, and invective. He wore his sixty-five years as lightly as
foliage, standing straight and strong like a poplar tree, save as he
bent to the gusts of his own passion. Where his clenched fist fell upon
desk or table the furniture trembled. Through the frosted glass of the
door Hamilton Burton saw the shadows of hurrying figures and knew that
the secretaries and stenographers out there were in a flutter of uneasy
excitement. Wall street knew what it meant when the "old man" was on the
rampage.

While this tempest endured the nervous-looking man took a chair and sat
silent. His attitude was hunched up and he chewed on his unlighted
cigar, while his restless gaze traveled here, there, everywhere. On
casual glance one might have overlooked him as negligible, thereby
falling gravely into error. The giant and the slight man had this
kinship, that in the workings of great finance they were mainspring and
balance wheel, and at their prompting many divisions of the world's
industrial armies marched or marked time.

Suddenly J.J. Malone fell silent, and then Hamilton Burton spoke. He
spoke with a surprising calm for one of his uncompromising arrogance.
Perhaps it accorded with his whim to chill his words with icy insolence
that they might cut the more and point the greater contrast when he
chose to unleash his own hot wrath.

"You sent for me, Malone. I declined to come to you. Then you came to
me. As yet you have shown no reason for the visit except to swear around
my office like a drunken and abusive pirate. If you have nothing for
temperate discussion, I will now say good-day to you. Take with you the
honors of war, sir. You have outcussed me. I acknowledge your
superiority in billingsgate--"--he paused and for an instant his voice
mounted, as he added--"and in nothing else!"

"Have you reached so secure a stage, then, that you can defy and insult
Harrison and myself? Are you prepared to declare war on the entire world
of finance?" Now Malone spoke with regained composure, but an ominous
undernote of threat. "Let's have done with pretense. In so far as any
individuals can make or break--we can. When you came, an unlicked cub,
into the world of large affairs it was through us you made the alliances
upon which your success is built. However great you conceive yourself to
be, 'Consolidated' still recognizes in us its active heads."

Hamilton Burton replied with a smile of unruffled calm. "You say I came
to you. Many men have come to you, only to go away again with empty
hands."

"You did not."

"No. You took me to your hearts--but why? Was it because you pitied me?
Has pity or gentle courtesy ever yet prevented 'Consolidated' from
crucifying a victim? You conceded me my seat at your directorates only
because you were compelled to recognize my value there. You lifted me
from the ranks to the general staff of finance because of unescapable
conviction that I inherently belonged among you; that I should take my
place there as an ally or an enemy. You had a suspicion then of what I
_knew_ before I ever saw a city--that I could not be stopped."

"Grant for the sake of brevity that Genius and Destiny are your
handmaidens." Malone leaned across the table, resting his weight on his
planted knuckles. Under his shaggy brows his eyes burned deeply and
satirically. Across from him Hamilton Burton stood, younger, slenderer
and more pliant of pose; his eyes meeting those of his protagonist,
level and unwavering. "Grant that all your self-adulation is
warrantable. Now that you have attained this place in the councils of
the few, do you mean to become only a wrecker and a spoiler? Do you
recognize no rules of war? Do you adhere to no principles of loyalty?
Are you merely a breeder of storms and a maker of panics? Because if you
are, by the Eternal God, I think we are yet strong enough to stamp you
out--to utterly obliterate you!"

"So"--the younger man's lips twisted in a smile of cool irony--"you have
come as the guardians of conservatism to admonish me, the fractious
child of the Dollar family. It is delightful, gentlemen, to encounter
in actual life so humorous a situation." Then the mouth line grew set
again and the voice hardened. "Well, I make you no pledges. I say to
you, to hell with the laws you draw for your own advantage and break
when it suits your profit. I acknowledge no vested right in you to
assail me as a wrecker--you who have risen on wreckage. You will not
obliterate me. You will not even try."

Harrison from his chair gazed thoughtfully and silently out of the
window. He watched a gull dip over the East River. He shifted the cigar
to the other side of his mouth and across his gray eyes flickered a
ghost of amusement. After a long pause he inquired in an impassive
voice:

"Why?"

"Because just as you at first accepted me for my usefulness, so you will
again come to me when you need me, and you know you will need me. We are
playing the same game and it's no child's kissing game. When you have
both the wish and power to crush me, I shall expect no kindly warning at
your hands. When you need me, you will let no dislike bar my door to
your coming. By the way, why did you come?"

"Your ticker isn't silent out there. It's not your custom to be
uninformed." It was Malone who spoke. "You know that the floor is
seething--and why!"

"I know that the market opened quiet and that later Coal Tars broke and
there is a flurry--a panicky feeling perhaps. It doesn't surprise me."

For an instant Malone regarded his former protegé across the table.
Hamilton Burton's fingers had fallen on a small bronze paper-weight. It
was an eagle with spread wings, not the bird of freedom, but the eagle
of the emperor's standards.

"You perplex me," admitted the elder financier shortly. "You make great
pretense of open frankness; brazen defiance even, and yet you choose to
cloak every attack and to move by stealth. You know that just now such a
flurry may precipitate a general panic that will shake and waste the
nation like a fever in its marrow. Apparently you are deliberately
breaking the market, yet you speak innocently of the matter as of
something with which you have no concern."

For an instant it was Burton who laughed.

"And even yet, gentlemen, you have for active business men, bent on
stemming a tide of disaster, spent much time in generalities and little
on any concrete suggestion."

"We acted before we began to talk," said J.J. Malone; "we have taken
steps to support Coal Tars, but the times are parlous. The tidal wave of
a panic mounts rapidly. If you insist on forcing us into a duel on the
floor of the Stock-Exchange today, the pillars of public confidence may
be seriously shaken. By two o'clock this afternoon the president's gavel
will be falling to announce failures. The disaster that we have feared
will come. In the end we shall beat you, but all of us will have wasted
ourselves in an exhausting struggle. There will be wreckage strewn from
ocean to ocean. We have come to remonstrate. We have come to urge peace
among ourselves and to warn you that a war between us is hardly a thing
for you to court."

"In short," Burton's words came with a snap that his eyes, too,
reflected, "you charge this flurry to my authorship. You come urging
peace with threats. Almost, gentlemen, you tempt me to do what you
charge me with doing. Threats have never seemed to me a persuasive
argument for peace." He paused and then laughed. "Go hack to your
respective sanctums of righteousness and plunder and you will see that
this tide will soon turn. It is not in my plans that this day shall go
down in Exchange history as a bear day. When I resolve on that, your
threats will hardly alter me. This is not that day. The rumor of my
attack is absurd. My brokers will be found bracing the market. The next
time that you feel an itch to coerce me, regard my answer as given in
advance. It is that you may go to hell. Good-day."

When they had gone Burton sent for Carl Bristoll and smilingly nodded
toward the outer door.

"The folks out there seemed excited," he commented drily. "Kindly
suggest to them that it's unnecessary for them to advertise their lack
of confidence in their chief by scurrying about during my interviews
like chickens when a hawk hovers overhead." Then he recounted what had
occurred--for this was one of the matters in which the secretary might
be admitted to his confidence. At the end of the recital Carl shook his
head. "I think you were magnanimous, sir. Though you didn't start it you
might have taken toll of the downward movement and lived up to your name
of the Great Bear. They were playing into your hands, I should say."

Hamilton Burton laughed.

"Carl, you are young. A man can fork Hades up from its bottom-most
clinkers only once in so often. I don't butcher my swine until I have
fattened them. When the day comes, be assured they won't call me off,
but until I am ready I don't strike." He took a turn or two across the
floor and halted at the center of the room. His eyes were burning now
with an intense fire of egotism.

"Their anger--their threats: it's all incense they burn to my power,
but, good God, Carl, how they hate me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As the ship which was bringing Jefferson Edwardes back to his native
shores drew near enough for the Navesink light to wink its welcome, the
banker found himself in a pensive mood. The last evening of the voyage
was being celebrated with a dance on deck, but Edwardes, who had
remained somewhat of a recluse during the passage over, was content to
play the part of the onlooker.

The expectant spirit of home-coming lent a cheery animation to the
rhythmic swaying of the dancing figures and brought a light to their
eyes. Jefferson Edwardes realized that his own mood was difficult to
analyze. His childhood had been spent in world-wandering and his youth
in the exile of a battle for life in the mountains. His later young
manhood had found its setting in such capitals as St. Petersburg and
Berlin. It had been a life full of activity, yet strangely solitary and
dominated by dreams and imagination. Now he realized that the most
tangible thing to which he looked forward at home was a meeting with
Mary Burton, and with the thought that tomorrow morning would bring the
sky-line of Manhattan into view, a decided misgiving possessed him. He
had heretofore treated the thing half-humorously--as a pleasant, but
vague, dream. It could no longer remain so. He realized that it had been
a definite enough dream to keep the door of his heart closed upon other
women. He must see her and if, after seeing her, his dream could no
longer exist he knew that it would be to him and his life a serious
matter. A chance acquaintance of the voyage had known her and spoken of
her. He was an Englishman of title and a thoroughly likable fellow.
Somehow Edwardes fancied that this man's own heart carried a scar and
that he had sought to be more than a casual friend to Mary Burton--and
had failed. So the American felt a delicacy in asking those questions
which might have enlightened him. Yet the talk that had passed between
them had heightened his already keen impatience to see the girl with
whom he had so strangely and intangibly fallen into an attitude which,
in his own thoughts, was not unlike that of a lover.

For a time he would be very busy. His duties as head of the banking
house which had for generations borne a high and honorable name in large
affairs would occupy him with strenuous activities. The house of
Edwardes and Edwardes stood as a pillar of conservatism in finance. He
meant that its splendid record should under his guidance suffer no loss
of prestige or confidence.

Unlike the tigerish methods of the more modern school, from which sprang
such spectacular figures as Hamilton Burton, there was in the older days
a different conception of business--and of that conception the firm of
Edwardes and Edwardes was a worthy example.

The men who had founded it had recognized ideals and grave
responsibilities beyond the importance of mere profits. A deep pride in
the honor upon which they had based their upbuilding had actuated them,
and in none of the line was that pride stronger than in this new head
who feared nothing save dishonor and prized nothing above integrity.



CHAPTER X


Mary Burton had not long been back from Europe when sealed windows and
boarded entrances began to give a sepulchral blankness to the houses of
the rich. Society was leaving town, and for Mary Burton to remain when
her set had gone would have been like reigning in an empty court, for
already she had entered upon her dominion and her triumph was secure.
New York society had at first received the over-seas report of her great
charm and loveliness with such sceptical indulgence as New York accords
to any excellence alien to the purlieus of her own boroughs.

Now New York had seen her, claimed her as its own--and capitulated.

Judged by every ordinary standard, Mary Burton should have been a very
happy young woman, sitting crowned and in state, while before her Life
passed in review. This afternoon, however, certain reflections brought
the harassment of unrest to her eyes and a droop of wistfulness to the
curve of her lips.

Self-analysis, that rude guest who comes sometimes, as unbidden and
unwelcome as a constable, to set all one's favorite vanities out of
doors and evict one's self-complacency, had intruded upon her thoughts.
Though she had the amelioration of a pier glass which gave her a view of
all her beauty, from the coronal of burnished hair to the satin points
of small slippers, she did not seem quite happy. Mary was discovering
that nature had endowed her with a brain which refused to accept longer
its heretofore placid function of augmenting her physical allurements
with its cleverness and its power of charm. Now it was in insurrection.
Vassal no longer to the sense-thrilling appeal of eyes and lips and
color and delicate curves, it was turning its batteries inward and
preying upon itself.

Self-accusation had come to dispossess self-adulation.

Perhaps the silent voices of the mountains were in part responsible.
Haverly Lodge lay in acres not only smooth, but elaborately beautified,
yet the margins of the estate met and merged with nature's ragged
fringe. Metaled roads ran out in lumber trails where the Adirondacks
reared turrets of granite and primal forests. In summer, ease-loving
guests took their pleasure here, but when winter held the hills, wild
deer came down and gingerly picked their way close to the sundials and
marble basins of the sunken gardens. Foxes, too, stole on cushioned feet
across the terraces at the end of the pergola.

The master of Haverly Lodge was the great little man who chewed always
at an unlighted cigar and built industries as a child rears houses of
blocks. This Adirondack "camp" was one of H.A. Harrison's favorite
playthings. Here alone the nervous restlessness that drove him gave
place to something like peace. Among the guests now gathered there was
Mary Burton. Hamilton Burton was absent, as he was always absent from
the purely social side of the world into whose center he had forced his
way. For such diversions he had neither time nor taste, but like a
general who, under the dim light of his tent lantern, sticks pins into
a war map, it pleased him to have his sister take her triumphant place
among the court idlers whom he scorned.

Now she sat in her room overlooking the terraces and gardens at the side
of the mansion. Just outside her window was a small gallery over whose
wide coping clambered a profusion of flowering vines. Through half-drawn
curtains as she lay in a long reclining chair she could see the purple
veil of the young summer draped along the distance where rosy fires
burned in the wake of day--or she could turn her eyes inward and have
the other picture which the mirror offered. Her slender hands lay
inertly quiet in her lap, holding an envelope.

Suddenly she turned her head and spoke to the only other occupant of the
room--her maid.

"Julie," she said, almost sharply, "you may go. Come back in half an
hour."

"But, mademoiselle," exclaimed the little French woman who had put by
dreams of a small millinery shop in Paris to come with her mistress to
America, "dinner is not far off, and you are not yet dressed."

Mary Burton did not answer. Her thoughts were elsewhere and after a
moment's hesitation Julie went out and closed the door quietly behind
her. The pearls lying near the mirror caught the light and echoed it in
their soft shimmer.

"Hamilton Burton's collar," she murmured.

Then she slowly drew from the envelope in her lap a letter.

Its writer subscribed himself with many adoring superlatives, "Thy
Carlos," but that was an abbreviated signature. In Andalusia, where his
estates lay, his prerogative was to sign himself Juan Carlos Matisto y
Carolla, Duke de Metuan.

She read the letter and let it fall from her listless fingers. Her eyes
went again to the portrait in the glass. Very slowly she rose and
studied herself standing. The lacy softness of her negligée fell away
from her slenderly rounded throat. The creamy whiteness of arms and
shoulders and bosom was touched with the rosiness of blossom petals.

"I suppose," she said with a short laugh, "I suppose--as men's ideas of
women go--I'm worth possessing." Then she turned impatiently to the
window and stood with one arm high above her head, resting on the white
woodwork of its frame. While her eyes went off to the sunset, they
became hungry for something she did not have, she who had so much.

In a few days, unless she forbade it, the duke would arrive, this note
from his New York hotel announced. There had been also a brief
communication from Hamilton, which she had angrily torn into small bits.
The duke had called on him, said her brother, and craved permission to
pay his addresses to Mary. Hamilton Burton had granted the boon with the
manner of a king contemplating a noble alliance in his family. Mary
Burton did not care for the manner.

It complicated matters, she admitted, that she herself had not precisely
discouraged the duke over there in Cairo and in Nice. He had fitted
rather comfortably into the artificial life she had been living, which
she had not then begun to question with analysis. As she looked back she
could not recall that she had definitely discouraged any of those titled
suitors. Now that her brain had turned on her, forcing her to take stock
of her life, many shapes and colors changed, as the light of day alters
the aspect of gas and bares its deceit. The idea of meeting Carlos de
Metuan brought a shiver of personal distaste.

"I never knew but one real man," she told herself bitterly. "I don't
even know that he was a real man. I wonder if he is still alive." Once
more she was in fancy a little girl, shyly twisting the toe of a rough
shoe in the dust of the mountain roadside. Once more she saw a pair of
eyes that won the heart with their honesty and seemed willing to have
other eyes look through them into a soul concealing nothing. Though
Jefferson Edwardes had been her first flatterer, he had flattered
without ulterior motive. She was a ragged child and he a rich young man
who might have to die. Suddenly she felt that the little girl who was
once herself had been more admirable in every way than this polished
woman who had succeeded her: the woman who was everything that little
girl had yearned to be and who stood self-revealed as brilliant and hard
as one of her own purely decorative diamonds.

A small clock chimed, and, with a somewhat weary step, Mary Burton
crossed the room and rang for her maid.

At dinner and later when the moon had risen and the guests danced on the
smooth mosaic floor of an outdoor pavilion cunningly fashioned in the
semblance of a Greek theater, her eyes were pools of laughter and her
repartee was like wine sparkle--for at least she had learned to act with
the empty bravery of her world.

In the constant attendance of men who chattered compliments she felt a
haunting sense of pursuit and a secret impulse for flight, so that at
the first opportunity she slipped away for the relief of solitude.

There were many vine-embowered retreats about the place where those who
did not wish to dance might talk softly in the blue shadows of Grecian
urns with star-shine and moon-mist for their tête-à-têtes. In such a
place sat Mary Burton, alone--looking about her for a means of more
secure escape. Her imagination kept disturbing her with the figure of a
small girl whose home was a soon-to-be-abandoned farm. A yearning
possessed her for the one thing which she could not command, the sort of
romance that sweeps one away like a torrent. That little girl had
yearned for the gifts of the world, for experience, wealth and
adulation, because she fancied that out of these things came romance and
its prize of happiness. The woman had them all--except the end of them
all for which she had wanted them. They were dulled and tarnished by
satiety and she still craved the coming of a lover whose forceful wooing
should frighten and dominate her. Never in her life had she known any
man upon whom she could not, with her trained self-reliance, set her own
metes and bounds. Surely somewhere in the world there must be the sort
of love-making that wrenches a woman out of her perfect self-composure
and bears her away on its flood tide of power and passion. Perhaps she
had been schooled and "finished" until humanity and its wonderful
reality had, for her, ceased to exist. Suddenly she felt an upflaming of
resentment against the generosity of her Napoleonic brother. In exchange
for life's golden chance of romance she had been given a wonderful
veneer of hard brilliancy--and she hated it! After a few moments of
rebellious introspection she shook her head and rose from her seat,
slipping behind the tall marble urn that rose from the end of the bench
into the enveloping shadows. She was seeking a refuge where she might
hide and hear the music softened by the distance and she kept walking,
lured on by the wildness of the surrounding hills which just now better
suited her mood than the clipped hedges.

She found a place at last from which, as one apart, she could look up at
the stars and down at the dancers.

There was a larger crowd dancing now than there had been. Evidently new
guests had arrived since dinner. She was beginning to feel the solace of
her escape from other human beings when she became conscious of a
white-clad figure approaching her, and gave a low exclamation of
annoyance. Yet something in the manner of the man's movement indicated
that he was, like herself, finding greater pleasure in solitude than in
the dance. It was only when he was almost upon her that she stood out
visible in the depth of the shadow. He halted then and bowed his
apology.

"I beg your pardon," said a voice which struck a vaguely familiar chord
of memory. "I didn't mean to intrude. I was just hunting for a spot
where I could watch things without having to talk to anyone."

Mary Burton laughed.

"You don't have to talk to me," she assured him, "because, as it
happens, that's why I'm here myself."

It was too dark for recognition of features, but there was a silvery
quality in the girl's voice which piqued the interest of the newcomer
and caused him to deviate from his avowed purpose of self-withdrawal. It
seemed to him that music sounded across a space of years--music
remembered and longed for.

"The dismissal is unmistakable in its terms," he answered. "Yet, since I
have come a long way, may I not sit here for a moment of rest--provided
I am very silent?"

Mary smiled and then quite unpremeditatedly she found herself
inquiring, "A long way? Where do you come from then?"

"From St. Petersburg," he enlightened in a casual fashion, and after a
moment he added, "to see you!"

"You just said you were seeking a place to be alone and why should you
look for me whom you never saw before and whom you can't see now, for
the dark? You don't even know what I'm like."

"I beg your pardon, Miss Burton.--There, you see I know your name."

The tantalizingly familiar note in his voice puzzled and interested her
with a cumulative force. "I have a very definite idea what you are like.
Not being a poet, I'm afraid I can't put it into words."

"But you haven't seen me!" Her speech became for an instant
mischievously whimsical. "Of course, if you have a burglar's lantern
about you--or a match I suppose you might."

The man drew a small case from his pocket and struck a wax match,
holding it close.

She met his gaze, and he stood motionless until the tiny blaze traveled
down the length of the shaft and burned his fingers. His eyes never left
her face. In those eyes she felt a strange power of magnetism, for they
did not burn as other eyes had burned. They did not shift or waver. When
the match fell he spoke quietly. "You are as beautiful as starlight on
water and I am a true prophet."

In the brief and limited illumination she had recognized him, too, and
she bent impulsively toward him. In his coming just now as though in
answer to her thoughts there seemed something almost occult.

"Then you didn't die? You won your fight with your even chance? Oh, I
am so glad!"

"Thank you," answered Jefferson Edwardes gravely. "That's worth refusing
to die for."

"It's strange, Mr. Edwardes," she spoke almost dreamily. "Perhaps it's
because I've been listening to the voice of the hills, but I have been
sitting here alone--hiding--and while I've been here I've been thinking
of you--wondering where you were."

"For that, too, I thank 'whatever gods there be,'" he assured her. "It
has been a long time since we met and I was afraid you had forgotten. Of
course, I've read of you and I knew that my prophecy was being
fulfilled. Twice I planned to leave St. Petersburg and pursue you to
London or Paris, but each time business matters intervened with their
relentless demands."

"What made you think of me?" An eager sincerity sounded through the
question. She was weary of compliments, but Jefferson Edwardes had a
manner of simple speech which gave worth to his utterances.

"Once upon a time," he began with a low laugh, "there lived a singularly
sickening little prig of a kid, pampered and spoiled to his selfish
marrow. Though I hate to roast a small boy, I am bound to say that this
one was pretty nearly a total loss--and he was I. He threatened to grow
into a more odious man, but Providence intervened in his behalf--with
disguised kindness. Providence threw him out by the scruff of his
arrogant neck to fight for his life or to die--which was what he needed.
He went to your mountains to scrap with microbes--and he had leisure to
discover what a microbe he was himself."

The girl's laugh was a peal of silvery music in the dark. "Were you a
microbe?" she demanded. "All these years I've thought you a fairy
prince." With a sudden gravity she added, "To one small girl, you opened
a gate of dreams, and brought her contentment--" she broke off and the
final words were almost whispered--"so long as they remained dreams."

"And now--" he took her up with grave and earnest interest--"now that
they have become realities, what of them?"

"That comes later," she reminded him. "We aren't through yet with the
little boy who won out with his fighting chance."

"When you knew him your hills had done something for him. They had
humanized him. He went as one goes to exile, full of bitterness. Your
hills were a miracle of wholesomeness. They cleansed and restored him
with the song of their high-riding winds and the whispers of their
pines. They confided to him those things that God only says to man in
His own out-of-doors. Your mountains were good to me. I became something
of a dreamer there, and in those dreams you have always stood as the
personal incarnation of those hills. That is why I have thought of you
unendingly ever since."

Mary Burton's answer was to shake her head and declare wistfully:

"I almost wish you hadn't seen me again. It would have been better if
the illusion could have lasted."

"Since then," he went on, "the little girl has grown up and been
crowned, but I shall prefer to think of her as she was before she knew
she was to wear Cinderella's slipper."

"I wonder," she murmured, "if you can."

For a time they were silent while the dance music reached them softened
by the distance, and then he inquired in a low voice:

"Do you by any miracle of chance remember an injunction I laid upon you
one afternoon by the roadside?"

Mary Burton looked up and answered with a nod of her head. "Does any
woman ever forget her first compliment?"

"What was it?"

"'Wield leniently the dangerous gift of your witchcraft--the--'" She
abruptly broke off in the quotation and found herself coloring like a
schoolgirl, so Jefferson Edwardes took up the injunction where she had
left it incomplete. "The freakish beauty of your perfect, unmatched
eyes," he prompted.

The girl felt a strange flutter in her breast. Just now she had blushed.
What had happened to the poise of her usual self-command? Some influence
was abroad tonight or some hypnotism in those steady eyes that gave her
a sense of vague apprehension. It was an apprehension though that
thrilled her strangely with a welcome fear--and a promise. Tides were
stirring that were all new tides. It was as though marvels were
possible. She heard him saying again as he had said once before, "You
are as beautiful as starlight on water."

"So was Cleopatra, my friend. So was Helen of Troy. So were ... Circe
and Faustina."

"But they," he laughed, "did not wield kindly the power of their eyes."

Mary Burton winced, then she turned and faced him. Her voice trembled.

"Why did I have to meet you tonight? It isn't fair! They have schooled
my brain into every useless vanity. They have fed my selfishness until
it has strangled my heart. Never until today did I face the truth. All
afternoon I've been sitting alone--hating myself. I am nothing but an
artificial little flirt, and I have not obeyed your injunction." She
paused, then hurried on with the forced manner of one resolved upon full
confession! "Perhaps so far I've hurt only myself--but I've done
that--mortally. Then you come and I learn that you've woven an illusion
about me--and I destroy it."

Jefferson Edwardes smiled in the dark, but spoke gravely.

"You call yourself an artificial little flirt. You haven't flirted with
me. Why?"

"With you I have talked ten minutes." She laughed suddenly as though at
some absurd thought. "Besides, did any woman ever flirt with you? Can
one lie to eyes that see through one?"

"My eyes do see something," he said. "They see that you have never had a
chance to be your real self. You have been surrounded by flatterers and
sycophants, when you needed sincere and truthful friends."

"Truthful friends!" She repeated the words after him incredulously. "I
wonder if such things exist."

"I am one," he announced bluntly. "I am going to give back to you the
message your hills gave me--without flattery and without adjectives."

He came a step nearer and an unaccountable wave of attraction and fear
thrilled her--flooded her heart until her temples burned. She had been
wishing for the coming of a man who would not be clay in her hands. To
Circe all men must have been swine, from the start, save the man who
could pass by. Now, of a sudden, every wile of coquetry became a lost
art to Mary Burton. She felt like an accomplished and intriguing
diplomat, facing an adversary who has no secrets to conceal and no
interest in the evasions of others. He roused a new eagerness because
she knew intuitively that to mere fascination he would surrender no
principle. With the realization came a sense of surprise and exaltation
and timidity, and she spoke slowly with an interval between her words.

"Why--will--you--assume this rôle?"

"Because--" his voice was confident and inspired a responsive
confidence--"there is such a thing as a chemistry of souls. Life is a
laboratory where Destiny experiments with test-tubes and reagents.
Powerful ingredients may be mixed without result because they hold in
common no element of reaction. Other ingredients at the instant of
mingling turn violet or crimson or explode or burst into flame--because
they were meant to mingle to that end. Nature says so. Does the reason
matter?"

She asked another question, rather faintly, because she felt herself
startlingly lifted on a tide against which it was a useless thing to
struggle. Something in her wanted to sing, and something else wanted to
cry.

"I'm afraid chemistry is one of the things they didn't teach me much
about. Probably because it was useful. Can you put it in words of one
syllable?"

"Yes." He was standing close, but he bent nearer and his voice filled
and amplified the brevity of his monosyllables. "In three. I love you."

Mary Burton started back, and a low exclamation broke incoherently from
her lips.

The man caught both her hands and spoke with tense eagerness.

"You say I have met you in the dark for a few minutes. True. I have
looked on your face while one match burned out ... but I have dreamed of
you ever since I shrined you in my heart--back there--long ago by the
roadside. If you are not the woman of my visions, you can be, and I mean
that you shall be. You are a woman trained in the ways of your world. If
you could help it, you would not let a man take your hands in his, like
this, at a first meeting--would you?"

She shook her head, but her hands lay as motionless as though their
nerves were dead. She could feel the throbbing pulses of his fingers and
suddenly he bent forward and pressed his lips to hers, while she stood
amazed and unresisting. "Or kiss your lips--like this--would you? With
women I am timid, because I have never before been a lover. I could not
do what I am doing unless something stronger than myself were acting
through me. It is the chemistry of souls. It is written." He let his
arms fall at his sides.

Mary Burton pressed her temples with her fingers. Her knees felt weak
and she stood unsteadily on her feet. The man passed a supporting arm
about her waist. Finally, she drew herself up and laughed with a
nervousness that bordered on the hysterical.

"I wonder," she said brokenly; and paused only to repeat again: "I
wonder whether it's the great adventure I've dreamed of--or just
moon-madness? Ought I to be very angry?"

"You will have time to decide," he told her. "What I have said and done
I shall say and do again--often."

"It's strange," she murmured as though talking to herself. "I thought I
understood men. I'm not a schoolgirl any more. Yet I'm as bewildered as
though you were the first man who ever said, 'I love you.'"

"Thank God for that."

She turned and laid a hand on his arm. Her voice came with a musical
vehemence.

"If I do come to love you, I think it will be heaven or hell to me. I'm
not going to be angry until I've thought about it--and thought hard, and
I'm not going to love you unless you make me. Come, let's go back."

As they turned into the path toward the house, she broke irrelevantly
into laughter.

"When you lighted your match--and burned your fingers--what did you
think of my pearls?"

"I didn't see them," he promptly replied. "Were you wearing pearls?"

Confused by the sudden and marvelous consciousness of all life being
changed at a stroke, of doors that had swung wide between all the old
and all the new, Mary Burton walked as in a daze, her fingers toying
with the gems about her neck. But before she had taken many steps the
man laid a hand on her arm and halted her. When she turned he caught her
by her shoulders and his words came tumultuously and with an impassioned
earnestness.

"You must not deny me the chance to say something more," he declared.
"What I have said is either too much or too little. You ask me whether I
saw your pearls. When I first spoke to you--a child with all autumn's
glory blazing at your back, did I have eyes for trees and skies and
landscapes; though they were splendid and profligate in their beauty?
No. I saw you--only you! If you had stood against a drab curtain it
would have been the same. You were a child, too young to stir an adult
heart to love or passion.... What was it then that fixed you from that
moment in my heart?"

She looked back at him and asked faintly, "What was it?"

"That same chemistry of souls," he declared. "That same writing of our
futures in one horoscope; a voice that decreed: 'You shall wait for
her,' though I did not understand its message--until now. And now that I
have seen you, how can I think of pearls?"

To hear words of love spoken in a wild onrush of feeling was no new
experience to Mary Burton, yet it was as though she had never heard them
before. In the past her ears had heard, but now her heart was listening,
and her heart pounded in her breast as it drank in what the man said. He
talked fast, with his eyes on her eyes, and his hands grasping her white
shoulders. His heart, too, rather than his tongue, was speaking.

"You will read in every book," he declared, "that such things as this
are impossible. Give our lives the chance to write their own pages and
you will know that they are true and inevitable. To me you have been a
dream--I have told myself over and over again that it was only a dream,
the whimsical imagination of a man who has lived too much to
himself--who was abnormal. Now I have seen you. Had I seen you every day
since that first day it could mean no more to me. At the first syllable
of your voice--I _knew_. I need no further test."

"But I--?" she faltered.

"You shall take all the time you need. I told you that you had stood in
my mind as the spirit of the hills that gave me back my life. I told you
what I have been telling myself. Now I know better. From that first
instant my life has been molded--for this. Though I did not then know
it, I lived because I _had_ to live. I had to live because it was
written that my life should complete itself by loving you. It was not
your hills that gave me health again--it was yourself. You do not
personify the hills, but the hills personify you. My dream is no longer
a dream, it is a reality. I love you."

"But I have told you," she persisted, "that I am not what you think."

"You are what I know. I love you."

She stood tremblingly before him, and her words came with a whispered
wonderment.

"Things like this don't happen," she said. Then she added, "All the
things you tell me are such things as life laughs at, and yet there is
another side--my side. I have yearned to feel something that had the
power to lift me out of myself and make me gloriously helpless,
something big enough to set my heart beating beyond control--and I never
have felt it--till now. I--I am not the same girl. I don't know
myself.... You have come and I am suddenly different."

"Love's chemistry," he assured her. "The Mary Burton of this moment is
to be the Mary Burton of always, until she becomes Mary Edwardes."

"At all events, I must be alone--to think," she told him. "You can go
and dance, if you like. I've been here two days and I know all the
secret passages. I'm going to slip into my room by a back stairway and
think hard about how angry I am to be with you tomorrow."

"And I," he answered, "shall not dance. I am going to sequester myself
in the woods and pray the gods of fair auspices that you won't be too
angry."



CHAPTER XI


Mary Burton made her way between tall hedgerows of box where an alley of
shade ran to a side terrace, and when she had gained her own room her
eyes were aglow with a new and rather radiant sort of smile, that also
crept to the corners of her lips and hovered happily. It was a vague
smile, but if the man who had enticed it there had seen it, he would
have felt reassured. The threat of tomorrow's wrath would not have
troubled him.

When Mary Burton, changed into bedroom attire, had dismissed her maid
for the night, she still moved about with a restlessness which did not
at once yield to the composure needed for the rigid self-analysis upon
which she was resolved. She stood before the mirror and looked gravely
into the glass.

With the lustrous masses of hair falling braided over her shoulders and
the new glow of discovery in her eyes she might have been a girl just
budding into womanhood. She seemed in the last hour to have slipped back
into the blossom time of her beauty--and though it was a beauty which
she had always realized she now felt a new happiness in its possession.
Heretofore her pride had been such as one feels for a means of conquest.

Now it was different. Her breast rose suddenly and fell to the
excitement of a subtly powerful emotion. This beauty had a new value. It
might be a prize worth surrendering proudly and as a gift to a man of
her choosing. If this rainbow of promised love proved real she would
wish herself even lovelier--for his pleasure. It was of course too soon
to feel sure--and at that thought a sudden gasp of fear rose in her
throat. At all events it was not too early to hope that the night had
brought her the thing for which she had yearned--brought the
commencement. She gave to the face in the mirror a friendly smile. "This
afternoon I rather hated you," she announced gravely. "I gazed at you
and a soulless little pig stared back ... but who knows? Maybe down
under your vanity and selfishness you have after all the cobwebbed
little germ of a soul. If so we must dig it out and brush it off and put
it to work."

Then she turned out the lights and sank down dreamily in the broad
window seat. The moon rode high and bathed the hills in its limpid yet
elusive wash of silver and blue and dove grays. Far off like a
brush-stroke from a dream palette ran the horizon's margin of hills and
nearer at hand tapering poplars stood up like dark sentinels. The lights
and music told of the dance still in progress and strolling figures
occasionally crossed the silver patches between the shadows.

In her own mind she was reviewing all the men who with her had sought to
throw off the mantle of the Platonic and invest themselves in the more
romantic habiliments of courtship. One lesson had been taught her from
the first, and she had learned it thoroughly--too thoroughly! She was no
ordinary girl to give way to unwise throbbing of the pulses. Her future
must run side by side with brilliant things and brilliant men.

It takes experience to teach distrust to those frolicsome playmates,
Youth and Buoyancy. She had met with that experience and had learned
that fortune-hunters are by no means mythical or extinct. When to the
honey-pot of wealth is added the lure of beauty, how can one be sure
that any proffered love is free from the taint of greed? Her brother was
one of America's most brilliant money-getters. He gathered in and
disbursed with a lavish magnificence. She had been called the most
beautiful woman in Europe and her gem-like brilliancy had been set in
Life's gold and platinum of environment. When Cupid came to her what
bill of health could he produce to prove that he was not a sneak-thief
in disguise? She had accepted the cynical conclusion that she might
never be sure of any man's love and the tenderer little heart-nerves
which govern impulse were growing numb. Under a naïve freshness and
girlish fragrance of personality, lay masked batteries of distrust and
hardness. The Duke de Metuan fancied himself genuinely in love with her.
Of that she was sure, but should the Duke de Metuan learn tomorrow
morning that she had overnight become penniless--she broke off and
laughed.

And tonight had come the unwarned tumult of feeling against which she
possessed no argument. Jefferson Edwardes had looked at her and his eyes
were a guarantee of honesty beyond question. She did not even ask to see
the Love God's passport. This man was a member of a great family of
bankers; a family that had stood for generations among the richest in
the country. Ham's magic control of the money tides could not even
subconsciously influence his decisions.

It was wonderful to sit there in the window, adrift on a tide of
elation, and to know that the numbness of her heart was not a permanent
paralysis--that she had a soul. It was absurdedly delightful, too, to
reflect upon the illogical swiftness with which it had all happened.

"Tomorrow," she announced to herself, nodding her head very decisively,
"I shall be furious with him. I shall refuse to speak to him. I shall
let him realize that such lordly assumption brings swift retribution."
Then, low and gaily, she laughed. "After I've punished him I'll be very
nice to him, unless--" her lips tightened as she added--"unless he says
he's sorry he did it and apologizes. If he does that I'll never speak to
him again."

       *       *       *       *       *

While Mary was spending so comfortable and pleasing an hour with her
reflections and while Jefferson Edwardes was tramping the hills several
miles away, a small number of unattached men lingered near the
punch-bowl and cigars in the huge living-room of the lodge.

One of these refugees from the zone of dancing activities was of more
than ordinarily striking appearance. When he stood he towered and even
when he sat, as now, morosely lounging and taciturn, he bulked large and
wore a countenance of such strength and determination as suited his
giant body. In spite of his great physique he carried no superfluous
flesh, but tapered to the waist and, notwithstanding his present
detachment and a seriousness that verged on sullenness, the face seemed
more patterned by nature for the broad grin of good fellowship and clean
mirthfulness.

Quite obviously Len Haswell, whose laugh ordinarily rang like a fog-horn
over the chorus of conversation, would just now have preferred being
elsewhere. When their customary joviality left those gray eyes, the
man's immensity took on something of an ogre's power. He tinkled the
ice in his high-ball glass--a process to which he had devoted himself
with unaccustomed repetition this evening and, instead of mellowing into
conviviality under his libations, his eyes narrowed a little and the
small frowning line between his brows deepened.

"The Big Fellow's having a grouch, eh, what? He's getting a bit squiffy,
if you ask me," suggested Norvil Thayre to the group centered where the
punch-bowl was being administered. Norvil Thayre was not having a
grouch. If he had ever had a grouch he had kept his secret well. An
American by adoption, he was still aggressively British in speech, dress
and eccentricity.

Norvil Thayre's chest was always thrust out as cheerily and confidently
as a cock-robin's, and his step was as elastic as though he had just
come, freshly galvanized, from some electric source of exuberant energy.
His clothing escaped the extremes of fashion by the narrowest margin of
good taste, and his mustache ends bristled up toward the laughing
wrinkles about his wide-awake eyes like exclamation points of alertness.

"And," went on Mr. Thayre amiably, "if he hungers for solitude I'm the
last chap in the world to intrude on his meditations. I jolly well know
myself what it means to hang precariously on the fringe of plutocracy
with only a beastly whisper of an income--and by the Lord Harry I'm a
bachelor." Several auditors nodded their sympathetic understanding, but
a tall youth with viking blond hair and vacant eyes which seemed to
proclaim, "I am looking, but I see not," was less judicious. He lounged
over and dropped into a chair at Haswell's side.

"That singularly frightful little ass, Larry Kirk, is going to cheer
him up now," smiled Thayre. "Trust him to make himself a nuisance."

"Not dancing much this evening, Len?" suggested Kirk by way of opening
the conversation with the silent one.

"No." The reply was curt.

"I've been wanting to dance with your wife," persisted the other, "but
she's as illusive as a wraith."

This time Haswell did not vouchsafe even a monosyllable in reply, and
the tactless Kirk assumed the double burden of the conversation.

"I call it rough treatment when the two truly beautiful women in society
come to a dance and proceed, to all intents and purposes, to evaporate.
Miss Burton, too, seems to have been converted into thin air. What's the
use of struggling to keep up with new steps?"

Len Haswell rose stiffly from his chair, and, tossing his cigar through
the open window, stalked silently from the room.

The blond young man glanced uncomprehendingly after him, and Thayre's
laugh broke in a booming peal.

"Rather gratuitous, son, wasn't it?" he suggested.

"What do you mean?" Larry Kirk put his question blankly.

"Nothing, except that you know Len or ought to. He's the present-day
Othello, sulking because he can't get a dance with his wife. It's barely
conceivable that he's not aching to have it rubbed in."

"Can't get a dance?" repeated the empty-eyed youth perplexedly. "Why?"

Thayre snorted. "What chance has he--or any one else when Ham Burton's
gifted pomeranian sequesters her in some shaded nook and whispers
musical nonsense into her coral ear?"

"You mean Paul Burton? Gifted pomeranian fits him nicely ... but why
should any man be jealous of--him?"

"A man may be jealous of any creature that all women pet. Paul Burton
can play to them until their golden souls come soaring out to be
playmates with his golden soul. You and I, having no wives, may be able
to laugh at such things--but Len Haswell has a devilish pretty one--and
a devilish foolish one."

To young Mr. Kirk the situation seemed simple.

"Why doesn't Len just take this pleasing minstrel by the scruff of his
neck and say to him, 'Nice little doggy, run away'?"

"For two reasons. First, behind the pleasing minstrel stands the
Emperor--damn his magnificently audacious soul! Secondly, when you chase
a man who has access to the treasure of the Incas ... you take a fairish
chance of chasing the lady along with him."

"I'm sorry I made Len sore." The blond man spoke contritely. Then his
voice snapped into animosity. "He's worth a dozen Paul Burtons, the
vapid little piano-player."

"Right-o!" Thayre stood with his feet well apart and his baldish head
thrown back. "Even that profound gift for reading human nature, which it
pleased a Divine Providence to bestow upon me, could hardly have hit
more jolly well on the peg." He paused, then added, "But be that as it
may--in the habit which has become so prevalent among us money-changers
in the temple, of damning the soul of Hamilton Burton--when he is
absent--I think we overlook a few patent truths. We hate the man and
all his breed simply because he outclasses us at our own game."

"You mean he outplunders us," contradicted Kirk.

"It comes to much the same thing, young son, though High Finance is a
prettier name for the pastime. He gathers in millions to our thousands
not only because he is a naughty, wicked man, but because of his greater
caliber and range. Brother Paul shines by some of this reflected
glory--so it has become the fashion to damn Brother Paul, too."

It began to dawn on the fair-haired young man that he was being chaffed.
His reply came sulkily.

"To my mind Paul Burton is nothing but a hanger-on."

"Quite true. So am I. So are you. So are all of us who produce nothing
tangible. Paul is a hanger-on by better right than many others who
depend directly or indirectly on the energies of this great producing
pirate."

Kirk had exhausted his line of argument and fell silent, but Jack
Staples stepped into the breach. Staples himself was no mean type of
financier, holding as he did a commission as one of Malone's chief
lieutenants. He was a striking man with a lower jaw which thrust itself
aggressively forward and a single white lock over his forehead, though
except for that the blackness of his hair bore no touch of gray even at
the temples.

"I hate the lot of them!" he announced vehemently. "I hate this upstart
Cyclops and his conscienceless power. I hate the pampered brother--but
Thayre is right. Great God in heaven, gentlemen, it is a family of
geniuses. Stop and reflect. Fifteen years ago they were
bare-footed--ragged--half-starved, the whole brood. Now consider them.
Hamilton is magnificent, ruthless, but almost omnipotent. He is one of
the world's few blazing and dazzling figures. As for Paul, in spite of
his weakness, he's inspirational. His genius is no less intrinsic. I'm
not emotional, but I've heard them all play and that boy can carry me
out of myself as can no other artist, professional or amateur, to whom
I've ever listened. He is a gifted troubadour. His fingers control the
magic of harmony as his brother's control the magic of money. For my
part I'd rather be Paul than Hamilton. Hamilton will be hated to
death--by men, but Paul will be loved to death--by women."

"Well," suggested another member of the group drily, "when one New York
family can move as stolid an old cynic as Staples to eulogy, it must be
some family."

"I tell you," protested Staples hotly, "I hate them, but we gain nothing
by belittling our enemies. It sets a man's imagination afire to see a
strain of remarkable blood proclaiming itself in so diverse a fashion
through members of one household; a household that has come from the
pinch of want. Take the girl. Leave her beauty out of the question,
because beauty is not genius. But her mind is as trenchant as her
brother's. She could reign on any throne in Europe and stand out as
conspicuous in brilliant contrast to that colorless royalty as a torch
flaming among candles. I'll wager that her courage is as unflinching as
his and her gifts as varied and remarkable. Why, even old Tom, the
father, is, for all his seeming of pompous emptiness, the craftiest and
cagiest old chap in the National Union Club. He plays rotten bridge, but
he still has a brain in his old head."

"I suppose as far as that goes," commented Mr. Kirk, fortified by the
entry of a new disputant into the argument, "that even Nero had his
attractive angles of personality."

Thayre laughed and lighted a cigarette. Then as he inhaled deeply he
nodded and replied.

"I hold no brief for Nero, but I dare say he was a bit misunderstood."

"Since you've undertaken the modern Nero's defense, suppose you
catalogue _his_ good points--aside from a conceded brilliancy in
finance," suggested another member of the group.

The Englishman nodded, and began his summary.

"An unswerving loyalty to his friends--until they are guilty of _lèse
majesté_; a personal integrity which no man questions; a wit that makes
him in his lighter moments a rare companion; a generosity as broad as
his fighting ruthlessness is deep; and, finally, a lion-like courage. To
me, my lads, those assets seem worth a moment's consideration."

       *       *       *       *       *

The gardens and grounds of Haverly Lodge were that night such a terrain
as best suits the ambuscading warfare of the small god with the bow and
darts.

Loraine Haswell was thinking something of the sort as she strolled with
Paul Burton away from the dancers, leaving their destination to chance.
Kirk had hardly exaggerated when he bracketed the name of this slender
and graceful wife of the gigantic broker with that of Mary Burton as the
two most beautiful women in society.

They were opposite types, for while Mary was a glowing incarnation of
color, rich as a golden morning in blossom-time, Loraine, with heavy
masses of softly spun jet coiled above her brow, looking out from eyes
that were pools of liquid darkness, might have been the queen of night.
But her mouth was a carmine blossom. This evening she wore a gown almost
barbaric in its richness of color and pattern, and when she walked ahead
of Paul Burton where the path narrowed, it seemed to him that some slim
and lithe Cleopatra was preceding him. The waltz music came across the
short distance, and Loraine Haswell went with a step that captured the
rhythm of the measure. When they had come to a corner of the garden
where a fountain tinkled in shadow and only a lacey strand or two of
moonlight fell on the grass, she halted with her outstretched arms
resting lightly on the tall basin, and let her fingers dip into the
clear water while she turned to smile on him.

"Do you know, Mrs. Haswell," Paul spoke low and with a musical thrill in
his voice, "you are the loveliest creature in captivity tonight? Your
loveliness is to a man's imagination what Wilde said white hyacinths are
to the soul--worth going without bread for."

She laughed, but into her mirth there crept, or was injected as the case
may be, a note of wistfulness.

"In captivity," she repeated, slowly. "I am always in captivity."

With most men Paul was diffident and prone to silence, but something in
his effete nature gave him confidence with women. He had been flattered
into a sort of assurance that they found him irresistible. They thought
him clairvoyantly sympathetic--and he was by the very over-refinement of
his music and dream-fed temperament.

"The other evening when I left you, I went home and closed my eyes and
sat alone--thinking of you," he told her. "To me all that is fine
beyond words I try to translate into music. Where words--even
poetry--fail, notes begin. So at the piano I tried to express something
like a portrayal of you--to myself."

She seated herself on a stone bench while he stood looking down at her.
Her head was for a moment bent and something in the droop of her
shoulders intimated unhappiness.

"Does my improvising music about you offend?" He put the question very
gently. "You know that I go to the piano as another man might go to his
prayers."

She looked up and shook her head. Then she said softly. "Offend me? No,
it makes me very proud.... I was just thinking of something else--that
troubled me."

"Of what?" Into the two short words Paul Burton put such a sympathy as
only voices of women and partly feminine men can express.

"Of the word you used just now ... captivity."

He seated himself at her side and his hand fell to the edge of the stone
bench--where her own fingers lightly rested. The cool satiny touch of
the hand his own encountered, which she made no effort to withdraw,
affected him as though a clear and silvery note had sounded near him.

Paul was one whose senses were exquisitely attuned.

"Mrs. Haswell--Loraine," he said, and his voice was seductively tender,
"you are unhappy."

Slowly she nodded her dark head and her voice was a whisper. "Yes....
Paul, I'm afraid I am just that."

It was the first time they had called each other by their first names.
It was the first time that the gradually ripening intimacy between them
had had a more propitious setting than a table at Sherry's. Paul Burton
had awaited this moment patiently, knowing that it must sometime come.
Now he bent toward her until her hair brushed his face.

"It is your right to find life a thing of joy," he whispered. "Your soul
is a flower. It should have the fulness and radiance of sunshine."

"Our rights," she said slowly, "are not always the things we get."

"But just why are you unhappy?" he insisted.

"I guess you summed it up in that one word, Paul ... captivity."

Paul Burton, the easily swayed, the facilely led, rose and paced up and
down, and after a few moments he halted before her.

"Doesn't he--your jailer--appreciate you, Loraine?"

She shrugged her lovely shoulders and looked up at him, smiling through
lashes that glistened a little.

"As much, I suppose, as a man can appreciate a woman whom he fails to
understand. It's not his fault."

"Of course he--cares for you?"

Loraine Haswell shot him a quick inquiring glance. "Yes," she smiled,
"he cares enough to persecute me with little jealousies. He cares enough
to want me to make love to him when--" she halted and put both hands
over her face; through her slight figure ran a faint shudder--"when I
can't."

The man pressed his tapering fingers to his temples. He must seem
agitated and his emotions lay so ready to call that seeming so was
almost being so. Yet in the back of his mind was the thought: "She will
be in my arms in five minutes."

Suddenly she rose from her seat. "I oughtn't to say such things to
you," she declared in a voice freighted with self-accusation. "Please
forget it, Paul. But it's a thing you can understand. You know the
emptiness of a life that deals only with material things."

He leaned forward with one knee on the bench and one hand on the
fountain basin. She was beautiful and his heart responded to her
beauty's challenge.

"To me you can say anything. In me you will always find one who has no
interest above your interests." He stopped and took her hands, but she
shook her head in gentle negation, and, as he obeyed the unuttered
mandate and let his own arms fall at his sides, she rewarded him with a
smile that thrilled him like an embrace.

"Len is fine and big and everybody likes him," went on the wife as
though bent on being fair at all costs. "Sometimes I think that's the
trouble. It's like being married to a standing army. In times of peace
one doesn't need a standing army and in times of war it's me that he
makes war on."

Loraine rose and started toward the house. Paul followed, her,
appraising her beauty with eyes into which a new interest had come. In a
moment she turned and halted so suddenly that the man found her face
close to his as she spoke. "I don't know what's the matter with me
tonight. I feel faint and giddy--and full of undefined longings. I
sha'n't sleep--unless--" she looked questioningly up at him--"unless you
will play for me, Paul. Will you?"

Then she put out both hands and swayed unsteadily. Paul caught her in
his arms and pressed her to him. The fragrance of her breath and the
velvet coolness of the cheek he found himself kissing were details that
brought an exquisite responsiveness to his senses. He did not know
whether she had fainted or was still conscious, for she rested there in
his embrace limp and unresisting and wordless.

"What is the matter, dearest?" he whispered, when the first flush of
exultation had passed. "What is the matter?"

Slowly the dark fringe of lashes flickered up and the jet eyes gazed
languorously into his own. The blossom lips parted over the flashing
whiteness of a smile. Still she did not move except to close both her
hands tightly on the arms that circled her.

"Paul," she told him, "I ought to be unconscious or--or break away, but
I'm just--just forgetting my captivity." Her eyes held his, drawing them
hypnotically nearer and he lowered his face till his lips met hers and
received from them the answer to his kiss.

Then Loraine Haswell drew away and straightened up. She was a very
lovely picture of contrite confusion as she put up both gleaming arms
and rearranged the dark hair he had rumpled. All the way to the house
she was silent.



CHAPTER XII


An hour later Mrs. Haswell sat before the cheval glass of her
dressing-table. Her dark hair, loosened now from its coils, cascaded
abundantly over her white shoulders. She was thinking, and the
charmingly chiseled lips and brow here in the privacy of her own room
wore a rather calculating and somewhat satisfied smile. No note of
contrition or self-accusation marred their serenity. A knock on the door
interrupted her reverie and with a smothered exclamation of annoyance
she glanced at the clock and rose.

"May I come in a moment?" Her husband's voice was a shade thicker than
usual and his face still wore the somber expression which seemed so out
of place there.

"It's almost two o'clock, Len." There was an uninviting coolness in the
quality of Loraine's tone--almost a protest. "Won't tomorrow do?" She
stood still, holding the door only a few inches ajar.

"I won't keep you up long," he assured her.

"I'm very tired."

Len Haswell laid his hand on the knob and opened the door in spite of
her unwelcome. "If you please," he said quietly. He came in and lighted
a cigarette, then he inquired with an unaccustomed irony: "What tired
you, Loraine? You didn't seem to be dancing much."

His wife shrugged her shoulders. Beyond that she failed to reply.

The big man came over and took both her hands in his own with a
half-savage affection. "Loraine," he said pleadingly, "I wanted to dance
with you tonight. I searched high and low, but I couldn't find you. For
my part I have spent a very dreary evening."

"You know, Len," she casually reminded him, "you and I can't dance
together. I'm a fair dancer and you are a very good one, but together we
can't manage it. There were plenty of other girls, weren't there?"

The man's face for an instant worked spasmodically and in pain, then it
grew dark. "For me, Loraine, there is never any other girl. You know
that. Why do you avoid me as if I were a pestilence? Why can't you
sometimes be the girl you used to be? Presumably you married me because
you wanted to. You had better offers, richer lovers. Have I changed so
much in five years--and if not, what in God's name has changed you?"

She withdrew her hands from his and sat again in the chair before the
mirror. "Len," she said with a touch of petulance in her voice, "you get
into grouches and spur your imagination to all sorts of absurdities. I'm
very sleepy. Why can't you reserve your fault-finding until tomorrow?"

Len Haswell answered quietly, but obdurately. "For two reasons. In the
first place I sha'n't be able to sleep unless you answer me. In the
second place I shall probably see as much of you tomorrow as I have
today--which is nothing." His tone hardened. "You are too tired to give
me a few minutes, but you found it both possible and agreeable to give
Paul Burton the entire evening."

"Oh," she laughed easily and with well-simulated amusement, "I should
fancy from the contemptuous things I have heard you men say about Paul,
you would regard him as quite harmless."

"Paul!" repeated the man accusingly. "When did you begin calling him by
his first name? Does he call you Loraine, too?"

"Why not? We are friends." She looked up at her husband's face with an
air of injured innocence and he paced a turn or two across the floor
before he halted before her.

"I wish you would see less of him. I don't talk business to you often.
It bores you, but you know that we are always strained to hold the pace
that richer members of our set cut out. We have to pay very high for a
privilege which has no value to me except that you like it."

Loraine Haswell sighed--and masked a yawn behind a small uplifted hand.
"I wonder," she mused as though to herself, yet quite loud enough to be
heard, "why some men find it so hard to make money, and to others it
seems so easy."

Len Haswell flushed brick red to his cheekbones. He bit his lip and
forced himself to remain silent for a moment, then he spoke gently. "I'm
sorry I am not as brilliant a financier as some others. Nature doesn't
endow us all alike. A good many people would regard me as fairly
successful, I dare say. For myself a small house on the Sound would be
good enough, if you were there--"

"Thank you," she answered with deliberate cruelty, "I don't think I'd
care for that."

The man's scowl became ominously black. The hands at his side twitched,
and the temper with which few credited him because of his perpetual
control, flared out.

"No, by the Almighty, you would rather prefer to be where the gods of
life are pleasure and extravagance and selfish indulgence! Where the
loyal love of a husband means less than the flatteries of a tame
cat...." As suddenly as the eruption had come it subsided. He raised
both hands. "Forgive me," he implored, "I didn't mean that. But I am
distraught and financial affairs are very precarious, Loraine. We may
stand on the brink of a disastrous panic. It lies in Hamilton Burton's
power to make me or break me--absolutely. Don't you see what that
means?"

His wife shook her head, "I'm afraid I don't understand the intricacies
of finance." Her tone added that neither was she extravagantly
interested in them.

"It means this," Haswell spoke gravely. "You have been seen with Paul
Burton more perhaps than is advisable. Paul Burton is Hamilton Burton's
brother ... he is the one man with whom I can't afford to quarrel."

"I haven't suggested your quarreling with him."

"Then please don't drive me to it."

"Again I say that you are letting your imagination make you the victim
of absurdities. Of just what are you accusing me?"

He came over and took her hand. "I am not accusing you of anything. I am
willing to let my honor rest in your hands, but I am warning you against
innocent mistakes."

He sought to put an arm about her, but she slipped from his grasp, and
after a moment he said "Good-night" with a sort of sullen resignation,
and went out, closing the door noiselessly after him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jefferson Edwardes had tramped far. When Mary Burton had gone to her
own room, he had plunged into the thicketed slopes of the hills and
walked for hours. Since his long exile in the White Mountains he had
always held to the idea that a man can think more clearly close to the
rocks and under open skies. Just now he wanted an untinged clarity to
attend his thoughts.

Although the occurrences of the evening had possessed an Arabian Night's
quality of unreality, he felt no misgivings for the love he had
announced and pledged. It was not as though he looked back on a record
of broken promises. He had no troubling memories to sweep from his
conscience before his heart should be clear for a new entry. He had come
away from the mountains with something hermit-like in his nature and
much of the idealistic. It had been a pleasanter thing to him to keep
unsullied the more important dreams of life than to endanger them with
the transitory pleasures of the philanderer. The Mary Burton he had
known in the dilapidated farm-house had of course been nothing more than
a picturesque little waif of the country-side. Yet she had been a memory
that remained distinct through years in New York and Russia; a memory
which his imagination had quickened into life. Of Hamilton's spectacular
successes his world of banking and finance had given him cognizance, but
only such interest as one accedes to matters of impersonal news.

So a curiosity had arisen in his mind to see this young woman to whom he
had once played the fairy prince, and since he was a whimsical man, that
curiosity had woven and twisted itself into a dream. A dream long
entertained may become something more than a dream. Perhaps it may be a
menace. About their meeting tonight had been so much of the fortuitous
that he might regard the whole affair as one operated from the knees of
the gods--and disclaim responsibility.

The house windows had darkened one by one by the time his tramp ended
again at Haverly Lodge. The moon was near the western timber fringe of
the mountains, but Mary Burton, still wide-eyed and wakeful, had slipped
out of her room to the balcony by her window.

The stone coping where she sat was partly black with shadow and partly
platinum gray with the last of the moonlight. Her hair, falling in two
heavy braids, caught the glistening light and her lips were parted in a
smile. "It is strange," she told herself, "that once before he came
along--and waked me into a new self. His second coming is stranger
still. It would almost seem that there is no chance about it. It would
almost seem that it has been definitely planned." Then she laughed low
to herself. "And if that's true I have no responsibility in the matter
at all. Nothing I do about it is my fault--and I needn't be very angry
about his kissing me before he was introduced to me."

Then she saw a figure leave the shadow of the hedges and cross the
moonlit lawn with a confident stride. Mary Burton leaned a little
forward, resting on her hands, and her lips remained parted.

"He seems just about as shameless about the whole affair as I am," she
reflected, and when he was directly below she accosted him in a careful
voice: "Halt, Restless Stranger. Does a disturbed conscience send you
out to wander in the night mists?"

Jefferson Edwardes obeyed the command and raised his eyes to the
commanding voice. "Perhaps," he announced in a guarded tone, "it is, in
a fashion, dread of the wrath to come--though my conscience is clear.
But you"--in his half-whisper she caught an eager note of hope--"why
aren't you asleep?" She shook her head and in the moon-bath her face
flashed into a luminous smile. "I am working up that wrath," she assured
him. "I am preparing to be terribly angry with you tomorrow."

"And until tomorrow?"

"Until tomorrow I am very happy. Good-night."

"Tomorrow is always--tomorrow, dearest--" he said, "Good-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

A many-sided man was J.J. Malone, with a nature as brilliant and as
capable of flashing varying lights from its facets as a diamond--and
when need be as hard as a diamond. Had he lived in feudal times other
barons would have said, "Where Malone sits there is the head of the
table," and the monarch himself would have taken thought before
provoking his wrath. In these days of alleged intolerance for tyrants he
dispensed with the fanfare of trumpets and the tossing of flambeaux. The
door of his office in a gray shaft-like building down-town bore the
simple inscription, "American Transportation Co., President's Office."

Many men to whom the mighty money leverage of "Consolidated" was a
familiar story had heard of J.J. Malone only in the casual sense. Yet
the oligarchy had been built and rendered, supposedly, impregnable from
the conceptions of his constructive brain. Concentration of power into
one vast unit had been "Consolidated's" triumph--and his realized dream.
Always the master tactician had been he who unobtrusively wore the title
of president of "American Transportation." To others he had relinquished
title rôles, but, unseen, he had set and managed the stage. Hamilton
Burton had been taught at Malone's knee, but Hamilton Burton was young
and hot with vitality, aflame with ambition. From Malone himself he had
absorbed the principle, "Never forget that today's ally may be
tomorrow's enemy. Be prepared to use him--or crush him." In secret
Burton had been building to that end, and only he himself knew the full
reserve force of his resources.

"You are about the only man in the Street, sir," declared young Bristoll
one morning, in a burst of admiration, as he and his chief sat together
over their coffee, "to whom J.J. Malone seems willing to grant an
equality of status."

Hamilton Burton smiled.

"That is true just now, Carl," he replied. "It can not always remain
true."

"Why?"

"Our young Minister of Finance sees the present in just proportions,"
laughed Burton. "But his vision has not yet mastered the horizons of the
future."

Carl flushed. He knew that for all the flattering confidence to which he
was admitted, many broadly conceived pictures moved across the screen of
his employer's mind of which he was vouchsafed no intimation.

"I'll elucidate, Carl, though it's scarcely a matter for advertisement,"
went on the other. "Hasn't it occurred to you that Malone and I started
life in very similar fashion? Each of us came raw and uninitiated from
the country. Each of us brought rugged physiques and fairly alert minds
to our tasks. Each of us has, I think, been fairly successful." Hamilton
Burton paused to laugh frankly at his own modesty of expression.

"Each of us has been a little swifter than the generality in reading
signs; a little bolder in conception and execution. If you read the
papers you will gather that each of us is, in private life, impeccable,
and each of us is, in business, as merciless as an epidemic."

"That is the voice of envy," protested the younger man with heat.

"Thank you. I am grateful for the acquittal. There is room for only one
absolute master. Only one side of a coin can lie face up at the same
time. Heads or tails must be turned down."

To the front of Malone's mind a train of dispassionate logic had forced
a similar conviction. As between himself and this rising sun of finance
it was a matter of heads or tails. In consequence, on a certain June
afternoon his yacht, _Albatross_, cleared from its slip in the Hudson
and stood out toward midstream with her prow pointed toward the bay and
the narrows.

It was a sparkling day, warm enough to make the breeze agreeable as it
fanned the faces of the loungers on the white deck. J.J. Malone himself
was seemingly nothing more formidable than the unexcelled host. As he
leaned, bareheaded, on the rail of the forward deck the river breath
stirred his iron-gray hair and his changeful eyes were kindly and
atwinkle. Yet the party had not been wholly devised for purposes of
pleasuring. There were no ladies on board and only four men exclusive of
the crew. These four could swing directorates controlling the major
interests of Consolidated. For this twenty-four hours of cruising, one
had come down from Newport, one had delayed his sailing date to Europe
and the third, H.A. Harrison, had left the entertainment of his guests
at Haverly Lodge in the hands of others.

Dinner passed with no reference to business. Anecdote and repartee held
the right of way, but later when the myriad lights of lower Manhattan
glowed out like the fire-spray of a thousand arrested rockets, cigars
were lighted and the flanneled quartette settled back into their four
deck-chairs. Then it was that Harrison gave the cue with a terse
question: "Well, why are we here?" Instantly Malone's face altered.

"To consider a method for clipping Burton's claws," he announced with
decisive brevity.

"Why not let sleeping dogs lie?" The inquiry came thoughtfully from
Meegan of the Cosmopolitan Bank.

Malone's voice rang like steel on flint. "Gentlemen, this man is a
charlatan. As his power grows his menace increases. Consolidated has
never brooked disobedience nor insolence. It has been our policy to
reward the faithful servant and punish the unfaithful." He glanced
around the group, then continued in the manner of one issuing an edict.
"Heretofore we have not waited until the refractory child grew too big
to punish. We should not do so now."

"For my part," suggested Harrison with a quiet twinkle in his eyes, "I'm
just as willing to let someone else take this child out to the woodshed
now."

"Hamilton Burton is outgrowing restraint." Malone was snapping out his
words with categorical crispness. "Do you realize the perilous scope of
his dream? His overvaulting ambition looks to a one-man power of
finance; a power vested solely in himself. We are rearing a
Frankenstein, gentlemen. To overlook it means our ultimate ruin--and,
what is more, a national cataclysm."

"And yet," interposed Harrison quietly, "his power is largely of our
making. We took him to our hearts."

J.J. Malone admitted the statement with a grave nod.

"Up to the point where arrogance became a mania, he was a most valuable
lieutenant. I select men for efficiency. When they seek to become
usurpers, I endeavor to halt them."

The Honorable S.T. Browne, as general counsel for many Consolidated
interests, had evolved the theorem that from every statute there is an
escape. Now he inquired, "How did he gain his seat in the saddle?
Sudden, wasn't it?"

"He came into my office one day only a few years ago," answered the
chief baron. "Twice I refused to see him, but he meant to see me--and he
did. More than that, he fascinated me. I knew that I was talking with a
genius and a man of dauntless mind. Such minds I can use. I used his."

Meegan knocked the ash from his cigar and laughed. "Burton has a certain
hypnotic quality of address," he conceded.

"It is not address--it is genius. This man held me with his eye and
forced me to listen. He came with no apology and no misgiving. He knew
himself for a child of Destiny, and within ten minutes I knew it, too.
What is the biggest accomplishment, gentlemen, that stands to the credit
of Consolidated in the past ten years?"

"The merging of Inter-ocean Coal and Ore." Meegan gave the response
without hesitation, and no one contradicted him.

"That," asserted Malone, "was the wild scheme which Hamilton Burton
brought to me as his letter of introduction. I found no flaw in his
plan--aside from its stupendous audacity. You ask me why I put him in a
position of power. He rode in on his own usefulness--led by his
intrinsic self-faith."

"So far as you have gone," suggested Harrison drily, "you have
summarized several fairly solid reasons for keeping him with us."

"Quite true. I concede him a Napoleonic caliber and I recognize his
Napoleonic effrontery. His conscienceless lust for power has unbalanced
him. He seeks to sack the world. He must be stopped."

"So you suggest--?" Browne left his question unfinished save for the
interrogation of his lifted brows.

"He sits in seven of our directorates. You know how Consolidated has
sought to avoid the appearance of too narrow a domination. You know,
too, that we have avoided directors who were obviously pure dummies. For
several weeks I have been tracing out the holdings in Coal and Ore
stock. Hamilton Burton with his following looms too large. Left to his
own devices, he may outgrow control."

Meegan studied his cigar with attentively knit brows before he inquired:
"Does Burton assume such proportions in Coal and Ore as to suggest
turning the balance of control? Is that what you mean?"

"Not yet." Malone drew from his pocket a small note-book and consulted
its pages. "We hold a safe balance in our own hands, barring treachery,
but we have let him gain a stronger nucleus than now seems advisable.
You gentlemen know that we have always held out the impression that only
a small amount of Consolidated stock is offered the general public."

"As we also know," amended Harrison bluntly, "that in fact a large
proportion of it is in the hands of the casual investor. Still another
fact is sure. Burton's sobriquet of the Great Bear was not gratuitously
bestowed. If we read him out of meeting he will bring a panic about our
cars."

Malone puffed for a space at his cigar in silence. The quiet drone of
the engines came up from below, and the moonlight fell in a broad band
of radiance on the foaming ribbon of the wake.

"I have also considered that point," he said at last. "Burton has two
cardinal maxims of finance. One is that Securities are usually sold
above their intrinsic worth. The other is that Cash alone is an
absolutely stable form of property. Acting on these two principles, he
is doubtless building to the logical end. Some day he will make another
raid--and, if he is allowed to select the day and the conditions, it
will be a panic-making raid. If an enemy's attack is inevitable the best
defense is offense. There is no wisdom in giving him time to prepare.
Every day we stand idle his power grows. We must show enough strength at
the next meeting of our stock-holders to reorganize the Coal and Ore
directorate."

Harrison rose and walked to the rail. He stood for a moment looking out,
then came back and spoke quickly.

"If this is to be done we should let no more time slip by. It's a safe
bet that he isn't wasting days."

Malone's fist crashed down on the arm of his chair. He rose, too, and
paced backward and forward, talking as he walked.

"Waste time! By heaven, we must waste no minute. We must go after him
and bring in his pelt. We must treat him like a wolf prowling around our
sheep-folds. There can be no peace for any of us until he is destroyed
... and, damn him, I mean to see that it's done!"

The others watched the broad shoulders of the head baron and the
resolute carriage of the head, thrown back as if in challenge. He paused
once to relight the cigar which in his vehemence he had let die, and as
the match flared they saw that his eyes blazed and his features were set
in that wrath which the Street feared.

"By heaven," exclaimed Malone fiercely, "we've got to smash him--damn
him!"



CHAPTER XIII


Mary Burton was discovering some things about June. She had often
watched lovers leaning silently on a deck-rail, with eyes fixed on a
moonlit wake and hands that crept surreptitiously together. She had
envied the credulity of these people and turned away with an ache and
emptiness in her own heart.

Now at twenty-five she awoke each morning with a smile for the sunlight
and a proprietary joy in the blue of the skies and a delight for the
roses whose hearts were no younger than her own had become.
Bridge-tables and tennis courts saw little of her, because the woods
were waiting and Jefferson Edwardes was there to tramp and ride and fish
and be companion and guide.

It was most beautiful far back from the oiled roads and trimmed hedges,
for here were only woodland voices and languorous forest fragrances.
Here, too, hid all those wild flowers that in childhood she had known
and fancifully christened--and since forgotten, and here two people with
the lilt of this abundant June song in their hearts could leave a few of
their years by the roadside and forget them. To Mary Burton it was all a
rediscovery and a miracle. He had promised to give her back the message
of her hills. He was giving her back the joy of life.

One afternoon she and Jefferson Edwardes were tramping toward a brook
where the trout would be flashing like phantom darts, and as he led the
way along a narrow trail she followed him with a smile on her lips.

At a sheer twist around the hill's shoulder he stopped and pointed his
hand. The view from there was almost county-wide, billowing away across
heights and depths to a blue merging of hill and sky.

As she stood by his side her eyes and parted lips spoke her unworded
appreciation and the man's gaze came back from the broad picture and
dwelt upon her.

"It's strange," she said finally with a vaguely puzzled expression,
"that I who was born in just such hills as these should now be realizing
their wonder for the first time."

But her companion laughed at her seriousness. "When you knew them
first," he reminded her, "you had nothing else with which to compare
them. It is one who comes from the north who finds a marvel in the
bigness and softness of southern stars. Now you have been away--and have
come home, dearest."

She was standing very lancelike and straight by the slender bole of a
silver birch. A golden sun flooded richly through the greenery. Overhead
was a tunefully unflecked sky and into the shadows crept a richness of
furtively underlying color and echoes of color. It was all vivid and
beautiful and the girl standing there seemed to dominate its vividness
and its beauty. But her eyes were grave, even when a shaft of the
radiance struck her delicately blossoming cheeks and played upon the
escaping locks with which the breeze played, too.

"Do you know, I suppose in a way I ought to hate you?" she told the man,
and he swiftly demanded:

"Hate me? In heaven's name, why?"

"When a woman has been deluded into believing herself a bird of
paradise ... and has been content with her feathers, it doesn't precisely
help to discover that--" her voice grew self-contemptuous--"that after
all she has only lived the life of a Strassburg goose and has been fed
to death until she is no earthly good for anything except to be some
glutton's delicacy--"

"Strassburg geese don't search their consciences," he smiled. "They are
too busy being fed to death. If you had lost your soul I should help you
find it--thank God, you don't need my guidance."

"Yet your coming crystallized all the self-accusations that had begun to
stir in me. It made me feel my utter emptiness."

"Which only means realizing--that you might have become empty and have
not." He came close and bent upon her the eyes whose honesty was so
convincing and whose fealty was so clearly writ. In a voice that lost a
little of its steadiness he demanded tensely, "Do you hate me?"

Mary Burton stood motionless, almost rigid, but some heart-wave welled
up until she felt physically weak yet spiritually stronger than she had
ever felt. Her two hands clutched tautly at his shoulders and her eyes
gazed into his. Slowly they widened until they had unmasked all their
depths and shown what was in her heart. Then as the man's pulses leaped
to the elation of what he read there, he heard her shaken whisper
inviting him very softly, "Look at me--and answer for yourself. Do I
hate you?"

With sudden self-recovery, as he sought to take her in his arms, she
slipped aside and after a short space the same voice that had just now
been tense rippled into whimsical laughter. "No," she commanded. "It
mustn't become a habit." The laugh died and her words and pupils were
grave once more. "Why should I lie to you, dear? It's no use trying. I'm
absurdly mad about you--but I've doubted my power of really loving so
long that we must both be content to put it to the test of time. It's
too new to trust. I can't tell how much of it is my own heart and how
much is your hypnotism."

"I have come a long way," he said quietly. "I have waited a long while.
I can wait longer, if that's the edict, but not as he waits who fears
the issue. You are going to love me and marry me."

"I hope so. I pray so." Her answer was vibrantly eager. "I have longed
vainly for a day that should make my heart leap beyond control. You
brought the day--and if, between us, we can keep it--"

She broke off, and he took both her hands in both of his.

"You are going to marry me," he repeated. "Don't make me wait too long,
my sweetheart and comrade. Life is all too short to waste when it can be
happy."

"Are we wasting it?" she demanded; then she smiled at him and added:
"Thank you, for introducing me to the wonderful originality of being
natural. On the whole I don't think I hate you--much."

All that afternoon her eyes held a starry happiness and sometimes they
twinkled with a mischievous ripple.

Once she demanded, "Suppose Hamilton were to go broke tomorrow. Stony,
flat, hopelessly broke. Would you still want me?" And before he could
answer she broke into a merry peal of laughter. "Don't trouble to answer
that question," she commanded. "I already know--and I'm fairly
contented."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Duke de Metuan had come and gone back--with his answer, and Paul,
too, had left Haverly Lodge. For Paul's return there were two reasons.
The music-room which Hamilton had built as a gift to his brother was
nearing completion, and the finishing touches demanded personal
supervision. As the heart of a high priest turns to his temple, so
turned Paul Burton's heart to this spot at this time. It was a temple,
but decidedly a pagan temple. Porphyry columns went up from a mosaic
floor to a richly encrusted ceiling, and in conception and detail it was
lavishly beautiful and perfect. Hamilton had conceived and planned the
structure with a very ferocity of tense interest: though to Hamilton a
music-room was in itself about as absorbing as a steam laundry.

In the undertaking he saw a monument to a dream and the fulfilment of a
promise that one ragged boy had made to another ragged boy standing by a
panel of broken fence. Hamilton had never forgotten that moment when
first his pent-up ambitions had broken into fiery utterance while his
little brother listened with eyes wide and wondering--yet full of faith.
Then he had promised Paul an organ in a cathedral of dreams, where the
imaginary self which was his greater self might find expression.

This was to be the worthy realization of that boast.

The second reason for the younger Burton's withdrawal from the house
party was the departure of Loraine Haswell.

Now, finding himself in town, he had accepted one of those invitations
which meant the acknowledgment of his lionizing in Fashion's world of
music. Paul had little in common with those struggling men whose passion
for violin or piano leads them through poverty and hunger in pursuit of
their bays. But to face and stir with his art's hypnosis an audience of
the smartest men and women in town, was meat and drink to his soul--was
his soul's vanity. Of all his vanities it was the least weak--because
the most sincere.

To see faces awaken from ennui and kindle into attentiveness, then
soulfulness as he swayed them with the touch of his fingers on the keys
was no mean triumph. To draw men out of lolling ease into tense and
unconsidered attitudes; to cause women's lips to part and their pupils
to grow misty as he carried them with him,

    "Through the meadows of the sunset, through the poppies and the wheat,
    To the land where the dead dreams go"

--these were his delights. There are meaner pleasures.

But when he had played a little while, the composite pattern of faces
always faded and darkened into a blur and he forgot them: forgot
himself, forgot everything except the instrument that had become the
mouthpiece of his soul. Then he, like his audience, was swept away into
an impalpable world where nothing remained save the marvelous cascading
and crushing tides which were the tides of golden sound. At such moments
Paul Burton was almost a master.

This evening it was a benefit recital at the Plaza. He did not recall
precisely to what worthy cause he was dedicating his gifted services,
but that did not matter. He was bowing with a winning and boyish smile
on his cameo features. Such fashionables as lingered in town so late as
June were there to do homage; and other anonymous human units drawn from
the millions followed where the fashionables led.

As Paul Burton looked out over the seated humanity, secretly searching
for Loraine Haswell, he became conscious of another face near the front.
It was that of a woman, who seemed quite alone and who was simply
dressed. Paul wondered why the features held his interest. It was not
precisely a beautiful face, but in its gray-green eyes dwelt a
distinctive quality and as some thought parted the lips in a smile there
came a sudden flooding of light which was better than ordinary beauty.
This girl was frankly looking forward to the evening, for her expression
mirrored that rapt anticipation which comes only to the eyes of the true
music-lover. The small head under its brown hair was modeled as though a
sculptor had spent loving care upon it, and Paul Burton thought that she
was inwardly purring with the expectation of pleasure. A responsive glow
at once awakened in him. He was subtly flattered because he recognized
in that attitude of mind a tribute to his art for its own sake.

Then he began, and as the tide of his emotion swelled and lifted him out
of himself, individual countenances grew misty--yet, for some reason
this face stood out clear and single for a moment or two after the rest
had faded.

Afterward he was told that even he had not played so well before.

As he turned from a congratulatory group when the recital was ended, one
of the women whom he knew only by reason of her activity in arranging
the entertainment, stopped him. "Mr. Burton," she said, "I want you to
meet Miss Terroll." It was a general form of introduction and the man
turned to bow--and recognized the face that had been the last to fade.
The girl gave him a small and well-gloved hand. She smiled, but said
nothing, and her sponsor talked on rapidly.

"I was in the midst of a heated suffrage discussion when you began," she
declared. "But of course it was forgotten--at once."

"I'm sorry," laughed Paul Burton, "if I broke up a good argument."

"Oh," she assured him with a prepared quotation, "'I can always leave
off talking, when I hear a master play.'"

When Paul Burton reached the street most of the private motors had been
summoned and dispatched by the starter. He stood for a little while
looking up at the stars and breathing deeply the grateful night air. The
moon-mist made a shadowy lacework of the trees in the park, and the dark
contours of the avenue's mansions were silhouetted beyond the lights of
the Savoy and Netherland. The expenditure of so much of his emotional
self always left him strangely restless, and made him crave a brief
aftermath of solitude. So he sent his car away and turned down the
avenue.

But at Fifty-eighth street, under one of the light-clusters, he
encountered a slender and solitary figure, and as he approached, he
recognized the girl to whom he had so recently been introduced. The
pianist had just been thinking of her, pondering why her face had stood
out in the mist, when other faces had been swallowed, and why, although
her eyes had confessed the delight of anticipation, she had later
vouchsafed no word of commendation. Surely he had not played badly
tonight and he was accustomed to ready praise. When the older woman who
had presented him had spoken of him as a master he had laughed
deprecatingly, but his eyes had gone half-questioningly to the girl, as
if seeking corroboration there, and the girl had met them with only an
impersonal and non-committal smile.

Paul had drunk enough of flattery to feel piqued at its withholding. Now
to see the figure of her who had withheld appear there quite
unaccompanied, as though rising in response to his meditations, almost
startled him. She did not see him until he reached her side and lifted
his hat; not even then, for she was looking across the avenue with
something of absorption in her manner, until he spoke her name.

Even as he murmured, "Miss Terroll," the inflection of surprise remained
in his voice. It was well after ten o'clock and in those circles of
society where he was received the system of chaperonage was rigid enough
to fail of understanding for the women who dared the streets at night
unescorted. He knew ladies who went to their several rostrums to sound
the clarion of sex equality and who went at night, but they did not go
uncavaliered. And under the lights this slim figure, with its easy,
almost boyish independence, seemed very young, almost childish.

She turned, at his greeting, and her eyes must have read his thoughts,
for once more they smiled and in the smile was an amused twinkle. This
time, though, it was also a smile of the lips, revealing a row of teeth
so small and white that they accentuated her seeming of childishness.
She must be about twenty-two or twenty-three he thought.

"Mr. Burton," she laughed, "you spoke my name then almost as though I
had astonished or startled you. I was scrutinizing the house across the
way rather intently, but honestly there was no burglary in my thoughts."

"I'm rather sorry to hear that," he countered with a simulation of
disappointment. "I've never burgled--and I had begun to hope you'd
initiate me and let me share the adventure." She said nothing for a
moment, and he bluntly demanded, "I was wondering what was in your
thoughts just then."

Miss Terroll bent forward to look up the avenue before she answered. The
'buses were not running close together at this hour and the lamps of the
nearest were still two blocks away.

"If I tell you, will you tell me why you spoke my name so chidingly?"

"It seems on its face a fair bargain." He spoke with a pretendedly grave
consideration of the subject. Then added, "Yes, I will."

"I was thinking of music."

"What music?"

"Just music as music. Music as the one art which needs no background
because every listening human being supplies one. That is where it
succeeds where sculpture, for instance, fails. Music is a sort of
panacea."

"Oh!" His monosyllable was a trifle disappointed. With such a cue she
might at least have admitted his music into the summary.

The light from the overhead lamps fell in a circle of comparative
radiance and he had time to note the charming modeling of her throat and
a certain delicate nobility in the curve of her brow, where the soft
hair merged with the dark shadowing of her hat brim.

"You haven't carried out your part of the contract yet," she reminded
him. "I've told you what, but you haven't told me why."

"I mean to. Are you waiting for some one?"

"I am waiting for a 'bus to take me home."

"Where are you going to let it take you? Where is your home, I mean?"

"The Square," she answered, "and there is the 'bus coming, to gather me
in, and you still haven't told me why I shocked your voice into that
undernote of astonishment."

Paul Burton smiled, and did not yet enlighten her. Instead he went on
stubbornly questioning. "The Square does not mean Madison or Union. I
have deductive genius enough to infer that, because they're not places
of homes. Is it Gramercy or Washington?"

The girl flashed her smile on him again and replied lightly.

"One enters my square under a marble arch and we who live there always
think of it as the Square."

"But Washington square is a long way," he remonstrated. "It's a far
journey to take alone."

The girl had stepped out beyond the curb and signaled, then as the 'bus
drew over and came to a stop, she nodded to the man as she started up
the stair to the roof. "Good-night, Mr. Burton," she called over her
shoulder. "You are a good custodian of secrets."

But the musician was climbing up after her and when she seated herself
at the front he took his place beside her. "I am going to answer all
questions put to me on the way down to the Square," he announced.

"But you have just complained that it's a far journey."

"I beg your pardon. I said it was a far journey to take alone."

She turned in her seat and looked at him. The lips and brow were
reserved, even grave, but in the green-gray eyes danced a truant
twinkle. As the heavy vehicle rumbled and lurched along the way where
the asphalt fell into shadow she became a graceful silhouette of
slenderness, but as they passed through the brighter zones about the
great opals swung from the lamp pillars, the dimpled little chin and
small nose revealed themselves in a sort of baffling warfare of
sauciness and dignity. Paul knew that there were well-held frontiers of
reserve and self-containment in this woman's nature, but that back of it
lay an alluring playground of mischief.

"And yet we are told," she was saying in a low voice, whose music
suddenly impressed the musician, "that--

    'Down to Gehenna or up to the throne,
    He travels the fastest, who travels alone.'"

"Just at the moment we are not bound for either of those places," he
assured her. "We are going to the Square."

"Why was it?" she demanded suddenly. For a few minutes they had been
silent, and Paul had revised his estimate. She could hardly be as old as
twenty two. Perhaps she might be twenty.

"Really you are exaggerating," he laughed. "I was neither astonished nor
shocked. I was only surprised, and when I tell you why I shall no longer
be a man of mystery, consequently I shall no longer be a man of
interest."

"But my curiosity will be satisfied. Isn't that quite as important?"

He shook his head. His own curiosity was far from satisfied. He was
still wondering why she had no kind word to say for his music.

"I was just surprised to find you there--alone," he said at last.

"Oh!"

Until the 'bus swung into view of the Metropolitan tower neither of
them spoke, and then the man turned to look at his companion and found
her smiling to herself. It struck him that if she would only laugh
aloud, it would be worth hearing. But of that, at that moment, he said
nothing.

"Won't you share the joke with me?" he smiled, and she said:

"I was just thinking of your solicitude about my being alone on Fifth
avenue, after all the formidable places where I've been alone--in
one-night stands."

"One-night stands?" he repeated vaguely after her and she replied only
with a matter-of-fact nod, then, for his further enlightenment:

"You see I am an actress and most of my work has been on the road."

Paul Burton's face did not succeed in masking his surprise at the
announcement.

"Have I shocked you again?" she demurely inquired.

"Shocked me, no." He disavowed with an almost confused haste. "I suppose
I was surprised because the few actresses I have known have all been so
unlike you."

"You mean," she amplified, "because I don't make up for the street?"

"I shouldn't have said that," he laughed, then added: "Now if you had
told me you were playing truant from a young ladies' seminary, I would
have found it quite natural. I saw you out front just before I began
playing. Somehow the simple directness of your expression--I hoped it
was anticipation--didn't seem to me characteristic of the stage. I
fancied that professional people were usually chary of enthusiasm."

"There are at least several sorts of stage people, and they're not all
gutter-children," she answered. "And then I haven't always been an
actress. It was thrust upon me--by necessity."

"When I play," the man assured her, "the faces out front always grow
vague to me. Tonight I saw yours when the others had gone. Then I lost
yours, too. I hope I didn't disappoint you."

She shook her head. "No," she said, but to the simple negative she added
nothing affirmative.

Paul Burton remained silent, half-piqued, and she, divining his thought,
smiled quietly to herself at his petulance, but finally she spoke slowly
and gravely: "You are an artist and until tonight you didn't know of my
existence. Anything I might say would mean little to you."

"Even," he impulsively demanded, "if it came from the last face that
faded?"

"If that is true," she responded, "I don't need to say anything, do I?"

To Paul's subtly attuned nature many things came in intuitive
impressions. Now he was keenly interested because this woman whom he had
met that night had told him only one thing about herself, that she
belonged to a world of which, in the personal sense, his world touched
only the least creditable segments. He felt that she would not, without
a much riper acquaintanceship, tell him anything more. Yet he felt with
conviction that her refinement was not only innate and true, but that of
an aristocrat; that her mind was not only quick, but cultivated. As
though dropping thoughtlessly into a more musical tongue he spoke next
in French, and she replied in that tongue as unconsciously as though she
had not noticed his change of language. But though he questioned
persistently and skilfully until the 'bus rolled under the arch, he
drew no further information from her as to herself, save that at present
she was unemployed, and that her days were filled with that most
cheerless of tasks, calling on managers.

He gathered that the distinguishing difference between triumph and
struggle on the stage was that the managers sent for the triumphant and
the struggling called uninvited.

As Paul helped Miss Terroll out of the 'bus and walked at her side the
short distance between the terminal of its route and the south side of
the Square he said abruptly:

"Some day I want you to do something for me."

"What?"

"To laugh aloud. I suppose you sometimes do laugh aloud, don't you?"

Her response was to break unconsciously into a peal of mirth that held
in it a tinkle of soft music and spontaneity.

"I can be provoked," she admitted and to that confession she added the
inquiry, "Why do you want to hear me laugh?"

"I did want to hear you laugh because some instinct told me there would
be music in it," he assured her. "Now I do want to hear you laugh again,
and often, because I know it."

When he had said good-night at her door and had walked across to the
Brevoort cab-stand at Eighth street, he took a taxi'. During the drive
home he thought only once of Loraine Haswell. "I must see more of Miss
Terroll," he informed himself. "She is decidedly interesting."

       *       *       *       *       *

Hamilton Burton shoved back a mass of papers and smiled across his desk
at his secretary.

"Carl, do you chance to recall what General Forrest of the late
Confederate States of America had to say on the subject of strategy?"
Bristoll stretched his arms above his head and leaned back in his chair,
grateful for a moment of relaxation after two hours of application.

"I believe he reduced military science to the simple proposition of
'gettin' thar fust with the most men,' didn't he?"

"That was his correct formula--and finance has its points of
similarity."

"Is the comment general, or has it a specific bearing?"

"Quite specific. Do you remember my prophecy a short while back? I
reminded you that the coin of big business bore on one face the image
and superscription of Cæsar Augustus Malone--and on the reverse my own
poor stamp."

The secretary nodded.

"The time, dear boy, is at hand when one side or the other must be
turned down."

"What has happened?" The younger man's voice was tinged with alarm. This
child of Destiny might be immune from fear, but those who stood near his
person could not always accept without question the talisman of his
limitless self-faith. Malone's might was theoretically invincible.
Hamilton recognized the undernote of apprehension with a laugh of frank
amusement; a laugh which brought to his eyes their most winning sparkle.

"The august over-lord of all the robber barons regards our reign as
tributary to his own. He fancies that our loyal respect is thinly
spread. We make too little obeisance. Too rarely we 'crook the pregnant
hinges of the knee.' Therefore we must be crushed--if possible."

"You mean--"

"I mean that it is in the mind of this generalissimo, to call me before
his staff and 'break' me in full view of his halted ranks."

The cheerful grin on the face of the prospective victim was so
infectious and reassuring that his secretary laughed with revitalized
confidence.

"But how did you learn of this conspiracy, sir?" he demanded.

"The throne which lacks its _cabinet noir_, Carl, is a very precarious
one to sit upon." The "Great Bear" spoke casually. "Our secret service
is fairly satisfactory. Also, we have a brain which, at times,
prognosticates."

"There have been new developments, then?"

Hamilton Burton shrugged his shoulders.

"The stock-holders' meeting of Coal and Ore isn't far distant. After it
comes the annual election of officers. I fancy Malone may know of a man
who might grace the directorate with a more deferential humility than I
show--when he speaks Jove-like from the head of the table."

"To be ousted from that board would mean to wear the brand of defeat."

"If Mr. Malone wants to put some one else in my place he can do it--the
chair I occupy faces the window. Sometimes the glare hurts my eyes."

Carl Bristoll thought he knew his chief. Such docile acceptance of
reduction to the ranks astounded him and his blank amazement stamped
itself on his face. When the elder man had enjoyed it for the space of a
long silence he rose suddenly and his voice rang out like a command for
a bayonet charge:

"Yes, Malone can have my chair. I mean to take his--at the head of the
table."

The secretary started violently. He could never quite accustom himself
to the dauntless fashion with which his chief essayed the
impossible--and accomplished it. Hamilton Burton's fist came down
savagely on the mahogany. The smiling features of a moment ago had
vanished and Bristoll was looking up into eyes that rained immeasurable
wrath.

"They hate me, because they fear me!" The voice was not loud, but it was
terrific in its intensity of anger. "By the Almighty God in heaven, I
mean to give them cause to hate me. I mean to crush them to a pulp until
nothing remains except the stench of their unmourned memory!" ... Once
more the timbre changed and with startling abruptness became quietly
declarative.

"This morning, I received a confidential note from Carton."

"The secretary of Coal and Ore?"

"The same. I put him where he is--he's a valuable man--and incidentally
a member of my secret service. Malone is calling in all the proxies he
can control; he and his myrmidons. He has not taken me into his
confidence. How would you construe that?"

"As you do. He means to oust you."

Burton nodded, then a naïve smile twinkled in his eyes. "What he is now
beginning to do, I went to work on ten minutes after he left my office
last spring. Many transactions, some of them of huge proportions, which
you did not understand, have since been completed in preparation for
this moment. On the floor of the Exchange my brokers have been
ostentatiously idle, but others, not known to act for me, have been
buying Coal and Ore. They have pretty well gathered in the floating
supply."

"Hasn't that been reported to Malone?"

The financier shook his head. "Trading of that character is difficult to
trace and is usually presumed to be marginal trading. To disarm possible
suspicion my recognized brokers have sold large blocks of Coal and
Ore--to my unrecognized brokers. I seem to have been unloading--while I
was doing the reverse. When the psychological moment comes, there will
be a surprise--and a raid upon the control."

"Then you are ready for the issue."

"No, not quite." Burton rose and took a turn or two across the floor. He
stopped before a small painting and spoke irrelevantly. "I always liked
Corot. The man could paint, Carl. He understood values." After this art
criticism he returned to the desk and sat down again. "No, I'm not ready
yet. I've done all that I could do by quiet preparation. The issue now
narrows to the hair balance which makes all fights crucial--and
interesting. There's a member of the state senate who holds a block I
need, and there are two banks in town that hold others. When I have that
stock I shall be master of the situation--and of Consolidated--and
Malone must take his orders from me."

"And if you fail to get it?"

"I would still be plowing rocks and milking cows, Carl, if I
acknowledged the possibility of failing in what I resolve on."

"Yet they may refuse to sell."

Hamilton Burton smiled. "That would be regrettable," he said, and his
voice was full of sympathetic softness. "Because in that event an
elderly and respected member of the senate will have to reside for a
time at Sing Sing and a couple of widely trusted banks will go to the
wall."



CHAPTER XIV


From the Plaza upward, the blank stare of the avenue was awakening into
renewed signs of habitation. Burglar-proof doors had come down and
boarded windows had yielded to curtained sashes. Already in the park the
trees were turning. Banners of crimson, yellow and burgundy flaunted
where the foliage had been sunburned and heat-corroded. The walks and
Mall had for scorching weeks been a breathing refuge, and the
sheep-pasture a sleeping place, for shirt-sleeved men who panted like
dogs. Haggard women and sunken-cheeked children--all heat-fagged and
exhausted--had held possession; but now the bridle-path echoed to
hoof-beats, and smartly togged equestrians galloped there, while along
the driveways droned a purr of motors.

The sun, which had assaulted, blighted and killed, now caressed a
revived city, for autumn had come with her clarifying elixirs and her
fever-cooling frosts.

Shop windows, freshly decked, tempted the passerby with foretastes of
the season's styles in gowns and hats and furs. All was color and
sparkle and activity. Soft tones awoke at sunset on old and seasoned
walls. Gilt street signs blazed and shaft-like buildings stood out in
splintered strips of a dozen hues against skies that were unsullied
turquoise.

In the veins of Hamilton Burton, as he motored up-town, a heady
exhilaration mounted like wine. As his car bowled up the avenue he
watched the human mosaic, and the drive seemed a progress through
Bagdad. He was finding it all the city of his dreams:

      "--a city blazoned like a missal book,
    Black with oaken gables, carven and enscrolled.
      Every street a colored page: every sign a hieroglyph,
    Dusky with enchantments: a city paved with gold."

Then as he entered his own house he remembered. Tonight he must go to
the opera and the prospect bored him. To Paul, of course, it was as wine
to the drunkard, but to Hamilton it meant a tedious evening. It was in a
way a duty and one of his few concessions to Society's requirements. Had
it not been written of another great figure, "the Emperor sat in his box
that night?" He would leave early and later in the evening he could
console himself with a matter of greater importance.

Yet when he arrived at the Metropolitan he forgot to be bored--until the
overture ended, and Music was enthroned in the place of Fashion.

Here at the opera each moment, so long as the house-lights blazed,
brought its own tribute of flattery to the Titan of the Street. The men
and women from whom these tributes came were the men and women whom the
world envied, and cursed--and worshiped. Hamilton Burton realized, as he
passed easily from box to box, chatting with this multi-millionaire and
that jewelled lady, that no single figure was more often signaled out by
pointing and envious fingers than his own. When he handed Mary out of
her limousine the street policeman had made the passage clear before
him. Ushers had kowtowed and the heads of fashionable women had nodded
and smiled. His way had been a march of triumph. To Hamilton Burton it
was all like the sniffing of frankincense and myrrh. His inner emotions
were those of a great tiger, purring like a house-cat.

That at his back, when he had passed on, these immaculately clad
gentlemen muttered derogatory oaths only flattered him further; their
hate, too, was a tribute to his power.

He came into Society's world as a monarch walks among the proletariat,
to receive homage and return to places where a monarch has better things
to do.

But at last the overture ended and the curtain rose. The opera had
begun.

For Paul the evening was just beginning, but for Hamilton it was done.
He stifled a yawn and rose from his seat, effecting his escape
unobserved from the box. From that point on his mind shook off the
lethargy of the incensed atmosphere and became dynamic. He looked at his
watch and found that his next appointment gave him an hour's leisure.

To his chauffeur he said, "Drive me to my mother's house."

Hannah Burton would be the only member of the household at home and with
her nephew would spend this leisure hour. He knew she would be there
because she was rarely elsewhere. The man who flashed the searchlight of
his thought into so many places at such broad angles smiled as he
thought of his Aunt Hannah, but it was a tender smile. He had
transplanted and remodeled his family--but Aunt Hannah he had been
powerless to alter.

The room where she received him was an anomalous hermitage, for in spite
of the generous comfort it reflected, there broke out here and there
jarring notes from many survivals of the old order; things from which
she refused to be parted. Upon a mantel over which hung a Gobelin
tapestry stood a tin alarm clock. It was an old companion which had once
shrilly announced that it was time to drag her rheumatic bones from bed
and take up her daily round of dusting and sweeping. Among carefully
chosen paintings a screaming chromo issued by the Middle Fork general
store proclaimed the superior quality of its staple and fancy groceries,
hardware, queensware and feed.

The old lady herself, though silk-gowned, wore her white hair drawn
severely back over parchment temples, as though repudiating the pomps
and vanities of this wicked world.

It was Ham's time-honored custom to tease his aunt, and while she
snorted and sniffed, she enjoyed it, for whatever she thought of a
Babylonian life, she secretly worshiped this brilliant young nephew who
so well fitted its stress and turmoil.

"Were you down-stairs at dinner tonight, flirting with the grand dukes
and big-wigs?" he demanded as he kissed her pale cheek.

"As if you didn't know," she austerely rebuked, "that, when company
comes, I always have supper right here in my own room."

It would have been a surrender of principle for Hannah Burton to call
"company" guests, or the evening meal "dinner."

"There were some very smart people down-stairs, I'm told," the man
heckled with twinkling eyes. "Divorcées in numbers and affinities
galore."

The old lady shuddered.

"Ham, I wish you wouldn't run on in that ungodly fashion. I'm sure it's
no laughing matter. I pray for you day and night, but when a body's
blinded by wealth and imagining vain things they're in mortal danger."

Her nephew's face softened. "As long as you're praying for me, Aunt
Hannah," he assured her, "I still have a fighting chance."

"Ham," she said suddenly with a shadow of deep anxiety in her eyes,
"ain't your father playing cards more than's good for him? I've worried
considerable about that here of late. He used to read his Scriptures
regular. Now he don't do it. Instead he gambles."

"Father only plays in amiable little games, for the sake of charity,
Aunt Hannah." Hamilton smiled indulgently as he enlightened her. "You
could hardly call it gambling. In gambling there is an element of
chance. Father merely contributes."

The old lady shook her head. "This town ain't much different from Tyre
and Sidon and Babylon, so far as I can see," she mournfully asserted.

"They were said to be live towns in their day," he admitted.

Then for the rest of his spare hour he chatted with her and teased her
solemnity into laughter, and before he left, because she asked it and
complained that her eyes were poor, he read to her a chapter from the
New Testament and kissed her good-night. Ten minutes later he was in his
own library and was directing that two gentlemen, whom he was expecting,
be ushered there to talk business.

The two were alike only in that each had a versatile and executive
brain. One was elderly and stout, and, though two decades of established
success had polished his original crudity into a certain dignity, there
survived in his eyes the darting shiftiness of glance that had settled
there in days when his one asset was an almost diabolical cleverness as
a criminal lawyer.

An old trick of badgering witnesses with a brow-beating stare from
half-closed lids clung unpleasantly to him, discounting his acquired
distinction of bearing. This was Isaac Ruferton, of the firm of Ruferton
and Willow. From criminal lawyer to corporation-scourge and from
corporation-scourge to corporation counsel are logical stages of
development. From clients who need, and can pay for, a mind of unusual
resource, as formerly from vagabond's in police-court cages, he earned
what he was paid.

The second visitor was younger. Mr. Tarring was also a specialist in
ideas and from his confidence of bearing one seemed to derive a snap of
electric energy. In many ways Hamilton Burton found him serviceable and
on the smaller scale of his delegated functions he operated as Hamilton
himself did along the broader front; with dash, determination and the
belief that nothing is impossible.

"Gentlemen," began Burton crisply, when the three were seated, "I sent
for you this evening to outline a simple matter--but one calling for a
nicety of execution. It can neither afford delay nor premature
undertaking. It must be done at its own instant. When the stock-holders'
meeting of Coal and Ore is called to order I must be in a position to
assume control."

Tarring leaned forward in his chair and fixed his gaze on a bronze
statuette. This casual announcement meant nothing less than a making
over of a map: the map of High Finance. Ruferton was never surprised. He
twirled his shell-rimmed glasses at the end of their broad tape and
nodded. "And you find yourself at this juncture short of just the
requisite balance--though you know where it is held?" Mr. Ruferton
always made a point of anticipating his client's next statement--if
possible. It was a small thing, but at times valuable. It indicated that
he was keeping not only abreast, but a step ahead of what was being told
him. Hamilton smiled.

"I still need a block held by Henry of the Deposit Savings and a block
held by Fairley of the Metallic National. These gentlemen think they
won't turn loose. To see that they do so is Tarring's work. It must be
accomplished by tomorrow evening."

Tarring said nothing. Under his imperturbable guise he found himself
stunned.

Burton turned to the attorney. "You know G.K. Hendricks?"

Mr. Ruferton's answer followed the question with no margin of a pause.
"State senator for three terms. At present candidate for the appellate
bench; Tammany's choice. Was very valuable when the charter of Coal and
Ore was before the assembly. Has increased his stock-holdings since he
acquired his first block as--er--the reward of merit."

For an instant Hamilton Burton eyed the lawyer keenly.

"I must also have his proxy by tomorrow evening. That, Ruferton, is your
work."

"Then you didn't know that Hendricks is up-state? He's out at his farm
on a narrow-gage branch that runs a train a day from Barry Spa. You are
cutting it fine, Mr. Burton. Too fine, perhaps."

The announcement brought to the eyes of the planning strategist a
nonplused shadow, but it lingered briefly.

"I have already told you that the moment had to be precisely timed.
Hendricks might run to Malone if given a margin of leisure. You can go
home and change your evening-clothes. Meantime I shall arrange for a
special train. Your instructions are to get that stock or the proxy. If
you can't handle him bring him to me; have him in this room at this hour
tomorrow evening."

Mr. Isaac Ruferton rose from his chair, and stood looking into the face
of his employer as though searching for some indication of incipient
lunacy. What he read was inflexible command.

"Mr. Burton," he said slowly, "I'm where I am in life because I have
been willing to undertake various things at various times. Other men
would have shied at some of them, and even I have my limits. Will you
suggest to me how I am, within twenty-four hours, to travel twenty hours
by rail, and compel an unwilling man to deliver, merely because you
order it, stock which he has no wish to sell?"

Burton's answer rose to anger as he spoke. "If you can't trade with
him--and I have given you _carte blanche_--I have already told you to
bring him here. I'll do the rest."

"In God's name, how? Can I drag him out of his own house and load him
like a trussed pig in a railway car?"

"The details are up to you. You are supposed to be a clever lawyer. The
man is in a political campaign and you know enough of his record to give
weight to your suggestions. You say he doesn't want to sell--make him
want to! My plans are rather too large to admit of 'buts' and 'ifs.'
Presumably I employ men who can override them."

Ruferton continued to stare blankly. "But--surely--"

Hamilton had already turned to Tarring and he wheeled with a snap in his
voice.

"Ruferton," he exclaimed, "in a moment more you will irritate me. I said
get his Coal and Ore, or get him. I don't give a damn how you do it.
Tell him, if you like that all Tammany can't boost him on to the
appellate bench if I go after him. If you prefer, gag him and drag him
here. Do what you like--except waste time by gaping at me. Succeed and
name your reward. Fail and--" Hamilton Burton shrugged his shoulders.

Slowly a light crept into the resourceful eyes of Mr. Ruferton, driving
out the vacancy. The matter by its very desperateness began to appeal to
him, and already a formula of campaign was shaping itself in his
constructive mind. This extraordinary man's hypnotic dominance of
personality had carried other audacious days and now it swept the lawyer
with its tide of confidence. Mr. Ruferton became at once the man who
recognizes the value of seconds and minutes. "I will be here tomorrow
evening at this hour," he categorically announced. "And I shall bring
with me a proxy or a senator--or his remains. Kindly arrange for my
train. I go direct to the Grand Central."

Hamilton Burton smiled at the door through which his emissary had
departed.

"He made as much furore about it as though I had required him to do
something really difficult," he commented to the lieutenant who still
awaited his orders. "Now for your part.... The Metallic National and the
Deposit Savings." Between sentences he picked up the desk-telephone and
called a private number.

"I want to talk to Mr. Carter.... Not at home! Where is he?... Doesn't
want to be disturbed--he's got to be.... Yes, this is Hamilton
Burton.... At the opera, you say? Thank you."

The snap of the receiver under his finger was abrupt and decisive as he
again called central, and while he waited he talked to Tarring.

"What funds have we in those banks?... Hello! I want Bryant 1146, yes,
the Metropolitan Opera.... Hello! Please have Mr. Carter brought from
his box to the 'phone. This is Hamilton Burton, talking ... a matter
that can't wait.... Tarring, I must have the stock those banks hold. You
must have them here tomorrow night.... Hello, is that you Carter? I need
a special train for Barry Spa in thirty minutes, and another to meet it
there for Lake Mosoc."

There was a moment's silence, then Burton's voice came with violent
explosiveness.

"Impossible? It seems to me that every man I talk to prates vacantly
about impossibilities. Damn it, when I need a train I need a train....
You understand me, don't you, Carter?"

Again there was the interruption of the voice at the further end. As
Burton listened his eyes kindled afresh under blackly drawn brows, but
when he spoke it was in a clear and cold voice, more unpleasant to hear
than a tirade of passion.

"To hell with explanations, Carter! I want action. Do I get my train?
You are burning time.... Kindly listen because I mean this to the last
syllable.... Unless you can achieve this highly impossible matter of
accommodation--" suddenly the voice leaped to a higher scale and shot
out its ultimatum like canister--"I will throw you out of the
presidency and the damned road-bed into the river and the shops into the
junk heap.... All right, please hurry." He clapped down the receiver,
then resumed his second thread of thought as though there had been no
interruption.

"I want those bankers here. That is your job, Tarring. They need know
only that it is of vital importance and that our meeting must be
attended with the strictest confidence. Intimate that my object is the
averting of ruinous runs which must follow unless we stop them--and
worse disasters."

Tarring rose. His task, as compared with the other he had seen assigned,
appeared easy. "Shall I come with them?" he inquired.

Burton nodded. "You are a notary. It may be necessary for you to take
acknowledgments."



CHAPTER XV


When the two emissaries had left the library Hamilton Burton sat before
his hearth and shook loose the reins of imagination. He burned driftwood
in this room and as his eyes dwelt on the shooting tongues of blue flame
that licked around the logs his dreams absorbed him. Yamuro, his
Japanese valet, slipped in to see if his master required him--but his
footfall was noiseless, and when he had tiptoed close enough to study
the face, he departed without speaking. The lips in the yellow face
parted in a grin that bared a spread of strong, white teeth. The eyes
between high cheekbones glistened in dark slits and in his throat, too
low to be heard, a little grunt voiced Yamuro's fanatical admiration.
Had Hamilton Burton been an emperor in the field Yamuro would have asked
no greater privilege than to interpose his body between his idolized
master and all danger. Such was the power of this wholly selfish but
dominant personality. Outside the Oriental chuckled to himself, "No
worry.... Him got great thoughts."

Yet Hamilton was after all only planning an entertainment. When he had
captured the control of Coal and Ore he would stand within grasping
distance of his ideal of one-man power. He would have rocked the temple
of money and snatched out of Malone's teeth Consolidated's marrow bone.
That would be a time for celebration. It would be vastly amusing to
shake the hands of the vanquished and see them bite back the curses
that were welling up from their hearts. While seeming only the host he
would in reality be the victor--exacting tribute.

That his victory depended on undertakings yet to be accomplished and
beset with gigantic hazards did not disquiet him. Over him shone his
Star!

His revery snapped like a punctured balloon at the sound of the
door-bell and when Harrow ushered in his father, Hamilton rose with a
smile of welcome on his lips.

The elder Burton entered with a heightened flush on his full cheeks and
the son for just an instant studied him with a shrewd appraisement. A
man who has, by the custom of decades, spent each day from sunrise to
sunset at hard labor cannot find himself idle without seeking an outlet
of some description.

If Tom Burton were to decay here in inactivity, he might as well decay
genially, taking his pleasure by the way. He was doing it. Like a
gentleman and an officer he tippled the evenings out. Rarely was he
drunk beyond a genteel limitation--and after an advanced hour he was
rarely less so. In slow and mellow fashion he was ripening into slothful
and comfortable atrophy. His well-shaven face was beginning to reveal
those small discolored spots that are the subtle brands of Bacchus.
Under the eyes that had once been like the eyes of a hawk, small and
puffy sacks were discernible.

"Well, damn it," Hamilton exculpated to himself, "it was a long time
before he had any fun." Then aloud he inquired, "Whose coffers did you
fill this evening?"

Tom Burton straightened up a shade pompously.

"I think my game is--er--on a par with that of others--but luck can
hardly be controlled."

"The question is," suggested the son, "whether you enjoyed yourself."

"Reasonably well, thank you." The elder man looked about the room and
spoke complainingly. "I don't see any whiskey and soda about. Will you
please ring for some, Hamilton? I'm thirsty."

"It's there on the side-table." Hamilton followed the other with his
eyes and noted the greedy unsteadiness of the fingers that grasped the
decanter.

"Do you think you need that drink, father?" he inquired.

The elder man glanced up while the liquor spilled out of the poised
bottle--and missed the glass. "Why not?" he demanded. "It's about time
for a nightcap. I haven't had anything to speak of this evening."

Hamilton nodded with a shrug, but his brows drew themselves in a pained
wrinkle. He would not willingly admit doubt of his father's
truthfulness, yet the statement lacked all quality of conviction.

The son did not reflect that of the dry rot in old Tom's soul this
deception was a typical symptom. He knew that in the old days Tom
Burton's word had been a synonym for inflexible honesty; that it was as
good as collateral at the bank.

Then, sitting at ease, the well-groomed old gentleman held his glass
before him and gazed at the colors which the firelight wakened in its
amber contents. His face wore the contentment of one whose mood has been
artificially mellowed and whose thoughts are more glowing than reliable.
He cleared his throat and began to speak importantly.

"My boy, a great idea has come to me--a splendid conception, I may say.
I have for all these years been of very little service to you, but I now
see the way to make amends ... to, as I might say, become an asset
rather than a liability--a sharer in your activities."

Hamilton Burton was standing by the table, studying the face of his
father, and at the words his eyes darkened. His question was by no means
freighted with pleasure or expectancy as he coolly inquired, "Indeed?"

Tom Burton nodded with much gravity.

"Yes. The other day you were relating to me some matters of business
which were quite--er--interesting. I have since given them mature
thought and I find that I have evolved a method by which you may, with
my suggestions, even improve on your original plan of procedure."

"Stop!" The son wheeled and faced the elder man with a face grown
suddenly wrathful. As Tom Burton looked up in surprise, Hamilton went on
rapidly and dictatorially. "I never quarrel with my family. It is my
pleasure to regard them first in all things, but one thing I will not
permit even from them. It is the first time it has ever become necessary
to say this to you, sir. I hope it will be the last."

"Why, what's the matter, my son? I was only about to suggest that--"

"Well, don't do it. The one thing I will not permit is business
interference. I need no collaborator. Once--just once Paul made that
same mistake. He presumed to offer a suggestion, Paul--who couldn't
figure compound interest--offered me, Hamilton Burton, a financial
suggestion! I told him then as I tell you now that any human hand which
sticks itself into my affairs will be promptly broken off at the
wrist--no matter whose hand it is. That is the one possible thing that
could drive me to unkindness to any one of my own blood. In that I am
unshakable. I will have no interference. _I_ am the one financier in
this family, and I will submit to no trespassing upon my own field of
empire. Let's have that plainly understood."

He ended, and Tom Burton gazed dumbfounded at the anger which was slowly
dying out of his son's pupils and which had rung through his son's
words.

"You astonish me," he said slowly. "I had no idea of trespass--only of
assistance."

"Thank you. I have never yet felt the need of any man's assistance. In
my own jurisdiction, I admit no peers. I am sorry you forced me to speak
so strongly, but candor is best. Until I ask it no human being must
volunteer advice or criticism. Go on and play cards and amuse yourself
and spend what you like in doing it--but don't annoy me by trying to
make money. I won't have it. No--leave that whiskey alone--" He
peremptorily stretched out his hand, as his father reached again for the
decanter. "You've had enough for this evening. In another moment you
will be tendering additional useless information."

Again the bell rang, and in the library door he saw Mary Burton, radiant
in evening-dress, and the ermine of a long opera-cloak. Her smile was as
luminous as sunshine. Behind her--it suddenly struck Hamilton that the
sight of that particular face across her shoulder was becoming a chronic
accompaniment--stood Jefferson Edwardes.

Both of them were laughing--with a note of mutual understanding.

"Mary," announced her brother, "I want to have a dinner and a dance next
week. I want it to be the most memorable affair of the season. Are you
in for it?"

She looked at him with sudden amazement, and then her merriment broke
out in a series of silvery peals. She turned to Edwardes and repeated in
a mockery of awed surprise.

"He wants to have a dance! Do my ears deceive me? Hamilton whom we can't
drag to a party with a truant officer wants a dance."

Edwardes smilingly lifted the cloak from her shoulders and held out his
hand. "Good-night. Try to get me an invitation," he begged. "Mr. Burton,
can't I drop you at your house?"

"If you don't mind." The elderly gentleman rose and made his way toward
the hall, with a step that wavered from the line. When they had gone,
Hamilton accompanied his sister to the stairs, with an arm about her
waist.

"Mary," he suggested, "a question has just occurred to me. What has
become of your duke?"

She turned on the landing and laughed.

"When I came back from abroad, you begged me to rid myself of foreign
affectations," she announced. "He was one of them and I took your
advice."

"I only begged you to drop your affectations of speech. What I called
your pidgin English," he assured her. "I didn't seek to hamper your
young affections."

"Then I will reply to your question in very colloquial American," she
retorted. "As to the duke--I tied a can to him." She turned and ran
lightly up the stairs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Paul had sat through the opera that evening with his customary intensity
of interest--but the chatter in the box had irritated him. He had been,
of late, seeing a great deal of Loraine Haswell, and he thought she at
least might have sympathized with his mood and refrained from
disconcerting small talk. Their intimacy had so ripened that she should
have understood how the things he had to say in their tête-à-têtes could
not be uttered in company. So when she invited him to join her
supper-party he declined with a poor grace.

Paul Burton took the opera seriously, almost religiously, and as he
strolled in the foyer during an entr'acte, his annoyance grew. Was there
no place where one could enjoy the art of fellow-artists without having
one's spirit jarred out of all receptiveness?

Then he remembered the high perches of the less-fashionable devotees. He
had never been up there, but he had heard that the occupants of these
upper galleries frowned on noise and even refrained from applause,
drinking in the music as though it were too sacred a thing to treat as a
mere evening's entertainment. Following a momentary whim, he went out to
the box-office and bought a fresh ticket. Holding it in his hand, he
mounted above the parterre boxes and the grand-tier boxes, to the
highest and cheapest of the galleries where silence and an almost awed
concentration reigned. And there, when the lights came on again, he saw
a slender figure in a chair near him, leaning forward with her chin
resting on her hand, in an absolute fervor of interest. It was Miss
Terroll and again she was alone. Once more she impressed him as someone
purring with pleasure, and when the performance ended he found himself
on the sidewalk whimsically waiting for her to come down from her dollar
seat, among the gallery gods.

When he caught sight of her, she was slipping as quietly and
unobtrusively through the crowds of jewelled and fur-wrapped women and
men in evening-dress as though she were a mouse vanishing from a hall
of banqueting, to which she had surreptitiously crept for her crumb. She
did not look at the people about her. She did not seem to see them, for
her eyes were still languorous with memories of Tristan and Isolde. As
Paul touched her arm, she started and he hastened to say: "My car is
here. Won't you let me drive you down-town?"

She let him lead her to his machine and lay back dreamily against the
cushions, as they shot down the avenue between twin threads of electric
opals.

For a while they talked of the opera, of the music and the voices, and
the musician found himself expanding with a warmth of appreciative
contentment, because he had a companion whose understanding and
enthusiasm kept step with his own, and a step like that of a classic
dance, attuned to harmonies.

He found himself often coming with a sort of start to the realization of
a discovery under whose influence he tingled. Theoretically he knew that
in this city, in whose varying meeting places of extremes the unexpected
was to be expected, one should never be astonished. He knew there were
artists who shunned Bohemia, and once he had met a barber whose
enthusiasms were all for cuneiform inscriptions. He had heard in a club
of a hobo whose nails were clean, whose address was elegant and who had
confounded surgeons on surgery, artists on art, poets on verse and
theologues on theology. He knew that the circles which had soothed his
artistic snobbery with an admiration as grateful as soft fingers on a
cat's back held no letters patent on charm or cultivation and yet his
own mind had catalogued women of the stage, off-stage, under a general
heading, in some way associated with cabaret places and false gaiety.
Here was one who called upon him to discard preconceived ideas and begin
anew. On every topic he broached he encountered intelligent discussion
and untrammeled originality of thought. In the back of his brain lurked
the feeling that when he had broached all the topics upon which he could
talk, he would still have touched on only a part of those at her
command.

But between these moments of surprise were others of restful delight
when she made him forget everything except that he was talking with a
charming woman who saw in the opera a pleasure equal to his own.

And though he did not know it, Marcia Terroll, even this soon, saw in
him a nature full of tuneful sweetness, but very weak, and realized that
he was an instrument upon which a strong hand could play to an end of
harmony or discord--an instrument upon which his great brother had
already played, and which his great brother did not in the least
comprehend. Paul's frequent allusions, tinged with hero-worship, had
given her that understanding.

"I saw you in your box," she told him with a smile.

"And I saw you in yours," he laughed back at her.

The girl raised her brows, and he explained. "I ran away from the
chatterboxes and came up to your gallery." They had almost reached the
arch when he earnestly asked: "I wonder if you will go to the opera with
me some evening? It would be wonderful to have someone who really cared
for it."

Once more she laughed, but this time it was rather seriously. "We
inhabit rather different worlds, you and I."

"I want you to let me be an explorer into yours--and your guide into
mine," he declared. After a moment's hesitation she gravely answered:
"It might not hurt you to know something of my world after all. It's
rather humanizing for an artist to free himself from a single
environment. It is possible to suffocate on incense."

Paul Burton smiled. "But you know," he said, "until I was twelve I never
wore a pair of trousers that hadn't been bequeathed to me by my older
brother--and when they reached me they were always liberally patched."

She was alighting from his car and her smile flashed on him as she held
out a small, white-gloved hand. "And I," she retorted, "at that age was
being tricked out in Paris finery. Time brings changes, doesn't it?" It
was the first flash of self-revelation she had given him. But after that
Paul Burton saw Marcia Terroll more than occasionally, and admitted to
himself an interest which he did not seek to analyze.

       *       *       *       *       *

J.J. Malone returned from the opera that evening for a consultation in
his study with Harrison and Meegan.

"On the day after tomorrow," he reminded them, "the stock-holders'
meeting of Coal and Ore is held. By use of the cumulative system of
balloting we can concentrate our fire on Burton."

"Do you gather," questioned Meegan anxiously, "that our fears of a
Burton raid are founded in fact?"

The elder chief spread before his associates several sheets of closely
written paper.

"On the contrary, I gather that Burton has not selected this time for
his _coup_. I fancy we have forestalled him."

"Yet," suggested Meegan anxiously, "we want to feel sure."

Malone nodded. "Unless several men whom we trust prove traitors, we may
feel sure. Gentlemen, I think we have soon enough, but none too soon,
safeguarded ourselves against piracy. I hardly believe that what Gates
did to L. and N. will be done to us by Burton.... I have been very busy
and for some reason I do not feel quite myself. I think I shall now beg
you to excuse me." The man of mighty resource rose smilingly from the
table and then suddenly rested both hands on its polished surface. His
ruddy face became pallid and he lifted one hand with a bewildered
gesture to his brow.

Harrison and Meegan sprang with a common impulse to his side.

As they helped him to a chair, his step was unsteady. "It will pass,"
Malone assured them. "It is an attack of indigestion." Yet within the
half-hour his powerful frame was being racked by convulsions and two
hours later specialists at St. Luke's were making those preparations
which precede an operation for appendicitis. Tomorrow when the
Stock-Exchange opened the newspapers would spread the news that J.J.
Malone was out of the game and Wall street would once more mirror an
anxiety which any small thing might convert into a parlous situation.

At the same hour a special train with a guaranteed right of way was
thundering along its road-bed with a wake of red cinders and black smoke
trailing from its stack and a single passenger in its single coach. The
Honorable Mr. Ruferton was going to call on the Honorable Mr. Hendricks.

In ignorance of what the morrow held, the Honorable Mr. Hendricks was
meanwhile sleeping peacefully in the quiet of his country house.

Shafts of sunlight came pleasantly through the dining-room windows on
the following morning as he breakfasted alone, and still in ignorance.
The forests were decked with the first coloring of an early frost, and
Mr. Hendricks strolled out for a cigar in the crisp air of his woodland.
Physically he was fit and his conscience did not trouble him; since his
conscience was both lenient and practical.

Then as he took pleasure in his life and his Havana, he saw a
dilapidated buckboard laboring up the rutty trail. It halted at his gate
to let out a man of whom chance had, on more than one occasion, made a
colleague, and occasionally an adversary.

"Hello, Ruferton," he shouted amiably, "what brings you here?"

Mr. Ruferton's face wore an expression of deep concern. He consulted his
watch. "I came on a special train, Hendricks," he bluntly declared, "and
it's waiting to take us both back to New York."

Hendricks laughed. "My dear fellow, I've been speech-making until my
throat is raw. The final days before election mean more hard work.
Meantime I am resting. It's the doctor's stern command."

Ruferton stood at the gate and faced his host. He spoke impressively.
"An election-eve scandal threatens you which will probably involve a
grand-jury investigation. If that is a matter of indifference, stay
here, by all means, but if your future is in any degree important to
you, pack your bag and pack it quick."

For an instant the former state senator and present candidate stood
bewildered. What traitor had betrayed a false step? His tracks were all
well covered, he thought. At last he found his tongue. "In God's name,
what are you talking about?"

Mr. Ruferton held his portfolio tightly grasped in his hand. In it there
were documents to which the other could hardly be indifferent--but
unless all other arguments failed, he preferred reserving them for
future use. He met the stupefied gaze of his protagonist with one of
serious apprehension.

"I might as well be entirely candid with you, Hendricks. I don't know. I
was sent by Hamilton Burton to bring you back to New York; with specific
orders that you were to be at his house not later than nine-thirty this
evening. There he will tell you what you should learn. I have come in
person because he did not care to trust to such a message as could be
telephoned or telegraphed."

"Hamilton Burton?" The Honorable Hendricks was more than ever at sea. "I
have had many dealings with Mr. Burton, but wherefore this sudden and
absorbing interest in my welfare?"

Ruferton smiled. "My dear fellow, perhaps you had better go and ask him.
If Hamilton Burton has turned things topsy-turvy to act as your savior
in an eleventh-hour crisis, common sense compels me to infer that he has
a reason too interesting to ignore."

Mr. Hendricks paced the path for a few minutes in the disquiet of
intense nervousness, then he spoke with sharp accusation and distrust.

"You don't know what this matter is! You have come here by special train
to warn me that I face ruin; and you pretend to have no inkling of the
nature of my peril! You speak of veiled threats. Are you lying to me,
Ruferton?"

"Draw your own conclusions." The time had come for playing the card of
offended sensibilities and Mr. Ruferton turned promptly on his heel.
"Stay where you are and--read the newspapers. Burton's instructions were
to bring you back, but I don't suppose he expected me to kidnap you in
your own behalf. I presume he anticipated your sane realization that he
didn't send for you to smoke a cigar with him. He presumed you were
interested in avoiding disgrace."

"Don't you understand," demanded Hendricks blankly, "how inconceivable
it is that you should come on a mission like this without knowing its
exact nature?"

The other nodded. "Burton didn't know that you were out of town. When
last night, quite late, he learned of this matter he sent me to find
you. There was no time for discussion or explanation."

"Wait until I pack my bag." The Honorable Hendricks, whose dignity on
the bench would so honor the judicial ermine, rushed wildly into the
house while Hamilton Burton's envoy stood outside contemplatively
kicking about among the fallen leaves.

With the flaming of that morning's headlines announcing J.J. Malone's
illness a spirit of nervousness began stalking in the Street. Of this
restlessness Hamilton Burton was duly apprised and while he scornfully
laughed at blind luck he acknowledged the power of his Star, and gave
thanks to his own unnamed gods.

His eye was brilliantly clear and his step resilient, but Paul, whose
delicate nature possessed a quality approaching the clairvoyant, divined
that his great brother was exalted by some prospect of portentous
moment, and that it might mean triumph--or reverse. Timidly the younger
questioned the elder.

That afternoon while Hamilton was outlining future and audacious
strokes of finance Paul was with him. For hours they sat together, the
younger man at the piano and the older listening, being soothed and
softened by the magic touch upon the keys.

This was their custom when momentous affairs were brewing. At last
Hamilton interrupted. "Paul," he questioned slowly, "can't you give me
something that has the crashing of bugles in it; something like a hymn
before action?" Abruptly his voice mounted and he threw back his head.
"By God, little brother, I want the sort of music that goes before the
charge of an irresistible phalanx!"

The musician wheeled on the piano bench and his fingers left the keys.
He rose impulsively and came over to where Hamilton stood with an
unquenchable light blazing in the eyes. The dreamer laid a hand on each
of the achiever's strong shoulders and gazed long and searchingly into
the confident face. Hamilton read a fear in that gaze and affectionately
smiled back his reassurance.

"What is it, little brother?" he asked.

"Hamilton," began the other in an awkward, diffident fashion, "you are
planning something a little vaster than usual. I am frightened.
Sometimes the end of empire is--St. Helena."

The financier laughed.

"It is not written that I can fail, Paul. It's not in my horoscope. You
are right. I am planning something broader than I have done before." He
paused only to add in a vibrant voice: "I told you that the day would
come when above me there would be no man. That day will be tomorrow."

"Is there no chance of defeat?"

"I admit none. To me the influx of gold, and that attendant power which
is its only worth, have become a tidal wave. Nothing can check it."

"And the end of it all?" questioned the other.

"While there is a game to play, Paul, no man has won enough. It's the
splendid sense of growing power. It's the thirst that grows with the
wine you drink. It's fighting and conquering. It is the magnificent
dream of world-mastery. The money itself!" He spread his hands
contemptuously. "That is a beggar's reward--it's the symbol of Might
that counts."

Their mother entered the room as he spoke and paused at the threshold.
Her two sons went forward to meet her, and for a moment, she stood
looking into Hamilton's eyes. Under her gaze their lust of conquest
softened into tenderness and she brushed back the hair from his forehead
as she shook her head and her eyes became misty.

"My egotistical boy," she said in a low voice. "My dear, egotistical
boy!"

Yamuro appeared in the door, bearing a telegram, and swiftly Hamilton
Burton tore the envelope.

"I am bringing in the pelt," were the highly informative words.
"Hendricks accompanies me, Ruferton."

The financier crumpled the slip in his hand and smiled.

"It's fortunate," he murmured half-aloud, "very fortunate--for
Ruferton--that he didn't fail."



CHAPTER XVI


When Mr. Ruferton and Mr. Hendricks presented themselves at the door of
Hamilton Burton's house the clock was striking nine. After divesting
himself of his overcoat the politician stood waiting before the open
fire with the manner of one who faces a doubtful half-hour and who faces
it with grave anxiety.

Ruferton meanwhile made opportunity to slip his portfolio to the butler
with the request that Mr. Burton should run through its contents before
he came down-stairs and that was a request with which his employer fully
complied.

Yet within a few minutes the financier entered the library, his face lit
with a sunny smile of cordiality. Hendricks took a hasty step forward.
"Mr. Burton," he questioned tensely, "in heaven's name, what is this
menace of which you sent me warning?"

"It is grave enough," came the prompt response, "to warrant my asking
you to come--at whatever inconvenience. But, first, may I put to you a
brief question? Will you sell to me your holdings of Coal and Ore
stock--at a price well above the market?" The question came casually at
a moment when Hendricks burned for personal information and it took him
off his feet. Incidentally it informed him subtly that whatever Hamilton
Burton was willing to do for him would be predicated on what he was
willing to do for Hamilton Burton. Burton bargains were rarely
charities.

"My Coal and Ore is not for sale," he answered vaguely.

"Though I offer your own price?"

"No. The question is not one of price, but of loyalty."

"Loyalty to Malone and Harrison?"

"Among others, yes. To the heads of the Consolidated group. Now will you
please give me the news for which I have come a long distance?"

Hamilton Burton's eyes grew flinty. "Do you not recognize in me one of
the heads of Consolidated?" he curtly inquired.

Already the active mind of this successful and tricky manipulator of
politics was piecing together fragments and glimpsing the connection
between the threatened scandal and Burton's anxiety to buy. He became
wary, covering himself with an assumption of boldness.

"To be candid, Mr. Burton, your effort to augment your holdings so
largely and suddenly on the eve of the annual meeting might indicate
that the interests of yourself and Malone run counter each to each. Why
should I antagonize those in supreme power?"

"I shall be equally frank." Hamilton Burton came closer and his lips
drew themselves in a taut line. "Tomorrow I shall wrest from the Malone
gang this supreme power of which you speak. I mean to force Malone and
Harrison to their knees and to assume complete mastery."

The state senator lifted his brows ironically. "It's a large contract,"
he commented. "So you call on me to slip you the ace you need to fill.
Well, I can't see it."

"Then I'll assist you. I expect you to remain, as you have shown
yourself in the past, a practical man. I expect you to realize that you
have more to gain by allying yourself with a victorious leader than in
walking the plank at the heels of Malone and Harrison."

"I am so practical," the other reminded him, "that I want stronger
evidence than mere assertion that you can overthrow these men."

"At all events I can overthrow you." The words were suddenly fierce.

Hamilton Burton spread on the table several sheets of paper, drawn from
the breast-pocket of his evening-coat and previously from Ruferton's
portfolio. "That memoranda in the hands of certain civic-reform
societies would sound the death knell of your political future. You talk
of what evidence you want--that would satisfy a grand jury."

The master schemer glanced hurriedly at the too-familiar contents of the
typed pages and gasped.

"A half-million dollars!" he exclaimed weakly.

"Incontrovertible evidence," Hamilton assured him, "as to how you, while
a member of the state senate, spent five hundred thousand dollars to
secure the Coal and Ore charter. Malfeasance, bribery--you know the
legal terms in which such conduct might be defined better than I."

For a moment Hendricks laughed--then with a well-simulated coolness he
retorted. "A weapon hardly available to your hand, Mr. Burton. You will
recall that I acted for you. To accuse me as agent would be to convict
yourself as principal."

But Hamilton's laugh was the more confident.

"Think again. I may have erred in granting you too free a hand as an
agent, but I left the details to you. My only offense was
over-confidence in you. It was not I who debauched a senate. Moreover,
this accusation will not come from me--ostensibly. It will come through
the press tomorrow morning--and come hot."

Hendricks drew back a step and his face paled.

"By God!" he exclaimed in a voice of betrayed bitterness. "There is only
one name for this--sheer blackmail."

"In that case," warned Burton ominously, "I would, in your position,
refrain from using any name. I have neither the time to bargain nor the
inclination to plead. The bull that charges my railroad train must take
his chance. The engine will not stop. You can rise with me to power and
rely on my stanch friendship, or--well, there won't be much left to go
down with Malone."

The two men stood facing each other, one implacably resolute, the other
in a torture of quandary. At last, Burton added:

"You may believe me when I tell you that I cannot be legally touched in
this matter and that you can be sent to Sing Sing. Choose your
course--and choose quickly. I offer you a fair chance between uniting
your fortunes with a rising dynasty and shackling them to one which is
tottering."

Hendricks took a step in the direction of the door. "From here," he
said, "I go direct to the district attorney."

Burton stretched a hand toward the telephone and smiled as he suggested.
"Whom you will find so busy with preparations for prosecuting you that
he will not at once find leisure to prosecute for you."

Hendricks sought to veil his terror under a seeming of bluster.

"Will you buy the district attorney, too? Some men are not
purchasable."

"That may resolve itself into a matter of price. I am not shopping in
ten-cent stores, Mr. Hendricks."

The politician had been thinking fast as he talked. Suppose Burton had
the strength of which he boasted? His own interest was to stand with
winners, not losers, but before he changed flags he wished to be sure
that he jumped toward victory. That determined, the rest was expediency.

"Let's come to a decision." Hamilton Burton showed just a glow of brick
red on his cheekbones that argued an early break in his over-strained
temper.

"If I am a tyrant at least I do not call myself a lord-protector. Will
you sell at your own price and go with me to the top--or refuse and take
your chances on substituting the state-prison for the bench?"

An abrupt change came over Mr. Hendricks. He smiled through his pallor.
"Are you prepared to show me that if I make common cause with you, there
is no chance of defeat?"

"I offer you my personal and positive assurance--and access to my papers
within an hour--during which time you will not be bound." The reply was
prompt; the voice hypnotic in its persuasiveness.

Hendricks lighted a cigar, and nodded. "Very well," he announced slowly.
"But understand this. If I jump to you I jump with all four feet. It
happens that certain other proxies have been put into my hands--by
Malone interests. Had I not come to town I should have mailed them
today--as it is I still have them. I shall vote them as you direct."

With this chameleon turn of complexion, the astute contriver realized
that he had scored. To Hamilton Burton's eyes came a quick flash of
gratification and he held out his hand. "If I can be implacable in
battle," he said quietly, "I can also be a friend to my friends. I told
you that in an hour I could guarantee victory--or release you. I am
awaiting two men with whom I have yet to deal. Will you also wait?"

Mr. Hendricks bowed. "This--this evidence--" he questioned suddenly.
"Has any other possible enemy access to it?"

Hamilton Burton smiled as he shook his head. "No, it is in my sole
keeping. I shall not surrender it to other 'possible enemies.'"

With the two bankers, whom Tarring shortly ushered in, Hamilton came
even more promptly to conclusions.

"Malone is ill," he began. "Any alarms thrown into the Street just now
would start pandemonium. If tomorrow should bring such conditions, would
your banks suffer?"

Fairley of the Metallic shook his head gravely. "If a panic developed
just now many institutions would go to the wall. As to how many or which
ones, I could not answer off-hand."

Henry of the Deposit supplemented with added detail. "The national mind
is hysterical beyond the usual and this is a time of heightened danger.
It's the period when $200,000,000 are needed for crop-transportation and
delivery. That means financial equinox."

The young Titan glanced seriously from one to the other. "I know of
influences coming to a head tomorrow which are calculated to throw the
Street and Exchange into panic condition--unless we devise means of
averting that catastrophe. For that reason I asked you to come here
tonight."

The bankers stood silent, but upon their faces was stamped the shock of
the news. Coming from so authoritative a source, it required no actual
proof.

"We may gather then," suggested Henry at last, "that you stand with us
in our desire to avert this calamity?"

"Gentlemen," Burton's voice again became compelling and crisp--but very
hard, "on certain conditions I shall avert this panic--on others I shall
cause it. The alternative is for your decision."

Fairley and Henry drew a little closer together by common impulse as if
for alliance in danger. A long silence, freighted with tensity, followed
until Fairley inquired in a stunned voice: "Please explain."

With the crisp impersonality of a prosecutor Hamilton Burton talked. He
outlined his plans, gave a glimpse of his tremendous levers of power;
let them see what engines of destruction he controlled and finally made
his demand. When he was through neither of his visitors could doubt his
might or his intent. At the end he said:

"You hold among the securities of your two banks just the margin of Coal
and Ore which I need for complete safety. Turn your proxies over to me
tonight and tomorrow will pass quietly. I will support every market
depression caused by Malone's illness. There will be no panic. Fail to
do that and ten minutes after the gong sounds on the floor, I shall be
ripping the entrails out of the Street! Full-page advertisements in
every paper in town will feed the general uneasiness into an orgy of
terror. Frightened mobs will clamor about the doors of your banks. Other
things will happen which it is not now necessary to enumerate. It will
be the blackest day in Exchange history and one that will reflect
itself in all the bourses of Europe."

After eleven o'clock, when Mary Burton and Jefferson Edwardes returned
from the theater, the girl caught a glimpse of a strange picture as she
paused in the hall.

Six silent men stood or sat about the brightly lighted library with blue
wreaths of cigar smoke drifting upward above them. It was plain that
this silence had fallen upon them only as they heard the door slam, and
that, like their attitudes, it was strained and artificial.

Hamilton Burton stood before the hearth with his face set as unyielding
and immobile as chiseled granite. Ruferton eyed the two bankers with a
sidewise stare between drooping lids, and Hendricks, at the window,
presented to view only his back. But the features of the bankers
themselves were haggard and miserable; like the faces of men making a
last desperate stand, yet fronting inevitable defeat. Such faces one
might imagine in a nightmare, staring on a passerby and failing to see
him, from a rack of torture.

Mary Burton shuddered a little, though she did not know why, and the
lips of Jefferson Edwardes compressed themselves as he followed her to
the music-room on the second floor. He had caught the tigerish cruelty
and power-lust in the eyes of Mary's brother, and he knew that for their
satisfaction someone must pay very dear.

Paul sat at the piano as they entered the music-room and the emotions
which he expressed upon the keys were emotions of deep unrest. They ran
in strains of folklore plaintiveness and rhythmic sobs of wailing
cadences. When Mary spoke the musician turned with a start. He had not
heard their entrance.

"I didn't know we should find you here, Paul."

He nodded as he rose from the instrument. "Hamilton asked me to wait,"
he explained. "He's having some tremendously important conference--and
after a trying fight he always likes me to play for him."

The three sat for a time unaccustomedly silent. Mary could not forget
the impression of those conquered faces, and Edwardes, with the same
thought, forebore from comment. Within a half-hour Hamilton himself
joined them. His eyes were glowing beacons of triumph and his lips wore
a smile of victory.

"Tonight I have met and defeated Malone's attempt to crush me," he
announced with a half-savage elation. "Tomorrow the financial world will
recognize in me the actual and unchallenged head of Coal and Ore." Then,
turning to Jefferson, he added: "You know what that signifies,
Edwardes."

The visitor nodded, but no words of enthusiastic congratulation came to
his tongue. "It means," he replied slowly, "that you hold a mightier
financial power than any other business man in New York."

"And now that you have all that," Mary put the question slowly and
gravely, "to what use will you put it?"

Hamilton bent upon her a gaze of tense visioning and his answer came in
rapt eagerness: "To build a greater structure of power than any man
before me has ever reared."

After a moment's pause he went on: "Edwardes, have you no word of
congratulation? It was you who first kindled my dreams into a blaze, you
know."

The visitor spoke with his eyes fixed on those of the man who had
outgrown him in financial stature and become a Colossus.

"I was thinking of that," he responded, "and I was wondering at what
cost you had won this victory."

"Conquest," retorted Hamilton Burton shortly, "can take no thought of
cost."

"I wonder!" Edwardes spoke reflectively; then with a straightforward
honesty he went on: "It rather seems to me that once in a great while
there rises in the world a marvel-man. To such a spirit the impossible
is possible and opportunity is pliant. He may become the greatest boon
or the greatest scourge of his generation. Such a man uses or
prostitutes his great gifts in just so far as he uses, or fails to use,
a conscience."

For an instant Hamilton's cheeks flamed, then he laughed:

"A very pretty golden rule of finance, Edwardes," he observed quietly,
"and since I suppose you feel in a way responsible for me it's a homily
you have the right to read. Does it carry a personal implication?"

Edwardes smiled and held out his hand. "You are the best judge of that,"
he replied. "Good-night."

But as the door closed upon him the smile died on the guest's lips, and
a premonition of evil settled upon his mind. No one had ever defied this
man and come through unscathed. His power held leashed lightnings that
might destroy, and Edwardes had been frank to a point which might stir
that wrath. To his direct manner of thinking his answer had been
unavoidable, yet to put Hamilton Burton among his enemies was a
dangerous thing. His love for Mary and the very endurance of the
business which had stood so long in honor and prosperity might have to
suffer for the over-frankness of his words. For a moment before entering
his car he stood on the curb and looked back at the house he had just
left.

"The man is a tyrant--and conscienceless," he exclaimed. "He is as
destructive as a sawed-off shotgun!"



CHAPTER XVII


If Hamilton Burton had been one of the most picturesque figures in
finance before, he was now a flaming meteor of public interest. He had
come out of the dark and raided the directorate of a giant corporation,
gathering into his strong hands reins that the world believed to be held
beyond the possibility of filching. Moreover, this corporation was the
keystone and crowning pride in the firmly cemented arch of
Consolidated's power.

The world of business was stunned. It went to bed one night, believing
certain forces immutable, and awoke to find them overthrown and a
ministry changed. Along the chasms and cañons that debouch from lower
Broadway one question was insistently asked--and went unanswered: "What
will he do next?" Perhaps the nearest approach to a reply was the
prophecy of a cynical curb-broker--"Whatever he damn pleases." One thing
was definite. While Hamilton Burton had forced the admiration of his
world, he had forced it by the audacity of a strong grip on its throat
and by bending it to its knees.

Such admiration is accorded a tyrant and carries scant love. When the
gong sounded in the Stock-Exchange it was an alarm and the faces on the
floor were faces that mirrored fear of the day. Yet the first
transactions showed Hamilton Burton's brokers standing like pillars
under the shaky market. As the day wore on these same lieutenants met
and stemmed every tendency toward receding prices. Several banks
announced incipient runs and at once from the Burton treasury came a
tide of gold, so that reassured depositors turned away smiling.

When the actual meeting of Coal and Ore stock-holders was called to
order both Burton and Harrison were present in person.

"Before this vote is taken," said Harrison, rising with a face upon
which was indelibly stamped the grim determination of one so long
victorious that defeat was unspeakably bitter, "I wish to be heard.
Though the registry of transfers tells the story in advance, I know as
Hamilton Burton knows, that it is a victory for traitors. If there is a
chance that some of these may yet turn back from their treason, I want
them to listen to me."

Burton glanced about the table, where the mastery was his own.

"When I attend a meeting of this character," he curtly announced, "we
vote first, and whoever wishes to can talk after I have gone."

Outside, as the two men left the room, waited the batteries of
reporters. On the threshold, the appearance of each was noted and
flashed in first-page stories wherever news went. The new One-man-power
stood slender and strong, and tigerish; an incarnation of dominant youth
and triumph. Harrison might have been passing into exile, but he walked
with his head high and eyes that met every questioning gaze with the
forbidding glitter of a newly trapped and caged lion. There was
something about the man so suggestive of a broken warrior that the
scribes whose duty was to interrogate refrained and stood respectfully
silent as he passed between them.

But they questioned Burton and Burton smiled. "Gentlemen," he said in
that velvety voice that fitted in so charmingly with the winning quality
of his smile, "you know my rule. I am never interviewed--but you may
announce that the Coal and Ore directorate will be reorganized."

At the curb Paul was waiting in the car, and around it pressed an
inquisitive mob, which the police were already beginning to push back
and stir into motion. As they cleared a path for him through the idle
humanity the man who had come from the abandoned farm went to his
machine with an unconcern which took no note of their interest. To his
brother he commented in a low and musical voice. "They aren't so
different from Slivers Martin. I bought those lambs for seven and sold
them for ten. But it's only the first transaction, Paul, that gives one
the real thrill."

When he reached his library he found Mary there. "I have been reading
the papers, Hamilton," she said quietly. "As near as I can make it all
out, 'it was a famous victory,' but why do the papers all call it a
raid?" Her brother looked at her and a flash of pride kindled fondly in
his eyes for the face which a shaft of the sun lighted into vivid
beauty.

"I told you once," he said, "that we should reign together. This is for
me a victorious day. I am glad that you are the woman to whom I come
fresh from the field I have won and the frontier I have pushed forward."
He turned away from her and stood for a moment at the window in a flood
of yellow radiance. The clarity of his eyes and luster of his dark hair
and the hue of his cheeks were all declarations of gladiatorial
perfection of condition. His brow was unclouded.

He began to speak, at first with a modulated voice that mounted with
his words to a fiery eloquence:

"Many marches follow, Mary ... toward vaster victories. To me a certain
memory lives clear in every detail. I see a small girl with her thin
little body shaking with sobs ... because her life seemed doomed to
drudgery and emptiness. I see my mother and my aunt and my father
suffering like beasts of burden under the goad and yoke of poverty. I
see a boy, ragged and rebellious, declaring war on the world and
swearing to wrest from it every good thing that those he loved might
ever covet--and for himself unparalleled power." He paused and spread
his hands apart with a gesture of dismissing the abstract. "I have
proven myself able to realize my dreams. I shall go on. My aspirations
of empire look far ahead: my horizons are limitless. There are few
people to whom I can express my ambitions. But you--" He came across and
took her hand. "You can understand. Tell me, Mary, is there anything in
the world you want? Because, by heaven, if there is it shall be yours."

The girl's eyes, as she met his gaze, were deeply grave.

"In all this dream of power, Hamilton," she said softly, "you have never
spoken of any sense of trust or stewardship, and what you call a
victory, the papers call a raid. Has it ever occurred to you, my dear
brother, that perhaps your dream is, after all, one of colossal
selfishness?"

The rippling ease of his muscles stiffened and his smile faded.

"Is it selfishness to give back to those one loves the things of which
life has robbed them?"

She shook her head. "No--but there is such a thing as suffocating the
souls in them with material kindness and bodily luxuries," she answered.

"You have been spending a great deal of time of late with Jefferson
Edwardes." The manner of the man underwent one of its swift changes and
grew cool and acid. "Perhaps he has been talking to you as he undertook
to talk to me last night."

A light as dominant as that in her brother's came to Mary Burton's
pupils.

"Perhaps," she replied.

"I'm not at all sure that I care for this intimate association with Mr.
Edwardes," he curtly announced. "I am not enamored of the vaporings of
visionary and self-ordained preachers."

"Possibly it is not necessary that you should be," the girl suggested.
"Maybe for the purpose of my own friendships, it is enough that I like
him. I hardly think you would understand his type, Hamilton."

Her brother's face reddened dangerously.

"I should call my intelligence human," he declared. "I've been able to
make certain use of it."

"Call it superhuman if you like--or inhuman, yet I hardly think it can
truly gage that type of gallant gentleman who has kept his dreams
untainted and his ideals clean."

The man who had found the world a thing upon which he could stamp his
hall-mark stood for a while without speaking; then his voice came keyed
to a satirical coldness.

"Whatever your estimate may be of my ability to understand this peerless
gentleman and chevalier, one thing I can do. I can crush him into pulp.
If he has poisoned against me the minds of my own family, I swear to
you that I both can and will nail him to the cross of utter ruin. You
had better warn your knightly friend, Mary, that the days of
grail-seeking are ended."

The girl came to her feet and her eyes were stars of scorn as she faced
the man whose sudden anger had brought out the arteries corded on his
temples.

"Such talk," she said, "belongs to the shambles of your cut-throat
finance. I have no wish to listen to it." Gradually the scornful light
in Mary's pupils hardened and brightened into the fighting fire that
might come into those of a tigress whose den has been threatened. Her
delicate nostrils quivered and her cheeks flamed.

"Five minutes ago you were inquiring what costly gifts my heart desired,
that you might buy them for me with your money. Well, there is something
I want that I haven't got--and your millions can't buy it. I want decent
love. You had me schooled into a Circe and you almost killed my soul.
Thank God, some one came in time, some one whose thoughts are above
sordid conquest. Some one who wanted to save me from the legalized
prostitution of a loveless marriage. And because he has said to your
face what all men say in your absence, you talk of crucifying him." She
broke off and her breath came fast.

Hamilton Burton gazed silently for a moment, then he said shortly:

"I'm not such a damn' fool as to try to argue with a woman in a rage.
You have too much brain, Mary, and at times you irritate me. Paul is the
only one in this family who soothes me. I'll go to him."

"Yes," she retorted contemptuously, "Paul will burn incense to your
vanity. Go to him."

She turned to leave the room, but at the door she paused. "Jefferson
Edwardes will dine here this evening," she volunteered. "Any discourtesy
to him will be an insult to me."

       *       *       *       *       *

A little strange it was, perhaps, and yet true, that Hamilton Burton,
who feared no man and showed consideration to few, discovered himself
standing in something like awe of his imperious sister. At all events
his outbreak of wrath subsided and that evening he gave to the man who
had aroused it no intimation of its recent upflaming.

But in the days and weeks that followed, Hamilton Burton saw much of
Edwardes and that very directness of gaze, that level glance which
concealed nothing and evaded nothing became to him at first a small
annoyance, and then a constantly aggravated irritation. His star of
Destiny rode at its zenith. Every venture turned under his Midas hand to
gold and increased power. He mounted to succeeding heights until it
seemed that like Alexander he must soon brood over the smallness of the
world's opportunity. Colossal mergers grouped themselves into structures
of stupendous strength. His pride was bloated with successes, yet all
the while across his own table he must encounter eyes that withheld
reverence and politely masked something like contempt. Some day he knew
those clean-souled eyes would goad him to an outbreak.

But impulse is the menace to a strong man's strength, and no one save
Hamilton Burton himself suspected that this antipathy was growing into
an obsession.

Besides, there were more important matters to consider, and a hundred
active enemies to watch. Any such moment of relaxed vigilance as he
himself had seized to overthrow the preëminence of others would be used
to overthrow his own.

While he rode on the highest crest of Fortune's wave the one member of
his family who had remained unchanged fell ill. For a week all else was
forgotten while the Burton family waited the outcome in Aunt Hannah's
bedroom.

That austere old spinster talked in her delirium of other days and
denied that they had altered. In broken rambling words she took them all
back with her to a life they had put behind them. The names of cows and
horses in whose care Hamilton had so many hundred times taken down and
put up the panel of stable-lot bars dwelt on her trembling lips and she
smiled contentedly over simple things. Finally, she told them that she
was sleepy and would talk no longer, because tomorrow morning she must
be up early and give the house a thorough cleaning. With that
announcement she turned her seamed face to the wall and slept. It was a
placid sleep which no clamor of an alarm clock would ever disturb.

Because she had always insisted upon it with the childish pertinacity of
the simple-souled, the Burton family went back with her to the ragged
slopes of the White Mountains. They saw again, for the first time since
they had turned away from their padlocked door, the hills and rocks and
rutted roads that had once been their own country.

Jefferson Edwardes went with them, and when the funeral was ended and
the little cortège left the churchyard, he and Mary Burton remained a
while among the graves. Most of the trees were stark and naked, but to
one or two still clung shreds of departed autumn brilliancy. A maple
still boasted a few scarlet tatters of the banner with which it had
done honor to the Frost King. By the decaying wall of the little church
a scrub oak rattled its tenacious leafage of russet brown.

About the two tilted and careened the neglected tombstones of those who
slept humbly but restfully here. The gaunt hills, too, tilted and
careened in heaped-up barriers of dilapidation to the distance where the
autumn veiled them in a smoky purple. But above them was the glow of
crimson and rose-ash, where the sunset burned.

Mary's beautiful eyes were bright with tears and as she stood there slim
and straight, the man came close and his arm slipped about her. For a
moment she seemed unconscious of his presence, then she turned and her
eyes looked steadfastly into his, and, as they looked, they smiled
through their mistiness.

"Thank God," she said in a low voice into which a tremor stole; "thank
God, you came to me and woke me up--in time."

After a little she spoke again hastily as though in fright.

"Dearest," she declared tensely, "as I stood here today a fear came over
me: a fear and a premonition. It seemed to me that every hill and every
tree was accusing us. Silent voices were calling out, 'Why did you go
away?'" She broke off, and then, as though from the strength of his
embrace, she drew reassurance, she went on: "Suppose it was all a
ghastly mistake? Suppose Hamilton's overvaulting ambition with all its
vast egotism should totter and fall? What would become of us in that
world down there? I have, since we left here, seen only one look of
serene and utterly calm peace on any face in our family. It was her
face--" The girl nodded toward the grave and shivered.

The man drew her closer.

"Loved faces in death always wear a peace that life does not know," he
told her. Then whimsically he smiled as he voiced a fantastic
suggestion:

"Maybe, dearest, there's some land beyond the stars where all the
mistakes we make here can be remedied ... where we can take up our
marred lives and live them afresh, as we have dreamed them. Perhaps in
that other world we can go back to the turning of the road where we lost
our ways ... and choose the other path."

       *       *       *       *       *

Constancy and fixedness belong to strong characters. The granite crag
stands unchanging, but the waters at its base lash themselves into a
thousand shapes and colors and semblances. Hamilton had in him the
firmness of the hills, but Paul's nature was as fluid as the waters that
whirl or lilt along the easiest channels, and that turn aside to avoid
obstacles. On his table stood a photograph of Loraine Haswell in a gold
frame. It was a photograph of which there was no duplicate, and one
which her husband had not seen. When it had been taken the sitter had
selected a pose of graceful ease, as though the photographer had
ambushed her and caught her in a moment of almost sacred privacy, a
moment when she had relaxed into an attitude of intimate and somewhat
melancholy thought.

The slender hands rested with fingers loosely interlocked in her lap,
holding a drooping rose. The splendid slenderness of her figure was
enhanced by the veiling of delicate negligée, and the face under its
night-dark profusion of hair looked out wistfully with a sad half-smile
on something that her heart chose to hold before her gaze. Certainly,
had it not been that such excellence of the photographer's craft could
only have been attained by careful posing, one might have said that he
had taken an unfair advantage and had permitted his lens to spy upon a
lovely lady in the secrecy of her boudoir, whose sole companions were
emotions which must remain locked in her beautiful breast.

She had told Paul when she gave him the picture, and the same ghost of
pathos had flickered into her eyes and the droop of her lips, that the
flower was one from a box of his giving, and that she had been thinking
of him when the camera clicked, forgetting for a moment the pose she had
meant to assume. Often, she whispered, she sat like that thinking of
him.

So Paul kept flowers on each side of the frame, and made of it a sort of
shrine.

And yet, sometimes, when he had said good-bye to her after a luncheon or
tea together, he would turn his car southward and find himself driving
down the avenue to Washington square and the old house on the south
side, to invite Marcia Terroll for a spin beside him. And sometimes he
would call her on the telephone and they would meet for a walk.

To himself alone, he confessed his love for Loraine, for a specter of
timidity rose often and marred their meetings. How was it to end? He
could no more escape the realization of the husband's existence and
possible ire than can the quail in the open grain-field forget the
shadow of a soaring hawk. And Paul was not the most daring cock quail in
the stubble. He saw shadows of proprietary wings where the sky held only
wisps of fleecy cloud.

With Marcia, there was the security of safe companionship, and a
combination of stimulus and soothing.

That this interest was tinctured with an essence of the enthusiastic,
which to other eyes than his own--even to her eyes--might seem to hold a
stronger personal note, he did not admit to himself. That would have
meant another complication and a fresh alarm, so if the idea came he
laughed it away as preposterous. But in a fashion those were very good
days. He was discovering New York.

There are quaint places about the square, where insurgency reigns and
finds expression, where existing conditions are denounced, where freedom
is verbally fought for and capital and conventions are vocally
annihilated. In some of them food is served at prices which astonished
his training at the expensive restaurants. There the musician and the
girl went, he as explorer, fastidiously critical, yet enduring what he
regarded as squalor and anarchy, for the new experience of feeling that
he was penetrating Bohemia.

She acted as guide, and since she knew the world of ease and the world
of necessity and could walk alike with the aristocratic and the
commonalty--and remain equally herself--she sat amused, watching him as
he watched the rest. The twinkle that sought to flash into her eye
flashed only in her mind, but the play of keen humor and wit quaintly
expressed sparkled through her conversation, so that when they were
together they laughed a great deal.

Acquaintanceship which is nourished in the sunlight of laughter blooms
rapidly into intimacy, and Paul Burton would have been surprised had he
known how often his eyes wakened into a tell-tale glow of delight and
admiration, and how easily any one looking on might have fallen into
the egregious error of construing his attitude into one distinctly
loverlike. All this while she continued to pique his curiosity by a
sustained reserve as to herself.

She spoke quite frankly of her failures to get employment, making
deliciously laughable stories out of disappointing and disheartening
experiences, but it was only in incidental comments that she referred to
things in the past which made him know that her life had once held in
abundance those things which it now lacked.

One day when Paul had selected with great care a mass of roses of a new
and particularly exotic variety to be sent to Loraine, the florist
inquired, "Will that be all today, Mr. Burton?"

The musician had nodded, then suddenly he said, "No, I think there is
something else I want." It suddenly came to him that he had never given
Marcia any sort of present. Of course she would have no use for a small
cart-load of expensive flowers. One had to send gifts of that sort to
Loraine, because she was herself so gorgeously expensive, but Marcia
might like some violets. Violets would look rather well on the blue suit
she most often wore. He was to meet her in a half-hour, though he had
not mentioned the appointment to Loraine. So he had the violets wrapped
up, feeling somehow a sort of diffidence such as he had never felt
before when giving flowers to women, and took them with him.

It was crisp afternoon and as he reached the square a small hand waved
to him and he saw her walking briskly along by the arch, so he ordered
the car stopped, and jumped out.

"I was just coming over for you," he said. "It would have been a
disaster to have missed you. Barola is giving a violin recital at
Carnegie Hall. Shall we run up? There's just time."

"You weren't going to miss me," she laughed. "I had no intention of
letting you, but the afternoon was too utterly delectable to stay
indoors, so I waylaid you here." Then after a moment, as she stepped
lightly through the car door which he had opened, she added delightedly,
"Barola! And I was just crying for some music. Did you hear my wails
from the Flatiron building down?"

"I was too busy crying to see you," he laughed back. "My agonized sobs
drowned the traffic whistles."

As the car turned, he held out the box, which proclaimed its contents,
as violet boxes always do. A man may have a bottle of rum or a chest of
stolen gold wrapped up so it looks as innocent as a pair of socks, but
no swain bearing violets can deceive the eye of the most casual
observer. Marcia was not deceived.

"Violets!" she exclaimed. "Do you mean they are for me?"

"Of course," he answered, and, for no reason at all, colored like a
schoolboy.

Marcia opened the box and sat gazing at the flowers.

Into her face came a sudden gravity and the delicate features seemed
almost sad. She said, "Thank you," in a low voice and continued to gaze
at her gift. Then she buried her face in their fragrance and for a
moment held it there. When she raised it to him again it was smiling,
though still gravely.

"They are lovely," she told him. "I'm glad you thought of them."

"You seemed almost sad," Paul spoke with a voice of deep solicitude.
"Did I make a mistake? Do violets stand for something you don't want to
be reminded of?"

She shook her head and laughed, and this time with the old note of
merriment.

"Violets stand for everything that's nice," she assured him. "It was
just that--I hardly know--just that it suddenly occurred to me how long
a time it's been since anyone gave me flowers."

"Someone is going to--often," the words came quickly, and impulsively he
laid his hand over hers for just a moment.

"Do you know, I have the instincts of a sybarite?" she informed him.
"When I go to sleep tonight, I shall put these violets near the head of
my bed, and whenever I wake up I'll smell them."

       *       *       *       *       *

Despite his strong defensive preparations and his almost clairvoyant
foresight, in Hamilton Burton an insidious change was taking place and
the brain which so astutely coördinated many things was totally
unconscious of its own transitions. Egotism had made him. A self-faith
which took no account of difficulties, had carried him to the apex of
his ambitions. Now it was blinding him with its own brilliance. Hamilton
Burton was drunk, drunk to the core of his soul, with the strong
intoxicant of self-confidence. He looked on life through a mirror--and
saw only himself.

So, while he intrenched and safeguarded his destiny, he failed to
realize that he was being lulled into a reckless faith in the star he
believed shone over him and for him. He did not pause to reflect that
the wolf, gaunt and powerful, who by the courage in his shaggy breast
and the strength of his fanged jaws, runs unchallenged at the pack head,
may change.

He took no account of the fact that the wolf gorged is the wolf
weakened.

As his plans grew his methods became more unscrupulous and his scorn for
forms of law increased.

One day he sat in his mother's house showing her, with the enthusiastic
glee of a child for new toys, several freshly acquired miniatures of the
First Napoleon.

Mrs. Burton turned one of the priceless trinkets over in her hand and
gazed at it wonderingly. It was a small thing, wrought on ivory by Jean
Baptiste Jacques Augustin and framed in pearls. She thought she had seen
more flattering portrayals of the round head which stared out from the
jewelled circlet.

"I suppose," she said with such a sigh as mothers utter when they fail
to understand with full sympathy the enthusiasms of their children, "I
ought to rave over this. From your eyes I realize that it is
treasure-trove and yet to me it is meaningless. Of course," she naïvely
added, "the pearls are very pretty."

Tenderly, Hamilton stooped and kissed her forehead, then he took the
miniature from her hand and stood looking at the painted face. He stood
straight and lithe, and he spoke slowly:

"Sometimes I wonder if the belief in reincarnation is not the truest
faith, mother. Sometimes, I seem to look back on the career of this man
as on something in an unforgotten past. To me it is all more vital than
history; more real than chronicle. It is memory!" He paused and his eyes
were altogether grave.

"As I reflect on Austerlitz, I find myself saying, 'I did well there,'
and for Waterloo and St. Helena my chagrin and misery are personal. Why
should I doubt that once my own spirit dwelt in another body--in his,
perhaps?" His voice mounted, and he continued, "But this time the
spirit must go further. It must never taste defeat. Its triumph must
grow to the end, and surrender its scepter and baton only to Death."

The mother looked up at the exalted fantasy which glowed in her son's
face and her head shook uncomprehendingly. "It seems only yesterday,"
she said "that I held you, a soft little morsel of pink flesh, close to
my breast. I dreamed of no great triumphs for you. Only goodness and
health. Perhaps it was as well that way. I sometimes wonder if any woman
could face her responsibilities if she knew she was giving birth to one
of the masters of the world. My only vanity was to name you Hamilton.
And Paul I named for the great apostle." She laughed very low--and her
son knelt beside her chair and drew her into his embrace.



CHAPTER XVIII


Paul, who was named for the apostle, and Loraine Haswell had drifted
further into midstream than either realized. Less keen observers than
Norvil Thayre now spoke of their frequent meetings. Club conversation
intimated that not only financial stress was responsible for the
silencing of Len Haswell's jovial laughter.

Loraine's point of view was shifting dangerously. Paul had at first been
a pleasing playmate and a celebrity whose devotion was flattering as a
tribute to her charm and beauty. Now a constant comparison asserted
itself to her mind between her husband's financial limitations and the
pleasing scope of Paul's access to Hamilton's treasury. Discontent had
entered her Eden--and it was no longer an Eden.

One morning Paul's telephone rang before he was out of bed.

"I must see you," announced Loraine, and the familiar voice was
excitedly urgent. "Len has been odious and I--I want your advice.
There's no one else that I can talk to."

Paul Burton hesitated. His timidity balked at facing a moment which
might call upon him to take a courageous stand or one fronting possible
reprisals. Over his face crept a terror very much like that which had
blanched it years ago when the Marquess kid threatened him with grimaces
across the school aisle. He divined the subject which she wished to
discuss and dreaded the interview. The ethical side of the matter gave
him no concern; but the same lack of stamina which caused him to shrink
made it impossible for him to refuse.

"Where shall I meet you?" he hesitantly inquired, "at Sherry's as
usual?"

"No," she hastily objected. "That has become rather too usual." She
named a place in lower Fifth avenue which Fashion regards as
delightfully Bohemian and Bohemia considers alluringly fashionable. She
named an hour when the place would be empty enough for an undisturbed
rendezvous.

Now, as Paul Burton sat opposite Loraine Haswell at one of the small and
snowy tables, he sought to cloak his nervousness under a guise of
debonair ease and soon the woman was embarked upon the recital of her
grievances.

"Len has had an utterly intolerable fit of jealousy," she confided; then
fell silent while she nibbled at a melon. But her dark eyes were full of
beauty's appeal and injured distress. "It's reached a point, Paul--" her
voice became very soft, almost tearful--"where I'm afraid I must make a
decision: the sort of decision that it's very hard for a woman to make."

"Was he unkind to you?" Her companion sought to speak with indignation,
but a note sounded through his voice which punctured the assumption with
falsity. It was occurring to him that Len Haswell might be particularly
unkind to him.

She leaned far over the table and spoke guardedly.

"He has made me promise that I sha'n't see you again, except where we
meet by accident; that all our innocent little parties must end."

"And you promised?"

Slowly and reluctantly she nodded her head. "It was that or--" she
broke off.

"Or what?"

"Or a separation. He said I must choose definitely between you." Paul
Burton studied his plate in the silence of indecision, and she went on
rather haltingly. "When marriage reaches the ultimatum stage, it doesn't
offer much chance for happiness, does it?" Then after a pause she added
thoughtfully, "It's not as though there were children to consider."

Her voice trembled with a seeming of repressed emotion of suffering
under injustice and of bearing, with fortitude, a life of cumulative
injury. Had Paul been bent on persuading her to remedy her alleged
mistake, he could hardly have asked a more propitious opportunity.

But this man was capable of no swift and positive decisions. It was not
his to cut Gordian knots. Never before had the woman across from him
seemed so alluring, so desirable. Never had she so fully stirred his
susceptible senses to intoxication as she did at this moment, and never
had he felt his fondness for her so genuine. Yet, when she seemed almost
to offer him herself and her life--if only he would stretch out his arm
and lift her across the stream of dilemma--he could not urge, but sat
tongue-tied. He could think only of the difficulties; and the thought of
them staggered and blinded him. This was not the indecision of a man
weighing the responsibilities of a step which might ruin the life of
another man; it was merely the futility of "the unlit lamp and the
ungirt loin."

"If your husband should hear of this meeting, after your promise of this
morning," suggested Paul, "it might have serious results--I mean for
you."

She shuddered a little at the thought. "I believe he would become a
maniac," she answered, "but this place is safe enough. He would never
think of our coming here. It's too far down-town."

"Too far for calling or shopping," Paul reminded her. "So entirely out
of your accustomed orbit that if he learned of this, he could construe
it only one way--as a clandestine conference."

"But, Paul," she declared, with deep self-pity and a strong appeal to
his instincts of knight-errantry, "I had to talk with you--at any risk.
If--if--it does come to a separation, I shall have absolutely nothing."
Her voice was pathetic. "I suppose I should have to go to work."

She looked sadly at him and shook her dark head until he hated himself
for not assuring her that she would not have to "go to work," yet he
could say nothing.

Then as they sat there in an embarrassed silence, the tall figure of Len
Haswell appeared in the door and the many mirrors of the wall panels
multiplied him into a seeming army of giants.

With him was Norvil Thayre. For such a development Paul Burton found
himself totally unprepared. No ready phrases came to his lips and his
sudden pallor was a seeming confession of guilt. The husband stood for a
moment in the door and his face, too, paled, but that was only
momentary. At once it became fixed in a resolute determination to remain
expressionless. The alert mind of Thayre, grasping the situation,
addressed itself to averting its awkwardness with artless and
inconsequential small talk. He came over to the table and shook hands,
while Len Haswell stood at his elbow, saying nothing. Paul instinctively
offered his hand, but Len ignored it. He heard Loraine declaring with a
charmingly assumed innocence, "Chance brings us into quite a little
party. First I happen on Mr. Burton, then on you two."

Suddenly an idea of escape struck Paul, as it had struck him at the
school. He, too, laughed, turning to Loraine. "And since you are in
better hands, I'll run along. I have an appointment at a studio on the
square."

Len Haswell favored him with a satirical glance. "You seem," he
suggested coolly, "to be only beginning your meal. We are here on
business, and won't interrupt." The big man turned on his heel, and,
followed by his companion, went into the adjoining dining-room. Loraine
Haswell laughed nervously, but Paul's face clouded with deep anxiety.

After he had put Loraine into a taxi' the cloud deepened. The same
self-accusations that had tortured his childhood with the suffering of
self-contempt after each act of cowardice had him again by the throat.
Never had it been his plan to urge this woman toward divorce. He had
simply drifted with pleasant tides and now he found himself washed
seaward with a dragging anchor. It was small compensation to reflect
that his fault was less vicious than craven.

The square was bathed in a radiance of frosty sunlight, and the
buildings at the south stood diamond-clear under a flawless sky. The
monument to the man whose courage and decision had cradled a nation's
birth gleamed in its granite whiteness. But Paul Burton felt small,
afraid and besmirched of soul. He hurried to his own house and shut
himself in with a thousand weak misgivings, until finally an idea
formulated itself. He would go to Hamilton for counsel and strength.

       *       *       *       *       *

As far as the clean sweep of mountain winds differ from the suffocation
of a miasma, so far did the thoughts of Mary Burton differ from those of
Paul that afternoon.

She and Jefferson Edwardes had been riding in the park, and though their
horses had only cantered their hearts had ridden madly and on winged
steeds. Now, with twilight stealing in and softly blotting out the
angles of the room, they sat together, still in saddle-togs, before the
great, carven mantel which Hamilton had brought back from a European
castle where once Napoleon passed a night. A brave glare from roaring
logs of driftwood cheerily flooded with light the hearth and the huge
polar bear skin stretched before it. Mary Burton sat in a big chair,
also castle-ravished, which swallowed her like a cavern, and as
Jefferson Edwardes knelt on the rug beside her, and watched the flames
caress into gorgeous vividness the color of her eyes and lips and cheeks
and hair, it pleased him to think of her as seated on a throne, and of
himself as at her feet.

They had no light but the firelight and needed none, for they had
captured the brightness and joyousness and warmth of June and meant to
carry it with them wheresoever they went and through all the meaner
months.

Mary's right hand was still gloved, but the left was bare and she kept
turning it this way and that, watching with engrossed fascination a
diamond on one finger that caught and splintered the firelight. It was
the jewel which proclaimed that Mary Burton was to be Mary Edwardes.

When her companion spoke, his voice was softened by a very tender
triumph.

"Who am I," he asked wonderingly and humbly, "that life should be so
lavish and generous with me? Mary, Mary, I told you once that you were
as beautiful as starlight on water, but you are more than that. That is
only a beauty to the eye, and you are a miracle to the heart and soul as
well."

"Once," she said while her voice trembled happily, "I was satisfied with
what beauty I had." She bent forward with a sudden gesture of possession
and tenderness, as she caught his head between her two hands. "That was
when it was my own. Now that it's yours I wish it were a hundred times
greater."

"And you are the girl," he smiled, "who once pretended to think she had
no soul, and very little heart."

"If I have either, dearest," she declared, "I owe it to you. You found a
poor little spark of soul and fanned it into life--but a heart I have,
and it's ablaze and it's yours to keep!" Her voice thrilled as she
added: "If I had the world to give, it should all be yours, too--all of
it."

"I feel," he assured her, "as though you have given me the universe."

For a while they sat silent; then the girl's eyes danced into sudden
mischief as she reminded him, "We have still an ordeal ahead, you know.
We have to tell Hamilton."

"A love that feared ordeals," he laughed easily, "would hardly be worth
offering you. Does he still dislike me?"

The girl nodded. "He isn't exactly as mad about you as I am," she
confessed. "But," her head came up and the regnant pride that seemed
inherent there shone from her eyes, "my life is mine to use as I wish,
and I have no use for it, dear heart, save to give it to you--for
always!"

They heard the door open and close, then Hamilton's clear voice came
from the hallway.

"You are a fool, Paul," it announced in a tone which blended irritation
and indulgence. "This is the maddest sort of whim; nevertheless, if it
appeals to you--all right." The two did not at once come into the
library, but talked in the hall.

Paul answered nervously.

"How can you help me, Hamilton? She's married--it would be impossible."

"Impossibilities are my specialties. You say you want this adorable
lady?"

"Yes." The response was faint.

"Very well," came the laconic announcement. "You shall have her, though
you are, as I said, a fool. Loraine Haswell is a pretty and an
empty-headed doll--"

"Don't!" Paul protested quickly, yet even in defending his lady's name,
his voice carried more of weak appeal than command. "You mustn't say
that!"

"I repeat, she is an empty-headed doll--but since she's not going to be
my doll I shall dismiss that feature from consideration."

The colloquy had been so rapid that, as Hamilton and Paul showed
themselves in the door, the two unwilling eaves-droppers came to their
feet, startled.

Jefferson Edwardes turned toward the fire and stood silent, but his
momentary expression of disgust had not escaped the financier and
instantly all Hamilton's cumulative dislike burst into passion. From the
threshold he demanded, "So you listened, did you?"

The visitor replied slowly and with a level voice: "We had not meant to
overhear a private conversation--but we did hear."

"I suppose you realize that what you heard in no way concerns you?" The
voice was surcharged with challenge, and under its sting Edwardes found
self-composure a difficult matter. He had no habit of turning aside from
quarrels which were seemingly thrust upon him, yet he realized that at
this juncture he must govern his temper. For the moment he ignored the
question and, with a gaze that met that of the other man in undeviating
directness, he responded:

"I was waiting here to see you, Burton, on a mission which in every way
concerns me." He raised the girl's hand to his lips and let his gesture
explain his purpose.

But the pent-up animosity of Hamilton Burton could remember only the
contemptuous curl he had recognized on the other man's lips. He came
forward until he stood confronting Edwardes and as he was about to speak
Mary interrupted him. Her voice was vibrant with anger and scorn. "If
any one should feel called upon to make explanations and apologies,
Hamilton, it is yourself ... after what we have just heard. It was
monstrous." She shuddered.

Hamilton refused to be turned aside. In a tense voice he demanded of the
girl's fiancé: "Do you add your self-righteous approval to that
sentiment?"

A sense of being intolerably bullied seized Edwardes and made red spots
of anger dance before his eyes. His fists clenched and he took a forward
step, then with tensed muscles he halted and stood there so close to the
other that their eyes locked at a range of inches. Very deliberately he
inquired: "Are you determined to force me into a quarrel, Burton? I'm
seeking to avoid it."

"I am asking you a question and I demand an answer."

Edwardes' voice rang out passionately. "I am no prig who supplies
unasked codes of conduct to others--even when they need it as badly as
you do. But since you ask--yes, I agree fully, and I add this to boot.
You are the most appallingly irresponsible man whose hands have ever
grasped power. You are maddened with egotism until you are a more
malignant pestilence than famine or flame. Now you have asked my opinion
and in part you have it."

For an instant Mary Burton thought her brother would spring upon her
lover in a tigerish abandon of fury, and she knew from the fighting
flame in the other's eyes that he would be met half-way. Paul had
dropped into a chair, where he sat as one stunned.

Burton returned the gaze which had never dropped from its inflexible
directness; and his own voice was changed to a key of satirical quiet.

"If I am all the things you charge," he suggested, "it's a pretty full
indictment and may warrant some discussion in passing. Paul," he added
with a curt gesture of dismissal, "I hardly think this conversation will
amuse you." The younger Burton rose and left the room, and as he went
Mary took her place at the side of the man she had promised to marry and
stood there as straight and unflinching as himself.

"Mr. Edwardes," Hamilton began, "years ago I was a country boy, not yet
fully able to translate the voices that spoke to me from within: voices
that told me I was a son of Destiny. In a fashion, I owe you something
as an interpreter of those voices. You have just spoken more bitterly
than it is easy for me to forgive. Yet, I am anxious to talk
temperately--and God knows it will require an effort. Will you meet me
half-way?"

Jefferson Edwardes had not moved. He was still white with anger, but the
tempest that had brought his eruption of denunciation had passed, and he
gravely bowed his head in assent.

"Very well. We seem to hold standards of conduct irreconcilably
divergent. To my thinking you are a self-righteous and tedious dreamer
and an impertinent preacher."

Edwardes nodded and his answer was composed. "We are all dreamers of
varied sorts. You are yourself the mightiest of dreamers: because you
make your visions realities. Paul is a lesser dreamer--almost a
sleep-walker through life. As for Mary--" his voice grew suddenly
tender--"why, I first saw her in the sun and dust of a mountain
roadside, dreaming of fairy princes. I come last, but I'm a dreamer,
too. All my visions are simple, but I've tried to keep them compatible
with honest ideals."

"At least, you have hardly succeeded in keeping them to yourself."
Hamilton Burton's voice was still controlled, but it was witheringly
bitter. "Let me make myself clear. In an unhappy marriage I see a fact
where you see a gauzy sacrament. I have become what I am, because to me
the broad canvas alone is interesting, and picayunish prejudices are
contemptible. You bring into my house a visage of disapproval, and when
you overhear private talk permit yourself to sneer. It is intolerable."

There was such a ring of sincerity in the voicing of this distorted
reasoning that Edwardes almost smiled.

"And yet," he answered, "until questioned I said nothing when I heard
you offering to buy, as your brother's plaything, the wife of another
man--a man who has served you with loyalty."

"You sneered. You allowed your sanctimonious lips to curl. Had you
dared, you would have rebuked me out of your cramped virtue."

"Dared!" Once more Edwardes found his words leaping in fierce and
uncontrolled anger. His hand had been almost drawn back to strike the
man who stood there treating him as an emperor might have treated a
corporal, but as the curb slipped from his cruelly reined temper, he
felt the girl's hand on his arm, and stepped back, with every muscle in
his body cramped under the tensity of his effort. Yet his words were
hardly less an assault than blows.

"Had I dared!" he laughed ironically. "I dare to tell you now to your
face what all men say of you in your absence. They believe you to
be--and rightly--a conscienceless pirate. You are a scathe and a blight;
a pestilential ogre, drunk with self-worship. When first I saw you, you
were gloating over having bought lambs that you had never seen for seven
dollars which you sold, still unseen, for ten. Since then you have
simply amplified, on the scale of a Colossus, that single cheap ideal.
You have exalted vandalism and rechristened it Conquest."

Hamilton Burton's face worked in a paroxysm of wrath and his words
hurled out fury to meet fury.

"By Almighty God! I have listened to your damned insolence. Now you
shall listen to me! I had meant to retire soon from the world of active
business. I was almost satisfied. You have altered my plans. Just once
again I shall return to the arena and I shall never leave it again,
until I have accomplished my single purpose." He halted with eyes
burning like those of a maniac, and the fever of passion shaking him.
Words poured torrent-wise.

"I will go back into the Street. If need be I will tumble the entire
structure of finance into ruins, but under it I will bury you! I will
bury you deep beyond salvation! As there is a God in heaven, I will do
that. I will neither rest nor abate my warfare until I have utterly
ruined you! You and your self-righteous virtue shall become a jest to
the world. From now on until you walk the streets, disgraced and
penniless, I wholly dedicate myself to your destruction!"

He paused, panting, and wild of glance, with his fists clenched and his
temples pulsing, and when he fell silent, Edwardes spoke slowly, almost
as in soliloquy: "I was not mistaken in you. You are the pirate and no
more. I will not call your boast empty. I have seen your power. You are
willing to bury in general ruin all those innocent persons whom you must
overthrow before you can reach me. Very well, you will find me fighting
when you come after me."

"I am after you now," shouted the other. "I would wreck all New York to
smash you. To me it will be worth the price, and, by God, I'll do it!"

Edwardes turned and held out his hand to Mary Burton. "Good-night,
dear," he said. His voice was weary and, as he looked at her, a deep
shadow of longing crossed his face.

"Wait!" she commanded--in a tone which neither of them had ever heard
before, "I am going with you."



CHAPTER XIX


Mary Burton's usually colorful cheeks were now as pale as ivory. Her
attitude and expression declared a total dedication to one idea: war
upon the brother who could see in her entire future only a house of
cards to be swept down because it had not been reared in harmony with
his requirements. As she took a step toward the door Hamilton stepped
between, barring her way. His outburst of infuriated words had left him
breathing fast, and he drew a handkerchief from his pocket and passed it
across his brow.

"Mary!" he exclaimed. "Are you mad?"

"I am so sane," she assured him, "that to your demented eyes I must seem
a very maniac. You turned me from a woman into a doll and this man
turned me from a doll into a woman again. I am his woman. He is my man,
and my place is with him."

"That man," her brother pointed an outstretched finger to her fiancé,
"is going to have no place for you to share. My hand holds the power to
make and crush and I have stamped him for obliteration. He is doomed.
You are my sister, and you must hold loyalty above infatuation. You must
not give countenance to my enemies in time of war, Mary. That spells
treason."

It was as though the three persons standing there had all passed, at a
single step, through the explosive phases of wrath to the colder,
steadier and deadlier zone of feeling where all their words came level,
and with an almost monotonous quiet.

"Loyalty!" Into her eyes came so splendid and serene a light that she
seemed transfigured. "I am ready to hold loyalty above life itself. If
Jefferson Edwardes goes to his execution, I shall go with him and I
shall be prouder to share his ruin than any other man's victory. I have
just promised to marry him...." Slowly she raised her hand and gazed at
the engagement ring. The ghost of a smile trembled about her lips,
though a sudden moisture dimmed her eyes. It was a mist of tenderness,
not fear. "That promise was not given lightly," she added. "It outweighs
even a Monte Cristo's arrogance."

Edwardes shook his head.

"I release you from that promise, dear," he told her. "It is to be war
now, and bitter war. Before he can hurt me he must ruin hundreds of
innocent noncombatants; must trample down scores of honorable
institutions; and because I am responsible to them I must fight their
fight to the end, asking no quarter." For just a moment his chin came up
and he spoke with pride. "Our concern is no weak one. It has foundations
in a nation's faith. Now it must meet the assaults of a Colossus running
amuck. Your brother or I must go down. If it is I, you mustn't go down
with me, dearest."

Very gravely she shook her head, and, turning her back on Hamilton,
clasped her hands about her lover's neck.

"That, dear," she told him, "isn't exactly my idea of loving. Whoever
fights you fights me as well. I am your mate. My brother has revealed
his monstrous malignity of nature today and to sleep one night more
under his roof would shrivel my soul. I'd rather walk the streets. I
accepted you without terms. Now I impose one condition. You must marry
me tonight. Take me away--make me anything but a Burton."

Edwardes pressed her close and neither of them for the moment spoke to
Hamilton or looked at him. "It can't be too soon," fervently declared
the lover.

"Do you suppose," inquired Hamilton Burton, his eyes narrowing until
they held a homicidal gleam, "that I shall permit you to leave my
house--with _him_?"

Mary laughed, then suddenly her voice rose fiercely, ignoring his
question. "You say, Hamilton, it is to be war. I shall start the
war--now. Jefferson, please find Len Haswell's telephone number. I'm
going to give him warning."

With an exclamation of incoherent fury Hamilton Burton leaped for the
telephone and tore it loose from its wires. He hurled the broken
instrument clattering to the floor and the directory into the flames.
Then he stood above the wreckage with his feet apart and his hands
clenching and unclenching in a panting picture of demoniac rage.

Mary laughed as one might laugh at the passion of a child. "After all
there are other telephones," she said, then added quietly: "You will
find in my rooms all the gifts you have loaded upon me. Unfortunately I
should have to go out of your house naked if I left behind me everything
that has come from you. Will you ring for my maid?"

For a moment the financier stood glaring and silent; then with a
powerful struggle for self-mastery he went over and touched a bell. "I
can't use physical force against my sister," he said. "You are of age,
and your own mistress, but if you make common cause with my enemies, you
become my enemy yourself."

When Harrow responded to the call, only the broken telephone bore
evidence of the violence of the past few minutes.

"Please ask Julie," instructed the girl quietly, "to pack a bag for me
and one for herself. I shall only need enough things for a day or two.
Ask her to hurry."

For several minutes the three stood without further speech, and when the
brother broke the silence it was in an altered tone.

"Mary," he said seriously, "your happiness is very dear to me. For
nothing else would I let any differences between us amount to an issue.
For God's sake, forego this mad idea. You are disrupting a family for
whose upbuilding I have fought with a very fierce singleness of
purpose."

"And to what end?" she demanded, with blazing eyes. "Of my father you
have made an artificial gentleman--and once he was a real man. To my
mother you have given luxuries instead of life. Paul you have turned
into a society lap-dog, and now by adding your strength to his weakness
you are trying to make him a beast of prey."

"Those are very bitter accusations," he answered gravely. His face was
set, but shame for his recent outburst safeguarded him for the moment
against a second.

Harrow appeared after a short time to announce that the maid was ready,
and Mary rose from her seat. "Good-by, Hamilton," she said.

"Will you at least go to my mother's house?" he questioned.

"Mother's house is as much your house as this one. No, I shall go where
Jefferson Edwardes chooses to take me."

"Then, by God Almighty, you will not go at all!"

Hamilton Burton took his place at the door, and stood barring their way
while a dangerous gleam came into Edwardes' eyes. Mary spoke very
coldly.

"Hamilton, please let us pass. It would be a pity to edify your servants
with a physical collision."

Over the taut whiteness of the brother's face went a wave of doubt. He
recognized confronting him a spirit as indomitable as his own. Somehow
his arrogance, under her gaze, withered and shrunk into a cheap bravado,
and he realized it as such. He spoke once more and his words came
slowly.

"I shall not use force. It is, of course, for you to decide. I have
perhaps loved you better than any other member of my family. My pride in
you has been triumphant. That man who stands at your side came into my
house and poisoned your heart against me. He is a traitor and I have
marked him for ruin. Decide between us calmly, Mary, because when I
resolve I do not deviate."

"I have already decided," she answered. "Please let us pass."

He drew aside and stood there motionless as the street-door opened and
closed. Afterward he walked slowly back into the room and stood
restlessly on the great bear pelt, gazing into the cavernous hearth.
Then he dropped down into the tall Moorish chair where a little while
before his sister had been sitting, her eyes brimming with joy. He
leaned forward and his hands fell limp from the wrists that rested limp
on his knees. Something had gone suddenly out of Hamilton Burton. The
eyes that stared into the blaze wore, for the first time, a trace of
that fatigue and distress which portraits show in the eyes looking out
from St. Helena. Mary was gone; gone with his enemy to fight under his
enemy's colors! Her motive bewildered him. What was this love that so
powerfully impelled her to desert her own blood? Suddenly his mind
flashed back to a kitchen tableau of a small girl breaking into a sudden
tempest of tears, and a boy saying, "I mean to see that Mary gets
whatever she wants out of life." Then quite irrelevantly a fragment of
verse leaped into his memory and prickled it with irritation.

    "The Emperor there in his box of state, looked grave
      as though he had just then seen,
    The red flags fly from the city gates, where his eagles
      of bronze had been."

His gaze dropped to the white fur of the rug and abstractedly he picked
up his sister's riding-crop and one glove. She had dropped them when
Jefferson Edwardes placed the ring on her finger. Hamilton turned the
things over in his hand and a groan escaped him. Then suddenly that mood
vanished. He rose and paced the floor like a lion lashing itself into
fury, and his eyes were fiercely tawny as he paced.

Well, she had chosen. One thing remained possible. The man responsible
for this greatest sorrow and humiliation with which he had ever been
visited should pay in full the score of reprisal.

With an abrupt impulse he sent for Paul and he was still pacing the room
with quick, nervous strides when his brother arrived. The younger man's
face was haggard and he cast a quick glance of trepidation about the
room.

"Where's Mary?" he demanded, and Hamilton wheeled on him with eyes that
were scarcely sane.

"Gone!" he barked out. "Gone with that rat, Edwardes. That's one of the
things your whim has cost so far--your baby-doll--your toy-woman!"

With a sudden cry that came from his heart, Paul dropped into a chair
and covered his face with his hands. His shoulders shook to his
convulsive sobbing, and after a moment Hamilton went over and laid a
hand on his shoulder.

"Forgive me, little brother," he said softly. "After all, Edwardes was
the real reason. Edwardes with his damned self-righteousness! Mary flew
virtuously to his standards. She is no longer my sister, Paul."

But Paul rose with his face full of pleading. He talked rapidly,
excitedly, like a frightened child.

"Hamilton, she _is_ our sister. She loves him.... You promised her
happiness years ago.... You can't let her go like this. It will kill us
all."

His elder brother thrust him back at arm's length and gazed into his
grief-stricken face. "It's not a question of letting her go. She went in
spite of me. She went to the enemy." The words came very bitterly and
for the first time in his life Paul saw tears in Hamilton's eyes.

The musician rose and passed an unsteady hand over his brow. "I'm
thinking about mother," he said brokenly. "I must go up and be with her
when she learns."

Hamilton wheeled, speaking quickly. "Yes, do. I shall follow you
shortly. Tell mother that I withheld my approval to this marriage, and
they took the bit in their teeth."

Within the half-hour Carl Bristoll, Ruferton and Tarring were with their
chief and between them lay sheafs of memoranda and financial data, which
littered the table.

"I want to know in exact detail," Hamilton Burton told them as his
glance burned into their faces, "everything that it is possible to learn
concerning the firm of Edwardes and Edwardes. Most particularly I want
to learn their points of greatest vulnerability. I must have lists of
those securities in which, directly or indirectly, they are most vitally
interested and the exact nature and extent of all their liabilities."

       *       *       *       *       *

Outside, Jefferson Edwardes found his car waiting, and the realization
came ironically to his mind that it was precisely the hour he had
expected to leave Hamilton Burton's house--though his intention had been
to leave only long enough to change into evening-clothes and return for
dinner. To his chauffeur he said in a low voice, "Drive in the park
until I tell you to stop." Then as he took his seat beside the girl he
turned upon her very serious eyes and said resolutely, "I couldn't
debate it with you in his presence, Mary, but I can't marry you
tonight."

She turned her face to him and the color left her cheeks.

"Not marry me?" she questioned in a dazed voice.

"Not yet, dearest. Under other circumstances no time could be too soon,
but now--" He raised his hands in a gesture of weariness and sat looking
at her with a hunger of the heart.

"Now what?" she prompted.

"Now I am pledged to a life-and-death duel with your brother. Now I must
fight not only my fight, but that of many others. It is foolish to treat
lightly the threats of Hamilton Burton. His power is incalculable and
his implacability is absolute. I can't tear away every family tie that
is rooted in your life merely to make you my comrade in ruin. That is
not my idea of loving, dearest."

"And if not that--what?" Her chin was raised and her lips parted. Her
voice was very soft, almost faint. Never, Edwardes thought, had she been
so beautiful. "I have left my brother's house to go with you. I shall
not return. Am I, then, to find myself like a beggar woman, with no
place to go except the streets of New York?"

With a gasping exclamation of pain in his throat he bent forward and
seized her in his arms. The car was now in the park and between the
light globes were spaces of darkness.

"For God's sake," he cried, "don't. It is because I love you so!"

"I think, Jefferson," she answered as he held her close with his kisses
on her cheeks, "you need me as much as I need you."

"Need you! Because I need you so much, I can't let you do this now."

"You spoke just now," she said, "as though you had no hope of victory in
this warfare. If that is true you need me to help you fight. I have no
intention of tame submission. You must have a Burton to fight this
Burton."

"If I spoke so," he declared, and his voice was far from submissive, "it
was because any chance of ruin is too great a chance to subject you to.
It is because I mean to defend myself and my clients and my honor to the
last breath that I say I can't marry you now. Certainly not until you
have gravely considered these new occurrences. I shall take small
pleasure in his overthrow, if I overthrow him, because he is your
brother."

"I think," her eyes flashed into a fierce animosity, "I shall glory in
it. I know that I shall not go back to his support. I offer myself to
you. I cannot compel you."

For a long while they talked, she resolved to fight his fight with him
or take off his ring; and he, in a torture of soul, refusing so great a
gift at so ruinous a cost to herself. At last it was arranged that she
should go to her mother's until she had made up her mind, and that they
should both accept an invitation for a week at the hunting-lodge of
friends in the Adirondacks. There, except for their host and hostess,
they would be alone and Edwardes might have a breathing space before his
battle.

There they tramped together on snowshoes over white-mantled hills and
forgot that any shadow threatened their happiness. They drank deep of
air that was spicy with the fragrance of pines and because to them the
present seemed so perfect they refused to borrow fears from the future.

Sometimes the man would see a vagrant shadow of foreboding steal into
the mismated eyes, but when Mary became aware of its recognition in his
own, it was always swiftly banished for one of serene happiness and
confidence.

"Dearest," he told her at such a moment--it was the moment of
candle-lighting, when dusk brings shadows of fear, "why 'heed the rumble
of the distant drum'? We love each other, and when my fight is over no
one shall part us."

And she in the circle of his arms looked up and laughed and they both
banished from their hearts all thought of Hamilton Burton.

At her mother's house before she came away, Mary had talked to Paul,
and had won his weak promise that he would permit his brother to take no
dishonorable step toward freeing Loraine Haswell. So she had not kept
her threat of warning the husband, and after she had returned to town,
her mother fell ill, and in the first call of loyalty there Mary
remained with her. About this time she read that Loraine had gone to
Europe, and had gone alone.

Days had passed into weeks and Hamilton Burton had struck no blow. Mary
had begun to believe that he meant to strike none, and her lover
encouraged that view, but he himself knew that it was a phantom hope. He
knew that the arch master of financial strategy was building and
strengthening every sinew of war, and that the crushing impact of his
attack would be only the more terrific because he had curbed his
impatience and held his hand until the exact fraction of the
psychological moment.



CHAPTER XX


Len Haswell carried a stricken face about the clubs where once he had
been the center of jovial gatherings, when he appeared there--which was
not often. Old associates who read the signs avoided him out of
kindliness save those who like Thayre could be with him without
reminding him of his hurt. Thayre, with all his seeming of bluff and
noisy gaiety, had an underlying tenderness of heart and delicacy of
perception which made him a friend for troubled hours. He knew how to
remain silent as well as how to be loquacious and he could radiate an
unspoken sympathy.

One evening the Englishman chanced on Haswell in the otherwise deserted
reading-room of the National Union Club. Because it was a club chiefly
dedicated to the elder generation Thayre came infrequently and it
surprised him to find the other there. The big man was sitting with an
unread paper on his knee and his eyes were brooding as he gazed out
through the Fifth-avenue window on the twilight tide of motors and
'buses and hansoms that passed in an endless and unresting flow.

"I had the idea, Haswell," remarked Thayre as he plumped himself down on
the leather arm of the other's chair and grinned his greeting, "that you
came to this place once a year--when they held the annual meeting."

"And you?" countered Len in a dull voice. "I didn't regard you as an
habitué either."

"Right-o!" The Englishman stretched out one gaitered foot and lighted a
cigarette. "I'll tell you a secret. When I grow savage in mood--" his
clear-eyed smile belied that state of mind--"I just run in here for a
bit of bear-baiting--rather good sport--bear-baiting. This is a den of
bears you know. Oh, yes, rather! They are all elderly bears, very
crabbed and self-absorbed and very smart and immaculate--but bears none
the less. Each has his particular chair, which to his own self-centered
mind is his private pedestal. They sit here with their manicured hands
resting idly on their robust, waistcoated tummies and stare out on the
world like little clay gods." He saw that the other man was following
him with a forced and uninterested attention, yet he went on, not like
Larry Kirk, but because he was leading up to a purpose of friendship.

"Well, old chap, I just pop in here and squat on one of these pedestals,
d'ye see? Presently its proper occupant comes in and glares at me from
the door, puffing with indignation. Inwardly he is saying, 'How dare you
trespass, you bally young cub?' and I pretend to be quite unconscious of
his baleful gaze. I know there's really nothing he can do about it. If
he were in London, I expect he'd write to the _Times_."

Thayre glanced up and started to add: "There's one now glaring at you,"
but he quickly bit off the words, for he recognized the stout
frock-coated figure of old Tom Burton. Old Tom was progressing, for now
before the lights were switched on something in his face told that the
afternoon rubbers had not progressed without their libations.

After a long pause Haswell said in a heavy voice: "I come here because
I don't meet many men who insist on talking to me."

"Oh, I beg pardon, old chap," Thayre hastily rose. "I'm sure I didn't
mean--" But before he could finish the big fellow put out a hand and
gripped his arm until a pain shot to the elbow.

"You are the one man I do want to see, Norvil. Even a miserable devil
like me can talk to you, and there's a thing I want you to do for me, if
you will."

"Name it."

Haswell glanced wearily about the big room and assured himself that no
one was near enough to overhear his unbosoming. He still spoke in the
dulled voice of a dulled heart. His utterance, like his movements, was
slow and labored.

"There are times when you've got to talk--or get to feeling giddy and
wrong in the head. I've about cut most of my clubs, but I can't cut
meeting the men--down-town."

The Englishman nodded, but he said nothing.

"I'm getting rather sick of being asked--" Len halted, then forced the
words doggedly--"how Loraine is and when I expect her back. I--well, I
don't expect her back, and it hurts like hell to say so."

Norvil met the other's eyes and read in them a fulness of dumb
suffering, such as might come into those of a great, faithful dog. His
own question followed with a softness of assured sympathy. "And, of
course, you want her back?"

A paroxysm of pain distorted his companion's face and his head flinched
back as though it had been heavily struck.

"God! yes, like a strangling man wants breath," he said.

It was a misery for which there was no aid, so Thayre satisfied himself
with the inquiry: "What is this thing you want me to do?"

"Just intimate to these men that they stop asking those questions,
that's all."

"Is there any one you particularly blame?"

Haswell shook his head. "No. There was at first, but the principal point
is that she has decided she can't be happy with me. If I try to hold her
after knowing that I become her jailer. I treat her as my property. I
hope I'm not that sort. I had my chance and have failed."

"I say, I don't want to be impertinent, you know." Thayre bent forward
and spoke earnestly. "There are things a man doesn't like to have put up
to him. But you aren't letting this knock you off your line, are you?
You aren't going to let it bowl you over?"

Again the tall man shook his head. "No, I'm quite all right," he said.
"I'm going fairly straight--so far."

Late that night a wet snow was falling and Madison square was almost
deserted. Here and there in the Metropolitan and Flatiron buildings
shone an isolated and belated window light. At the Garden a Wild West
show with rings and side performances had long ago disgorged its crowds
and quieted its pandemonium of brass bands. Len Haswell had been walking
with the aimlessness of insomnia, and asking himself over and over one
question: "What changed it all?" In answer he accused himself and argued
the case for the woman without whom he was too lonely to go home and
face an empty house.

It was after one o'clock and the saloon doors were barred, but as he
passed a small place not far from the square, he saw a side door flap,
and he entered it. It was an unprepossessing door, outwardly labeled,
"ladies' entrance."

Haswell called for whiskey, and was served by a waiter in a spotted
apron, whose dank hair fell over a sallow and oily face. Save for
himself, there were only four other customers. In a corner partition a
slovenly woman in bedraggled finery berated the man who sat with bloated
eyes across from her. The waiter looked on sardonically. At another
table were two derelicts from one of the Garden side shows. A truculent
and beady-eyed dwarf whose face hardly showed above the boards was
brow-beating a cringing giant of unbelievable immensity. "You crabbed my
act, you big stiff," shrilled the midget truculently--and his huge
vis-à-vis fell into a volume of excuse and apology.

Haswell set down his glass half-empty. "No good," he muttered as he rose
and went out again into the streets. "One can't be alone." Yet he felt
very much alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

In these days Paul Burton found his thoughts turning often to Marcia
Terroll and himself becoming more dependent on her companionship. In her
sunny courage and sparkle of repartee he found a tonic exhilaration for
his own jaded spirits and an antidote for growing morbidness. He knew
that her daily rounds of the managers' offices were fruitless, and that
she walked long distances to save nickels, and in his man's ignorance he
marveled because her white gloves were always spotless and her
appearance unmarked by poverty. With more money than he could use, his
impulse clamored to volunteer assistance--and his judgment forbade the
liberty. These days of growing intimacy were troubled days for him, too.

Loraine Haswell was away and her letters kept him reminded that the
purpose of her exile was ridding herself of those encumbrances which
stood between them. Yet in her absence, there was also the absence of
her personal fascination, the daily renewal of her hold on his senses,
and, strangely enough, he began to feel that instead of having barriers
swept from the path of his love, he was being bound to a future marred
by intervals of clouded misgiving.

The thought of Mary also brought him distress. There was no policy of
ostrich-blind self-comfort by which he could escape from the realization
that he was indirectly a party in responsibility for the destructive
menace that hung over her happiness. His few attempts to discuss the
subject with Hamilton had not been hopeful or pleasant, and he could not
doubt that Edwardes would ultimately be swept into a chaos of ruin
because he had opposed the irresistible onrush of his brother's power.
He sought to persuade himself of Hamilton's infallible wisdom and Mary's
folly of infatuation, but the only certain conviction was that of a
bruised and heavy heart in his own breast. Paul was pitiably weak, but,
also, he was sensitively tender. Love he gave and commanded with the
uncalculating quality of a child.

To Marcia he had not confided any word of his status with Mrs. Haswell,
but her quick intuition told her he was deeply troubled--and her quicker
sympathy responded. Sometimes Paul longed to see Loraine, but after each
visit to the tiny apartment where Marcia Terroll and a girl who drew
fashion illustrations had set up their household gods, the vision of
his far-away Cleopatra grew a shade dimmer and a trifle more
impersonal.

Bit by bit he had pieced together a few sketchy fragments of Miss
Terroll's biography, just enough to make the wish for fuller knowledge
tantalizing. That was her maiden name, also used as a stage name, but
she had been married when just out of Wellesley. She spoke little of
that episode. Her girlhood was a pleasanter theme and its environment
had been that of his own world--full of the gaiety and sunshine that is
girlhood's inalienable right. All these scraps of personal history
filtered into their conversation; rather as incidentals than as direct
information. This young woman was not of the type that gratuitously
relates a life-story. That she had been left resourceless with a young
daughter and had fought the world unaided and unembittered, herself
retaining the seeming of a child, Paul now knew, but he knew all too
little to satisfy his interest. She had been secretary in a business
house and an interpreter of German and Spanish. Now she was the only
actress he knew--untypical and unemployed.

Paul felt that in the presence of her superior mind and larger education
he ought to be abashed, yet he was not, because when she laughed it was
with the merriment of a gay child and when she was serious she was
sweetly grave. Sometimes he played for her and sometimes she sang for
him, and both did what they did so well that the critic in the other
found no disappointment.

Unpremeditatedly and very naturally they had struck the basis of a
dependable comradeship. She saw the occasional flash of genius in his
musical creativeness and his need of practical attributes. To him she
was something of a mystery. To her, save for his well-kept secret of
loving Loraine, he was an easily read human document. She told him of
her broader experiences, always tinging them with a delicious humor in
the recital, which twisted into comedy what might have been related as
little tragedies, and because she had seen so much of life, where he had
seen so little, she was willing to recognize his lovable qualities and
overlook his weaknesses.

But just as Paul did not talk much to her of his own affairs and the
people of his set, so he did not talk with them of her.

At first she had interested him as an experiment; then as affording the
possibility for a new type of adventure in friendship, and when he came
to know her in that degree which represented their present association,
he ceased to ask why she interested him, and only knew that she did.

Of late she had been unusually gay because of revival of hope. A part
which she knew she could play had been half-promised her which would
bring Broadway recognition and the chance to be judged on her merits.
More than that it would mean the possibility of bringing her small
daughter back from the relatives who were playing parents in these days
of uncertainty.



CHAPTER XXI


One gray and penetrating afternoon laid its depressing fingers on Paul
Burton's heart with a heavier touch than usual. Even Hamilton was
wearing a frowning and unsympathetic brow these days, and when the
musician saw Mary, despite the inflexible courage of her eyes, there was
something in them that hurt him to the quick. He knew and shared his
mother's grief, but could not bear the trace of unshed tears in her
voice. So, seeking asylum from the anxious ghosts that stalked between
the walls of his house, he made his way down-town and rang the bell on
Marcia Terroll's door. There are women men go to in triumph and women
they go to when hurt. Often they are not the same women. It was a raw,
bleak afternoon of disheartening drizzle and a reek of fog which veiled
the tops of the taller buildings. As he waited for an answer to his
ring, he could hear the fog-horn voice groaning over river and bay as
though some huge monster were troubled in its sleep.

Then Marcia opened the door and as he made his way along the four-foot
hall to the small living-room he discovered that she, too, was pale and
distraite.

"What is it?" he demanded with that sympathy which always lay close to
the surface of his nature. To his astonishment, the girl whose courage
and composure had become the reliance of his own weakness dropped on the
disguised cot and buried her face in her hands while her slim figure
shook to her sobbing, among the cushions.

Paul stood embarrassed and perplexed. Then, moved by impulse, he crossed
to the lounge and his hand fell with a gently caressing touch upon her
arm. "Why, little girl," he remonstrated softly, "where is your gay
bravery--what has happened?"

She sat up then and almost impatiently shook his hand away. After that
she rose to her feet.

"That's just it," she declared, and for the first time in their
acquaintanceship her eyes shone with an angry gleam, which quickly faded
again into distress. Her tear-stained face confronted him accusingly
"Everybody talks about my intelligence--and my courage. That's not what
I want. I'm just human and I want a human chance."

"What sort of chance?" he asked in that vague distress which confuses a
man and makes him stupid, at sight of a woman's tears.

She lifted her head defiantly. "A chance to work and live and be
happy," she told him vehemently. "A chance to support my child and
myself. They all praise me, but no one will hire me. I'm tired of
fighting--unspeakably tired." Once more her face went into the support
of the two small hands and her body shook.

"But your part in the new piece--don't you get it?" he questioned.

"They gave it to another woman," she told him faintly between her
fingers. "A woman who--who is the friend of the author."

Heretofore Paul had always felt a half-submerged diffidence with Marcia,
such a partially acknowledged deference as one accords to another who
has drunk deeper of life and more extensively built wisdom from
experience. With her his easy pose of acknowledged genius that passed
current in the drawing-rooms lost its assurance, and with her he was at
his best because most natural. But this was a new Marcia, a Marcia whose
delicate, childlike face was stamped with grief; a child in distress and
a child who needed comforting. Just as once before, when there was no
escape, Paul had fought the Marquess kid and had been astonished at the
ease of battle, so now an impulse seized him and he found himself acting
without premeditation. He was the man looking on at the tears of a
woman, and a woman whose laughter had often been his comfort.
Instinctively he folded her in his arms and kissed the soft hair which
was all that showed itself of the bowed head and hidden face.

Now when for the first time he held her close to him he felt a tremor of
sobs run through the slender figure. His pulses heightened their tempo
as he became conscious of the soft palpitation of her shoulders and
bosom.

Sympathy, he thought, actuated him. He took the averted face between his
hands and raised it gently, but with a strong pressure until the
tear-stained eyes were looking into his own.

Her lips were very petal-like and her eyes were very dewy and on each
cheek bloomed a spot of color heightened by the pallor of the moment.

Paul Burton at the instant forgot Loraine Haswell, the prize of his
brother's grand larceny for his pleasure, forgot that this woman was no
more than his Platonic friend and remembered only that her chin rested
in his hand and that his arm encircled her, as he bent his head and
pressed his lips against the mouth that trembled.

He did not think of the demonstration as necessarily loverlike. His
nature was instinctive, not analytical, but suddenly there swept into
the utterly lonely and battle-weary eyes of the woman, who was _not_ a
child, a smile of happiness and comfort which parted her lips, so that
her face reminded him of sudden sunshine flashing into rainbow hope
through an April shower. He could feel the heart fluttering wildly in
her breast, and at once he knew that to her his kiss had meant an avowal
of love--that in her code there was no place for light or unmeaning
caresses.

He rose and his face paled. The indecisiveness which never dared to
grasp the thistle firmly was troubling him with a new dilemma. Yet
something in Marcia Terroll made a call upon him which no other woman
had yet made--the call to be honest at all cost.

With his averted face toward the window, in a forced and level voice,
not daring to meet her eyes, he told her almost all there was to tell
about Loraine Haswell. The new spark of manhood she had awakened in him
made him silent on one point. He said nothing of his own doubts; his own
wonder whether after all he loved or wanted Loraine. Just now he fancied
he wanted Marcia Terroll.

When the recital reached its end he stood for a space gazing into the
fog which seemed an emblem of his own life. He was waiting for her to
speak, but the silence remained unbroken. At last he turned and saw her
sitting there no longer tearful, only a little stunned.

"I couldn't lie to you," he protested in a hurried utterance as he came
over and knelt on the floor at her side. "Not to you.... Of course, you
know that I love you very dearly as a man loves his rarest friends....
You know what our comradeship means to me--"

With an impulsive forward sweep of her hands she interrupted him and her
voice was burdened with deep pain and heart-ache.

"Don't!" she pleaded, and the monosyllable was like a cry. "Oh, don't!"
Then after a little while she went on slowly: "You are a romanticist,
Paul, and a dreamer. Some day you will wake up. We all do."

"It was better to tell you, dear, wasn't it? It would have been
unfair--"

She bowed her head wearily as though realizing the futility of expecting
him to understand. "Yes, I suppose so, only--"

He waited a moment, then prompted:

"Only what?"

"Only perhaps a stronger man would have told me before he--kissed me."

"Did that--make so much difference?"

The green-gray eyes grew soft and the lips smiled wanly. "Yes--all the
difference," she said. "It made me think for a moment that--that
everything was different.... Ordinarily people don't--I mean men
don't--" She broke off and then explained a little laboriously. "To me
that sort of kiss must mean a very great deal to excuse itself."

"But I did mean it," he fervently assured her. "Marcia, I have been
horribly unhappy and you have been lonely. We have seen so much of each
other because we wanted each other--needed each other."

The girl rose and went quietly over to the window. Outside the murk of
the fog was raw and choking. The stertorous snore of the ferry whistles
was uneasy, ominous: the spirit of the town's myriad anxieties. She
began to speak with measured syllables and an averted face.

"No, you don't need me, Paul. I hadn't understood before, but I do now.
I am this moment's whim, that's all. I don't need you either, I don't
need anyone." A trace of resolution and hurt pride tinged the voice, but
the resolution was predominant. "I've depended on myself for years and I
can go on. When you came today I wasn't myself. I was disappointed and
miserable and my misery made its appeal to your sympathy. You were
carried away because you're emotional, and it was all my fault. I'm
supposed to be practical and I let you do it. We must forget about it
now, that's all."

"Some things--" his voice mounted to a thrill of feeling--"can't be
forgotten."

"They must be."

"I have made you angry," he said with deep contrition, "and it's the
last thing in the world I wanted to do."

Marcia smiled again, as she might have smiled on a child who promises to
be good all its life, and who will in a forgetful half-hour be again
breaking all the laws and ordinances of the nursery.

"No, I'm not angry," she said thoughtfully. "One should not be angry
with a person of your exact sort, Paul. In another man the same thing
would have made me angry, but not in you. I am only sorry it happened.
Let's pretend it didn't."

"Why," he inquired, puzzled, as he gazed at the face still moist with
its recent tears and now rather cryptic in its expression, "are your
laws of judgment different for me than for other men?"

Marcia shook her head.

"Perhaps just because you are yourself different from other men. Maybe
in the artist there is something of the woman and something of the
child, as well as something of the man. One doesn't grow angry with a
child."

"Oh!" The monosyllable came with an undernote of chagrin. "I'm not
exactly responsible. That's what you mean?"

She did not answer in words, but her eyes as she looked off through the
drizzle with her fingers hanging limply motionless at her sides gave him
the affirmative reply, and he went on in a low voice.

"Of course, that would make you hate me. It must make anyone hate me if
it's true."

There was a moment's silence and he heard her laugh. It was a sound of a
single note and it was neither a laugh of amusement nor of ridicule. If
there was any betrayal of laughing at the expense of someone, the
someone was evidently herself, and Paul was not sure it was a laugh
after all. Possibly it was a single sob or half-sob and half-laugh. But
she went on in a voice flattened by weariness.

"Life deals in paradoxes. Possibly that very thing might make one love
you."

Paul stood in the small room, feeling himself very small and
contemptible. The face of Loraine rose before his memory, beautiful and
petulant, appealing and regal, features of ivory with poppy-like lips,
dominated by dusky eyes and night-black hair.

Suddenly she seemed responsible for all his uncertainties. He saw her
just then as a Circe. He was a man, swung to an ebb and flow of mood by
influences outwardly as nebulous as moon-mists. Just now the influence
of Loraine Haswell was at ebb-tide. Tomorrow it might run again to
flood, but Paul Burton obeyed the prompting of the present.

With a low exclamation that was wordless and a face tense and white, he
was at the girl's side and his arms were again about her. She shook her
head and tried to draw away, but he only held her the more closely until
she raised her face and said patiently, "I'm very tired, don't make me
fight both myself and you."

The musician shook his head and talked fast. "You said when I kissed you
that you thought it meant something very different. You could have meant
only that you thought I loved you. But that was not all. Thinking that I
loved you would have meant nothing to you if you hadn't loved me--if you
didn't love me now. You do. You have just said, 'Don't make me fight
myself.' There would be no fight with yourself--if you didn't love me."

He paused and his arms held her very close, as he saw her turn away her
face and make an effort to release herself, but in the eyes that she
averted he read the cost of the effort.

"Please let me go." The words came faintly.

"Not until you answer me. I love you, Marcia. This time it means all
that you thought it meant before. I love you."

Her eyes came around again and intently studied his own, then the voice
spoke in low tone:

"No. You think you do--but it's only impulse."

"I love you," he insisted, "and you love me. Your pupils confess it. Why
deny it with your lips? You love me."

She gently disengaged herself and sat again on the lounge.

"Very well," she told him as she looked at him with an honesty of
expression under which his own gaze fell discomforted, "suppose I do
confess it, what then? I hadn't ever meant to confess it, but perhaps
it's better that we understand things. We mustn't drift blindly. Just
now, Paul, when you declared your love you thought you meant it. For the
fleeting time it took to say it you did mean it. If you saw her tomorrow
you would tell her the same things, and you'd believe yourself honest.
If I loved you beyond all hope of forgetting you, it would only prove
that we had both made a mistake. We mustn't go on with it."

As a wind may veer without warning, the current of Paul Burton's
emotions shifted. While wishing to deny and argue, he knew that what she
told him was true. He had entered the house with no thought of
love-making. Had she accepted his protestations at their face value, he
would have left it shaken with an agony of doubt and misgiving. After
all he had sworn his love first to Loraine. He had permitted her to
separate from her husband on the assumption that his own allegiance
would hold. Could a man truly love two women at the same time, he
wondered. Whatever he did he must appear a weak fool. The fact that this
phase of the matter presented itself for consideration at this time
proved only that it was Paul Burton who found himself in the situation.

"I don't know what to say," he admitted brokenly. "I know only that I
would like to be happy, if it's humanly possible, and I'd give anything
on earth to see you happy. At least you believe that much, dear, don't
you?"

She nodded. "Yes," she said, "I believe--that much."

Then after a few moments she continued seriously:

"We have been trusting ourselves on quicksands, Paul, and between us
we've done one wise thing. We've discovered it in time. Maybe it would
be still wiser now to be really frank for once and then to be very
careful afterwards."

"What do you mean, exactly?"

"I divined your unhappiness, and I knew my own--for a long time I've
known my own. You have been petted and praised by women--women of that
world which was once mine. You say I love you. Do you know why--?" She
wheeled suddenly and spoke without disguise. "Not because you are a
great musician or a celebrity. It is because I realize how weak and
foolish and helpless you are." The man winced, but she went on steadily.
"In all woman-love there is a ruling element of mother-love. I wanted to
take you into my heart and make you happy, to ... to give you all a
woman can give a man."

He came forward and his words were unsteady.

"You can at least let me be your best and closest friend--"

"No. I doubt if men and women can really be friends. It comes to mean
too much--or too little."

"But, Marcia--"

Again she interrupted and again the voice was monotonous, almost
lifeless.

"No, dear. All our silly little jokes--things that have come to be dear
little traditions between us--would be mockeries now." She raised her
chin, and said suddenly, with a forced laugh: "I don't often have these
brain-storms. They make me very foolish. We must see less of each other,
Paul."

"And yet," he stubbornly argued, "it has been only an hour since the
basis of our comradeship was secure enough."

"In that hour we have come a long way, dear. It's going to be hard
enough to get back as it is."

She stood still and, after a brief silence, spoke once more.

"I must brush these cobwebs away from my brain ... only--" suddenly her
eyes flooded and there was a gasping sob in her voice--"only they aren't
cobwebs--they are cables and chains! I was a fool to expect to be happy.
I haven't been happy for years. I've never had what I've wanted.... I
haven't even been able to have my baby with me." Marcia went slowly to a
chair and sat staring, wide-eyed, at the wall. At last she looked up and
commanded in a whisper. "You must go now--don't say good-by--just go!"

Paul took up his hat and let himself out into the narrow hall.



CHAPTER XXII


The illness of Elizabeth Burton proved tedious and perplexing to the
specialists who traced its origin beyond the purely physical to some
unconfessed thing gnawing at the peace of her brain. Accordingly they
did what they could and, having effected a temporary repair, fell back
on the customary prescription of change and travel.

During these weeks Mary had been constantly with her mother--and when
she was even a short while away the elder woman anxiously called for
her. Sometimes she and Hamilton had met, but at these times there was no
syllable of surrender from the lips of either; only a tacit sort of
truce such as might have existed where two armies drawn tensely in
confronting battle-lines pause to care for the wounded in which both
have interest. But when the mandate came that Elizabeth Burton must go
abroad Mary Burton faced the sternest dilemma which had ever presented
itself for her decision. The mother refused absolutely to obey the
verdict unless her daughter accompanied her, and while Mary was abroad
she could only guess what crises her lover might be meeting at
home--because he was her lover.

She and Edwardes were walking together one afternoon as they discussed
this new complication in their affairs. They had chosen for their tryst
neither the smooth stretch of the avenue nor the paths of the park, but
those tangled by-ways that thread the woods back of the Jersey
Palisades.

It was a cold day with air as biting as a lash and as clear as crystal,
and since these woods were wild and desolate in spots though skirted by
smooth road-ways and flanked by handsome estates they had for the most
part uninterrupted solitude. Ragged outcroppings of rock stood baldly
etched against the brilliant sky and through the open spaces they
occasionally saw the Hudson and the contour of upper New York. Twice
they came upon rouged and powdered men and women with beaded lashes, but
these men and women were too busy doing varied things before cameras to
take notice of them, for their refuge was also the open-air workshop of
moving-picture folk.

"Of course you must go," Edwardes seriously told her. "Your mother's
health--her life itself--may depend on it. You aren't the sort who can
hesitate to answer such a call and it won't be forever, you know."

"And while I'm--over there--with an ocean between us"--she broke off and
her eyes darkened with terror--"you may be facing a decisive battle
here--a battle decisive for both of us. If you have to fight, it's my
right to be near you--to share your fortunes and your misfortunes. Our
love didn't begin as little loves do. It sha'n't end that way."

"If I thought--" his voice was very deep in its earnestness--"that
anything could mean an end of our love, I couldn't make a fight whether
you were here or elsewhere. I think our love will outlast all battles. I
want you to go."

"And if I do go," she demanded with a gaze of questioning which demanded
a truthful answer, "will you swear, by whatever is holiest and means
most to you, that you will cable me at the first intimation of storm?"

For a while he stood silent and his features were trouble-stamped; then
he took both her hands and their eyes met. Slowly he bowed his assent.
"I swear it," he told her, "by my love for you, but if I read the signs
aright the time is not quite that close at hand."

In these days Hamilton Burton's secret service was preternaturally
active. Less of the Titan's affairs passed through the hands of Carl
Bristoll. He could be implicitly trusted, but called on only for honest
service. More went through Tarring and Ruferton and Hendricks--who
questioned no motives.

After two months Mary returned, and when she met the gaze of Jefferson
Edwardes she read in it the struggle which his fight against his heart's
clamorous insistence had cost him. "I have thought of little else since
I went away," she told him, "and I have decided that either I am worthy
to stand with you in whatever comes to you, or I am not worthy to be
your wife at all. Hamilton hurled his threat at us and we, like a pair
of timid children, let him frighten us. In this as in everything else he
has had his way and we are paying the price--giving up our lives."

"It's very hard," he answered, "to stand out against you, when only my
mind argues against you and my heart is so insistent on the other side.
You say you have thought of little else. I have thought of _nothing_
else. The clocks have chimed it--the bells have rung it--the voice of
the city has roared and echoed it. I want you so much, dear, that
without you I am starving. You pledged yourself to me and then came this
menace. I couldn't let you act blindly. Now if you are still resolute--"

"I am more so," she declared. "My brother issued his challenge and we
accepted it. Yet we went abjectly away and obeyed him. If he means to
fight he must fight now. I am no less a Burton than himself and I am
tired of submission."

Jefferson Edwardes smiled. For the instant everything except her own
undaunted courage seemed to shrink into minor consideration.

"You are right," he said, and he said it with a note of triumph. "We
shall announce our engagement and set a day--neither hastening it nor
delaying it--but acting precisely as you would act had he never opposed
us. If he thinks he can stop us let him try." He paused and his face
suddenly hardened as he added, "There have been moments when murder has
tempted me--when I wanted to go to Hamilton Burton and kill him with my
hands."

Paul was commissioned by his mother to convey to Hamilton the news which
would on the following day appear in all the society columns, the
statement that in thirty days Miss Mary Burton would become the bride of
Mr. Jefferson Edwardes, head of Edwardes and Edwardes. At first Hamilton
said nothing. His face paled a little and he reached out and fingered a
paper-weight and a pen, with the gesture of one whose brain takes no
thought of what his hand does.

Then slowly his eyes kindled into the tawny gleam of a tigerish light.

"It was very good of them to wait so long," he said significantly. "I
think I am just about ready now."

"What do you mean, Hamilton?" Paul bent forward and spoke with alarm.

"Mean!" Hamilton came to his feet and his anger snapped across the table
like a powerful current leaping a broken wire. He took up a delicately
fashioned statuette of porcelain and tossed it to the stone flagging of
the hearth where it lay shivered. He walked over and contemptuously
kicked some of the fragments toward the open fire.

"Mean! I mean that I shall treat him like that. What's left when I'm
through Mary can have--for a wedding or a funeral whichever seems most
suitable."

For once in his life a flame of resistance and momentary courage leaped
up in Paul Burton.

"You shall do nothing of the sort," he vehemently declared. "Mary is my
blood and your blood and my mother's blood. You sha'n't sacrifice her,
merely because she loves a man whom you hate."

"Stop!" Hamilton raised his hands warningly. "Don't throw yourself to
the enemy, Paul. Don't make an irreconcilable breach between us. I don't
find fault with your sympathy. I should hate you if you didn't feel
it--but this man Edwardes is doomed. Nothing can save him. If heaven
itself fought for him, I would make war on heaven, whoever attempts to
thwart me--even if it be you, Paul, shall go with him to ruin. We won't
talk of this again."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mary Burton awoke one morning to see, through her window blinds, a
mixture of snow and rain falling from low-hanging clouds; yet her lips
parted in a smile. She glanced at the clock by her bed. It was eleven.
In just one week and sixty minutes she and Jefferson Edwardes would be
standing at the altar.

She threw a dressing-gown about her, and, slipping her small pink feet
into small pink slippers, crossed idly to the window. Then with a face
that in an instant went white with a premonition of disaster, she
wheeled on Julie and her voice came in an agitated whisper.

"What are they calling extras about? Get me a paper quick." When a few
minutes later a sheet still damp from the presses lay before her she
needed only the flaring headlines to corroborate her fears. With
throbbing temples she swayed unsteadily as she made her way to a chair
and sank down, gripping the paper tightly in a clenched fist. Four words
were hammering themselves into her brain and heart: "Stock-Exchange in
Frenzy." ... Her apathy of inactivity lasted only a few moments. Then
she came to her feet and, instead of panic, resolution sounded through
her voice. "Dress me, Julie," she commanded. "Dress me quickly. I must
be down-town at once. 'Phone for the car. Don't waste an instant." At
least she would be there--where battle was raging.

"But, mademoiselle, in an hour you are due for a fitting--your
wedding-gown."

"Don't stop to talk--hurry!"

Her wedding-gown! She wondered if she would ever need it.

As her car neared the business district she could feel in the air such
an electric tensity as one might expect to find at the verge of a
battle-field.

At first it was only a spirit of heightened excitement in the street
crowds; and the way men ran to meet the newsboys half-way. Then it was
humanity jostling about the doors of a bank with the excitement of
swarming bees. Across City Hall park came a glimpse of surging throngs
at the bulletin boards, and the unpleasant chorus of voices as fresh
bulletins went up.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hamilton Burton had reached his office that morning at eight-thirty and
was ready upon their arrival to confer with those lieutenants whom he
had ordered to be with him at nine. Len Haswell appeared with the
lack-luster seeming of a jaded spirit and though Burton had on past
occasions chosen him as leader of every fierce assault on the floor,
because of his quick brain, his commanding physique and the voice that
could boom out like a heavy gun over the pandemonium of a frenzied
exchange, he now eyed his gigantic broker dubiously. This was no day for
his lieutenants to carry into that Gehenna which he meant to precipitate
senses dulled, or hearts cast down. This morning's work called for such
spirit as carries forward a tide of bayonets thirsting for blood back of
the trenches they charge. There must be the ferocity of barbarians
bearing knife and torch: of the hordes of the Huns and Vandals. There of
course was Hardinge, a man who, had he not been a broker, might have
made a headquarters detective, so hard and devoid of humanity was the
fashion in which he went about his work. His nature was that of a cock
tossed into the pit or a bull turned into the ring. Such men Hamilton
wanted now, for into the five hours of the Stock-Exchange day he meant
to crowd such a sum of mad disaster and panic conflagration that the
history of the Money World should be beggared for a comparison. They had
tauntingly named him the Great Bear, but this day should demonstrate
that heretofore he had been only a gentle and playful cub. Cash--cash,
cash! Such had been his watchword and he had stamped on the world of
finance a belief that his command of gold was endless. Even should he
reach the end of his resources with his task unfinished, he knew that
his tremendous nerve was in itself unlimited backing. The nature of the
trading on the floor precluded any discovery, during the length of the
session, of a depleted treasury--and left open the path for onward
charges. But before his treasury was depleted the whole structure would
lie in ruins.

He glanced out of his window and smiled. It was the sort of a day which
men in police circles describe as "suicide weather." Coroners will tell
you that on such days their calls are most numerous and history will
tell you that on such days the greatest financial disasters of the world
have visited stock-exchanges and bourses. Burton's jaws were set and his
eyes ablaze with a fiery tenseness which was hardly sane. His loins were
girded and to one focal object was every power dedicated. He was going
to mete out death and destruction. He would grapple with enemies who had
taught him the art of death and destruction. As he ended his
instructions to his brokers he looked at his watch; it was
nine-forty-five. "Cut loose!" he almost shouted. "Railway Generals
closed at 175. By noon I want them down to 50. When Malone's gang begin
pegging the market, break their pegs. Don't spare Coal and Ore. Keep
them too busy with self-preservation to let them think of rescuing
others. Give them slaughter--and unshirted hell!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The light that rains down from the ceiling of the Stock-Exchange is a
softened, benevolent light, even when the outer skies are lowering. The
gentlemen inside play their game in a well-appointed gambling parlor.

It would not be fitting that they should seem pikers. Above them
stretches a ceiling of soft color scheme in delicate pink and blue and
from this canopy sixty-two ceiling lights shed down a tempered radiance
from globes suggestive of inverted golden blossoms. The great
bronze-framed windows, too, at the east and west make a greater part of
the wall area as receptive of brightness as does a studio skylight--for
the world's cleverest financiers must be cheered by brightness and
protected against gloom.

Today the great interior cube of space needed all the light that could
flood the area between its marble walls--for despite the sixty-two
inverted blossoms it was to see black hours.

Of that there was of course no suspicion at first.

The assembled brokers chatted carelessly, and between them sedately
passed the floor employees in cadet gray, and boys carrying green
watering-pots with which, when many feet had pounded the boards into
dust, they would sprinkle this hot-house of Finance, as they might have
sprinkled a bed of thirsty geraniums.

Then from the marble balcony, where is placed the president's chair,
sounded the clang of the opening gong. The session had begun.

Hamilton Burton's lieutenants meant to waste no moment of the five-hour
session. Another day meant the drawing of new lines, and time for
tallying and rallying, but what was done today was immutably done.
Hardinge and Haswell stood near the post at whose head hung the sign,
"Railway Generals." About them lounged a handful of dilatory brokers.
Railway Generals had closed yesterday strong at 175, but quotations from
London, where by reason of difference in time there had already been
several hours of trading, reflected an unaccountable nervousness
over-seas. So the stock opened five points off.

Every game has its traditional rules. It is a cardinal by-law of the
Exchange that until the gong peals every man on the floor must maintain
an unruffled and blasé composure, though when the clamor of the big bell
unleashes their restraint whosoever chooses may leap into the frenzy of
a madhouse.

A voice at the Railway-Generals post drawled out "170 for any part of
5,000 Generals," and on the instant Hardinge's deep basso boomed a
challenge and a battle cry as he yelled back, "Sold!"

The bidder was Jack Staples, and he bore the credentials of J.J. Malone.
For just an instant he eyed his vis-à-vis and his prominent lower jaw
seemed to protrude more aggressively, as his indolent manner dropped
from him and his eyes kindled. He brushed back the white lock on his
forehead and defiantly shouted, "168 for any part of 10,000," but before
the words had come to conclusion on his lips, the rifle-like retort had
met him from the throat of Hardinge, "Sold!"

"165 for any part of 10,000!"--"Sold!" This time the deep-lunged
monosyllable burst volcanically from the lips of Len Haswell, and it
rang across the floor and echoed between the walls like a thunderclap
between the cliffs of a mountain gorge.

Instantly crowds surged forward and elbowed their ways to the Generals
post. Where five minutes back there had been scant dozens there were now
full hundreds who shouldered and shoved and fought, struck by a sudden
wild realization that a fight was on. At the center of the vortex they
could see the sandy head of Len Haswell high above the crowns of other
men and in his face they read the gage of battle. No longer was this the
heartsick face which of late had avoided the gaze of his fellows. It was
the fighting face of one who hurls himself into the thick of a
struggle, seeking forgetfulness in the ferocity of combat.

"163 for any part of 10,000"--"SOLD!"

With each repetition the unchanged formula took on an added ferocity--a
deeper meaning. It was a three-cornered duel. Jack Staples leaned
eagerly forward, his eyes burning and keen with aggressive alertness
like a boxer facing opponents in a battle royal. Len Haswell seemed
bending to meet him, his long arm raised and his face afire, while
Hardinge, whose place had been for the moment preëmpted, mopped his
brow, already perspiring, and smiled grimly like a relay racer waiting
his turn.

But what gave an undercurrent of terrific force to the battle of these
three men was the thing which every broker present understood--that one
of them was the floor spokesman of Malone and Harrison and the old
invincible order of Consolidated--and that two voiced the message of the
new power and in the name of Hamilton Burton were declaring a war to the
death.

"160 for any part of 20,000"--"SOLD!"

Generals had broken fifteen points in ten minutes and were slumping as
though their foundations floated in thin air. A yell went up over the
floor through which sounded demoniac notes of panic and rage. Men surged
around the Generals post, struggling as cowards might struggle to leave
a burning theater, collars tore loose and eyes glittered like those of a
wolf-pack. The blackboards at north and south burst into a hysterical
flashing of white numbers, and a word went out which set the cylinders
of printing presses whirling. A Burton bear raid was on, and the Street
was in panic-making excitement!

But close around the post three figures still dominated the picture.
Staples with his tigerish teeth to the crowd fought the two men who
carried Burton's orders and who with implacable monosyllables still
hammered the market with sledges of mighty resource. What had been the
orderly floor of an artistically designed mart of trade was now a hell
of pandemonium. With the sweat pouring down his face, his hands clenched
above his head, and his deep voice strained into a hoarse bellow, Jack
Staples of Consolidated fought as a man fights death, to breast and stem
and turn the tidal wave of disaster.

Other stocks followed suit, and while Haswell, forgetting in his
excitement that he had been officially superseded, crouched face to
face, battering his opponent, Hardinge fought his way like a madman out
of the maelstrom and declared war on Coal and Ore. Voices blended into a
frenzied Walpurgian uproar. Frantic telephone calls made the blackboard
one flickering, wavering, confusing area of black and white where no
spot was white for any consecutive minute and no spot black.

For an hour it raged so, down!--down!--down!--with no moment of recovery
and no instant of changing tide. When now and again the din subsided for
a few moments of recovered breath, while traders "verified," faces
streaming sweat looked as haggard as though it was blood that was
pouring from them. Voices cracked with hoarseness as men stood panting
like dogs torn from the embrace of battle and waiting only for the leash
to loosen and free them again for renewed battle. Underfoot they trod
the confetti-like scraps of torn papers. Among them went the men with
green watering-pots. Outside newsboys called yet new extras. The market
had been open an hour and the Street was seeing the most delirious day
of mania in its history. Then in one of the lulls came that sound which
between the hours of ten and three is never heard save as the clarion of
disaster. The great gong in the president's gallery sent out its
strident and metallic voice, and in the dead silence that followed its
command an announcement was made.

"The Western Trust Company announces that it cannot meet its
obligations."

The weakest barrier had fallen, and it was only the beginning.



CHAPTER XXIII


When Mary Burton presented herself in the anteroom of the suite whose
ground-glass doors bore the legend "Edwardes and Edwardes," and asked
for the banker, a man with a pale and demoralized face gazed at her
blankly. Could any one seek to claim, except on most urgent business,
one minute out of these crucially vital hours? They were hours when the
real target of the whole panic-making bombardment was striving to
compress into each relentless instant a separate struggle for survival.

"I am Mary Burton," she said simply; and the man stood dubiously shaking
his head. His nerve-racked condition could only realize the name
Burton--and in these offices it was not just now a favored name.

As he stood, barring the way to an inner room marked "private," the door
opened and Jefferson Edwardes came hurriedly out. He looked as she had
never seen him look before, for deep lines had seared themselves into
his face, aging it distressingly, and the mouth was drawn as that of a
man who has been called back from the margin of death. But his eyes held
an unwavering fire and his jaw was set in the pattern of battle. Mary
remembered a painting of a solitary and wounded artilleryman leaning
against a shattered field gun amid the bodies of his fallen comrades.
The painter had put sternly into the face an expression of one who
awaits death, but denies defeat. Here, too, was such a face. The man,
hastening out, halted suddenly. Then he stepped back into his own
office, silently motioning her to follow.

"It has come," he told her quietly. "We should have expected it, yet we
were taken by surprise. Today tells a grim story."

"What does it all mean?" she pleaded. She stood close with her face
almost as dead white as the ermine that fell softly about her shoulders.
"I read the papers--and I came at once--to be near you in these hours.
What does it mean?"

"I can't explain now," he answered in the quick utterance of one to whom
time is invaluable. "Now every minute may mean millions--even human
lives and deaths. I told you that he must trample down the innocent and
the ignorant to come within striking distance of me. He is doing it. The
bottom has dropped out of everything--pandemonium reigns. Each minute is
beggaring hundreds--each half-hour is sending old houses to the wall and
shattering public confidence. By this afternoon the country will be in
the lockjaw paralysis of panic--unless we can stem the tide. Will you
wait here for me? I must go to Malone."

"And there is nothing I can do--nothing?" Her voice was agonized and,
with his hand on the knob, he abruptly wheeled and came back. He caught
her fiercely in his arms and held her so smotheringly to his breast that
her breath came in gasps. She clung to him spasmodically and the lips
that met his were hot with a fever of fear and love. "Nothing I can do,"
she whispered, "though I am--the Helen who brought on the war?"

"Yes," he spoke eagerly, passionately, and she could feel the muscles in
his tensed arms play like flexible steel as her hands dropped to rest
inertly upon them. "Yes, there is something you can do--something you
are doing! You are giving me a strength beyond my own strength to fling
myself on these wolves and beat them back. You are giving me a
battle-lust and a hope.... Now I must go."

She released him and forced a smile for his departure, then sank into a
chair--his chair by a paper-littered desk--and her eyes, very wide and
fixed, gazed ahead--at first unseeing. Yet, after an interval they began
to take in this and that detail of the place, where she had never been
before.

This was his office, the workshop in which he carried on his affairs and
the affairs of the concern which had its foundation in unshaken ideals
and high honor. In an intangible fashion its inanimate accessories
reflected something of himself. On one wall, from a generous spread of
moose antlers, hung a rifle and a pair of restrung snowshoes: reminders
of the open woods he loved. There were autographed portraits of many men
whose names were names of achievement, and one, in a morocco frame
surmounted by a gilt crown, attested the personal regard of a reigning
monarch. With clenched hands and a grim determination to divert her mind
from the danger of madness, she went about the walls, reading those
brief tributes to the man she loved. Then she came back and picked up a
gold frame which rested on his desk, where, as he worked, his eyes might
never be long without its view--and she was gazing into her own eyes.
She glanced out across the steep-walled, fog-reeking cañons where
Finance has its center and whence its myriad activities palpitate
through arteries of masonry and nerves of wire. He was out there
somewhere, in the maw of that incalculably destructive machine,
fighting its determination to grind him between its wheels and cogs and
teeth. Mary Burton shuddered and tried by the pressure of her fingers to
still the violent throbbing of her temples.

Then her eyes began absently studying the inscriptions on the windows of
the next building, beyond an intervening court, and she smothered an
impulse to scream as a sign across several broad panes flared at her in
goldleaf.

"Hamilton Montagu Burton." A bitter fascination held her gaze there. She
saw offices teeming with the fevered activity of a beehive--and another
window showed a room where the electric lamps shone on emptiness. After
she had watched it for a time a solitary figure came into view and stood
by the ledge looking out. It was her brother, and though, through the
gray fog, he was silhouetted there against the light at his back,
something in the posture revealed his mood of Napoleonic implacability.
It was as though he were, from an eminence, actually viewing the battle
whose secret springs his fingers controlled, and as though he were well
pleased.

Jefferson Edwardes had hurried out with a feeling of renewed strength.
It was to him as though a promise of hope had been vouchsafed in a
moment of despair. At Malone's office, he met Harrison, Meegan and
several others. The old lion of the Street himself was slamming down the
telephone as the newcomer entered.

"I've been talking with Washington," he announced, and his voice was one
of steel coolness. At such an hour as this Malone wasted no minim of
strength in futile anger. That belonged to other moments. "We have done
what we could. It is not enough. We must do more. We have pegged those
stocks where the slump would be most demoralizing and already this
highbinder, Burton, has smashed those pegs like match-stems. We have
sent money to a dozen banks that seemed hardest pressed, and scores are
sending out calls for help. Good God, gentlemen, it's like sweeping back
the sea with brooms."

"Why did you send for me?" demanded Edwardes, though he knew.

"To ask your aid," came the crisp reply. "This is a general alarm. The
next few hours will roar to the continuous crash of falling banks--many
of them banks that have a close relationship to you, Edwardes. Once more
we must go to the rescue and it will take fifty additional millions.
Otherwise--panic unparalleled. We expect you to stand your pro rata."

"Gentlemen," said the latest comer bluntly, "this raid is primarily
aimed at me--its principal object is my destruction. Already I am hit
for millions. I, too, was about to call for help from you. When this
succession of crashes comes, Edwardes and Edwardes may be among the
ruins."

The bushy brows of Malone came together in astonishment. "Great heavens,
man! Edwardes and Edwardes is a synonym for Gibraltar."

"And under heavy enough artillery--" Edwardes spoke with bitter
calmness--"Gibraltar would be a synonym for scattered junk. What news
from Washington?"

"Washington has called Burton on the telephone. The Secretary of the
Treasury has failed to connect with him. He does not acknowledge
telegrams. He is ignoring the government and treating the President
with contempt. He wants to have today for his massacre--and to talk
about it tomorrow. We have sent repeatedly to his office. He can't be
reached."

"That effort may as well be dropped." Edwardes shrugged his shoulders
wearily. "He will have his day--and leave tomorrow to itself."

"And by the Immortal!" For an instant a baleful fire leaped into
Malone's face. "We will have tomorrow! Every sinew of American finance
shall be strained against him. But tomorrow may be too late. Can you
hold out?"

Edwardes smiled grimly. "I'm trying like all hell," he said. "I've not
laid down yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was two o'clock and the Stock-Exchange was a shambles. Every security
in the Street was down to panic figures and plunging plummet-like to
further depths. At shortening intervals over the hoarse shrieks of the
floor's tumult boomed the brazen hammer blows of the huge gong, which
should sound only twice each day. At every recurring announcement of
failure a wall-shaking howl went up and echoed among the sixty-two
inverted golden blossoms of the ceiling.

The faces of the men to whom these cracked and hoarsened voices belonged
had become bestial and wolfish. Where the morning had seen well-groomed
representatives of Money's upper caste, the afternoon saw a seething
mass of human ragamuffins, torn of clothing, sweat-drenched and lost to
all senses save those twin emotions of ferocity and fear. Back and forth
they swirled and eddied, and howled like wild things about carrion. At
one side, panting, disheveled and bleeding from scratches incurred in
the mêlée, bulked the gigantic figure of Len Haswell. He had no need
now to bellow in a bull-like duel of voices and ferocity. The stampede
had been so well put into motion that the floor was doing for him his
deadly work of price-smashing. Telegraph wires were quivering from every
section of the United States to the tune of--"Sell--cut loose--throw
over!" A universal mania to get any price for anything was sweeping the
land like a conflagration. Tomorrow would bring those reflexes from
today when banks and trust companies from the Lakes to the Rio Grande
would topple in the wake of their metropolitan predecessors. Ruin sat
crowned and enthroned, monarch of the day and parent of a panic which
should close mills, and starve the poor and foster anarchy--but Hamilton
Burton's hand was nearer Edwardes' throat.

Staples and his twenty coöperators fought on doggedly, grimly, to turn
the tide before the close, but the nation was mad, and the men who
fought and clamored here in this pit of its bowels were the most violent
maniacs.

And while these things went forward Mary Burton still sat alone in the
private office of Jefferson Edwardes, waiting. Through century-long
hours she had in her ears only the din from the street and that
incessant ticking of the stock-tape at her elbow.

Every few minutes she rose and anxiously ran through her fingers the
long thin coil of paper which it fed so endlessly into its tall wicker
basket. She could make little of those abbreviated letters and numbers,
though she realized that every succeeding glance showed a shrinkage of
each value. One thing she could read with a deadly clarity--those
hideous words that meant the falling of the outposts. "So and So
announce that they cannot meet their obligations." There were other
grim scraps of information, too, wedged between the hurried quotations
such as, "Police reserves called to quell riot at closed North Bank,"
and finally, "Troops from Governor's Island to guard sub-treasury."

Finally she went to the window and raised the sash to let the cold air
blow against her fevered cheeks, and as she did so she heard yells and
the gongs of patrol-wagons. The madness was spreading beyond the
confines of enclosing walls.

Mary Burton turned, heavy-hearted, back to the room's interior and her
glance fell on the clock. It recorded two-forty. She wondered when
Edwardes would return. She had spent the day in his office because she
knew that when he came in, as he had done several times, only to hasten
out again, he found in her forced smile renewal of strength for his
combat, which enabled him to go out smiling through the drawn agony of
his harassment.

The hateful ticker drew her back with its light clatter. Perhaps at last
it had good tidings to offer. Unless it brought them soon it would bring
them too late--like a reprieve after execution. She took the narrow
thread of paper in her hand and glanced at its latest entries. As she
watched the small type wheel revolve and stamp, it broke upon her that
the inanimate herald was spelling out, letter by letter, a familiar
name.

"E-D-W-A-R-D-E-S A-N-D E-D-W-A-R-D-E-S."

With a smothered shriek Mary Burton dropped the tape as though it had
scorched her fingers. She groped her way half-blindly to the chair by
Jefferson's desk, and, sinking into it, buried her face in her crossed
arms. She could not have shed a tear or uttered a word. She was
paralyzed in an icy terror. That was how all these other announcements
had begun: With the name of the failing firm. After what seemed a decade
she drew herself up and sat erect and white, trembling from her throat
to her feet. She forced her agonized features into a semblance of
artificial calm. Suppose he should return to her now, defeated, ruined,
crushed, and open his door on that picture of despair and surrender!

The clock said two-fifty-five. So she had been sitting here ten minutes!
Grasping the arms of her chair and bracing herself, she rose with a
labored effort and went resolutely back to the ticker where, as one
draws aside a veil which may reveal tragedy, she picked up the tape
again. She saw no name this time, and suddenly it occurred to her that
the monstrous thing had passed callously on to other news--as though
there were other news!

She dragged it out of its twisted coils in the basket and read in cold,
unpunctuated capitals, EDWARDES AND EDWARDES FAIL TO MEET OBLIGATIONS.

The girl reeled and leaned limply against the wall, and, as she stood
there overpowered and dizzy, a low incoherent moan came up from her
throat. Then as she mechanically held the tenuous death-warrant in her
pulseless fingers, her eyes fell on an item just finished.

MARKET TAKES TURN BURTON BROKERS BIDDING UP.

A comprehension came to her and her brain reeled in fury and torture.
Now that his end was accomplished, the Great Bear had turned bull. He
would sell back on the rise what he had slaughtered on the fall, and
when tomorrow's reaction came with its roster of deluded misery he would
harvest vast profits on his massacre.

She heard a sound beyond the ground glass as though a hand groped before
its fingers found and closed upon the knob. Then slowly the door swung
inward, and Jefferson Edwardes entered. His overcoat hung over one arm,
and, as Mary saw his face, her hands clutched at her heart, but he did
not seem to see her--or to see anything. With a most careful
deliberation the ruined man closed the door silently behind him. He did
it as though he were entering a sick room where he must guard against
disturbing the patient with the slightest sound. Then he took a step or
two forward and halted to stand gazing straight ahead of him, while with
the sleeve of one arm he brushed at his forehead and moistened his lips
with the tip of his tongue.

Mary wondered for an agonized instant whether the cord of his sanity had
snapped under the day's terrific ordeal, and she stood there still
leaning limp and pallid and wide-eyed against the wall, holding before
her the tape that had told her the story--and not realizing that she
held it. Then the man awoke from his sleep-walker's vacancy and realized
her presence. At the sight of her despairing eyes and inert figure
resting for support against the mahogany panels, his expression altered.
His eyes woke to life and, again moistening his lips, he forced the
ghost of a smile which at first succeeded only in being ghastly.

"So you know?" he questioned.

Mary Burton did not reply in words. She could not, but she nodded her
head and something between a groan and a sob came from her parted lips.
Then her voice returned and she murmured in heart-broken
self-accusation: "It was because of me."

He stood shaking himself as a dog shakes off water. His drooped
shoulders came back with an abrupt snap and his head threw itself up and
his chest out. With a swift stride he had reached her and folded her
into his embrace. For once the regal confidence had left her and the
courage was dead in her heart. She lay in his arms a dead weight, which,
but for his supporting strength, would have crumbled to a limp mass on
the floor. But as he held her, fresh bravery flooded his arteries and
his voice came clear and untainted of weakness:

"We still have each other," he told her passionately. "You once asked me
whether, if you were penniless, I should still want you. Today I am
penniless and owe millions--do you still want me?"

Her arms clung to him more closely and the eyes that gazed into his
revealed, as they had on that first night, all that was in her soul.
Once more she answered him with a question: "Look at me--do I want you?"

He swept her from her feet and carried her to a chair, where he put her
gently down, then he knelt by her side with her hands clasped
convulsively in his own. For a moment it is doubtful whether he realized
anything save her presence. His voice was the voice of the man who had
met her by the mountain road, of the man who had come to her in the
darkness at Haverly Lodge and claimed her without preamble.

"The mountains still stand--and there are cottages there where even a
very poor man may find shelter. I would rather have it, with you, than
to own Manhattan Island without you."

There was a knock at the door of the private office, and Edwardes,
rising from his knees, went to receive the message. He came back very
gravely.

"I have to face an unpleasant interview, dearest," he said. "One of
those bankers who were crushed as incidents to my ruin--who was guilty
only of standing in your brother's path, is here. I'm told that he is
half-mad, and I must do what I can." He opened a door into a small
conference-room. "Will you wait for me--there?"

With his arm around her he led her across the threshold, and then,
closing that door, he came back and opened the other.

The man who half-stepped, half-stumbled in staggered to the desk chair
and dropped into it to raise a face in which the eyes burned wildly. The
whole figure shook in an ague of unnerved excitement. He spread two
trembling hands and tragically announced, "I'm ruined."

Edwardes nodded gravely. "You need a physician, Fairley. You're
unstrung," he suggested. "Perhaps a drop of brandy would help. I think I
have some here."

"No!" the reply was violent, and the President of the Metallic National
shook his head with the uncontrolled air of a man who is close to the
border of insanity. "No, by God, I'm past physicians. What I need next
is an undertaker." He dropped his head to the desk and broke into a
crazed storm of weak sobs.

"There is no profit in wild talk," his host reminded him. "I'm ruined,
too. We must make a fresh start."

"Fresh start, hell!" The words rang queerly through the accompaniment of
a bitter laugh. "Hamilton Burton took me and squeezed me dry. He put the
thumbscrews on me and bled me of my Coal and Ore stock. He made me a
traitor to Malone and today when Malone might have saved me I had no
friends. Then because you sought to befriend me, Burton turned on me and
ruined me. My family will be in the streets. Now--" the voice rose into
a high treble of frenzy which penetrated to the room where Mary Burton
waited--"I'm going to kill Hamilton Burton first and myself next."

With the wild threat the banker rose unsteadily and his palsied hand
went into his overcoat pocket, to come out clutching a magazine pistol
which he brandished before him.

Edwardes' first thought was to seize the wrist, but the breadth of the
table intervened and he knew that he was dealing with a man of
temporarily dethroned reason. So he held the wild and shifting gaze, as
well as he could, with the cool steadiness of his own eyes and spoke in
a measured, soothing voice:

"I shouldn't do that, Fairley. In the first place you don't know where
to find him. Your effort would probably fail and you would only be
locked up before you accomplished either purpose."

The noise of the outer offices had drowned the visitor's excited tones
among the employees, but to Mary Burton, standing anxiously in the
conference-room, all the words were intelligible.

Fairley leaned across the table, and for an instant left the weapon
unguarded. With a movement of cat-like swiftness Edwardes seized it, but
a wild snarl of rage burst from the other's lips and his fingers closed
vise-like over Jefferson's hand.

"No--by God--you don't!" he screamed.

Mary Burton threw open the door, and saw the two figures bent across
the table with four hands desperately gripped while between them glinted
the blued metal of the pistol, which the frustrated Fairley was striving
to turn upon his own breast and Edwardes struggled to divert.

Before she could give outcry or reach them, there came an out-spitting
of fire from the ugly muzzle and a report which the confined space
magnified to a sullen roar. Edwardes lurched suddenly forward and
remained motionless with his face down and his arms outspread upon the
desk, while a tiny red puddle spread on the mahogany.

Fairley had leaped back and cowered, suddenly sobered, against the wall
as the outer door opened and figures poured into the room.



CHAPTER XXIV


After the low scream that came moaningly up from her breast, which was
drowned in the echoes of the report, Mary Burton made no outcry. She no
longer leaned limp and nerveless against the support of the doorway.
Something had seemed to snap the cords of her paralysis and out of her
blanched face her eyes stared wide and piteous. As the older banker
staggered back she was quick to reach the motionless figure and to lift
its head to her breast. Yet she did not really have to look, something
fateful and unquestionable told her from the first instant that no human
aid could avail--and that he would not speak again or move a muscle in
life. His employees found her supporting the weight of his shoulders
against her bosom and seeking to staunch with her handkerchief the flow
of blood from the temple.

In one trivial respect the cruelties of her day of cumulative tragedy
were abated. The steel-nosed bullet, even at that close range, had cut
clean and spared his face, save for the trickle of red and the smirch of
powder burn--such defacement as she could not have endured. The eyes,
not yet glazed, gazed out with their accustomed resolute calm and the
lips were firm, a little grim with the purpose of thwarting another's
death, but it was still, though lifeless, a face without surrender.

The girl bent low, whispering into the ear which could not hear her,
and then she raised her eyes, still holding his head against her
shoulder, to see the little circle of stunned faces, and hear Fairley's
voice announcing in broken syllables, but very quietly, "I
was--attempting suicide--and he grappled with me."

She knew even while she awaited the physicians that no spark of life
remained and that this was the last time her arms would ever be closed
around him in life or death, and as she stood there, for the time upheld
by a strength beyond her ordinary physical powers, strange
inconsequential little fragments of talk, things he had said to her and
she to him, were repeating themselves in her memory, and the exact
inflections of his voice were renewing themselves in her ears.

Then as two physicians hurried in, closely heeled by two policemen, she
surrendered her beloved burden to stronger hands, and, as she moved back
with still no trace of tears in her wide eyes, the whole picture
darkened and out of muscle and nerve and brain-cell went every vestige
of autonomy and consciousness. They caught her as she fell and laid her
on a broad upholstered window seat. When her eyes next opened hot pains
were scorching her temples and her gaze turned instinctively toward the
desk. It was empty of its human burden, and, save for the clerk who had
that morning received her in the outer room and a physician, the private
office was empty, too.

Following the hungry question of her mismated eyes, the doctor gravely
nodded his head.

"It was instantaneous and painless," he said. Then he added, "We have
sent for your brother. He was not in his office, but--"

With the startling ferocity of an aroused tigress, Mary strove to rise
and make her way to the door, but the physician restrained her. "Not
yet," he gently commanded. "You are hardly ready for exertion;" and even
before he had finished speaking her knees gave way and she sank back.

"My brother!" she whispered, and her eyes burned feverishly. "It will
kill me to see him. I shall try to murder him--I--"

She was interrupted by the noiseless opening of the door, and Hamilton
Burton stood across the threshold of the enemy whose life he had that
day broken.

He was no longer the Napoleonic Burton. For the instant he was stunned
and pale. It was breaking on him that the price of conquest may be
excessive. Even before this staggering news had reached him he had seen
the headlines of the extras, had read his name coupled with the open and
bitter denunciation of public hate.

At his shoulder stood young Carl Bristoll, as pallid as a specter. But
the brother came swiftly over, dropped to his knees by the girl's side.
At sight of her stricken face all the tenderness of family love leaped
into a freshly blazing power in his heart until for the time it burned
out the remembrance of every other thing. He thrust out his arms and
said in a shaken voice, "Little sister, little sister!"

But with a cry as though for protection from the touch of something
unspeakably foul, she threw both arms across her face and turned,
shuddering, from his touch.

"Doctor," she besought in a voice of supreme loathing, "in God's name
protect me from this murderer!"

She struggled to her feet and stood with her back to the wall, her
breast heaving and her pupils blazing out of the death-like pallor of a
drawn face. Her hands lay flat against the wainscoting with spread
fingers that convulsively twitched as if she were seeking to press back
the solid partition and escape that way.

"Listen to me, or you will break my heart," pleaded Hamilton tensely. "I
thought it was a curable infatuation. If I had known you cared so
much--"

"Break your heart! I wish to God I could, but you have no heart," she
screamed, and she swayed to the side until, had the doctor not supported
her shoulder, she would have fallen, but her words poured on in a fierce
torrent. "You have broken my heart, and you have killed him. You knew
how much I cared. You are a monster, but not an idiot. You have
sacrificed a country to your one unspeakable Moloch of a god--I hope
you--and your god--are satisfied."

For an instant some echo of the old dominance flickered into the man's
face. "Edwardes fought and defied me," he said. "I punished--" But his
sister interrupted with a wrath which nothing could stem:

"You have overreached yourself--you, too, will go down in this carnage.
I shall pray God that you do--my God who is over your god; my God and
his." Her voice became calmer, but her phrases were broken by gasping
pauses. She spoke as though her God had commanded her to read this
bitter indictment against her brother.

"Because he shrined his honor above your insatiable greed you undertook
to doom him. You have written a page ... into history ... a page full of
horror ... you have made criminals of honest men ... and suicides of
brave ones. Now in the trail of your incendiary malice you cast his
life--" her voice fell in a tortured sob--"the life ... he so bravely
fought for there in the hills ... and after it you toss my heart."

The financier moved a step forward and his lips opened, but the doctor
laid a hand on his arm. "You must leave her, sir," he said quietly, but
finally. "She is in no condition to stand more of this."

"How can I leave her like this?" remonstrated Hamilton and once more the
physician raised his hand. "In such a case the doctor must be
obeyed--unless--" his own voice hardened--"you are anxious to add even
worse results to today's work."

Hamilton Burton turned. "Do what you can," he said. "I will send Paul."
So he left the place, passing between the employees of the bankrupt firm
of Edwardes and Edwardes in the anterooms.

At his elbow followed young Bristoll, but when they had reached the
ground floor the secretary halted his chief with an impetuous touch on
the arm.

"It's no use, sir--we separate here," he said passionately. "I must give
you my resignation, at once."

At another time such an announcement would have been greeted by this
imperious master with swift acceptance and quiet irony. This day he had
smitten his enemies and they had withered before his power. Results had
differed in no respect from the outlines of his preparations and yet so
poignantly personal had been the recoil that he found himself, when his
brain needed its most alert resourcefulness, inwardly admitting a new
and strange sense of uncertainty--almost of uneasiness.

Once before for a weak moment he had felt that flagging of
confidence--when Mary had left his house, but he had swiftly conquered
it. He would as summarily conquer its repetition. His nerves were not
such uncontrolled agents as to be shaken by the wild folly and accidents
that grew out of weaker natures. All battlefields leave black scars and
pictures which are not pretty pictures. To pause and surrender to
brooding over these details is to clip one's wings and dull one's
talons. He forced a smile.

"As you please, Carl," he said. "Though I had made the mistake of
counting on your loyalty as dependable."

The young man answered with an effort.

"It's a hard thing to do. I haven't just worked for the salary. I have
made a hero of you, and been very proud of even my small part in your
career. It was as though I were a staff officer to a Man of Destiny."

"And now," the voice was bitingly satirical, "finding that the Man of
Destiny can't always fight with confetti and the blowing of kisses, you
grow faint-hearted."

"Put it as you like, Mr. Burton.... All I know is that, after today, I
should no longer feel proud.... I should feel like an accomplice in
crime."

Hamilton Burton laughed. It was a short and not a pleasant laugh.

"Please yourself. To me no man is indispensable. Good-night."

Mary did not wait for Paul. As she drove up-town with the physician, she
had in her ears the shouts of newsboys heralding the death of Jefferson
Edwardes--and other deaths.

When she was in her own bed they mercifully gave her something which
smoothed her brain into the black velvet softness of sleep. The future
must tell whether her body and mind could ever be brought back to the
harbor of health.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hamilton Burton's lights burned late that night in his office, and up to
them many baleful glances turned from the sidewalks below. The financier
told himself that he was the same man that he had been, safeguarded by
his star; but as he worked he found himself instinctively turning to the
chair where Carl Bristoll should be and where now sat a more inept
subordinate. Each such moment brought its tiny stab at his pride and
self-assurance, and the brain which he must concentrate kept straying to
the disquieting vision of a grief-maddened girl leaning against the
wall, with her fingers twitching in little groping gestures as her lips
rained accusation. Today he had made a panic, but between the opening
and closing peals of tomorrow's gong each hour must be filled with the
most exact and brilliant maneuverings.

All day today he had borne down the market on a scale unprecedented. All
day tomorrow he must be in a position to reap the harvest he had
sown--else he might find himself the victim of a trap which he had
prepared, at a mighty cost, for others. No one knew so well as he how
even his colossal strength had been strained with the titanic effort of
pushing apart the masonry of the temple's pillars.

He had no doubts of the morrow, but these troubling remembrances came
blurringly across the crystal of his brain.

Abruptly he took up his telephone and rang his house number. "Yamuro,"
he said when he heard the sibilant, quaintly distorted voice of the
Japanese from the other end, "ask Mr. Paul to wait for me there until I
come in." Paul's music should soothe him.

"'Scuse, please," came the apologetic reply. "Mr. Paul, she no here.
When she come, Yamuro tell. Thanks."

It was late when the financier left his car at his own door and demanded
of Harrow, "Where is my brother?"

"In the music-room, I think, sir." Hamilton thought he detected in the
butler's voice a note of anxiety and for a moment he glanced with a keen
scrutiny into the servitor's eyes, and the eyes dropped under his gaze.

"Very well, I sha'n't need you again tonight." The Titan turned and
climbed the stairs.

The lights of the music-room were burning brilliantly and on a table
stood siphons and bottles and glasses. At the door Hamilton paused and
glanced uneasily about, then he saw Paul, and smiled. Weary with his
vigil Paul, the affectionate and faithful, had evidently fallen asleep
in his chair. Hamilton crossed and laid a hand on his brother's
shoulder. Then as quickly he withdrew it. Something unaccustomed in the
younger man's appearance arrested him and he stood gazing down.

The musician sprawled in an attitude of demoralized inertia and over his
cameo face the dark hair hung disordered. His hands fell grotesquely and
his closed eyes were puffed. Hamilton bent down and with a low oath
studied his brother. His sleep was no natural napping. It was a drunken
stupor proclaiming itself in a stertorous and uneasy breathing.

Angrily Hamilton shook the sagging shoulders until the sleeper's lids
opened heavily and the lips voiced some incoherent thing. Then Paul
attempted to turn his face away and go to sleep again.

"So," exclaimed the elder as he dragged his brother to his feet and
restored him to a semblance of consciousness, "so this is the way you
waited for me?"

Paul blinked owlishly through the stupidity of his condition, and upon
his delicate features the unaccustomed and swollen flush dwelt in a
disfiguring blot. He shook his head and informed thickly, "Jefferson
Edwardes's dead."

"I know that--and you're drunk."

The musician stupidly nodded his assent to so incontrovertible a
statement and as he gradually awoke to a fuller realization, he rose and
made his way unsteadily to the piano. But his fingers were stiff and
unresponsive, and after a brief effort he gave that up.

Once more he looked up and an expression of deep terror spread over his
face. Tears welled into his eyes and he wept for awhile in silence as
Hamilton looked on.

"Jeff'son Edwardes's dead," he reiterated with parrot-like singleness of
idea. "Mary's heart's broke.... I'm drunk." One hand waved broadly in an
oratorical gesture. After a moment he added in solemn afterthought,
"Father's drunk, too."

Hamilton ground his teeth. "I suppose," he said bitterly, "you regard
the first two facts as justification for the others."

Paul rose and through his condition something of his more normal self
asserted itself. He laid his hands on his brother's shoulders.
"Hamilton, I think my heart's broke, too. Mary's a sweet girl. I haven't
slept f'r a long, long time--been worrying--an' tonight I--"

"Never mind explaining." Out of the elder brother's voice the wrath had
died. "That won't help now. Come, I'll put you to bed."

As he turned away from Paul's bedroom a half-hour later the face of
Hamilton Burton was not the face of the conqueror. In his own room he
went to a window and looked out. He saw a star and some fancy identified
it as the same star that had caught his eye that night when he came back
to the farm-house and found his father ill. Once more it was not in the
east riding toward the upper heavens, but in the west, setting beyond
the Palisades of Jersey--soon to drop from view.

For a breathing-space Hamilton Burton felt faint and uncertain, as one
may feel in a dream which is half-wakefulness.

Then he was conscious of his own voice speaking half-aloud:

"Slivers Martin paid me ten for 'em an' I got 'em for seven--an' he had
to go after 'em."

The words had come involuntarily--as from another personality speaking
with his tongue, and they startled him. With a fiercely impatient
gesture he brushed his hand across his forehead and picked up from a
table a new appreciation of the life and campaigns of Napoleon
Bonaparte.

Yamuro slipped in with his cushioned tread and stood awaiting orders,
and after a while the master whose attention refused to remain fixed
even on Napoleon glanced up.

"You may go, Yamuro," he said in a wearied voice, but the Japanese valet
did not go. Instead he approached and his face grew anxious as he noted
the confused and fatigued droop of his master's eyes and lips.

"'Scuse, please," he hazarded as his white teeth flashed in an
apologetic grin. "You tired. You go down gymnasium--take ex'cise--one
half-hour. Yes, one half-hour and me rub you Japanese way; make you
sleep--yes, please."

Hamilton Burton raised his head slowly. "Perhaps," he acceded in a dull
voice, "that mightn't be a bad idea. I do feel a bit fagged--for some
reason--and I need to be fit tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a decisive day."

So with the narrow-eyed little servitor in whose breast beat a heart of
unquestioning loyalty, the untriumphant victor went down into the
basement of his house, where between marble slabs and porphyry columns
he had equipped a small gymnasium finished with the magnificence of a
Roman bath.

Beyond an arched portal was another room where the basin of a
swimming-pool spread cool and inviting between mosaic floors.

Here each morning Hamilton plunged into the icy water and came out with
a splendid vitality glowing on his firm flesh. But at night he used only
the warm shower and when they came into the gymnasium they did not touch
the switch which lighted the pool.

Then Hamilton Burton stripped and attacked the punching bag until his
muscles glistened and shone as if they had been freshly oiled. Yamuro
stood looking on with sparkling eyes. Hamilton Burton stripped and in
action would have brought a glow of delight to the face of those
Hellenic masters of training who saw in the human body the most sacred
temple of the human soul, and paid tribute to physical perfection. The
flow and ripple of these strong, justly modeled sinews were like the
play of steel under satin and their smoothness was as rhythmic and full
of power as some young gladiator's, who might have stirred the
appreciation of Phidias or Praxiteles. When at last he had burned his
mental restlessness into physical weariness, Burton halted and stood
with his shoulders thrown back and his head erect, the breathing of
chest and abdomen as regular and deep as the sequence of waves at flood
tide. Yamuro went out into still another room for the accessories of his
Japanese art of muscle-kneading, and Hamilton turned idly toward the
darkened swimming pool. He strolled over to the edge of the marble basin
and walked out on the spring-board. It was all very dark in here, but
his feet were familiar with every foot of space.

"I might as well cap it with a plunge," he told himself, and, lifting
his hands above his head, launched outward in a graceful arc.

Yamuro came back a moment later and looked about the empty gymnasium.
His face suddenly went pale. "Mr. Burton--please!" he screamed, and in
his excitement his voice was more than ordinarily sibilant. Then he
turned on the pool light and rushed frantically back. It had not
occurred to him to warn his chief that that afternoon the basin had been
emptied and repaired, and that below the diving-board were only six
inches of water--just enough to give back, in semi-darkness, a liquid
reflection, and, beneath that, solid slabs of marble.

Yamuro peered over the edge and a deep groan broke from him. At the
bottom lay the figure of Hamilton Burton, with its head bent to one
side. It lay very still, and the water was slowly coloring from a wound
in the scalp.



CHAPTER XXV


Hamilton Burton had always denied with scorn the existence of blind luck
as an element in human greatness or failure. Now if he had leaped
head-foremost into an empty swimming pool, at the exact moment when he
stood midway of an enterprise which should crown him as omnipotent--or
ruin him, perhaps it was a thing beyond coincidence. Yesterday he had
aligned colossal forces for today's conflict--and taken his toll of
vengeance. Today he must turn to profit the chaos he had wrought to that
end through plans known only to himself--and today he lay with a
fractured skull, sleeping the sleep of unconsciousness.

Today every hand in the world of finance was turned against him with the
desperation of a struggle for survival--save those of his own
lieutenants who were leaderless. All the way down the line from the
Department of Justice to the small sufferers of the provinces a slogan
of war without quarter sounded against the most hated man in America.
That such would be the case he had known yesterday, but he also knew--or
thought he did--that his directing hand would still be on the tiller and
his uncannily shrewd brain would be puzzling, bewildering and deluding
his enemies into unwittingly serving his ends.

From the morning papers the secret of his accident had been successfully
withheld. So the press of the country sounded forth a united
thunder-peal of stinging and bitter anathema, pillorying Hamilton M.
Burton as the most menacing of all public enemies and an ogre who had in
a single day fattened his already superlative wealth on the sufferings,
the starvation and the lives of his victims. Editorial pages from Park
row to a thousand main streets, double-leaded and double-columned their
clamorous demand that such a plunderer should be nailed to the cross of
punishment. Burton-phobia was epidemic. At first the physicians who
gathered in his darkened room would not commit themselves to any promise
of recovery. The skull was fractured. Ahead lay a long illness at
best--after that--but here they left off words and resorted to a
non-committal shrugging of frock-coated shoulders.

"Do you mean," Elizabeth Burton put the question with trembling lips and
chalk-white cheeks, "that perhaps--even if he gets physically well--"
She, too, broke off.

"Frankness is best," responded the family physician, who feeling the
most personal responsibility, assumed the hard rôle of spokesman.
"Sometimes in cases of this sort the brain is left--with a permanent
scar upon its efficiency."

The mother groaned. At her own house lay a daughter in that collapse
which had followed the overtaxed courage of the first shock. Here lay
Hamilton, her oldest; her Napoleonic boy for whose condign punishment a
nation's voice cried out. To her they were simply her children, equally
dear.

Only one child was left her in his proper condition of mind and body.
He, because of his sensitive, almost clairvoyant nature, had always been
very close to her. Now she turned to Paul, and Paul, although his heart
was shaken with terror and distress, rose for the time beyond his
weakness and was almost a man as he sought to brace his mother's need.

From her first interview with the doctors she went to the music-room
and, pausing on the threshold, heard him at the piano. He was singing
very low.

    "If I were hanged to the highest tree--Mother o' mine, Mother o' mine,
    I know whose prayers would come up to me--Mother o' mine."

She went in and Paul took her in his arms and helped her to a chair.
Then as he had used to do when a little boy he knelt down, gazing into
her face while she talked, and she reached out a hand which was much
thinner since her own late illness and ran it through the dark hair over
his white forehead. For a merciful little moment it seemed to this
grief-stricken woman that she was no longer white-haired and beautifully
gowned. In her fancy the fingers with their wealth of rings were again
red with the drudgery of the washtub and the head she caressed was the
head of a little boy, who, because he was delicate and shrinking, found
a greater delight here at her knee than in the rougher companionship of
playmates. Paul spoke softly.

"Ham"--it had been a long time since he had used that abbreviated name.
Perhaps he, too, had slipped back into the past--"Ham will get well--and
work more miracles, mother. He won't surrender even to death. His
spirit, and his star, will bring him through."

"I almost wish," her words were faint, "he had never had a star. I wish
that we were all back there, close to the strength of the hills and the
graves of our dead."

In these days Paul was very constantly with his mother, and by a
thousand little attentions made himself indispensable to her.

It was a small thing, but costly to his feelings, since, for every one
of these moments redolent of suffering and sadness, his own soul fiber,
delicate and thin as a silk thread, must afterward pay in the reaction
of a deep depression. To him echoes meant more than positive sounds, and
the tears in his mother's voice, the unshed tears in her eyes, brought
him a suffering so intense and genuine that when he went out the thought
of returning to either of the stricken houses where she needed him was
like returning to a jail. Then, too, there was the unexpressed fear
which gnawed incessantly at his heart, that, in spite of his belief in
Hamilton, business disaster might lie ahead. He wrote less often and
with more effort to Loraine Haswell--and thought longingly of Marcia
Terroll, who had forbidden him to see her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such a pregnant item of news as Hamilton Burton's accident could not
long be kept from the Street and the public. On the morning following
the occurrence it burst into print--and for a time the chorus of
invective was silenced.

But the hands that had been raised to pull him down could not be stayed.
He himself had never halted when the Gods of Chance had tossed into his
lap a mighty advantage. At the first announcement that "Ursus Major" lay
ill, perhaps mortally hurt, the trampled prices of securities began to
revive like dusty blossoms under a shower. Day long came damp extras
from the press heralding a bull day almost as wild and swift in its
price recovery as yesterday's bear day had been terrific in its
avalanche.

From post to post the deep voice of Len Haswell and other Burton
lieutenants thundered in an effort to stem the altered tide--but they
were generals of brigade without their field marshal, guessing blindly
at a plan which had not been revealed by the master-tactician. Into the
eyes of Jack Staples stole a glitter of premonitory triumph as he met
them and beat them back. Burton millions were melting like hailstones
falling on hot metal, and when the session ended Len Haswell turned away
with an empty face. For two days he had almost forgotten, in his
battle-lust, his own heart-ache. Now it was over and because he had
followed Hamilton Burton with his own small fortunes as a camp-follower
trails an army corps, he knew that he was wiped out and ruined. Hamilton
might lose many millions, and "come back," but he and many like him were
irretrievably done for.

One day when Hamilton had been ill for a week and had not yet emerged
from the distorted land of delirium, Tom Burton strolled, as immaculate
and well groomed as ever, into the National Union Club, and looked about
for a bridge quorum of his cronies. The doctors held out hope and the
father sought relaxation from anxiety. His face was flushed, for old
Thomas Burton, too, had felt sorely the strain of these days, and had
sought his own means of dulling apprehension's edge. His brain was not
versatile in such matters.

General Penfrit occupied his customary chair by a Fifth-avenue window,
and the newcomer smiled with pleasure to find him there. General Penfrit
shared many interests with him, and was willing to share as many more,
so long as Thomas Burton's bridge game continued to be of the
contributory type.

Burton strolled over, swinging his stick, and nodded with a bland smile,
but to his dismay the general glanced up and acknowledged the greeting
without warmth. Perhaps his old friend was not feeling well today.

"I was wondering," suggested Burton, "whether we couldn't arrange a
little rubber." He caught the eye of a waiter at the same moment and
beckoned. "What will yours be, general?" he genially inquired.

"I don't believe I care to play." The voice was chilling at the start
and became more icy with each added syllable, "and I won't have anything
to drink."

Tom Burton stood looking down somewhat blankly.

"Nothing to drink?" he repeated in a perfectly warrantable astonishment.
His ears must have tricked him.

The general rose stiffly. "With you--no," he spoke curtly, and took
himself away with a waddle of studied dignity. For a full minute
Hamilton Burton's father gazed vacantly out at the avenue, then he
turned on his heel. Henry O'Horrissy was just entering the door and with
him were two other members of a little group which had lunched and
chatted and played bridge inseparably for several years. Each knew all
the others' anecdotes and could laugh at the proper moments. They formed
one of those small cliques of intimates into which this club resolved
itself, and Tom Burton was of their valued brotherhood.

"Good-afternoon, gentlemen," accosted Burton. "How are you all today?"

With three silent nods the trio at the door turned and drifted aimlessly
across to the billiard-room.

Tom Burton went and sat alone by a window. Slowly a brick-like flush
spread and deepened on his full face. This club life had become very
important to him--even indispensable. There was nothing with which to
replace it. He wheeled his chair so that he might be plainly seen from
the door, and as man after man came in, with whom he had spent his time
and his son's money, men who had been pleased to court the father of the
great Hamilton Montagu Burton, he genially accosted them--and one after
another they returned greetings of frigid formality.

Then he turned his chair with its back to the room and looked out and
the stubborn pride died in his eyes and his face grew old and pathetic.
There was no further room for doubt. He was tasting ostracism and being
included in this wave of hatred for his son, which he had regarded as
newspaper rubbish. He leaned forward with his gloved hands on his cane
and once or twice under his fastidiously trimmed beard, his lips
twitched painfully. Finally he rose, ordering his next cocktail over a
hotel bar, and though the stubbornness of pride forced him back on the
morrow to lunch at his accustomed club table, he lunched alone, and was
grateful for the solicitous courtesy of the negro who served him.

       *       *       *       *       *

One afternoon Paul made his way down Fifth avenue on foot.

The sky was unbelievably blue and a flashing brilliancy sparkled in all
the splinters of color that embroidered themselves along the parquetry
of the street. The avenue has, at times, a magic of its own and today it
was a swiftly flowing stream of brilliancy and life and laughter. But
this was a mood to which Paul Burton found no response. His heart was
attuned to echoes of a more somber tone--and he was bound on a mission
which was, for him, a bold one. He was disobeying orders which until now
he had not ventured to disobey. Marcia Terroll had banished him from her
presence. Since that day in her apartment he had seen less of her than
before and for many weeks now nothing at all. Marcia, unlike Loraine
Haswell, recognized that they could not meet without dangerous drifting,
and that such drifting could end only in disaster, so at last she had
forbidden his visiting her even occasionally and to all his arguments
she had steadfastly shaken her head with gentle obduracy.

For a time they had met as they might have met had the interview in her
apartment on the drizzly afternoon never occurred. She had torn that
page out of their chronicles of acquaintanceship, and assumed that it
had never been included. Her wit had sparkled for him and her individual
charm had blossomed as though her life had never known a season other
than spring and blossom-time. Sometimes he found himself wondering if
that afternoon had been actual.

He discovered himself using quaint phrases of her invention as part of
his own conversational equipment, and often he found himself applauded
for some flash of repartee which he knew was only a quotation from her.
But also he found himself incapable of that continuous self-restraint
which she required of him under their agreement of a future basis. He
had his moments when he could no more avoid feeling and acting and
declaring himself her lover than he could avoid later regretting them,
and, for this inability, he had been exiled.

"To you," she told him, "it means a minor thing--but it's not minor to
me. I have had unhappiness enough without risking more. We must not see
or write to each other." Paul knew nothing of what this decision cost
her or of the many letters she had written to him--and destroyed
unmailed.

Now he was utterly miserable and his heart was aching for companionship
outside the two houses where the mildew of misery tainted even the
sunshine that came through the windows. He craved the cheer and strength
of a heart braver than his own, and in defiance of her orders he was
going to see the woman in whose presence he should find these things;
the woman whom he had not seen for months.



CHAPTER XXVI


As he reached Washington square it seemed that the quiet of the section
held a sort of benediction, and such peace as hangs between old walls,
where the fever of stress has passed and left in its wake a philosophy
and a contentment.

But when he came to the house where he had visited her, he was told that
she no longer lived there. With a sudden pang it occurred to him that
once more she might have moved a step down the economic scale toward the
furnished room in one of those dingy lodging-houses which she had
dreaded; places where the heart sickens at the forlornness of its
environment.

He inquired for the girl with whom Marcia had shared the little
apartment, and to his relief learned that she still had her abode here
and would receive him. As he opened the door, Dorothy Melliss was
bending over her drawing-board by a north window, rushing through some
fashion illustrations which must be delivered on the morrow. She greeted
Paul with a nod and went on with her work, while he explained his
mission.

Dorothy was a wholesome young person of clear complexion and
straightforward eyes and she spoke with an independence of manner
amounting to slanginess. She was one of those girls whom an unaided life
in the city fosters. She could take care of herself--and did--but she
knew life and looked it in the face--and dispensed with anything like a
baby stare in doing so. Now she listened to Paul's talk, then suddenly
shoved back her India-ink bottle and wiped her pen, while her pupils
met his with directness.

"Before I answer any of your questions, Mr. Burton, I've got a few to
ask you myself," she announced. "I might as well talk straight from the
shoulder. Just how anxious you are to see Marcia isn't going to make
such a great difference in my young life. Whether or not she wants you
to find her--does make a great deal of difference."

"What do you mean, Miss Melliss?" Paul was genuinely puzzled.

"I mean that of course I know her address--or addresses--because they
change every day. I also know that she gave me the most explicit orders
not to tell you where she could be found."

"Oh!" he exclaimed in disappointment, relinquishing his inquiry at the
first obstacle. "Then I suppose I may as well go."

"Hold on," she commanded tersely. "I'm Marcia Terroll's friend. I think
I'm enough her friend to decide for myself whether I can help her most
by obeying or disobeying her. Sit down for five minutes and listen to
me. I feel like talking."

He obeyed, and the young woman's face flushed with her interest as she
took a chair near him and lighted a cigarette. After that she sat for a
few moments reflectively silent.

"I guess there isn't so much similarity between Marcia and me, but
there's one thing--and it's a bond of kinship in a way." She looked at
him unwaveringly. "We've both been on our own for some time in a town
where there are more Don Juans than Walter Raleighs--and we're both
straight. To the women of _your_ protected set that wouldn't be so much
to brag of--about as much as for a millionaire to boast that he'd never
picked a pocket. None of those sheltered girls in your own world, where
women nibble at life like bon-bons, have anything on Marcia Terroll. In
brain and character and charm she has it over those female noncombatants
like a tent."

"I know all that, Miss Melliss." His reply was vaguely apologetic.

"Maybe you do, but I'm not through yet. She was cut to a delicate
pattern and meant for life's sunshine and God knows she's had plenty of
shadow. She's kept a smile on her lips and a laugh in her eyes through
things that would have crumpled up lots of those tender creatures you
know. You don't guess what it means to that sort of woman--well, to see
life from the angle we get on it, but Marcia knows. You came along and
she--" The young woman broke off in sudden silence.

"She what?" Anxiety sounded through his question.

"Oh, she never told me anything. It's not her fashion to tell such
things, but I have a pair of eyes myself. I figure that Marcia let
herself in for a danger she thought she had put behind her. She allowed
herself to have a dream." She paused and her gaze was almost accusing in
its directness. "From the look in her eyes before she went away I guess
she realized that it was a dream."

Miss Melliss had eyes of a brown softness, but just now they flashed
hard as agate and her voice rose to a scornful indignation.

"As if we haven't enough to handle with the facts of Life, without
hopeless dreams! I'm no anarchist railing at wealth and luxury ... but
you men that want everything ... and give nothing--" She broke off and
abruptly demanded, "Well, when you think about it, what do you call it
to yourselves?"

"Where is she?" demanded Paul.

"She's out with a dinky, barnstorming company, playing one-night
stands--on a route of tank-towns and whistling stations. It was all she
could get. She's making early-morning jumps between shabby hotels with a
bunch of cheap actors and cheaper actresses that are just about as
congenial to her as a herd of goats." The voice vibrated with sincere
feeling.

"Are you going to tell me where I can find her?"

The girl studied her cigarette, drew a puff upon it and exhaled a cloud
of smoke before she answered. Then she spoke reflectively.

"I'm just wondering whether I am or not. If you're going to follow her
up and make her dream again--only to wake up again, I certainly am not.
If you're going to be any comfort to her I am, because God knows she
needs some comfort. She is only going on her nerve."

"Please tell me," he urged very persuasively. At that moment it was in
his mind to write a truthful letter to Loraine Haswell and go to Marcia
with a proposal of marriage. He felt only his need of her--and her
importance to himself. He failed to reckon on the thousand misgivings
and indecisions which would assail him between the moment of impulse and
that of execution. But his eyes were sincere and Dorothy believed them.
She went to her desk and brought back a sheet of paper.

"That's the route for this week--and next," she said. "After that you
must either find out for yourself or go without knowing."

That night with the holiday spirit of a lad let out of a cheerless
school Paul Burton walked along the principal street of a small New
England town where old-fashioned houses sprawled between stark elms.
When he reached the Palace Theater, the performance had begun, so he
hurriedly bought a ticket and found himself sitting near the front
with many empty seats about him. It was a cheap "follow up" company
with an old piece that had once been a Broadway hit. He had never
seen Marcia act. Now he was seeing her under the most inauspicious
circumstances--and he knew that only want of opportunity and the
uncompromising plane on which she had pitched her dealings in managerial
offices had balked her ambitions. She could act and was acting with a
force, intelligence and finesse that were wasted here, and as he watched
her suddenly their eyes met and across the blazing separation of the
"foots" she recognized him. For just an instant her pupils dilated and
she missed a cue. It looked as though she would "go up" in her lines,
but before the prompter could come to her aid she had recovered herself
and her performance went on unbroken. But during the following
intermission the women who dressed near by could hear her humming a gay
tune, and as she came out at her call they saw in her eyes a sparkle
that had not been there before.

As Marcia sat in her dressing-room before the mirror which was fastened
against a brick wall, the squalidness of the cubbyhole ceased to depress
her. On the slab before her lay scattered the details of make-up, and
crowded into one corner stood her open wardrobe trunk. A placard near a
light-bulb read, "Please remember that YOU are here for a few days, but
we are here all the time. Do not deface our home," and under that
notice, probably tempted by it into irony, a former occupant had
scrawled in huge letters "Oh, you home!"

But now the chilly little dressing-room was no longer a dingy cell. She
had recognized Paul Burton's face out in front, and, as she changed for
the next act, little snatches of song broke from her lips, and she
smiled at herself in the glass until the small, glistening teeth flashed
like those of a pleased child.

Fate gives no guarantee of responsibility for the targeting of the
Love-God's darts. This whimsical deity seems to owe no duty to fitness
or consistency. He may choose to make a strong and excellent character
love one too weak to be worthy its thought and no higher power
intervenes. After all, Marcia had met Paul when she was lonely and they
had for a while comforted each other's unhappiness. When she had ordered
him to stay away the damage was already done, and since then she had
been infinitely more lonely--had craved more desperately companionship
with someone of the world from which her poverty had so long exiled her,
though its memories remained. Now he had disobeyed her and come to her.
He had sought her out contrary to command and that must mean that he had
found a new strength and would have something to say to her which a man
may worthily say to a woman. He had so thoroughly understood her edict
that his coming could have no other meaning. She could not know that he
was still actuated solely by his own selfish craving for comfort, nor
that he had occupied his time on the train countering and balancing
considerations until his sudden determination had oozed miserably out of
him. Although he could no longer awaken a throbbing of his pulses with
the thought of Loraine Haswell, neither could he fortify his mind to
cut the tie and give her up.

When the curtain rang down on the last act the door-man brought in his
card, and Marcia ran light-heartedly out to meet him.

"You see, I disobeyed you," he announced, and she sought to reply with
great severity, but delight broke through that affectation and riddled
it with smiles.

"Unless you are too tired," she suggested, "let's take a walk before we
go back to that desolate morgue they call a hotel."

It was a cold and sparkling night and the old street, which was once a
post road, twisted between the elms under a moon that threw the rambling
houses into softened shapes and underscored them duskily with shadow.
They had walked perhaps a half-mile when they came upon a building that
had in its more prosperous years been a mansion of some pretense and
dignity. It sat back in its generous yard, with a cheery light blazing
at its lower windows, wearing an aspect of elderly and beneficent
reminiscence. An electric bulb by the gate lighted a small swinging sign
inscribed in antique type, "The Sign of the Tea-pot. Lunch, tea and
dancing."

"Down-at-the-heels gentility gone into trade," smiled Marcia.

Paul Burton halted and listened, but the dancing had ended and the old
house was silent.

"I wonder," he ventured, "if the tea-pot is still on duty."

"By this time," she laughed, "it would have tucked its head under its
wing and gone to roost."

"Let's try it, none the less," he challenged, and with the spirit of two
children on a lark they opened the creaking gate and traversed the
brick walk, arm in arm.

In answer to their knock, which echoed through the place, there came
after a time a pleasant-faced elderly woman to the door. For a few
moments she reflected, then decided that, although it was a little late,
she would undertake to produce some sort of a supper--if they would make
allowances for its deficient quality.

The scene seemed set for adventure, even romance. In a large, pleasantly
furnished room glowed a cheery fire, and as they waited they sat before
it, falling silent, and Marcia's face continued to smile. She had
learned to make the most of a pleasant moment while it lasted and to
leave regrets until they forced themselves.

When they had finished an excellent supper and the woman had withdrawn
they asked and received permission to linger a while before the inviting
hearth.

Abruptly Marcia looked up and announced, "I forgive you your
disobedience. I'm glad you came. You can't imagine how lonely it's
been." Her small nose puckered fastidiously as she added, "The company
is odious and I hate the play and the hotels provide unfinished
road-beds to sleep on and I've been headachy and altogether miserable."
Then she broke off and laughed again, "Which will be about enough
Jeremiad for the present. Have you missed me?"

Paul Burton bent forward and studied the red tip of his cigar. It seemed
to him that he had missed her more than he had ever missed anyone else.
For the first time since the terrible day in the Street with its
battalion of misfortunes, his heart felt at rest and his nerves quiet.

He tossed the cigar away and took her hands in his. Deep in her eyes
glowed a quiet tenderness and her breath quickened. The man seated
himself on the arm of her deep chair, passing one arm about her and
holding her two hands close to her breast. Her hat tilted back as he
stooped to kiss her, but she did not appear to resent that
disarrangement.

"I have missed you terribly," he said and the glow in her pupils
heightened in brightness.

Marcia was content. After all, her dream was coming true. Here in this
old room of an old house, where other generations had made courtly love,
he would tell her that resolution had come to his heart, driving out
weak vacillation, and resolution spelt her name. It was worth having
been lonely for. Here were just the two of them in the light of a fire
on a hearth--emblem of home.

On their two faces, close together, the blaze threw warm little dashes
of its own color. Into the heart of Marcia Terroll stole belief once
more, and the cheer of the glowing coals.



CHAPTER XXVII


For a while they were content to remain silent; and afterward the man
said, "I've been needing you, Marcia."

The fingers that he held tightened a little on his own. Now she thought
he would tell her that he had given his problem the test of bold
reflection and could come to her with his mind made up--and the decision
was that he needed her. In the hope her loneliness saw an opening vista
of happiness, but his next words were not of that.

"You have read the papers?" he questioned. "You know what has happened?"

Of course she knew and her heart had been full of grief for him in these
days of distress. Had she not written him--and torn up unmailed--a score
of letters in which she had told him tenderly and unreservedly all she
felt? But when she had seen him tonight she had forgotten that,
remembering only that he had searched for her and found her and come to
her.

Now that he spoke of misfortune to himself and his family she wanted to
give him only sympathy and comfort and love--yet coming like a sudden,
chilling draught, a conviction struck in upon her heart and left it
shuddering--with all its tender new hopes shattered.

For as he spoke she realized with the finality of revelation that the
Paul Burton of whom she thought in her dreams had not come at all; only
the Paul Burton who, too weak to bear his own sorrows, came to share
them with her. He had not come offering her strength and companionship
in loneliness--but asking them for himself. He had not come to offer
marriage. She had, in the face of the old warnings, dreamed
again--falsely idealized once more--and his mission was to waken in her
anew the dreary reality of her life. Yet that same maternal instinct
which made her love a thing more of giving than of asking endowed him
with a greater dearness, as she realized the truth.

"Yes, dear," she said in a low voice, "I know--and I've been thinking of
you all the while."

Then for a quarter of an hour he recited his griefs and forgot hers. She
was there near him; his arms were about her and she was comforting him.
That, for him, was all that was necessary. But at the end of it all she
rose and turned half from him and her face was pale.

"If there was a single thing I could do," she said from her heart, "I
would do it at any cost--" Her voice questioned him tensely. "You know
that, don't you, dear? You believe it."

"You are doing something now," he declared. "You are giving me your own
strength."

To herself she said bitterly that to make a mistake once is an accident
with which life may ambush the most wary, but to walk twice into the
same snare stamps the victim as a fool. She was paying the price now of
that folly. She was indeed giving him, as he enthusiastically declared,
her own strength for his adversities, and he was accepting it, using it,
burning it up with no thought of how little of that particular capital
she had to squander in the sharing.

Even at that moment with his self-pitying voice in her ears, reciting
his Iliad of reflected troubles, her mind found a whimsical parallel for
his self-absorption. He was like some unheroic wanderer in desert
places who had stumbled upon another equally unfortunate, but more
stalwart of heart. He had greedily fallen upon the depleted
water-supply, drinking deep and never pausing to consider that the
tongue of the wayfarer who offered him a flask was more parched than his
own. He was a minstrel and a troubadour who held himself immune from the
need of meeting stress with combat. His mission in life was to sing and
accept, and now it pleased him to sing sadly of himself.

Yet the one way she could not go on helping him was the particular way
he elected to be helped. He chose to let himself drift and vacillate,
and the aid that he asked of her was that she should drift near enough
for him to have her companionship. He was like a wakeful child who
required that she, too, should be sleepless that he might escape
loneliness.

"And so," she said, forcing a smile, which concealed all that was in her
heart, "you were lonely, and you came to me."

"Yes, dear." His voice was eager. "I had to see you. To stay in exile
any longer was unendurable. I was thinking of you always, wanting you
always, and so I came. You forgive me, don't you?"

Marcia laughed. "It's very nice to be wanted," she answered, "but sit
over there across the hearth and light your cigar. It's gone out."

Paul looked down resentfully at the cigar and lifted his hand to toss it
away, but the girl laid her fingers on his wrist and laughed.

"No," she commanded. "Smoke it. Tobacco is soothing and I like the
fragrance. It's a Romney panatella, isn't it?"

"How do you manage to remember details like that?" Paul inquired with
boyish pleasure. "Other women don't carry in mind the brand of tobacco
that a man prefers."

"I'm not other women," she reminded him lightly. "I have a genius for
minute and trivial things. The others flatter you by burning incense to
your music--and I remember that you take two lumps of sugar in your
coffee and one slice of lemon in your tea and that you must have your
Martini extra dry."

To herself she was saying, with a lump in her throat which waged war on
the bright smile in her eyes, "I hoped that he might have come
differently. I hoped that he might have made an end of vacillation. Now
it's all going to be harder. I must send him away again--"

One hand which fell over the arm of her chair and which he could not see
clutched its fingers convulsively, squeezing the handkerchief it held
into a small wad of linen.

"You are wonderful, Marcia," he told her softly as he comfortably
exhaled a cloud of blue smoke, and his delicate lips fell into a smile
of contentment. His troubles were for the moment being assuaged in the
effortless indolence of the lotus-eaters. He looked at her through
half-closed lids, studying the face that smiled at him. Yes, she was
giving him her strength. He would go back tomorrow appeased and soothed.

Then he suggested with the suddenness of a newly discovered thought:
"But we've been talking about my troubles all the while. Tell me
something about yourself. It must be proving a hard trip, isn't it? A
bit of a trial at times?"

A hard trip! A bit of a trial at times! For an instant the smile died
and the lips stiffened. She wanted to answer him with a stormy burst of
words. She wanted to say that it had been sheer hell.

In the face of such callous complacency an indignant anger stirred deep
in her breast. He had fled to her with his troubles, which after all
were only the shadows of deeper troubles, of which other members of his
household were bearing, unaided, the more direct brunt. He was asking
her, whose life had known chapters of tragedy, to give him such sympathy
as a woman has the right to give in exchange for a man's whole love. Had
he no sense of fairness, even the fairness of good sportsmanship? But
close on the heels of that realization came another which banished the
wrath. God had chosen to paint him in soft and tender colors. God had
given to his soul-pattern a certain beauty, and if there had gone into
the design no bold strokes, he himself was no more to blame than he
would have been for the failure to see, had he been born blind. His
weakness doubtless carried its own penalty of suffering. Perhaps had the
guidance been there, the wanted qualities might have been trained into
him. Hamilton had seen that, but Hamilton's hand had not had the light
touch for the delicacy of the task's beginnings.

Her mind flashed back to her girlhood. She was standing at the paddock
fence of her grandfather's stock-farm in Kentucky.

Even in her childish heart there had been a mighty pride for the old
gold and blue that were the colors of her grandfather's stables. They
were silks that raced true to tradition, for no mere gambler's
venturing, but for the gentleman's pride in his horse-flesh and his
inherent love of sport. Much of the stamina that had kept her heart from
breaking had been instilled in those lessons of the gallantry of the
long struggle and the endurance of the home-stretch.

She remembered a certain chestnut colt whose name had gone down in turf
history. She had known that colt from a weanling and to her he had not
been an animal, but a personality.

Yet that splendid-hearted creature which could out-game his fields in a
smothering drive when his heart was near bursting had been a
disappointment in two-year-old form because he had seemed to sulk and
falter and lack courage. Under the whip his speed died and his petulance
cropped out. It had only been when a jockey was found whose soft touch
of the reins nursed the head and held it up and encouraged, that the
horse had come in to his own and made his name great. Might it not be so
with a man as well as with a horse?

"Yes," she said, "it has been a bit of a trial, but it has been funny,
too," and straightway she launched into a flow of anecdote that touched
up with whimsical and delightful humor every bit of poor comedy that had
tinged the days of the tour. And as she talked the man laughed with
sheer delight and amusement.

But it was growing late, and Marcia was exhausted with the outflow of
spirits. He might be comforted, but tomorrow she must again take up the
dull thread of her routine. It would not be easier for tonight's
disappointment; for the coming of the rescuing knight who upon arrival
had only clamored mournfully for assistance.

After all she could only stand so much, and just now she felt that the
margin of endurance was narrow. Yet there was to be said the most
important thing of all, and the most trying.

"Paul," she began slowly, but in a voice of finality, "when you go back
tomorrow, you mustn't come to see me again. At least not for a long
while."

His face became a mask of tragic disappointment, and his voice was
pleading.

"You are not going to reinstate your sentence of banishment, Marcia? You
can't know what this evening has meant to me. A man must have in his
life that comfort that only a woman like you can give. Surely you will
give it."

"But, Paul," she said as gently as she would have argued with a child,
"you must remember. There is a woman: a woman to whom you regard
yourself pledged. Are you being very loyal to her? Are you being very
loyal to either of us?"

To herself she added: "A woman whom I have never seen and whose battles
I am called upon to fight."

"She's in Europe." Paul spoke rather sullenly, and though he said no
more his voice intimated that so far as he was concerned she might
remain there.

Marcia nodded her bend. "She is there to get a divorce--so that she can
marry you. No, Paul, you know why I sent you away in the first place.
Since then nothing has changed--unless it is that I see more clearly the
fatality of drifting. I can't do it."

"And you--" he spoke somewhat brokenly--"doesn't it mean anything to
you?"

Suddenly and momentarily her self-restraint broke.

"Mean anything to me!" she exclaimed passionately as her eyes widened
and her whole attitude relaxed into a posture of collapse in her chair.
"Mean anything--!" Then suddenly she straightened up and passed a hand
across her brow as though to brush away a cloud that rested there. In a
composed voice she added: "It means so much that you must do as I say,
not merely until you feel like disobeying again, but always." After a
long silence she rose. "I must get up early," she said, remembering that
tomorrow brought its program of a train journey, a matinée and an
evening performance.

"Paul," said Marcia as they walked back, "I have to leave a call for
seven and catch a train at eight-thirty. There's no use in your getting
up. No, please don't, and please don't hunt me out again." At the door
of the hotel she said enigmatically, "What a wonderful balance Nature
might have struck between your brother's strength and your--winning
personality. Good-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Duke de Metuan's failure to rehabilitate his impaired fortunes with
Burton gold had left a more durable scar upon his optimism than any of
the similar scars of the past. Mary Burton had been such a splendid
combination of charm and opulence that a marriage with her would have
made a pleasure of necessity. The Duke in his earlier stages of
disappointment had felt first the pangs of a lover, and only in
secondary degree the chagrin of a depleted exchequer. Several months had
found him inconsolable, and when desperation had closed upon him he had
wedded an estimable lady whose wealth was less dazzling than Mary's, but
ample none the less. Her personal paucity of allurement was a handicap
which his philosophy ignored as much as possible. In private he
sometimes made a fastidious grimace, and accepted the inevitable.

Yet the duke had long been an epicure in life's pleasures, and though he
must yield to the demands of his creditors, much as a young prince must
yield to the edicts of his chancellery in making a required marriage, he
did so with mental reservations. He had no intention of permitting that
necessity to cast a perpetual cloud over his days and nights.

He had found it possible to leave his estate in Andalusia, where his
duchess elected to remain with an imaginary malady from which she
derived much melancholy pleasure, and in Nice he had been overjoyed to
meet a charming acquaintance in the person of Loraine Haswell.

Loraine, too, was willing to have these hours which hung heavy
alleviated with companionship, and Nice is a place where hours lend
themselves to the process of being lightened.

There was a waiter at one of the esplanade cafés where the tables look
out over the whiteness of the sea-front and the sapphire of the bay, who
regarded his grace and madame as his regular clients. He knew without
telling what _hors d'oeuvres_ and vintages the dark gentleman affected
and at what pastries the beautiful lady preferred to nibble. She nibbled
decoratively between peals of soft laughter and snatches of small talk.

The garçon in question noted--and officially ignored--that the lady, who
had at first worn a preoccupied, almost troubled, expression about her
dark eyes, now smiled more often, and that into the black pupils of
Carlos de Metuan there came frequently a glow which was akin to ardor.

In the same way he noticed that occasionally their hands met and
lingered, as the lady formed the habit of losing her handkerchief and
the gentleman habituated himself to its retrieving. A legal separation
cannot be established in a day, and if one must remain away from one's
friends at home, one may surely console oneself with friends abroad.

The duke was lavish in his entertainment. His wife's fortune permitted
that, as well as his wife's ignorance of the disbursements, and of late
Loraine's supply of money from America had arrived on a scale of
diminuendo. Entertainment was welcome.

Half-jokingly and veiled in phrases which she was at liberty to construe
as she wished, there had of late been an insidious vein of suggestion in
the duke's conversation.

"Were I not married and were you not married and were I able to convince
you with an eloquence which I lack, I think I might be happy," he
informed her one night as he studied his cigarette end in the dark. Then
he laughed and his hand sought hers as he added: "Yet, thank God a
thousand times, we live in a day when friendship need not go shackled by
dark-age absurdities." That had been the beginning.

"Friendship," she replied demurely, "has never had to be shackled, has
it?"

He leaned forward and she caught the glint of his eyes and a flash of
white teeth, as he answered:

"When friendship between man and woman is a feeble little fellow, he
goes free, but when he grows very strong, then his lot was not so easy
in other days. You understand me?"

"I'm sure I don't, but what matter?" she laughed. Carlos shrugged his
shoulders.

"Yes, what matter?" he murmured. "As long as we can be together, why
should we seek names for our companionship? It is--what it is."

Yet Loraine, still sure of her future, spelling a congenial and
luxurious life with Paul, understood what she pretended not to
understand. The Duke de Metuan was not a riddle to her; not even a
figure tinged with mystery. His wife was an unlovely invalid. Her sole
value was monetary, and the duke's hints and thoughts had all to do with
an arrangement wherein life should yield him the compensating delights
which his family denied.

Loraine's fastidiousness rather shuddered at this idea, yet perhaps a
certain sort of character disintegration had set in, with her first
cutting loose the moorings of preconceived standards. Possibly it was
working a more rapid atrophy than she knew. She told herself that, in
her exile, Carlos made a rather diverting companion, and that since she
understood his purpose she could with ease control the situation. He
should amuse and no more. If his hints became less ambiguous than she
found agreeable, she would send him packing, but meanwhile she would
permit his luncheons and his motors to serve her. The food and roads
about Nice are excellent--and expensive.



CHAPTER XXVIII


There is in the western hemisphere one town whose local news is national
news and international news. Its celebrities wear names which the nation
mouths over with gusto, and its own name was, until comparatively
recently, New Amsterdam. The country closely followed the first-column
stories with which the press sought to keep abreast of the affairs of
Hamilton Montagu Burton. It was interesting reading, for it dealt with a
late potentate of power untold; now an invalid whose brain slept like a
child taking its forenoon nap while his millions, counted in scores and
hundreds, went back to their sources as the sun draws water into the
clouds to spill it out again elsewhere. A giant of untold might had
kindled the fires that slept at the heart of a volcano--and then had
fallen asleep upon the slopes down which the lava must flow!

While he slept, Ruin, spelling itself with a capital letter, had
signaled out the one pedestaled figure which had laughed at ruin, and
mocked its potency and bragged of a star which was above menace.

Hamilton Burton lay for weeks in insensibility and delirium and when, in
returned consciousness, he realized his predicament he raved like a
madman against restraint, counting the precious moments, which were
being used against him, bleeding him of vital power. This very fretting
against the inevitable burdened him with a waste of nerve and brain
which should send him forth, depleted in strength and weakened in
resistance, to meet his adversaries.

Nor had the forces aligned against him marked time. When again he took
the field he must take it in a realm of altered and shrunken boundaries,
and the roll-call of his allies would show many missing--and many gone
over to the foe. But greater than all these things was the change in
himself. The cloyed wolf who had gorged too deep of success was no
longer the lean fighting beast with a ravenous light of conquest in his
eyes. That Burton might have met even the present and triumphed. This
was a wolf on the defensive, fating a pack which had turned upon his
leadership. His weakened fangs were against the jaws of all the
rest--and he came scarred and spent from days and nights of physical
feebleness.

Paul sat beside Hamilton in his car as they drove down-town on that
first day when the financier defied the edicts of his physicians.

"Hamilton," questioned the younger brother, voicing for the first time
that deep anxiety which had been clamoring within him for weeks, "will
you be able to drive back your assailants? The papers predict that your
reign is broken and your ruin near at hand."

Hamilton raised his face and smiled. It was the old imperious smile, but
the face over which it spread was thinner and gaunter and between the
hollowed cheekbones the smile lost something of its wonted
illumination--failed somewhat of its old convincing force.

"The papers have had their opportunity to prattle without check. Now I
am back again--we shall see." He broke off and laughed, then he rushed
on fiercely. "They call this St. Helena. They lie." In the weakness
which was still upon him, he gasped a moment for breath. "When Napoleon
left Elba the papers of Paris raved about the escape of the unspeakable
tyrant. When he reached the borders of France they announced, without
comment, the approach of Napoleon Bonaparte, but when he was near the
gates they raised a pæan of triumphal welcome to the Emperor, who had
returned to make France more glorious than ever among nations! I shall
soon be at their city gates, Paul, and, while my star shines, no mortal
power can stop me or stay my progress."

But the Napoleon of the later phases was not the Napoleon of Austerlitz.
Out of the great heart and brain some essential element had gone.
Burton, too, had tasted defeat and knew its bitterness. He was going
back to rally shrunken forces and lead a forlorn hope and his eyes were
grimly defiant--where once they had been regnantly confident. Perhaps
Hamilton Burton during those next few months was after all more worthy
of admiration than he had been since a boy whose dreams burned
city-ward. Feeling each day a day of adversity and giving no hint, he
recognized, yet refused to admit, the dawn of defeat when defeat was far
past its dawning. Upon the world of allied assailants that pressed him
back--back--ever back on dwindling millions and then shrinking hundreds
of thousands he turned a fierce and unsurrendering face. To himself he
said even now that his star was infallible.

But in the privacy of his own bedroom, when no alien eye penetrated his
solitude, his bitterness was epic and terrible. In the consistency of
that egotism which had first made, then unmade him, there was no room
for remorse; no possibility of self-accusation. If his star was to set
it would set on his last terrific stand against the squares of the
enemy, with the old guard about him ... and when the end came, like
another Antony, he would fall on his own sword.

And always to the sunken-eyed anxiety of his mother, and the puffy-eyed
misgivings of his father and the quaking terror of his brother, he gave
back laughing assurances of his unquenchable power. To them he treated
as technicalities, which he would casually brush aside. Federal
prosecutions and Congressional investigations and the solid phalanx of
financial interests that constantly drew their strangling cordons around
him. He never admitted to others or to himself as a possibility the
reckoning which was sure beyond question. Yet except for a detail of
months--or weeks--he was as irremediably ruined as though already the
tape of the stock-ticker had spelled out its unemotional announcement,
"Hamilton Burton cannot meet his obligations." He had been wounded
through the one vulnerable joint of his armor: his great self-pride and
unquestioning assurance were struck to the quick of the heart. His day
was done.

Since he had lost in dozens and scores of millions and could return to
his preëminence only by mighty leaps, he plunged again in dozens and
scores of millions, as befitted a mighty gambler. And in scores he lost
and in scores again he plunged--to his ruinous and total undoing.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the Burton fortunes were dwindling, Loraine Haswell, who had come now
from the Riviera to Paris, found her state of mind reaching an anxiety
that threatened first her composure, then almost her reason. She knew of
her husband's ruin, and had written him a letter of condolence rather
more human than any of her other communications to him had been of late.

But that the shattering of such a moderate financier as Len Haswell
should foreshadow the total ruin of a money czar like Hamilton Burton
and impoverish his parasite brother, was an idea too colossal to grasp
in its entirety. Yet in the news from America it slowly dawned. In the
Paris edition of the _Herald_ it was convincingly chronicled, and the
beautiful dark-haired woman who had thrown away her husband began to see
that she had no reserve upon which to fall back. Had Len's modest
fortune survived that tempest, it would have been easy to put back into
port. A little contrition, a confession that she had tried living
without him and found it impossible, would have won his forgiveness,
because his heart had been too sore to calculate. But now Len was
bankrupt and Paul would be likewise.

In these days Carlos de Metuan was no longer a speaker of veiled
phrases. He was playing the rôle of the generous Platonic friend,
watching her moods and seeking to comfort her.

There was no strain of iron in this woman's soul, and that suited his
purpose. Just now he would gain more by merely standing by. Her
increasing alarm would one day turn to panic and she would lose her
head. For that day he could afford to wait.

Loraine was undergoing an agony, and when the time came which the duke
regarded as the psychological moment, and he baldly offered her his
proposition, she made a lovely picture of a woman in distress converted
into a righteous fury.

She sent him away with blazing eyes and words that should have scorched,
and he went with a shrug of the shoulders and smiled when he was out of
sight. "It is not for long," he told himself.

In that cynical conviction Carlos de Metuan was correct. Loraine tried
poverty and loneliness for a while in Paris, and because she was still a
creature of rare beauty, several other men with greater or less degree
of skilled language suggested similar solutions.

At last she met the duke again. He had been in Andalusia and had
returned once more to Paris--alone. He was driving in a motor car and
came upon her walking near the Arc de Triomphe. He halted the car and
asked her to let him drive her home. At first she demurred, but in the
end consented to let him drop her at her _pension_, provided he would
promise to leave her immediately at her door.

"Assuredly," agreed the man gravely. "But in return, you will do me a
favor also? You will let me call for you tonight and will dine with me?"

For a moment Loraine hesitated, then she slowly nodded her head.

Carlos de Metuan arrived promptly that evening.

Loraine had made her fight and regarded herself as a defeated martyr.
The hour and a half before his coming she had not devoted to tears, but
to beautifying herself. She met him radiant, and from her eyes and lips
all the disfigurement of distress was banished. She laughed and chatted
throughout dinner, and over the coffee, leaning forward a little, she
asked, "Where do you mean to take me from here?"

"To a comedy perhaps, wherever you like."

There was a brief pause, then she looked up and put a second question.
She put it with the best nonchalance that she could assume. It did not
sound like unconditional surrender.

"And after that?"

Carlos de Metuan lighted a cigarette.

"I have leased for you a very good apartment not far from the Champs
Elysées. I think you will find it comfortable."

For an instant the woman's eyes hardened.

"You appear to have taken matters rather much for granted, Carlos."

He shook his head and smiled.

"I merely hoped," he assured her.



CHAPTER XXIX


Possibly some day a historian versed in the intricacies of high--and
low--finance will record in detail, comprehensible and convincing to
those who thirst for statistical minutiæ, the last chapters of Hamilton
Burton's history. Here it will only be set baldly down that the weeks,
for him, went galloping toward and over the brink of things--until he
found his affairs still reckoned in many millions, but all in the
millions of liabilities.

He was pointed out derisively in those expensive hotels where once every
head had bowed obsequiously at his coming. Then one night he went to his
office, carrying a leather portfolio in his hand. He still walked with
his head up and met the eye of every man who cared to gaze into his own.
About his neck was turned up the collar of a sable-lined overcoat--relic
of his days of splendor. As he walked down-town he met no one who knew
him, and this suited his plans. Lower Broadway after nightfall is as
murky and silent as upper Broadway is aflare and noisy. The steep
buildings are like cemetery shafts, save where belated clerks work over
their books and night watchmen guard their posts.

Burton's offices, still his under a long-term lease, were denuded of
furniture and accessories--since the sheriff had already begun his
confiscations here.

But tonight Hamilton Burton meant to use them for another, and a grimmer
purpose--in fact a final one. The portfolio which he carried contained
a dilapidated old blank book, such as one buys in a crossroads store, a
volume of verse, and an automatic pistol, carefully loaded. When the now
inevitable moment came which should leave his family roofless--he would
not be there to see.

There is no saying what small matter may, at a given crisis, bring
solace to a man who requires it. Now Hamilton Burton appeared to find
the necessary comfort in the boast which he nursed to his heart, that
his exit from the world, with which he had played ducks and drakes, was
to be entirely voluntary and in no wise forced: that though he was
closing life's door upon himself he was still crossing the Stygian
threshold the captain of his soul.

His face was calm enough as he turned on the light and drew down the
blinds of his private office. He had no knowledge of another tall
figure, bearing abundant outward signs of adversity that, from the
opposite side of the street, halted to glance up just as he showed
himself there in the window.

Hamilton Burton deliberately unlocked the morocco brief-case with its
gold clasp. First he took out the pistol and carefully examined it,
nodding his head in satisfaction. Since there was no table left, he laid
it on the window-sill near at hand. Next he withdrew the book of verses
and after that the country-store note-book with its dog-eared and
age-yellowed pages. These proceedings left the case empty save for a
note directed, "Coroner's Agent, City."

In the days of his magnificence Hamilton Burton had regarded
life-insurance as a poor man's buffer between his heirs and want.

For himself it had meant nothing and he had passed it by. Only since he
had secretly half-admitted his vulnerability, had he thrown such an
anchor to windward, and all his policies were new--too new to hold
validity against self-destruction.

And yet the brain that had been so cool always, so logical, had of late
assumed a dozen unaccountable eccentricities. Through his thoughts with
the obstinacy of an obsession ran one refrain: "'Twas no foe-man's hand
that slew him: 'twas his own that struck the blow."

Men must not think of him as one beaten and murdered. They must remember
him as his own executioner. Surely the lawyers would find a way. Surely
their cleverness would circumvent the restrictions framed by these
gamblers on the chances of life and death.

He opened the poetry volume at a point where a page was turned down,
then, standing by the electric light, boldly straight and without the
air of a man who entertains fear of life or death, he read aloud and
with excellent elocutionary effect ...

    "I only loved one country in my life
    And that was France: I saw her break her heart
    Against the cruel squares: then the last order
    Broke from my lips as coolly as a smile.
    God! How they rode! All France was in that last
    Charge; and France broke her heart for me...."

He paused and a deep melancholy spread over the features until the eyes
might truly have been those of broken dreams gazing seaward from the
rocks of St. Helena. He glanced again at the pages and quoted softly.

"Ninette, Ninette, remember the Old Guard!"

After that he laid the book aside and turned the thumbed pages of the
blank book. These were pages scrawled across in a boy's round hand. The
man who had once been that boy stopped when he came to an entry written
long ago by lamplight in an unheated attic, with frozen branches
scraping the roof and the eaves.

"There is something in me," he read, "that tells me no man was ever
greater than I've got it in me to be. John Hayes Hammond, Carnegie,
Rockefeller, Frick were all poor boys...." He paused once more and let
his eyes wander to the bottom of the page and dwell upon this addendum.
"P.S. I sold them to Slivers Martin for ten dollars ($10.00) and they
only cost me seven--and he had to go after them."

As he held the book in his hand he was interrupted by a low knock on the
door. Perhaps the night watch-man had come up with a question. Hastily
laying the diary of his boyhood over the pistol so as to conceal it he
opened the door--and Len Haswell entered.

The broker's ruin had been complete, and his dual troubles had evidently
driven him to demoralization of another sort. His face wore a set such
as artists give the features of Death--the pale implacability of doom.
He loomed there gigantic and silent; strangely altered by his chalky
pallor and the dark rings out of which his eyes burned. After a moment
Hamilton Burton inquired coolly, "Well, Haswell?"

"You may recall," said the deep voice in a tone of menacing quiet, "that
during the two days when you scattered ruin broadcast--and ruined
yourself into the bargain--I led your forces on the floor of the
Exchange."

"Perfectly," was the calm response. "I recall that you lost everything.
So did I. We seem to be fellow-unfortunates."

"You say I lost everything." Haswell drew a step nearer and held out his
two mighty hands. "You are mistaken. I still have these."

A trace of annoyance stole into the voice of the fallen Napoleon. It is
disconcerting to be interrupted during one's last moments of life.

"And with them," he ironically questioned, "you mean to begin over and
make an honest living?"

Haswell shook his head. His tone took on, in its level pitch of
implacability, a quality indescribably horrifying, "No--an honest
killing. I am going to kill you."

"That," suggested Burton, "will not be necessary. I am on the point of
saving you the trouble--and personal danger. In my bag there is a note
stating that fact--and my reasons."

Haswell held out a letter. "I am not complaining about my ruin in the
Street," he patiently explained. "I knew that game and took my chances
along with the rest. That isn't what has been driving me mad. I got this
letter a week ago."

Hamilton glanced at the envelope.

"From Loraine," went on Len Haswell in a voice of even deadlier quiet.
The voice and chalky face seemed twin notes of sound and color. "I
wouldn't care to tell you what happened to her--after she pinned her
faith on your promise to buy her freedom--from me--for your brother. She
lost out all around, you see. I wouldn't care to tell you about
that--and its consequences. But something's going to be paid on
account--here--tonight."

After a moment Burton said slowly:

"I am through. I'm just ending it."

Once again the huge man shook his head. A strange and bitter smile
twisted his lips.

"No," he persisted in that level intonation with which men sometimes
speak from the scaffold. "No, that won't do. You see I've whetted my
appetite on anticipation--ever since that letter came. I must have the
pleasure of killing you with my own hands; of seeing the breath go out
of your throat--afterward the suicide will be my own."

To lay down one's life of one's own volition is one thing. To permit
another to take it in a fashion of his own arbitrary selection is quite
another. Hamilton Burton had never been submissive. He meant to die as
he had lived--"captain of his soul," and so he turned quietly toward the
window ledge where he had laid the automatic pistol. Perhaps some
clairvoyant sense, loaned by the closeness of death, gave Haswell an
intimation of the other's intent. He reached the window first--at a
bound--and stood before it. Then suddenly a hideous expression came into
his eyes until out of them shone the horror-worship that had obsessed
his soul; and the maniac's cunning for draining his greed of vengeance
to its dregs.

He had jostled aside the blank book containing the diary and seen the
weapon, which he calmly slipped into his pocket. Then he raised the
window as far as it would go.

"This is the twentieth floor," he commented with a ghastly significance.
"I know because I walked up. I didn't want to be stopped--too soon. It
won't take you so long to get down." As he spoke he jerked his head
toward the raised blind and sash. "It's rather a symbolical finish for
you, Burton--you must confess as much--an idol hurled down from his high
place."

One quality Hamilton Burton possessed. If he was to die he would leave
no satisfaction of final cowardice to comfort his assassin's
self-destruction. He would attack--but a sudden thought stayed him.

"If we are to have a death struggle here," he asked with a strange
composure, "will you give me a moment--for a matter that had no bearing
on your determination?"

Haswell yet again shook his head with his executioner's smile as he
sardonically inquired, "Time to get another gun?"

"No. To tear up a note to the coroner--unless you will be good enough to
do it for me. If I am not to kill myself there is no advantage in an
ante-mortem confession!"

"What difference does it make? To me it seems trivial."

"Just this--that my family will save my insurance out of the wreck."

"And Paul may once more sing golden songs to the wives of other men--not
that I so much resent Paul. Without you he would have been harmless
enough--but society's safer with him poor."

Hamilton Burton had caught a rift in the clouds and with this denial his
calmness deserted him for passion. The old family love, strong even
though he had himself so violated it, burst into flame in his heart.
Once more he would fight for those he was leaving. Why had he never
thought of the window himself? That might logically seem accidental, yet
his brain had not served him well of late. It had been clouded and
unresourceful--and he had invented no method of masking the authorship
of his death. His enemy had suggested it--but first there must be a
moment to destroy the confession which would rob his mother of the one
asset which might be saved to her. With an oath he leaped upon his
visitor, and fought tigerishly. But for all his superb physical fitness
and strength it was like a child leaping upon a powerful gladiator.

With one mighty arm about his waist crushing him until his bones seemed
to crack and one huge hand cutting off the gasp of his throat, his body
was bent back in this gorilla embrace and a purple mist spread darkly
before his eyes. He had just enough tremor of consciousness left to know
that he hung limp and was being lifted and swung to and fro as one
swings a sack which he means to toss into a cart.

A few moments later the giant stood panting from his exertion as he
stretched out a steady hand for the pistol which lay on the window
ledge.



CHAPTER XXX


In a certain dictionary appears this substantive and this definition.
"PARASITE (par'-a-sit), n. one who frequents the table of a rich man and
gains his favor by flattery; a hanger-on; an animal or plant nourished
by another to which it attaches itself. (Greek.)"

If the animal or plant to which these other animals or plants attach
themselves goes first to its death, it is inevitable that its parasites
must speedily follow. There is no longer anything upon which to feed.

Hamilton Burton was gone and his parasites were withering. His will
provided a princely fortune for each member of his family--save his
sister, for whom they would care. But a will presupposes an estate--here
were only enormous liabilities and vanished assets.

This man's dream of power in a single hand--the hand that could
produce--had held so firm that he had never made any provision for their
independent fortunes while he lived and held at his finger ends the
touch of Midas.

Now he was dead. The coroner said, after viewing the evidence, he had
killed Haswell first and himself next--so they added to all the sins of
his overcharged account the crowning infamy of murder.

Those men who gather and print news have their fingers on the pulse-beat
of things and sometimes they develop an occult sense of prophecy.

On the night of Hamilton's death, as a certain city editor in Park row
read the proof of the "day's story," he called one of his reporters to
his desk and let him wait there while he himself rapidly penciled out
the "Stud-horse head" which should, tomorrow morning, shock many
breakfast-tables. Finally he glanced up, under a green eye-shade, and
shifted his dead cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other.

"Smitherton," he instructed, "from now on keep right after the Burton
story."

Smitherton rolled a cigarette. "The follow-up tomorrow will be a big
one, too," he prophesied.

"Sure, but I'm not only talking about the follow-up. As to that you
handle the introduction and general. I'll have the various other ends
covered. I refer to next week and next month and next year--"

The staff man raised his brows, and, with an impatient and wearied
growl, his chief commented curtly: "Go, look up the word 'parasite' in
the dictionary. Maybe after that research you'll understand better what
I mean. There's copy in this for a long while. The branch is dead and
the leaves will be dropping."

The stunned parents, the ashen-lipped brother and the sister, not yet
recovered from her collapse, had months for realization; nightmare
months during which hordes of creditors arose with legitimate, but
wolf-like, hunger from everywhere, and courts adjudicated and the world
learned that not a remnant of shredded fortune nor a ragged banknote
would remain to the family which had dazzled New York since its Monte
Cristo star rose on the horizon.

While the wolves were picking the remains of the estate to its naked
bones, old Thomas Burton still went occasionally to his place in the
club and gazed out of the Fifth-avenue window. He wore a band of crêpe
around his sleeve, and a defiant glint in his eyes, and since he was
left much to himself, he drank alone. He was no longer the same portly
and immaculately fashionable man. His flesh had shrunk until his clothes
hung upon him in misfit. His face was seamed and his hair instead of
being gray and smooth was white and stringy. But no pride is so
inflexible as acquired pride, so he came to the club where he was
snubbed, because, "By Gad, sir, I have the right to come here. I am
Thomas Standish Burton, and I will not permit myself to be driven
away--even though adversities have befallen me!"

He reflected upon "pursuits to which a gentleman of my age may, with
fitting dignity, apply himself," and his ideas were random and
impractical, but after a sufficient number of toddies they appeared to
himself feasible and meritorious. One day when he called for his first
afternoon drink the negro waiter shuffled uncomfortably, and said, "I'm
sorry, sir, but I was told I couldn't serve you."

"Why?" demanded the member, stiffening with indignation.

"Your name, sir, is posted on the suspended-credit list. That's my
orders, sir."

Tom Burton rose and stalked very stiffly, though no longer with his old
time cock-sureness, for the last time out of the National Union Club,
and spent the afternoon in the rear room of a saloon further east.

Paul, whose plight was as pitiable as that of a pet pomeranian turned
out of a perfumed and cushioned boudoir to hold his own among foraging
street curs, for a while bore up with an artificial courage. Under the
long strain of successive anxieties his mother had broken in body and
mind, and Paul was with her much, though sometimes she did not
recognize him, but called him Hamilton and begged him not to leave the
mountains, lest life in a new world should hold worse things than
poverty.

Hamilton's dream-palace, with all its splendid plunder of art treasures,
had gone under the hammer in satisfaction of a court judgment. Next went
the house which his parents had occupied, and before that all the
servants had gone--save one. Yamuro's passion of devotion to Hamilton
had descended in a lesser degree to Paul and with the grave courtesy of
the Samurai he waved aside all discussion of wages. Had he not saved
much money for a Japanese boy who needed little? Already he could open a
small shop and sell kimonos and jade trinkets and embroideries ... but
that could wait until such time as his usefulness ended here.

The final day came, and the shrunken household effects were removed to a
small apartment in Greenwich Village, so it was time for Paul to say
good-by to Yamuro. It was Yamuro who had found the flat and haggled
explosively over the terms of the lease. It had been Yamuro, too, who
had gone with Mary, when she carried her mother's jewels from place to
place, offering them for sale. The faithful little attendant knew that
what was salvaged from such bargaining must be the last resort and sole
capital of this shattered family. As the lady with the pale, but lovely,
face looking out from the shadow of her mourning veil went from dealer
to dealer, he followed a step behind her, watchful of eye, guarding her
remnant of treasure against possible mischance.

Now he stood with Paul in the room which the musician would not again
occupy, and Paul's eyes suddenly filled with tears while the son of a
race called stoical turned away and occupied himself with a lump in his
throat.

"Yamuro," began the musician in an unsteady voice, "you aren't a
servant, you are a friend; good-by and God bless you."

The Jap caught the extended palm in his own two hands and bent over it.
He was not weeping and he was not talking, but he stood with his head
lowered until only the wiry black hair was visible, and in his throat
rose guttural and incoherent noises like groans.

"I can't show my appreciation as I'd like," said Paul. "The day for that
is gone, but there are some clothes that I didn't pack. I left them for
you--" Even in an hour which called for defense of every penny, Paul was
still the impractical man whose open heart and affectionate nature
called for expression. "And this--" he put his hand in his pocket and
drew out a watch upon which any pawnbroker would have advanced a goodly
sum--"this was Hamilton's." His voice broke as he held it out. "I think
he would like you to have it. His will left you twenty thousand
dollars--but--well, you know."

Yamuro straightened up. He raised both hands in a gesture of protest and
his words came fast and vehemently.

"No, no! Thanks ver' mutch--no--no! You great artist--you not un'stand
making money. You need. Mother--sister--father all need. No--please!"

He halted; then in a deep embarrassment, went on. "Me got money in bank.
Me not want be impert'nent, but--" He paused, seeking a disguised and
delicate fashion of volunteering aid and looked appealingly into the
other's face for assistance.

Fresh tears welled into Paul's eyes. "I understand you, Yamuro," he
said, laying a hand on the stocky shoulder. "No, Yamuro, you have done
enough--God bless you!" He could not trust himself further and so he
turned abruptly and left the room.

These rooms in the twisting by-ways of picturesque old Greenwich Village
seemed mean and tawdry to their new tenants, but they were very good as
compared with what Mary knew must follow. The pitiful store of money
which her last-stand financiering had raked together would not be
renewed when spent, nor would it last long. It was only that they might
have a temporary refuge in which to think out the future that the girl
had chosen these quarters.

Then very shortly came the day when the house that had been the home of
the elder Burtons also went under the hammer, and an unconquerable
magnetism drew Paul to the spot though he knew the place would be filled
with people who, to him, must seem pillagers. He had nerved himself to
ask a thing for which he had been longing ever since those doors had
closed upon him. In that house was the Pagan temple which his brother
had built for his shrine of dreams and the organ which might have graced
a cathedral. If they would allow him ten minutes there alone--ten
minutes to finger the keys for the last time--at least he meant to ask
it. It was a much changed man who presented himself diffidently at a
house to which the public had been invited by the commissioner's
advertisement. His clothes were already beginning to indicate his
deteriorated condition though, thanks to Mary's care, they were
scrupulously neat. The things to be sold this morning could find
purchasers only among the very rich, and for that precise reason the
occasion had attracted a horde of people who came as they might have
gone to a fire or to a museum. Paul Burton found it easy enough to meet
these eyes. It was when he encountered the gaze of old associates that
he shrunk and trembled.

The sale had not yet begun and the crowds were drifting hither and
thither, bent on preliminary inspection, jostling arms with the men from
the detective agencies assigned to the occasion.

Paul found the person who seemed vested with authority and to him put
his request. The individual looked at this pale young man and recognized
him. There was a pathos in his face that could hardly be denied--and
there was no reason for denying him.

"Certainly, Mr. Burton," he agreed. "I'll instruct the door-man not to
let any one else in--unless you have friends you'd like to take with
you."

Paul shook his head. "I'd rather be alone," he said. But as the two
elbowed their way through the crowd he found himself face to face with a
dark-haired, deep-eyed woman in fashionable and becoming mourning, upon
whose fingers sparkled a number of rings. The musician halted in his
tracks and turned desperately pale. He had heard that Loraine Haswell
had returned from Europe--and he had heard vague rumors which had deeply
shocked him. If they were based on truth it seemed improbable that she
would care to risk meeting any of her old associates. Yet when his eyes
encountered hers he found her laughing gaily, and he realized that,
whatever else had happened to Loraine Haswell, she had lost none of her
beauty.

"Loraine!" he exclaimed, his voice betraying his excitement, and she
responded calmly, but with no emotion, "Good-morning, Mr. Burton." It
was as though they had parted yesterday, but also as though they had
never met, save casually, before that parting; as though their lives had
never touched more intimately than in the brushing contact of
passers-by. To Paul it seemed very cruel and he was about to pass on
when she stopped him.

"Mr. Burton," she suggested, in a cautiously guarded voice, "I wish you
would send back my letters. I'm stopping at the Plaza."

The man was silent for a moment, then he said simply:

"I have already burned them."

She searched his eyes for a moment, and, seeming satisfied of their
truthfulness, smiled. "That will do just as well. Thank you. How silly
we were to write them, weren't we?"

Paul hurried after his guide, who had been deferentially waiting a few
steps distant, but at the entrance of the music-room he halted
again--and this time his cheeks blanched with a greater astonishment.
There, standing within arm's reach, was Marcia Terroll, though her face
was averted and she did not see him.

"What brings you here?" he asked in a low voice, and as she turned to
face him her hands went spasmodically to her breast.

"I didn't know that you would be here," she said faintly, but she did
not tell him that she had come in response to the same instinct which
draws pilgrims to shrines hallowed by association; because this had been
the temple of his art.

"They have promised," Paul told her, "to let me have fifteen minutes in
there undisturbed--to play my organ for the last time." His eyes met
hers and he added in an earnest undertone, "Won't you go with me,
Marcia?"

The woman's lashes glistened with a sudden moisture. "Are you sure you
wouldn't rather be--quite alone? Isn't it rather sacred to you?"

"That is why I want you," he eagerly declared. "It will be something to
remember afterward."

They went in, and for a moment the girl stood there gasping at the
magnificence of this place, of which she had read descriptions, but
which she had never seen. Then her eyes flooded and, with a sense of
revelation, she forgave him every frailty and fault--even the isolated
horror of longing she had been carrying in her heart. So sensitive a
soul as his could not have been expected to stand out Spartan-bold
against the voluptuary blandishments of such surroundings--and such a
life. He looked at her for a long while and once, unseen by her, he put
out his arms, but caught them back again with a swift gesture and shook
his head. Now he knew in all bitterness what Loraine Haswell and his own
cowardice had cost him--and it was too late.

Loraine Haswell and his own cowardice! He had not fully realized it
before, but from that episode when he fled to Hamilton from his lunch
with her had sprung the root of every succeeding chapter of tragedy--and
for her he had lost Marcia! Then he led her to a place of vantage and
went to the keyboard.

Never had Paul Burton played like that before, for as the music swelled
and pealed through the place, his heart was singing its swan song. In a
moment of manhood beyond his moral stature he had drawn back arms that
were hungry for her--and he now knew, too late, that there was no one
else who counted. But the organ was not so repressive, and as she
listened she knew that the tragedy was not hers alone. While his
fingers strayed to the improvising of his yearning and despair the woman
sat spellbound, and finally he swung into that tritest of time-worn
airs, "Home, Sweet Home."

A gasp came into Marcia's throat.

As Paul Burton left his seat and came down to her, his face was drawn
and he said bluntly, "_She_ is here today."

She did not have to ask details or if it was ended. The music had told
her everything. In a sudden gust of feeling and wrath against this woman
who had stood between her and happiness, she wanted to say bitter
things--but she only nodded.

"Now that matters have turned out as they have," the man spoke
deliberately, but tensely, "I sha'n't see you again. Now that I'm a
bankrupt and it's all over, Marcia, I want you to know that I love
you--that I love you without doubt or hesitation. In this world and
whatever other worlds there are, there is only you ... you whom I lost
because the coward _must_ lose every good thing life holds." He broke
off and asked very humbly, "Just in farewell--may I kiss you--once
more?"

With a torrent of sobs she came into his arms. "From the first," she
declared, "I've been just yours. I've never thought of myself except as
yours. Take me! Poverty doesn't frighten me. I've known it too
long--it's almost like an old friend. Let's fight our way back
together."

There are moments which turn mice into lions and make heroes of the
craven. Unfortunately they are apt to be ephemeral. Paul Burton shook
his head as he looked into her eyes, and answered with an unwonted
resolution.

"No," he said bitterly, "not now. Now I'm a bum."

"You needn't be. You are young. You have genius. We can win out yet--and
win out big--and win out together."

His lips twisted in a pallid smile of self-derision.

"At all events for once I know myself. If I ever become a man, God knows
I'll come to you. But I haven't done it yet. I mustn't know where you
are, dear. I'm strong enough--just now, but in some dark, weak moment
I'll come hurrying to you, if I can find you--before I've proved
myself."

"I'm going out--on the road--this afternoon," she spoke slowly. "I'm
going to wait, and for the first time, I'm really hoping."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the weeks that followed Paul made a resolute attempt to keep his
promise. For a while he played the piano in a restaurant, but his frail
constitution had been shattered by these late months and sickness
intervened. Mary, too, with her thoughts painfully bent upon the rapid
shrinkage of the little bank account, endlessly sought employment.
Because she was beautiful, and because even through these dark and
hopeless days she had brought with her a regal poise of her lovely head,
everyone to whom she applied gave audience--and little else.

In appraising her business assets, she itemized her knowledge of several
languages, her excellent education and her willingness to work. She was
countered by the reminders that she did not know stenography, could not
use a typewriter and had no prior experience. Many business men listened
and took her address, but as the days wore on she discovered that the
only ones who ever referred again to those memoranda were such as
remembered her beauty, and insisted on discussing the possibilities in
cafés over a supper party for two.

One item of regularity Mary found time for, between her exhausting
journeys of tracking down advertisements. She went often to the cemetery
where Jefferson Edwardes slept, and her single extravagance was the
purchase of a few inexpensive flowers to carry with her.

On one of these occasions she happened upon a burial in a lot near that
she had just visited. The deceased had been a person of sufficient
consequence to warrant newspaper attention, and Mary, in passing the
spot from which the carriages were starting away, halted reverently. As
she went on again, someone overtook her and touched her arm. Turning her
head she recognized Smitherton. He had been the most courteous and
considerate of the newspaper men with whom her family's late affairs had
compelled her to have repeated meetings.

The reporter looked her straightforwardly in the eyes and inquired
bluntly, "You were in the office yesterday, looking for employment,
weren't you?"

"Yes," she said. "They offered me a position--if I would write a
'heart-interest' story of my life--signing it and concealing nothing."

The young man nodded. "I know and I saw your eyes as you refused. I'm
not talking as a reporter now, but as a human being. You won't make any
mistake by trusting me, Miss Burton. Is it so bad as all that with you?
Hunting a job?"

The girl had by this time attained a certain reliance in her own
abilities of human appraisement. She believed what young Smitherton said
and she answered with equal frankness.

"It is so bad that we face sheer starvation, that's all."

After a keen glance at her he observed quietly: "At this moment you are
not overfed."

"N--no." A faint amusement lighted her pupils as she answered, "I'm
not--well, exactly gorged."

"Now I want to talk to you, and you needn't hesitate about telling me
things." There was a frank boyishness about this young man, and his
manner reminded her of Edwardes. She thought his eyes had something of
that same straight fearlessness and honesty. "You are going with me from
here to a little restaurant I know, near by, and you are going to hear
me out. I know that you're going through sheer hell, and I know a game
scrapper when I meet one whether it be a man or woman. This business
teaches a fellow several things."

In the end she went.



CHAPTER XXXI


An hour later she felt as if she had known Smitherton for a long while
and could rely upon him. Then he lighted a cigar and said slowly: "I
have taken all this time and said nothing useful. I did it
deliberately--because what comes next will sound so cruel that I
wouldn't say it if the reason wasn't sufficient. I'm going to hurt
you--but only as the dentist or surgeon might hurt you. Shall I go on?"

She looked at him across the table and since cowardice had no place in
her composition braced herself and nodded her acquiescence.

"You don't get much help from your brother. It's not his fault, perhaps,
but it's true. You get none at all from your father. Your mother is in a
condition of mental derangement. It's up to you. You've walked your feet
sore seeking honest employment--and you've met with failure and affront.
Now I'm coming to it and I'm going to put it plain. In this town of New
York there is just one opening for you. One thing will bring you
handsome returns: nurses for your mother--comfort for your father--but
it will be an ordeal. You must capitalize your beauty and the publicity
that attaches to your name."

Mary Burton's lovely face grew paler, and, fearing interruption, the man
rushed on. "I don't mean in the way the Sunday editor suggested. I mean
the stage. I eke out my revenue in Park row with some press-agent work,
and I happen to know what I'm talking about. Mary Burton is one of the
most advertised names in the city. To a manager it would be worth
whatever it cost."

"But"--her voice faltered--"but I can't act. I've been in amateur things
of course, but--"

"You don't have to know how to act." His voice rose ironically. "Few
stars do--besides, I'm talking about vaudeville. The highest-priced
vaudeville headliner in America boasts that she can neither act, sing
nor dance."

He paused for a moment, then, as she said nothing, proceeded gravely:
"Think that over, Miss Burton. New York pays for names and what New York
pays for the rest of the country accepts--at more than face value. I can
see to it that your contract is carefully drawn--and you needn't fear
the usual unpleasant features of visiting managers. They will come to
you. It's not what you would prefer--but if other things fail telephone
me."

It was a small restaurant, very plain but neat, and at this hour of the
late afternoon the man from Park row and the woman who had once been the
toast of capitals from the Irish Sea to Suez sat across one of its small
tables undisturbed by other patrons. Only a waiter stood across the room
and a cat rubbed against his ankles.

In her mourning she made a wonderfully appealing picture, as she gazed
down at her plate, even though her lowered lashes half-masked the
mismated beauty of her eyes. Suffering had laid a veil of transparent
pallor over the brilliant vividness of her coloring--a coloring that her
lover had once likened to the gorgeousness of the Mosque of Omar. Yet,
by this, her beauty was rather enhanced than lessened as though Nature,
the master-painter, had retouched a picture already wondrous, softening
its colors with a tone more spiritual. Both face and figure had lost
something of roundness and the hand that lay on the table was slenderer
of finger and wrist, but Mary Burton had not been robbed of her beauty,
and when she spoke, very low and hesitantly, one realized that out of
her voice no single golden note was missing. She might still be
truthfully advertised as one of the world's rare beauties.

"I know," she said softly, "that you make that suggestion in true
kindness--and I know how great my need is. If I am to save my mother and
father from starvation, I must do something, and yet--" She paused and
shuddered. "Maybe it's all foolish and over-fastidious, but your
suggestion sets every nerve in me on edge. It's not very different after
all from your Sunday editor's suggestion--except in the spirit of its
making."

"Still, there is a difference," he assured her. "The footlights are
between and they give a sense of separation--and protection. Was
Herron--the Sunday man--particularly obnoxious? He's not human, you
know--he's just an efficient machine."

The fingers of the hand that lay on the table trembled a little and
Mary's eyes as they met his were clouded with distress.

"I hadn't supposed such things could be," she said. "He was very
impersonal about it all--and he grew enthusiastic as he outlined what he
wanted." Her words came slowly in a detached voice, though as she spoke
her delicate features responded to the shiver of disgust that ran
through her shoulders and at times her lips quivered. "He wanted me to
write it all--telling about every man abroad, especially with a title,
who had ever--been nice to me. He wanted pictures of me; all sorts of
pictures, in evening-gowns, in polo togs--in bathing-suits. He wanted a
chapter on how much my clothes used to cost--all my clothes. He said the
women would 'eat that up.'" She stopped and a wan smile crept into her
eyes, as she added, "I am using his words, Mr. Smitherton. But I could
stand that. I sat through it. I couldn't afford to lose any chance if it
was a chance I might decently take. But it was when he wanted his
picture, too, Jefferson's--"

She had to stop there for a moment and a mist came to her eyes which she
resolutely kept from overflowing in actual tears as she went on. "It was
when he wanted me to write down all his words and publish his letters
that I realized I couldn't fight even starvation that way."

"The damned brute!" muttered Smitherton. "The unspeakable beast!"

"To do him justice," admitted the girl generously, "I think he forgot,
in visualizing those pages which the women would 'eat up,' that it was
actually me he was talking to--it was just outlining work to a reporter.
He said something about 'sob-stuff,' too. To me, Mr. Smitherton, he
spoke of all these terrible, hideous things, that I lie awake
remembering, as 'sob-stuff'--and I knew that the worst of them were
times that made sobs impossible--when even tears wouldn't come."

"I had no idea it had been that bad." Smitherton's sympathy was genuine
and spontaneous.

"It was worse even," she went on. "He spoke of that--that afternoon when
I read the ticker tape--and knew what had happened. He said that,
properly colored, that would make a--a great scene. He said it had
drama." Her voice choked, then she added: "So you see your suggestion
will be a hard one for me to take. I should feel like--like Godiva
riding through the streets. And yet for her own people Judith went to
the tent of Holofernes. That wasn't easy, either."

They rose from the table and went out, and the girl held out her hand.
"Please don't think that I am unappreciative," she pleaded. "I know how
kind you have been--and I don't know how much longer I can hold out. You
said I could trust you, and now I know it, too. If--" her voice broke,
but her chin came up--"if I'm driven to it, I'll let you know--and be
very grateful."

"Don't let any one else talk to you," he cautioned. "Remember that this
is the capital of sharks. Now I'm going to call a taxi', and take you
home."

But she shook her head. "It's good of you," she said and her cheeks
flushed. "But I'd rather you didn't. I'm going by the people's
chariot--the subway." She was not yet quite able to conquer the old
pride that remained from the old life. She shrunk from showing him the
meanness of her quarters; she who had reigned and been toasted and lived
in the exclusive aloofness of the favored few, and who now faced
starvation. So he parted from her at the nearest kiosk of the
underground.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be a pleasant thing to paint the rehabilitation of Paul Burton,
showing how the underlying qualities of manhood rose in adversity as
they had never risen in opulence, and how love transformed him from a
weakling into a hero. But veracity intervenes. In childhood his
character had lacked stamina, and in manhood a hot-house atmosphere had
stifled even what had been there in the beginning. For a short time
after he had seen Marcia Terroll he fought the world and his own
terrible weakness with such a resolution that he utterly burned up and
consumed what spirit of combat was left within him. Perhaps the
recording angel, counting not only results but handicaps, wrote on the
great ledger of human balances a generous merit mark for even that brief
struggle.

Paul was like a weak swimmer in a strong undertow. He battled hard and
if he could not battle long it was because the measure of his strength
was not a matter of his own choosing. For a while he held a position as
organist in a church--and during those days he brought home the only
revenue which came in. But that did not last. The truth must be told.
Paul's fastidious spirit sickened at the sordid and tawdry, and when he
discovered one day, through the unkind offices of a vagabond violinist,
that it was possible to reconstruct a dream world, even in the midst of
want and poverty, his hunger for tranquillity triumphed over his
resolve. With a hypodermic needle he picked the lock--and threw open the
gate of dreams. To himself he said that it was only a temporary
indulgence, to be put aside when he had conquered the agonies of that
sleeplessness which had of late tortured him. Mary, deprived of his aid,
fought on alone, with all the fighting courage of the Burton blood at
its best--and fought hopelessly.

Elizabeth Burton could not be left alone. Her mind had crumbled into
such pitiful decay that her care chained the daughter in a rigorous
confinement. Now even the opportunity for seeking employment was denied
her.

The ruin of the Burton family was as total and complete as if fate were
bent on tallying measure for measure their past magnificence. The
quarters which Yamuro had chosen were given up and lodgings taken of a
far meaner sort.

If Mary needed a final twisting of the knife in her wounded life it came
when there stood between them and the streets a single asset, and she
went to realize on that, haggling with a pawnbroker over her engagement
ring.

Marcia Terroll came back to town for a brief stay between engagements
and stopped with Dorothy Melliss at their old rooms. She had not dared
to ask any question about Paul, and the other girl would have refrained
from volunteering information had she possessed it. Indeed, it would
have been unlikely that Dorothy would know anything of the submerged
Burtons in this city where lives may run out parallel spans almost door
to door, and never touch. But one evening as Marcia was crossing the
square, just after the lights began to glow, a human derelict sidled up
to her and accosted her with a mumbled petition for alms. The man was
old and his clothes though neatly patched were threadbare and worn. His
face, too, was seamed and his breath was alcoholic.

"Madam," he said in a low voice as he fell into step with her, "I was
not always so unfortunate, nor am I responsible for my adversities.
Could you--"

With a shudder of disgust Marcia quickened her pace, and the man,
fearful of the eye of police authority, dropped back. But Miss Terroll
could never bring herself without a struggle to ignore the plea of old
age. It struck her, too, that despite his panhandler's manner this man
was yet in a fashion different.

There was evidently someone who sought to keep him neatly mended up,
for her woman's eye had caught that detail in a glance. Through his
inebriety lurked a ghost-like suggestion of past gentility. She turned
impulsively back, beckoning to him as she searched her purse. In it were
two quarters and one of them she gave him.

"God bless you, madam," he began with a grotesque echo of the ancient
pompousness. "God knows I had never anticipated such a necessity."

As she hurried on, he removed his hat and bowed with an attempt at
stateliness which held a pathos of burlesque.

Marcia Terroll was spared the hurt of knowing that the panhandler with
whom she had divided the contents of her pocketbook, and whom she had
thus enabled to buy five greatly desired glasses of beer, was the father
of the man she loved.

So, though Mary Burton did not know it, this was the way old Tom eked
out the very scant pin-money she could spare him for his own method of
drugging his sorrows.



CHAPTER XXXII


An old year was dying and a young year was about to be born. Along the
blazing stretch of Broadway from Thirtieth street to Columbus circle
seethed and sounded the noisy saturnalia of New Year's Eve.

The street that never sleeps was tonight a human spill-way, churning in
freshet. Between its walls went up the clamor of human throats raised in
talk, in shouts, in song, in laughter and in contest with the blaring of
toy horns, the racket of rattlers and all those discordances that seek
to swell pandemonium to the bursting of ear-drums. Theaters were
disgorging their "big-night" audiences and pedestrians moved in a
congested mass which battalions of traffic officers herded slowly as
dogs herd crowded sheep.

An endless procession was this, in which human entities were molecules,
that crept, elbowing, jamming, laughing along. Holly-wreathed windows
bore, in additional decoration, placards announcing, "This café is open
all night." For this was the city's wild occasion of suspended laws,
when two edicts only hold in the favored points of rendezvous, "Nothing
but wine," and, "Everything goes."

Vendors of paper caps, false mustaches, confetti, balloons and all the
noise-swelling devices ever bred of deviltry, hawked their wares along
the curbs, and the furs of women glittered with atoms of colored paper.

Within the restaurants and cabarets was added to the outer din a
popping of corks, a fanfare of orchestras and the songs of supper guests
at tables and dancers on the floors.

Already a sequence of wild scenes telescoped themselves along the White
Way, but the evening was yet young and would ripen toward fulfilment as
the hours progressed. Its Bacchanalian zenith would be reached after the
million lights of these gilded places had died--like the snuffing of a
single candle--into the five minutes of darkness which heralds the
changing year.

Along the uproarious sidewalks, pressing ragged shoulders to the
richness of ermine and seal, drifted many hopeless derelicts, but
tonight was to be a night of forgetting them, of forgetting everything
save that it was a "large evening" and that life held only the present
clarion of gaiety. The tragedy under this thin crust must be ignored.
Mirth must be crowned; laughter must be enthroned; glasses must sparkle
and clink and such individuals as elected to remain sober must look
indulgently and smilingly on scenes which, at another time, would
require a blush. To blush on Broadway on New Year's Eve would be a
misdemeanor. It doesn't happen.

One splinter of human drift which was carried along on the tide gazed
about out of a chalky face--morphia-stamped. This chip on the churning
eddy bore the name of Paul Burton. He had of course no business there.
For him there was no reasonable prospect of a happy new year. There
still remained a roof--of a sort--to cover him when he went home, which
was not so often as it should be, and he still wore a suit of decent
cut, though of a past fashion, but in its pockets there was no jingle of
coins. Passively Paul had been drawn into the maelstrom of the marching
crowds, yet he was not of its membership. He could not turn in at any
of the doors that blazed with light and invitation. But he had certain
dreams which vaguely recompensed him--and in his pockets was a
hypodermic needle.

At Longacre square, where the swirl and eddy of human currents met and
became a cauldron and whirlpool, he was held up at a crossing, while the
crowd shrunk back on itself, waiting the raised hand of the traffic
policeman.

Finding himself jostled, he glanced languidly over his shoulder. The
needle makes for such languidness at times between its moments of
dreaming and its moments of jumping nerves.

Several men in evening-dress and fur coats surrounded him, and he knew
them all. The face of Norvil Thayre was laughing into his, and he
recognized that an evening well started had painted its flush on the
cheeks of each of them.

"My word, Burton!" laughed the Englishman. "I haven't seen you since the
war of the Roses. How goes it, lad?" Then, even in his heightened gaiety
of mood, Thayre recognized the want and distress which had left their
impress and pallor on this face, and his eyes sobered. With the other
rules of the season he felt that forgetfulness of the past accorded, so
he hastened to add, "You know these fellows. Fall in and hike along with
us. We have a table reserved at Kenley's and it's close to the platform.
I dare say we sha'n't miss many tricks."

A deep embarrassment flooded the face of the outcast. He, who had once
numbered these men among his associates, felt sensitively the pinched
poverty of his present condition and its contrast with their
Persian-lamb collars, otter-lined coats and their white shirt fronts of
evening-dress.

"Thank you," he said gravely, "I'm afraid I can't. Your party is made up
and--and--"

But as he stammered to a pause Thayre slapped him heartily on the back,
and the others, with voices of more advanced inebriety, made it a chorus
of insistence.

"'Twill do you no harm, my lad," declared the Englishman. "'A little
nonsense now and then--' You know the old saw. A bite of mixed grill and
a beaker of bubbles will buck you up, no end."

The musician hesitated, deeply tempted. To sit at table with white
damask and clear glass, and once more to eat such things as they serve
at Kenley's! The idea could not be lightly dismissed. Besides he felt
suddenly giddy and weak. He frequently felt so these days, and if he
accepted he could rest quietly until the vertigo passed.

"I say--of course," Thayre leaned forward and explained in a lowered
voice, "you go as my guest. I'm giving the party tonight."

Ten minutes later, retrieved from the street, Paul Burton sat near the
edge of the cabaret platform in a café where every table had been
reserved long in advance, and from whose doors many eager applicants
were being turned away.

Nearby, too, was the space reserved for dancing, and as Paul drank his
first glass of champagne the bubbles rose and raced merrily through his
thin blood, lifting him out of his squalid reality into an echo world of
irresponsibility. The crowds on the floor were swirling to a delirious
dance tune while above their heads shot up the white arms of women and
the black arms of men, to keep dozens of multi-colored toy balloons
afloat over them.

Like glass balls on a fountain-spray, red and blue and purple spheres
drifted up and down, and confetti showered, and dancers snatched paper
caps from the heads of strangers, and crowned themselves therewith.

Wilder groups danced, not in pairs, but in trios and quartettes with
arms locked around shoulders--and it wanted a half-hour of the changing
year.

Thin ribbons of bright paper volleyed rocket-wise from table to table
and fell in festoons from overhead wires. Dancers forced their way
through showers of breaking strands, and swayed rhythmically on,
trailing broken shreds of kaleidoscopic color.

Like punctuations of sound came the popping of balloons and corks.

Paul Burton's hosts had arrived at the stage of mellow exhilaration, but
over Paul himself, as his eyes met the great clock which was to herald
the eventful moment, fell a sudden shadow of black depression. Another
year to face! He thought of what he had promised to do with this
one--and of what he had done! Those last moments in his music-room rose
to his memory and they carried a penalty which slugged his heart into an
intensity of shame and misery. Paul Burton, sitting there with this thin
semblance of merriment around him, saw himself once again very clearly
for what he was.

Thayre leaned over. "I say, men," he suggested with the enthusiasm of a
new and bright idea sparkling in his eyes, "let's call the head waiter
and have Burton play for us. The management will be jolly well pleased
when they know they're getting the greatest instrumentalist in New
York."

Paul protested, but Thayre was a man of quick action, and a moment
later the waiter had brought the head waiter, and the head waiter had
gone for the manager.

Such patrons as these the manager had every wish to oblige, and he was
by no means unwilling to utilise such an artist as Paul Burton when the
lights came on again and his patrons rose to their feet for the national
anthem.

"Of course," cautioned Thayre, "Mr. Burton doesn't want his name
announced," and even to that restriction, limiting the value of his
extemporaneous "feature," the manager reluctantly acceded.

To live for music and to have no instrument with which to express one's
emotions means a tortured privation of the spirit. Paul Burton, as he
took his seat at the piano, forgot that it was New Year's eve on
Broadway, forgot the lights, the confetti and the toy balloons. He
remembered only that here were keys which unlocked his dream-world of
music, and when he began to play the clamor of the place slowly and
quite unconsciously subsided, and quiet came--not at once, but as a
delirium may soften slowly into sleep under the stroke of a soothing
hand.

When from an outlying table a woman, grown louder of laughter than she
realized, interrupted this quiet, a score of faces turned angrily in her
direction, rebuking her with their glances.

But the music went on and the great crowd which had a few moments before
been abandoning itself to noise and riot now found itself
listening--listening in a sort of rapt trance--with its many gazes
converging on a slender young man. His pallid face and cameo features
seemed exalted and his eyes burned strangely under the dark locks that
fell across his forehead.

They did not hear the first peal of the midnight clock, until the
sudden darkness which that stroke heralded reminded them of the hour.

The place which had blazed with light was now as black as some sea-floor
cavern, and that should have been the signal for a hundred horns and
rattlers and shouts of greeting, and the reaching of hands to meet and
grasp other hands across the tables. But in Kenley's it was quiet except
for those peals of music that came from the platform. At last the
strains ended in silence, and a deep breath passed among the tables as
though from one composite pair of lungs. Then once more the instrument
spoke--spoke with a grotesque inappropriateness for a night that was not
to end till morning--for the notes that sounded across the place were
the opening bars of, "Home, Sweet Home."

There were only a few bars--and after that a loud crash as though a
number of hands had simultaneously fallen, with violence, upon the
keys--and then the lights blazed again from all the opalescent
chandeliers and all the wall brackets.

Instantly from tables near the center two young women, in paper caps,
leaped up from their seats and kissed the men and women of their party.
A wave of greetings swept the place.

Across one end of the room gleamed a huge electric sign, "Happy New
Year"--and lying hunched forward with his face on the keyboard of the
instrument sagged the unmoving figure of Paul Burton.

At once the lights went out again, leaving the place dark, and the voice
of the manager was heard from the platform, a little strained in tone as
he sought to conceal the tragedy which, should it become known, would
end the night's profit for his establishment.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he lied resourcefully, "I hope you will all
keep your seats and indulge the management for a few moments. A fuse has
burned out, but it will at once be remedied. Our pianist, I will add,
has suffered a fainting spell, but is in no danger."

When the lights came on again, the figure at the piano was no longer
there. Just back of the platform was a door used by the cabaret
performers, and through this he had been borne.

But the faintness which had come upon Paul Burton was the faintness of
death, and there were those among the merry-makers who could not forget
the grotesque attitude of which they had caught a glimpse, and who found
subsequent merry-making impossible.

"Notify the coroner," ordered the policeman who had come in from the
corner through a service entrance. "This is a case for him."

The manager bent an ear toward the outer door and recognized that there
had been no resumption of the saturnalian chorus between his walls. "Mr.
Thayre," he commented bitterly to the guest who had followed into the
private room, "your friend there has put New Year's eve on the blink for
my place--this thing costs me thousands."

"Who's the dead man?" demanded the officer bluntly, and when Thayre
replied with two words, "Paul Burton," he gave a long, low whistle of
astonishment. The name of Burton was not yet forgotten in New York.



CHAPTER XXXIII


Mary Burton was returning from a Sixth-avenue delicatessen shop with the
bottle of milk and box of crackers which constituted the marketing for
tomorrow morning's breakfast. She felt very faint and unspeakably sick
at heart. There was no longer even a trivial thing with which to
interest the pawnbroker. She had had little sleep for many nights and
her temples throbbed with pain. She had been trying to think out some
way to mend their misfortunes, and each day brought her nearer the point
where the grinding struggle must end in starvation.

"If it were only myself," she said bitterly as she turned the corner
under the superstructure of the Elevated, and shivered in the cutting
wind of the blizzard which was sweeping the city, "it would be simple."
She paused a moment later and halted against the wall of Jefferson
Market Court where a brick abutment broke the force of the bluster. Mary
was not so warmly clad as this rigorous weather warranted. The last
thing she had taken to the sign of the three balls was a heavy cloak.

"For me," she said to herself as she bent her head into the smother of
wind-driven snow, "life ended there in that office--when he died. If I
had just myself to consider I don't think God would blame me much for
ending it."

But it was not only herself she had to consider. The doctors told her
that her mother's tenuous life strand might snap at any time in sudden
death or might stretch indefinitely in helplessness and dethroned
reason. Even in the mean lodgings they occupied other tenants were
sometimes prone to the drawing of lines, and Mary knew that the landlord
did not regard it as helpful to his business to have "a crazy lady in
the house. Some guests objected." So when she began falling into arrears
she did not delude herself with false hopes of charitable indulgence.
Her father, too, though he had dropped down the scale of life to a
forlorn old man who loafed his hours away in saloons until he was turned
out, was still her father and while breath remained in his disreputable
body his stomach required food as well as drink.

The girl went in at the dark door of the house, which was not greatly
different from a tenement, and climbed the double flight of stairs. From
a place by the window her mother looked up from her chair where she sat
incessantly rocking. She held in her lap an old blank book and her
expression was vacant.

"I've just been reading Ham's diary," she querulously announced. Mary
shuddered. Of late her mother was always reading that old record of
boyhood ambitions, which to her was always new since no memory--save
those of other years--outlasted the hour.

"Ham thinks he's going to be a great man some day and I hope he's right.
He's a good boy and a dutiful son and--"

But the daughter was not listening. Her eyes had encountered an envelope
on the dresser mirror, and, as she tore the end of it, she felt a
premonition of its contents.

"How about some money on account?" questioned the writer. "Unless I get
some by tomorrow, I want my rooms vacated."

So the ultimatum had come. Mary Burton stood before the mirror for a
moment and out of her body all the strength seemed to flow. Her knees
shook, and her hands grew moist and chilly. Lest her sudden weakness be
apparent to her mother she turned and went wearily into the other room.
There she sat on the edge of her bed and tried to think.

"Tomorrow!" She dully repeated. "Tomorrow we are put out--then a public
asylum for my mother--and the street or the almshouse for my father."
Even now she was not thinking of herself. If it came to that she still
believed God would not resent her opening for herself the single door of
escape.

But these two old and helpless people! To Mary they were desperate
burdens, but perhaps that only made her love them the more, and fight
for them the more loyally.

For a long while she sat there in silence, then she rose with a red spot
burning on each cheek and put on her hat again. At the lower landing she
encountered the landlord. He was not a prepossessing man at best, and
his face just now did not indicate that he was at his best.

"You got my note?" he inquired bluntly, and the girl nodded.

"I think," she faltered, "probably I can do something about the rent
tomorrow."

"Thinking isn't going to satisfy me," he announced. "Tomorrow's the
limit of my patience."

Mary suddenly remembered that to telephone costs a nickel, and that she
had none with her. For a moment she stood on the sidewalk before
climbing the two flights again to raid the little supply of her purse.
The endless anxiety and the unbroken strain of these calamitous months
had weakened her to the point of realizing that the stairs were steep.
Then she remembered that the Italian woman at the delicatessen shop was
her friend, and would trust her for the five cents. She fought her way
along to the store through a wind which threatened to sweep her off her
feet and which cut her like whiplashes.

Her trembling fingers made a task of turning the pages of the directory
and finding the number of a newspaper on Park row, but at last she
succeeded.

"Is Mr. Smitherton there?" she asked, and the curt direction came back,
"Hold the wire."

Smitherton was sitting at a desk littered with newspaper clippings and
sheaves of copy-paper. His shirt-sleeves were rolled to the elbow and
the light of his desk bulb shone on his ruffled hair as the "copy-kid"
called out to him with that insouciant freshness which stamps his kind.

"Dame wants you on the wire. Got a voice like a million-dollars worth of
peaches an' cream." Mary with the receiver to her ear heard the subtle
compliment of those mixed metaphors.

Smitherton finished pasting a clipping into the blank place in a
type-written page and rose slowly.

"Well?" he inquired shortly. "What is it? This is Smitherton."

At once he recognized the voice which replied, and recognized that it
came faintly and full of indecision.

"This is Mary Burton, Mr. Smitherton. Do you--do you think you could
still find me work in vaudeville?"

"Oh!" The reporter's office brusqueness fell away, and his tone
changed. He knew that this was the girl's last stand, and that she had
not admitted its necessity until every other effort had failed, every
path of escape closed. "I don't think, Miss Burton," he assured her, "I
am certain."

"Do you think--" the voice was even fainter--"it would be possible to
get just a little money--some sort of advance--soon--tomorrow?"

"Leave that to me," he confidently commanded. "Just give me your
address--and I'll be at your place in the morning."

Mary slept little that night. Against her windows screamed and whined
the wind, driving a swish of fine, hard snow in its breath. From two
rivers came the dull groaning of the fog horns. But the storm which kept
her eyes hot and sleepless was one within her own breast.

Over and over again she told herself that the work for which she was
volunteering was in no wise disgraceful. Probably many women who were
her superiors were doing it with willingness, even with warrantable
pride. It would mean for her mother, as the reporter had reminded her,
comfort and competent nursing. Perhaps, in surroundings of greater ease,
her father might even yet rehabilitate himself into a manlier old age.
Save to serve them her own life was already lived out.

But the shudder of disgust would return despite her efforts at its
banishment and shake her like a chill. In her case it was not
vaudeville--and it was only lying to herself to call it so. No manager
was considering the payment of a salary to her for anything she could
legitimately do. It was what Smitherton had described it, capitalizing
the publicity of a misfortune so sweeping as to possess a morbid public
interest. In whatever generosity of terms her contract was drawn its
essential meaning would be that in ten-and a hundred-fold it would come
back to the management for that one reason. It would so come because
people would flock in vulgar curiosity to see the woman who had reigned
in exclusive sets of society from which they were themselves barred;
whose brother had reigned as a magnificent dictator of dollars. They
would come because they had heard of this beauty, and had glutted
themselves with column upon column of yellow and sensational news
recording untold opulence, and afterward of tragedy building on tragedy
to this climax; herself standing there on exhibition in the pillory of
their gaze.

Seats would be filled and applicants turned away from the box-office,
because a large part of the American public differs in no wise from that
of Rome when it gathered in the circus to see a captive princess thrown
to the beasts--or claimed as a captor's slave. Her value could be based
only on pandering to the mob spirit of gloating over the fall of the
great.

They would warm over and republish all the sensational details which
time had cooled. The story she had refused to write, others would not
refuse to write--neither would they refuse to "color" certain scenes
into "drama."

The girl, lying in her bed, pressed her fore-arms against her eyes and
struggled to shut out the pictures that rose as horrors in her mind--but
they passed and repassed with fiendish pertinacity. Nightmare shapes
leered at her from gargoyle features.

To any human being a situation is what it seems to be.

Had she actually, like the Lady Godiva, been called upon to ride the
length of Broadway, clad only in her beautiful hair, and placarded
"Burton's Sister and Edwardes' Fiancée," it could have meant to her
delicacy of feeling no greater trial, no more truly the denuding of
herself to the public gaze.

Had all this realization not been so keen and so poignant Mary Burton
would not have fought so long against the idea which seemed to open the
only way.

Were there just herself she would, before considering such desecration
of every sacred memory, have preferred to stuff with paper the crannies
of that wind-rattled window and to turn on the gas. In comparison this
would have been easy.

Easy! Suddenly the idea became a soul-clutching temptation. It offered
escape from the horror of decision and action; escape, too, from the
haunting of memory. The woman sat up in bed and her eyes gazed
feverishly ahead through the dark. She trembled violently and the plan
invitingly unfolded. Some unseen devil's advocate was urging her, for
the instant half-persuading her, insinuating and luring. Often as a very
little girl she had slept in a room as bare as this and listened
contentedly to the rattle of storm-shaken shutters. She had cuddled, a
warm, soft shape, under the blankets, and sunk sweetly, dreamily into
unconsciousness and happy dreams. It was so easy! There, in a drawer
where she had thrust it, with abhorrence for the emblem of a
contemptible weakness, was Paul's hypodermic needle. This very night she
could again drift, unresisting, into sleep, and while she slept the
gas-jet could flow free.

The room was cold. Sitting upright in her bed, she shivered. Then, as
she realized how seriously she had yielded for a panic-ridden moment to
the temptation of turning her back on life's need of courage, the
shiver grew from a shudder of the flesh to a shudder of the soul. She
lay down again and hid her face in the pillow.

From the next room she heard the heavy snore of her father and the
gentler sleeping breath of her mother. Personal preferences and
prejudices belonged to the past.

Very well--she still had the flaming Burton courage. She would do this
hateful thing, and when she gazed on the eyes that glutted their
curiosity with staring, she would meet them serenely and give them no
sign that she was being tortured.

And this thing Mary Burton did--did with that calm dignity which is
vouchsafed to those whose souls are of heroic quality.

It was only when the day's work of rehearsal ended and she was locked
again in her own room that she sat dry-eyed and wretched, remembering a
dozen things which made her shudder. But as she walked along the streets
she kept her eyes to the front, because she could not tell from what
wall one of those blazing "three sheets" might confront her. They were
advertising her as Mary Hamilton Burton--that the value of those two
names might doubly pique the curiosity of the morbid.

Also, she avoided as a pestilence the newspapers, and what they might
contain.

Abey Lewis did not at all understand her, though he had handled a
variety of people during his long career as a purveyor of "refined
vaudeville" to the public. He confessed as much to Mr. Smitherton, with
whom, as Miss Burton's business manager, he came into constant
association.

"I don't get her at all, Mr. Smitherton," he querulously complained.
"I've known most of the big-time artists that have come along in
vodeville, and she ain't like none of them I ever seen. I've made a lot
of head-liners, but this girl acts like it gives her a pain to talk to
me. She don't seem to take no interest in her act."

The business manager chewed irritably on his cigar. They were sitting in
the darkened theater while Mary Burton was being rehearsed in the short
and dramatic sketch which Smitherton had secured for her.

"Has it occurred to you, Lewis," he suggested, with a certain coolness
of manner, "that you wouldn't be paying Miss Burton the salary you are
if she was like anybody else you've known? Haven't you considered the
fact that this lady is going to pack your place to capacity because of
her difference?"

"Maybe so. Maybe she's a big novelty, and I ain't kicking," assented the
other. "But it does seem to me she ought to be more grateful--for the
chance she's getting. She's a knock-out all right! Them eyes ought to
get the folks going--I wish she'd use 'em more."

The two sat silent for a while with the empty chairs around them, then
Mr. Abey Lewis raised the megaphone with which he was directing and
spoke to the stage.

"Daughter," he instructed, "you ain't quite got the psychology of the
part yet." Mary Burton came down toward the front of the stage, with her
fore-arm raised across her face to shut off the glare of the "foots," as
she listened. Mr. Lewis rose and walked thoughtfully down the aisle
toward her. It was Mr. Lewis' intent to handle very delicately this new
headliner whom he failed to comprehend, and of whom he stood in secret
awe.

"Now you see, daughter," he went on, "this act gives you a great chance
for emotion, and I know, when you get the right angle on it, you'll eat
it up. You've just got wise there, where I broke in, to the fact that
your husband's a criminal. You ain't never suspected he was a crook
before. Now that calls for emotion.... Put more color into it.... Pound
it a little harder. When George ends his long speech and pauses, that
brings you across, see? It cues your reception of the news. It throws a
bomb under you. In times like them women get more hysterical. They ain't
quiet in grief, like men, so just cut loose a little more. Give us a
nice little scream."

For once Mary Burton almost smiled, as she hearkened to this wise
dissertation on emotion, but she only bowed her head in assent, as the
director added: "Take the scene up again at George's entrance."

When he sat down beside Smitherton, Abey Lewis shook his head. "I ain't
sure we didn't make a mistake in giving her a straight dramatic sketch,"
he said dubiously. "She ain't got no emotion. She needs more pep. Now if
she had an act with lots of changes of costume--something that would
show her off better, it might go bigger."

Smitherton growled.

"Yes, and then you wouldn't have her at all," he retorted. "Get it
through your head that this whole thing is distasteful to Miss Burton.
It's bad enough as it is, without asking her to do a diving Venus."

"She won't ever be an actor," commented Mr. Lewis, sagely, "but what the
hell's the difference? It's the name that's going to carry this act--and
it's going to be a knock-out."



CHAPTER XXXIV


The day of the ordeal arrived. Mary could not remember any occasion to
which she had gone with such a sense of terror and misgiving, but this
neither Mr. Lewis nor any of his subordinates suspected. It had pleased
the management to call a morning rehearsal, so Mary had not been able to
go home before her matinée début. Tomorrow, if all went well, she could
remove her parents to a greater comfort, so it was her affair to see
that all went well.

Her mother had been less well than usual during these last few days and
Mary had impressed upon old Tom Burton the necessity of remaining on
watch during her own absence. But, out of the advance she had received,
Old Tom had drawn a small allowance, and it was remarkable how greatly
the manner of bartenders had changed for the better in the brief space
of a few days. By forenoon Thomas Standish Burton was more than tipsy,
and by two o'clock as he emerged from a side door his step was so
unsteady that he found the slippery footing a matter requiring studious
attention. Once he would have fallen had a policeman not caught his arm.

"I thank you, sir," acknowledged the old man, "I am deeply gra'fle,
sir."

"You're deeply loaded," replied the officer. "I ought to run you in for
your own protection."

"I'm sure--" Burton's eyes were watery and his voice thick--"you
wouldn't do that. M' wife's sick an'--"

"Well, get on back to her, and--if you want good advice--when you get
indoors, stay in." With a kindly tolerance the policeman assisted the
pedestrian across the street and watched him tack along until he was
lost to sight.

It was a bad day for uncertain feet and legs. The town lay locked in a
grip of ice which sheeted streets and sidewalks with a treacherous
danger. Horses struggled with hooves that shot outward, and children
slid merrily and the elderly picked their way with a guarded caution.

Old Tom Burton made the trip back to the lodging-house and up the double
flight of stairs in safety. One leg was a little painful, for in that
fine irony, which sometimes seems to prove Life a cynical humorist,
Thomas Standish Burton had been endowed with a single relic of wealth
and epicureanism--he suffered from gout. So, as he climbed, he
laboriously favored the crippled foot.

Then he opened the door of his wife's room and entered. But after one
step he stood still, then he brushed a sleeve across his eyes to see
more clearly. Elizabeth Burton lay, full length, on the floor near her
chair--and she seemed unconscious. The old man hurried over to her and
succeeded in lifting her weight to the bed. She must have suffered a
heart-attack and fallen as she tried to cross the room alone. A great
fear seized upon his heart and in some degree sobered him. He listened
for the heart-beat and clasped shaking fingers to a wrist that at first
seemed pulseless. But at last he found a faint flutter of life in the
body he had thought lifeless--so faint and wavering a flutter that it
seemed only a whispered echo of a departed vitality.

For a while he stood stupefied, then he thought of Mary. Of course, he
must send word to Mary. Perhaps, too, life could still be coaxed back,
if a doctor came quickly enough. Down the stairs he hobbled with a speed
that drove him into a sort of frantic and clumsy gallop. On the first
floor he knocked on the landlord's door and implored him to call a
physician at once, while he himself went out to the telephone.

The nearest instrument was in a saloon and hither the old man hurried.
Mary had given him the number of the stage 'phone, and he called it.
Despite the coldness of the afternoon, perspiration burst out and beaded
his forehead as he waited--only to hear the exasperating voice of the
operator announce, "Busy." Three times this was repeated and while he
waited, pacing frenziedly back and forth, he sought, after each
successive failure, to allay the jump and tremor of his shocked nerves
with whiskey, and he poured generously.

At last he had the theater number and was told that Miss Burton could
not answer just then, but a message would be delivered.

"Tell her to come home at once," he shouted wildly into the receiver.
"Her mother's dying."

"Wait," came the somewhat startled reply. Then after a moment a new and
truculent voice sounded in his ear.

"What is this," it demanded, "a bum joke you're trying to put over, or
what? Come home at once!--Don't you know a packed house is waiting to
see Miss Burton in her act? What do ye mean, come home at once?"

"But I tell you--"

"Go tell it somewhere else." Thomas Burton did not know that it was
Abey Lewis himself who spoke. "I don't believe you--you're trying to
string somebody--and if the Queen of China was dying she couldn't come
now anyways."

Slowly Abey Lewis turned from the receiver he had abruptly hung up and
beckoned the subordinate who had first taken the message.

"Don't mention this to anybody," directed the chief tersely. "Do you get
me? The girl mustn't hear it--and if any telegrams or messages come, you
bring 'em to me, first, see?" Then to the stage door-man he gave a
similar command, and looked at his watch. It was two forty-five. Mary's
act, held for the latter part of the bill, was not due for an hour. For
just a moment Mr. Lewis considered the advisability of advancing it on
the program. That might be safer--but also it would mar the climacteric
effect and so offend his sense of artistic fitness. He thought that,
after all, he had safeguarded matters well enough.

But Old Tom Burton had rushed out of the saloon and was hastening at his
awkward gallop to the Eighth-street station of the elevated. He was
going to tell Mary in person and to bring her home.

Around the turn of the rails he saw a train coming, and, urged by his
obsession of haste, he strove for a greater speed. The top steps were
slippery, and Old Tom was giddy and his legs uncertain. His foot shot
sideways without warning, and his body went hurtling backward. He
clutched desperately for the hand-rail and missed it. Down the long
flight of iron-edged stairs, in a bundle of ragged old humanity, he
rolled limply, and lay shapeless on the pavement. At once, a rush of
feet brought a little crowd, and the same policeman who had helped him
home earlier bent over him.

"Who is he?" asked someone, and the officer shook his head.

"Search me," he said. "He smells like a booze-barrel. I ought to have
locked him up the first time."

An ambulance came with much clanging of its gong, and when they examined
him at Bellevue, searching his pockets, they found some letters and
Mary's memorandum. So they learned his identity, and sent a telephone
message to the theater--to be followed a half-hour later by a second
announcing that life was extinct.

But while old Thomas was making his dash for the top of the stairs at
the elevated, the landlord, followed by a physician, tapped on the door
of the room Thomas Burton had left--and, receiving no response, the pair
went in. Swiftly the doctor labored, and as the powerful hypodermic
worked, the old woman rallied a little and her lids wavered and opened.
Her eyes wandered about the place and she spoke with a feeble voice.

"Who are you?"

"I am the doctor, but you mustn't try to talk," came the grave reply.

"Where are my children--my boys and my girl?" Elizabeth Burton's face
suddenly became a face of terror and her eyes dilated. "Where are my
children?" she once more demanded.

"There is no one here just now." The doctor spoke as soothingly as he
could. "You mustn't talk."

A spark of returned sanity crept into the dying woman's pupils and she
groaned. "No one here! I remember," she said while she shook with a
sudden realization. "I remember--they're all gone." Her gaze traveled
around the squalid room, and realized what that meant, too. "Am I
dying?" she inquired. The physician murmured something evasive, and from
her thin lips broke a low, smothered outcry. "Yes," she said, striving
to rise and falling back, "I'm dying--alone--abandoned--by myself--in
this attic."

Then her eyes closed. The physician bent over the bed with his fingers
on the pulse, and then bent his ear to the breast.

"We have nothing more to do here," he announced briefly, "except to
notify her daughter and the coroner. Have you the young woman's 'phone
number?"

The landlord nodded.

All of these scraps of information were received by Mr. Abey Lewis. He
had taken his place near the 'phone and stood sentinel there. But when
the second communication arrived he procured a pair of clippers from the
stage carpenter and quietly cut the connecting wire close to the wall
where it would not show. He was taking no imprudent chances.

       *       *       *       *       *

Smitherton reached the theater early and stood for a while at the elbow
of the ticket-taker, watching the throngs crowd in. But at the
commencement of the performance he went inside and sat near the back of
the house. It was only when he knew that Mary's act was due in a few
minutes that he went behind. She might want just a word or smile of
encouragement at the final moment.

For Mary this had been a morning and afternoon of soul-trying torture
and she had been sustained only by the knowledge that she was doing what
she was doing not for herself--but for those helpless ones whom she
loved.

As the moment drew nearer, she strained more tightly that elastic and
strong thread of courage which had so far held. As an antidote to the
increased loathing she fixed her mind on one supporting thought and
tried to hold it focused there. Tomorrow she could begin looking for
better quarters, and then the two old people should return, not to the
lavish wealth of former times, but to its more essential comfort.

She heard the orchestra tuning for the overture, and shivered. She felt
much more like a victim waiting her turn to be thrown to the lions than
a young woman about to make her début as a "headliner." To herself she
kept repeating under her breath, "Tomorrow they will be comfortable
again." She did not know that already they were comfortable without her
assistance and that her ordeal was pitifully wasted.

Her fortitude wavered momentarily as she looked at her watch--wavered,
but held, and at last she found herself on the stage with no concise
recollection of how she had reached it, beyond a shadowy memory of
Smitherton's smiling face in the wings. The curtain rose, and the
public--part of it was the rabble--fed its eyes on the beauty they had
paid to see--the beauty of a fallen royalty.

There are times when vaudeville galleries are not excessively polite.
This was such a time. For a few moments Mary Burton had the stage to
herself, and her acting was in dumb-show. This was the author's device
for allowing the audience a full realization of her remarkable
beauty--and to the device the audience responded.

From high up among the hoodlums Mary caught, quite distinctly, long low
whistles of very sensual admiration and such critical epigrams as
"Wow!" "Oi-yoi!"... "Me for that!" and "_Some_ girl!"

She felt for an instant that she was standing there wrapped in a blaze
of shame, bound to a stake of vulgar heckling. Then suddenly a scornful
fire mounted through her arteries and with that serene and regal dignity
that added majesty to her beauty she went on as though this stage were
her rightful throne and those people out there were gazing up at her
from a ground level.

The act ran twenty-five minutes, during which time Mr. Lewis and Mr.
Smitherton stood together in the wings. Mr. Lewis rubbed his hands.

"I ask you, Smitherton," he inquired, "could we have arranged it better
if we was running the world ... first-page stories again tomorrow in
every paper in town. We'll have to hire the Hippodrome."

"First-page stories, what do you mean?"

Lewis looked at the young man and enlightened. "Oh, I forgot you didn't
know the latest. Well, the girl's mother is dead and the old man's just
followed suit in a pauper's cot in Bellevue. How's that for
heart-interest? You're a reporter. I ask you, will they feature that on
Park row? Will they give us space for _that_ I ask you?"

"And she went on ... my God!"

"Oh, of course I ain't told her yet," Mr. Lewis hastened to add. "She
might have gone up."

Smitherton caught him violently by the arm and backed him farther
against the wall. His own face was suddenly pale. "You withheld the news
and let her go on? You did that?"

But the vaudeville manager only gazed blankly back into those indignant
eyes and his face was full of perplexity.

"For God's sake, Smitherton, what are you pulling all this tragedy stuff
about? Ain't you her manager? Did you want the whole act queered? Wasn't
the old woman nutty and the old man a bum, and weren't they dead-weight
for her to carry? Didn't they have to die sometime--and could they ever
have picked a luckier time to do it? I ask you now, could they?"

"Great God!" exclaimed the reporter. But the manager went on.

"I call it a miracle of luck. God's good to some folks! Here that girl
gets all her troubles settled at a single stroke--and tomorrow she's the
biggest headliner on Broadway ... and you, the feller that ought to be
out hustling her business interests, stand there gaping like you was
sore because she didn't fliver. I don't get you."

Mr. Lewis's voice was freighted with disgust, then, seeing that the
climax had been reached on the stage, he turned away and signaled to
ring down. "Take all the curtains you can get out of it," he instructed
the stage-manager--as he once more rubbed his hands.

Smitherton stood silent, seeing the curtain descend, then rise and fall
time after time to a thunder of applause. He saw Mary Burton, with all
her distaste masked behind the regal tranquillity of her splendid eyes
and her cruelly wasted courage, bowing, not like an actress, but like an
empress. Then she passed them and closed the door of her dressing-room.

Smitherton heard Lewis' voice once more, accompanied by something like a
sigh. "Now comes the tough part," said the manager. "I've got to go and
break it to her. Of course, just at first she ain't likely to see the
lucky side of it."

The reporter stopped him.

"To hell with you!" he cried out fiercely. "I'll tell her myself--and if
you interrupt me or say a word to her--I'm going to hurt you."

He went slowly to the door, but the manager had followed him with some
excitement, and with no realization that his voice was loud, as he
prompted.

"Put it to her tactful. Remind her that she's made on Broadway, and, now
that the old man and old woman are both dead, she's free."

The dressing-room door suddenly opened, and they saw the girl standing
there unsteadily, but as they approached she took a backward step and
leaned against the wall.

Her eyes had slowly widened, as they had widened before under the
sickening and staggering blows of tragedy. Her lips moved to speak, but
for a while could shape no words. From her shaken bosom came a long and
pitiful moan, which was not loud, and then her voice returned, and she
said, "I heard you. They are--gone."

Smitherton knew that words could hardly help. He closed the door again
and turned aside. Even Lewis moved away and stood silent.

But a few minutes later the dressing-room door once more swung outward
and they saw her at the threshold. She had thrown a cloak around her.
The deadly pallor of her cheeks was grotesquely heightened by the
remnants of rouge which her shaking fingers had failed to completely
remove. Her eyes were wide and staring, gazing into the future or the
past ... into eternity it might have been.

Mr. Abey Lewis laid a hand on her arm.

"Miss Burton," he suggested, "you ain't quite got the paint off yet. It
needs a little more cold cream, still." But Mary did not hear him. She
heard nothing; saw nothing of these surroundings which stood for the
pitifully wasted crucifixion of all her instincts of delicacy.

"This evening at eight," the manager reminded her. "Don't forget--and
maybe you'll feel better then."

For a moment she halted. She had reached the stage-door, other
performers were leaving the theater. She gazed back into the face of Mr.
Abey Lewis, and said blankly, "This evening--what is this evening?"

They sought to stop her, but there was something in those wide eyes that
petrified them all. For the time Mr. Lewis remained as one hypnotized.
The door-man was gazing at her with an expression of awe and wonderment.

Mary herself stood there with the cloak falling open so that the
convulsive throbbing of her throat was laid bare. The two marvelous and
mismated eyes looked at them all and did not see them. The sister of
Hamilton Burton, the woman whom two continents had toasted, was seeing
other things. "Let me pass," she commanded, and they stood aside and saw
her go out into the gathering night and the blizzard.

Smitherton rushed after her.

"Let me at least put you in a taxi'," he pleaded, but she shook her
head.

"You can do only one thing now," she said. "For God's sake, leave me
alone."

Though he knew she was in no condition to be left to herself, the spell
of those eyes was upon him, too. It was impossible to disobey. He stood
there and saw her turn the corner, buffeted by the wind, and disappear.

Then he became conscious of a newsboy's shrieking: "Last 'dition--All
'bout the Burton trad-egy!"



Part III

THE MOUNTAIN TOP

THE STORY THAT WAS

CHAPTER XXXV


It was a June day with the sparkle and lilt of summer's brightest and
tunefulest mood in the sky and a softness and warmth in the air. The
most distant peaks of the mountains slept in a quiet and purple glory
and their nearer slopes still held a forest-freshness undulled by heat
and sunburn.

Deep in the woods of the White Mountains the wild flowers were springing
joyously and the birds were pouring out the fulness of life and joy and
love from trilling throats.

The waters of Lake Forsaken were like a mirror holding in their still
bosom all the vivid color which summer paints into its first and
sweetest days while an after-note of spring's youth still lingers. The
blue of the sky was broken only by white cloud-sails that rode high and
buoyant in the upper air currents, like galleons of dreams, and all
these things were given back in reflection from depths where the bass
leaped and the sun shimmered. On the lake's farther margin a red-brown
shape came down with careful feet gingerly lifted and set down, to raise
its antlered head. But the gentle eyes were not charged with fear, for
this was a season of security and truce with mankind.

If the world held trouble anywhere, no shadow of its passing riffled or
marred the landscape here. And yet in this smile and song of nature,
there must be a certain disregard for human affairs, because the
movement which held the deer's gaze, as he stood there at the water's
edge, looking across the width of Lake Forsaken, was the movement of
human beings trailing along the road in a funeral cortège.

The road along which it traveled was no longer a deeply scarred trail,
rutted through its clay surface by the hauling of lumber. It was metaled
and smooth. There were many changes in the character of things
hereabouts--all changes which attested that the curse of decay and
hopeless sterility had been lifted. Off through a rift in the hills
loomed the white concrete abutment of an aqueduct--and through the
valley wound a railroad. A man might have walked many miles and come
upon few deserted habitations, preyed upon by the twin vandals Time and
Decay and staring blankly out through unglazed windows. What had once
been a land of abandoned farms, a battle-ground where poverty had fought
and defeated humanity, was now a land redeemed. Honest thrift and
substantial comfort had crowned it with reclamation.

The church to which the hearse was making its way had also changed in
aspect. The tumbledown building had become a more worthy house of
worship, unelaborate, but renewed. Its belfry stood upright and on the
Sabbath spoke out in the music of its chimes. Graves where once the
headstones had teetered in neglect lay now in rows of ordered care, and
those who slept in them no longer slept among the briars of over-grown
thickets.

About the building, waiting for the coming of a new tenant in the acre
of the dead, were gathered a score or more of neighbors, because the
body which was to be laid to rest today had been, in life, the member of
a family which they delighted to honor and respect.

Along the stone wall which skirted the road, and under the wild apple
trees, were hitched the wagons and buggies that had brought them from
many miles around, across the hills. Some of them came from houses far
back where roads narrowed and grew precipitous.

Yet even among those who stood waiting in the churchyard near the
reminder of an open grave, the lyric tunefulness of this June morning
refused to surrender unconditionally to sadness. Off between the fence
and the rising slope of the nearest hill a ripple ran across a yellow
field of buckwheat and from a fence-post a golden-breasted lark sang
merrily.

Those who had arrived earliest gossiped of such commonplace matters as
make the round of life where small things take the place of large
excitement, and their faces were not gloomy faces. Young men and girls
among them were strolling apart, and the smiles in their eyes told that
to them death was an incident, but June and love a nearer fact--a thing
closer to their youth.

Then around the turn came the procession which they awaited--a hearse,
followed by several buck-boards and buggies.

At the open gate it halted and the pall-bearers lifted down the casket
from its place, and bore it to the spot which had been prepared for its
reception. There were no formal designs from the shop of any florist,
but from every neighborhood garden had come contributions out of that
wealth which this golden month was squandering in blossom. Roses and
peonies and a brave display of those varied flowers that go in rows
about old-fashioned gardens had been gathered and brought by
sympathetic hands.

But it was chiefly upon the woman who came here to bury the last of her
dead that the bared heads turned eyes of reverent interest. At her side
walked a young farmer, whose tanned face and curling hair and
straight-gazing gray eyes proclaimed a robust and simple manhood.

The girl herself was well worth looking at, even had she not claimed
interest by reason of her bereavement. She walked straight and lithe and
upright with the free grace of some wild thing, as though she shared
with the deer which had looked across the lake the untrammeled strength
of the hills. She was slender, but the fine lines of her figure were
rounded to the fullness of perfect health, and the color of her cheeks,
though now paler than their wont, was like that of delicate rose-leaves,
and her lips were the curved petals of a deeper blossom. Her hair, under
a black mourning hat, tangled in the meshes of its heavy coils the glint
of sunlight on amber and brightened now and then into a hint of
burnished copper, but the features which must have challenged the gaze
of any observer not dead to a sense of color and beauty were the
marvelous and mismated eyes. One was a rich brown like illuminated agate
with a fleck or two of jet across the iris, while its twin was of a
colorful violet and deeply vivid. Now, of course, the heavy lashes were
wet with tears, but the gorgeous beauty of the eyes was not dimmed.

She stood there by the open grave and the masses of simple flowers, with
summer and June and green hills and blue skies at her back; and, of all
their loveliness, she might have been a living impersonation.

The preacher whose duty it was to give a rendering of the burial rites
had grown old in this pastorate, and to him all these people were his
children. He had been with many of them at baptism, he had married them
and buried their dead; they were his flock, and they listened to his
words as to one ripe in wisdom and sainted in his life.

He looked about the little burial ground and his eyes took on an earnest
light and his voice a deep thrill as he spoke.

"If," said he, "there is anywhere a spot which is hallowed ground it is
this spot where we are now laying to her eternal rest what yesterday was
mortal of Elizabeth Burton. She is, save her daughter, the last of the
name to be taken; and in that greater life to which she goes, she will
be reunited with those who loved her and who went before.

"She will share with them--" the preacher paused for a moment then went
on--"the glory of reward which, I think, God loves best to bestow upon
those who, with steadfast unselfishness, have lived simple lives and
left their fellows better for having lived. I do not know how God
measures the deeds of men, or with what degrees of reward he fixes their
place in Paradise; but I feel that I stand on holy ground as my eyes
wander here and fall upon these graves where the Burtons sleep. I know
that once this was a land of want and misery; a country of abandoned
farms. Today I look about me, and, under skies that seem to sing, I see
a land redeemed. It was not redeemed by great wealth from without, but
by resolution and dauntless effort from within. I have spoken of the
headstones that mark these graves, but the Burtons have a nobler
monument. The roads and schools and the aqueduct--all the things that
transformed the land are memorials to the man who lies just there
beyond this grave where today we place his mother. On that slab we find
only the dates of birth and death and the name of Hamilton Burton; but
when I look at it, I seem to read a nobler epitaph in letters of bronze
which no weather can dim or tarnish. I seem to read--'Here lies one who
put aside a blazing dream to cast his lot into a life of humbler duty.'
If he who makes two blades of grass grow where one had grown before has
done a noble thing, then surely he who has turned a land of want into a
land of independence and made crops grow where none grew before has won
his place near the throne."

Again the aged pastor paused and his eyes grew misty. With bared heads
bent and a stillness broken only by the rustle of the breeze through the
trees and the song of a bird, his listeners stood attentive, and he
resumed.

"I need not tell you, for you know, what the energy and loyal
steadfastness of Hamilton Burton have done for these hills. What they
were when he came to manhood and what they are now is the answer to
that--an answer which needs no further eulogium. But there is a thing,
which you may not know, for I think--once his hard decision was made--he
never spoke of that again. Yet now I wish to speak of it. It is a thing
which should put the name of Hamilton Burton among those of the
great--the humble great. In his boyhood heart blazed a mighty vision. In
his brain burned a hunger for conquest. The man who dwelt so simply here
among us, working a regeneration, and who died among us, still young,
was gifted with a power which he might have put to more selfish uses.
Standing in the wintry loneliness of a mountain snowstorm, his eyes
could see visions of mighty things and his soul could dream unmeasured
dreams. His heart beat responsively to an inward voice which assured him
that he might equal and surpass the greatness of Destiny's greatest
sons. He fretted for a larger world, knowing that in it he could
conquer. In Hamilton Burton dwelt the soul of a Napoleon or a Cæsar ...
he might have built an empire."

The voice had grown fervent as it rose with its words, then the speaker
let it fall again to quieter tones.

"And these roads and schools and this aqueduct and these redeemed acres
are the monument to the sacrifice which turned its back on such a dream
as that. Hamilton Burton wrestled with his soul's hunger and conquered
it. He elected to remain here, fighting at the head of his own community
for his own land, and finding contentment in the realization that he had
done his duty. At one time--for his forcefulness was great--he had
persuaded his family to countenance his great adventure--and then he
dreamed. It seemed to him that he had looked ahead, and the whole great
panorama of the life which lay before him, should he take that turning
of the road, passed in review. Hamilton Burton did not take it. _He
remained here._ His work was the work of the sons of Martha.

    "'As in the thronged and the lightened ways, so in
        the dark and the desert they stand,
    Wary and watchful all their days, that their brethren's
        days may be long in the land.'

"If Hamilton Burton put aside such ambitions as most of us never know in
our dreams, and chose the humbler combat of a simple life, close to
God's immortal granite, you have all been sharers in the benefit of his
decision.

"And as it was with him, so in a lesser way it was with those others who
sleep here close beside him.

    "'Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
      Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
    Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,
      Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
    Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast,
      The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
    Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
      Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.'"

In the pause which followed a low breath of reverent surprise ran
through the crowd that stood about the speaker. They had lived day by
day with Hamilton Burton until his death, and none of them had, in the
shoulder-touch of life, ever suspected those deeper things of which now
for the first time they heard. They were hearing it all from lips which
were to them as the lips of a prophet. But the preacher was not through.

"And there was Paul. You all knew him and loved him. A nature was given
him at birth almost too delicate for a world of hard affairs, but
fragrant with a tenderness of love for his fellow-men. He was attuned to
harmony and his heart was that of a troubadour.

"Here in this little place of our worship, his fingers on the keys have
often led us nearer to God's presence than could the poor and broken
messages I tried to preach to you. For the other world was always close
to Paul Burton and there was a magic in his minstrelsy, which was a
gift from God. I sometimes wonder if in a less simple world he could
have been so happy or if his life would have been so unmarred, away from
the songs of birds and the lilt of mountain breezes. But among us he,
too, lived and died--because Hamilton Burton turned his back on the lure
of the mirage his dreaming eyes had seen. Even now when Paul has gone,
those chimes, which you put there above our church in memory of him,
seem to sing of the things for which he stood. When their notes peal out
on the Sabbath and go softly across the valley, I like to imagine that,
through the nobler music which immortal ears may hear, he still catches
their echo.

"There, close together, stand two more headstones, and beneath them
sleep the father and the aunt of these men. Thomas Burton, too, lived
out a life of stalwart worth. To all men, his fearless character and
unshakable integrity were precepts. He went his way and looked into
every eye that met his own. In the activities that have wrought these
changes, he was always the first and last to work with tireless zeal.
When the railroad came it was through his untiring effort. He held the
determination with fighting Burton courage that adversity should not
drive him from the land his forefathers had conquered.

"In wondering what things would have befallen all these people had a
lad's ambition led them into a different life, I find myself treading
paths of doubt. Perhaps noble achievements might have resulted--but I
know that in remaining here they have made our land to blossom and to me
it seems enough. I can, for some reason, no more think of Thomas Burton
transplanted without hurt than I can think of some great patriarch of
the forest, which has buffeted storms and hail for decades, being
uprooted and planted anew in a trim garden and a different clime. Then
he died, too--

    "'And as he trod that day to God, so walked he from his birth,
    In simpleness and gentleness and honor and clean mirth.'"

The speaker talked deliberately. At times his voice mounted into a sort
of oratorical fire. At times it fell until his listeners bent forward
that they might miss none of his words. Now and again he would stop
altogether and his eyes would turn to the blue skies, and when they did
a devout and intense light glowed in their pupils. His hearers were
simple and easily touched and an occasional sob came from the women.

"I said that Hamilton Burton died young," he resumed. "He died almost a
boy with a boy's youthful heart beating in his bosom. If he could so
bring out of desolation a land like this, while yet he was hardly a man
in years, who can say that his dream of power was all a dream? If he who
never left these hills and never saw the world beyond save as he saw it
in the exaltation of his flaming imagination, could do such things, what
man can say that with maturity and opportunity he might not have become
a Cæsar? But the feet of these people never trod beyond the nearer ways
of a simple life. Hamilton Burton burned to go out and try the eagle's
wings of his life. He had won the acquiescence of his family. He did not
go. None of them went. They lived here and died here and they fought
discontent, and to my mind they were conquerors of the earth."

Once more there was a pause and after it came other words.

"I suppose that they all dreamed. After the stress of that hurricane of
powerful personality, with which the boy had won them to his heart's
desire, these people could never have again lived their simple lives
without dreams coming--and doubts. To say, 'God knows best,' meant to
repress the disturbing thoughts that must have often arisen.

"In these hills boys become men, and one boy became something more. This
was a family of beautiful and devoted love. The brothers were what God
meant brothers to be, friends whose hearts were linked. For every member
of this little group of one blood, all the others felt a mighty bond of
affection. And here they stayed." The four words might have been the
text, and through the talk it ran with the insistence of a refrain,
until it sank into the brain of every man and every woman who listened.

"Here they stayed, and if each one of them thought often of what may
have been given up by that decision, no one of them said so.

"Perhaps Paul, with the golden pattern of his dreams, may often have
mused upon what the outer world could have given him. Perhaps he thought
of himself as swaying audiences with his fingers on the keys and dreamed
of lips that parted and eyes that grew misty--because they listened to
the voices he could send pealing to their hearts. But he stayed here and
the audiences that sat spellbound were those little neighborhood
audiences, who stood a long way off from a full understanding of his
soul's ethereal web and woof.

"Perhaps Thomas Burton, whose hands were calloused with toil, sometimes
permitted himself to think, at the end of his day's labors, of the ease
and comfort which might have come to him, had his son's great ambition
actually drawn him into mighty battles and victories instead of only
beckoning him.

"Perhaps the woman, who must have felt that her children were not
ordinary children, may have shed a tear at times, because she was denied
the triumph of beholding their triumph. _But they stayed_--and if their
peaceful lives were troubled with misgivings, at least they knew that
this was certain and that doubtful--and that, while they might miss much
of achievement, they also missed much of peril, for none can say what a
journey means along an untried road. Who knows what an epic their lives
might have spelled--or what tragedy? But they stayed.

"And now we are gathered to do homage by the grave of the woman whose
quiet life ran its course with theirs--the woman who bore these children
and taught them, at her knee, those lessons which made them
benefactors--and although we stand in the presence of death, it seems to
me that we stand, too, in the presence and the glory of that life which
is above death--and we stand on hallowed ground."

He ended, and about him was the solemnity of simple hearts, stirred and
responsive, and over him was the serenity of June, and the warmth of the
earth pregnant with fruitfulness.

When it was over, the crowd scattered to their vehicles and the wheels
clattered over the metaled roads, but in the burial ground, when all the
rest were gone, two figures tarried.

For a moment the minister also stayed after the crowd had left. He went
over to the girl and spoke softly, with a hand laid tenderly on her
shoulder.

"My daughter," he said simply, "you, too, have conquered. Every woman
has something of restless yearning in her eyes at some time. To a woman
with great charm and beauty the world sings a siren song. I saw this
thing in your eyes--and soul. I saw it come and go--and I knew that you
had won your fight, and won through to life's sweetest benison. You have
love. These lives are ended, but yours is beginning." Then he, too,
turned away, and only the girl and young man were left.

Mary's beautiful eyes were bright with tears, and, as she stood there
slim and straight, her companion came close and his arm slipped about
her. For a moment she seemed unconscious of his presence, then she
turned and her eyes looked steadfastly into his, and as they looked they
smiled through their mistiness.

"Mary"--the man's voice was earnest and very tender--"Mary, I know that
now you're thinking about other things and they're very sacred things.
Besides, my heart is overflowing and words don't give it enough power of
expression. Since I fell in love with you life has been all poetry to
me--but not a poetry of words.... You are thinking of them--" He paused
and his sober eyes took in the headstones, lingering for a moment on
this newest grave upon which the flowers were banked. They were fine
eyes, for in them dwelt an intrinsic honesty and courage, and, though it
was a moment of deep gravity, the little wrinkles that ran out from them
were assurances that they were often laughing eyes. This man seemed to
fit into the picture of the hills with the appropriateness of the
native-born. In his free-flung shoulders and broad chest was the health
of the open, but on one finger he wore a heavily carved ring from which
glowed the cool light of a large emerald, and in his scarf was a black
pearl, which hardly seemed characteristic of native wear. Then he went
on:

"But, after all, Mary, they lived good lives and died good deaths,
and--" he hesitated, then said slowly--"and, after all, it's June, and
you and I are young. Can't it always be June for us, dear?"

A bird from a great oak lifted its voice. It was a happy bird and would
tolerate no sadness. It caroled to its mate and to the sky and through
her tears Mary Burton smiled and the gorgeous vividness of her face was
illuminated.

"While we've got each other," she said, "I guess it can be June."

Suddenly she put out her slender, but strong, young hands and caught his
two arms, and stood there looking at him.

"Once, dear," she said, "when I was a very little girl, I used to dream
of going out and seeing all the wonderful things beyond those hills. I
used to dream of having rich men and titled men come to me and make
love. I used to cry because I thought I was ugly--and then I met you by
the roadside--and you were my fairy prince--but I didn't guess you were
going to be my own--for always."

Jefferson Edwardes smiled and into his eyes came a fervent glow.

"I can see you now," he said, "as you stood that first day I ever saw
you, when I told you that your beauty would be the beauty of
gorgeousness--when I warned you that the only thing you need ever fear
was--the loss of your simplicity. The woods were flaming at your back,
but your loveliness outblazed their color, and then you were a thin
little girl--a trifle chippendale in plan."

In spite of her sadness a smile came to her lips.

"And you were fighting your fight for life--with only an even chance.
Suppose--" she shuddered--"suppose you had lost it!"

"I had too much to live for," he assured her. "I couldn't lose it. You
and your hills gave me life and a dream, and you and your hills laid
their claim upon me. How could I lose?"

"I've lain awake at night," said Mary Burton, as her long lashes drooped
with the confession of her heart. "I've lain awake at night wondering
if--now that you don't have to stay--if your own world won't call you
back--away from me. I've thought of all it holds for you--and how little
these mountains hold. I've wondered if your heart didn't ache for
foreign lands and wonderful cities--and all those things. If it does,
dear--" she paused and said very seriously--"you mustn't let me keep you
here. I belong here, but you--" The words fell into a faint note and
died away unfinished.

"How little these hills hold for me," he exclaimed in a dismayed voice,
"when they hold you!" Then he laughed and told her as his eyes dwelt
steadfastly and with worship on her face, "I belong here no less than
you. This has been the land of my salvation and of my love. For me it is
enough. I have traded the unrest of cities for the tranquillity of the
hills and the clamor of unhappy streets for the echoes of the woods, and
the woods sing of you as the streets could never sing. I have traded at
a splendid profit, dear."

"And you won't tire of it--and of me?"

"I wish life could be long enough to give me a fair test of that," he
smiled, and then he added in a serious voice, "It is in the cities that
men and women grow tired. It is under artifice that the soul wearies.
That life I knew, and left with the bitterness of exile--but that was
long ago. When I go into it now, it shall be only for the joy of coming
back here again--of coming home."

The girl looked up into his face, and the breeze fluttered a tendril of
curl against her temple.

"You were the first person who ever called me pretty." Through the
sadness of her face came a glimmer of shy merriment. "You said I was--as
beautiful as starlight on water."

"Mary, Mary!" The lover caught her slender figure in his strong arms and
held her so close that her breath came fragrantly against his tanned
cheek. "You _are_ as beautiful as starlight on water, and to me you're
more beautiful. You're the sun and moon and stars and music--you're
everything that's fine and splendid!"

"For your sake," she said shyly, "I wish I were much more beautiful."

Even the near shadow of death cannot banish the god of love. Mary Burton
felt the arms of the man she loved about her, and her eyes as she looked
into his face unmasked their secrets until he could read her soul and
its message. For the moment they had forgotten all else. Then, quite
abruptly, her expression changed and became rapt, almost frightened.

Slowly she straightened up and her pupils dilated as though they were
seeing something invisible to other eyes. Her lips parted and she drew
away from his grasp and stood gazing ahead. Then she brushed one arm
across her forehead. With instant alarm Edwardes caught her shoulders.
"What is it?" he demanded. "Is anything wrong?"

She shook her head and spoke wonderingly with a far-away, detached sort
of utterance. "I don't know what it was--I guess I was a little faint."
But she still stood with an awed and bewildered fixity upon her face and
after a little while, he asked slowly:

"Did you ever seem to see and hear something as though it had come out
of a different life; as though you were living it over again?"

He smiled and shook his head. "I've often heard of such things," he
reassured. She had been nursing her mother through a long illness;
perhaps, he thought, the strain had left her nervous.

"It was as real as if it had truly happened," she assured him as she put
up both hands and pressed her fingers against her temples. "You were
standing there--right where you are standing now, and you smiled--like
you smiled at me that day in the road.... There were little wrinkles
around your eyes."

"That is all real enough," he laughed. "I was and am doing all those
things."

"Yes, I know, but--" Once more she shook her head and her voice carried
the detached tone of a trance-like vagueness--"but somehow it was all
different. You were you--and I was I--and yet we were in another life
... we didn't seem to belong here ... and there seemed to be some
terrible danger hanging over us."

"Did we seem to talk?" he asked her.

"Yes." The girl's words came very low but with a tense emphasis. "You
said, _'Maybe there's some land beyond the stars where every mistake we
make here can be remedied ... where we can take up our marred lives and
live them afresh as we have dreamed them. Perhaps in that other world we
can go back to the turning of the road where we lost our ways and
choose the other path.'_ You said that and then after a moment you
smiled again."

"It's strange," said the young man. He unconsciously took off his hat,
baring the curly hair over the tanned face. He was very wholesome and
honest and strong, and the girl's eyes lighted into a smile of pride and
love.

"Yes," she said. "It was you and me--in some other life. I don't know
what it means--but somehow it seems to--to guarantee everything."

They turned and walked together to the last buggy hitched against the
stone wall under the wild apple trees.

After a while she demanded--"After you got well--why did you stay here?"
and as promptly as an echo came his answer--

"Because _you_ stayed."

       *       *       *       *       *

The moon was up early that night and it flooded the mountains with a
glory of silver mists. The shoulders of the peaks stood out in blue
barriers, strong, abiding, beautiful. In the valleys it was all a
nocturne of dove grays and dreamlike softness. The stars, too, shone
down in a million splinters of happy light, but the radiance of the moon
paled them.

The vines which covered the walls of the Burton house hung out their
lacy tendrils and through the windows came the soft glow of lamplight.

There was nothing dreary or poverty-stricken about the old farm-house
now. From its front, where every shutter, by day, shone in the healthy
trim of fresh paint, to the gate upon the road went rows of flowers,
nodding their bright heads above the waving grass. The barns at the
back stood substantial and in repair, and now out beyond the road, Lake
Forsaken mirrored the stars and broke in light when a fish leaped under
the moon.

Mary Burton and her lover walked down to the gate, and he said simply:

"Now, dear, there is nothing more to hold you here. If you still long to
see beyond the sky-line, I can take you wherever you want to go."

But she wheeled and laid a hand in protest on his arm.

"No!" she exclaimed tensely. "No, this is where I belong." After a
moment she went on. "Life holds enough for me here. This is home to me.
I don't want anything else."

"I am glad. It's what I hoped to hear you say," he responded. "I don't
think somehow I could be as happy anywhere else, but the world's a big
place and you--you have the right to the best it holds--anywhere."

"Once, dear, you know," she told him gravely, "we threshed that out and
we had almost made up our minds to leave here. We were almost
whipped--and Ham had his dreams. He wanted to go out and try life in a
bigger world--and you recognized his power. I wanted it all, too--but we
stayed. I don't know what would have happened if we hadn't, but I do
know--" she looked up into his face and smiled; into her eyes came a
regal serenity--"I do know that I don't have to go out and hunt for
life--life has come to me, and I'm happy."

The man caught her to him and she clasped her hands behind his head.
Before them was June and starlight and youth and life--and love. He bent
his head and pressed his lips to hers and felt her heart beat against
his own.

In the mirror of Lake Forsaken, back of her, gleamed the splintered
light of a thousand stars, and in his heart gleamed a million.

"As beautiful as starlight on water," he whispered.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Destiny" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home