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Title: Far Country, a — Volume 2
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
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 "Far Country, a — Volume 2" ***

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A FAR COUNTRY

By Winston Churchill


BOOK 2.



X.

This was not my first visit to the state capital. Indeed, some of that
recondite knowledge, in which I took a pride, had been gained on the
occasions of my previous visits. Rising and dressing early, I beheld out
of the car window the broad, shallow river glinting in the morning
sunlight, the dome of the state house against the blue of the sky. Even
at that early hour groups of the gentlemen who made our laws were
scattered about the lobby of the Potts House, standing or seated within
easy reach of the gaily coloured cuspidors that protected the marble
floor: heavy-jawed workers from the cities mingled with moon-faced but
astute countrymen who manipulated votes amongst farms and villages; fat
or cadaverous, Irish, German or American, all bore in common a certain
indefinable stamp. Having eaten my breakfast in a large dining-room that
resounded with the clatter of dishes, I directed my steps to the
apartment occupied from year to year by Colonel Paul Barney,
generalissimo of the Railroad on the legislative battlefield,--a position
that demanded a certain uniqueness of genius.

"How do you do, sir," he said, in a guarded but courteous tone as he
opened the door. I entered to confront a group of three or four figures,
silent and rather hostile, seated in a haze of tobacco smoke around a
marble-topped table. On it reposed a Bible, attached to a chain.

"You probably don't remember me, Colonel," I said. "My name is Pared, and
I'm associated with the firm of Watling, Fowndes, and Ripon."

His air of marginality,--heightened by a grey moustache and goatee a la
Napoleon Third,--vanished instantly; he became hospitable, ingratiating.

"Why--why certainly, you were down heah with Mr. Fowndes two years ago."
The Colonel spoke with a slight Southern accent. "To be sure, sir. I've
had the honour of meeting your father. Mr. Norris, of North Haven, meet
Mr. Paret--one of our rising lawyers..." I shook hands with them all and
sat down. Opening his long coat, Colonel Varney revealed two rows of
cigars, suggesting cartridges in a belt. These he proceeded to hand out
as he talked. "I'm glad to see you here, Mr. Paret. You must stay awhile,
and become acquainted with the men who--ahem--are shaping the destinies
of a great state. It would give me pleasure to escort you about."

I thanked him. I had learned enough to realize how important are the
amenities in politics and business. The Colonel did most of the
conversing; he could not have filled with efficiency and ease the
important post that was his had it not been for the endless fund of
humorous anecdotes at his disposal. One by one the visitors left, each
assuring me of his personal regard: the Colonel closed the door, softly,
turning the key in the lock; there was a sly look in his black eyes as he
took a chair in proximity to mine.

"Well, Mr. Paret," he asked softly, "what's up?"

Without further ado I handed him Mr. Gorse's letter, and another Mr.
Watling had given me for him, which contained a copy of the bill. He read
these, laid them on the table, glancing at me again, stroking his goatee
the while. He chuckled.

"By gum!" he exclaimed. "I take off my hat to Theodore Watling, always
did." He became contemplative. "It can be done, Mr. Paret, but it's going
to take some careful driving, sir, some reaching out and flicking 'em
when they r'ar and buck. Paul Varney's never been stumped yet. Just as
soon as this is introduced we'll have Gates and Armstrong down
here--they're the Ribblevale attorneys, aren't they? I thought so,--and
the best legal talent they can hire. And they'll round up all the
disgruntled fellows, you know,--that ain't friendly to the Railroad.
We've got to do it quick, Mr. Paret. Gorse gave you a letter to the
Governor, didn't he?"

"Yes," I said.

"Well, come along. I'll pass the word around among the boys, just to let
'em know what to expect." His eyes glittered again. "I've been following
this Ribblevale business," he added, "and I understand Leonard
Dickinson's all ready to reorganize that company, when the time comes. He
ought to let me in for a little, on the ground floor."

I did not venture to make any promises for Mr. Dickinson.

"I reckon it's just as well if you were to meet me at the Governor's
office," the Colonel added reflectively, and the hint was not lost on me.
"It's better not to let 'em find out any sooner than they have to where
this thing comes from,--you understand." He looked at his watch. "How
would nine o'clock do? I'll be there, with Trulease, when you come,--by
accident, you understand. Of course he'll be reasonable, but when they
get to be governors they have little notions, you know, and you've got to
indulge 'em, flatter 'em a little. It doesn't hurt, for when they get
their backs up it only makes more trouble."

He put on a soft, black felt hat, and departed noiselessly...

At nine o'clock I arrived at the State House and was ushered into a great
square room overlooking the park. The Governor was seated at a desk under
an elaborate chandelier, and sure enough, Colonel Varney was there beside
him; making barely perceptible signals.

"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Paret," said Mr.
Trulease. "Your name is a familiar one in your city, sir. And I gather
from your card that you are associated with my good friend, Theodore
Watling."

I acknowledged it. I was not a little impressed by the perfect blend of
cordiality, democratic simplicity and impressiveness Mr. Trulease had
achieved. For he had managed, in the course of a long political career,
to combine in exact proportions these elements which, in the public mind,
should up the personality of a chief executive. Momentarily he overcame
the feeling of superiority with which I had entered his presence;
neutralized the sense I had of being associated now with the higher
powers which had put him where he was. For I knew all about his "record."

"You're acquainted with Colonel Varney?" he inquired.

"Yes, Governor, I've met the Colonel," I said.

"Well, I suppose your firm is getting its share of business these days,"
Mr. Trulease observed. I acknowledged it was, and after discussing for a
few moments the remarkable growth of my native city the Governor tapped
on his desk and inquired what he could do for me. I produced the letter
from the attorney for the Railroad. The Governor read it gravely.

"Ah," he said, "from Mr. Gorse." A copy of the proposed bill was
enclosed, and the Governor read that also, hemmed and hawed a little,
turned and handed it to Colonel Varney, who was sitting with a detached
air, smoking contemplatively, a vacant expression on his face. "What do
you think of this, Colonel?"

Whereupon the Colonel tore himself away from his reflections.

"What's that, Governor?"

"Mr. Gorse has called my attention to what seems to him a flaw in our
statutes, an inability to obtain testimony from corporations whose books
are elsewhere, and who may thus evade, he says, to a certain extent, the
sovereign will of our state."

The Colonel took the paper with an admirable air of surprise, adjusted
his glasses, and became absorbed in reading, clearing his throat once or
twice and emitting an exclamation.

"Well, if you ask me, Governor," he said, at length, "all I can say is
that I am astonished somebody didn't think of this simple remedy before
now. Many times, sir, have I seen justice defeated because we had no such
legislation as this."

He handed it back. The Governor studied it once more, and coughed.

"Does the penalty," he inquired, "seem to you a little severe?"

"No, sir," replied the Colonel, emphatically. "Perhaps it is because I am
anxious, as a citizen, to see an evil abated. I have had an intimate
knowledge of legislation, sir, for more than twenty years in this state,
and in all that time I do not remember to have seen a bill more concisely
drawn, or better calculated to accomplish the ends of justice. Indeed, I
often wondered why this very penalty was not imposed. Foreign magistrates
are notoriously indifferent as to affairs in another state than their
own. Rather than go into the hands of a receiver I venture to say that
hereafter, if this bill is made a law, the necessary testimony will be
forthcoming."

The Governor read the bill through again.

"If it is introduced, Colonel," he said, "the legislature and the people
of the state ought to have it made clear to them that its aim is to
remedy an injustice. A misunderstanding on this point would be
unfortunate."

"Most unfortunate, Governor."

"And of course," added the Governor, now addressing me, "it would be
improper for me to indicate what course I shall pursue in regard to it if
it should come to me for my signature. Yet I may go so far as to say that
the defect it seeks to remedy seems to me a real one. Come in and see me,
Mr. Paret, when you are in town, and give my cordial regards to Mr.
Watling."

So gravely had the farce been carried on that I almost laughed, despite
the fact that the matter in question was a serious one for me. The
Governor held out his hand, and I accepted my dismissal.

I had not gone fifty steps in the corridor before I heard the Colonel's
voice in my ear.

"We had to give him a little rope to go through with his act," he
whispered confidentially. "But he'll sign it all right. And now, if
you'll excuse me, Mr. Paret, I'll lay a few mines. See you at the hotel,
sir."

Thus he indicated, delicately, that it would be better for me to keep out
of sight. On my way to the Potts House the bizarre elements in the
situation struck me again with considerable force. It seemed so
ridiculous, so puerile to have to go through with this political farce in
order that a natural economic evolution might be achieved. Without doubt
the development of certain industries had reached a stage where the units
in competition had become too small, when a greater concentration of
capital was necessary. Curiously enough, in this mental argument of
justification, I left out all consideration of the size of the probable
profits to Mr. Scherer and his friends. Profits and brains went together.
And, since the Almighty did not limit the latter, why should man attempt
to limit the former? We were playing for high but justifiable stakes; and
I resented the comedy which an hypocritical insistence on the forms of
democracy compelled us to go through. It seemed unworthy of men who
controlled the destinies of state and nation. The point of view, however,
was consoling. As the day wore on I sat in the Colonel's room, admiring
the skill with which he conducted the campaign: a green country lawyer
had been got to introduce the bill, it had been expedited to the
Committee on the Judiciary, which would have an executive session
immediately after dinner. I had ventured to inquire about the hearings.

"There won't be any hearings, sir," the Colonel assured me. "We own that
committee from top to bottom."

Indeed, by four o'clock in the afternoon the message came that the
committee had agreed to recommend the bill.

Shortly after that the first flurry occurred. There came a knock at the
door, followed by the entrance of a stocky Irish American of about forty
years of age, whose black hair was plastered over his forehead. His
sea-blue eyes had a stormy look.

"Hello, Jim," said the Colonel. "I was just wondering where you were."

"Sure, you must have been!" replied the gentleman sarcastically.

But the Colonel's geniality was unruffled.

"Mr. Maker," he said, "you ought to know Mr. Paret. Mr. Maker is the
representative from Ward Five of your city, and we can always count on
him to do the right thing, even if he is a Democrat. How about it, Jim?"

Mr. Maker relighted the stump of his cigar.

"Take a fresh one, Jim," said the Colonel, opening a bureau drawer.

Mr. Maker took two.

"Say, Colonel," he demanded, "what's this bill that went into the
judiciary this morning?"

"What bill?" asked the Colonel, blandly.

"So you think I ain't on?" Mr. Maker inquired.

The Colonel laughed.

"Where have you been, Jim?"

"I've been up to the city, seem' my wife--that's where I've been."

The Colonel smiled, as at a harmless fiction.

"Well, if you weren't here, I don't see what right you've got to
complain. I never leave my good Democratic friends on the outside, do I?"

"That's all right," replied Mr. Maker, doggedly, "I'm on, I'm here now,
and that bill in the Judiciary doesn't pass without me. I guess I can
stop it, too. How about a thousand apiece for five of us boys?"

"You're pretty good at a joke, Jim," remarked the Colonel, stroking his
goatee.

"Maybe you're looking for a little publicity in this here game," retorted
Mr. Maker, darkly. "Say, Colonel, ain't we always treated the Railroad on
the level?"

"Jim," asked the Colonel, gently, "didn't I always take care of you?"

He had laid his hand on the shoulder of Mr. Maker, who appeared slightly
mollified, and glanced at a massive silver watch.

"Well, I'll be dropping in about eight o'clock," was his significant
reply, as he took his leave.

"I guess we'll have to grease the wheels a little," the Colonel remarked
to me, and gazed at the ceiling....

The telegram apropos of the Ward Five leader was by no means the only
cipher message I sent back during my stay. I had not needed to be told
that the matter in hand would cost money, but Mr. Watling's parting
instruction to me had been to take the Colonel's advice as to specific
sums, and obtain confirmation from Fowndes. Nor was it any surprise to me
to find Democrats on intimate terms with such a stout Republican as the
Colonel. Some statesman is said to have declared that he knew neither
Easterners nor Westerners, Northerners nor Southerners, but only
Americans; so Colonel Varney recognized neither Democrats nor
Republicans; in our legislature party divisions were sunk in a greater
loyalty to the Railroad.

At the Colonel's suggestion I had laid in a liberal supply of cigars and
whiskey. The scene in his room that evening suggested a session of a
sublimated grand lodge of some secret order, such were the mysterious
comings and goings, knocks and suspenses. One after another the
"important" men duly appeared and were introduced, the Colonel supplying
the light touch.

"Why, cuss me if it isn't Billy! Mr. Paret, I want you to shake hands
with Mr. Donovan, the floor leader of the 'opposition,' sir. Mr. Donovan
has had the habit of coming up here for a friendly chat ever since he
first came down to the legislature. How long is it, Billy?"

"I guess it's nigh on to fifteen years, Colonel."

"Fifteen years!" echoed the Colonel, "and he's so good a Democrat it
hasn't changed his politics a particle."

Mr. Donovan grinned in appreciation of this thrust, helped himself
liberally from the bottle on the mantel, and took a seat on the bed. We
had a "friendly chat."

Thus I made the acquaintance also of the Hon. Joseph Mecklin, Speaker of
the House, who unbent in the most flattering way on learning my identity.

"Mr. Paret's here on that little matter, representing Watling, Fowndes
and Ripon," the Colonel explained. And it appeared that Mr. Mecklin knew
all about the "little matter," and that the mention of the firm of
Watling, Fowndes and Ripon had a magical effect in these parts. The
President of the Senate, the Hon. Lafe Giddings, went so far as to say
that he hoped before long to see Mr. Watling in Washington. By no means
the least among our callers was the Hon. Fitch Truesdale, editor of the
St. Helen's Messenger, whose editorials were of the trite effectiveness
that is taken widely for wisdom, and were assiduously copied every week
by other state papers and labeled "Mr. Truesdale's Common Sense." At
countless firesides in our state he was known as the spokesman of the
plain man, who was blissfully ignorant of the fact that Mr. Truesdale was
owned body and carcass by Mr. Cyrus Ridden, the principal manufacturer of
St. Helen's and a director in several subsidiary lines of the Railroad.
In the legislature, the Hon. Fitch's function was that of the moderate
counsellor and bellwether for new members, hence nothing could have been
more fitting than the choice of that gentleman for the honour of moving,
on the morrow, that Bill No. 709 ought to pass.

Mr. Truesdale reluctantly consented to accept a small "loan" that would
help to pay the mortgage on his new press....

When the last of the gathering had departed, about one o'clock in the
morning, I had added considerably to my experience, gained a pretty
accurate idea of who was who in the legislature and politics of the
state, and established relationships--as the Colonel reminded me--likely
to prove valuable in the future. It seemed only gracious to congratulate
him on his management of the affair,--so far. He appeared pleased, and
squeezed my hand.

"Well, sir, it did require a little delicacy of touch. And if I do say it
myself, it hasn't been botched," he admitted. "There ain't an outsider,
as far as I can learn, who has caught on to the nigger in the wood-pile.
That's the great thing, to keep 'em ignorant as long as possible. You
understand. They yell bloody murder when they do find out, but generally
it's too late, if a bill's been handled right."

I found myself speculating as to who the "outsiders" might be. No
Ribblevale attorneys were on the spot as yet,--of that I was satisfied.
In the absence of these, who were the opposition? It seemed to me as
though I had interviewed that day every man in the legislature.

I was very tired. But when I got into bed, it was impossible to sleep. My
eyes smarted from the tobacco smoke; and the events of the day, in
disorderly manner, kept running through my head. The tide of my
exhilaration had ebbed, and I found myself struggling against a revulsion
caused, apparently, by the contemplation of Colonel Varney and his
associates; the instruments, in brief, by which our triumph over our
opponents was to be effected. And that same idea which, when launched
amidst the surroundings of the Boyne Club, had seemed so brilliant, now
took on an aspect of tawdriness. Another thought intruded itself,--that
of Mr. Pugh, the president of the Ribblevale Company. My father had known
him, and some years before I had traveled halfway across the state in his
company; his kindliness had impressed me. He had spent a large part of
his business life, I knew, in building up the Ribblevale, and now it was
to be wrested from him; he was to be set aside, perhaps forced to start
all over again when old age was coming on! In vain I accused myself of
sentimentality, and summoned all my arguments to prove that in commerce
efficiency must be the only test. The image of Mr. Pugh would not down.

I got up and turned on the light, and took refuge in a novel I had in my
bag. Presently I grew calmer. I had chosen. I had succeeded. And now that
I had my finger at last on the nerve of power, it was no time to weaken.

It was half-past six when I awoke and went to the window, relieved to
find that the sun had scattered my morbid fancies with the darkness; and
I speculated, as I dressed, whether the thing called conscience were not,
after all, a matter of nerves. I went downstairs through the
tobacco-stale atmosphere of the lobby into the fresh air and sparkly
sunlight of the mild February morning, and leaving the business district
I reached the residence portion of the little town. The front steps of
some of the comfortable houses were being swept by industrious servant
girls, and out of the chimneys twisted, fantastically, rich blue smoke;
the bare branches of the trees were silver-grey against the sky; gaining
at last an old-fashioned, wooden bridge, I stood for awhile gazing at the
river, over the shallows of which the spendthrift hand of nature had
flung a shower of diamonds. And I reflected that the world was for the
strong, for him who dared reach out his hand and take what it offered. It
was not money we coveted, we Americans, but power, the self-expression
conferred by power. A single experience such as I had had the night
before would since to convince any sane man that democracy was a failure,
that the world-old principle of aristocracy would assert itself, that the
attempt of our ancestors to curtail political power had merely resulted
in the growth of another and greater economic power that bade fair to be
limitless. As I walked slowly back into town I felt a reluctance to
return to the noisy hotel, and finding myself in front of a little
restaurant on a side street, I entered it. There was but one other
customer in the place, and he was seated on the far side of the counter,
with a newspaper in front of him; and while I was ordering my breakfast I
was vaguely aware that the newspaper had dropped, and that he was looking
at me. In the slight interval that elapsed before my brain could register
his identity I experienced a distinct shock of resentment; a sense of the
reintrusion of an antagonistic value at a moment when it was most
unwelcome....

The man had risen and was coming around the counter. He was Hermann
Krebs.

"Paret!" I heard him say.

"You here?" I exclaimed.

He did not seem to notice the lack of cordiality in my tone. He appeared
so genuinely glad to see me again that I instantly became rather ashamed
of my ill nature.

"Yes, I'm here--in the legislature," he informed me.

"A Solon!"

"Exactly." He smiled. "And you?" he inquired.

"Oh, I'm only a spectator. Down here for a day or two."

He was still lanky, his clothes gave no evidence of an increased
prosperity, but his complexion was good, his skin had cleared. I was more
than ever baked by a resolute good humour, a simplicity that was not
innocence, a whimsical touch seemingly indicative of a state of mind that
refused to take too seriously certain things on which I set store. What
right had he to be contented with life?

"Well, I too am only a spectator here," he laughed. "I'm neither fish,
flesh nor fowl, nor good red herring."

"You were going into the law, weren't you?" I asked. "I remember you said
something about it that day we met at Beverly Farms."

"Yes, I managed it, after all. Then I went back home to Elkington to try
to make a living."

"But somehow I have never thought of you as being likely to develop
political aspirations, Krebs," I said.

"I should say not! he exclaimed.

"Yet here you are, launched upon a political career! How did it happen?"

"Oh, I'm not worrying about the career," he assured me. "I got here by
accident, and I'm afraid it won't happen again in a hurry. You see, the
hands in those big mills we have in Elkington sprang a surprise on the
machine, and the first thing I knew I was nominated for the legislature.
A committee came to my boarding-house and told me, and there was the
deuce to pay, right off. The Railroad politicians turned in and worked
for the Democratic candidate, of course, and the Hutchinses, who own the
mills, tried through emissaries to intimidate their operatives."

"And then?" I asked.

"Well,--I'm here," he said.

"Wouldn't you be accomplishing more," I inquired, "if you hadn't
antagonized the Hutchinses?"

"It depends upon what you mean by accomplishment," he answered, so mildly
that I felt more rued than ever.

"Well, from what you say, I suppose you're going in for reform, that
these workmen up at Elkington are not satisfied with their conditions and
imagine you can help to better them. Now, provided the conditions are not
as good as they might be, how are you going to improve them if you find
yourself isolated here, as you say?"

"In other words, I should cooperate with Colonel Varney and other
disinterested philanthropists," he supplied, and I realized that I was
losing my temper.

"Well, what can you do?" I inquired defiantly.

"I can find out what's going on," he said. "I have already learned
something, by the way."

"And then?" I asked, wondering whether the implication were personal.

"Then I can help--disseminate the knowledge. I may be wrong, but I have
an idea that when the people of this country learn how their legislatures
are conducted they will want to change things."

"That's right!" echoed the waiter, who had come up with my griddle-cakes.
"And you're the man to tell 'em, Mr. Krebs."

"It will need several thousand of us to do that, I'm afraid," said Krebs,
returning his smile.

My distaste for the situation became more acute, but I felt that I was
thrown on the defensive. I could not retreat, now.

"I think you are wrong," I declared, when the waiter had departed to
attend to another customer. "The people the great majority of them, at
least are indifferent, they don't want to be bothered with politics.
There will always be labour agitation, of course,--the more wages those
fellows get, the more they want. We pay the highest wages in the world
to-day, and the standard of living is higher in this country than
anywhere else. They'd ruin our prosperity, if we'd let 'em."

"How about the thousands of families who don't earn enough to live
decently even in times of prosperity?" inquired Krebs.

"It's hard, I'll admit, but the inefficient and the shiftless are bound
to suffer, no matter what form of government you adopt."

"You talk about standards of living,--I could show you some examples of
standards to make your heart sick," he said. "What you don't realize,
perhaps, is that low standards help to increase the inefficient of whom
you complain."

He smiled rather sadly. "The prosperity you are advocating," he added,
after a moment, "is a mere fiction, it is gorging the few at the expense
of the many. And what is being done in this country is to store up an
explosive gas that some day will blow your superstructure to atoms if you
don't wake up in time."

"Isn't that a rather one-sided view, too?" I suggested.

"I've no doubt it may appear so, but take the proceedings in this
legislature. I've no doubt you know something about them, and that you
would maintain they are justified on account of the indifference of the
public, and of other reasons, but I can cite an instance that is simply
legalized thieving." For the first time a note of indignation crept into
Krebs's voice. "Last night I discovered by a mere accident, in talking to
a man who came in on a late train, that a bill introduced yesterday,
which is being rushed through the Judiciary Committee of the House--an
apparently innocent little bill--will enable, if it becomes a law, the
Boyne Iron Works, of your city, to take possession of the Ribblevale
Steel Company, lock, stock, and barrel. And I am told it was conceived by
a lawyer who claims to be a respectable member of his profession, and who
has extraordinary ability, Theodore Watling."

Krebs put his hand in his pocket and drew out a paper. "Here's a copy of
it,--House Bill 709." His expression suddenly changed. "Perhaps Mr.
Watling is a friend of yours."

"I'm with his firm," I replied....

Krebs's fingers closed over the paper, crumpling it.

"Oh, then, you know about this," he said. He was putting the paper back
into his pocket when I took it from him. But my adroitness, so carefully
schooled, seemed momentarily to have deserted me. What should I say? It
was necessary to decide quickly.

"Don't you take rather a--prejudiced view of this, Krebs?" I said. "Upon
my word, I can't see why you should accept a rumour running around the
lobbies that Mr. Watling drafted this bill for a particular purpose."

He was silent. But his eyes did not leave my face.

"Why should any sensible man, a member of the legislature, take stock in
that kind of gossip?" I insisted. "Why not judge this bill by its face,
without heeding a cock and bull story as to how it may have originated?
It is a good bill, or a bad bill? Let's see what it says."

I read it.

"So far as I can see, it is legislation which we ought to have had long
ago, and tends to compel a publicity in corporation affairs that is much
needed, to put a stop to practices which every decent citizen deplores."

He drew the paper out of my hand.

"You needn't go on, Paret," he told me. "It's no use."

"Well, I'm sorry we don't agree," I said, and got up. I left him twisting
the paper in his fingers.

Beside the clerk's desk in the Potts House, relating one of his
anecdotes, I spied Colonel Varney, and managed presently to draw him
upstairs to his room. "What's the matter?" he asked.

"Do you know a man named Krebs in the House?" I said.

"From Elkington? Why, that's the man the Hutchinses let slip
through,--the Hutchinses, who own the mills over there. The agitators put
up a job on them." The Colonel was no longer the genial and social
purveyor of anecdotes. He had become tense, alert, suspicious. "What's he
up to?"

"He's found out about this bill," I replied.

"How?"

"I don't know. But someone told him that it originated in our office, and
that we were going to use it in our suit against the Ribblevale."

I related the circumstances of my running across Krebs, speaking of
having known him at Harvard. Colonel Varney uttered an oath, and strode
across to the window, where he stood looking down into the street from
between the lace curtains.

"We'll have to attend to him, right off," he said.

I was surprised to find myself resenting the imputation, and deeply. "I'm
afraid he's one of those who can't be 'attended to,'" I answered.

"You mean that he's in the employ of the Ribblevale people?" the Colonel
inquired.

"I don't mean anything of the kind," I retorted, with more heat, perhaps,
than I realized. The Colonel looked at me queerly.

"That's all right, Mr. Paret. Of course I don't want to question your
judgment, sir. And you say he's a friend of yours."

"I said I knew him at college."

"But you will pardon me," the Colonel went on, "when I tell you that I've
had some experience with that breed, and I have yet to see one of 'em you
couldn't come to terms with in some way--in some way," he added,
significantly. I did not pause to reflect that the Colonel's attitude,
from his point of view (yes, and from mine,--had I not adopted it?) was
the logical one. In that philosophy every man had his price, or his
weakness. Yet, such is the inconsistency of human nature, I was now
unable to contemplate this attitude with calmness.

"Mr. Krebs is a lawyer. Has he accepted a pass from the Railroad?" I
demanded, knowing the custom of that corporation of conferring this
delicate favour on the promising young talent in my profession.

"I reckon he's never had the chance," said Mr. Varney.

"Well, has he taken a pass as a member of the legislature?"

"No,--I remember looking that up when he first came down. Sent that back,
if I recall the matter correctly." Colonel Varney went to a desk in the
corner of the room, unlocked it, drew forth a black book, and running his
fingers through the pages stopped at the letter K. "Yes, sent back his
legislative pass, but I've known 'em to do that when they were holding
out for something more. There must be somebody who can get close to him."

The Colonel ruminated awhile. Then he strode to the door and called out
to the group of men who were always lounging in the hall.

"Tell Alf Young I want to see him, Fred."

I waited, by no means free from uneasiness and anxiety, from a certain
lack of self-respect that was unfamiliar. Mr. Young, the Colonel
explained, was a legal light in Galesburg, near Elkington,--the Railroad
lawyer there. And when at last Mr. Young appeared he proved to be an oily
gentleman of about forty, inclining to stoutness, with one of those
"blue," shaven faces.

"Want me, Colonel?" he inquired blithely, when the door had closed behind
him; and added obsequiously, when introduced to me, "Glad to meet you,
Mr. Paret. My regards to Mr. Watling, when you go back.

"Alf," demanded the Colonel, "what do you know of this fellow Krebs?"

Mr. Young laughed. Krebs was "nutty," he declared--that was all there was
to it.

"Won't he--listen to reason?"

"It's been tried, Colonel. Say, he wouldn't know a hundred-dollar bill if
you showed him one."

"What does he want?"

"Oh, something,--that's sure, they all want something." Mr. Young
shrugged his shoulder expressively, and by a skillful manipulation of his
lips shifted his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other without
raising his hands. "But it ain't money. I guess he's got a notion that
later on the labour unions'll send him to the United States Senate some
day. He's no slouch, either, when it comes to law. I can tell you that."

"No--no flaw in his--record?" Colonel Varney's agate eyes sought those of
Mr. Young, meaningly.

"That's been tried, too," declared the Galesburg attorney. "Say, you can
believe it or not, but we've never dug anything up so far. He's been too
slick for us, I guess."

"Well," exclaimed the Colonel, at length, "let him squeal and be d--d! He
can't do any more than make a noise. Only I hoped we'd be able to grease
this thing along and slide it through the Senate this afternoon, before
they got wind of it."

"He'll squeal, all right, until you smother him," Mr. Young observed.

"We'll smother him some day!" replied the Colonel, savagely.

Mr. Young laughed.

But as I made my way toward the State House I was conscious of a feeling
of relief. I had no sooner gained a front seat in the gallery of the
House of Representatives when the members rose, the Senate marched
gravely in, the Speaker stopped jesting with the Chaplain, and over the
Chaplain's face came suddenly an agonized expression. Folding his hands
across his stomach he began to call on God with terrific fervour, in an
intense and resounding voice. I was struck suddenly by the irony of it
all. Why have a legislature when Colonel Paul Varney was so efficient!
The legislature was a mere sop to democratic prejudice, to pray over it
heightened the travesty. Suppose there were a God after all? not
necessarily the magnified monarch to whom these pseudo-democrats prayed,
but an Intelligent Force that makes for righteousness. How did He, or It,
like to be trifled with in this way? And, if He existed, would not His
disgust be immeasurable as He contemplated that unctuous figure in the
"Prince Albert" coat, who pretended to represent Him?

As the routine business began I searched for Krebs, to find him presently
at a desk beside a window in the rear of the hall making notes on a
paper; there was, confessedly, little satisfaction in the thought that
the man whose gaunt features I contemplated was merely one of those
impractical idealists who beat themselves to pieces against the forces
that sway the world and must forever sway it. I should be compelled to
admit that he represented something unique in that assembly if he had the
courage to get up and oppose House Bill 709. I watched him narrowly; the
suggestion intruded itself--perhaps he had been "seen," as the Colonel
expressed it. I repudiated it. I grew impatient, feverish; the monotonous
reading of the clerk was interrupted now and then by the sharp tones of
the Speaker assigning his various measures to this or that committee,
"unless objection is offered," while the members moved about and murmured
among themselves; Krebs had stopped making notes; he was looking out of
the window. At last, without any change of emphasis in his droning voice,
the clerk announced the recommendation of the Committee on Judiciary that
House Bill 709 ought to pass.

Down in front a man had risen from his seat--the felicitous Mr.
Truesdale. Glancing around at his fellow-members he then began to explain
in the impressive but conversational tone of one whose counsels are in
the habit of being listened to, that this was merely a little measure to
remedy a flaw in the statutes. Mr. Truesdale believed in corporations
when corporations were good, and this bill was calculated to make them
good, to put an end to jugglery and concealment. Our great state, he
said, should be in the forefront of such wise legislation, which made for
justice and a proper publicity; but the bill in question was of greater
interest to lawyers than to laymen, a committee composed largely of
lawyers had recommended it unanimously, and he was sure that no
opposition would develop in the House. In order not to take up their time
he asked: therefore, that it be immediately put on its second and third
reading and allowed to pass.

He sat down, and I looked at Krebs. Could he, could any man, any lawyer,
have the presumption to question such an obviously desirable measure, to
arraign the united judgment of the committee's legal talent? Such was the
note Mr. Truesdale so admirably struck. As though fascinated, I continued
to gaze at Krebs. I hated him, I desired to see him humiliated, and yet
amazingly I found myself wishing with almost equal vehemence that he
would be true to himself. He was rising,--slowly, timidly, I thought, his
hand clutching his desk lid, his voice sounding wholly inadequate as he
addressed the Speaker. The Speaker hesitated, his tone palpably
supercilious.

"The gentleman from--from Elkington, Mr. Krebs."

There was a craning of necks, a staring, a tittering. I burned with
vicarious shame as Krebs stood there awkwardly, his hand still holding
the desk. There were cries of "louder" when he began; some picked up
their newspapers, while others started conversations. The Speaker rapped
with his gavel, and I failed to hear the opening words. Krebs paused, and
began again. His speech did not, at first, flow easily.

"Mr. Speaker, I rise to protest against this bill, which in my opinion is
not so innocent as the gentleman from St. Helen's would have the House
believe. It is on a par, indeed, with other legislation that in past
years has been engineered through this legislature under the guise of
beneficent law. No, not on a par. It is the most arrogant, the most
monstrous example of special legislation of them all. And while I do not
expect to be able to delay its passage much longer than the time I shall
be on my feet--"

"Then why not sit down?" came a voice, just audible.

As he turned swiftly toward the offender his profile had an eagle-like
effect that startled me, seemingly realizing a new quality in the man. It
was as though he had needed just the stimulus of that interruption to
electrify and transform him. His awkwardness disappeared; and if he was a
little bombastic, a little "young," he spoke with the fire of conviction.

"Because," he cried, "because I should lose my self-respect for life if I
sat here and permitted the political organization of a railroad, the
members of which are here under the guise of servants of the people, to
cow me into silence. And if it be treason to mention the name of that
Railroad in connection with its political tyranny, then make the most of
it." He let go of the desk, and tapped the copy of the bill. "What are
the facts? The Boyne Iron Works, under the presidency of Adolf Scherer,
has been engaged in litigation with the Ribblevale Steel Company for some
years: and this bill is intended to put into the hands of the attorneys
for Mr. Scherer certain information that will enable him to get
possession of the property. Gentlemen, that is what 'legal practice' has
descended to in the hands of respectable lawyers. This device originated
with the resourceful Mr. Theodore Watling, and if it had not had the
approval of Mr. Miller Gorse, it would never have got any farther than
the judiciary committee. It was confided to the skillful care of Colonel
Paul Varney to be steered through this legislature, as hundreds of other
measures have been steered through,--without unnecessary noise. It may be
asked why the Railroad should bother itself by lending its political
organization to private corporations? I will tell you. Because
corporations like the Boyne corporation are a part of a network of
interests, these corporations aid the Railroad to maintain its monopoly,
and in return receive rebates."

Krebs had raised his voice as the murmurs became louder. At this point a
sharp-faced lawyer from Belfast got to his feet and objected that the
gentleman from Elkington was wasting the time of the House, indulging in
hearsay. His remarks were not germane, etc. The Speaker rapped again,
with a fine show of impartiality, and cautioned the member from
Elkington.

"Very well," replied Krebs. "I have said what I wanted to say on that
score, and I know it to be the truth. And if this House does not find it
germane, the day is coming when its constituents will."

Whereupon he entered into a discussion of the bill, dissecting it with
more calmness, with an ability that must have commanded, even from some
hostile minds, an unwilling respect. The penalty, he said, was
outrageous, hitherto unheard of in law,--putting a corporation in the
hands of a receiver, at the mercy of those who coveted it, because one of
its officers refused, or was unable, to testify. He might be in China, in
Timbuctoo when the summons was delivered at his last or usual place of
abode. Here was an enormity, an exercise of tyrannical power exceeding
all bounds, a travesty on popular government.... He ended by pointing out
the significance of the fact that the committee had given no hearings; by
declaring that if the bill became a law, it would inevitably react upon
the heads of those who were responsible for it.

He sat down, and there was a flutter of applause from the scattered
audience in the gallery.

"By God, that's the only man in the whole place!"

I was aware, for the first time, of a neighbour at my side,--a solid,
red-faced man, evidently a farmer. His trousers were tucked into his
boots, and his gnarled and powerful hands, ingrained with dirt, clutched
the arms of the seat as he leaned forward.

"Didn't he just naturally lambaste 'em?" he cried excitedly. "They'll
down him, I guess,--but say, he's right. A man would lose his
self-respect if he didn't let out his mind at them hoss thieves, wouldn't
he? What's that fellow's name?"

I told him.

"Krebs," he repeated. "I want to remember that. Durned if I don't shake
hands with him."

His excitement astonished me. Would the public feel like that, if they
only knew?... The Speaker's gavel had come down like a pistol shot.

One "war-hoss"--as my neighbour called them--after another proceeded to
crush the member from Elkington. It was, indeed, very skillfully done,
and yet it was a process from which I did not derive, somehow, much
pleasure. Colonel Varney's army had been magnificently trained to meet
just this kind of situation: some employed ridicule, others declared, in
impassioned tones, that the good name of their state had been wantonly
assailed, and pointed fervently to portraits on the walls of patriots of
the past,--sentiments that drew applause from the fickle gallery. One
gentleman observed that the obsession of a "railroad machine" was a sure
symptom of a certain kind of insanity, of which the first speaker had
given many other evidences. The farmer at my side remained staunch.

"They can't fool me," he said angrily, "I know 'em. Do you see that
fellow gettin' up to talk now? Well, I could tell you a few things about
him, all right. He comes from Glasgow, and his name's Letchworth. He's
done more harm in his life than all the criminals he's kept out of
prison,--belongs to one of the old families down there, too."

I had, indeed, remarked Letchworth's face, which seemed to me peculiarly
evil, its lividity enhanced by a shock of grey hair. His method was
withering sarcasm, and he was clearly unable to control his animus....

No champion appeared to support Krebs, who sat pale and tense while this
denunciation of him was going on. Finally he got the floor. His voice
trembled a little, whether with passion, excitement, or nervousness it
was impossible to say. But he contented himself with a brief defiance. If
the bill passed, he declared, the men who voted for it, the men who were
behind it, would ultimately be driven from political life by an indignant
public. He had a higher opinion of the voters of the state than those who
accused him of slandering it, than those who sat silent and had not
lifted their voices against this crime.

When the bill was put to a vote he demanded a roll call. Ten members
besides himself were recorded against House Bill No. 709!

In spite of this overwhelming triumph my feelings were not wholly those
of satisfaction when I returned to the hotel and listened to the
exultations and denunciations of such politicians as Letchworth, Young,
and Colonel Varney. Perhaps an image suggesting Hermann Krebs as some
splendid animal at bay, dragged down by the hounds, is too strong: he had
been ingloriously crushed, and defeat, even for the sake of conviction,
was not an inspiring spectacle.... As the chase swept on over his
prostrate figure I rapidly regained poise and a sense of proportion; a
"master of life" could not permit himself to be tossed about by
sentimentality; and gradually I grew ashamed of my bad quarter of an hour
in the gallery of the House, and of the effect of it--which lingered
awhile--as of a weakness suddenly revealed, which must at all costs be
overcome. I began to see something dramatic and sensational in Krebs's
performance....

The Ribblevale Steel Company was the real quarry, after all. And such had
been the expedition, the skill and secrecy, with which our affair was
conducted, that before the Ribblevale lawyers could arrive, alarmed and
breathless, the bill had passed the House, and their only real chance of
halting it had been lost. For the Railroad controlled the House, not by
owning the individuals composing it, but through the leaders who
dominated it,--men like Letchworth and Truesdale. These, and Colonel
Varney, had seen to it that men who had any parliamentary ability had
been attended to; all save Krebs, who had proved a surprise. There were
indeed certain members who, although they had railroad passes in their
pockets (which were regarded as just perquisites,--the Railroad being so
rich!), would have opposed the bill if they had felt sufficiently sure of
themselves to cope with such veterans as Letchworth. Many of these had
allowed themselves to be won over or cowed by the oratory which had
crushed Krebs.

Nor did the Ribblevale people--be it recorded--scruple to fight fire with
fire. Their existence, of course, was at stake, and there was no public
to appeal to. A part of the legal army that rushed to the aid of our
adversaries spent the afternoon and most of the night organizing all
those who could be induced by one means or another to reverse their
sentiments, and in searching for the few who had grievances against the
existing power. The following morning a motion was introduced to
reconsider; and in the debate that followed, Krebs, still defiant, took
an active part. But the resolution required a two-thirds vote, and was
lost.

When the battle was shifted to the Senate it was as good as lost. The
Judiciary Committee of the august body did indeed condescend to give
hearings, at which the Ribblevale lawyers exhausted their energy and
ingenuity without result with only two dissenting votes the bill was
calmly passed. In vain was the Governor besieged, entreated,
threatened,--it was said; Mr. Trulease had informed protesters--so
Colonel Varney gleefully reported--that he had "become fully convinced of
the inherent justice of the measure." On Saturday morning he signed it,
and it became a law....

Colonel Varney, as he accompanied me to the train, did not conceal his
jubilation.

"Perhaps I ought not to say it, Mr. Paret, but it couldn't have been done
neater. That's the art in these little affairs, to get 'em runnin' fast,
to get momentum on 'em before the other party wakes up, and then he can't
stop 'em." As he shook hands in farewell he added, with more gravity:
"We'll see each other often, sir, I guess. My very best regards to Mr.
Watling."

Needless to say, I had not confided to him the part I had played in
originating House Bill No. 709, now a law of the state. But as the train
rolled on through the sunny winter landscape a sense of well-being, of
importance and power began to steal through me. I was victoriously
bearing home my first scalp,--one which was by no means to be
despised.... It was not until we reached Rossiter, about five o'clock,
that I was able to get the evening newspapers. Such was the perfection of
the organization of which I might now call myself an integral part that
the "best" publications contained only the barest mention,--and that in
the legislative news,--of the signing of the bill. I read with
complacency and even with amusement the flaring headlines I had
anticipated in Mr. Lawler's 'Pilot.'

"The Governor Signs It!"

"Special legislation, forced through by the Railroad Lobby, which will
drive honest corporations from this state."

"Ribblevale Steel Company the Victim."

It was common talk in the capital, the article went on to say, that
Theodore Watling himself had drawn up the measure.... Perusing the
editorial page my eye fell on the name, Krebs. One member of the
legislature above all deserved the gratitude of the people of the
state,--the member from Elkington. "An unknown man, elected in spite of
the opposition of the machine, he had dared to raise his voice against
this iniquity," etc., etc.

We had won. That was the essential thing. And my legal experience had
taught me that victory counts; defeat is soon forgotten. Even the
discontented, half-baked and heterogeneous element from which the Pilot
got its circulation had short memories.



XI.

The next morning, which was Sunday, I went to Mr. Watling's house in,
Fillmore Street--a new residence at that time, being admired as the
dernier cri in architecture. It had a mediaeval look, queer dormers in a
steep roof of red tiles, leaded windows buried deep in walls of rough
stone. Emerging from the recessed vestibule on a level with the street
were the Watling twins, aglow with health, dressed in identical costumes
of blue. They had made their bow to society that winter.

"Why, here's Hugh!" said Frances. "Doesn't he look pleased with himself?"

"He's come to take us to church," said Janet.

"Oh, he's much too important," said Frances. "He's made a killing of some
sort,--haven't you, Hugh?"...

I rang the bell and stood watching them as they departed, reflecting that
I was thirty-two years of age and unmarried. Mr. Watling, surrounded with
newspapers and seated before his library fire, glanced up at me with a
welcoming smile: how had I borne the legislative baptism of fire? Such, I
knew, was its implication.

"Everything went through according to schedule, eh? Well, I congratulate
you, Hugh," he said.

"Oh, I didn't have much to do with it," I answered, smiling back at him.
"I kept out of sight."

"That's an art in itself."

"I had an opportunity, at close range, to study the methods of our
lawmakers."

"They're not particularly edifying," Mr. Watling replied. "But they seem,
unfortunately, to be necessary."

Such had been my own thought.

"Who is this man Krebs?" he inquired suddenly. "And why didn't Varney get
hold of him and make him listen to reason?"

"I'm afraid it wouldn't have been any use," I replied. "He was in my
class at Harvard. I knew him--slightly. He worked his way through, and
had a pretty hard time of it. I imagine it affected his ideas."

"What is he, a Socialist?"

"Something of the sort." In Theodore Watling's vigorous, sanity-exhaling
presence Krebs's act appeared fantastic, ridiculous. "He has queer
notions about a new kind of democracy which he says is coming. I think he
is the kind of man who would be willing to die for it."

"What, in these days!" Mr. Watling looked at me incredulously. "If that's
so, we must keep an eye on him, a sincere fanatic is a good deal more
dangerous than a reformer who wants something. There are such men," he
added, "but they are rare. How was the Governor, Trulease?" he asked
suddenly. "Tractable?"

"Behaved like a lamb, although he insisted upon going through with his
little humbug," I said.

Mr. Watling laughed. "They always do," he observed, "and waste a lot of
valuable time. You'll find some light cigars in the corner, Hugh."

I sat down beside him and we spent the morning going over the details of
the Ribblevale suit, Mr. Watling delegating to me certain matters
connected with it of a kind with which I had not hitherto been entrusted;
and he spoke again, before I left, of his intention of taking me into the
firm as soon as the affair could be arranged. Walking homeward, with my
mind intent upon things to come, I met my mother at the corner of Lyme
Street coming from church. Her face lighted up at sight of me.

"Have you been working to-day, Hugh?" she asked.

I explained that I had spent the morning with Mr. Watling.

"I'll tell you a secret, mother. I'm going to be taken into the firm."

"Oh, my dear, I'm so glad!" she exclaimed. "I often think, if only your
father were alive, how happy he would be, and how proud of you. I wish he
could know. Perhaps he does know."

Theodore Watling had once said to me that the man who can best keep his
own counsel is the best counsel for other men to keep. I did not go about
boasting of the part I had played in originating the now famous Bill No.
709, the passage of which had brought about the capitulation of the
Ribblevale Steel Company to our clients. But Ralph Hambleton knew of it,
of course.

"That was a pretty good thing you pulled off, Hughie," he said. "I didn't
think you had it in you."

It was rank patronage, of course, yet I was secretly pleased. As the
years went on I was thrown more and more with him, though in boyhood
there had been between us no bond of sympathy. About this time he was
beginning to increase very considerably the Hambleton fortune, and a
little later I became counsel for the Crescent Gas and Electric Company,
in which he had shrewdly gained a controlling interest. Even toward the
colossal game of modern finance his attitude was characteristically that
of the dilettante, of the amateur; he played it, as it were,
contemptuously, even as he had played poker at Harvard, with a cynical
audacity that had a peculiarly disturbing effect upon his companions. He
bluffed, he raised the limit in spite of protests, and when he lost one
always had the feeling that he would ultimately get his money back twice
over. At the conferences in the Boyne Club, which he often attended, his
manner toward Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Scherer and even toward Miller Gorse
was frequently one of thinly veiled amusement at their seriousness. I
often wondered that they did not resent it. But he was a privileged
person.

His cousin, Ham Durrett, whose inheritance was even greater than Ralph's
had been, had also become a privileged person whose comings and goings
and more reputable doings were often recorded in the newspapers. Ham had
attained to what Gene Hollister aptly but inadvertently called
"notoriety": as Ralph wittily remarked, Ham gave to polo and women that
which might have gone into high finance. He spent much of his time in the
East; his conduct there and at home would once have created a black
scandal in our community, but we were gradually leaving our Calvinism
behind us and growing more tolerant: we were ready to Forgive much to
wealth especially if it was inherited. Hostesses lamented the fact that
Ham was "wild," but they asked him to dinners and dances to meet their
daughters.

If some moralist better educated and more far-seeing than Perry Blackwood
(for Perry had become a moralist) had told these hostesses that Hambleton
Durrett was a victim of our new civilization, they would have raised
their eyebrows. They deplored while they coveted. If Ham had been told he
was a victim of any sort, he would have laughed.

He enjoyed life; he was genial and jovial, both lavish and
parsimonious,--this latter characteristic being the curious survival of
the trait of the ancestors to which he owed his millions. He was growing
even heavier, and decidedly red in the face.

Perry used to take Ralph to task for not saving Ham from his iniquities,
and Ralph would reply that Ham was going to the devil anyway, and not
even the devil himself could stop him.

"You can stop him, and you know it," Perry retorted indignantly.

"What do you want me to do with him?" asked Ralph. "Convert him to the
saintly life I lead?"

This was a poser.

"That's a fact," sand Perry, "you're no better than he is."

"I don't know what you mean by 'better,'" retorted Ralph, grinning. "I'm
wiser, that's all." (We had been talking about the ethics of business
when Perry had switched off to Ham.) "I believe, at least, in restraint
of trade. Ham doesn't believe in restraint of any kind."

When, therefore, the news suddenly began to be circulated in the Boyne
Club that Ham was showing a tendency to straighten up, surprise and
incredulity were genuine. He was drinking less,--much less; and it was
said that he had severed certain ties that need not again be definitely
mentioned. The theory of religious regeneration not being tenable, it was
naturally supposed that he had fallen in love; the identity of the
unknown lady becoming a fruitful subject of speculation among the
feminine portion of society. The announcement of the marriage of
Hambleton Durrett would be news of the first magnitude, to be absorbed
eagerly by the many who had not the honour of his acquaintance,
--comparable only to that of a devastating flood or a murder mystery
or a change in the tariff.

Being absorbed in affairs that seemed more important, the subject did not
interest me greatly. But one cold Sunday afternoon, as I made my way, in
answer to her invitation, to see Nancy Willett, I found myself wondering
idly whether she might not be by way of making a shrewd guess as to the
object of Hambleton's affections. It was well known that he had
entertained a hopeless infatuation for her; and some were inclined to
attribute his later lapses to her lack of response. He still called on
her, and her lectures, which she delivered like a great aunt with a
recondite knowledge of the world, he took meekly. But even she had seemed
powerless to alter his habits....

Powell Street, that happy hunting-ground of my youth, had changed its
character, become contracted and unfamiliar, sooty. The McAlerys and
other older families who had not decayed with the neighbourhood were
rapidly deserting it, moving out to the new residence district known as
"the Heights." I came to the Willett House. That, too, had an air of
shabbiness,--of well-tended shabbiness, to be sure; the stone steps had
been scrupulously scrubbed, but one of them was cracked clear across, and
the silver on the polished name-plate was wearing off; even the act of
pulling the knob of a door-bell was becoming obsolete, so used had we
grown to pushing porcelain buttons in bright, new vestibules. As I waited
for my summons to be answered it struck me as remarkable that neither
Nancy nor her father had been contaminated by the shabbiness that
surrounded them.

She had managed rather marvellously to redeem one room from the
old-fashioned severity of the rest of the house, the library behind the
big "parlour." It was Nancy's room, eloquent of her daintiness and taste,
of her essential modernity and luxuriousness; and that evening, as I was
ushered into it, this quality of luxuriousness, of being able to shut out
the disagreeable aspects of life that surrounded and threatened her,
particularly impressed me. She had not lacked opportunities to escape. I
wondered uneasily as I waited why she had not embraced them. I strayed
about the room. A coal fire burned in the grate, the red-shaded lamps
gave a subdued but cheerful light; some impulse led me to cross over to
the windows and draw aside the heavy hangings. Dusk was gathering over
that garden, bleak and frozen now, where we had romped together as
children. How queer the place seemed! How shrivelled! Once it had had the
wide range of a park. There, still weathering the elements, was the
old-fashioned latticed summer-house, but the fruit-trees that I recalled
as clouds of pink and white were gone.... A touch of poignancy was in
these memories. I dropped the curtain, and turned to confront Nancy, who
had entered noiselessly.

"Well, Hugh, were you dreaming?" she said.

"Not exactly," I replied, embarrassed. "I was looking at the garden."

"The soot has ruined it. My life seems to be one continual struggle
against the soot,--the blacks, as the English call them. It's a more
expressive term. They are like an army, you know, overwhelming in their
relentless invasion. Well, do sit down. It is nice of you to come. You'll
have some tea, won't you?"

The maid had brought in the tray. Afternoon tea was still rather a new
custom with us, more of a ceremony than a meal; and as Nancy handed me my
cup and the thinnest of slices of bread and butter I found the intimacy
of the situation a little disquieting. Her manner was indeed intimate,
and yet it had the odd and disturbing effect of making her seem more
remote. As she chatted I answered her perfunctorily, while all the time I
was asking myself why I had ceased to desire her, whether the old longing
for her might not return--was not even now returning? I might indeed go
far afield to find a wife so suited to me as Nancy. She had beauty,
distinction, and position. She was a woman of whom any man might be
proud....

"I haven't congratulated you yet, Hugh," she said suddenly, "now that you
are a partner of Mr. Watling's. I hear on all sides that you are on the
high road to a great success."

"Of course I'm glad to be in the firm," I admitted.

It was a new tack for Nancy, rather a disquieting one, this discussion of
my affairs, which she had so long avoided or ignored. "You are getting
what you have always wanted, aren't you?"

I wondered in some trepidation whether by that word "always" she was
making a deliberate reference to the past.

"Always?" I repeated, rather fatuously.

"Nearly always, ever since you have been a man."

I was incapable of taking advantage of the opening, if it were one. She
was baffling.

"A man likes to succeed in his profession, of course," I said.

"And you made up your mind to succeed more deliberately than most men. I
needn't ask you if you are satisfied, Hugh. Success seems to agree with
you,--although I imagine you will never be satisfied."

"Why do you say that?" I demanded.

"I haven't known you all your life for nothing. I think I know you much
better than you know yourself."

"You haven't acted as if you did," I exclaimed.

She smiled.

"Have you been interested in what I thought about you?" she asked.

"That isn't quite fair, Nancy," I protested. "You haven't given me much
evidence that you did think about me."

"Have I received much encouragement to do so?" she inquired.

"But you haven't seemed to invite--you've kept me at arm's length."

"Oh, don't fence!" she cried, rather sharply.

I had become agitated, but her next words gave me a shock that was
momentarily paralyzing.

"I asked you to come here to-day, Hugh, because I wished you to know that
I have made up my mind to marry Hambleton Durrett."

"Hambleton Durrett!" I echoed stupidly. "Hambleton Durrett!"

"Why not?"

"Have you--have you accepted him?"

"No. But I mean to do so."

"You--you love him?"

"I don't see what right you have to ask."

"But you just said that you invited me here to talk frankly."

"No, I don't love him."

"Then why, in heaven's name, are you going to marry him?"

She lay back in her chair, regarding me, her lips slightly parted. All at
once the full flavour of her, the superfine quality was revealed after
years of blindness.--Nor can I describe the sudden rebellion, the
revulsion that I experienced. Hambleton Durrett! It was an outrage, a
sacrilege! I got up, and put my hand on the mantel. Nancy remained
motionless, inert, her head lying back against the chair. Could it be
that she were enjoying my discomfiture? There is no need to confess that
I knew next to nothing of women; had I been less excited, I might have
made the discovery that I still regarded them sentimentally. Certain
romantic axioms concerning them, garnered from Victorian literature,
passed current in my mind for wisdom; and one of these declared that they
were prone to remain true to an early love. Did Nancy still care for me?
The query, coming as it did on top of my emotion, brought with it a
strange and overwhelming perplexity. Did I really care for her? The many
years during which I had practised the habit of caution began to exert an
inhibiting pressure. Here was a situation, an opportunity suddenly thrust
upon me which might never return, and which I was utterly unprepared to
meet. Would I be happy with Nancy, after all? Her expression was still
enigmatic.

"Why shouldn't I marry him?" she demanded.

"Because he's not good enough for you."

"Good!" she exclaimed, and laughed. "He loves me. He wants me without
reservation or calculation." There was a sting in this. "And is he any
worse," she asked slowly, "than many others who might be mentioned?"

"No," I agreed. I did not intend to be led into the thankless and
disagreeable position of condemning Hambleton Durrett. "But why have you
waited all these years if you did not mean to marry a man of ability, a
man who has made something of himself?"

"A man like you, Hugh?" she said gently.

I flushed.

"That isn't quite fair, Nancy."

"What are you working for?" she suddenly inquired, straightening up.

"What any man works for, I suppose."

"Ah, there you have hit it,--what any man works for in our world.
Power,--personal power. You want to be somebody,--isn't that it? Not the
noblest ambition, you'll have to admit,--not the kind of thing we used to
dream about, when we did dream. Well, when we find we can't realize our
dreams, we take the next best thing. And I fail to see why you should
blame me for taking it when you yourself have taken it. Hambleton Durrett
can give it to me. He'll accept me on my own terms, he won't interfere
with me, I shan't be disillusionized,--and I shall have a position which
I could not hope to have if I remained unmarried, a very marked position
as Hambleton Durrett's wife. I am thirty, you know."

Her frankness appalled me.

"The trouble with you, Hugh, is that you still deceive yourself. You
throw a glamour over things. You want to keep your cake and eat it too.

"I don't see why you say that. And marriage especially--"

She took me up.

"Marriage! What other career is open to a woman? Unless she is married,
and married well, according to the money standard you men have set up,
she is nobody. We can't all be Florence Nightingales, and I am unable to
imagine myself a Julia Ward Howe or a Harriet Beecher Stowe. What is
left? Nothing but marriage. I'm hard and cynical, you will say, but I
have thought, and I'm not afraid, as I have told you, to look things in
the face. There are very few women, I think, who would not take the real
thing if they had the chance before it were too late, who wouldn't be
willing to do their own cooking in order to get it."

She fell silent suddenly. I began to pace the room.

"For God's sake, don't do this, Nancy!" I begged.

But she continued to stare into the fire, as though she had not heard me.

"If you had made up your mind to do it, why did you tell me?" I asked.

"Sentiment, I suppose. I am paying a tribute to what I once was, to what
you once were," she said. A--a sort of good-bye to sentiment."

"Nancy!" I said hoarsely.

She shook her head.

"No, Hugh. Surely you can't misjudge me so!" she answered reproachfully.
"Do you think I should have sent for you if I had meant--that!"

"No, no, I didn't think so. But why not? You--you cared once, and you
tell me plainly you don't love him. It was all a terrible mistake. We
were meant for each other."

"I did love you then," she said. "You never knew how much. And there is
nothing I wouldn't give to bring it all back again. But I can't. It's
gone. You're gone, and I'm gone. I mean what we were. Oh, why did you
change?"

"It was you who changed," I declared, bewildered.

"Couldn't you see--can't you see now what you did? But perhaps you
couldn't help it. Perhaps it was just you, after all."

"What I did?"

"Why couldn't you have held fast to your faith? If you had, you would
have known what it was I adored in you. Oh, I don't mind telling you now,
it was just that faith, Hugh, that faith you had in life, that faith you
had in me. You weren't cynical and calculating, like Ralph Hambleton, you
had imagination. I--I dreamed, too. And do you remember the time when you
made the boat, and we went to Logan's Pond, and you sank in her?"

"And you stayed," I went on, "when all the others ran away? You ran down
the hill like a whirlwind."

She laughed.

"And then you came here one day, to a party, and said you were going to
Harvard, and quarrelled with me."

"Why did you doubt met" I asked agitatedly. "Why didn't you let me see
that you still cared?"

"Because that wasn't you, Hugh, that wasn't your real self. Do you
suppose it mattered to me whether you went to Harvard with the others?
Oh, I was foolish too, I know. I shouldn't have said what I did. But what
is the use of regrets?" she exclaimed. "We've both run after the
practical gods, and the others have hidden their faces from us. It may be
that we are not to blame, either of us, that the practical gods are too
strong. We've learned to love and worship them, and now we can't do
without them."

"We can try, Nancy," I pleaded.

"No," she answered in a low voice, "that's the difference between you and
me. I know myself better than you know yourself, and I know you better."
She smiled again. "Unless we could have it all back again, I shouldn't
want any of it. You do not love me--"

I started once more to protest.

"No, no, don't say it!" she cried.

"You may think you do, just this moment, but it's only because--you've
been moved. And what you believe you want isn't me, it's what I was. But
I'm not that any more,--I'm simply recalling that, don't you see? And
even then you wouldn't wish me, now, as I was. That sounds involved, but
you must understand. You want a woman who will be wrapped up in your
career, Hugh, and yet who will not share it,--who will devote herself
body and soul to what you have become. A woman whom you can shape. And
you won't really love her, but only just so much of her as may become the
incarnation of you. Well, I'm not that kind of woman. I might have been,
had you been different. I'm not at all sure. Certainly I'm not that kind
now, even though I know in my heart that the sort of career you have made
for yourself, and that I intend to make for myself is all dross. But now
I can't do without it."

"And yet you are going to marry Hambleton Durrett!" I said.

She understood me, although I regretted my words at once.

"Yes, I am going to marry him." There was a shade of bitterness, of
defiance in her voice. "Surely you are not offering me the--the other
thing, now. Oh, Hugh!"

"I am willing to abandon it all, Nancy."

"No," she said, "you're not, and I'm not. What you can't see and won't
see is that it has become part of you. Oh, you are successful, you will
be more and more successful. And you think I should be somebody, as your
wife, Hugh, more perhaps, eventually, than I shall be as Hambleton's. But
I should be nobody, too. I couldn't stand it now, my dear. You must
realize that as soon as you have time to think it over. We shall be
friends."

The sudden gentleness in her voice pierced me through and through. She
held out her hand. Something in her grasp spoke of a resolution which
could not be shaken.

"And besides," she added sadly, "I don't love you any more, Hugh. I'm
mourning for something that's gone. I wanted to have just this one talk
with you. But we shan't mention it again,--we'll close the book."...

At that I fled out of the house, and at first the thought of her as
another man's wife, as Hambleton Durrett's wife, was seemingly not to be
borne. It was incredible! "We'll close the book." I found myself
repeating the phrase; and it seemed then as though something within me I
had believed dead--something that formerly had been all of me--had
revived again to throb with pain.

It is not surprising that the acuteness of my suffering was of short
duration, though I remember certain sharp twinges when the announcement
of the engagement burst on the city. There was much controversy over the
question as to whether or not Ham Durrett's reform would be permanent;
but most people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; it was
time he settled down and took the position in the community that was to
be expected of one of his name; and as for Nancy, it was generally agreed
that she had done well for herself. She was not made for poverty--and who
so well as she was fitted for the social leadership of our community?

They were married in Trinity Church in the month of May, and I was one of
Ham's attendants. Ralph was "best man." For the last time the old Willett
mansion in Powell Street wore the gala air of former days; carpets were
spread over the sidewalk, and red and white awnings; rooms were filled
with flowers and flung open to hundreds of guests. I found the wedding
something of an ordeal. I do not like to dwell upon it--especially upon
that moment when I came to congratulate Nancy as she stood beside Ham at
the end of the long parlour. She seemed to have no regrets. I don't know
what I expected of her--certainly not tears and tragedy. She seemed
taller than ever, and very beautiful in her veil and white satin gown and
the diamonds Ham had given her; very much mistress of herself, quite a
contrast to Ham, who made no secret of his elation. She smiled when I
wished her happiness.

"We'll be home in the autumn, Hugh, and expect to see a great deal of
you," she said.

As I paused in a corner of the room my eye fell upon Nancy's father.
McAlery Willett's elation seemed even greater than Ham's. With a gardenia
in his frock-coat and a glass of champagne in his hand he went from group
to group; and his familiar laughter, which once had seemed so full of
merriment and fun, gave me to-day a somewhat scandalized feeling. I heard
Ralph's voice, and turned to discover him standing beside me, his long
legs thrust slightly apart, his hands in his pockets, overlooking the
scene with typical, semi-contemptuous amusement.

"This lets old McAlery out, anyway," he said.

"What do you mean?" I demanded.

"One or two little notes of his will be cancelled, sooner or
later--that's all."

For a moment I was unable to speak.

"And do you think that she--that Nancy found out--?" I stammered.

"Well, I'd be willing to take that end of the bet," he replied. "Why the
deuce should she marry Ham? You ought to know her well enough to
understand how she'd feel if she discovered some of McAlery's financial
coups? Of course it's not a thing I talk about, you understand. Are you
going to the Club?"

"No, I'm going home," I said. I was aware of his somewhat compassionate
smile as I left him....



XII.

One November day nearly two years after my admission as junior member of
the firm of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon seven gentlemen met at luncheon in
the Boyne Club; Mr. Barbour, President of the Railroad, Mr. Scherer, of
the Boyne Iron Works and other corporations, Mr. Leonard Dickinson, of
the Corn National Bank, Mr. Halsey, a prominent banker from the other
great city of the state, Mr. Grunewald, Chairman of the Republican State
Committee, and Mr. Frederick Grierson, who had become a very important
man in our community. At four o'clock they emerged from the club:
citizens in Boyne Street who saw them chatting amicably on the steps
little suspected that in the last three hours these gentlemen had chosen
and practically elected the man who was to succeed Mr. Wade as United
States Senator in Washington. Those were the days in which great affairs
were simply and efficiently handled. No democratic nonsense about leaving
the choice to an electorate that did not know what it wanted.

The man chosen to fill this high position was Theodore Watling. He said
he would think about the matter.

In the nation at large, through the defection of certain Northern states
neither so conservative nor fortunate as ours, the Democratic party was
in power, which naturally implies financial depression. There was no
question about our ability to send a Republican Senator; the choice in
the Boyne Club was final; but before the legislature should ratify it, a
year or so hence, it were just as well that the people of the state
should be convinced that they desired Mr. Watling more than any other
man; and surely enough, in a little while such a conviction sprang up
spontaneously. In offices and restaurants and hotels, men began to
suggest to each other what a fine thing it would be if Theodore Watling
might be persuaded to accept the toga; at the banks, when customers
called to renew their notes and tight money was discussed and Democrats
excoriated, it was generally agreed that the obvious thing to do was to
get a safe man in the Senate. From the very first, Watling sentiment
stirred like spring sap after a hard winter.

The country newspapers, watered by providential rains, began to put forth
tender little editorial shoots, which Mr. Judah B. Tallant presently
collected and presented in a charming bouquet in the Morning Era. "The
Voice of the State Press;" thus was the column headed; and the remarks of
the Hon. Fitch Truesdale, of the St. Helen's Messenger, were given a
special prominence. Mr. Truesdale was the first, in his section, to be
inspired by the happy thought that the one man preeminently fitted to
represent the state in the present crisis, when her great industries had
been crippled by Democratic folly, was Mr. Theodore Watling. The Rossiter
Banner, the Elkington Star, the Belfast Recorder, and I know not how many
others simultaneously began to sing Mr. Watling's praises.

"Not since the troublous times of the Civil War," declared the Morning
Era, "had the demand for any man been so unanimous." As a proof of it,
there were the country newspapers, "which reflected the sober opinion of
the firesides of the common people."

There are certain industrious gentlemen to whom little credit is given,
and who, unlike the average citizen who reserves his enthusiasm for
election time, are patriotic enough to labour for their country's good
all the year round. When in town, it was their habit to pay a friendly
call on the Counsel for the Railroad, Mr. Miller Gorse, in the Corn Bank
Building. He was never too busy to converse with them; or, it might
better be said, to listen to them converse. Let some legally and
politically ambitious young man observe Mr. Gorse's method. Did he
inquire what the party worker thought of Mr. Watling for the Senate? Not
at all! But before the party worker left he was telling Mr. Gorse that
public sentiment demanded Mr. Watling. After leaving Mr. Gorse they
wended their way to the Durrett Building and handed their cards over the
rail of the offices of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon. Mr. Watling shook
hands with scores of them, and they departed, well satisfied with the
flavour of his cigars and intoxicated by his personality. He had a
marvellous way of cutting short an interview without giving offence. Some
of them he turned over to Mr. Paret, whom he particularly desired they
should know. Thus Mr. Paret acquired many valuable additions to his
acquaintance, cultivated a memory for names and faces that was to stand
him in good stead; and kept, besides, an indexed note-book into which he
put various bits of interesting information concerning each. Though not
immediately lucrative, it was all, no doubt, part of a lawyer's
education.

During the summer and the following winter Colonel Paul Varney came often
to town and spent much of his time in Mr. Paret's office smoking Mr.
Watling's cigars and discussing the coming campaign, in which he took a
whole-souled interest.

"Say, Hugh, this is goin' slick!" he would exclaim, his eyes glittering
like round buttons of jet. "I never saw a campaign where they fell in the
way they're doing now. If it was anybody else but Theodore Watling, it
would scare me. You ought to have been in Jim Broadhurst's campaign," he
added, referring to the junior senator, "they wouldn't wood up at all,
they was just listless. But Gorse and Barbour and the rest wanted him,
and we had to put him over. I reckon he is useful down there in
Washington, but say, do you know what he always reminded me of? One of
those mud-turtles I used to play with as a boy up in Columbia
County,--shuts up tight soon as he sees you coming. Now Theodore Watling
ain't like that, any way of speaking. We can get up some enthusiasm for a
man of his sort. He's liberal and big. He's made his pile, and he don't
begrudge some of it to the fellows who do the work. Mark my words, when
you see a man who wants a big office cheap, look out for him."

This, and much more wisdom I imbibed while assenting to my chief's
greatness. For Mr. Varney was right,--one could feel enthusiasm for
Theodore Watling; and my growing intimacy with him, the sense that I was
having a part in his career, a share in his success, became for the
moment the passion of my life. As the campaign progressed I gave more and
more time to it, and made frequent trips of a confidential nature to the
different counties of the state. The whole of my being was energized. The
national fever had thoroughly pervaded my blood--the national fever to
win. Prosperity--writ large--demanded it, and Theodore Watling
personified, incarnated the cause. I had neither the time nor the desire
to philosophize on this national fever, which animated all my associates:
animated, I might say, the nation, which was beginning to get into a
fever about games. If I remember rightly, it was about this time that
golf was introduced, tennis had become a commonplace, professional
baseball was in full swing; Ham Durrett had even organized a local polo
team.... The man who failed to win something tangible in sport or law or
business or politics was counted out. Such was the spirit of America, in
the closing years of the nineteenth century.

And yet, when one has said this, one has failed to express the national
Geist in all its subtlety. In brief, the great American sport was not so
much to win the game as to beat it; the evasion of rules challenged our
ingenuity; and having won, we set about devising methods whereby it would
be less and less possible for us winners to lose in the future. No better
illustration of this tendency could be given than the development which
had recently taken place in the field of our city politics, hitherto the
battle-ground of Irish politicians who had fought one another for
supremacy. Individualism had been rampant, competition the custom; you
bought an alderman, or a boss who owned four or five aldermen, and then
you never could be sure you were to get what you wanted, or that the
aldermen and the bosses would "stay bought." But now a genius had
appeared, an American genius who had arisen swiftly and almost silently,
who appealed to the imagination, and whose name was often mentioned in a
whisper,--the Hon. Judd Jason, sometimes known as the Spider, who
organized the City Hall and capitalized it; an ultimate and logical
effect--if one had considered it--of the Manchester school of economics.
Enlightened self-interest, stripped of sentiment, ends on Judd Jasons. He
ran the city even as Mr. Sherrill ran his department store; you paid your
price. It was very convenient. Being a genius, Mr. Jason did not wholly
break with tradition, but retained those elements of the old muddled
system that had their value, chartering steamboats for outings on the
river, giving colossal picnics in Lowry Park. The poor and the wanderer
and the criminal (of the male sex at least) were cared for. But he was
not loved, as the rough-and-tumble Irishmen had been loved; he did not
make himself common; he was surrounded by an aura of mystery which I
confess had not failed of effect on me. Once, and only once during my
legal apprenticeship, he had been pointed out to me on the street, where
he rarely ventured. His appearance was not impressive....

Mr. Jason could not, of course, prevent Mr. Watling's election, even did
he so desire, but he did command the allegiance of several city
candidates--both democratic and republican--for the state legislature,
who had as yet failed to announce their preferences for United States
Senator. It was important that Mr. Watling's vote should be large, as
indicative of a public reaction and repudiation of Democratic national
folly. This matter among others was the subject of discussion one July
morning when the Republican State Chairman was in the city; Mr. Grunewald
expressed anxiety over Mr. Jason's continued silence. It was expedient
that somebody should "see" the boss.

"Why not Paret?" suggested Leonard Dickinson. Mr. Watling was not present
at this conference. "Paret seems to be running Watling's campaign,
anyway."

It was settled that I should be the emissary. With lively sensations of
curiosity and excitement, tempered by a certain anxiety as to my ability
to match wits with the Spider, I made my way to his "lair" over Monahan's
saloon, situated in a district that was anything but respectable. The
saloon, on the ground floor, had two apartments; the bar-room proper
where Mike Monahan, chamberlain of the establishment, was wont to stand,
red faced and smiling, to greet the courtiers, big and little, the party
workers, the district leaders, the hangers-on ready to be hired, the city
officials, the police judges,--yes, and the dignified members of state
courts whose elections depended on Mr. Jason's favour: even Judge Bering,
whose acquaintance I had made the day I had come, as a law student, to
Mr. Watling's office, unbent from time to time sufficiently to call there
for a small glass of rye and water, and to relate, with his owl-like
gravity, an anecdote to the "boys." The saloon represented Democracy, so
dear to the American public. Here all were welcome, even the
light-fingered gentlemen who enjoyed the privilege of police protection;
and who sometimes, through fortuitous circumstances, were hauled before
the very magistrates with whom they had rubbed elbows on the polished
rail. Behind the bar-room, and separated from it by swinging doors only
the elite ventured to thrust apart, was an audience chamber whither Mr.
Jason occasionally descended. Anecdote and political reminiscence gave
place here to matters of high policy.

I had several times come to the saloon in the days of my apprenticeship
in search of some judge or official, and once I had run down here the
city auditor himself. Mike Monahan, whose affair it was to know everyone,
recognized me. It was part of his business, also, to understand that I
was now a member of the firm of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon.

"Good morning to you, Mr. Paret," he said suavely. We held a colloquy in
undertones over the bar, eyed by the two or three customers who were
present. Mr. Monahan disappeared, but presently returned to whisper:
"Sure, he'll see you," to lead the way through the swinging doors and up
a dark stairway. I came suddenly on a room in the greatest disorder, its
tables and chairs piled high with newspapers and letters, its windows
streaked with soot. From an open door on its farther side issued a voice.

"Is that you, Mr. Paret? Come in here."

It was little less than a command.

"Heard of you, Mr. Paret. Glad to know you. Sit down, won't you?"

The inner room was almost dark. I made out a bed in the corner, and
propped up in the bed a man; but for the moment I was most aware of a
pair of eyes that flared up when the man spoke, and died down again when
he became silent. They reminded me of those insects which in my childhood
days we called "lightning bugs." Mr. Jason gave me a hand like a woman's.
I expressed my pleasure at meeting him, and took a chair beside the bed.

"I believe you're a partner of Theodore Watling's now aren't you? Smart
man, Watling."

"He'll make a good senator," I replied, accepting the opening.

"You think he'll get elected--do you?" Mr. Jason inquired.

I laughed.

"Well, there isn't much doubt about that, I imagine."

"Don't know--don't know. Seen some dead-sure things go wrong in my time."

"What's going to defeat him?" I asked pleasantly.

"I don't say anything," Mr. Jason replied. "But I've known funny things
to happen--never does to be dead sure."

"Oh, well, we're as sure as it's humanly possible to be," I declared. The
eyes continued to fascinate me, they had a peculiar, disquieting effect.
Now they died down, and it was as if the man's very presence had gone
out, as though I had been left alone; and I found it exceedingly
difficult, under the circumstances, to continue to address him. Suddenly
he flared up again.

"Watling send you over here?" he demanded.

"No. As a matter of fact, he's out of town. Some of Mr. Watling's
friends, Mr. Grunewald and Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Gorse and others, suggested
that I see you, Mr. Jason."

There came a grunt from the bed.

"Mr. Watling has always valued your friendship and support," I said.

"What makes him think he ain't going to get it?"

"He hasn't a doubt of it," I went on diplomatically. "But we felt--and I
felt personally, that we ought to be in touch with you, to work along
with you, to keep informed how things are going in the city."

"What things?"

"Well--there are one or two representatives, friends of yours, who
haven't come out for Mr. Watling. We aren't worrying, we know you'll do
the right thing, but we feel that it would have a good deal of influence
in some other parts of the state if they declared themselves. And then
you know as well as I do that this isn't a year when any of us can afford
to recognize too closely party lines; the Democratic administration has
brought on a panic, the business men in that party are down on it, and it
ought to be rebuked. And we feel, too, that some of the city's Democrats
ought to be loyal to Mr. Watling,--not that we expect them to vote for
him in caucus, but when it comes to the joint ballot--"

"Who?" demanded Mr. Jason.

"Senator Dowse and Jim Maher, for instance," I suggested.

"Jim voted for Bill 709 all right--didn't he?" said Mr. Jason abruptly.

"That's just it," I put in boldly. "We'd like to induce him to come in
with us this time. But we feel that--the inducement would better come
through you."

I thought Mr. Jason smiled. By this time I had grown accustomed to the
darkness, the face and figure of the man in the bed had become
discernible. Power, I remember thinking, chooses odd houses for itself.
Here was no overbearing, full-blooded ward ruffian brimming with
vitality, but a thin, sallow little man in a cotton night-shirt, with
iron-grey hair and a wiry moustache; he might have been an overworked
clerk behind a dry-goods counter; and yet somehow, now that I had talked
to him, I realized that he never could have been. Those extraordinary
eyes of his, when they were functioning, marked his individuality as
unique. It were almost too dramatic to say that he required darkness to
make his effect, but so it seemed. I should never forget him. He had in
truth been well named the Spider.

"Of course we haven't tried to get in touch with them. We are leaving
them to you," I added.

"Paret," he said suddenly, "I don't care a damn about Grunewald--never
did. I'd turn him down for ten cents. But you can tell Theodore Watling
for me, and Dickinson, that I guess the 'inducement' can be fixed."

I felt a certain relief that the interview had come to an end, that the
moment had arrived for amenities. To my surprise, Mr. Jason anticipated
me.

"I've been interested in you, Mr. Paret," he observed. "Know who you are,
of course, knew you were in Watling's office. Then some of the boys spoke
about you when you were down at the legislature on that Ribblevale
matter. Guess you had more to do with that bill than came out in the
newspapers--eh?"

I was taken off my guard.

"Oh, that's talk," I said.

"All right, it's talk, then? But I guess you and I will have some more
talk after a while,--after Theodore Watling gets to be United States
Senator. Give him my regards, and--and come in when I can do anything for
you, Mr. Paret."

Thanking him, I groped my way downstairs and let myself out by a side
door Monahan had shown me into an alleyway, thus avoiding the saloon. As
I walked slowly back to the office, seeking the shade of the awnings, the
figure in the darkened room took on a sinister aspect that troubled
me....

The autumn arrived, the campaign was on with a whoop, and I had my first
taste of "stump" politics. The acrid smell of red fire brings it back to
me. It was a medley of railroad travel, of committees provided with
badges--and cigars, of open carriages slowly drawn between lines of
bewildered citizens, of Lincoln clubs and other clubs marching in serried
ranks, uniformed and helmeted, stalwarts carrying torches and banners.
And then there were the draughty opera-houses with the sylvan scenery
pushed back and plush chairs and sofas pushed forward; with an ominous
table, a pitcher of water on it and a glass, near the footlights. The
houses were packed with more bewildered citizens. What a wonderful study
of mob-psychology it would have offered! Men who had not thought of the
grand old Republican party for two years, and who had not cared much
about it when they had entered the dooms, after an hour or so went mad
with fervour. The Hon. Joseph Mecklin, ex-Speaker of the House, with whom
I traveled on occasions, had a speech referring to the martyred
President, ending with an appeal to the revolutionary fathers who
followed Washington with bleeding feet. The Hon. Joseph possessed that
most valuable of political gifts, presence; and when with quivering voice
he finished his peroration, citizens wept with him. What it all had to do
with the tariff was not quite clear. Yet nobody seemed to miss the
connection.

We were all of us most concerned, of course, about the working-man and
his dinner pail,--whom the Democrats had wantonly thrown out of
employment for the sake of a doctrinaire theory. They had put him in
competition with the serf of Europe. Such was the subject-matter of my
own modest addresses in this, my maiden campaign. I had the sense to see
myself in perspective; to recognize that not for me, a dignified and
substantial lawyer of affairs, were the rhetorical flights of the Hon.
Joseph Mecklin. I spoke with a certain restraint. Not too dryly, I hope.
But I sought to curb my sentiments, my indignation, at the manner in
which the working-man had been treated; to appeal to the common sense
rather than to the passions of my audiences. Here were the statistics!
(drawn, by the way, from the Republican Campaign book). Unscrupulous
demagogues--Democratic, of course--had sought to twist and evade them.
Let this terrible record of lack of employment and misery be compared
with the prosperity under Republican rule.

"One of the most effective speakers in this campaign for the restoration
of Prosperity," said the Rossiter Banner, "is Mr. Hugh Paret, of the firm
of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon. Mr. Paret's speech at the Opera-House last
evening made a most favourable impression. Mr. Paret deals with facts.
And his thoughtful analysis of the situation into which the Democratic
party has brought this country should convince any sane-minded voter that
the time has come for a change."

I began to keep a scrap-book, though I locked it up in the drawer of my
desk. In it are to be found many clippings of a similarly gratifying
tenor....

Mecklin and I were well contrasted. In this way, incidentally, I made
many valuable acquaintances among the "solid" men of the state, the local
capitalists and manufacturers, with whom my manner of dealing with public
questions was in particular favour. These were practical men; they rather
patronized the Hon. Joseph, thus estimating, to a nicety, a mans value;
or solidity, or specific gravity, it might better be said, since our
universe was one of checks and balances. The Hon. Joseph and his like,
skyrocketing through the air, were somehow necessary in the scheme of
things, but not to be taken too seriously. Me they did take seriously,
these provincial lords, inviting me to their houses and opening their
hearts. Thus, when we came to Elkington, Mr. Mecklin reposed in the
Commercial House, on the noisy main street. Fortunately for him, the
clanging of trolley cars never interfered with his slumbers. I slept in a
wide chamber in the mansion of Mr. Ezra Hutchins. There were many
Hutchinses in Elkington,--brothers and cousins and uncles and
great-uncles,--and all were connected with the woollen mills. But there
is always one supreme Hutchins, and Ezra was he: tall, self-contained,
elderly, but well preserved through frugal living, essentially American
and typical of his class, when he entered the lobby of the Commercial
House that afternoon the babel of political discussion was suddenly
hushed; politicians, traveling salesmen and the members of the local
committee made a lane for him; to him, the Hon. Joseph and I were
introduced. Mr. Hutchins knew what he wanted. He was cordial to Mr.
Mecklin, but he took me. We entered a most respectable surrey with
tassels, driven by a raw-boned coachman in a black overcoat, drawn by two
sleek horses.

"How is this thing going, Paret?" he asked.

I gave him Mr. Grunewald's estimated majority.

"What do you think?" he demanded, a shrewd, humorous look in his blue
eyes.

"Well, I think we'll carry the state. I haven't had Grunewald's
experience in estimating."

Ezra Hutchins smiled appreciatively.

"What does Watling think?"

"He doesn't seem to be worrying much."

"Ever been in Elkington before?"

I said I hadn't.

"Well, a drive will do you good."

It was about four o'clock on a mild October afternoon. The little town,
of fifteen thousand inhabitants or so, had a wonderful setting in the
widening valley of the Scopanong, whose swiftly running waters furnished
the power for the mills. We drove to these through a gateway over which
the words "No Admittance" were conspicuously painted, past long brick
buildings that bordered the canals; and in the windows I caught sight of
drab figures of men and women bending over the machines. Half of the
buildings, as Mr. Hutchins pointed out, were closed,--mute witnesses of
tariff-tinkering madness. Even more eloquent of democratic folly was that
part of the town through which we presently passed, streets lined with
rows of dreary houses where the workers lived. Children were playing on
the sidewalks, but theirs seemed a listless play; listless, too, were the
men and women who sat on the steps,--listless, and somewhat sullen, as
they watched us passing. Ezra Hutchins seemed to read my thought.

"Since the unions got in here I've had nothing but trouble," he said.
"I've tried to do my duty by my people, God knows. But they won't see
which side their bread's buttered on. They oppose me at every step, they
vote against their own interests. Some years ago they put up a job on us,
and sent a scatter-brained radical to the legislature."

"Krebs."

"Do you know him?"

"Slightly. He was in my class at Harvard.... Is he still here?" I asked,
after a pause.

"Oh, yes. But he hasn't gone to the legislature this time, we've seen to
that. His father was a respectable old German who had a little shop and
made eye-glasses. The son is an example of too much education. He's a
notoriety seeker. Oh, he's clever, in a way. He's given us a good deal of
trouble, too, in the courts with damage cases."...

We came to a brighter, more spacious, well-to-do portion of the town,
where the residences faced the river. In a little while the waters
widened into a lake, which was surrounded by a park, a gift to the city
of the Hutchins family. Facing it, on one side, was the Hutchins Library;
on the other, across a wide street, where the maples were turning, were
the Hutchinses' residences of various dates of construction, from that of
the younger George, who had lately married a wife, and built in bright
yellow brick, to the old-fashioned mansion of Ezra himself. This, he told
me, had been good enough for his father, and was good enough for him. The
picture of it comes back to me, now, with singular attractiveness. It was
of brick, and I suppose a modification of the Georgian; the kind of house
one still sees in out-of-the way corners of London, with a sort of
Dickensy flavour; high and square and uncompromising, with small-paned
windows, with a flat roof surrounded by a low balustrade, and many
substantial chimneys. The third storey was lower than the others,
separated from them by a distinct line. On one side was a wide porch.
Yellow and red leaves, the day's fall, scattered the well-kept lawn.
Standing in the doorway of the house was a girl in white, and as we
descended from the surrey she came down the walk to meet us. She was
young, about twenty. Her hair was the colour of the russet maple leaves.

"This is Mr. Paret, Maude." Mr. Hutchins looked at his watch as does a
man accustomed to live by it. "If you'll excuse me, Mr. Paret, I have
something important to attend to. Perhaps Mr. Paret would like to look
about the grounds?" He addressed his daughter.

I said I should be delighted, though I had no idea what grounds were
meant. As I followed Maude around the house she explained that all the
Hutchins connection had a common back yard, as she expressed it. In
reality, there were about two blocks of the property, extending behind
all the houses. There were great trees with swings, groves, orchards
where the late apples glistened between the leaves, an old-fashioned
flower garden loath to relinquish its blooming. In the distance the
shadowed western ridge hung like a curtain of deep blue velvet against
the sunset.

"What a wonderful spot!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, it is nice," she agreed, "we were all brought up here--I mean my
cousins and myself. There are dozens of us. And dozens left," she added,
as the shouts and laughter of children broke the stillness.

A boy came running around the corner of the path. He struck out at Maude.
With a remarkably swift movement she retaliated.

"Ouch!" he exclaimed.

"You got him that time," I laughed, and, being detected, she suddenly
blushed. It was this act that drew my attention to her, that defined her
as an individual. Before that I had regarded her merely as a shy and
provincial girl. Now she was brimming with an unsuspected vitality. A
certain interest was aroused, although her shyness towards me was not
altered. I found it rather a flattering shyness.

"It's Hugh," she explained, "he's always trying to be funny. Speak to Mr.
Paret, Hugh."

"Why, that's my name, too," I said.

"Is it?"

"She knocked my hat off a little while ago," said Hugh. "I was only
getting square."

"Well, you didn't get square, did you?" I asked.

"Are you going to speak in the tows hall to-night?" the boy demanded. I
admitted it. He went off, pausing once to stare back at me.... Maude and
I walked on.

"It must be exciting to speak before a large audience," she said. "If I
were a man, I think I should like to be in politics."

"I cannot imagine you in politics," I answered.

She laughed.

"I said, if I were a man."

"Are you going to the meeting?"

"Oh, yes. Father promised to take me. He has a box."

I thought it would be pleasant to have her there.

"I'm afraid you'll find what I have to say rather dry," I said.

"A woman can't expect to understand everything," she answered quickly.

This remark struck me favourably. I glanced at her sideways. She was not
a beauty, but she was distinctly well-formed and strong. Her face was
oval, her features not quite regular,--giving them a certain charm; her
colour was fresh, her eyes blue, the lighter blue one sees on Chinese
ware: not a poetic comparison, but so I thought of them. She was
apparently not sophisticated, as were most of the young women at home
whom I knew intimately (as were the Watling twins, for example, with one
of whom, Frances, I had had, by the way, rather a lively flirtation the
spring before); she seemed refreshingly original, impressionable and
plastic....

We walked slowly back to the house, and in the hallway I met Mrs.
Hutchins, a bustling, housewifely lady, inclined to stoutness, whose
creased and kindly face bore witness to long acquiescence in the
discipline of matrimony, to the contentment that results from an
essentially circumscribed and comfortable life. She was, I learned later,
the second Mrs. Hutchins, and Maude their only child. The children of the
first marriage, all girls, had married and scattered.

Supper was a decorous but heterogeneous meal of the old-fashioned sort
that gives one the choice between tea and cocoa. It was something of an
occasion, I suspected. The minister was there, the Reverend Mr.
Doddridge, who would have made, in appearance at least, a perfect Puritan
divine in a steeple hat and a tippet. Only--he was no longer the leader
of the community; and even in his grace he had the air of deferring to
the man who provided the bounties of which we were about to partake
rather than to the Almighty. Young George was there, Mr. Hutchins's
nephew, who was daily becoming more and more of a factor in the
management of the mills, and had built the house of yellow brick that
stood out so incongruously among the older Hutchinses' mansions, and
marked a transition. I thought him rather a yellow-brick gentleman
himself for his assumption of cosmopolitan manners. His wife was a
pretty, discontented little woman who plainly deplored her environment,
longed for larger fields of conquest: George, she said, must remain where
he was, for the present at least,--Uncle Ezra depended on him; but
Elkington was a prosy place, and Mrs. George gave the impression that she
did not belong here. They went to the city on occasions; both cities. And
when she told me we had a common acquaintance in Mrs. Hambleton
Durrett--whom she thought so lovely!--I knew that she had taken Nancy as
an ideal: Nancy, the social leader of what was to Mrs. George a
metropolis.

Presently the talk became general among the men, the subject being the
campaign, and I the authority, bombarded with questions I strove to
answer judicially. What was the situation in this county and in that? the
national situation? George indulged in rather a vigorous arraignment of
the demagogues, national and state, who were hurting business in order to
obtain political power. The Reverend Mr. Doddridge assented, deploring
the poverty that the local people had brought on themselves by heeding
the advice of agitators; and Mrs. Hutchins, who spent much of her time in
charity work, agreed with the minister when he declared that the trouble
was largely due to a decline in Christian belief. Ezra Hutchins, too,
nodded at this.

"Take that man Krebs, for example," the minister went on, stimulated by
this encouragement, "he's an atheist, pure and simple." A sympathetic
shudder went around the table at the word. George alone smiled. "Old
Krebs was a free-thinker; I used to get my glasses of him. He was at
least a conscientious man, a good workman, which is more than can be said
for the son. Young Krebs has talent, and if only he had devoted himself
to the honest practice of law, instead of stirring up dissatisfaction
among these people, he would be a successful man to-day."

Mr. Hutchins explained that I was at college with Krebs.

"These people must like him," I said, "or they wouldn't have sent him to
the legislature."

"Well, a good many of them do like him," the minister admitted. "You see,
he actually lives among them. They believe his socialistic doctrines
because he's a friend of theirs."

"He won't represent this town again, that's sure," exclaimed George. "You
didn't see in the papers that he was nominated,--did you, Paret?"

"But if the mill people wanted him, George, how could it be prevented?"
his wife demanded.

George winked at me.

"There are more ways of skinning a cat than one," he said cryptically.

"Well, it's time to go to the meeting, I guess," remarked Ezra, rising.
Once more he looked at his watch.

We were packed into several family carriages and started off. In front of
the hall the inevitable red fire was burning, its quivering light
reflected on the faces of the crowd that blocked the street. They stood
silent, strangely apathetic as we pushed through them to the curb, and
the red fire went out suddenly as we descended. My temporary sense of
depression, however, deserted me as we entered the hall, which was well
lighted and filled with people, who clapped when the Hon. Joseph and I,
accompanied by Mr. Doddridge and the Hon. Henry Clay Mellish from
Pottstown, with the local chairman, walked out on the stage. A glance
over the audience sufficed to ascertain that that portion of the
population whose dinner pails we longed to fill was evidently not present
in large numbers. But the farmers had driven in from the hills, while the
merchants and storekeepers of Elkington had turned out loyally.

The chairman, in introducing me, proclaimed me as a coming man, and
declared that I had already achieved, in the campaign, considerable
notoriety. As I spoke, I was pleasantly aware of Maude Hutchins leaning
forward a little across the rail of the right-hand stage box--for the
town hall was half opera-house; her attitude was one of semi-absorbed
admiration; and the thought that I had made an impression on her
stimulated me. I spoke with more aplomb. Somewhat to my surprise, I found
myself making occasional, unexpected witticisms that drew laughter and
applause. Suddenly, from the back of the hall, a voice called out:--"How
about House Bill 709?"

There was a silence, then a stirring and craning of necks. It was my
first experience of heckling, and for the moment I was taken aback. I
thought of Krebs. He had, indeed, been in my mind since I had risen to my
feet, and I had scanned the faces before me in search of his. But it was
not his voice.

"Well, what about Bill 709?" I demanded.

"You ought to know something about it, I guess," the voice responded.

"Put him out!" came from various portions of the hall.

Inwardly, I was shaken. Not--in orthodox language from any "conviction of
sin." Yet it was my first intimation that my part in the legislation
referred to was known to any save a select few. I blamed Krebs, and a hot
anger arose within me against him. After all, what could they prove?

"No, don't put him out," I said. "Let him come up here to the platform.
I'll yield to him. And I'm entirely willing to discuss with him and
defend any measures passed in the legislature of this state by a
Republican majority. Perhaps," I added, "the gentleman has a copy of the
law in his pocket, that I may know what he is talking about, and answer
him intelligently."

At this there was wild applause. I had the audience with me. The offender
remained silent and presently I finished my speech. After that Mr.
Mecklin made them cheer and weep, and Mr. Mellish made them laugh. The
meeting had been highly successful.

"You polished him off, all right," said George Hutchins, as he took my
hand.

"Who was he?"

"Oh, one of the local sore-heads. Krebs put him up to it, of course."

"Was Krebs here?" I asked.

"Sitting in the corner of the balcony. That meeting must have made him
feel sick." George bent forward and whispered in my ear: "I thought Bill
709 was Watling's idea."

"Oh, I happened to be in the Potts House about that time," I explained.

George, of whom it may be gathered that he was not wholly
unsophisticated, grinned at me appreciatively.

"Say, Paret," he replied, putting his hand through my arm, "there's a
little legal business in prospect down here that will require some
handling, and I wish you'd come down after the campaign and talk it over,
with us. I've just about made up my mind that you're he man to tackle
it."

"All right, I'll come," I said.

"And stay with me," said George....

We went to his yellow-brick house for refreshments, salad and ice-cream
and (in the face of the Hutchins traditions) champagne. Others had been
invited in, some twenty persons.... Once in a while, when I looked up, I
met Maude's eyes across the room. I walked home with her, slowly, the
length of the Hutchinses' block. Floating over the lake was a waning
October moon that cast through the thinning maples a lace-work of shadows
at our feet; I had the feeling of well-being that comes to heroes, and
the presence of Maude Hutchins was an incense, a vestal incense far from
unpleasing. Yet she had reservations which appealed to me. Hers was not a
gushing provincialism, like that of Mrs. George.

"I liked your speech so much, Mr. Paret," she told me. "It seemed so
sensible and--controlled, compared to the others. I have never thought a
great deal about these things, of course, and I never understood before
why taking away the tariff caused so much misery. You made that quite
plain.

"If so, I'm glad," I said.

She was silent a moment.

"The working people here have had a hard time during the last year," she
went on. "Some of the mills had to be shut down, you know. It has
troubled me. Indeed, it has troubled all of us. And what has made it more
difficult, more painful is that many of them seem actually to dislike us.
They think it's father's fault, and that he could run all the mills if he
wanted to. I've been around a little with mother and sometimes the women
wouldn't accept any help from us; they said they'd rather starve than
take charity, that they had the right to work. But father couldn't run
the mills at a loss--could he?"

"Certainly not," I replied.

"And then there's Mr. Krebs, of whom we were speaking at supper, and who
puts all kinds of queer notions into their heads. Father says he's an
anarchist. I heard father say at supper that he was at Harvard with you.
Did you like him?"

"Well," I answered hesitatingly, "I didn't know him very well."

"Of course not," she put in. "I suppose you couldn't have."

"He's got these notions," I explained, "that are mischievous and
crazy--but I don't dislike him."

"I'm glad to hear you say that!" she answered quietly. "I like him,
too--he seems so kind, so understanding."

"Do you know him?"

"Well,--" she hesitated--"I feel as though I do. I've only met him once,
and that was by accident. It was the day the big strike began, last
spring, and I had been shopping, and started for the mills to get father
to walk home with me, as I used to do. I saw the crowds blocking the
streets around the canal. At first I paid no attention to them, but after
a while I began to be a little uneasy, there were places where I had to
squeeze through, and I couldn't help seeing that something was wrong, and
that the people were angry. Men and women were talking in loud voices.
One woman stared at me, and called my name, and said something that
frightened me terribly. I went into a doorway--and then I saw Mr. Krebs.
I didn't know who he was. He just said, 'You'd better come with me, Miss
Hutchins,' and I went with him. I thought afterwards that it was a very
courageous thing for him to do, because he was so popular with the mill
people, and they had such a feeling against us. Yet they didn't seem to
resent it, and made way for us, and Mr. Krebs spoke to many of them as we
passed. After we got to State Street, I asked him his name, and when he
told me I was speechless. He took off his hat and went away. He had such
a nice face--not at all ugly when you look at it twice--and kind eyes,
that I just couldn't believe him to be as bad as father and George think
he is. Of course he is mistaken," she added hastily, "but I am sure he is
sincere, and honestly thinks he can help those people by telling them
what he does."

The question shot at me during the meeting rankled still; I wanted to
believe that Krebs had inspired it, and her championship of him gave me a
twinge of jealousy,--the slightest twinge, to be sure, yet a perceptible
one. At the same time, the unaccountable liking I had for the man stirred
to life. The act she described had been so characteristic.

"He's one of the born rebels against society," I said glibly. "Yet I do
think he's sincere."

Maude was grave. "I should be sorry to think he wasn't," she replied.
After I had bidden her good night at the foot of the stairs, and gone to
my room, I reflected how absurd it was to be jealous of Krebs. What was
Maude Hutchins to me? And even if she had been something to me, she never
could be anything to Krebs. All the forces of our civilization stood
between the two; nor was she of a nature to take plunges of that sort.
The next day, as I lay back in my seat in the parlour-car and gazed at
the autumn landscape, I indulged in a luxurious contemplation of the
picture she had made as she stood on the lawn under the trees in the
early morning light, when my carriage had driven away; and I had turned,
to perceive that her eyes had followed me. I was not in love with her, of
course. I did not wish to return at once to Elkington, but I dwelt with a
pleasant anticipation upon my visit, when the campaign should be over,
with George.



XIII.

"The good old days of the Watling campaign," as Colonel Paul Varney is
wont to call them, are gone forever. And the Colonel himself, who stuck
to his gods, has been through the burning, fiery furnace of
Investigation, and has come out unscathed and unrepentant. The flames of
investigation, as a matter of fact, passed over his head in their vain
attempt to reach the "man higher up," whose feet they licked; but him
they did not devour, either. A veteran in retirement, the Colonel is
living under his vine and fig tree on the lake at Rossiter; the vine
bears Catawba grapes, of which he is passionately fond; the fig tree, the
Bartlett pears he gives to his friends. He has saved something from the
spoils of war, but other veterans I could mention are not so fortunate.
The old warriors have retired, and many are dead; the good old methods
are becoming obsolete. We never bothered about those mischievous things
called primaries. Our county committees, our state committees chose the
candidates for the conventions, which turned around and chose the
committees. Both the committees and the conventions--under advice--chose
the candidates. Why, pray, should the people complain, when they had
everything done for them? The benevolent parties, both Democratic and
Republican, even undertook the expense of printing the ballots! And
generous ballots they were (twenty inches long and five wide!),
distributed before election, in order that the voters might have the
opportunity of studying and preparing them: in order that Democrats of
delicate feelings might take the pains to scratch out all the Democratic
candidates, and write in the names of the Republican candidates.
Patriotism could go no farther than this....

I spent the week before election in the city, where I had the opportunity
of observing what may be called the charitable side of politics. For a
whole month, or more, the burden of existence had been lifted from the
shoulders of the homeless. No church or organization, looked out for
these frowsy, blear-eyed and ragged wanderers who had failed to find a
place in the scale of efficiency. For a whole month, I say, Mr. Judd
Jason and his lieutenants made them their especial care; supported them
in lodging-houses, induced the night clerks to give them attention; took
the greatest pains to ensure them the birth-right which, as American
citizens, was theirs,--that of voting. They were not only given homes for
a period, but they were registered; and in the abundance of good feeling
that reigned during this time of cheer, even the foreigners were
registered! On election day they were driven, like visiting notables, in
carryalls and carriages to the polls! Some of them, as though in
compensation for ills endured between elections, voted not once, but many
times; exercising judicial functions for which they should be given
credit. For instance, they were convinced that the Hon. W. W. Trulease
had made a good governor; and they were Watling enthusiasts,--intent on
sending men to the legislature who would vote for him for senator; yet
there were cases in which, for the minor offices, the democrat was the
better man!

It was a memorable day. In spite of Mr. Lawler's Pilot, which was as a
voice crying in the wilderness, citizens who had wives and homes and
responsibilities, business men and clerks went to the voting booths and
recorded their choice for Trulease, Watling and Prosperity: and
working-men followed suit. Victory was in the air. Even the policemen
wore happy smiles, and in some instances the election officers themselves
in absent-minded exuberance thrust bunches of ballots into the boxes!

In response to an insistent demand from his fellow-citizens Mr. Watling,
the Saturday evening before, had made a speech in the Auditorium, decked
with bunting and filled with people. For once the Morning Era did not
exaggerate when it declared that the ovation had lasted fully ten
minutes. "A remarkable proof" it went on to say, "of the esteem and
confidence in which our fellow-citizen is held by those who know him
best, his neighbours in the city where he has given so many instances of
his public spirit, where he has achieved such distinction in the practice
of the law. He holds the sound American conviction that the office should
seek the man. His address is printed in another column, and we believe it
will appeal to the intelligence and sober judgment of the state. It is
replete with modesty and wisdom."

Mr. Watling was introduced by Mr. Bering of the State Supreme Court (a
candidate for re-election), who spoke with deliberation, with owl-like
impressiveness. He didn't believe in judges meddling in politics, but
this was an unusual occasion. (Loud applause.) Most unusual. He had come
here as a man, as an American, to pay his tribute to another man, a
long-time friend, whom he thought to stand somewhat aside and above mere
party strife, to represent values not merely political.... So
accommodating and flexible is the human mind, so "practical" may it
become through dealing with men and affairs, that in listening to Judge
Bering I was able to ignore the little anomalies such a situation might
have suggested to the theorist, to the mere student of the institutions
of democracy. The friendly glasses of rye and water Mr. Bering had taken
in Monahan's saloon, the cases he had "arranged" for the firm of Watling,
Fowndes and Ripon were forgotten. Forgotten, too, when Theodore Watling
stood up and men began, to throw their hats in the air,--were the
cavilling charges of Mr. Lawler's Pilot that, far from the office seeking
the man, our candidate had spent over a hundred thousand dollars of his
own money, to say nothing of the contributions of Mr. Scherer, Mr.
Dickinson and the Railroad! If I had been troubled with any weak, ethical
doubts, Mr. Watling would have dispelled them; he had red blood in his
veins, a creed in which he believed, a rare power of expressing himself
in plain, everyday language that was often colloquial, but never--as the
saying goes--"cheap." The dinner-pail predicament was real to him. He
would present a policy of our opponents charmingly, even persuasively,
and then add, after a moment's pause: "There is only one objection to
this, my friends--that it doesn't work." It was all in the way he said
it, of course. The audience would go wild with approval, and shouts of
"that's right" could be heard here and there. Then he proceeded to show
why it didn't work. He had the faculty of bringing his lessons home, the
imagination to put himself into the daily life of those who listened to
him,--the life of the storekeeper, the clerk, of the labourer and of the
house-wife. The effect of this can scarcely be overestimated. For the
American hugs the delusion that there are no class distinctions, even
though his whole existence may be an effort to rise out of once class
into another. "Your wife," he told them once, "needs a dress. Let us
admit that the material for the dress is a little cheaper than it was
four years ago, but when she comes to look into the family stocking--"
(Laughter.) "I needn't go on. If we could have things cheaper, and more
money to buy them with, we should all be happy, and the Republican party
could retire from business."

He did not once refer to the United States Senatorship.

It was appropriate, perhaps, that many of us dined on the evening of
election day at the Boyne Club. There was early evidence of a Republican
land-slide. And when, at ten o'clock, it was announced that Mr. Trulease
was re-elected by a majority which exceeded Mr. Grunewald's most hopeful
estimate, that the legislature was "safe," that Theodore Watling would be
the next United States Senator, a scene of jubilation ensued within those
hallowed walls which was unprecedented. Chairs were pushed back, rugs
taken up, Gene Hollister played the piano and a Virginia reel started; in
a burst of enthusiasm Leonard Dickinson ordered champagne for every
member present. The country was returning to its senses. Theodore Watling
had preferred, on this eventful night, to remain quietly at home. But
presently carriages were ordered, and a "delegation" of enthusiastic
friends departed to congratulate him; Dickinson, of course, Grierson,
Fowndes, Ogilvy, and Grunewald. We found Judah B. Tallant there,--in
spite of the fact that it was a busy night for the Era; and Adolf Scherer
himself, in expansive mood, was filling the largest of the library
chairs. Mr. Watling was the least excited of them all; remarkably calm, I
thought, for a man on the verge of realizing his life's high ambition. He
had some old brandy, and a box of cigars he had been saving for an
occasion. He managed to convey to everyone his appreciation of the value
of their cooperation....

It was midnight before Mr. Scherer arose to take his departure. He seized
Mr. Watling's hand, warmly, in both of his own.

"I have never," he said, with a relapse into the German f's, "I have
never had a happier moment in my life, my friend, than when I
congratulate you on your success." His voice shook with emotion. "Alas,
we shall not see so much of you now."

"He'll be on guard, Scherer," said Leonard Dickinson, putting his arm
around my chief.

"Good night, Senator," said Tallant, and all echoed the word, which
struck me as peculiarly appropriate. Much as I had admired Mr. Watling
before, it seemed indeed as if he had undergone some subtle change in the
last few hours, gained in dignity and greatness by the action of the
people that day. When it came my turn to bid him good night, he retained
my hand in his.

"Don't go yet, Hugh," he said.

"But you must be tired," I objected.

"This sort of thing doesn't make a man tired," he laughed, leading me
back to the library, where he began to poke the fire into a blaze. "Sit
down awhile. You must be tired, I think,--you've worked hard in this
campaign, a good deal harder than I have. I haven't said much about it,
but I appreciate it, my boy." Mr. Watling had the gift of expressing his
feelings naturally, without sentimentality. I would have given much for
that gift.

"Oh, I liked it," I replied awkwardly.

I read a gentle amusement in his eyes, and also the expression of
something else, difficult to define. He had seated himself, and was
absently thrusting at the logs with the poker.

"You've never regretted going into law?" he asked suddenly, to my
surprise.

"Why, no, sir," I said.

"I'm glad to hear that. I feel, to a considerable extent, responsible for
your choice of a profession."

"My father intended me to be a lawyer," I told him. "But it's true that
you gave me my--my first enthusiasm."

He looked up at me at the word.

"I admired your father. He seemed to me to be everything that a lawyer
should be. And years ago, when I came to this city a raw country boy from
upstate, he represented and embodied for me all the fine traditions of
the profession. But the practice of law isn't what it was in his day,
Hugh."

"No," I agreed, "that could scarcely be expected."

"Yes, I believe you realize that," he said. "I've watched you, I've taken
a personal pride in you, and I have an idea that eventually you will
succeed me here--neither Fowndes nor Ripon have the peculiar ability you
have shown. You and I are alike in a great many respects, and I am
inclined to think we are rather rare, as men go. We are able to keep one
object vividly in view, so vividly as to be able to work for it day and
night. I could mention dozens who had and have more natural talent for
the law than I, more talent for politics than I. The same thing may be
said about you. I don't regard either of us as natural lawyers, such as
your father was. He couldn't help being a lawyer."

Here was new evidence of his perspicacity.

"But surely," I ventured, "you don't feel any regrets concerning your
career, Mr. Watling?"

"No," he said, "that's just the point. But no two of us are made wholly
alike. I hadn't practised law very long before I began to realize that
conditions were changing, that the new forces at work in our industrial
life made the older legal ideals impracticable. It was a case of choosing
between efficiency and inefficiency, and I chose efficiency. Well, that
was my own affair, but when it comes to influencing others--" He paused.
"I want you to see this as I do, not for the sake of justifying myself,
but because I honestly believe there is more to it than expediency,--a
good deal more. There's a weak way of looking at it, and a strong way.
And if I feel sure you understand it, I shall be satisfied.

"Because things are going to change in this country, Hugh. They are
changing, but they are going to change more. A man has got to make up his
mind what he believes in, and be ready to fight for it. We'll have to
fight for it, sooner perhaps than we realize. We are a nation divided
against ourselves; democracy--Jacksonian democracy, at all events, is a
flat failure, and we may as well acknowledge it. We have a political
system we have outgrown, and which, therefore, we have had to nullify.
There are certain needs, certain tendencies of development in nations as
well as in individuals,--needs stronger than the state, stronger than the
law or constitution. In order to make our resources effective,
combinations of capital are more and more necessary, and no more to be
denied than a chemical process, given the proper ingredients, can be
thwarted. The men who control capital must have a free hand, or the
structure will be destroyed. This compels us to do many things which we
would rather not do, which we might accomplish openly and unopposed if
conditions were frankly recognized, and met by wise statesmanship which
sought to bring about harmony by the reshaping of laws and policies. Do
you follow me?"

"Yes," I answered. "But I have never heard the situation stated so
clearly. Do you think the day will come when statesmanship will recognize
this need?"

"Ah," he said, "I'm afraid not--in my time, at least. But we shall have
to develop that kind of statesmen or go on the rocks. Public opinion in
the old democratic sense is a myth; it must be made by strong individuals
who recognize and represent evolutionary needs, otherwise it's at the
mercy of demagogues who play fast and loose with the prejudice and
ignorance of the mob. The people don't value the vote, they know nothing
about the real problems. So far as I can see, they are as easily swayed
to-day as the crowd that listened to Mark Antony's oration about Caesar.
You've seen how we have to handle them, in this election and--in other
matters. It isn't a pleasant practice, something we'd indulge in out of
choice, but the alternative is unthinkable. We'd have chaos in no time.
We've just got to keep hold, you understand--we can't leave it to the
irresponsible."

"Yes," I said. In this mood he was more impressive than I had ever known
him, and his confidence flattered and thrilled me.

"In the meantime, we're criminals," he continued. "From now on we'll have
to stand more and more denunciation from the visionaries, the
dissatisfied, the trouble makers. We may as well make up our minds to it.
But we've got something on our side worth fighting for, and the man who
is able to make that clear will be great."

"But you--you are going to the Senate," I reminded him.

He shook his head.

"The time has not yet come," he said. "Confusion and misunderstanding
must increase before they can diminish. But I have hopes of you, Hugh, or
I shouldn't have spoken. I shan't be here now--of course I'll keep in
touch with you. I wanted to be sure that you had the right view of this
thing."

"I see it now," I said. "I had thought of it, but never--never as a
whole--not in the large sense in which you have expressed it." To attempt
to acknowledge or deprecate the compliment he had paid me was impossible;
I felt that he must have read my gratitude and appreciation in my manner.

"I mustn't keep you up until morning." He glanced at the clock, and went
with me through the hall into the open air. A meteor darted through the
November night. "We're like that," he observed, staring after it, a
"flash across the darkness, and we're gone."

"Only--there are many who haven't the satisfaction of a flash," I was
moved to reply.

He laughed and put his hand on my shoulder as he bade me good night.

"Hugh, you ought to get married. I'll have to find a nice girl for you,"
he said. With an elation not unmingled with awe I made my way homeward.

Theodore Watling had given me a creed.

A week or so after the election I received a letter from George Hutchins
asking me to come to Elkington. I shall not enter into the details of the
legal matter involved. Many times that winter I was a guest at the
yellow-brick house, and I have to confess, as spring came on, that I made
several trips to Elkington which business necessity did not absolutely
demand.

I considered Maude Hutchins, and found the consideration rather a
delightful process. As became an eligible and successful young man, I was
careful not to betray too much interest; and I occupied myself at first
with a review of what I deemed her shortcomings. Not that I was thinking
of marriage--but I had imagined the future Mrs. Paret as tall; Maude was
up to my chin: again, the hair of the fortunate lady was to be dark, and
Maude's was golden red: my ideal had esprit, lightness of touch, the
faculty of seizing just the aspect of a subject that delighted me, and a
knowledge of the world; Maude was simple, direct, and in a word
provincial. Her provinciality, however, was negative rather than
positive, she had no disagreeable mannerisms, her voice was not nasal;
her plasticity appealed to me. I suppose I was lost without knowing it
when I began to think of moulding her.

All of this went on at frequent intervals during the winter, and while I
was organizing the Elkington Power and Traction Company for George I
found time to dine and sup at Maude's house, and to take walks with her.
I thought I detected an incense deliciously sweet; by no means
overpowering, like the lily's, but more like the shy fragrance of the
wood flower. I recall her kind welcomes, the faint deepening of colour in
her cheeks when she greeted me, and while I suspected that she looked up
to me she had a surprising and tantalizing self-command.

There came moments when I grew slightly alarmed, as, for instance, one
Sunday in the early spring when I was dining at the Ezra Hutchins's house
and surprised Mrs. Hutchins's glance on me, suspecting her of seeking to
divine what manner of man I was. I became self-conscious; I dared not
look at Maude, who sat across the table; thereafter I began to feel that
the Hutchins connection regarded me as a suitor. I had grown intimate
with George and his wife, who did not refrain from sly allusions; and
George himself once remarked, with characteristic tact, that I was most
conscientious in my attention to the traction affair; I have reason to
believe they were even less delicate with Maude. This was the logical
time to withdraw--but I dallied. The experience was becoming more
engrossing,--if I may so describe it,--and spring was approaching. The
stars in their courses were conspiring. I was by no means as yet a
self-acknowledged wooer, and we discussed love in its lighter phases
through the medium of literature. Heaven forgive me for calling it so!
About that period, it will be remembered, a mushroom growth of volumes of
a certain kind sprang into existence; little books with "artistic"
bindings and wide margins, sweetened essays, some of them written in
beautiful English by dilettante authors for drawing-room consumption; and
collections of short stories, no doubt chiefly bought by philanderers
like myself, who were thus enabled to skate on thin ice over deep water.
It was a most delightful relationship that these helped to support, and I
fondly believed I could reach shore again whenever I chose.

There came a Sunday in early May, one of those days when the feminine
assumes a large importance. I had been to the Hutchinses' church; and
Maude, as she sat and prayed decorously in the pew beside me, suddenly
increased in attractiveness and desirability. Her voice was very sweet,
and I felt a delicious and languorous thrill which I identified not only
with love, but also with a reviving spirituality. How often the two seem
to go hand in hand!

She wore a dress of a filmy material, mauve, with a design in gold thread
running through it. Of late, it seemed, she had had more new dresses: and
their modes seemed more cosmopolitan; at least to the masculine eye. How
delicately her hair grew, in little, shining wisps, around her white
neck! I could have reached out my hand and touched her. And it was this
desire,--although by no means overwhelming,--that startled me. Did I
really want her? The consideration of this vital question occupied the
whole time of the sermon; made me distrait at dinner,--a large family
gathering. Later I found myself alone with heron a bench in the
Hutchinses' garden where we had walked the day of my arrival, during the
campaign.

The gardens were very different, now. The trees had burst forth again
into leaf, the spiraea bushes seemed weighted down with snow, and with a
note like that of the quivering bass string of a 'cello the bees hummed
among the fruit blossoms. And there beside me in her filmy dress was
Maude, a part of it all--the meaning of all that set my being clamouring.
She was like some ripened, delicious flower ready to be picked.... One of
those pernicious, make-believe volumes had fallen on the bench between
us, for I could not read any more; I could not think; I touched her hand,
and when she drew it gently away I glanced at her. Reason made a valiant
but hopeless effort to assert itself. Was I sure that I wanted her--for
life? No use! I wanted her now, no matter what price that future might
demand. An awkward silence fell between us--awkward to me, at least--and
I, her guide and mentor, became banal, apologetic, confused. I made some
idiotic remark about being together in the Garden of Eden.

"I remember Mr. Doddridge saying in Bible class that it was supposed to
be on the Euphrates," she replied. "But it's been destroyed by the
flood."

"Let's make another--one of our own," I suggested.

"Why, how silly you are this afternoon."

"What's to prevent us--Maude?" I demanded, with a dry throat.

"Nonsense!" she laughed. In proportion as I lost poise she seemed to gain
it.

"It's not nonsense," I faltered. "If we were married."

At last the fateful words were pronounced--irrevocably. And, instead of
qualms, I felt nothing but relief, joy that I had been swept along by the
flood of feeling. She did not look at me, but gazed straight ahead of
her.

"If I love you, Maude?" I stammered, after a moment.

"But I don't love you," she replied, steadily.

Never in my life had I been so utterly taken aback.

"Do you mean," I managed to say, "that after all these months you don't
like me a little?"

"'Liking' isn't loving." She looked me full in the face. "I like you very
much."

"But--" there I stopped, paralyzed by what appeared to me the
quintessence of feminine inconsistency and caprice. Yet, as I stared at
her, she certainly did not appear capricious. It is not too much to say
that I was fairly astounded at this evidence of self-command and
decision, of the strength of mind to refuse me. Was it possible that she
had felt nothing and I all? I got to my feet.

"I hate to hurt your feelings," I heard her say. "I'm very sorry."... She
looked up at me. Afterwards, when reflecting on the scene, I seemed to
remember that there were tears in her eyes. I was not in a condition to
appreciate her splendid sincerity. I was overwhelmed and inarticulate. I
left her there, on the bench, and went back to George's, announcing my
intention of taking the five o'clock train....

Maude Hutchins had become, at a stroke, the most desirable of women. I
have often wondered how I should have felt on that five-hour journey back
to the city if she had fallen into my arms! I should have persuaded
myself, no doubt, that I had not done a foolish thing in yielding to an
impulse and proposing to an inexperienced and provincial young woman, yet
there would have been regrets in the background. Too deeply chagrined to
see any humour in the situation, I settled down in a Pullman seat and
went over and over again the event of that afternoon until the train
reached the city.

As the days wore on, and I attended to my cases, I thought of Maude a
great deal, and in those moments when the pressure of business was
relaxed, she obsessed me. She must love me,--only she did not realize it.
That was the secret! Her value had risen amazingly, become supreme; the
very act of refusing me had emphasized her qualifications as a wife, and
I now desired her with all the intensity of a nature which had been
permitted always to achieve its objects. The inevitable process of
idealization began. In dusty offices I recalled her freshness as she had
sat beside me in the garden,--the freshness of a flower; with Berkeleyan
subjectivism I clothed the flower with colour, bestowed it with
fragrance. I conferred on Maude all the gifts and graces that woman had
possessed since the creation. And I recalled, with mingled bitterness and
tenderness, the turn of her head, the down on her neck, the half-revealed
curve of her arm.... In spite of the growing sordidness of Lyme Street,
my mother and I still lived in the old house, for which she very
naturally had a sentiment. In vain I had urged her from time to time to
move out into a brighter and fresher neighbourhood. It would be time
enough, she said, when I was married.

"If you wait for that, mother," I answered, "we shall spend the rest of
our lives here."

"I shall spend the rest of my life here," she would declare. "But
you--you have your life before you, my dear. You would be so much more
contented if--if you could find some nice girl. I think you live--too
feverishly."

I do not know whether or not she suspected me of being in love, nor
indeed how much she read of me in other ways. I did not confide in her,
nor did it strike me that she might have yearned for confidences; though
sometimes, when I dined at home, I surprised her gentle face--framed now
with white hair--lifted wistfully toward me across the table. Our
relationship, indeed, was a pathetic projection of that which had existed
in my childhood; we had never been confidants then. The world in which I
lived and fought, of great transactions and merciless consequences
frightened her; her own world was more limited than ever. She heard
disquieting things, I am sure, from Cousin Robert Breck, who had become
more and more querulous since the time-honoured firm of Breck and Company
had been forced to close its doors and the home at Claremore had been
sold. My mother often spent the day in the scrolled suburban cottage with
the coloured glass front door where he lived with the Kinleys and
Helen....

If my mother suspected that I was anticipating marriage, and said
nothing, Nancy Durrett suspected and spoke out.

Life is such a curious succession of contradictions and surprises that I
record here without comment the fact that I was seeing much more of Nancy
since her marriage than I had in the years preceding it. A comradeship
existed between us. I often dined at her house and had fallen into the
habit of stopping there frequently on my way home in the evening. Ham did
not seem to mind. What was clear, at any rate, was that Nancy, before
marriage, had exacted some sort of an understanding by which her
"freedom" was not to be interfered with. She was the first among us of
the "modern wives."

Ham, whose heartstrings and purse-strings were oddly intertwined, had
stipulated that they were to occupy the old Durrett mansion; but when
Nancy had made it "livable," as she expressed it, he is said to have
remarked that he might as well have built a new house and been done with
it. Not even old Nathaniel himself would have recognized his home when
Nancy finished what she termed furnishing: out went the horsehair, the
hideous chandeliers, the stuffy books, the Recamier statuary, and an army
of upholsterers, wood-workers, etc., from Boston and New York invaded the
place. The old mahogany doors were spared, but matched now by Chippendale
and Sheraton; the new, polished floors were covered with Oriental rugs,
the dreary Durrett pictures replaced by good canvases and tapestries.
Nancy had what amounted to a genius for interior effects, and she was the
first to introduce among us the luxury that was to grow more and more
prevalent as our wealth increased by leaps and bounds. Only Nancy's
luxury, though lavish, was never vulgar, and her house when completed had
rather marvellously the fine distinction of some old London mansion
filled with the best that generations could contribute. It left Mrs.
Frederick Grierson--whose residence on the Heights had hitherto been our
"grandest"--breathless with despair.

With characteristic audacity Nancy had chosen old Nathaniel's sanctum for
her particular salon, into which Ham himself did not dare to venture
without invitation. It was hung in Pompeiian red and had a little
wrought-iron balcony projecting over the yard, now transformed by an
expert into a garden. When I had first entered this room after the
metamorphosis had taken place I inquired after the tombstone mantel.

"Oh, I've pulled it up by the roots," she said.

"Aren't you afraid of ghosts?" I inquired.

"Do I look it?" she asked. And I confessed that she didn't. Indeed, all
ghosts were laid, nor was there about her the slightest evidence of
mourning or regret. One was forced to acknowledge her perfection in the
part she had chosen as the arbitress of social honours. The candidates
were rapidly increasing; almost every month, it seemed, someone turned up
with a fortune and the aspirations that go with it, and it was Mrs.
Durrett who decided the delicate question of fitness. With these, and
with the world at large, her manner might best be described as difficult;
and I was often amused at the way in which she contrived to keep them at
arm's length and make them uncomfortable. With her intimates--of whom
there were few--she was frank.

"I suppose you enjoy it," I said to her once.

"Of course I enjoy it, or I shouldn't do it," she retorted. "It isn't the
real thing, as I told you once. But none of us gets the real thing. It's
power.... Just as you enjoy what you're doing--sorting out the unfit.
It's a game, it keeps us from brooding over things we can't help. And
after all, when we have good appetites and are fairly happy, why should
we complain?"

"I'm not complaining," I said, taking up a cigarette, "since I still
enjoy your favour."

She regarded me curiously.

"And when you get married, Hugh?"

"Sufficient unto the day," I replied.

"How shall I get along, I wonder, with that simple and unsophisticated
lady when she appears?"

"Well," I said, "you wouldn't marry me."

She shook her head at me, and smiled....

"No," she corrected me, "you like me better as Hams' wife than you would
have as your own."

I merely laughed at this remark.... It would indeed have been difficult
to analyze the new relationship that had sprung up between us, to say
what elements composed it. The roots of it went back to the beginning of
our lives; and there was much of sentiment in it, no doubt. She
understood me as no one else in the world understood me, and she was fond
of me in spite of it.

Hence, when I became infatuated with Maude Hutchins, after that Sunday
when she so unexpectedly had refused me, I might have known that Nancy's
suspicions would be aroused. She startled me by accusing me, out of a
clear sky, of being in love. I denied it a little too emphatically.

"Why shouldn't you tell me, Hugh, if it's so?" she asked. "I didn't
hesitate to tell you."

It was just before her departure for the East to spend the summer. We
were on the balcony, shaded by the big maple that grew at the end of the
garden.

"But there's nothing to tell," I insisted.

She lay back in her chair, regarding me.

"Did you think that I'd be jealous?"

"There's nothing to be jealous about."

"I've always expected you to get married, Hugh. I've even predicted the
type."

She had, in truth, with an accuracy almost uncanny.

"The only thing I'm afraid of is that she won't like me. She lives in
that place you've been going to so much, lately,--doesn't she?"

Of course she had put two and two together, my visits to Elkington and my
manner, which I had flattered myself had not been distrait. On the chance
that she knew more, from some source, I changed my tactics.

"I suppose you mean Maude Hutchins," I said.

Nancy laughed.

"So that's her name!"

"It's the name of a girl in Elkington. I've been doing legal work for the
Hutchinses, and I imagine some idiot has been gossiping. She's just a
young girl--much too young for me."

"Men are queer creatures," she declared. "Did you think I should be
jealous?"

It was exactly what I had thought, but I denied it.

"Why should you be--even if there were anything to be jealous about? You
didn't consult me when you got married. You merely announced an
irrevocable decision."

Nancy leaned forward and laid her hand on my arm.

"My dear," she said, "strange as it may seem, I want you to be happy. I
don't want you to make a mistake, Hugh, too great a mistake."

I was surprised and moved. Once more I had a momentary glimpse of the
real Nancy....

Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Ralph Hambleton....



XIV.

However, thoughts of Maude continued to possess me. She still appeared
the most desirable of beings, and a fortnight after my repulse, without
any excuse at all, I telegraphed the George Hutchinses that I was coming
to pay them a visit. Mrs. George, wearing a knowing smile, met me at the
station in a light buck-board.

"I've asked Maude to dinner," she said....

Thus with masculine directness I returned to the charge, and Maude's
continued resistance but increased my ardour; could not see why she
continued to resist me.

"Because I don't love you," she said.

This was incredible. I suggested that she didn't know what love was, and
she admitted it was possible: she liked me very, very much. I told her,
sagely, that this was the best foundation for matrimony. That might be,
but she had had other ideas. For one thing, she felt that she did not
know me.... In short, she was charming and maddening in her defensive
ruses, in her advances and retreats, for I pressed her hard during the
four weeks which followed, and in them made four visits. Flinging caution
to the winds, I did not even pretend to George that I was coming to see
him on business. I had the Hutchins family on my side, for they had the
sense to see that the match would be an advantageous one; I even summoned
up enough courage to talk to Ezra Hutchins on the subject.

"I'll not attempt to influence Maude, Mr. Paret--I've always said I
wouldn't interfere with her choice. But as you are a young man of sound
habits, sir, successful in your profession, I should raise no objection.
I suppose we can't keep her always."

To conceal his emotion, he pulled out the watch he lived by. "Why, it's
church time!" he said.... I attended church regularly at Elkington....

On a Sunday night in June, following a day during which victory seemed
more distant than ever, with startling unexpectedness Maude capitulated.
She sat beside me on the bench, obscured, yet the warm night quivered
with her presence. I felt her tremble.... I remember the first exquisite
touch of her soft cheek. How strange it was that in conquest the tumult
of my being should be stilled, that my passion should be transmuted into
awe that thrilled yet disquieted! What had I done? It was as though I had
suddenly entered an unimagined sanctuary filled with holy flame....

Presently, when we began to talk, I found myself seeking more familiar
levels. I asked her why she had so long resisted me, accusing her of
having loved me all the time.

"Yes, I think I did, Hugh. Only--I didn't know it."

"You must have felt something, that afternoon when I first proposed to
you!"

"You didn't really want me, Hugh. Not then."

Surprised, and a little uncomfortable at this evidence of intuition, I
started to protest. It seemed to me then as though I had always wanted
her.

"No, no," she exclaimed, "you didn't. You were carried away by your
feelings--you hadn't made up your mind. Indeed, I can't see why you want
me now."

"You believe I do," I said, and drew her toward me.

"Yes, I--I believe it, now. But I can't see why. There must be so many
attractive girls in the city, who know so much more than I do."

I sought fervidly to reassure her on this point.... At length when we
went into the house she drew away from me at arm's length and gave me one
long searching look, as though seeking to read my soul.

"Hugh, you will always love me--to the very end, won't you?"

"Yes," I whispered, "always."

In the library, one on each side of the table, under the lamp, Ezra
Hutchins and his wife sat reading. Mrs. Hutchins looked up, and I saw
that she had divined.

"Mother, I am engaged to Hugh," Maude said, and bent over and kissed her.
Ezra and I stood gazing at them. Then he turned to me and pressed my
hand.

"Well, I never saw the man who was good enough for her, Hugh. But God
bless you, my son. I hope you will prize her as we prize her."

Mrs. Hutchins embraced me. And through her tears she, too, looked long
into my face. When she had released me Ezra had his watch in his hand.

"If you're going on the ten o'clock train, Hugh--"

"Father!" Maude protested, laughing, "I must say I don't call that very
polite."...

In the train I slept but fitfully, awakening again and again to recall
the extraordinary fact that I was now engaged to be married, to go over
the incidents of the evening. Indifferent to the backings and the
bumpings of the car, the voices in the stations, the clanging of
locomotive bells and all the incomprehensible startings and stoppings,
exalted yet troubled I beheld Maude luminous with the love I had
amazingly awakened, a love somewhere beyond my comprehension. For her
indeed marriage was made in heaven. But for me? Could I rise now to the
ideal that had once been mine, thrust henceforth evil out of my life?
Love forever, live always in this sanctuary she had made for me? Would
the time come when I should feel a sense of bondage?...

The wedding was set for the end of September. I continued to go every
week to Elkington, and in August, Maude and I spent a fortnight at the
sea. There could be no doubt as to my mother's happiness, as to her
approval of Maude; they loved each other from the beginning. I can
picture them now, sitting together with their sewing on the porch of the
cottage at Mattapoisett. Out on the bay little white-caps danced in the
sunlight, sail-boats tacked hither and thither, the strong cape breeze,
laden with invigorating salt, stirred Maude's hair, and occasionally
played havoc with my papers.

"She is just the wife for you, Hugh," my mother confided to me. "If I had
chosen her myself I could not have done better," she added, with a smile.

I was inclined to believe it, but Maude would have none of this illusion.

"He just stumbled across me," she insisted....

We went on long sails together, towards Wood's Hole and the open sea, the
sprays washing over us. Her cheeks grew tanned.... Sometimes, when I
praised her and spoke confidently of our future, she wore a troubled
expression.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked her once.

"You mustn't put me on a pedestal," she said gently. "I want you to see
me as I am--I don't want you to wake up some day and be disappointed.
I'll have to learn a lot of things, and you'll have to teach me. I can't
get used to the fact that you, who are so practical and successful in
business, should be such a dreamer where I am concerned."

I laughed, and told her, comfortably, that she was talking nonsense.

"What did you think of me, when you first knew me?" I inquired.

"Well," she answered, with the courage that characterized her, "I thought
you were rather calculating, that you put too high a price on success. Of
course you attracted me. I own it."

"You hid your opinions rather well," I retorted, somewhat discomfited.

She flushed.

"Have you changed them?" I demanded.

"I think you have that side, and I think it a weak side, Hugh. It's hard
to tell you this, but it's better to say so now, since you ask me. I do
think you set too high a value on success.'

"Well, now that I know what success really is, perhaps I shall reform," I
told her.

"I don't like to think that you fool yourself," she replied, with a
perspicacity I should have found extraordinary.

Throughout my life there have been days and incidents, some trivial, some
important, that linger in my memory because they are saturated with
"atmosphere." I recall, for instance, a gala occasion in youth when my
mother gave one of her luncheon parties; on my return from school, the
house and its surroundings wore a mysterious, exciting and unfamiliar
look, somehow changed by the simple fact that guests sat decorously
chatting in a dining-room shining with my mother's best linen and
treasured family silver and china. The atmosphere of my wedding-day is no
less vivid. The house of Ezra Hutchins was scarcely recognizable: its
doors and windows were opened wide, and all the morning people were being
escorted upstairs to an all-significant room that contained a collection
like a jeweller's exhibit,--a bewildering display. There was a massive
punch-bowl from which dangled the card of Mr. and Mrs. Adolf Scherer, a
really wonderful tea set of old English silver given by Senator and Mrs.
Watling, and Nancy Willett, with her certainty of good taste, had sent an
old English tankard of the time of the second Charles. The secret was in
that room. And it magically transformed for me (as I stood, momentarily
alone, in the doorway where I had first beheld Maude) the accustomed
scene, and charged with undivined significance the blue shadows under the
heavy foliage of the maples. The September sunlight was heavy, tinged
with gold....

So fragmentary and confused are the events of that day that a cubist
literature were necessary to convey the impressions left upon me. I had
something of the feeling of a recruit who for the first time is taking
part in a brilliant and complicated manoeuvre. Tom and Susan Peters flit
across the view, and Gene Hollister and Perry Blackwood and the
Ewanses,--all of whom had come up in a special car; Ralph Hambleton was
"best man," looking preternaturally tall in his frock-coat: and his
manner, throughout the whole proceeding, was one of good-natured
tolerance toward a folly none but he might escape.

"If you must do it, Hughie, I suppose you must," he had said to me. "I'll
see you through, of course. But don't blame me afterwards."

Maude was a little afraid of him....

I dressed at George's; then, like one of those bewildering shifts of a
cinematograph, comes the scene in church, the glimpse of my mother's
wistful face in the front pew; and I found myself in front of the austere
Mr. Doddridge standing beside Maude--or rather beside a woman I tried
hard to believe was Maude--so veiled and generally encased was she. I was
thinking of this all the time I was mechanically answering Mr. Doddridge,
and even when the wedding march burst forth and I led her out of the
church. It was as though they had done their best to disguise her, to put
our union on the other-worldly plane that was deemed to be its only
justification, to neutralize her sex at the very moment it should have
been most enhanced. Well, they succeeded. If I had not been as
conventional as the rest, I should have preferred to have run away with
her in the lavender dress she wore when I first proposed to her. It was
only when we had got into the carriage and started for the house and she
turned to me her face from which the veil had been thrown back that I
realized what a sublime meaning it all had for her. Her eyes were wet.
Once more I was acutely conscious of my inability to feel deeply at
supreme moments. For months I had looked forward with anticipation and
impatience to my wedding-day.

I kissed her gently. But I felt as though she had gone to heaven, and
that the face I beheld enshrouded were merely her effigy. Commonplace
words were inappropriate, yet it was to these I resorted.

"Well--it wasn't so bad after all! Was it?"

She smiled at me.

"You don't want to take it back?"

She shook her head.

"I think it was a beautiful wedding, Hugh. I'm so glad we had a good
day."...

She seemed shy, at once very near and very remote. I held her hand
awkwardly until the carriage stopped.

A little later we were standing in a corner of the parlour, the
atmosphere of which was heavy with the scent of flowers, submitting to
the onslaught of relatives. Then came the wedding breakfast: croquettes,
champagne, chicken salad, ice-cream, the wedding-cake, speeches and more
kisses.... I remember Tom Peters holding on to both my hands.

"Good-bye, and God bless you, old boy," he was saying. Susan, in view of
the occasion, had allowed him a little more champagne than usual--enough
to betray his feelings, and I knew that these had not changed since our
college days. I resolved to see more of him. I had neglected him and
undervalued his loyalty.... He had followed me to my room in George's
house where I was dressing for the journey, and he gave it as his
deliberate judgment that in Maude I had "struck gold."

"She's just the girl for you, Hughie," he declared. "Susan thinks so,
too."

Later in the afternoon, as we sat in the state-room of the car that was
bearing us eastward, Maude began to cry. I sat looking at her helplessly,
unable to enter into her emotion, resenting it a little. Yet I tried
awkwardly to comfort her.

"I can't bear to leave them," she said.

"But you will see them often, when we come back," I reassured her. It was
scarcely the moment for reminding her of what she was getting in return.
This peculiar family affection she evinced was beyond me; I had never
experienced it in any poignant degree since I had gone as a freshman to
Harvard, and yet I was struck by the fact that her emotions were so
rightly placed. It was natural to love one's family. I began to feel,
vaguely, as I watched her, that the new relationship into which I had
entered was to be much more complicated than I had imagined. Twilight was
coming on, the train was winding through the mountain passes, crossing
and re-crossing a swift little stream whose banks were massed with alder;
here and there, on the steep hillsides, blazed the goldenrod....
Presently I turned, to surprise in her eyes a wide, questioning
look,--the look of a child. Even in this irrevocable hour she sought to
grasp what manner of being was this to whom she had confided her life,
and with whom she was faring forth into the unknown. The experience was
utterly unlike my anticipation. Yet I responded. The kiss I gave her had
no passion in it.

"I'll take good care of you, Maude," I said.

Suddenly, in the fading light, she flung her arms around me, pressing me
tightly, desperately.

"Oh, I know you will, Hugh, dear. And you'll forgive me, won't you, for
being so horrid to-day, of all days? I do love you!"

Neither of us had ever been abroad. And although it was before the days
of swimming-pools and gymnasiums and a la carte cafes on ocean liners,
the Atlantic was imposing enough. Maude had a more lasting capacity for
pleasure than I, a keener enjoyment of new experiences, and as she lay
beside me in the steamer-chair where I had carefully tucked her she would
exclaim:

"I simply can't believe it, Hugh! It seems so unreal. I'm sure I shall
wake up and find myself back in Elkington."

"Don't speak so loud, my dear," I cautioned her. There were some very
formal-looking New Yorkers next us.

"No, I won't," she whispered. "But I'm so happy I feel as though I should
like to tell everyone."

"There's no need," I answered smiling.

"Oh, Hugh, I don't want to disgrace you!" she exclaimed, in real alarm.
"Otherwise, so far as I am concerned, I shouldn't care who knew."

People smiled at her. Women came up and took her hands. And on the fourth
day the formidable New Yorkers unexpectedly thawed.

I had once thought of Maude as plastic. Then I had discovered she had a
mind and will of her own. Once more she seemed plastic; her love had made
her so. Was it not what I had desired? I had only to express a wish, and
it became her law. Nay, she appealed to me many times a day to know
whether she had made any mistakes, and I began to drill her in my silly
traditions,--gently, very gently.

"Well, I shouldn't be quite so familiar with people, quite so ready to
make acquaintances, Maude. You have no idea who they may be. Some of
them, of course, like the Sardells, I know by reputation."

The Sardells were the New Yorkers who sat next us.

"I'll try, Hugh, to be more reserved, more like the wife of an important
man." She smiled.

"It isn't that you're not reserved," I replied, ignoring the latter half
of her remark. "Nor that I want you to change," I said. "I only want to
teach you what little of the world I know myself."

"And I want to learn, Hugh. You don't know how I want to learn!"

The sight of mist-ridden Liverpool is not a cheering one for the American
who first puts foot on the mother country's soil, a Liverpool of
yellow-browns and dingy blacks, of tilted funnels pouring out smoke into
an atmosphere already charged with it. The long wharves and shed roofs
glistened with moisture.

"Just think, Hugh, it's actually England!" she cried, as we stood on the
wet deck. But I felt as though I'd been there before.

"No wonder they're addicted to cold baths," I replied. "They must feel
perfectly at home in them, especially if they put a little lampblack in
the water."

Maude laughed.

"You grumpy old thing!" she exclaimed.

Nothing could dampen her ardour, not the sight of the rain-soaked stone
houses when we got ashore, nor even the frigid luncheon we ate in the
lugubrious hotel. For her it was all quaint and new. Finally we found
ourselves established in a compartment upholstered in light grey, with
tassels and arm-supporters, on the window of which was pasted a poster
with the word reserved in large, red letters. The guard inquired
respectfully, as the porter put our new luggage in the racks, whether we
had everything we wanted. The toy locomotive blew its toy whistle, and we
were off for the north; past dingy, yellow tenements of the smoking
factory towns, and stretches of orderly, hedge-spaced rain-swept country.
The quaint cottages we glimpsed, the sight of distant, stately mansions
on green slopes caused Maude to cry out with rapture:--"Oh, Hugh, there's
a manor-house!"

More vivid than were the experiences themselves of that journey are the
memories of them. We went to windswept, Sabbath-keeping Edinburgh, to
high Stirling and dark Holyrood, and to Abbotsford. It was through Sir
Walter's eyes we beheld Melrose bathed in autumn light, by his aid
repeopled it with forgotten monks eating their fast-day kale.

And as we sat reading and dreaming in the still, sunny corners I forgot,
that struggle for power in which I had been so furiously engaged since
leaving Cambridge. Legislatures, politicians and capitalists receded into
a dim background; and the gift I had possessed, in youth, of living in a
realm of fancy showed astonishing signs of revival.

"Why, Hugh," Maude exclaimed, "you ought to have been a writer!"

"You've only just begun to fathom my talents," I replied laughingly. "Did
you think you'd married just a dry old lawyer?"

"I believe you capable of anything," she said....

I grew more and more to depend on her for little things.

She was a born housewife. It was pleasant to have her do all the packing,
while I read or sauntered in the queer streets about the inns. And she
took complete charge of my wardrobe.

She had a talent for drawing, and as we went southward through England
she made sketches of the various houses that took our fancy--suggestions
for future home-building; we spent hours in the evenings in the inn
sitting-rooms incorporating new features into our residence, continually
modifying our plans. Now it was a Tudor house that carried us away, now a
Jacobean, and again an early Georgian with enfolding wings and a
wrought-iron grill. A stage of bewilderment succeeded.

Maude, I knew, loved the cottages best. She said they were more
"homelike." But she yielded to my liking for grandeur.

"My, I should feel lost in a palace like that!" she cried, as we gazed at
the Marquis of So-and-So's country-seat.

"Well, of course we should have to modify it," I admitted.
"Perhaps--perhaps our family will be larger."

She put her hand on my lips, and blushed a fiery red....

We examined, with other tourists, at a shilling apiece historic mansions
with endless drawing-rooms, halls, libraries, galleries filled with
family portraits; elaborate, formal bedrooms where famous sovereigns had
slept, all roped off and carpeted with canvas strips to protect the
floors. Through mullioned windows we caught glimpses of gardens and
geometrical parterres, lakes, fountains, statuary, fantastic topiary and
distant stretches of park. Maude sighed with admiration, but did not
covet. She had me. But I was often uncomfortable, resenting the vulgar,
gaping tourists with whom we were herded and the easy familiarity of the
guides. These did not trouble Maude, who often annoyed me by asking naive
questions herself. I would nudge her.

One afternoon when, with other compatriots, we were being hurried through
a famous castle, the guide unwittingly ushered us into a drawing-room
where the owner and several guests were seated about a tea-table. I shall
never forget the stares they gave us before we had time precipitately to
retreat, nor the feeling of disgust and rebellion that came over me. This
was heightened by the remark of a heavy, six-foot Ohioan with an
infantile face and a genial manner.

"I notice that they didn't invite us to sit down and have a bite," he
said. "I call that kind of inhospitable."

"It was 'is lordship himself!" exclaimed the guide, scandalized.

"You don't say!" drawled our fellow-countryman. "I guess I owe you
another shilling, my friend."

The guide, utterly bewildered, accepted it. The transatlantic point of
view towards the nobility was beyond him.

"His lordship could make a nice little income if he set up as a side
show," added the Ohioan.

Maude giggled, but I was furious. And no sooner were we outside the gates
than I declared I should never again enter a private residence by the
back door.

"Why, Hugh, how queer you are sometimes," she said.

"I maybe queer, but I have a sense of fitness," I retorted.

She asserted herself.

"I can't see what difference it makes. They didn't know us. And if they
admit people for money--"

"I can't help it. And as for the man from Ohio--"

"But he was so funny!" she interrupted. "And he was really very nice."

I was silent. Her point of view, eminently sensible as it was,
exasperated me. We were leaning over the parapet of a little-stone
bridge. Her face was turned away from me, but presently I realized that
she was crying. Men and women, villagers, passing across the bridge,
looked at us curiously. I was miserable, and somewhat appalled;
resentful, yet striving to be gentle and conciliatory. I assured her that
she was talking nonsense, that I loved her. But I did not really love her
at that moment; nor did she relent as easily as usual. It was not until
we were together in our sitting-room, a few hours later, that she gave
in. I felt a tremendous sense of relief.

"Hugh, I'll try to be what you want. You know I am trying. But don't kill
what is natural in me."

I was touched by the appeal, and repentant...

It is impossible to say when the little worries, annoyances and
disagreements began, when I first felt a restlessness creeping over me. I
tried to hide these moods from her, but always she divined them. And yet
I was sure that I loved Maude; in a surprisingly short period I had
become accustomed to her, dependent on her ministrations and the normal,
cosy intimacy of our companionship. I did not like to think that the keen
edge of the enjoyment of possession was wearing a little, while at the
same time I philosophized that the divine fire, when legalized, settles
down to a comfortable glow. The desire to go home that grew upon me I
attributed to the irritation aroused by the spectacle of a fixed social
order commanding such unquestioned deference from the many who were
content to remain resignedly outside of it. Before the setting in of the
Liberal movement and the "American invasion" England was a country in
which (from my point of view) one must be "somebody" in order to be
happy. I was "somebody" at home; or at least rapidly becoming so....

London was shrouded, parliament had risen, and the great houses were
closed. Day after day we issued forth from a musty and highly respectable
hotel near Piccadilly to a gloomy Tower, a soggy Hampton Court or a
mournful British Museum. Our native longing for luxury--or rather my
native longing--impelled me to abandon Smith's Hotel for a huge hostelry
where our suite overlooked the Thames, where we ran across a man I had
known slightly at Harvard, and other Americans with whom we made
excursions and dined and went to the theatre. Maude liked these persons;
I did not find them especially congenial. My life-long habit of
unwillingness to accept what life sent in its ordinary course was
asserting itself; but Maude took her friends as she found them, and I was
secretly annoyed by her lack of discrimination. In addition to this, the
sense of having been pulled up by the roots grew upon me.

"Suppose," Maude surprised me by suggesting one morning as we sat at
breakfast watching the river craft flit like phantoms through the
yellow-green fog--"suppose we don't go to France, after all, Hugh?"

"Not go to France!" I exclaimed. "Are you tired of the trip?"

"Oh, Hugh!" Her voice caught. "I could go on, always, if you were
content."

"And--what makes you think that I'm not content?"

Her smile had in it just a touch of wistfulness.

"I understand you, Hugh, better than you think. You want to get back to
your work, and--and I should be happier. I'm not so silly and so ignorant
as to think that I can satisfy you always. And I'd like to get settled at
home,--I really should."

There surged up within me a feeling of relief. I seized her hand as it
lay on the table.

"We'll come abroad another time, and go to France," I said. "Maude,
you're splendid!"

She shook her head.

"Oh, no, I'm not."

"You do satisfy me," I insisted. "It isn't that at all. But I think,
perhaps, it would be wiser to go back. It's rather a crucial time with
me, now that Mr. Watling's in Washington. I've just arrived at a position
where I shall be able to make a good deal of money, and later on--"

"It isn't the money, Hugh," she cried, with a vehemence which struck me
as a little odd. "I sometimes think we'd be a great deal happier
without--without all you are going to make."

I laughed.

"Well, I haven't made it yet."

She possessed the frugality of the Hutchinses. And some times my
lavishness had frightened her, as when we had taken the suite of rooms we
now occupied.

"Are you sure you can afford them, Hugh?" she had asked when we first
surveyed them.

I began married life, and carried it on without giving her any conception
of the state of my finances. She had an allowance from the first.

As the steamer slipped westward my spirits rose, to reach a climax of
exhilaration when I saw the towers of New York rise gleaming like huge
stalagmites in the early winter sun. Maude likened them more happily--to
gigantic ivory chessmen. Well, New York was America's chessboard, and the
Great Players had already begun to make moves that astonished the world.
As we sat at breakfast in a Fifth Avenue hotel I ran my eye eagerly over
the stock-market reports and the financial news, and rallied Maude for a
lack of spirits.

"Aren't you glad to be home?" I asked her, as we sat in a hansom.

"Of course I am, Hugh!" she protested. "But--I can't look upon New York
as home, somehow. It frightens me."

I laughed indulgently.

"You'll get used to it," I said. "We'll be coming here a great deal, off
and on."

She was silent. But later, when we took a hansom and entered the streams
of traffic, she responded to the stimulus of the place: the movement, the
colour, the sight of the well-appointed carriages, of the well-fed,
well-groomed people who sat in them, the enticement of the shops in which
we made our purchases had their effect, and she became cheerful again....

In the evening we took the "Limited" for home.

We lived for a month with my mother, and then moved into our own house.
It was one which I had rented from Howard Ogilvy, and it stood on the
corner of Baker and Clinton streets, near that fashionable neighbourhood
called "the Heights." Ogilvy, who was some ten years older than I, and
who belonged to one of our old families, had embarked on a career then
becoming common, but which at first was regarded as somewhat meteoric:
gradually abandoning the practice of law, and perceiving the
possibilities of the city of his birth, he had "gambled" in real estate
and other enterprises, such as our local water company, until he had
quadrupled his inheritance. He had built a mansion on Grant Avenue, the
wide thoroughfare bisecting the Heights. The house he had vacated was not
large, but essentially distinctive; with the oddity characteristic of the
revolt against the banal architecture of the 80's. The curves of the
tiled roof enfolded the upper windows; the walls were thick, the note one
of mystery. I remember Maude's naive delight when we inspected it.

"You'd never guess what the inside was like, would you, Hugh?" she cried.

From the panelled box of an entrance hall one went up a few steps to a
drawing-room which had a bowed recess like an oriel, and window-seats.
The dining-room was an odd shape, and was wainscoted in oak; it had a
tiled fireplace and (according to Maude) the "sweetest" china closet
built into the wall. There was a "den" for me, and an octagonal
reception-room on the corner. Upstairs, the bedrooms were quite as
unusual, the plumbing of the new pattern, heavy and imposing. Maude
expressed the air of seclusion when she exclaimed that she could almost
imagine herself in one of the mediaeval towns we had seen abroad.

"It's a dream, Hugh," she sighed. "But--do you think we can afford
it?"...

"This house," I announced, smiling, "is only a stepping-stone to the
palace I intend to build you some day."

"I don't want a palace!" she cried. "I'd rather live here, like this,
always."

A certain vehemence in her manner troubled me. I was charmed by this
disposition for domesticity, and yet I shrank from the contemplation of
its permanency. I felt vaguely, at the time, the possibility of a future
conflict of temperaments. Maude was docile, now. But would she remain
docile? and was it in her nature to take ultimately the position that was
desirable for my wife? Well, she must be moulded, before it were too
late. Her ultra-domestic tendencies must be halted. As yet blissfully
unaware of the inability of the masculine mind to fathom the subtleties
of feminine relationships, I was particularly desirous that Maude and
Nancy Durrett should be intimates. The very day after our arrival, and
while we were still at my mother's, Nancy called on Maude, and took her
out for a drive. Maude told me of it when I came home from the office.

"Dear old Nancy!" I said. "I know you liked her."

"Of course, Hugh. I should like her for your sake, anyway. She's--she's
one of your oldest and best friends."

"But I want you to like her for her own sake."

"I think I shall," said Maude. She was so scrupulously truthful! "I was a
little afraid of her, at first."

"Afraid of Nancy!" I exclaimed.

"Well, you know, she's much older than I. I think she is sweet. But she
knows so much about the world--so much that she doesn't say. I can't
describe it."

I smiled.

"It's only her manner. You'll get used to that, when you know what she
really is."

"Oh, I hope so," answered Maude. "I'm very anxious to like her--I do like
her. But it takes me such a lot of time to get to know people."

Nancy asked us to dinner.

"I want to help Maude all I can,--if she'll let me," Nancy said.

"Why shouldn't she let you?" I asked.

"She may not like me," Nancy replied.

"Nonsense!" I exclaimed.

Nancy smiled.

"It won't be my fault, at any rate, if she doesn't," she said. "I wanted
her to meet at first just the right people your old friends and a few
others. It is hard for a woman--especially a young woman--coming among
strangers." She glanced down the table to where Maude sat talking to Ham.
"She has an air about her,--a great deal of self-possession."

I, too, had noticed this, with pride and relief. For I knew Maude had
been nervous.

"You are luckier than you deserve to be," Nancy reminded me. "But I hope
you realize that she has a mind of her own, that she will form her own
opinions of people, independently of you."

I must have betrayed the fact that I was a little startled, for the
remark came as a confirmation of what I had dimly felt.

"Of course she has," I agreed, somewhat lamely. "Every woman has, who is
worth her salt."

Nancy's smile bespoke a knowledge that seemed to transcend my own.

"You do like her?" I demanded.

"I like her very much indeed," said Nancy, a little gravely. "She's
simple, she's real, she has that which so few of us possess
nowadays--character. But--I've got to be prepared for the possibility
that she may not get along with me."

"Why not?" I demanded.

"There you are again, with your old unwillingness to analyze a situation
and face it. For heaven's sake, now that you have married her, study her.
Don't take her for granted. Can't you see that she doesn't care for the
things that amuse me, that make my life?"

"Of course, if you insist on making yourself out a hardened,
sophisticated woman--" I protested. But she shook her head.

"Her roots are deeper,--she is in touch, though she may not realize it,
with the fundamentals. She is one of those women who are race-makers."

Though somewhat perturbed, I was struck by the phrase. And I lost sight
of Nancy's generosity. She looked me full in the face.

"I wonder whether you can rise to her," she said. "If I were you, I
should try. You will be happier--far happier than if you attempt to use
her for your own ends, as a contributor to your comfort and an auxiliary
to your career. I was afraid--I confess it--that you had married an
aspiring, simpering and empty-headed provincial like that Mrs. George
Hutchins' whom I met once, and who would sell her soul to be at my table.
Well, you escaped that, and you may thank God for it. You've got a
chance, think it over.

"A chance!" I repeated, though I gathered something of her meaning.

"Think it over, said Nancy again. And she smiled.

"But--do you want me to bury myself in domesticity?" I demanded, without
grasping the significance of my words.

"You'll find her reasonable, I think. You've got a chance now, Hugh.
Don't spoil it."

She turned to Leonard Dickinson, who sat on her other side....

When we got home I tried to conceal my anxiety as to Maude's impressions
of the evening. I lit a cigarette, and remarked that the dinner had been
a success.

"Do you know what I've been wondering all evening?" Maude asked. "Why you
didn't marry Nancy instead of me."

"Well," I replied, "it just didn't come off. And Nancy was telling me at
dinner how fortunate I was to have married you."

Maude passed this.

"I can't see why she accepted Hambleton Durrett. It seems horrible that
such a woman as she is could have married--just for money.

"Nancy has an odd streak in her," I said. "But then we all have odd
streaks. She's the best friend in the world, when she is your friend."

"I'm sure of it," Maude agreed, with a little note of penitence.

"You enjoyed it," I ventured cautiously.

"Oh, yes," she agreed. "And everyone was so nice to me--for your sake of
course."

"Don't be ridiculous!" I said. "I shan't tell you what Nancy and the
others said about you."

Maude had the gift of silence.

"What a beautiful house!" she sighed presently. "I know you'll think me
silly, but so much luxury as that frightens me a little. In England, in
those places we saw, it seemed natural enough, but in America--! And they
all your friends--seem to take it as a matter of course."

"There's no reason why we shouldn't have beautiful things and well served
dinners, too, if we have the money to pay for them."

"I suppose not," she agreed, absently.



XV.

That winter many other entertainments were given in our honour. But the
conviction grew upon me that Maude had no real liking for the social side
of life, that she acquiesced in it only on my account. Thus, at the very
outset of our married career, an irritant developed: signs of it, indeed,
were apparent from the first, when we were preparing the house we had
rented for occupancy. Hurrying away from my office at odd times to
furniture and department stores to help decide such momentous questions
as curtains, carpets, chairs and tables I would often spy the tall,
uncompromising figure of Susan Peters standing beside Maude's, while an
obliging clerk spread out, anxiously, rugs or wall-papers for their
inspection.

"Why don't you get Nancy to help you, too!" I ventured to ask her once.

"Ours is such a little house--compared to Nancy's, Hugh."

My attitude towards Susan had hitherto remained undefined. She was Tom's
wife and Tom's affair. In spite of her marked disapproval of the modern
trend in business and social life,--a prejudice she had communicated to
Tom, as a bachelor I had not disliked her; and it was certain that these
views had not mitigated Tom's loyalty and affection for me. Susan had
been my friend, as had her brother Perry, and Lucia, Perry's wife: they
made no secret of the fact that they deplored in me what they were
pleased to call plutocratic obsessions, nor had their disapproval always
been confined to badinage. Nancy, too, they looked upon as a renegade. I
was able to bear their reproaches with the superior good nature that
springs from success, to point out why the American tradition to which
they so fatuously clung was a things of the past. The habit of taking
dinner with them at least once a week had continued, and their arguments
rather amused me. If they chose to dwell in a backwater out of touch with
the current of great affairs, this was a matter to be deplored, but I did
not feel strongly enough to resent it. So long as I remained a bachelor
the relationship had not troubled me, but now that I was married I began
to consider with some alarm its power to affect my welfare.

It had remained for Nancy to inform me that I had married a woman with a
mind of her own. I had flattered myself that I should be able to control
Maude, to govern her predilections, and now at the very beginning of our
married life she was showing a disquieting tendency to choose for
herself. To be sure, she had found my intimacy with the Peterses and
Blackwoods already formed; but it was an intimacy from which I was
growing away. I should not have quarrelled with her if she had not
discriminated: Nancy made overtures, and Maude drew back; Susan presented
herself, and with annoying perversity and in an extraordinarily brief
time Maude had become her intimate. It seemed to me that she was always
at Susan's, lunching or playing with the children, who grew devoted to
her; or with Susan, choosing carpets and clothes; while more and more
frequently we dined with the Peterses and the Blackwoods, or they with
us. With Perry's wife Maude was scarcely less intimate than with Susan.
This was the more surprising to me since Lucia Blackwood was a
dyed-in-the-wool "intellectual," a graduate of Radcliffe, the daughter of
a Harvard professor. Perry had fallen in love with her during her visit
to Susan. Lucia was, perhaps, the most influential of the group; she
scorned the world, she held strong views on the higher education of
women; she had long discarded orthodoxy for what may be called a
Cambridge stoicism of simple living and high thinking; while Maude was a
strict Presbyterian, and not in the least given to theories. When, some
months after our homecoming, I ventured to warn her gently of the dangers
of confining one's self to a coterie--especially one of such narrow
views--her answer was rather bewildering.

"But isn't Tom your best friend?" she asked.

I admitted that he was.

"And you always went there such a lot before we were married."

This, too, was undeniable. "At the same time," I replied, "I have other
friends. I'm fond of the Blackwoods and the Peterses, I'm not advocating
seeing less of them, but their point of view, if taken without any
antidote, is rather narrowing. We ought to see all kinds," I suggested,
with a fine restraint.

"You mean--more worldly people," she said with her disconcerting
directness.

"Not necessarily worldly," I struggled on. "People who know more of the
world--yes, who understand it better."

Maude sighed.

"I do try, Hugh,--I return their calls,--I do try to be nice to them. But
somehow I don't seem to get along with them easily--I'm not myself, they
make me shy. It's because I'm provincial."

"Nonsense!" I protested, "you're not a bit provincial." And it was true;
her dignity and self-possession redeemed her.

Nancy was not once mentioned. But I think she was in both our minds....

Since my marriage, too, I had begun to resent a little the attitude of
Tom and Susan and the Blackwoods of humorous yet affectionate tolerance
toward my professional activities and financial creed, though Maude
showed no disposition to take this seriously. I did suspect, however,
that they were more and more determined to rescue Maude from what they
would have termed a frivolous career; and on one of these occasions--so
exasperating in married life when a slight cause for pique tempts husband
or wife to try to ask myself whether this affair were only a squall,
something to be looked for once in a while on the seas of matrimony, and
weathered: or whether Maude had not, after all, been right when she
declared that I had made a mistake, and that we were not fitted for one
another? In this gloomy view endless years of incompatibility stretched
ahead; and for the first time I began to rehearse with a certain cold
detachment the chain of apparently accidental events which had led up to
my marriage: to consider the gradual blindness that had come over my
faculties; and finally to wonder whether judgment ever entered into
sexual selection. Would Maude have relapsed into this senseless fit if
she had realized how fortunate she was? For I was prepared to give her
what thousands of women longed for, position and influence. My resentment
rose again against Perry and Tom, and I began to attribute their lack of
appreciation of my achievements to jealousy. They had not my ability;
this was the long and short of it.... I pondered also, regretfully, on my
bachelor days. And for the first time, I, who had worked so hard to
achieve freedom, felt the pressure of the yoke I had fitted over my own
shoulders. I had voluntarily, though unwittingly, returned to slavery.
This was what had happened. And what was to be done about it? I would not
consider divorce.

Well, I should have to make the best of it. Whether this conclusion
brought on a mood of reaction, I am unable to say. I was still annoyed by
what seemed to the masculine mind a senseless and dramatic performance on
Maude's part, an incomprehensible case of "nerves." Nevertheless, there
stole into my mind many recollections of Maude's affection, many passages
between us; and my eye chanced to fall on the ink-well she had bought me
out of the allowance I gave her. An unanticipated pity welled up within
me for her loneliness, her despair in that room upstairs. I got up--and
hesitated. A counteracting, inhibiting wave passed through me. I
hardened. I began to walk up and down, a prey to conflicting impulses.
Something whispered, "go to her"; another voice added, "for your own
peace of mind, at any rate." I rejected the intrusion of this motive as
unworthy, turned out the light and groped my way upstairs. The big clock
in the hall struck twelve.

I listened outside the door of the bedroom, but all was silent within. I
knocked.

"Maude!" I said, in a low voice.

There was no response.

"Maude--let me in! I didn't mean to be unkind--I'm sorry."

After an interval I heard her say: "I'd rather stay here,--to-night."

But at length, after more entreaty and self-abasement on my part, she
opened the door. The room was dark. We sat down together on the
window-seat, and all at once she relaxed and her head fell on my
shoulder, and she began weeping again. I held her, the alternating moods
still running through me.

"Hugh," she said at length, "how could you be so cruel? when you know I
love you and would do anything for you."

"I didn't mean to be cruel, Maude," I answered.

"I know you didn't. But at times you seem so--indifferent, and you can't
understand how it hurts. I haven't anybody but you, now, and it's in your
power to make me happy or--or miserable."

Later on I tried to explain my point of view, to justify myself.

"All I mean," I concluded at length, "is that my position is a little
different from Perry's and Tom's. They can afford to isolate themselves,
but I'm thrown professionally with the men who are building up this city.
Some of them, like Ralph Hambleton and Mr. Ogilvy, I've known all my
life. Life isn't so simple for us, Maude--we can't ignore the social
side."

"I understand," she said contentedly. "You are more of a man of
affairs--much more than Tom or Perry, and you have greater
responsibilities and wider interests. I'm really very proud of you.
Only--don't you think you are a little too sensitive about yourself, when
you are teased?"

I let this pass....

I give a paragraph from a possible biography of Hugh Paret which, as then
seemed not improbable, might in the future have been written by some
aspiring young worshipper of success.

"On his return from a brief but delightful honeymoon in England Mr. Paret
took up again, with characteristic vigour, the practice of the law. He
was entering upon the prime years of manhood; golden opportunities
confronted him as, indeed, they confronted other men--but Paret had the
foresight to take advantage of them. And his training under Theodore
Watling was now to produce results.... The reputations had already been
made of some of that remarkable group of financial geniuses who were
chiefly instrumental in bringing about the industrial evolution begun
after the Civil War: at the same time, as is well known, a political
leadership developed that gave proof of a deplorable blindness to the
logical necessity of combinations in business. The lawyer with initiative
and brains became an indispensable factor," etc., etc.

The biography might have gone on to relate my association with and
important services to Adolf Scherer in connection with his constructive
dream. Shortly after my return from abroad, in answer to his summons, I
found him at Heinrich's, his napkin tucked into his shirt front, and a
dish of his favourite sausages before him.

"So, the honeymoon is over!" he said, and pressed my hand. "You are right
to come back to business, and after awhile you can have another
honeymoon, eh? I have had many since I married. And how long do you think
was my first? A day! I was a foreman then, and the wedding was at six
o'clock in the morning. We went into the country, the wife and I."

He laid down his knife and fork, possessed by the memory. "I have grown
rich since, and we've been to Europe and back to Germany, and travelled
on the best ships and stayed at the best hotels, but I never enjoyed a
holiday more than that day. It wasn't long afterwards I went to Mr.
Durrett and told him how he could save much money. He was always ready to
listen, Mr. Durrett, when an employee had anything to say. He was a big
man,--an iron-master. Ah, he would be astonished if only he could wake up
now!"

"He would not only have to be an iron-master," I agreed, "but a financier
and a railroad man to boot."

"A jack of all trades," laughed Mr. Scherer. "That's what we are--men in
my position. Well, it was comparatively simple then, when we had no
Sherman law and crazy statutes, such as some of the states are passing,
to bother us. What has got into the politicians, that they are indulging
in such foolishness?" he exclaimed, more warmly. "We try to build up a
trade for this country, and they're doing their best to tie our hands and
tear it down. When I was in Washington the other day I was talking with
one of those Western senators whose state has passed those laws. He said
to me, 'Mr. Scherer, I've been making a study of the Boyne Iron Works.
You are clever men, but you are building up monopolies which we propose
to stop.' 'By what means?'" I asked. "'Rebates, for one,' said he, 'you
get preferential rates from your railroad which give you advantages over
your competitors.' Foolishness!" Mr. Scherer exclaimed. "I tell him the
railroad is a private concern, built up by private enterprise, and it has
a right to make special rates for large shippers. No,--railroads are
public carriers with no right to make special rates. I ask him what else
he objects to, and he says patented processes. As if we don't have a
right to our own patents! We buy them. I buy them, when other steel
companies won't touch 'em. What is that but enterprise, and business
foresight, and taking risks? And then he begins to talk about the tariff
taking money out of the pockets of American consumers and making men like
me rich. I have come to Washington to get the tariff raised on steel
rails; and Watling and other senators we send down there are raising it
for us. We are building up monopolies! Well, suppose we are. We can't
help it, even if we want to. Has he ever made a study of the other side
of the question--the competition side? Of course he hasn't."

He brought down his beer mug heavily on the table. In times of excitement
his speech suggested the German idiom. Abruptly his air grew mysterious;
he glanced around the room, now becoming empty, and lowered his voice.

"I have been thinking a long time, I have a little scheme," he said, "and
I have been to Washington to see Watling, to talk over it. Well, he
thinks much of you. Fowndes and Ripon are good lawyers, but they are not
smart like you. See Paret, he says, and he can come down and talk to me.
So I ask you to come here. That is why I say you are wise to get home.
Honeymoons can wait--eh?"

I smiled appreciatively.

"They talk about monopoly, those Populist senators, but I ask you what is
a man in my place to do? If you don't eat, somebody eats you--is it not
so? Like the boa-constrictors--that is modern business. Look at the
Keystone Plate people, over there at Morris. For years we sold them steel
billets from which to make their plates, and three months ago they serve
notice on us that they are getting ready to make their own billets, they
buy mines north of the lakes and are building their plant. Here is a big
customer gone. Next year, maybe, the Empire Tube Company goes into the
business of making crude steel, and many more thousands of tons go from
us. What is left for us, Paret?"

"Obviously you've got to go into the tube and plate business yourselves,"
I said.

"So!" cried Mr. Scherer, triumphantly, "or it is close up. We are not
fools, no, we will not lie down and be eaten like lambs for any law.
Dickinson can put his hand on the capital, and I--I have already bought a
tract on the lakes, at Bolivar, I have already got a plant designed with
the latest modern machinery. I can put the ore right there, I can send
the coke back from here in cars which would otherwise be empty, and
manufacture tubes at eight dollars a ton less than they are selling. If
we can make tubes we can make plates, and if we can make plates we can
make boilers, and beams and girders and bridges.... It is not like it was
but where is it all leading, my friend? The time will come--is right on
us now, in respect to many products--when the market will be flooded with
tubes and plates and girders, and then we'll have to find a way to limit
production. And the inefficient mills will all be forced to shut down."

The logic seemed unanswerable, even had I cared to answer it.... He
unfolded his campaign. The Boyne Iron Works was to become the Boyne Iron
Works, Ltd., owner of various subsidiary companies, some of which were as
yet blissfully ignorant of their fate. All had been thought out as calmly
as the partition of Poland--only, lawyers were required; and ultimately,
after the process of acquisition should have been completed, a delicate
document was to be drawn up which would pass through the meshes of that
annoying statutory net, the Sherman Anti-trust Law. New mines were to be
purchased, extending over a certain large area; wide coal deposits;
little strips of railroad to tap them. The competition of the Keystone
Plate people was to be met by acquiring and bringing up to date the plate
mills of King and Son, over the borders of a sister state; the
Somersworth Bridge and Construction Company and the Gring Steel and Wire
Company were to be absorbed. When all of this should have been
accomplished, there would be scarcely a process in the steel industry,
from the smelting of the ore to the completion of a bridge, which the
Boyne Iron Works could not undertake. Such was the beginning of the
"lateral extension" period.

"Two can play at that game," Mr. Scherer said. "And if those fellows
could only be content to let well enough alone, to continue buying their
crude steel from us, there wouldn't be any trouble."...

It was evident, however, that he really welcomed the "trouble," that he
was going into battle with enthusiasm. He had already picked out his
points of attack and was marching on them. Life, for him, would have been
a poor thing without new conflicts to absorb his energy; and he had
already made of the Boyne Iron Works, with its open-hearth furnaces, a
marvel of modern efficiency that had opened the eyes of the Steel world,
and had drawn the attention of a Personality in New York,--a Personality
who was one of the new and dominant type that had developed with such
amazing rapidity, the banker-dinosaur; preying upon and superseding the
industrial-dinosaur, conquering type of the preceding age, builder of the
railroads, mills and manufactories. The banker-dinosaurs, the gigantic
ones, were in Wall Street, and strove among themselves for the industrial
spoils accumulated by their predecessors. It was characteristic of these
monsters that they never fought in the open unless they were forced to.
Then the earth rocked, huge economic structures tottered and fell, and
much dust arose to obscure the vision of smaller creatures, who were
bewildered and terrified. Such disturbances were called "panics," and
were blamed by the newspapers on the Democratic party, or on the
reformers who had wantonly assailed established institutions. These
dominant bankers had contrived to gain control of the savings of
thousands and thousands of fellow-citizens who had deposited them in
banks or paid them into insurance companies, and with the power thus
accumulated had sallied forth to capture railroads and industries. The
railroads were the strategic links. With these in hand, certain favoured
industrial concerns could be fed, and others starved into submission.

Adolf Scherer might be said to represent a transitional type. For he was
not only an iron-master who knew every detail of his business, who kept
it ahead of the times; he was also a strategist, wise in his generation,
making friends with the Railroad while there had yet been time, at length
securing rebates and favours. And when that Railroad (which had been
constructed through the enterprise and courage of such men as Nathaniel
Durrett) had passed under the control of the banker-personality to whom I
have referred, and had become part of a system, Adolf Scherer remained in
alliance, and continued to receive favours.... I can well remember the
time when the ultimate authority of our Railroad was transferred,
quietly, to Wall Street. Alexander Barbour, its president, had been a
great man, but after that he bowed, in certain matters, to a greater one.

I have digressed.... Mr. Scherer unfolded his scheme, talking about
"units" as calmly as though they were checkers on a board instead of
huge, fiery, reverberating mills where thousands and thousands of human
beings toiled day and night--beings with families, and hopes and fears,
whose destinies were to be dominated by the will of the man who sat
opposite me. But--did not he in his own person represent the triumph of
that American creed of opportunity? He, too, had been through the fire,
had sweated beside the blasts, had handled the ingots of steel. He was
one of the "fittest" who had survived, and looked it. Had he no memories
of the terrors of that struggle?... Adolf Scherer had grown to be a
giant. And yet without me, without my profession he was a helpless giant,
at the mercy of those alert and vindictive lawmakers who sought to
restrain and hamper him, to check his growth with their webs. How
stimulating the idea of his dependence! How exhilarating too, the thought
that that vision which had first possessed me as an undergraduate--on my
visit to Jerry Kyme--was at last to be realized! I had now become the
indispensable associate of the few who divided the spoils, I was to have
a share in these myself.

"You're young, Paret," Mr. Scherer concluded. "But Watling has confidence
in you, and you will consult him frequently. I believe in the young men,
and I have already seen something of you--so?"...

When I returned to the office I wrote Theodore Watling a letter
expressing my gratitude for the position he had, so to speak, willed me,
of confidential legal adviser to Adolf Scherer. Though the opportunity
had thrust itself upon me suddenly, and sooner than I expected it, I was
determined to prove myself worthy of it. I worked as I had never worked
before, making trips to New York to consult leading members of this new
branch of my profession there, trips to Washington to see my former
chief. There were, too, numerous conferences with local personages, with
Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Grierson, and Judah B. Tallant,--whose newspaper
was most useful; there were consultations and negotiations of a delicate
nature with the owners and lawyers of other companies to be "taken in."
Nor was it all legal work, in the older and narrower sense. Men who are
playing for principalities are making war. Some of our operations had all
the excitement of war. There was information to be got, and it was
got--somehow. Modern war involves a spy system, and a friendly telephone
company is not to be despised. And all of this work from first to last
had to be done with extreme caution. Moribund distinctions of right and
wrong did not trouble me, for the modern man labours religiously when he
knows that Evolution is on his side.

For all of these operations a corps of counsel had been employed,
including the firm of Harrington and Bowes next to Theodore Watling, Joel
Harrington was deemed the ablest lawyer in the city. We organized in due
time the corporation known as the Boyne Iron Works, Limited; a trust
agreement was drawn up that was a masterpiece of its kind, one that
caused, first and last, meddling officials in the Department of Justice
at Washington no little trouble and perplexity. I was proud of the fact
that I had taken no small part in its composition.... In short, in
addition to certain emoluments and opportunities for investment, I
emerged from the affair firmly established in the good graces of Adolf
Scherer, and with a reputation practically made.

A year or so after the Boyne Company, Ltd., came into existence I chanced
one morning to go down to the new Ashuela Hotel to meet a New Yorker of
some prominence, and was awaiting him in the lobby, when I overheard a
conversation between two commercial travellers who were sitting with
their backs to me.

"Did you notice that fellow who went up to the desk a moment ago?" asked
one.

"The young fellow in the grey suit? Sure. Who is he? He looks as if he
was pretty well fixed."

"I guess he is," replied the first. "That's Paret. He's Scherer's
confidential counsel. He used to be Senator Watling's partner, but they
say he's even got something on the old man."

In spite of the feverish life I led, I was still undoubtedly
young-looking, and in this I was true to the incoming type of successful
man. Our fathers appeared staid at six and thirty. Clothes, of course,
made some difference, and my class and generation did not wear the sombre
and cumbersome kind, with skirts and tails; I patronized a tailor in New
York. My chestnut hair, a little darker than my father's had been, showed
no signs of turning grey, although it was thinning a little at the crown
of the forehead, and I wore a small moustache, clipped in a straight line
above the mouth. This made me look less like a college youth. Thanks to a
strong pigment in my skin, derived probably from Scotch-Irish ancestors,
my colour was fresh. I have spoken of my life as feverish, and yet I am
not so sure that this word completely describes it. It was full to
overflowing--one side of it; and I did not miss (save vaguely, in rare
moments of weariness) any other side that might have been developed. I
was busy all day long, engaged in affairs I deemed to be alone of vital
importance in the universe. I was convinced that the welfare of the city
demanded that supreme financial power should remain in the hands of the
group of men with whom I was associated, and whose battles I fought in
the courts, in the legislature, in the city council, and sometimes in
Washington,--although they were well cared for there. By every means
ingenuity could devise, their enemies were to be driven from the field,
and they were to be protected from blackmail.

A sense of importance sustained me; and I remember in that first flush of
a success for which I had not waited too long--what a secret satisfaction
it was to pick up the Era and see my name embedded in certain dignified
notices of board meetings, transactions of weight, or cases known to the
initiated as significant. "Mr. Scherer's interests were taken care of by
Mr. Hugh Paret." The fact that my triumphs were modestly set forth gave
me more pleasure than if they had been trumpeted in headlines. Although I
might have started out in practice for myself, my affection and regard
for Mr. Watling kept me in the firm, which became Watling, Fowndes and
Paret, and a new, arrangement was entered into: Mr. Ripon retired on
account of ill health.

There were instances, however, when a certain amount of annoying
publicity was inevitable. Such was the famous Galligan case, which
occurred some three or four years after my marriage. Aloysius Galligan
was a brakeman, and his legs had become paralyzed as the result of an
accident that was the result of defective sills on a freight car. He had
sued, and been awarded damages of $15,000. To the amazement and
indignation of Miller Gorse, the Supreme Court, to which the Railroad had
appealed, affirmed the decision. It wasn't the single payment of $15,000
that the Railroad cared about, of course; a precedent might be
established for compensating maimed employees which would be expensive in
the long run. Carelessness could not be proved in this instance. Gorse
sent for me. I had been away with Maude at the sea for two months, and
had not followed the case.

"You've got to take charge, Paret, and get a rehearing. See Bering, and
find out who in the deuce is to blame for this. Chesley's one, of course.
We ought never to have permitted his nomination for the Supreme Bench. It
was against my judgment, but Varney and Gill assured me that he was all
right."

I saw Judge Bering that evening. We sat on a plush sofa in the parlour of
his house in Baker Street.

"I had a notion Gorse'd be mad," he said, "but it looked to me as if they
had it on us, Paret. I didn't see how we could do anything else but
affirm without being too rank. Of course, if he feels that way, and you
want to make a motion for a rehearing, I'll see what can be done."

"Something's got to be done," I replied. "Can't you see what such a
decision lets them in for?"

"All right," said the judge, who knew an order when he heard one, "I
guess we can find an error." He was not a little frightened by the report
of Mr. Gorse's wrath, for election-day was approaching. "Say, you
wouldn't take me for a sentimental man, now, would you?"

I smiled at the notion of it.

"Well, I'll own up to you this kind of got under my skin. That Galligan
is a fine-looking fellow, if there ever was one, and he'll never be of a
bit of use any more. Of course the case was plain sailing, and they ought
to have had the verdict, but that lawyer of his handled it to the queen's
taste, if I do say so. He made me feel real bad, by God,--as if it was my
own son Ed who'd been battered up. Lord, I can't forget the look in that
man Galligan's eyes. I hate to go through it again, and reverse it, but I
guess I'll have to, now."

The Judge sat gazing at the flames playing over his gas log.

"Who was the lawyer?" I asked.

"A man by the name of Krebs," he replied. "Never heard of him before.
He's just moved to the city."

"This city?" I ejaculated.

The Judge glanced at me interestedly.

"This city, of course. What do you know about him?"

"Well," I answered, when I had recovered a little from the shock--for it
was a distinct shock--"he lived in Elkington. He was the man who stirred
up the trouble in the legislature about Bill 709."

The Judge slapped his knee.

"That fellow!" he exclaimed, and ruminated. "Why didn't somebody tell
me?" he added, complainingly. "Why didn't Miller Gorse let me know about
it, instead of licking up a fuss after it's all over?"...

Of all men of my acquaintance I had thought the Judge the last to grow
maudlin over the misfortunes of those who were weak or unfortunate enough
to be defeated and crushed in the struggle for existence, and it was not
without food for reflection that I departed from his presence. To make
Mr. Bering "feel bad" was no small achievement, and Krebs had been
responsible for it, of course,--not Galligan. Krebs had turned up once
more! It seemed as though he were destined to haunt me. Well, I made up
my mind that he should not disturb me again, at any rate: I, at least,
had learned to eliminate sentimentality from business, and it was not
without deprecation I remembered my experience with him at the Capital,
when he had made me temporarily ashamed of my connection with Bill 709. I
had got over that. And when I entered the court room (the tribunal having
graciously granted a rehearing on the ground that it had committed an
error in the law!) my feelings were of lively curiosity and zest. I had
no disposition to underrate his abilities, but I was fortified by the
consciousness of a series of triumphs behind me, by a sense of
association with prevailing forces against which he was helpless. I could
afford to take a superior attitude in regard to one who was destined
always to be dramatic.

As the case proceeded I was rather disappointed on the whole that he was
not dramatic--not even as dramatic as he had been when he defied the
powers in the Legislature. He had changed but little, he still wore
ill-fitting clothes, but I was forced to acknowledge that he seemed to
have gained in self-control, in presence. He had nodded at me before the
case was called, as he sat beside his maimed client; and I had been on
the alert for a hint of reproach in his glance: there was none. I smiled
back at him....

He did not rant. He seemed to have rather a remarkable knowledge of the
law. In a conversational tone he described the sufferings of the man in
the flannel shirt beside him, but there could be no question of the fact
that he did produce an effect. The spectators were plainly moved, and it
was undeniable that some of the judges wore rather a sheepish look as
they toyed with their watch chains or moved the stationery in front of
them. They had seen maimed men before, they had heard impassioned,
sentimental lawyers talk about wives and families and God and justice.
Krebs did none of this. Just how he managed to bring the thing home to
those judges, to make them ashamed of their role, just how he managed--in
spite of my fortified attitude to revive something of that sense of
discomfort I had experienced at the State House is difficult to say. It
was because, I think, he contrived through the intensity of his own
sympathy to enter into the body of the man whose cause he pleaded, to
feel the despair in Galligan's soul--an impression that was curiously
conveyed despite the dignified limits to which he confined his speech. It
was strange that I began to be rather sorry for him, that I felt a
certain reluctant regret that he should thus squander his powers against
overwhelming odds. What was the use of it all!

At the end his voice became more vibrant--though he did not raise it--as
he condemned the Railroad for its indifference to human life, for its
contention that men were cheaper than rolling-stock.

I encountered him afterward in the corridor. I had made a point of
seeking him out, perhaps from some vague determination to prove that our
last meeting in the little restaurant at the Capital had left no traces
of embarrassment in me: I was, in fact, rather aggressively anxious to
reveal myself to him as one who has thriven on the views he condemned, as
one in whose unity of mind there is no rift. He was alone, apparently
waiting for someone, leaning against a steam radiator in one of his
awkward, angular poses, looking out of the court-house window.

"How are you?" I said blithely. "So you've left Elkington for a wider
field." I wondered whether my alert cousin-in-law, George Hutchins, had
made it too hot for him.

He turned to me unexpectedly a face of profound melancholy; his
expression had in it, oddly, a trace of sternness; and I was somewhat
taken aback by this evidence that he was still bearing vicariously the
troubles of his client. So deep had been the thought I had apparently
interrupted that he did not realize my presence at first.

"Oh, it's you, Paret. Yes, I've left Elkington," he said.

"Something of a surprise to run up against you suddenly, like this."

"I expected to see you," he answered gravely, and the slight emphasis he
gave the pronoun implied not only a complete knowledge of the situation
and of the part I had taken in it, but also a greater rebuke than if his
accusation had been direct. But I clung to my affability.

"If I can do anything for you, let me know," I told him. He said nothing,
he did not even smile. At this moment he was opportunely joined by a man
who had the appearance of a labour leader, and I walked away. I was
resentful; my mood, in brief, was that of a man who has done something
foolish and is inclined to talk to himself aloud: but the mood was
complicated, made the more irritating by the paradoxical fact that that
last look he had given me seemed to have borne the traces of
affection....

It is perhaps needless to add that the court reversed its former
decision.



XVI.

The Pilot published a series of sensational articles and editorials about
the Galligan matter, a picture of Galligan, an account of the destitute
state of his wife and family. The time had not yet arrived when such
newspapers dared to attack the probity of our courts, but a system of law
that permitted such palpable injustice because of technicalities was
bitterly denounced. What chance had a poor man against such a moloch as
the railroad, even with a lawyer of such ability as had been exhibited by
Hermann Krebs? Krebs was praised, and the attention of Mr. Lawler's
readers was called to the fact that Krebs was the man who, some years
before, had opposed single-handed in the legislature the notorious Bill
No. 709. It was well known in certain circles--the editorial went on to
say--that this legislation had been drawn by Theodore Watling in the
interests of the Boyne Iron Works, etc., etc. Hugh Paret had learned at
the feet of an able master. This first sight of my name thus
opprobriously flung to the multitude gave me an unpleasant shock. I had
seen Mr. Scherer attacked, Mr. Gorse attacked, and Mr. Watling: I had all
along realized, vaguely, that my turn would come, and I thought myself to
have acquired a compensating philosophy. I threw the sheet into the waste
basket, presently picked it out again and reread the sentence containing
my name. Well, there were certain penalties that every career must pay. I
had become, at last, a marked man, and I recognized the fact that this
assault would be the forerunner of many.

I tried to derive some comfort and amusement from the thought of certain
operations of mine that Mr. Lawler had not discovered, that would have
been matters of peculiar interest to his innocent public: certain
extra-legal operations at the time when the Bovine corporation was being
formed, for instance. And how they would have licked their chops had they
learned of that manoeuvre by which I had managed to have one of Mr.
Scherer's subsidiary companies in another state, with property and assets
amounting to more than twenty millions, reorganized under the laws of New
Jersey, and the pending case thus transferred to the Federal court, where
we won hands down! This Galligan affair was nothing to that.
Nevertheless, it was annoying. As I sat in the street car on my way
homeward, a man beside me was reading the Pilot. I had a queer sensation
as he turned the page, and scanned the editorial; and I could not help
wondering what he and the thousands like him thought of me; what he would
say if I introduced myself and asked his opinion. Perhaps he did not
think at all: undoubtedly he, and the public at large, were used to Mr.
Lawler's daily display of "injustices." Nevertheless, like slow acid,
they must be eating into the public consciousness. It was an
outrage--this freedom of the press.

With renewed exasperation I thought of Krebs, of his disturbing and
almost uncanny faculty of following me up. Why couldn't he have remained
in Elkington? Why did he have to follow me here, to make capital out of a
case that might never have been heard of except for him?... I was still
in this disagreeable frame of mind when I turned the corner by my house
and caught sight of Maude, in the front yard, bending bareheaded over a
bed of late flowers which the frost had spared. The evening was sharp,
the dusk already gathering.

"You'll catch cold," I called to her.

She looked up at the sound of my voice.

"They'll soon be gone," she sighed, referring to the flowers. "I hate
winter."

She put her hand through my arm, and we went into the house. The curtains
were drawn, a fire was crackling on the hearth, the lamps were lighted,
and as I dropped into a chair this living-room of ours seemed to take on
the air of a refuge from the vague, threatening sinister things of the
world without. I felt I had never valued it before. Maude took up her
sewing and sat down beside the table.

"Hugh," she said suddenly, "I read something in the newspaper--"

My exasperation flared up again.

"Where did you get that disreputable sheet?" I demanded.

"At the dressmaker's!" she answered. "I--I just happened to see the name,
Paret."

"It's just politics," I declared, "stirring up discontent by
misrepresentation. Jealousy."

She leaned forward in her chair, gazing into the flames.

"Then it isn't true that this poor man, Galligan--isn't that his
name?--was cheated out of the damages he ought to have to keep himself
and his family alive?"

"You must have been talking to Perry or Susan," I said. "They seem to be
convinced that I am an oppressor of the poor.

"Hugh!" The tone in which she spoke my name smote me. "How can you say
that? How can you doubt their loyalty, and mine? Do you think they would
undermine you, and to me, behind your back?"

"I didn't mean that, of course, Maude. I was annoyed about something
else. And Tom and Perry have an air of deprecating most of the
enterprises in which I am professionally engaged. It's very well for them
to talk. All Perry has to do is to sit back and take in receipts from the
Boyne Street car line, and Tom is content if he gets a few commissions
every week. They're like militiamen criticizing soldiers under fire. I
know they're good friends of mine, but sometimes I lose patience with
them."

I got up and walked to the window, and came back again and stood before
her.

"I'm sorry for this man, Galligan," I went on, "I can't tell you how
sorry. But few people who are not on the inside, so to speak, grasp the
fact that big corporations, like the Railroad, are looked upon as fair
game for every kind of parasite. Not a day passes in which attempts are
not made to bleed them. Some of these cases are pathetic. It had cost the
Railroad many times fifteen thousand dollars to fight Galligan's case.
But if they had paid it, they would have laid themselves open to
thousands of similar demands. Dividends would dwindle. The stockholders
have a right to a fair return on their money. Galligan claims that there
was a defective sill on the car which is said to have caused the wreck.
If damages are paid on that basis, it means the daily inspection of every
car which passes over their lines. And more than that: there are certain
defects, as in the present case, which an inspection would not reveal.
When a man accepts employment on a railroad he assumes a certain amount
of personal risk,--it's not precisely a chambermaid's job. And the lawyer
who defends such cases, whatever his personal feelings may be, cannot
afford to be swayed by them. He must take the larger view."

"Why didn't you tell me about it before?" she asked.

"Well, I didn't think it of enough importance--these things are all in
the day's work."

"But Mr. Krebs? How strange that he should be here, connected with the
case!"

I made an effort to control myself.

"Your old friend," I said. "I believe you have a sentiment about him."

She looked up at me.

"Scarcely that," she replied gravely, with the literalness that often
characterized her, "but he isn't a person easily forgotten. He may be
queer, one may not agree with his views, but after the experience I had
with him I've never been able to look at him in the way George does, for
instance, or even as father does."

"Or even as I do," I supplied.

"Well, perhaps not even as you do," she answered calmly. "I believe you
once told me, however, that you thought him a fanatic, but sincere."

"He's certainly a fanatic!" I exclaimed.

"But sincere, Hugh-you still think him sincere."

"You seem a good deal concerned about a man you've laid eyes on but
once."

She considered this.

"Yes, it is surprising," she admitted, "but it's true. I was sorry for
him, but I admired him. I was not only impressed by his courage in taking
charge of me, but also by the trust and affection the work-people showed.
He must be a good man, however mistaken he may be in the methods he
employs. And life is cruel to those people."

"Life is-life," I observed. "Neither you nor I nor Krebs is able to
change it."

"Has he come here to practice?" she asked, after a moment.

"Yes. Do you want me to invite him to dinner?" and seeing that she did
not reply I continued: "In spite of my explanation I suppose you think,
because Krebs defended the man Galligan, that a monstrous injustice has
been done."

"That is unworthy of you," she said, bending over her stitch.

I began to pace the room again, as was my habit when overwrought.

"Well, I was going to tell you about this affair if you had not
forestalled me by mentioning it yourself. It isn't pleasant to be
vilified by rascals who make capital out of vilification, and a man has a
right to expect some sympathy from his wife."

"Did I ever deny you that, Hugh?" she asked. "Only you don't ever seem to
need it, to want it."

"And there are things," I pursued, "things in a man's province that a
woman ought to accept from her husband, things which in the very nature
of the case she can know nothing about."

"But a woman must think for herself," she declared. "She shouldn't become
a mere automaton,--and these questions involve so much! People are
discussing them, the magazines and periodicals are beginning to take them
up."

I stared at her, somewhat appalled by this point of view. There had,
indeed, been signs of its development before now, but I had not heeded
them. And for the first time I beheld Maude in a new light.

"Oh, it's not that I don't trust you," she continued, "I'm open to
conviction, but I must be convinced. Your explanation of this Galligan
case seems a sensible one, although it's depressing. But life is hard and
depressing sometimes I've come to realize that. I want to think over what
you've said, I want to talk over it some more. Why won't you tell me more
of what you are doing? If you only would confide in me--as you have now!
I can't help seeing that we are growing farther and farther apart, that
business, your career, is taking all of you and leaving me nothing." She
faltered, and went on again. "It's difficult to tell you this--you never
give me the chance. And it's not for my sake alone, but for yours, too.
You are growing more and more self-centred, surrounding yourself with a
hard shell. You don't realize it, but Tom notices it, Perry notices it,
it hurts them, it's that they complain of. Hugh!" she cried appealingly,
sensing my resentment, forestalling the words of defence ready on my
lips. "I know that you are busy, that many men depend on you, it isn't
that I'm not proud of you and your success, but you don't understand what
a woman craves,--she doesn't want only to be a good housekeeper, a good
mother, but she wants to share a little, at any rate, in the life of her
husband, in his troubles as well as in his successes. She wants to be of
some little use, of some little help to him."

My feelings were reduced to a medley.

"But you are a help to me--a great help," I protested.

She shook her head. "I wish I were," she said.

It suddenly occurred to me that she might be. I was softened, and alarmed
by the spectacle she had revealed of the widening breach between us. I
laid my hand on her shoulder.

"Well, I'll try to do better, Maude."

She looked up at me, questioningly yet gratefully, through a mist of
tears. But her reply--whatever it might have been--was forestalled by the
sound of shouts and laughter in the hallway. She sprang up and ran to the
door.

"It's the children," she exclaimed, "they've come home from Susan's
party!"

It begins indeed to look as if I were writing this narrative upside down,
for I have said nothing about children. Perhaps one reason for this
omission is that I did not really appreciate them, that I found it
impossible to take the same minute interest in them as Tom, for instance,
who was, apparently, not content alone with the six which he possessed,
but had adopted mine. One of them, little Sarah, said "Uncle Tom" before
"Father." I do not mean to say that I had not occasional moments of
tenderness toward them, but they were out of my thoughts much of the
time. I have often wondered, since, how they regarded me; how, in their
little minds, they defined the relationship. Generally, when I arrived
home in the evening I liked to sit down before my study fire and read the
afternoon newspapers or a magazine; but occasionally I went at once to
the nursery for a few moments, to survey with complacency the medley of
toys on the floor, and to kiss all three. They received my caresses with
a certain shyness--the two younger ones, at least, as though they were at
a loss to place me as a factor in the establishment. They tumbled over
each other to greet Maude, and even Tom. If I were an enigma to them,
what must they have thought of him? Sometimes I would discover him on the
nursery floor, with one or two of his own children, building towers and
castles and railroad stations, or forts to be attacked and demolished by
regiments of lead soldiers. He was growing comfortable-looking, if not
exactly stout; prematurely paternal, oddly willing to renounce the
fiercer joys of life, the joys of acquisition, of conquest, of youth.

"You'd better come home with me, Chickabiddy," he would say, "that father
of yours doesn't appreciate you. He's too busy getting rich."

"Chickabiddy," was his name for little Sarah. Half of the name stuck to
her, and when she was older we called her Biddy.

She would gaze at him questioningly, her eyes like blue flower cups, a
strange little mixture of solemnity and bubbling mirth, of shyness and
impulsiveness. She had fat legs that creased above the tops of the absurd
little boots that looked to be too tight; sometimes she rolled and
tumbled in an ecstasy of abandon, and again she would sit motionless, as
though absorbed in dreams. Her hair was like corn silk in the sun,
twisting up into soft curls after her bath, when she sat rosily presiding
over her supper table.

As I look back over her early infancy, I realize that I loved her,
although it is impossible for me to say how much of this love is
retrospective. Why I was not mad about her every hour of the day is a
puzzle to me now. Why, indeed, was I not mad about all three of them?
There were moments when I held and kissed them, when something within me
melted: moments when I was away from them, and thought of them. But these
moments did not last. The something within me hardened again, I became
indifferent, my family was wiped out of my consciousness as though it had
never existed.

There was Matthew, for instance, the oldest. When he arrived, he was to
Maude a never-ending miracle, she would have his crib brought into her
room, and I would find her leaning over the bedside, gazing at him with a
rapt expression beyond my comprehension. To me he was just a brick-red
morsel of humanity, all folds and wrinkles, and not at all remarkable in
any way. Maude used to annoy me by getting out of bed in the middle of
the night when he cried, and at such times I was apt to wonder at the odd
trick the life-force had played me, and ask myself why I got married at
all. It was a queer method of carrying on the race. Later on, I began to
take a cursory interest in him, to watch for signs in him of certain
characteristics of my own youth which, in the philosophy of my manhood, I
had come to regard as defects. And it disturbed me somewhat to see these
signs appear. I wished him to be what I had become by force of will--a
fighter. But he was a sensitive child, anxious for approval; not robust,
though spiritual rather than delicate; even in comparative infancy he
cared more for books than toys, and his greatest joy was in being read
to. In spite of these traits--perhaps because of them--there was a
sympathy between us. From the time that he could talk the child seemed to
understand me. Occasionally I surprised him gazing at me with a certain
wistful look that comes back to me as I write.

Moreton, Tom used to call Alexander the Great because he was a fighter
from the cradle, beating his elder brother, too considerate to strike
back, and likewise--when opportunity offered--his sister; and
appropriating their toys. A self-sufficient, doughty young man, with the
round head that withstands many blows, taking by nature to competition
and buccaneering in general. I did not love him half so much as I did
Matthew--if such intermittent emotions as mine may be called love. It was
a standing joke of mine--which Maude strongly resented--that Moreton
resembled Cousin George of Elkington.

Imbued with the highest ambition of my time, I had set my barque on a
great circle, and almost before I realized it the barque was burdened
with a wife and family and the steering had insensibly become more
difficult; for Maude cared nothing about the destination, and when I took
any hand off the wheel our ship showed a tendency to make for a quiet
harbour. Thus the social initiative, which I believed should have been
the woman's, was thrust back on me. It was almost incredible, yet
indisputable, in a day when most American women were credited with a
craving for social ambition that I, of all men, should have married a
wife in whom the craving was wholly absent! She might have had what other
women would have given their souls for. There were many reasons why I
wished her to take what I deemed her proper place in the community as my
wife--not that I cared for what is called society in the narrow sense;
with me, it was a logical part of a broader scheme of life; an auxiliary
rather than an essential, but a needful auxiliary; a means of dignifying
and adorning the position I was taking. Not only that, but I felt the
need of intercourse--of intercourse of a lighter and more convivial
nature with men and women who saw life as I saw it. In the evenings when
we did not go out into that world our city afforded ennui took possession
of me: I had never learned to care for books, I had no resources outside
of my profession, and when I was not working on some legal problem I
dawdled over the newspapers and went to bed. I don't mean to imply that
our existence, outside of our continued intimacy with the Peterses and
the Blackwoods, was socially isolated. We gave little dinners that Maude
carried out with skill and taste; but it was I who suggested them; we
went out to other dinners, sometimes to Nancy's--though we saw less and
less of her--sometimes to other houses. But Maude had given evidence of
domestic tastes and a disinclination for gaiety that those who
entertained more were not slow to sense. I should have liked to take a
larger house, but I felt the futility of suggesting it; the children were
still small, and she was occupied with them. Meanwhile I beheld, and at
times with considerable irritation, the social world changing, growing
larger and more significant, a more important function of that higher
phase of American existence the new century seemed definitely to have
initiated. A segregative process was away to which Maude was wholly
indifferent. Our city was throwing off its social conservatism; wealth
(which implied ability and superiority) was playing a greater part,
entertainments were more luxurious, lines more strictly drawn. We had an
elaborate country club for those who could afford expensive amusements.
Much of this transformation had been due to the initiative and leadership
of Nancy Durrett....

Great and sudden wealth, however, if combined with obscure antecedents
and questionable qualifications, was still looked upon askance. In spite
of the fact that Adolf Scherer had "put us on the map," the family of the
great iron-master still remained outside of the social pale. He himself
might have entered had it not been for his wife, who was supposed to be
"queer," who remained at home in her house opposite Gallatin Park and
made little German cakes,--a huge house which an unknown architect had
taken unusual pains to make pretentious and hideous, for it was Rhenish,
Moorish and Victorian by turns. Its geometric grounds matched those of
the park, itself a monument to bad taste in landscape. The neighbourhood
was highly respectable, and inhabited by families of German extraction.
There were two flaxen-haired daughters who had just graduated from an
expensive boarding-school in New York, where they had received the polish
needful for future careers. But the careers were not forthcoming.

I was thrown constantly with Adolf Scherer; I had earned his gratitude, I
had become necessary to him. But after the great coup whereby he had
fulfilled Mr. Watling's prophecy and become the chief factor in our
business world he began to show signs of discontent, of an irritability
that seemed foreign to his character, and that puzzled me. One day,
however, I stumbled upon the cause of this fermentation, to wonder that I
had not discovered it before. In many ways Adolf Scherer was a child. We
were sitting in the Boyne Club.

"Money--yes!" he exclaimed, apropos of some demand made upon him by a
charitable society. "They come to me for my money--there is always
Scherer, they say. He will make up the deficit in the hospitals. But what
is it they do for me? Nothing. Do they invite me to their houses, to
their parties?"

This was what he wanted, then,--social recognition. I said nothing, but I
saw my opportunity: I had the clew, now, to a certain attitude he had
adopted of late toward me, an attitude of reproach; as though, in return
for his many favours to me, there were something I had left undone. And
when I went home I asked Maude to call on Mrs. Scherer.

"On Mrs. Scherer!" she repeated.

"Yes, I want you to invite them to dinner." The proposal seemed to take
away her breath. "I owe her husband a great deal, and I think he feels
hurt that the wives of the men he knows down town haven't taken up his
family." I felt that it would not be wise, with Maude, to announce my
rather amazing discovery of the iron-master's social ambitions.

"But, Hugh, they must be very happy, they have their friends. And after
all this time wouldn't it seem like an intrusion?"

"I don't think so," I said, "I'm sure it would please him, and them. You
know how kind he's been to us, how he sent us East in his private car
last year."

"Of course I'll go if you wish it, if you're sure they feel that way."
She did make the call, that very week, and somewhat to my surprise
reported that she liked Mrs. Scherer and the daughters: Maude's likes and
dislikes, needless to say, were not governed by matters of policy.

"You were right, Hugh," she informed me, almost with enthusiasm, "they
did seem lonely. And they were so glad to see me, it was rather pathetic.
Mr. Scherer, it seems, had talked to them a great deal about you. They
wanted to know why I hadn't come before. That was rather embarrassing.
Fortunately they didn't give me time to talk, I never heard people talk
as they do. They all kissed me when I went away, and came down the steps
with me. And Mrs. Scherer went into the conservatory and picked a huge
bouquet. There it is," she said, laughingly, pointing to several vases.
"I separated the colours as well as I could when I got home. We had
coffee, and the most delicious German cakes in the Turkish room, or the
Moorish room, whichever it is. I'm sure I shan't be able to eat anything
more for days. When do you wish to have them for dinner?"

"Well," I said, "we ought to have time to get the right people to meet
them. We'll ask Nancy and Ham."

Maude opened her eyes.

"Nancy! Do you think Nancy would like them?"

"I'm going to give her a chance, anyway," I replied....

It was, in some ways, a memorable dinner. I don't know what I expected in
Mrs. Scherer--from Maude's description a benevolent and somewhat stupid,
blue-eyed German woman, of peasant extraction. There could be no doubt
about the peasant extraction, but when she hobbled into our little
parlour with the aid of a stout, gold-headed cane she dominated it. Her
very lameness added to a distinction that evinced itself in a dozen ways.
Her nose was hooked, her colour high,--despite the years in
Steelville,--her peculiar costume heightened the effect of her
personality; her fire-lit black eyes bespoke a spirit accustomed to rule,
and instead of being an aspirant for social honours, she seemed to confer
them. Conversation ceased at her entrance.

"I'm sorry we are late, my dear," she said, as she greeted Maude
affectionately, "but we have far to come. And this is your husband!" she
exclaimed, as I was introduced. She scrutinized me. "I have heard
something of you, Mr. Paret. You are smart. Shall I tell you the smartest
thing you ever did?" She patted Maude's shoulder. "When you married your
wife--that was it. I have fallen in love with her. If you do not know it,
I tell you."

Next, Nancy was introduced.

"So you are Mrs. Hambleton Durrett?"

Nancy acknowledged her identity with a smile, but the next remark was a
bombshell.

"The leader of society."

"Alas!" exclaimed Nancy, "I have been accused of many terrible things."

Their glances met. Nancy's was amused, baffling, like a spark in amber.
Each, in its way, was redoubtable. A greater contrast between two women
could scarcely have been imagined. It was well said (and not snobbishly)
that generations had been required to make Nancy's figure: she wore a
dress of blue sheen, the light playing on its ripples; and as she stood,
apparently wholly at ease, looking down at the wife of Adolf Scherer, she
reminded me of an expert swordsman who, with remarkable skill, was
keeping a too pressing and determined aspirant at arm's length. I was
keenly aware that Maude did not possess this gift, and I realized for the
first time something of the similarity between Nancy's career and my own.
She, too, in her feminine sphere, exercised, and subtly, a power in which
human passions were deeply involved.

If Nancy Durrett symbolized aristocracy, established order and prestige,
what did Mrs. Scherer represent? Not democracy, mob rule--certainly. The
stocky German peasant woman with her tightly drawn hair and heavy jewels
seemed grotesquely to embody something that ultimately would have its
way, a lusty and terrible force in the interests of which my own services
were enlisted; to which the old American element in business and
industry, the male counterpart of Nancy Willett, had already succumbed.
And now it was about to storm the feminine fastnesses! I beheld a woman
who had come to this country with a shawl aver her head transformed into
a new species of duchess, sure of herself, scorning the delicate
euphemisms in which Fancy's kind were wont to refer to asocial realm,
that was no less real because its boundaries had not definitely been
defined. She held her stick firmly, and gave Nancy an indomitable look.

"I want you to meet my daughters. Gretchen, Anna, come here and be
introduced to Mrs. Durrett."

It was not without curiosity I watched these of the second generation as
they made their bows, noted the differentiation in the type for which an
American environment and a "finishing school" had been responsible.
Gretchen and Anna had learned--in crises, such as the present--to
restrain the superabundant vitality they had inherited. If their
cheekbones were a little too high, their Delft blue eyes a little too
small, their colour was of the proverbial rose-leaves and cream. Gene
Hollister's difficulty was to know which to marry. They were nice
girls,--of that there could be no doubt; there was no false modesty in
their attitude toward "society"; nor did they pretend--as so many silly
people did, that they were not attempting to get anywhere in particular,
that it was less desirable to be in the centre than on the dubious outer
walks. They, too, were so glad to meet Mrs. Durrett.

Nancy's eyes twinkled as they passed on.

"You see what I have let you in for?" I said.

"My dear Hugh," she replied, "sooner or later we should have had to face
them anyhow. I have recognized that for some time. With their money, and
Mr. Scherer's prestige, and the will of that lady with the stick, in a
few years we should have had nothing to say. Why, she's a female
Napoleon. Hilda's the man of the family."

After that, Nancy invariably referred to Mrs. Scherer as Hilda.

If Mrs. Scherer was a surprise to us, her husband was a still greater
one; and I had difficulty in recognizing the Adolf Scherer who came to
our dinner party as the personage of the business world before whom
lesser men were wont to cringe. He seemed rather mysteriously to have
shed that personality; become an awkward, ingratiating, rather too
exuberant, ordinary man with a marked German accent. From time to time I
found myself speculating uneasily on this phenomenon as I glanced down
the table at his great torso, white waist-coated for the occasion. He was
plainly "making up" to Nancy, and to Mrs. Ogilvy, who sat opposite him.
On the whole, the atmosphere of our entertainment was rather electric.
"Hilda" was chiefly responsible for this; her frankness was of the
breath-taking kind. Far from attempting to hide or ignore the struggle by
which she and her husband had attained their present position, she
referred with the utmost naivete to incidents in her career, while the
whole table paused to listen.

"Before we had a carriage, yes, it was hard for me to get about. I had to
be helped by the conductors into the streetcars. I broke my hip when we
lived in Steelville, and the doctor was a numbskull. He should be put in
prison, is what I tell Adolf. I was standing on a clothes-horse, when it
fell. I had much washing to do in those days."

"And--can nothing be done, Mrs. Scherer?" asked Leonard Dickinson,
sympathetically.

"For an old woman? I am fifty-five. I have had many doctors. I would put
them all in prison. How much was it you paid Dr. Stickney, in New York,
Adolf? Five thousand dollars? And he did nothing--nothing. I'd rather be
poor again, and work. But it is well to make the best of it."...

"Your grandfather was a fine man, Mr. Durrett," she informed Hambleton.
"It is a pity for you, I think, that you do not have to work."

Ham, who sat on her other side, was amused.

"My grandfather did enough work for both of us," he said.

"If I had been your grandfather, I would have started you in puddling,"
she observed, as she eyed with disapproval the filling of his third glass
of champagne. "I think there is too much gay life, too much games for
rich young men nowadays. You will forgive me for saying what I think to
young men?"

"I'll forgive you for not being my grandfather, at any rate," replied
Ham, with unaccustomed wit.

She gazed at him with grim humour.

"It is bad for you I am not," she declared.

There was no gainsaying her. What can be done with a lady who will not
recognize that morality is not discussed, and that personalities are
tabooed save between intimates. Hilda was a personage as well as a
Tartar. Laws, conventions, usages--to all these she would conform when it
pleased her. She would have made an admirable inquisitorial judge, and
quite as admirable a sick nurse. A rare criminal lawyer, likewise, was
wasted in her. She was one of those individuals, I perceived, whose
loyalties dominate them; and who, in behalf of those loyalties, carry
chips on their shoulders.

"It is a long time that I have been wanting to meet you," she informed
me. "You are smart."

I smiled, yet I was inclined to resent her use of the word, though I was
by no means sure of the shade of meaning she meant to put into it. I had,
indeed, an uneasy sense of the scantiness of my fund of humour to meet
and turn such a situation; for I was experiencing, now, with her, the
same queer feeling I had known in my youth in the presence of Cousin
Robert Breck--the suspicion that this extraordinary person saw through
me. It was as though she held up a mirror and compelled me to look at my
soul features. I tried to assure myself that the mirror was distorted. I
lost, nevertheless, the sureness of touch that comes from the conviction
of being all of a piece. She contrived to resolve me again into
conflicting elements. I was, for the moment, no longer the self-confident
and triumphant young attorney accustomed to carry all before him, to
command respect and admiration, but a complicated being whose unity had
suddenly been split. I glanced around the table at Ogilvy, at Dickinson,
at Ralph Hambleton. These men were functioning truly. But was I? If I
were not, might not this be the reason for the lack of synthesis--of
which I was abruptly though vaguely aware between my professional life,
my domestic relationships, and my relationships with friends. The loyalty
of the woman beside me struck me forcibly as a supreme trait. Where she
had given, she did not withdraw. She had conferred it instantly on Maude.
Did I feel that loyalty towards a single human being? towards Maude
herself--my wife? or even towards Nancy? I pulled myself together, and
resolved to give her credit for using the word "smart" in its
unobjectionable sense. After all; Dickens had so used it.

"A lawyer must needs know something of what he is about, Mrs. Scherer, if
he is to be employed by such a man as your husband," I replied.

Her black eyes snapped with pleasure.

"Ah, I suppose that is so," she agreed. "I knew he was a great man when I
married him, and that was before Mr. Nathaniel Durrett found it out."

"But surely you did not think, in those days, that he would be as big as
he has become? That he would not only be president of the Boyne Iron
Works, but of a Boyne Iron Works that has exceeded Mr. Durrett's wildest
dreams."

She shook her head complacently.

"Do you know what I told him when he married me? I said, 'Adolf, it is a
pity you are born in Germany.' And when he asked me why, I told him that
some day he might have been President of the United States."

"Well, that won't be a great deprivation to him," I remarked. "Mr.
Scherer can do what he wants, and the President cannot."

"Adolf always does as he wants," she declared, gazing at him as he sat
beside the brilliant wife of the grandson of the man whose red-shirted
foreman he had been. "He does what he wants, and gets what he wants. He
is getting what he wants now," she added, with such obvious meaning that
I found no words to reply. "She is pretty, that Mrs. Durrett, and
clever,--is it not so?"

I agreed. A new and indescribable note had come into Mrs. Scherer's
voice, and I realized that she, too, was aware of that flaw in the
redoubtable Mr. Scherer which none of his associates had guessed. It
would have been strange if she had not discovered it. "She is beautiful,
yes," the lady continued critically, "but she is not to compare with your
wife. She has not the heart,--it is so with all your people of society.
For them it is not what you are, but what you have done, and what you
have."

The banality of this observation was mitigated by the feeling she threw
into it.

"I think you misjudge Mrs. Durrett," I said, incautiously. "She has never
before had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Scherer of appreciating him."

"Mrs. Durrett is an old friend of yours?" she asked.

"I was brought up with her."

"Ah!" she exclaimed, and turned her penetrating glance upon me. I was
startled. Could it be that she had discerned and interpreted those
renascent feelings even then stirring within me, and of which I myself
was as yet scarcely conscious? At this moment, fortunately for me, the
women rose; the men remained to smoke; and Scherer, as they discussed
matters of finance, became himself again. I joined in the conversation,
but I was thinking of those instants when in flashes of understanding my
eyes had met Nancy's; instants in which I was lifted out of my humdrum,
deadly serious self and was able to look down objectively upon the life I
led, the life we all led--and Nancy herself; to see with her the comic
irony of it all. Nancy had the power to give me this exquisite sense of
detachment that must sustain her. And was it not just this sustenance she
could give that I needed? For want of it I was hardening, crystallizing,
growing blind to the joy and variety of existence. Nancy could have saved
me; she brought it home to me that I needed salvation.... I was struck by
another thought; in spite of our separation, in spite of her marriage and
mine, she was still nearer to me--far nearer--than any other being.

Later, I sought her out. She looked up at me amusedly from the
window-seat in our living-room, where she had been talking to the Scherer
girls.

"Well, how did you get along with Hilda?" she asked. "I thought I saw you
struggling."

"She's somewhat disconcerting," I said. "I felt as if she were turning me
inside out."

Nancy laughed.

"Hilda's a discovery--a genius. I'm going to have them to dinner myself."

"And Adolf?" I inquired. "I believe she thought you were preparing to run
away with him. You seemed to have him hypnotized."

"I'm afraid your great man won't be able to stand--elevation," she
declared. "He'll have vertigo. He's even got it now, at this little
height, and when he builds his palace on Grant Avenue, and later moves to
New York, I'm afraid he'll wobble even more."

"Is he thinking of doing all that?" I asked.

"I merely predict New York--it's inevitable," she replied. "Grant Avenue,
yes; he wants me to help him choose a lot. He gave me ten thousand
dollars for our Orphans' Home, but on the whole I think I prefer Hilda
even if she doesn't approve of me."

Nancy rose. The Scherers were going. While Mr. Scherer pressed my hand in
a manner that convinced me of his gratitude, Hilda was bidding an
affectionate good night to Maude. A few moments later she bore her
husband and daughters away, and we heard the tap-tap of her cane on the
walk outside....



XVII.

The remembrance of that dinner when with my connivance the Scherers made
their social debut is associated in my mind with the coming of the
fulness of that era, mad and brief, when gold rained down like manna from
our sooty skies. Even the church was prosperous; the Rev. Carey Heddon,
our new minister, was well abreast of the times, typical of the new and
efficient Christianity that has finally buried the hatchet with
enlightened self-interest. He looked like a young and prosperous man of
business, and indeed he was one.

The fame of our city spread even across the Atlantic, reaching obscure
hamlets in Europe, where villagers gathered up their lares and penates,
mortgaged their homes, and bought steamship tickets from
philanthropists,--philanthropists in diamonds. Our Huns began to arrive,
their Attilas unrecognized among them: to drive our honest Americans and
Irish and Germans out of the mills by "lowering the standard of living."
Still--according to the learned economists in our universities,
enlightened self-interest triumphed. Had not the honest Americans and
Germans become foremen and even presidents of corporations? What greater
vindication for their philosophy could be desired?

The very aspect of the city changed like magic. New buildings sprang high
in the air; the Reliance Trust (Mr. Grierson's), the Scherer Building,
the Hambleton Building; a stew hotel, the Ashuela, took proper care of
our visitors from the East,--a massive, grey stone, thousand-awninged
affair on Boyne Street, with a grill where it became the fashion to go
for supper after the play, and a head waiter who knew in a few weeks
everyone worth knowing.

To return for a moment to the Huns. Maude had expressed a desire to see a
mill, and we went, one afternoon, in Mr. Scherer's carriage to
Steelville, with Mr. Scherer himself,--a bewildering, educative, almost
terrifying experience amidst fumes and flames, gigantic forces and
titanic weights. It seemed a marvel that we escaped being crushed or
burned alive in those huge steel buildings reverberating with sound. They
appeared a very bedlam of chaos, instead of the triumph of order,
organization and human skill. Mr. Scherer was very proud of it all, and
ours was a sort of triumphal procession, accompanied by superintendents,
managers and other factotums. I thought of my childhood image of
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and our progress through the flames
seemed no less remarkable and miraculous.

Maude, with alarm in her eyes, kept very close to me, as I supplemented
the explanations they gave her. I had been there many times before.

"Why, Hugh," she exclaimed, "you seem to know a lot about it!"

Mr. Scherer laughed.

"He's had to talk about it once or twice in court--eh, Hugh? You didn't
realize how clever your husband was did you, Mrs. Paret?"

"But this is so--complicated," she replied. "It is overwhelming."

"When I found out how much trouble he had taken to learn about my
business," added Mr. Scherer, "there was only one thing to do. Make him
my lawyer. Hugh, you have the floor, and explain the open-hearth
process."

I had almost forgotten the Huns. I saw Maude gazing at them with a new
kind of terror. And when we sat at home that evening they still haunted
her.

"Somehow, I can't bear to think about them," she said. "I'm sure we'll
have to pay for it, some day."

"Pay for what?" I asked.

"For making them work that way. And twelve hours! It can't be right,
while we have so much, and are so comfortable."

"Don't be foolish," I exclaimed. "They're used to it. They think
themselves lucky to get the work--and they are. Besides, you give them
credit for a sensitiveness that they don't possess. They wouldn't know
what to do with such a house as this if they had it."

"I never realized before that our happiness and comfort were built on
such foundations;" she said, ignoring my remark.

"You must have seen your father's operatives, in Elkington, many times a
week."

"I suppose I was too young to think about such things," she reflected.
"Besides, I used to be sorry for them, sometimes. But these men at the
steel mills--I can't tell you what I feel about them. The sight of their
great bodies and their red, sullen faces brought home to me the cruelty
of life. Did you notice how some of them stared at us, as though they
were but half awake in the heat, with that glow on their faces? It made
me afraid--afraid that they'll wake up some day, and then they will be
terrible. I thought of the children. It seems not only wicked, but mad to
bring ignorant foreigners over here and make them slaves like that, and
so many of them are hurt and maimed. I can't forget them."

"You're talking Socialism," I said crossly, wondering whether Lucia had
taken it up as her latest fad.

"Oh, no, I'm not," said Maude, "I don't know what Socialism is. I'm
talking about something that anyone who is not dazzled by all this luxury
we are living in might be able to see, about something which, when it
comes, we shan't be able to help."

I ridiculed this. The prophecy itself did not disturb me half as much as
the fact that she had made it, as this new evidence that she was
beginning to think for herself, and along lines so different from my own
development.

While it lasted, before novelists, playwrights, professors and ministers
of the Gospel abandoned their proper sphere to destroy it, that Golden
Age was heaven; the New Jerusalem--in which we had ceased to
believe--would have been in the nature of an anticlimax to any of our
archangels of finance who might have attained it. The streets of our own
city turned out to be gold; gold likewise the acres of unused, scrubby
land on our outskirts, as the incident of the Riverside Franchise--which
I am about to relate--amply proved.

That scheme originated in the alert mind of Mr. Frederick Grierson, and
in spite of the fact that it has since become notorious in the eyes of a
virtue-stricken public, it was entered into with all innocence at the
time: most of the men who were present at the "magnate's" table at the
Boyne Club the day Mr. Grierson broached it will vouch for this. He
casually asked Mr. Dickinson if he had ever noticed a tract lying on the
river about two miles beyond the Heights, opposite what used to be in the
old days a road house.

"This city is growing so fast, Leonard," said Grierson, lighting a
special cigar the Club kept for him, "that it might pay a few of us to
get together and buy that tract, have the city put in streets and sewers
and sell it in building lots. I think I can get most of it at less than
three hundred dollars an acre."

Mr. Dickinson was interested. So were Mr. Ogilvy and Ralph Hambleton, and
Mr. Scherer, who chanced to be there. Anything Fred Grierson had to say
on the question of real estate was always interesting. He went on to
describe the tract, its size and location.

"That's all very well, Fred," Dickinson objected presently, "but how are
your prospective householders going to get out there?"

"Just what I was coming to," cried Grierson, triumphantly, "we'll get a
franchise, and build a street-railroad out Maplewood Avenue, an extension
of the Park Street line. We can get the franchise for next to nothing, if
we work it right." (Mr. Grierson's eye fell on me), "and sell it out to
the public, if you underwrite it, for two million or so."

"Well, you've got your nerve with you, Fred, as usual," said Dickinson.
But he rolled his cigar in his mouth, an indication, to those who knew
him well, that he was considering the matter. When Leonard Dickinson
didn't say "no" at once, there was hope. "What do you think the property
holders on Maplewood Avenue would say? Wasn't it understood, when that
avenue was laid out, that it was to form part of the system of
boulevards?"

"What difference does it make what they say?" Ralph interposed.

Dickinson smiled. He, too, had an exaggerated respect for Ralph. We all
thought the proposal daring, but in no way amazing; the public existed to
be sold things to, and what did it matter if the Maplewood residents, as
Ralph said; and the City Improvement League protested?

Perry Blackwood was the Secretary of the City Improvement League, the
object of which was to beautify the city by laying out a system of
parkways.

The next day some of us gathered in Dickinson's office and decided that
Grierson should go ahead and get the options. This was done; not, of
course, in Grierson's name. The next move, before the formation of the
Riverside Company, was to "see" Mr. Judd Jason. The success or failure of
the enterprise was in his hands. Mahomet must go to the mountain, and I
went to Monahan's saloon, first having made an appointment. It was not
the first time I had been there since I had made that first memorable
visit, but I never quite got over the feeling of a neophyte before
Buddha, though I did not go so far as to analyze the reason,--that in Mr.
Jason I was brought face to face with the concrete embodiment of the
philosophy I had adopted, the logical consequence of enlightened
self-interest. If he had ever heard of it, he would have made no pretence
of being anything else. Greatness, declares some modern philosopher, has
no connection with virtue; it is the continued, strong and logical
expression of some instinct; in Mr. Jason's case, the predatory instinct.
And like a true artist, he loved his career for itself--not for what its
fruits could buy. He might have built a palace on the Heights with the
tolls he took from the disreputable houses of the city; he was contented
with Monahan's saloon: nor did he seek to propitiate a possible God by
endowing churches and hospitals with a portion of his income. Try though
I might, I never could achieve the perfection of this man's contempt for
all other philosophies. The very fact of my going there in secret to that
dark place of his from out of the bright, respectable region in which I
lived was in itself an acknowledgment of this. I thought him a thief--a
necessary thief--and he knew it: he was indifferent to it; and it amused
him, I think, to see clinging to me, when I entered his presence, shreds
of that morality which those of my world who dealt with him thought so
needful for the sake of decency.

He was in bed, reading newspapers, as usual. An empty coffee-cup and a
plate were on the littered table.

"Sit down, sit down, Paret," he said. "What do you hear from the
Senator?"

I sat down, and gave him the news of Mr. Watling. He seemed, as usual,
distrait, betraying no curiosity as to the object of my call, his lean,
brown fingers playing with the newspapers on his lap. Suddenly, he
flashed out at me one of those remarks which produced the uncanny
conviction that, so far as affairs in the city were concerned, he was
omniscient.

"I hear somebody has been getting options on that tract of land beyond
the Heights, on the river."

He had "focussed."

"How did you hear that?" I asked.

He smiled.

"It's Grierson, ain't it?"

"Yes, it's Grierson," I said.

"How are you going to get your folks out there?" he demanded.

"That's what I've come to see you about. We want a franchise for
Maplewood Avenue."

"Maplewood Avenue!" He lay back with his eyes closed, as though trying to
visualize such a colossal proposal....

When I left him, two hours later, the details were all arranged, down to
Mr. Jason's consideration from Riverside Company and the "fee" which his
lawyer, Mr. Bitter, was to have for "presenting the case" before the
Board of Aldermen. I went back to lunch at the Boyne Club, and to receive
the congratulations of my friends. The next week the Riverside Company
was formed, and I made out a petition to the Board of Aldermen for a
franchise; Mr. Bitter appeared and argued: in short, the procedure so
familiar to modern students of political affairs was gone through. The
Maplewood Avenue residents rose en masse, supported by the City
Improvement League. Perry Blackwood, as soon as he heard of the petition,
turned up at my office. By this time I was occupying Mr. Watling's room.

"Look here," he began, as soon as the office-boy had closed the door
behind him, "this is going it a little too strong."

"What is?" I asked, leaning back in my chair and surveying him.

"This proposed Maplewood Avenue Franchise. Hugh," he said, "you and I
have been friends a good many years, Lucia and I are devoted to Maude."

I did not reply.

"I've seen all along that we've been growing apart," he added sadly.
"You've got certain ideas about things which I can't share. I suppose I'm
old fashioned. I can't trust myself to tell you what I think--what Tom
and I think about this deal."

"Go ahead, Perry," I said.

He got up, plainly agitated, and walked to the window. Then he turned to
me appealingly.

"Get out of it, for God's sake get out of it, before it's too late. For
your own sake, for Maude's, for the children's. You don't realize what
you are doing. You may not believe me, but the time will come when these
fellows you are in with will be repudiated by the community,--their money
won't help them. Tom and I are the best friends you have," he added, a
little irrelevantly.

"And you think I'm going to the dogs."

"Now don't take it the wrong way," he urged.

"What is it you object to about the Maplewood franchise?" I asked. "If
you'll look at a map of the city, you'll see that development is bound to
come on that side. Maplewood Avenue is the natural artery, somebody will
build a line out there, and if you'd rather have eastern capitalists--"

"Why are you going to get this franchise?" he demanded. "Because we
haven't a decent city charter, and a healthy public spirit, you fellows
are buying it from a corrupt city boss, and bribing a corrupt board of
aldermen. That's the plain language of it. And it's only fair to warn you
that I'm going to say so, openly."

"Be sensible," I answered. "We've got to have street railroads,--your
family has one. We know what the aldermen are, what political conditions
are. If you feel this way about it, the thing to do is to try to change
them. But why blame me for getting a franchise for a company in the only
manner in which, under present conditions, a franchise can be got? Do you
want the city to stand still? If not, we have to provide for the new
population."

"Every time you bribe these rascals for a franchise you entrench them,"
he cried. "You make it more difficult to oust them. But you mark my
words, we shall get rid of them some day, and when that fight comes, I
want to be in it."

He had grown very much excited; and it was as though this excitement
suddenly revealed to me the full extent of the change that had taken
place in him since he had left college. As he stood facing me, almost
glaring at me through his eye-glasses, I beheld a slim, nervous,
fault-finding doctrinaire, incapable of understanding the world as it
was, lacking the force of his pioneer forefathers. I rather pitied him.

"I'm sorry we can't look at this thing alike, Perry," I told him. "You've
said solve pretty hard things, but I realize that you hold your point of
view in good faith, and that you have come to me as an old friend. I hope
it won't make any difference in our personal relations."

"I don't see how it can help making a difference," he answered slowly.
His excitement had cooled abruptly: he seemed dazed. At this moment my
private stenographer entered to inform me that I was being called up on
the telephone from New York. "Well, you have more important affairs to
attend to, I won't bother you any more," he added.

"Hold on," I exclaimed, "this call can wait. I'd like to talk it over
with you."

"I'm afraid it wouldn't be any use, Hugh," he said, and went out.

After talking with the New York client whose local interests I
represented I sat thinking over the conversation with Perry. Considering
Maude's intimacy with and affection for the Blackwoods, the affair was
awkward, opening up many uncomfortable possibilities; and it was the
prospect of discomfort that bothered me rather than regret for the
probable loss of Perry's friendship. I still believed myself to have an
affection for him: undoubtedly this was a sentimental remnant....

That evening after dinner Tom came in alone, and I suspected that Perry
had sent him. He was fidgety, ill at ease, and presently asked if I could
see him a moment in my study. Maude's glance followed us.

"Say, Hugh, this is pretty stiff," he blurted out characteristically,
when the door was closed.

"I suppose you mean the Riverside Franchise," I said. He looked up at me,
miserably, from the chair into which he had sunk, his hands in his
pockets.

"You'll forgive me for talking about it, won't you? You used to lecture
me once in a while at Cambridge, you know."

"That's all right--go ahead," I replied, trying to speak amiably.

"You know I've always admired you, Hugh,--I never had your ability," he
began painfully, "you've gone ahead pretty fast,--the truth is that Perry
and I have been worried about you for some time. We've tried not to be
too serious in showing it, but we've felt that these modern business
methods were getting into your system without your realizing it. There
are some things a man's friends can tell him, and it's their duty to tell
him. Good God, haven't you got enough, Hugh,--enough success and enough
money, without going into a thing like this Riverside scheme?"

I was intensely annoyed, if not angry; and I hesitated a moment to calm
myself.

"Tom, you don't understand my position," I said. "I'm willing to discuss
it with you, now that you've opened up the subject. Perry's been talking
to you, I can see that. I think Perry's got queer ideas,--to be plain
with you, and they're getting queerer."

He sat down again while, with what I deemed a rather exemplary patience,
I went over the arguments in favour of my position; and as I talked, it
clarified in my own mind. It was impossible to apply to business an
individual code of ethics,--even to Perry's business, to Tom's business:
the two were incompatible, and the sooner one recognized that the better:
the whole structure of business was built up on natural, as opposed to
ethical law. We had arrived at an era of frankness--that was the
truth--and the sooner we faced this truth the better for our peace of
mind. Much as we might deplore the political system that had grown up, we
had to acknowledge, if we were consistent, that it was the base on which
our prosperity was built. I was rather proud of having evolved this
argument; it fortified my own peace of mind, which had been disturbed by
Tom's attitude. I began to pity him. He had not been very successful in
life, and with the little he earned, added to Susan's income, I knew that
a certain ingenuity was required to make both ends meet. He sat listening
with a troubled look. A passing phase of feeling clouded for a brief
moment my confidence when there arose in my mind an unbidden memory of my
youth, of my father. He, too, had mistrusted my ingenuity. I recalled how
I had out-manoeuvred him and gone to college; I remembered the March day
so long ago, when Tom and I had stood on the corner debating how to
deceive him, and it was I who had suggested the nice distinction between
a boat and a raft. Well, my father's illogical attitude towards boyhood
nature, towards human nature, had forced me into that lie, just as the
senseless attitude of the public to-day forced business into a position
of hypocrisy.

"Well, that's clever," he said, slowly and perplexedly, when I had
finished. "It's damned clever, but somehow it looks to me all wrong. I
can't pick it to pieces." He got up rather heavily. "I--I guess I ought
to be going. Susan doesn't know where I am."

I was exasperated. It was clear, though he did not say so, that he
thought me dishonest. The pain in his eyes had deepened.

"If you feel that way--" I said.

"Oh, God, I don't know how I feel!" he cried. "You're the oldest friend I
have, Hugh,--I can't forget that. We'll say nothing more about it." He
picked up his hat and a moment later I heard the front door close behind
him. I stood for a while stock-still, and then went into the living-room,
where Maude was sewing.

"Why, where's Tom?" she inquired, looking up.

"Oh, he went home. He said Susan didn't know where he was."

"How queer! Hugh, was there anything the matter? Is he in trouble?" she
asked anxiously.

I stood toying with a book-mark, reflecting. She must inevitably come to
suspect that something had happened, and it would be as well to fortify
her.

"The trouble is," I said after a moment, "that Perry and Tom would like
to run modern business on the principle of a charitable institution.
Unfortunately, it is not practical. They're upset because I have been
retained by a syndicate whose object is to develop some land out beyond
Maplewood Avenue. They've bought the land, and we are asking the city to
give us a right to build a line out Maplewood Avenue, which is the
obvious way to go. Perry says it will spoil the avenue. That's nonsense,
in the first place. The avenue is wide, and the tracks will be in a grass
plot in the centre. For the sake of keeping tracks off that avenue he
would deprive people of attractive homes at a small cost, of the good air
they can get beyond the heights; he would stunt the city's development."

"That does seem a little unreasonable," Maude admitted. "Is that all he
objects to?"

"No, he thinks it an outrage because, in order to get the franchise, we
have to deal with the city politicians. Well, it so happens, and always
has happened, that politics have been controlled by leaders, whom Perry
calls 'bosses,' and they are not particularly attractive men. You
wouldn't care to associate with them. My father once refused to be mayor
of the city for this reason. But they are necessities. If the people
didn't want them, they'd take enough interest in elections to throw them
out. But since the people do want them, and they are there, every time a
new street-car line or something of that sort needs to be built they have
to be consulted, because, without their influence nothing could be done.
On the other hand, these politicians cannot afford to ignore men of local
importance like Leonard Dickinson and Adolf Scherer and Miller Gorse who
represent financial substance and' responsibility. If a new
street-railroad is to be built, these are the logical ones to build it.
You have just the same situation in Elkington, on a smaller scale.

"Your family, the Hutchinses, own the mills and the street-railroads, and
any new enterprise that presents itself is done with their money, because
they are reliable and sound."

"It isn't pleasant to think that there are such people as the
politicians, is it?" said Maude, slowly.

"Unquestionably not," I agreed. "It isn't pleasant to think of some other
crude forces in the world. But they exist, and they have to be dealt
with. Suppose the United States should refuse to trade with Russia
because, from our republican point of view, we regarded her government as
tyrannical and oppressive? or to cooperate with England in some
undertaking for the world's benefit because we contended that she ruled
India with an iron hand? In such a case, our President and Senate would
be scoundrels for making and ratifying a treaty. Yet here are Perry and
Tom, and no doubt Susan and Lucia, accusing me, a lifetime friend, of
dishonesty because I happen to be counsel for a syndicate that wishes to
build a street-railroad for the convenience of the people of the city."

"Oh, no, not of dishonesty!" she exclaimed. "I can't--I won't believe
they would do that."

"Pretty near it," I said. "If I listened to them, I should have to give
up the law altogether."

"Sometimes," she answered in a low voice, "sometimes I wish you would."

"I might have expected that you would take their point of view."

As I was turning away she got up quickly and put her hand on my shoulder.

"Hugh, please don't say such things--you've no right to say them."

"And you?" I asked.

"Don't you see," she continued pleadingly, "don't you see that we are
growing apart? That's the only reason I said what I did. It isn't that I
don't trust you, that I don't want you to have your work, that I demand
all of you. I know a woman can't ask that,--can't have it. But if you
would only give me--give the children just a little, if I could feel that
we meant something to you and that this other wasn't gradually becoming
everything, wasn't absorbing you more and more, killing the best part of
you. It's poisoning our marriage, it's poisoning all your relationships."

In that appeal the real Maude, the Maude of the early days of our
marriage flashed forth again so vividly that I was taken aback. I
understood that she had had herself under control, had worn a mask--a
mask I had forced on her; and the revelation of the continued existence
of that other Maude was profoundly disturbing. Was it true, as she said,
that my absorption in the great game of modern business, in the modern
American philosophy it implied was poisoning my marriage? or was it that
my marriage had failed to satisfy and absorb me? I was touched--but
sentimentally touched: I felt that this was a situation that ought to
touch me; I didn't wish to face it, as usual: I couldn't acknowledge to
myself that anything was really wrong... I patted her on the shoulder, I
bent over and kissed her.

"A man in my position can't altogether choose just how busy he will be,"
I said smiling. "Matters are thrust upon me which I have to accept, and I
can't help thinking about some of them when I come home. But we'll go off
for a real vacation soon, Maude, to Europe--and take the children."

"Oh, I hope so," she said.

From this time on, as may be supposed, our intercourse with both the
Blackwoods began to grow less frequent, although Maude continued to see a
great deal of Lucia; and when we did dine in their company, or they with
us, it was quite noticeable that their former raillery was suppressed.
Even Tom had ceased to refer to me as the young Napoleon of the Law: he
clung to me, but he too kept silent on the subject of business. Maude of
course must have noticed this, must have sensed the change of atmosphere,
have known that the Blackwoods, at least, were maintaining appearances
for her sake. She did not speak to me of the change, nor I to her; but
when I thought of her silence, it was to suspect that she was weighing
the question which had led up to the difference between Perry and me, and
I had a suspicion that the fact that I was her husband would not affect
her ultimate decision. This faculty of hers of thinking things out
instead of accepting my views and decisions was, as the saying goes,
getting a little "on my nerves": that she of all women should have
developed it was a recurring and unpleasant surprise. I began at times to
pity myself a little, to feel the need of sympathetic companionship
--feminine companionship....

I shall not go into the details of the procurement of what became known
as the Riverside Franchise. In spite of the Maplewood residents, of the
City Improvement League and individual protests, we obtained it with
absurd ease. Indeed Perry Blackwood himself appeared before the Public
Utilities Committee of the Board of Aldermen, and was listened to with
deference and gravity while he discoursed on the defacement of a
beautiful boulevard to satisfy the greed of certain private individuals.
Mr. Otto Bitter and myself, who appeared for the petitioners, had a
similar reception. That struggle was a tempest in a tea-pot. The reformer
raged, but he was feeble in those days, and the great public believed
what it read in the respectable newspapers. In Mr. Judah B. Tallant's
newspaper, for instance, the Morning Era, there were semi-playful
editorials about "obstructionists." Mr. Perry Blackwood was a
well-meaning, able gentleman of an old family, etc., but with a sentiment
for horse-cars. The Era published also the resolutions which (with
interesting spontaneity!) had been passed by our Board of Trade and
Chamber of Commerce and other influential bodies in favour of the
franchise; the idea--unknown to the public--of Mr. Hugh Paret, who wrote
drafts of the resolutions and suggested privately to Mr. Leonard
Dickinson that a little enthusiasm from these organizations might be
helpful. Mr. Dickinson accepted the suggestion eagerly, wondering why he
hadn't thought of it himself. The resolutions carried some weight with a
public that did not know its right hand from its left.

After fitting deliberation, one evening in February the Board of Aldermen
met and granted the franchise. Not unanimously, oh, no! Mr. Jason was not
so simple as that! No further visits to Monahan's saloon on my part, in
this connection were necessary; but Mr. Otto Bitter met me one day in the
hotel with a significant message from the boss.

"It's all fixed," he informed me. "Murphy and Scott and Ottheimer and
Grady and Loth are the decoys. You understand?"

"I think I gather your meaning," I said.

Mr. Bitter smiled by pulling down one corner of a crooked mouth.

"They'll vote against it on principle, you know," he added. "We get a
little something from the Maple Avenue residents."

I've forgotten what the Riverside Franchise cost. The sum was paid in a
lump sum to Mr. Bitter as his "fee,"--so, to their chagrin, a grand jury
discovered in later years, when they were barking around Mr. Jason's hole
with an eager district attorney snapping his whip over them. I remember
the cartoon. The municipal geese were gone, but it was impossible to
prove that this particular fox had used his enlightened reason in their
procurement. Mr. Bitter was a legally authorized fox, and could take
fees. How Mr. Jason was to be rewarded by the land company's left-hand,
unknown, to the land company's right hand, became a problem worthy of a
genius. The genius was found, but modesty forbids me to mention his name,
and the problem was solved, to wit: the land company bought a piece of
downtown property from--Mr. Ryerson, who was Mr. Grierson's real estate
man and the agent for the land company, for a consideration of thirty
thousand dollars. An unconfirmed rumour had it that Mr. Ryerson turned
over the thirty thousand to Mr. Jason. Then the Riverside Company issued
a secret deed of the same property back to Mr. Ryerson, and this deed was
not recorded until some years later.

Such are the elaborate transactions progress and prosperity demand.
Nature is the great teacher, and we know that her ways are at times
complicated and clumsy. Likewise, under the "natural" laws of economics,
new enterprises are not born without travail, without the aid of legal
physicians well versed in financial obstetrics. One hundred and fifty to
two hundred thousand, let us say, for the right to build tracks on
Maplewood Avenue, and we sold nearly two million dollars worth of the
securities back to the public whose aldermen had sold us the franchise.
Is there a man so dead as not to feel a thrill at this achievement? And
let no one who declares that literary talent and imagination are
nonexistent in America pronounce final judgment until he reads that
prospectus, in which was combined the best of realism and symbolism, for
the labours of Alonzo Cheyne were not to be wasted, after all. Mr.
Dickinson, who was a director in the Maplewood line, got a handsome
underwriting percentage, and Mr. Berringer, also a director, on the bonds
and preferred stock he sold. Mr. Paret, who entered both companies on the
ground floor, likewise got fees. Everybody was satisfied except the
trouble makers, who were ignored. In short, the episode of the Riverside
Franchise is a triumphant proof of the contention that business men are
the best fitted to conduct the politics of their country.

We had learned to pursue our happiness in packs, we knew that the Happy
Hunting-Grounds are here and now, while the Reverend Carey Heddon
continued to assure the maimed, the halt and the blind that their kingdom
was not of this world, that their time was coming later. Could there have
been a more idyl arrangement! Everybody should have been satisfied, but
everybody was not. Otherwise these pages would never have been written.





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