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Title: The Air Trust
Author: England, George Allan, 1877-1936
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 "The Air Trust" ***

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[Illustration: "Visions!" She said softly, "Do you behold them too?"]



THE AIR TRUST

By George Allan England

Author of
"Darkness and Dawn," "Beyond the Great Oblivion,"
"The Afterglow," etc., etc.

Illustrations by
John Sloan

1915



TO EUGENE V. DEBS

"Comrade 'Gene,"

Lover of All Mankind and
Apostle of the World's Emancipation,

I dedicate
THIS BOOK



FOREWORD


This book is the result of an attempt to carry the monopolistic
principle to its logical conclusion. For many years I have entertained
the idea that if a monopoly be right in oil, coal, beef, steel or what
not, it would also be right in larger ways involving, for example, the
use of the ocean and the air itself. I believe that, had capitalists
been able to bring the seas and the atmosphere under physical control,
they would long ago have monopolized them. Capitalism has not refrained
from laying its hand on these things through any sense of decency, but
merely because the task has hitherto proved impossible.

Granting, then, the premise that some process might be discovered
whereby the air-supply of the world could be controlled, the Air Trust
logically follows. I have endeavored to show how such a Trust would
inevitably lead to the utter enslavement of the human race, unless
overthrown by the only means then possible, i.e., violence. This book is
not a brief for "direct action." Doubtless the capitalist press (if it
indeed notice the work at all) will denounce it as a plea for
"bomb-throwing" and apply the epithet of "Anarchist" to me; but at this
the judicious and the intelligent will only smile; and as for our
friends the enemy, we esteem their opinion at its precise real value,
zero.

Given the conditions supposed in this book, I repeat--a complete
monopoly of the air, with an absolute suppression of all political
rights--no other outcomes are possible than slavery or violent, physical
revolution. As I have made Gabriel Armstrong say: "The masters would
have it so. Academic discussion becomes absurd, in the face of
plutocratic savagery. And in a case of self-defense, no measures are
unjustifiable."

I believe in political action. I hope for a peaceful and bloodless
revolution. But if that be impossible, then by all means let us have
revolution in its other sense. And with the hope that this book may
perhaps revive some fainting spirit or renew the vision of emancipation
in some soul where it has dimmed, I give "The Air Trust" to the workers
of America and of the world.

GEORGE ALLAN ENGLAND.

Boston, Mass., November 1, 1915.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


I. THE BIRTH OF AN IDEA
II. THE PARTNERS
III. THE BAITING OF HERZOG
IV. AN INTERLOPER
V. IN THE LABORATORY
VI. OXYGEN, KING OF INTOXICATORS
VII. A FREAK OF FATE
VIII. ONE UNBIDDEN, SHARES GREAT SECRETS
IX. DISCHARGED
X. A GLIMPSE OF THE PARASITES
XI. THE END OF TWO GAMES
XII. ON THE GREAT HIGHWAY
XIII. CATASTROPHE
XIV. THE RESCUE
XV. AN HOUR AND A PARTING
XVI. TIGER WALDRON "COMES BACK"
XVII. THOUGHTS
XVIII. FLINT AND WALDRON PLAN
XIX. CATHERINE'S DEFIANCE
XX. THE BILLIONAIRE'S PLOT
XXI. GABRIEL, GOOD SAMARITAN
XXII. THE TRAP IS SPRUNG
XXIII. THE BEAST GLOATS
XXIV. CATHERINE'S SUPREME DECISION
XXV. THROUGH STEEL BARS
XXVI. "GUILTY"
XXVII. BACK IN THE SUNLIGHT
XXVIII. IN THE REFUGE
XXIX. "APRÈS NOUS LE DÉLUGE!"
XXX. TRAPPED!
XXXI. ESCAPE!
XXXII. OMINOUS DEVELOPMENTS
XXXIII. "NOW COMES THE HOUR SUPREME"
XXXIV. THE ATTACK
XXXV. TERROR AND RETREAT
XXXVI. THE STORMING OF THE WORKS
XXXVII. DEATH IN THE PIT OF STEEL
XXXVIII. VISIONS



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"VISIONS!" SHE SAID SOFTLY, "DO YOU BEHOLD THEM TOO?"

"CAN'T BE DONE, EH?" SAID FLINT

HE GATHERED HER UP AS THOUGH SHE HAD BEEN A CHILD

AIMING AT THE BASE OF THE SKULL SHE STRUCK

THE SPY'S BODY BURST INTO A SHEAF OF FIRE

HIS FINGERS LOST THEIR HOLD--HE DROPPED LIKE A PLUMMET



THE AIR TRUST



CHAPTER I.

THE BIRTH OF AN IDEA.


Sunk far back in the huge leather cushions of his morris chair, old
Isaac Flint was thinking, thinking hard. Between narrowed lids, his
hard, gray eyes were blinking at the morning sunlight that poured into
his private office, high up in the great building he had reared on Wall
Street. From his thin lips now and then issued a coil of smoke from the
costly cigar he was consuming. His bony legs were crossed, and one foot
twitched impatiently. Now and again he tugged at his white mustache. A
frown creased his hard brow; and, as he pondered, something of the
glitter of a snake seemed reflected in his pupils.

"Not enough," he muttered, harshly. "It's not enough--there must be
more, more, more! Some way must be found. Must be, and shall be!"

The sunlight of early spring, glad and warm over Manhattan, brought no
message of cheer to the Billionaire. It bore no news of peace and joy to
him. Its very brightness, as it flooded the metropolis and mellowed his
luxurious inner office, seemed to offend the master of the world. And
presently he arose, walked to the window and made as though to lower
the shade. But for a moment he delayed this action. Standing there at
the window, he peered out. Far below him, the restless, swarming life of
the huge city crept and grovelled. Insects that were men and women
crowded the clefts that were streets. Long lines of cars, toy-like,
crept along the "L" structures. As far as the eye could reach, tufted
plumes of smoke and steam wafted away on the April breeze. The East
River glistened in the sunlight, its bosom vexed by myriad craft, by
ocean liners, by tugs and barges, by grim warships, by sailing-vessels,
whose canvas gleamed, by snow-white fruitboats from the tropics, by
hulls from every port. Over the bridges, long slow lines of traffic
crawled. And, far beyond to the dim horizon, stretched out the hives of
men, till the blue depths of distance swallowed all in haze.

And as Flint gazed on this marvel, all created and maintained by human
toil, by sweat and skill and tireless patience of the workers, a hard
smile curved his lips.

"All mine, more or less," said he to himself, puffing deep on his cigar.
"All yielding tribute to me, even as the mines and mills and factories I
cannot see yield tribute! Even as the oil-wells, the pipe-lines, the
railroads and the subways yield--even as the whole world yields it. All
this labor, all this busy strife, I have a hand in. The millions eat and
drink and buy and sell; and I take toll of it--yet it is not enough. I
hold them in my hand, yet the hand cannot close, completely. And until
it does, it is not enough! No, not enough for me!"

He pondered a moment, standing there musing at the window, surveying
"all the wonders of the earth" that in its fulness, in that year of
grace, 1921, bore tribute to him who toiled not, neither spun; and
though he smiled, the smile was bitter.

"Not enough, yet," he reflected. "And how--how shall I close my grip?
How shall I master all this, absolutely and completely, till it be mine
in truth? Through light? The mob can do with less, if I squeeze too
hard! Through food? They can economize! Transportation? No, the traffic
will bear only a certain load! How, then? What is it they all must have,
or die, that I can control? What universal need, vital to rich and poor
alike? To great and small? What absolute necessity which shall make my
rivals in the Game as much my vassals as the meanest slave in my steel
mills? What can it be? For power I must have! Like Caesar, who preferred
to be first in the smallest village, rather than be second at Rome, I
can and will have no competitor. I must rule _all_, or the game is
worthless! But how?"

Almost as in answer to his mental question, a sudden gust of air swayed
the curtain and brushed it against his face. And, on the moment,
inspiration struck him.

"What?" he exclaimed suddenly, his brows wrinkling, a strange and eager
light burning in his hard eyes. "Eh, what? Can it--could it be possible?
My God! If so--if it might be--the world would be my toy, to play with
as I like!

"If _that_ could happen, kings and emperors would have to cringe and
crawl to me, like my hordes of serfs all over this broad land. Statesmen
and diplomats, president and judges, lawmakers and captains of industry,
all would fall into bondage; and for the first time in history one man
would rule the earth, completely and absolutely--_and that man would be
Isaac Flint_!"

Staggered by the very immensity of the bold thought, so vast that for a
moment he could not realize it in its entirety, the Billionaire fell to
pacing the floor of his office.

His cigar now hung dead and unnoticed between his thinly cruel lips. His
hands were gripped behind his bent back, as he paced the priceless
Shiraz rug, itself having cost the wage of a hundred workmen for a
year's hard, grinding toil. And as he trod, up and down, up and down the
rich apartments, a slow, grim smile curved his mouth.

"What editor could withstand me, then?" he was thinking. "What clergyman
could raise his voice against my rule? Ah! Their 'high principles' they
prate of so eloquently, their crack-brained economics, their rebellions
and their strikes--the dogs!--would soon bow down before _that_ power!
Men have starved for stiff-necked opposition's sake, and still may do
so--but with my hand at the throat of the world, with the world's very
life-breath in my grip, what then? Submission, or--ha! well, we shall
see, we shall see!"

A subtle change came over his face, which had been growing paler for
some minutes. Impatiently he flung away his cigar, and, turning to his
desk, opened a drawer, took out a little vial and uncorked it. He shook
out two small white tablets, on the big sheet of plate-glass that
covered the desk, swallowed them eagerly, and replaced the vial in the
desk again. For be it known that, master of the world though Flint was,
he too had a master--morphine. Long years he had bowed beneath its whip,
the veriest slave of the insidious drug. No three hours could pass,
without that dosage. His immense native will power still managed to
control the dose and not increase it; but years ago he had abandoned
hope of ever diminishing or ceasing it. And now he thought no more of it
than of--well, of breathing.

Breathing! As he stood up again and drew a deep breath, under the
reviving influence of the drug, his inspiration once more recurred to
him.

"Breath!" said he. "Breath is life. Without food and drink and shelter,
men can live a while. Even without water, for some days. But without
_air_--they die inevitably and at once. And if I make the air my own,
then I am master of all life!"

And suddenly he burst into a harsh, jangling laugh.

"Air!" he cried exultantly, "An Air Trust! By God in Heaven, it can be!
It shall be!--it must!"

His mind, somewhat sluggish before he had taken the morphine, now was
working clearly and accurately again, with that fateful and undeviating
precision which had made him master of billions of dollars and uncounted
millions of human lives; which had woven his network of possession all
over the United States, Europe and Asia and even Africa; which had
drawn, as into a spider's web, the world's railroads and steamship
lines, its coal and copper and steel, its oil and grain and beef, its
every need--save air!

And now, keen on the track of this last great inspiration, the
Billionaire strode to his revolving book-case, whirled it round and from
its shelves jerked a thick volume, a smaller book and some pamphlets.

"Let's have some facts!" said he, flinging them upon his desk, and
seating himself before it in a costly chair of teak. "Once I get an
outline of the facts and what I want to do, then my subordinates can
carry out my plans. Before all, I must have facts!"

For half an hour he thumbed his references, noting all the salient
points mentally, without taking a single note; for, so long as the drug
still acted, his brain was an instrument of unsurpassed keenness and
accuracy.

A sinister figure he made, as he sat there poring intently over the
technical books before him, contrasting strangely with the beauty and
the luxury of the office. On the mantel, over the fireplace of Carrara
marble, ticked a Louis XIV clock, the price of which might have saved
the lives of a thousand workingmen's children during the last summer's
torment. Gold-woven tapestries from Rouen covered the walls, whereon
hung etchings and rare prints. Old Flint's office, indeed, had more the
air of an art gallery than a place where grim plots and deals
innumerable had been put through, lawmakers corrupted past counting, and
the destinies of nations bent beneath his corded, lean and nervous hand.
And now, as the Billionaire sat there thinking, smiling a smile that
boded no good to the world, the soft spring air that had inspired his
great plan still swayed the silken curtains.

Of a sudden, he slammed the big book shut, that he was studying, and
rose to his feet with a hard laugh--the laugh that had presaged more
than one calamity to mankind. Beneath the sweep of his mustache one
caught the glint of a gold tooth, sharp and unpleasant.

A moment he stood there, keen, eager, dominant, his hands gripping the
edge of the desk till the big knuckles whitened. He seemed the
embodiment of harsh and unrelenting Power--power over men and things,
over their laws and institutions; power which, like Alexander's, sought
only new worlds to conquer; power which found all metes and bounds too
narrow.

"Power!" he whispered, as though to voice the inner inclining of the
picture. "Life, air, breath--the very breath of the world in my
hands--power absolutely, at last!"



CHAPTER II.

THE PARTNERS.


Then, as was his habit, translating ideas into immediate action, he
strode to a door at the far end of the office, flung it open and said:

"See here a minute, Wally!"

"Busy!" came an answering voice, from behind a huge roll-top desk.

"Of course! But drop it, drop it. I've got news for you."

"Urgent?" asked the voice, coldly.

"Very. Come in here, a minute. I've got to unload!"

From behind the big desk rose the figure of a man about five and forty,
sandy-haired, long-faced and sallow, with a pair of the coldest,
fishiest eyes--eyes set too close together--that ever looked out of a
flat and ugly face. A man precisely dressed, something of a fop, with
just a note of the "sport" in his get-up; a man to fear, a man cool,
wary and dangerous--Maxim Waldron, in fact, the Billionaire's right-hand
man and confidant. Waldron, for some time affianced to his eldest
daughter. Waldron the arch-corruptionist; Waldron, who never yet had
been "caught with the goods," but who had financed scores of industrial
and political campaigns, with Flint's money and his own; Waldron, the
smooth, the suave, the perilous.

"What now?" asked he, fixing his pale blue eyes on the Billionaire's
face.

"Come in here, and I'll tell you."

"Right!" And Waldron, brushing an invisible speck of dust from the
sleeve of his checked coat, strolled rather casually into the
Billionaire's office.

Flint closed the door.

"Well?" asked Waldron, with something of a drawl. "What's the
excitement?"

"See here," began the great financier, stimulated by the drug. "We've
been wasting our time, all these years, with our petty monopolies of
beef and coal and transportation and all such trifles!"

"So?" And Waldron drew from his pocket a gold cigar-case, monogrammed
with diamonds. "Trifles, eh?" He carefully chose a perfecto. "Perhaps;
but we've managed to rub along, eh? Well, if these are trifles, what's
on?"

"Air!"

"Air?" Waldron's match poised a moment, as with a slight widening of the
pale blue eyes he surveyed his partner. "Why--er--what do you mean,
Flint?"

"The Air Trust!"

"Eh?" And Waldron lighted his cigar.

"A monopoly of breathing privileges!"

"Ha! Ha!" Waldron's laugh was as mirthful as a grave-yard raven's croak.
"Nothing to it, old man. Forget it, and stick to--"

"Of course! I might have expected as much from you!" retorted the
Billionaire tartly. "You've got neither imagination nor--"

"Nor any fancy for wild-goose chases," said Waldron, easily, as he sat
down in the big leather chair. "Air? Hot air, Flint! No, no, it won't
do! Nothing to it nothing at all."

For a moment the Billionaire regarded him with a look of intense
irritation. His thin lips moved, as though to emit some caustic answer;
but he managed to keep silence. The two men looked at each other, a long
minute; then Flint began again:

"Listen, now, and keep still! The idea came to me not an hour ago, this
morning, looking over the city, here. We've got a finger on everything
but the atmosphere, the most important thing of all. If we could control
_that_--"

"Of course, I understand," interrupted the other, blowing a ring of
smoke. "Unlimited power and so on. Looks very nice, and all. Only, it
can't be done. Air's too big, too fluid, too universal. Human powers
can't control it, any more than the ocean. Talk about monopolizing the
Atlantic, if you will, Flint. But for heaven's sake, drop--"

"Can't be done, eh?" exclaimed Flint, warmly, sitting down on the
desk-top and levelling a big-jointed forefinger at his partner. "That's
what every new idea has had to meet. It's no argument! People scoffed at
the idea of gas lighting when it was new. Called it 'burning smoke,' and
made merry over it. That was as recently as 1832. But ten years later,
gas-illumination was in full sway.

"Electric lighting met the same objection. And remember the objection to
the telephone? When Congress, in 1843, granted Morse an appropriation of
$30,000 to run the first telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington,
one would-be humorist in that supremely intelligent body tried to
introduce an amendment that part of the sum should be spent in surveying
a railroad to the moon! And--"

[Illustration: "Can't be done, Eh?" said Flint.]

"Granted," put in Waldron, "that my objection is futile, just what's
your idea?"

"This!" And Flint stabbed at him with his forefinger, while the other
financier regarded him with a fishily amused eye. "Every human being in
this world--and there are 1,900,000,000 of them now!--is breathing, on
the average, 16 cubic feet of air every hour, or about 400 a day. The
total amount of oxygen actually absorbed in the 24 hours by each person,
is about 17 cubic feet, or _over 30 billions of cubic feet of oxygen_,
each day, in the entire world. Get that?"

"Well?" drawled the other.

"Don't you see?" snapped Flint, irritably. "Imagine that we extract
oxygen from the air. Then--"

"You might as well try to dip up the ocean with a spoon," said Waldron,
"as try to vitiate the atmosphere of the whole world, by any means
whatsoever! But even if you could, what then?"

"Look here!" exclaimed the Billionaire. "It only needs a reduction of 10
per cent. in the atmospheric oxygen to make the air so bad that nobody
can breathe it without discomfort and pain. Take out any more and people
will die! We don't have to monopolize _all_ the oxygen, but only a very
small fraction, and the world will come gasping to us, like so many fish
out of water, falling over each other to buy!"

"Possibly. But the details?"

"I haven't worked them out yet, naturally. I needn't. Herzog will take
care of those. He and his staff. That's what they're for. Shall we put
it up to him? What? My God, man! Think of the millions in it--the
billions! The power! The--"

"Of course, of course!" interposed Waldron, calmly, eyeing his smoke.
"Don't get excited, Flint. Rome wasn't built in a day. There may be
something in this; possibly there may be the germ of an idea. I don't
say it's impossible. It looks visionary to me; but then, as you well
say, so has every new idea always looked. Let me think, now; let me
think."

"Go ahead and think!" growled the Billionaire. "Think and be hanged to
you! _I'm_ going to act!"

Waldron vouchsafed no reply, but merely eyed his partner with cold
interest, as though he were some biological specimen under a lens, and
smoked the while.

Flint, however, turned to his telephone and pulled it toward him, over
the big sheet of plate glass. Impatiently he took off the receiver and
held it up to his ear.

"Hello, hello! 2438 John!" he exclaimed, in answer to the query of
"Number, please?"

Silence, a moment, while Waldron slowly drew at his cigar and while the
Billionaire tugged with impatience at his gray mustache.

"Hello! That you, Herzog?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"All right. I want to see you at once. Immediately, understand?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Very well. And say, Herzog!"

"Bring whatever literature you have on liquid air, nitrogen extraction
from the atmosphere, and so on. Understand? And come at once!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"That's all! Good-bye!"

Smiling dourly, with satisfaction, he hung up and shoved the telephone
away again, then turned to his still reflecting partner, who had now
hoisted his patent leather boots to the window sill and seemed absorbed
in regarding their gloss through a blue veil of nicotine.

"Herzog," announced the Billionaire, "will be here in ten minutes, and
we'll get down to business."

"So?" languidly commented the immaculate Waldron. "Well, much as I'd
like to flatter your astuteness, Flint, I'm bound to say you're barking
up a false trail, this time! Beef, yes. Steel, yes. Railroads,
steamships, coal, iron, wheat, yes. All tangible, all concrete, all
susceptible of being weighed, measured, put in figures, fenced and
bounded, legislated about and so on and so forth. But _air_--!"

He snapped his manicured fingers, to show his well-considered contempt
for the Billionaire's scheme, and, throwing away his smoked-out cigar,
chose a fresh one.

Flint made no reply, but with an angry grunt flung a look of scorn at
the calm and placid one. Then, furtively opening his desk drawer, he
once more sought the little vial and took two more pellets--an action
which Waldron, without moving his head, complacently observed in a
heavily-bevelled mirror that hung between the windows.

"Air," murmured Waldron, suavely. "Hot air, Flint?"

No answer, save another grunt and the slamming of the desk-drawer.

And thus, in silence, the two men, masters of the world, awaited the
coming of the practical scientist, the proletarian, on whom they both,
at last analysis, had to rely for most of their results.



CHAPTER III.

THE BAITING OF HERZOG.


Herzog was not long in arriving. To be summoned in haste by Isaac Flint,
and to delay, was unthinkable. For eighteen years the chemist had
lickspittled to the Billionaire. Keen though his mind was, his character
and stamina were those of a jellyfish; and when the Master took snuff,
as the saying is, Herzog never failed to sneeze.

He therefore appeared, now, in some ten minutes--a fat, rubicund,
spectacled man, with a cast in his left eye and two fingers missing, to
remind him of early days in experimental work on explosives. Under his
arm he carried several tomes and pamphlets; and so, bowing first to one
financier, then to the other, he stood there on the threshold, awaiting
his masters' pleasure.

"Come in, Herzog," directed Flint. "Got some material there on liquid
air, and nitrogen, and so on?"

"Yes, sir. Just what is it you want, sir?"

"Sit down, and I'll tell you,"--for the chemist, hat in hand, ventured
not to seat himself unbidden in presence of these plutocrats.

Herzog, murmuring thanks for Flint's gracious permission, deposited his
derby on top of the revolving book-case, sat down tentatively on the edge
of a chair and clutched his books as though they had been so many
shields against the redoubted power of his masters.

"See here, Herzog," Flint fired at him, without any preliminaries or
beating around the bush, "what do you know about the practical side of
extracting nitrogen from atmospheric air? Or extracting oxygen, in
liquid form? Can it be done--that is, on a commercial basis?"

"Why, no, sir--yes, that is--perhaps. I mean--"

"What the devil _do_ you mean?" snapped Flint, while Waldron smiled
maliciously as he smoked. "Yes, or no? I don't pay you to muddle things.
I pay you to _know_, and to tell me! Get that? Now, how about it?"

"Well, sir--hm!--the fact is," and the unfortunate chemist blinked
through his glasses with extreme uneasiness, "the fact of the matter is
that the processes involved haven't been really perfected, as yet.
Beginnings have been made, but no large-scale work has been done, so
far. Still, the principle--"

"Is sound?"

"Yes, sir. I imagine--"

"Cut that! You aren't paid for imagining!" interrupted the Billionaire,
stabbing at him with that characteristic gesture. "Just what do you know
about it? No technicalities, mind! Essentials, that's all, and in a few
words!"

"Well, sir," answered Herzog, plucking up a little courage under this
pointed goading, "so far as the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen goes,
more progress has been made in England and Scandinavia, than here.
They're working on it, over there, to obtain cheap and plentiful
fertilizer from the air. Nitrogen _can_ be obtained from the air, even
now, and made into fertilizers even cheaper than the Chili saltpeter.
Oxygen is liberated as a by-product, and--"

"Oh, it is, eh? And could it be saved? In liquid form for instance?"

"I think so, sir. The Siemens & Halske interests, in Germany, are doing
it already, on a limited scale. In Norway and Austria, nitrogen has been
manufactured from air, for some years."

"On a paying, commercial basis?" demanded Flint, while Waldron, now a
trifle less scornful, seemed to listen with more interest as his eyes
rested on the rotund form of the scientist.

"Yes, sir, quite so," answered Herzog. "It's commercially feasible,
though not a very profitable business at best. The gas is utilized in
chemical combination with a substantial base, and--"

"No matter about that, just yet," interrupted Flint. "We can have
details later. Do you know of any such business as yet, in the United
States?"

"Well, sir, there's a plant building at Great Falls, South Carolina, for
the purpose. It is to run by waterpower and will develop 5000 H.P."

"Hear that, Waldron?" demanded the Billionaire. "It's already beginning
even here! But not one of these plants is working for what I see as the
prime possibility. No imagination, no grasp on the subject! No wonder
most inventors and scientists die poor! They incubate ideas and then
lack the warmth to hatch them into general application. It takes men
like us, Wally--practical men--to turn the trick!" He spoke a bit
rapidly, almost feverishly, under the influence of the subtle drug. "Now
if _we_ take hold of this game, why, we can shake the world as it has
never yet been shaken! Eh, Waldron? What do you think now?"

Waldron only grunted, non-committally. Flint with a hard glance at his
unresponsive partner, once more turned to Herzog.

"See here, now," directed he. "What's the best process now in use?"

"For what, sir?" ventured the timid chemist.

"For the simultaneous production of nitrogen and oxygen, from the
atmosphere!"

"Well, sir," he answered, deprecatingly, as though taking a great
liberty even in informing his master on a point the master had expressly
asked about, "there are three processes. But all operate only on a small
scale."

"Who ever told you I wanted to work on a large scale?" demanded Flint,
savagely.

"I--er--inferred--beg pardon, sir--I--" And Herzog quite lost himself
and floundered hopelessly, while his mismated eyes wandered about the
room as though seeking the assurance he so sadly lacked.

"Confine yourself to answering what I ask you," directed Flint, crisply.
"You're not paid to infer. You're paid to answer questions on chemistry,
and to get results. Remember _that_!"

"Yes, sir," meekly answered the chemist, while Waldron smiled with
cynical amusement. He enjoyed nothing so delightedly as any grilling of
an employee, whether miner, railroad man, clerk, ship's captain or
what-not. This baiting, by Flint, was a rare treat to him.

"Go on," commanded the Billionaire, in a badgering tone. "What are the
processes?" He eyed Herzog as though the man had been an ox, a dog or
even some inanimate object, coldly and with narrow-lidded condescension.
To him, in truth, men were no more than Shelley's "plow or sword or
spade" for his own purpose--things to serve him and to be ruled--or
broken--as best served his ends. "Go on! Tell me what you know; and no
more!"

"Yes, sir," ventured Herzog. "There are three processes to extract
nitrogen and oxygen from air. One is by means of what the German
scientists call _Kalkstickstoff_, between calcium carbide and nitrogen,
and the reaction-symbols are--"

"No matter," Flint waived him, promptly. "I don't care for formulas or
details. What I want is results and general principles. Any other way to
extract these substances, in commercial quantities, from the air we
breathe?"

"Two others. But one of these operates at a prohibitive cost. The
other--"

"Yes, yes. What is it?" Flint slid off the edge of the table and walked
over to Herzog; stood there in front of him, and bored down at him with
eager eyes, the pupils contracted by morphine, but very bright. "What's
the best way?"

"With the electric arc, sir," answered the chemist, mopping his brow.
This grilling method reminded him of what he had heard of "Third Degree"
torments. "That's the best method, sir."

"Now in use, anywhere?"

"In Notodden, Norway. They have firebrick furnaces, you understand, sir,
with an alternating current of 5000 volts between water-cooled copper
electrodes. The resulting arc is spread by powerful electro-magnets,
so." And he illustrated with his eight acid-stained fingers. "Spread
out like a disk or sphere of flame, of electric fire, you see."

"Yes, and what then?" demanded Flint, while his partner, forgetting now
to smile, sat there by the window scrutinizing him. One saw, now, the
terribly keen and prehensile intellect at work under the mask of assumed
foppishness and jesting indifference--the quality, for the most part
masked, which had earned Waldron the nickname of "Tiger" in Wall Street.

"What then?" repeated Flint, once more levelling that potent forefinger
at the sweating Herzog.

"Well, sir, that gives a large reactive surface, through which the air
is driven by powerful rotary fans. At the high temperature of the
electric arc in air, the molecules of nitrogen and oxygen dissociate
into their atoms. The air comes out of the arc, charged with about one
per cent. of nitric oxide, and after that--"

"Jump the details, idiot! Can't you move faster than a paralytic snail?
What's the final result?"

"The result is, sir," answered Herzog, meek and cowed under this
harrying, "that calcium nitrate is produced, a very excellent
fertilizer. It's a form of nitrogen, you see, directly obtained from
air."

"At what cost?"

"One ton of fixed nitrogen in that form costs about $150 or $160."

"Indeed?" commented Flint. "The same amount, combined in Chile
saltpeter, comes to--?"

"A little over $300, sir."

"Hear that, Wally?" exclaimed the Billionaire, turning to his now
interested associate. "Even if this idea never goes a step farther,
there's a gold mine in just the production of fertilizer from air! But,
after all, that will only be a by-product. It's the oxygen we're after,
and must have!"

He faced Herzog again.

"Is any oxygen liberated, during the process?" he demanded.

"At one stage, yes, sir. But in the present process, it is absorbed,
also."

Flint's eyebrows contracted nervously. For a moment he stood thinking,
while Herzog eyed him with trepidation, and Waldron, almost forgetting
to smoke, waited developments with interest. The Billionaire, however,
wasted but scant time in consideration. It was not money now, he lusted
for, but power. Money was, to him, no longer any great desideratum. At
most, it could now mean no more to him than a figure on a check-book or
a page of statistics in his private memoranda. But power, unlimited,
indisputable power over the whole earth and the fulness thereof, power
which none might dispute, power before which all humanity must bow--God!
the lust of it now gripped and shook his soul.

Paling a little, but with eyes ablaze, he faced the anxious scientist.

"Herzog! See here!"

"Yes, sir?"

"I've got a job for you, understand?"

"Yes, sir. What is it?"

"A big job, and one on which your entire future depends. Put it through,
and I'll do well by you. Fail, and by the Eternal, I'll break you! I
can, and will, mark that! Do you get me?"

"I--yes, sir--that is, I'll do my best, and--"

"Listen! You go to work at once, immediately, understand? Work out for
me some process, some practicable method by which the nitrogen and
oxygen can both be collected in large quantities from the air.
Everything in my laboratories at Oakwood Heights is at your disposal.
Money's no object. Nothing counts, now, but _results_!

"I want the process all mapped out and ready for me, in its essential
outlines, two weeks from today. If it isn't--" His gesture was a menace.
"If it is--well, you'll be suitably rewarded. And no leaks, now. Not a
word of this to any one, understand? If it gets out, you know what I can
do to you, and will! Remember Roswell; remember Parker Hayes. _They_ let
news get to the Dillingham-Saunders people, about the new Tezzoni
radio-electric system--and one's dead, now, a suicide; the other's in
Sing-Sing for eighteen years. Remember that--and keep your mouth shut!"

"Yes, sir. I understand."

"All right, then. A fortnight from today, report to me here. And mind
you, have something to report, or--!"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well! Now, go!"

Thus dismissed, Herzog gathered together his books and papers, blinked a
moment with those peculiar wall-eyes of his, arose and, bowing first to
Flint and then to the keenly-watching Waldron, backed out of the office.

When the door had closed behind him, Flint turned to his partner with a
nervous laugh.

"That's the way to get results, eh?" he exclaimed. "No dilly-dallying
and no soft soap; but just lay the lash right on, hard--they jump then,
the vermin! Results! That fellow will work his head off, the next two
weeks; and there'll be something doing when he comes again. You'll see!"

Waldron laughed nonchalantly. Once more the mask of indifference had
fallen over him, veiling the keen, incisive interest he had shown during
the interview.

"Something doing, yes," he drawled, puffing his cigar to a glow. "Only I
advise you to choose your men. Some day you'll try that on a real
man--one of the rough-necks you know, and--"

Flint snapped his fingers contemptuously, gazed at Waldron a moment with
unwinking eyes and tugged at his mustache.

"When I need advice on handling men, I'll ask for it," he rapped out.
Then, glancing at the Louis XIV clock: "Past the time for that C.P.S.
board-meeting, Wally. No more of this, now. We'll talk it over at the
Country Club, tonight; but for the present, let's dismiss it from our
minds."

"Right!" answered the other, and arose, yawning, as though the whole
subject were of but indifferent interest to him. "It's all moonshine,
Flint. All a pipe-dream. Defoe's philosophers, who spent their lives
trying to extract sunshine from cucumbers, never entertained any more
fantastic notion than this of yours. However, it's your funeral, not
mine. You're paying for it. I decline to put in any funds for any such
purpose. Amuse yourself; you've got to settle the bill."

Flint smiled sourly, his gold tooth glinting, but made no answer.

"Come along," said his partner, moving toward the door. "They're waiting
for us, already, at the board meeting. And there's big business coming
up, today--that strike situation, you remember. Slade's going to be on
deck. We've got to decide, at once, whether or not we're going to turn
him loose on the miners, to smash that gang of union thugs and Socialist
fanatics, and do it right. _That's_ a game worth playing, Flint; but
this Air Trust vagary of yours--stuff and nonsense!"

Flint, for all reply, merely cast a strange look at his partner, with
those strongly-contracted pupils of his; and so the two vultures of prey
betook themselves to the board room where already, round the long
rosewood table, Walter Slade of the Cosmos Detective Company was laying
out his strike-breaking plans to the attentive captains of industry.



CHAPTER IV.

AN INTERLOPER.


On the eleventh day after this interview between the two men who,
between them, practically held the whole world in their grasp, Herzog
telephoned up from Oakwood Heights and took the liberty of informing
Flint that his experiments had reached a point of such success that he
prayed Flint would condescend to visit the laboratories in person.

Flint, after some reflection, decided he would so condescend; and
forthwith ordered his limousine from his private garage on William
Street. Thereafter he called Waldron on the 'phone, at his Fifth Avenue
address.

"Mr. Waldron is not up, yet, sir," a carefully-modulated voice answered
over the wire. "Any message I can give him, sir?"

"Oh, hello! That you, Edwards?" Flint demanded, recognizing the suave
tones of his partner's valet.

"Yes, sir."

"All right. Tell Waldron I'll call for him in half an hour with the
limousine. And mind, now, I want him to be up and dressed! We're going
down to Staten Island. Got that?"

"Yes, sir. Any other message, sir?"

"No. But be sure you get him up, for me! Good-bye!"

Thirty minutes later, Flint's chauffeur opened the door of the big
limousine, in front of the huge Renaissance pile that Waldron's
millions had raised on land which had cost him more than as though he
had covered it with double eagles; and Flint himself ascended the steps
of Pentelican marble. The limousine, its varnish and silver-plate
flashing in the bright spring sun, stood by the curb, purring softly to
itself with all six cylinders, a thing of matchless beauty and rare
cost. The chauffeur, on the driver's seat, did not even bother to shut
off the gas, but let the engine run, regardless. To have stopped it
would have meant some trifling exertion, in starting again; and since
Flint never considered such details as a few gallons of gasoline, why
should _he_ care? Lighting a Turkish cigarette, this aristocrat of labor
lolled on the padded leather and indifferently--with more of contempt
than of interest--regarded a swarm of iron-workers, masons and laborers
at work on a new building across the avenue.

Flint, meanwhile, had entered the great mansion, its bronze
doors--ravished from the Palazzo Guelfo at Venice--having swung inward
to admit him, with noiseless majesty. Ignoring the doorman, he addressed
himself to Edwards, who stood in the spacious, mahogany-panelled hall,
washing both hands with imaginary soap.

"Waldron up, yet, Edwards?"

"No, sir. He--er--I have been unable--"

"The devil! Where is he?"

"In his apartments, sir."

"Take me up!"

"He said, sir," ventured Edwards, in his smoothest voice. "He said--"

"I don't give a damn what he said! Take me up, at once!"

"Yes, sir. Immediately, sir!" And he gestured suavely toward the
elevator.

Flint strode down the hall, indifferent to the Kirmanshah rugs, the rare
mosaic floor and stained-glass windows, the Parian fountain and the
Azeglio tapestries that hung suspended up along the stairway--all old
stories to him and as commonplace as rickety odds and ends of furniture
might be to any toiler "cribbed, cabin'd and confined" in fetid East
Side tenement or squalid room on Hester Street.

The elevator boy bowed before his presence. Edwards hesitated to enter
the private elevator, with this world-master; but Flint beckoned him to
come along. And so, borne aloft by the smooth force of the electric
motor, they presently reached the upper floor where "Tiger" Waldron
laired in stately splendor, like the nabob that he was.

Without ceremony, Flint pushed forward into the bed-chamber of the
mighty one--a chamber richly finished in panels of the rare sea-grape
tree, brought from Pacific isles at great cost of money and some
expenditure of human lives; but this latter item was, of course, beneath
consideration.

By the softened light which entered through rich curtains, one saw the
famous frieze of De Lussac, that banded the apartment, over the
panelling--the frieze of Bacchantes, naked and unashamed, revelling with
Satyrs in an abandon that bespoke the age when the world was young.
Their voluptuous forms entwined with clustering grapes and leaves, they
poured tipsy libations of red wine from golden chalices; while old
Silenus, god of drink, astride a donkey, applauded with maudlin joy.

Flint, however, had no eyes for this scene which would have gladdened a
voluptuary's heart--and which, for that reason was dear to Waldron--but
walked toward the huge, four-posted bed where Wally himself, now rather
paler than usual, with bloodshot eyes, was lying. This bed, despite the
fact that it had been transported all the way from Tours, France, and
that it once had belonged to an archbishop, had only too often witnessed
its owner's insomnia.

"Hm! You're a devil of a man to keep an appointment, aren't you?" Flint
sneered at the master of the house. "Eleven o'clock, and not up, yet!"

"Pardon me for remarking, my dear Flint," replied Waldron, stretching
himself between the silken sheets and reaching for a cigarette, "that
the appointment was not of my making. Also that I was up, last
night--this morning, rather--till three-thirty. And in the next place,
that scoundrel Hazeltine, trimmed me out of eighty-six thousand in four
hours--"

"Roulette again, you idiot?" demanded Flint.

"And in conclusion," said Wally, "that the bigness of my head and the
brown taste in my mouth are such as no 'soda and sermons, the morning
after' can possibly alleviate. So you understand my dalliance.

"Damn those workmen!" he exclaimed, with sudden irritation, as a louder
chattering of pneumatic riveters from the new building all at once
clattered in at the window. "A free country, eh? And men are permitted
to make _that_ kind of a racket when a fellow wants to sleep! By God, if
I--"

"Drop that, Wally, and get up!" commanded Flint. "There's no time for
this kind of thing today. Herzog has just informed me his experiments
have brought results. We're going down to Oakwood Heights to sea a few
things for ourselves. And the quicker you get dressed and in your right
mind, the better. Come along, I tell you!"

"Still chasing sunbeams from cucumbers, eh?" drawled the magnate,
inhaling cigarette smoke and blowing a thin cloud toward the wanton
Bacchantes. He affected indifference, but his dull eyes brightened a
trifle in his wan face, deep-lined by the savage dissipations of the
previous night. "And you insist on dragging me out on the same fatuous
errand?"

"Don't be an ass!" snapped the Billionaire. "Get up and come along. The
sooner we have this thing under way, the better."

"All right, anything to oblige," conceded Waldron, inwardly stirred by
an interest he took good care not to divulge in word or look. "Give me
just time for a cold plunge, a few minutes with my masseur and my
barber, a bite to eat and--"

Flint laid hold on his partner and shook him roughly.

"Move, you sluggard!" he commanded. And Tiger Waldron obeyed.

Forty-five minutes later, the two financiers were speeding down the
asphalt of the avenue at a good round clip. Flint's gleaming car formed
one unit of the never-ending procession of motors which, day and night,
year in and year out, spin unceasingly along the great, hard, splendid,
cruel thoroughfare.

"I tell you," Flint was asserting as they swung into Broadway, at
Twenty-third Street, and headed for South Ferry, "I tell you, Wally,
the thing is growing vaster and more potent every moment. The longer I
look at it, the huger its possibilities loom up! With air under our
control, as a source of manufacturing alone, we can pull down perfectly
inconceivable fortunes. We shan't have to send anywhere for our raw
material. It will come to us; it's everywhere. No cost for
transportation, to begin with.

"With oxygen, nitrogen and liquid air as products, think of the
possibilities, will you? Not an ice-plant in the country could compete
with us, in the refrigerating line. With liquid air, we could sweep that
market clean. By installing it on our fruit cars and boats, and our beef
cars, the saving effected in many ways would run to millions. The sale
of nitrogen, for fertilizer, would net us billions. And, above all, the
control of the world's air supply, for breathing, would make us the
absolute, undisputed masters of mankind!

"We'd have the world by the windpipe. Its very life-breath would be at
our disposal. Ha! What about revolution, then? What about popular
discontent, and stiff-necked legislators, and cranky editors? What about
commercial and financial rivals? What about these damned Socialists,
with their brass-lunged bazoo, howling about monopoly and capitalism and
all the rest of it? Eh, what? Just one squeeze," here Flint closed his
corded, veinous fingers, "just one tightening of the fist, and--all
over! We win, hands down!"

"Like shutting the wind off from a runaway horse, eh?" suggested
Waldron, squinting at his cigar as though to hide the involuntary gleam
of light that sparkled in his narrow-set eyes.

"Precisely!" assented Flint, smiling his gold-toothed smile. "The
wildest bolter has got to stop, or fall dead, once you close his
nostrils. That's what we'll do to the world, Wally. We'll get it by the
throat--and there you are!"

"Yes, there we are," repeated Waldron, "but--"

"But what, now?"

Waldron did not answer, for a moment, but squinted up at the tall
buildings, temples of Mammon and of Greed, filled from pave to cornice
with toiling, sweated hordes of men and women, all laboring for
Capitalism; many of them, directly or indirectly, for him. Then, as the
limousine slowed at Spring Street, to let a cross-town car pass--a car
whose earnings he and Flint both shared, just as they shared those of
every surface and subway and "L" car in the vast metropolis--he said:

"Have you weighed the consequences carefully, Flint? Quite carefully?
This thing of cornering all the oxygen is a pretty big proposition. Do
you think you really ought to undertake it?"

"Why not?"

"Have you considered the frightful suffering and loss of life it might
entail? Almost certainly would entail? Are you quite sure you _want_ to
take the world by the throat and--and choke it? For money?"

"No, not for money, Waldron. We're both staggering under money, as it
is. But power! Ah, that's different!"

"I know," admitted Waldron. "But ought we--you--to attempt this, even
for the sake of universal power? Your plan contemplates a monopoly such
that everybody who refused or was unable to buy your product would, at
best, have to get along with vitiated air, and at worst would have to
stifle. Do you really think we ought to undertake this?"

Keenly he eyed Flint, as he thus sounded the elder man's inhuman
determination. Flint, fathoming nothing of his purpose, retorted with
some heat:

"Ha! Getting punctilious, all at once, are you? Talk ethics, eh? Where
were your scruples, a year ago, when people were paying 25 cents a loaf
for bread, because of that big wheat pool you put through? How about the
oil you've just lately helped me boost by a 20 per cent. increase? And
when the papers--though mostly those infernal Socialist or Anarchist
papers, or whatever they were--shouted that old men and women were
freezing in attics, last winter, what then? Did you vote to arbitrate
the D.K. coal strike? Not by a jugful! You stood shoulder to shoulder
with me, then, Wally, while _now_--!"

"It's a bit different, now," interposed "Tiger," with an evil smile,
still leading his partner along. "Since then I've had the--ah--the
extreme happiness to become engaged to your daughter, Catherine. New
thoughts have entered my mind. I've experienced a--a--"

"You quitter!" burst out Flint. "No, by God! you aren't going to put
this thing over on me. I'll have no quitter for _my_ son-in-law! Wally,
I'm astonished at you. Astonished and disappointed. You're not yourself,
this morning. That eighty-six thousand you dropped last night, has
shaken your heart. Come, come, pull together! Where's your nerve, man?
Where's your nerve?"

Waldron answered nothing. In silence the partners watched the press of
traffic, each busy with his own thoughts, Waldron waiting for Flint to
reopen fire on him, and the Billionaire decided to say no more till his
associate should make some move. Thus the limousine reached the Staten
Island ferry, that glorious monument of municipal ownership wrecked by
Tammany grafting. In silence they smoked while the car rolled down the
incline and out onto the huge ferry boat. Then, as the crowded craft got
under way, a minute later, both men left the car and strolled to the
rail to watch the glittering sparkle of the sunlight on the harbor; the
teeming commerce of the port; the creeping liners and busy tugs; the
towering figure of Liberty, her flameless torch held far aloft in
mockery.

Suddenly Waldron spoke.

"You can't do it, I tell you!" said he, waving an eloquent hand toward
the sky. "It's too big, the air is, as I said before. Too damned big!
Own coal and copper, if you will, and steel and ships, here; own those
buildings back there," with a gesture at the frowning line of
skyscrapers buttressing Manhattan, "but don't buck the impossible! And
incidentally, Flint, don't misunderstand me, either. When I asked you if
we _ought_ to try it, I merely meant, would it be _safe_? The world,
Flint, is a dangerous toy to play with, too hard. The people are
perilous baubles, if you step on their corns a bit too often or too
heavily. Every Caesar has a Brutus waiting for him somewhere, with a
club.

"Once let the unwashed get an idea into their low brows, and you can't
tell where it may lead them. Even a rat fights, in its last corner.
These human rats of ours have been getting a bit nasty of late. True,
they swallowed the Limited Franchise Bill, three years ago, with only a
little futile protest, so that now we've got them politically hamstrung.
True, there's the Dick Military Bill, recently enlarged and perfected,
so they can't move a hand without falling into treason and
court-martial. True again, they've stood for the Censorship and the
National Mounted Police--the Grays--all in the last year. But how much
more will they stand, eh? You close your hand on their windpipes, and by
God! something may happen even yet, after all!"

Flint snapped his fingers with contempt.

"Machine guns!" was all he said.

"Yes, of course," answered Waldron. "But there may be life in the old
beast yet. They may yet kick the apple cart over--and us with it. You
never can tell. And those infernal Socialists, always at it, night and
day, never letting up, flinging firebrands into the powder magazine!
_Sometime_ there's going to be one hell of a bang, Flint! And when it
comes, _suave qui peut_! So go slow, old man--go damned slow, that's all
I've got to say!"

"On the contrary," said Flint, blinking in the golden spring sunshine as
he peered out over the swashing brine at a raucous knot of gulls, "on
the contrary, Wally, I'm going to push it as fast as the Lord will let
me. You can come in, or not, as you see fit--but remember this, no
quitter ever gets a daughter of mine! And another thing; we're in the
year 1921, now, not 1910 or 1915. Developments, political and otherwise,
have moved swiftly, these few years past. Then, there might have been
trouble. To-day, there can't be. We've got things cinched too tight for
that!

"Ten years ago, they might have had our blood, the people might, or
given us a hemp-tea party in Wall Street. today, all's safe. Come, be
a man and grip your courage! We can put the initial stages through in
absolute secrecy--and then, once we get our clutch on the world's
breath, what have we to fear?"

"Go slow, Flint!"

"Nonsense! Oxygen is life itself. There's no substitute. Vitiate the air
by removing even 10 per cent. of it, and the world will lick our boots
for a chance to breathe! Everybody's got to have oxygen, all the way
from kings and emperors down to the toiling cattle, the Henry Dubbs, as
I believe they're commonly called in vulgar speech. Shut off the air,
and 'the captains and the kings' will run to heel like the rabble
itself. Run to heel, and pay for the privilege of doing it! We've got
the universities, press, churches, laws, judges, army and navy and
everything already in our hands. We'll be secure enough, no fear!"

"Shhhhh!" And Waldron nudged the Billionaire with his elbow.

In his excitement, Flint had permitted his voice to rise, a little. Not
far from him, leaning on the rail, a stockily built young fellow in
overalls, a cap pulled down firmly over his well-shaped head, was
apparently watching the gulls and the passing boats, with eyes no less
blue than the bay itself; eyes no less glinting than the sunlight on the
waves. He seemed to be paying no heed to anything but what lay before
him. But "Tiger" Waldron, possessed of something of the instinct of the
beast whose name he bore, subconsciously sensed a peril in his nearness.
The man's ear--if unusually quick--might, just _might_ possibly have
caught a word or two meant for no interloper. And at that thought,
Waldron once more nudged his partner.

"Shhh!" he repeated, "Enough. We can finish this, in the limousine."

Flint looked at him a moment, in silence, then nodded.

"Right you are," said he. And both men climbed back into the closed car.

"You never can tell what ears are primed for news," said Waldron.
"Better take no chances."

"Before long, we can throw away all subterfuge," the Billionaire replied
as he shut the door. "But for now, well, you're correct. Once our grasp
tightens on the windpipe of the world, we're safe. From our office in
Wall Street you and I can play the keys of the world-machine as an
organist would finger his instrument. But there must be no leak; no
publicity; no suspicion aroused. We'll play our music _pianissimo_,
Wally, with rare accompaniments to the tune of 'great public utility,
benefit to the public health,' and all that--the same old game, only on
a vastly larger scale.

"Every modern composer in the field of Big Business knows that score and
has played it many times. _We_ will play it on a monstrous pipe organ,
with the world's lungs for bellows and the world's breath to vibrate our
reeds--and all paying tribute, night and day, year after year, all over
the world, Wally, all over the world!

"God! What power shall be ours! What infinite power, such as, since time
began, never yet lay in mortal hands! We shall be as gods, Waldron, you
and I--and between us, we shall bring the human race wallowing to our
feet in helpless bondage, in supreme abandon!"

The ferry boat, nearing the Staten Island landing, slowed its ponderous
screws. The chauffeur flung away his cigarette, drew on his gauntlets
and accelerated his engine. Forward the human drove began to press,
under the long slave-driven habit of haste, of eagerness to do the
masters' bidding.

The young mechanic by the rail--he of the overalls and keen blue
eyes--turned toward the bows, picked up a canvas bag of tools and stood
there waiting with the rest.

For a moment his glance rested on the limousine and the two half-seen
figures within. As it did so, a wanton breeze from off the Island
flapped back the lapel of his jumper. In that brief instant one might
have seen a button pinned upon his blue flannel shirt--clasped hands,
surrounded by the legend: "Workers of the World, Unite!"

But neither of the plutocrats observed this; nor, had they seen, would
they have understood.

And whether the sturdy toiler had overheard aught of their infernal
conspiring--or, having heard it, grasped its dire and criminal
significance--who, who in all this weary and toil-burdened world, could
say?



CHAPTER V.

IN THE LABORATORY.


Half an hour's run down Staten Island, along smooth roads lined with
sleepy little towns and through sparse woods beyond which sparkled the
shining waters of the harbor, brought the two plutocrats to the quiet
settlement of Oakwood Heights.

Now the blasé chauffeur swung the car sharply to the left, past the
aviation field, and so came to the wide-scattered settlement--almost a
colony--which, hidden behind high, barb-wire-topped fences, carried on
the many and complex activities of the partners' experiment station.
Here were the several laboratories where new products were evolved and
old ones refined, for Flint's and Waldron's greater profit. Here stood a
complete electric power plant, for lighting and heating the works, as
well as for current to use in the retorts and many powerful machines of
the testing works.

Here, again, were broad proving grounds, for fuel and explosives; and,
at one side, stood a low, skylighted group of brick buildings, known as
the electro-chemical station. Dormitories and boarding-houses for the
small army of employees occupied the eastern end of the enclosure,
nearest the sea. Over all, high chimney stacks and the aerials of a
mighty wireless plant dominated the entire works. A private railroad
spur pierced the western side of the enclosure, for food and coal
supplies, as well as for the handling of the numerous imports and
exports of this wonderfully complete feudal domain. As the colony lay
there basking in the sunshine of early spring, under its drifting
streamers of smoke, it seemed an ideal picture of peaceful activities.
Here a locomotive puffed, shunting cars; there, a steam-jet flung its
plumes of snowy vapor into air; yonder, a steam hammer thundered on a
massive anvil. And forges rang, and through open windows hummed sounds
of industry.

And yet, not one of all those sounds but echoed more bitter slavery for
men. Not one of all those many activities but boded ill to humanity. For
the whole plan and purpose of the place was the devising of still wider
forms of human exploitation and enslavement. Its every motive was to
serve the greed of Flint and Waldron. Outwardly honest and industrious,
it inwardly loomed sinister and terrible, a type and symbol of its
masters' swiftly growing power. Such, in its essence, was the great
experiment station of these two men who lusted for dominion over the
whole world.

As the long, glittering car drew up at the main gate of the enclosure, a
sharp-eyed watchman peered through a sliding wicket therein. Satisfied
by his inspection, he withdrew; and at once the big gate rolled back,
smoothly actuated by electricity. The car purred onward, into the
enclosure. When the gate had closed noiselessly behind it, the chauffeur
ran it down a splendidly paved roadway, swung to the right, past the
machine shops, and drew it to a stand in front of the administration
building.

Flint and his partner alighted, and stood for a moment surveying the
scene with satisfaction. Then Flint turned to the chauffeur.

"Put the car in the garage," he directed. "We may not want it till
afternoon."

The blasé one touched his cap and nodded, in obedience. Then, as the car
withdrew, the partners ascended the broad steps.

"Good chap, that Herrick," commented Waldron, casting a glance at the
retreating chauffeur. "Quick-witted, and mum. Give me a man who knows
how to mind _and_ keep still about it, every time!"

"Right," assented Flint. "Obedience is the first of all virtues, and the
second is silence. Well, it looks to me as though we had the whole world
coming our way, now, along that very same path of virtue. Once we get
this air proposition really to working, the world will obey. It will
have to! And as for silence, we can manage that, too. The mere turn of a
valve, and--!"

Waldron smiled grimly, as though in derision of what he seemed to think
his partner's chimerical hopes, but made no answer. Together they
entered the administration building. Five minutes later, Herzog, their
servile experimenter, stood bowing and cringing before them.

"Got it, Herzog?" demanded Flint, while Waldron lighted still another of
those costly cigars--each one worth a good mechanic's daily wage.

"Yes, sir, I believe so, sir," the scientist replied, depreciatingly.
"That is, at least, on a small scale. Two weeks was the time you allowed
me, sir, but--"

"I know. You've done it in eleven days," interrupted, the Billionaire.
"Very well. I knew you could. You'll lose nothing by it. So no more of
that. Show us what you've done. Everything all ready?"

"Quite ready, sir," the other answered. "If you'll be so good as to step
into the electro-chemical building?"

Flint very graciously signified his willingness thus to condescend; and
without delay, accompanied by the still incredulous Waldron, and
followed by Herzog, he passed out of the administration building,
through a covered passage and into the electro-chemical works.

A variety of strange odors and stranger sounds filled this large brick
structure, windowless on every side and lighted only by broad skylights
of milky wire-glass--this arrangement being due to the extreme secrecy
of many processes here going forward. The partners had no intention that
any spying eyes should ever so much as glimpse the work in this
department; work involving foods, fuels, power, lighting, almost the
entire range of the vast network of exploiting media they had already
flung over a tired world.

"This way, gentlemen," ventured Herzog, pointing toward a metal door at
the left of the main room. He unlocked this, which was guarded by a
combination lock, like that of a bank vault, and waited for them to
enter; then closed it after them, and made quite sure the metal door was
fast.

A peculiar, pungent smell greeted the partners' nostrils as they glanced
about the inner laboratory. At one side an electric furnace was glowing
with graphite crucibles subjected to terrific heat. On the other a
dynamo was humming. Before them a broad, tiled bench held a strange
assortment of test tubes, retorts and complex apparatus of glass and
gleaming metal. The whole was lighted by a strong white light from
above, through the milk-hued glass--one of Herzog's own inventions, by
the way; a wonderful, light-intensifying glass, which would bend but not
break; an invention which, had he himself profited by it, would have
brought him millions, but which the partners had exploited without ever
having given him a single penny above his very moderate salary.

"Is that it?" demanded Flint, a glitter lighting up his
morphia-contracted pupils. He jerked his thumb at a complicated nexus of
tubes, brass cylinders, coiled wires and glistening retorts which stood
at one end of the broad work-bench.

"That is it, sir," answered Herzog, apologetically, while "Tiger"
Waldron's hard face hardened even more. "Only an experimental model, you
understand, sir, but--"

"It gets results?" queried Flint sharply. "It produces oxygen and
nitrogen on a scale that indicates success, with adequate apparatus?"

"Yes, sir. I believe so, sir. No doubt about it; none whatever."

"Good!" exclaimed the Billionaire. "Now show us!"

"With pleasure, sir. But first, let me explain, a little."

"Well, what?" demanded Flint. His partner, meanwhile, had drawn near the
apparatus, and was studying it with a most intense concentration. Plain
to see, beneath this man's foppish exterior and affected cynicism, dwelt
powerful purposes and keen intelligence.

"Explain what?" repeated the Billionaire. "As far as details go, I'm not
interested. All I want is results. Go ahead, Herzog; start your machine
and let me see what it can do."

"I will, sir," acceded the scientist. "But first, with your permission,
I'll point out a few of its main features, and--"

"Damn the main features!" cried Flint. "Get busy with the
demonstration!"

"Hold on, hold on," now interrupted Waldron. "Let him discourse, if he
wants to. Ever know a scientist who wasn't primed to the muzzle with
expositions? Here, Herzog," he added, turning to the inventor, "I'll
listen, if nobody else will."

Undecided, Herzog smiled nervously. Even Flint had to laugh at his
indecision.

"All right, go on," said the Billionaire. "Only for God's sake, make it
brief!"

Herzog, thus adjured, cleared his throat and blinked uneasily.

"Oxygen," he said. "Yes, I can produce it quickly, easily and in large
quantities. As a gas, or as a liquid, which can be shipped to any
desired point and there transformed into gaseous form. Liquid air can
also be produced by this same machine, for refrigerating purposes. You
understand, of course, that when liquid air evaporates, it is only the
nitrogen that goes back into the atmosphere at 313 degrees below zero.
The residue is pure liquid oxygen. In other words, this apparatus will
make money as a liquid air plant, and furnish you oxygen as a
by-product.

"It will also turn out nitrogen, for fertilizing purposes. The income
from a full-sized machine, on this pattern, from all three sources,
should be very large indeed."

"Good," put in Waldron. "And liquid air, for example, would cost how
much to produce?"

"With power-cost at half a cent per H.P. hour, about $2.50 a ton. The
oxygen by-product alone will more than pay for that, in purifying and
cooling buildings, or used to promote combustion in locomotives and
other steam engines. The liquid air itself can be used as a motive power
for a certain type of expansion engine, or--"

"There, there, that's enough!" interposed Flint, brusquely. "We don't
need any of your advice or suggestions, Herzog. As far as the disposal
of the product is concerned, we can take care of that. All we want from
you is the assurance that that product can be obtained, easily and
cheaply, and in unlimited quantities. Is that the case?"

"It is, sir."

"All right. And can liquid oxygen be easily transported any considerable
distance?"

"Yes, sir. In what is known as Place's Vacuum-jacketed Insulated
Container, it can be kept for weeks at a time without any appreciable
loss."

Flint pondered a moment, then asked, again:

"Could large tanks, holding say, a million gallons, be built on that
principle, for wholesale storage? And could vacuum-jacketed pipes be
laid, for conveying liquid oxygen or its gas?"

"No reason why not, sir. Yes, I may say all that is quite feasible."

"Very well, then," snapped Flint. "That's enough for the present. Now,
show us your machine at work! Start it Herzog. Let's see what you can
do!"

The Billionaire's eyes glittered as Herzog laid a hand on a gleaming
switch. Even Waldron forgot to smoke.

"Gentlemen, observe," said Herzog, as he threw the lever.



CHAPTER VI.

OXYGEN, KING OF INTOXICATORS.


A soft humming note began to vibrate through the inner laboratory--a
note which rose in pitch, steadily, as Herzog shoved the lever from one
copper post to another, round the half-circle.

"I am now heating the little firebrick furnace," said the scientist. "In
Norway, they use an alternating current of only 5,000 volts, between
water-cooled copper electrodes, as I have already told you. I am using
30,000 volts, and my electrodes, my own invention, are--"

"Never mind," growled Flint. "Just let's see some of the product--some
liquid oxygen, that's all. The why and wherefore is your job, not ours!"

Herzog, with a pained smile, bent and peered through a red glass
bull's-eye that now had begun to glow in the side of his apparatus.

"The arc is good," he muttered, as to himself. "Now I will throw in the
electro-magnets and spread it; then switch in my intensifying condenser,
and finally set the turbine fans to work, to throw air through the
field. Then we shall see, we shall see!"

Suiting the action to the words, he deftly touched here a button, there
a lever; and all at once a shrill buzzing rose above the lower drone of
the induction coils.

"Gentlemen," said Herzog, straightening up and facing his employers,
"the process is now already at work. In five minutes--yes, in three--I
shall have results to show you!"

"Good!" grunted Waldron. "That's all we're after, results. That's the
only way you hold your job, Herzog, just getting results!"

He relighted his cigar, which had gone out during Herzog's
explanation--for "Tiger" Waldron, though he could drop thousands at
roulette without turning a hair, never yet had been known to throw away
a cigar less than half smoked. Flint, meanwhile, took out a little
morocco-covered note book and made a few notes. In this book he had kept
an outline of his plan from the very first; and now with pleasure he
added some memoranda, based on what Herzog had just told him, as well as
observations on the machine itself.

Thus two minutes passed, then three.

"Time's up, Herzog!" exclaimed Waldron, glancing at the electric clock
on the wall. "Where's the juice?"

"One second, sir," answered the scientist. Again he peeked through the
glowing bull's-eye. Then, his face slightly pale, his bulging eyes
blinking nervously, he took two small flint glass bottles, set them
under a couple of pipettes, and deftly made connections.

"Oxygen cocktail for mine," laughed Waldron, to cover a certain emotion
he could not help feeling at sight of the actual operation of a process
which might, after all, open out ways and means for the utter
subjugation of the world.

Neither Flint nor the inventor vouchsafed even a smile. The Billionaire
drew near, adjusted a pair of pince-nez on his hawk-like nose, and
peered curiously at the apparatus. Herzog, with a quick gesture, turned
a small silver faucet.

"Oxygen! Unlimited oxygen!" he exclaimed. "I have found the process,
gentlemen, commercially practicable. Oxygen!"

Even as he spoke, a lambent, sparkling liquid began to flow through the
pipette, into the flask. At sight of it, the Billionaire's eyes lighted
up with triumph. Waldron, despite his assumed nonchalance, felt the
hunting thrill of Wall street, the quick stab of exultation when victory
seemed well in hand.

"These bottles," said Herzog, "are double, constructed on the principle
of the Thermos bottle. They will keep the liquid gases I shall show you,
for days. Huge tanks could be built on the same principle. In a short
time, gentlemen, you can handle tons of these gases, if you
like--thousands of tons, unlimited tons.

"The Siemens and Halske people, and the Great Falls, S.C., plant, will
be mere puttering experimenters beside you. For neither they nor any
other manufacturers have any knowledge of the vital process--my secret,
polarizing transformer, which does the work in one-tenth the time and at
one-hundredth the cost of any other known process. For example, see
here?"

He turned the faucet, disconnected the flask and handed it to Flint.

"There, sir," he remarked, "is a half-pint of pure liquid oxygen, drawn
from the air in less than eight minutes, at a cost of perhaps two-tenths
of a cent. On a large scale the cost can be vastly reduced. Are you
satisfied, sir?"

Flint nodded, curtly.

"You'll do, Herzog," he replied--his very strongest form of
commendation. "You're not half bad, after all. So this is liquid oxygen,
eh? Very cheap, and very cold?"

His eyes gleamed with joy at sight of the translucent potent stuff--the
very stuff of life, its essence and prime principle, without which
neither plant nor animal nor man can live--oxygen, mother of all life,
sustainer of the world.

"Very cheap, yes, sir," answered the scientist. "And cold, enormously
cold. The specimen you hold in your hand, in that vacuum-protected
flask, is more than three hundred degrees below zero. One drop of it on
your palm would burn it to the bone. Incidentally, let me tell you
another fact--"

"And that is?"

"This specimen is the allotropic or condensed form of oxygen, much more
powerful than the usual liquified gas."

"Ozone, you mean?"

"Precisely. Would you like to sense its effect as a ventilating agent?"

"No danger?"

"None, sir. Here, allow me."

Herzog took the flask, pressed a little spring and liberated the top. At
once a whitish vapor began to coil from the neck of the bottle.

"Hm!" grunted Waldron, smiling. "Mountain winds and sea breezes have
nothing on that!" He sniffed with appreciation. "Some gas, all right!"

"You're right, Wally," answered the Billionaire. "If this works out on a
large scale, in all its details--well--I needn't impress its importance
on you!"

Yielding to the influence of the wonderful, life-giving gas, the rather
close air of the laboratory, contaminated by a variety of chemical
odors, and vitiated by its recent loss of oxygen, had begun to freshen
and purify itself in an astonishing manner. One would have thought that
through an open window, close at hand, the purest ocean breeze was
blowing. A faint tinge of color began to liven the somewhat pasty cheek
of the Billionaire. Waldron's big chest expanded and his eye brightened.
Even the meek Herzog stood straighter and looked more the man, under the
stimulus of the life-giving ozone.

"Fine!" exclaimed Flint, with unwonted enthusiasm, and nearly yielded to
a laugh. Waldron went so far as to slap Herzog on the shoulder.

"You're some wizard, old man!" he exclaimed, with a warmth hitherto
never known by him--for already the subtle gas was beginning to
intoxicate his senses. "And you can handle nitrogen with the same ease
and precision?"

"Exactly," answered Herzog. "This other vial contains pure nitrogen.
With enlarged apparatus, I can supply it by the trainload. The world's
fertilizer problem is solved!"

"Great work!" ejaculated Waldron, even more excited than before, but
Flint, his natural sourness asserting itself, merely growled some
ungracious remark.

"Nitrogen can go hang," said he. "It's oxygen we're after, primarily.
Once we get our grip on that, the world will be--"

Waldron checked him just in time.

"Enough of this," he interrupted sharply. "I admit, I'm not myself, in
this rich atmosphere. I know _you're_ feeling it, already, Flint. Come
along out of this, where we can regain our aplomb. We've seen enough,
for once."

He turned to Herzog.

"For God's sake, man," cried he, "cork that magic bottle of yours,
before all the oxygen-genii escape, or you'll have us both under the
table! And, see here," he added, pulling out his check-book, while Flint
stared in amazed disgust. "Here, take a blank check." He took his
fountain pen and scrawled his name on one. "The amount? That's up to
you. Now, let us out," he bade, as Herzog stood there regarding the
check with entire uncomprehension. "Out, I say, before I get
extravagant!"

Herzog, perfectly comprehending the magnates' unusual conduct as due to
oxygen-intoxication in its initial stage, made no comment, but walked to
the door, spun the combination and flung it open.

"Glad to have had the pleasure of demonstrating the process to you,
gentlemen," said he. "If you're convinced it's practicable, I'm at your
orders for any larger extension of the work. Have you any other question
or suggestion?"

Neither magnate answered. Flint was trying hard to hold his
self-control. Waldron, red-faced now and highly stimulated, looked as
though he had been drinking even more than usual.

Both passed out of the laboratory with rather unsteady steps. Together
they retraced their way to the administration building; and there, safe
at last in the private inner office, with the door locked, they sat down
and stared at each other with expressions of amazement.



CHAPTER VII.

A FREAK OF FATE.


Waldron was the first to speak. With a sudden laugh, boisterous and
wild, he cried:

"Flint, you old scoundrel, you're drunk!"

"Drunk yourself!" retorted the Billionaire, half starting from his
chair, his fist clenched in sudden passion. "How dare you--?"

"Dare? I dare anything!" exclaimed Waldron. "Yes, I admit it--I _am_
half seas over. That ozone--God! what a stimulant! Must be some
wonderfully powerful form. If we--could market it--"

Flint sank back in his chair, waving an extravagant hand.

"Market it?" he answered. "Of course we can market it, and will! Drunk
or sober, Wally, I know what I'm talking about. The power now in our
grasp has never yet been equalled on earth. On the one side, we can
half-stifle every non-subscriber to our service, or wholly stifle every
rebel against us. On the other, we can simply saturate every subscriber
with health and energy, or even--if they want it--waft them to paradise
on the wings of ozone. The old Roman idea of 'bread and circus' to rule
the mob, was child's play compared to this! Science has delivered the
whole world into our hands. Power, man, power! Absolute, infinite power
over every living, breathing thing!"

He fell silent, pondering the vast future; and Waldron, gazing at him
with sparkling eyes, nodded with keen satisfaction. Thus for a few
moments they sat, looking at each other and letting imagination ran
riot; and as they sat, the sudden, stimulating effect of the condensed
oxygen died in their blood, and calmer feelings ensued.

Presently Waldron spoke again.

"Let's get down to brass tacks," said he, drawing his chair up to the
table. "I'm almost myself again. The subtle stuff has got out of my
brain, at last. Generalities and day-dreams are all very well, Flint,
but we've got to lay out some definite line of campaign. And the sooner
we get to it the better."

"Hm!" sneered Flint. "If it's not more practical than your action in
giving Herzog that blank check, it won't be worth much. As an
extravagant action, Wally, I've never seen it equalled. I'm astonished,
indeed I am!"

Waldron laughed easily.

"Don't worry," he answered his partner. "That temporary aberration of
judgment, due to oxygen-stimulus, will have no results. Herzog won't
dare fill out the check, anyhow, because he knows he'd get into trouble
if he did; and even though he should, he can collect nothing. I'll have
payment stopped, at once, on that number. No danger, Flint!"

"I don't know," mused the Billionaire. "It may be that this man has us
just a little under his thumb. He, and he alone, understands the
process. We've got to treat him with due consideration, or he may leave
us and carry his secret to others--to Masterson, for instance, or the
Amalgamated people, or--"

"Nothing doing on that, old man!" interrupted "Tiger." "Have no fear.
The first move he makes, off to Sing Sing he goes, the way we jobbed
Parker Hayes. Slade and the Cosmos Agency can take care of _him_, all
right, if he asserts himself!"

"Very likely," answered Flint, who had now at last entirely recovered
his sang-froid. "But in that event, our work would be at a standstill.
No, Waldron, we mustn't oppose this fellow. Better let the check go
through, if he has nerve enough to fill it out and cash it. He won't
dare gouge very deep; and no matter what he takes, it won't be a drop in
the ocean, compared to the golden flood now almost within our grasp!"

Waldron pondered a moment, then nodded assent.

"All right. Correct," he finally answered. "So then, we can dismiss that
trifle from our minds. Now, to work! We've got the process we were
after. What next?"

"First of all," answered the Billionaire, "we'll let this Herzog
understand that he's to have a share in the results; that in this, as in
everything so far, he's merely a tool--and that when tools lose their
cutting edge we break 'em. He's a meek devil. We can hold _him_ easily
enough."

"Right. And then?" asked Waldron.

"Then? First of all, a good, big, wide-sweeping publicity campaign. That
must begin today, to prepare opinion for the forthcoming development of
the new idea."

"Henderson can handle that, all right," said Wally, leaning forward in
his chair. "Give him the idea, and turn him loose, and he'll get
results. A clever dog, that. He and his press bureau, working through
all the big dailies and many of the magazines, can turn this country
upside down in six months. Let him get on this job, and before you know
it the public will be demanding, be fighting for a chance to subscribe
to the new ventilating-service. That part of it is easy!"

"Yes, you're right," replied Flint. "We'll see Henderson no later than
this afternoon. He and his writers can lay out a series of popular
articles and advertisements, to be run as pure reading matter, with no
distinguishing mark that they _are_ ads, which will get the country--the
whole world, in fact--coming our way."

"Good," the other assented. "Meantime, we can begin installing oxygen
machines on a big scale, a huge scale, to supply the demand that's bound
to arise. Where do you think we'd best manufacture? Herzog says water
power is the correct thing. We might use Niagara--use some of the
surplus power we already own there."

"Niagara would do, very well," answered Flint. He had once more taken
out his little morocco-covered note book, and was now jotting down some
further memoranda. "It's a good location. Pipe-lines could easily be
extended, from it, to cover practically a quarter to a third of the
United States. Eventually we'll put in another plant in Chicago, one in
Denver and one on the Pacific Coast. Then, in time, there must be
distributing centers in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. But for the
present, we'll begin with the Niagara plant. After we get that under
full operation, the others will develop in due course of time."

"Our charter covers this new line of work. There will be no need of any
legal technicalities," said Waldron, with a smile. "Some charter, if I
do say it, who shouldn't. I drew it, you remember. Nothing much in the
way of possible business-extension got past _me_!"

Flint nodded.

"You're right," he answered. "Nothing stands in our way, now. Positively
nothing. We have land, power and capital without limit. We have the
process. We control press, law, courts, judges, military and every other
form of government. All we need look out for is to secure public
confidence and keep the bandage on the eyes of the world till our system
is actually in operation--then there will be no redress, no come back,
no possible rebellion. As I've already said, Wally, we'll have the whole
world by the windpipe; and let the mob howl _then_, if they dare!"

"Yes, let 'em howl!" chimed in "Tiger," with a snarl that proved his
nickname no misnomer. "Inside of a year we'll have them all where we
want them. You were right, Flint, when you called oil, coal, iron and
all the rest of it mere petty activities. Air--ah! that's the talk! Once
we get the _air_ under our control, we're emperors of all life!"

His words rang frank and bold, but something in his look, as he blinked
at his partner, might have given Flint cause for uneasiness, had the
Billionaire noticed that oblique and dangerous glance. One might have
read therein some shifty and devious plan of Waldron's to dominate even
Flint himself, to rule the master or to wreck him, and to seize in his
own hands the reins of universal power. But Flint, bending over his
note-book and making careful memoranda, saw nothing of all this.

Waldron, an inveterate smoker, lighted a fresh cigar, leaned back,
surveyed his partner and indulged in a short inner laugh, which hardly
curved his cruel lips, but which hardened still more those pale-blue,
steely eyes of his.

"All right," said he, at last. "Enough of this, Flint. Let's get back to
town, now, and have a conference with Henderson. That's the first step.
By tonight, the whole campaign of publicity must be mapped out. Come,
come; you can finish your memoranda later. I'm impatient to be back in
Wall Street. Come along!"

Five minutes later, having left orders that Herzog was to attend upon
them in their private offices, next morning, they had ordered the
limousine and were making way along the hard road toward the gate of the
enclosure.

The gate opened to let them pass, then swung and locked again, behind
them. At a good clip, the powerful car picked up speed on the homeward
way. The two magnates, exultant and flushed with the consciousness of
coming victory, lolled in the deeply-cushioned seat and spoke of power.

As they swung past the aviation field and neared the Oakwood Heights
station, a train pulled out. Down the road came tramping a workingman in
overalls and jumper, with a canvas bag of tools swinging from his brawny
right hand. As he walked, striding along with splendid energy, he
whistled to himself--no cheap ragtime air, but Handel's Largo, with an
appreciation which bespoke musical feeling of no common sort.

The Billionaire caught sight of him, just as the car slowed to take the
sharp turn by the station. Instant recognition followed. Flint's eyes
narrowed sharply.

"Hm! The same fellow," he grunted to himself. "The same rascal who stood
beside us on the ferry boat, as we were talking over our plans. Now,
what the devil?"

Shadowed by a kind of instinctive uneasiness, not yet definite or clear
but more in the nature of a premonition of trouble, Flint gazed fixedly
at the mechanic as the car swung round the bend in the road. The glance
was returned.

Yielding to some kind of imperative curiosity, the Billionaire leaned
over the side of the car--leaned out, with his coat flapping in the
stiff wind--and for a moment peered back at the disquieting workman.

Then the car swept him out of sight, and Flint resumed his seat again.

He did not know--for he had not seen it happen--that in that moment the
slippery, leather-covered note-book had slid from his lolling coat
pocket and had fallen with a sharp slap on the white macadam, skidded
along and come to rest in the ditch.

The workingman, however, who had paused and turned to look after the
speeding car, _he_ had seen all this.

A moment he stood there, peering. Then, retracing his steps with
resolution he picked up the little book and slid it into the pocket of
his jeans.

Deserted was the road. Not a soul was to be seen, save the crossing
flagman, musing in his chair beside his little hut, quite oblivious to
everything but a rank cob pipe. The workman's act had not been noticed.

Nobody had observed him. Nobody knew. Not a living creature had
witnessed the slight deed on which, by a strange freak of fate, the
history of the world was yet to turn.



CHAPTER VIII.

ONE UNBIDDEN, SHARES GREAT SECRETS.


Immediately on discovering his loss--which was soon after having reached
his office--Flint, in something like a fright, telephoned down to the
Oakwood Heights laboratory and instructed Herzog, in person, to make a
careful search for it and to report results inside an hour. Even though
some of the essentials of his plan were written in a code of his own
devising, Flint paled before the possible results should the book fall
into the hands of anybody intelligent enough to fathom its meaning.

"Damn the luck!" he ejaculated, pacing the office floor, his fists
knotted. "If it had been a pocket book with a few thousand inside, that
would have been a trifle. But to lose my plan of campaign--God grant no
harm may come of it!"

Waldron, slyly observing him, could not suppress a smile.

"Calling on God, eh?" sneered he. "You _must_ be agitated. I haven't
heard that kind of entreaty on your lips, Flint, since the year of the
big coal strike, when you prayed God the gun-men might 'get' the
strikers before they could organize. Come, come, man, brace up! Your
book will turn up all right; and even if it doesn't there's no cause for
alarm. It would take a man of extraordinary acumen to read _your_
hieroglyphics! Cheer up, Flint. There's really nothing to excite you."

The Billionaire thus adjured, sat down and tried to calm his agitation.

"Rotten luck, eh?" he queried. "But after all, Herzog is likely to find
the book. And even if he doesn't, I guess we're safe enough. The very
boldness of the plan--supposing even that the finder could grasp
it--would put it outside the seeming range of the possible. It's hardly
a hundred to one shot any harm may come of it."

"All right, then, let it go at that," said Waldron. "And now, to
business. Suppose, for example, you've got a perfectly unlimited supply
of oxygen-gas and liquid. How are you going to market it? Just what
details have you worked out?"

Flint pondered a moment, before replying. At last he said:

"Of course you understand, Wally, I can't give you every point. The
whole thing will be an evolution, and new ideas and processes, new uses
and demands will develop as time passes. But in the main, my idea is
this: The big producing stations will steadily extract oxygen from the
atmosphere, thus leaving the air increasingly poorer and less adapted to
sustaining human life.

"I shall store the oxygen in vast tanks, like the ordinary gas-tanks to
be found in every city, only much bigger. These tanks will be fed by
pipe-lines from the central stations, thus."

Flint drew toward him a sheet of his heavily embossed letter-paper, and,
picking up a pencil, began to sketch a rough diagram. Waldron, making no
comment, followed every stroke with keen interest.

"From these tanks," the Billionaire continued, "smaller pipes will
convey the gaseous oxygen to every house taking our service."

"Just like ordinary gas?"

"Precisely. Each room will be fitted with an oxygen jet apparatus,
something like a gas burner, with a safety device to prevent over supply
and avoid the dangers of combustion."

"Combustion?"

"Yes. In pure oxygen, a glowing bit of wire will burst into flame. Your
cigar, there, would catch fire, from the merest spark in its inmost
folds. Too much oxygen in a room not only intoxicates the
occupants--we've already seen _that_ effect--but also develops a great
fire risk. So we shall have to make some provision for that, Wally. It
will be absolutely essential."

"All right. Allowing it's been made, what then?" asked "Tiger," with
extraordinary interest.

"Can't you see? We'll have every household under our absolute thumb?"
And Flint pressed his thumb on the table to illustrate. "My God, man,
think of it! Every city honeycombed by our pipes--yes, and every village
and hamlet too, and even every farm house that can afford it! At first,
the cost will be very low, till people have become accustomed to ozone
as they are to water. The whole ventilation problem will be solved, at
once and for all time. Where we can't pipe in the ozone, we can use
portable vaporizers, to be supplied once a month, and of sufficient
capacity to keep the air of an average-sized house perfectly pure for
thirty days.

"Pure? More than pure! Exhilarating, life-giving, delicious! Under this
system, Wally, the middle and upper classes will thrive as never
before. They'll grow in size and weight, in health and intelligence,
under the steady influence of ozone, day and night. Every vital process
will be stimulated. Our invention will mark a new era in the welfare of
the world!"

"Bunk!" sneered Wally. "That's all very well for your prospectuses and
newspaper articles, old man, but the fact is we don't give a damn
whether it helps the world or wrecks it. We're out for money and power.
My motto is, Get 'em and do good, if you can--but _get_ 'em anyhow! So
you had better can the philanthropic part of it. Just show me the cash,
and you can have all the credit!"

Flint shot a grim look at his partner, then continued:

"Don't be flippant, Wally. This is a serious business and must be
treated as such. In addition to the respiratory service, we can put in
water-cooling and refrigerating services, at low cost, also cold-pipes
for cooling houses in summer. In fine, we can immeasurably add to the
health and comfort of the better classes; and can at last have everybody
using our gas, which, registering through our own sealed meters, will
flood us with wealth so vast as to make that of these Standard Oil
pifflers look like the proverbial thirty cents!"

"Fine!" exclaimed Waldron, nodding approval. "Also, any time any
rebellion develops we can merely shut off the supply in that quarter,
and quickly reduce it. Or, again, we can increase the potency of the
gas, and fairly intoxicate the people, till they stand for anything.
Just fancy, now, our pipes connected with the sacred Halls of Congress
and with the White House! Even if any difficulty could possibly be
expected from these sources, just imagine how quickly we could nip it in
the bud!"

"Quickly isn't the word, Wally," answered the Billionaire. "I tell you,
old man, the world lies in our hands, today. And we have only to close
our fingers, in order to possess it!"

He glanced at his own fingers, as though he visibly perceived the great
world lying there for him to squeeze. Waldron's eyes, following the
Billionaire's, saw that Flint's hand was trembling, and understood the
reason. More than three hours had passed--nay, almost four--since Flint
had had any opportunity to take his necessary dose of morphia. Waldron
arose, paced to the window and stood there looking out over the vast
panorama of city, river and harbor, apparently absorbed in
contemplation, but really keen to hear what Flint might do.

His expectations were not disappointed. Hardly had he turned his back,
when he heard the desk-drawer open, furtively, and knew the Billionaire
was taking out the little vial of white tablets, dearer to him than ever
the caress of woman to a Don Juan. A moment later, the drawer closed
again.

"He'll do now, for a while," thought Waldron, with satisfaction. "Let
him go the limit, if he likes--the fool! The more he takes, the quicker
I win. It'll kill him yet, the dope will. And _that_ means, my mastery
of the world will be complete. Let him go it! The harder, the better!"

He turned back toward Flint, again, veiling in that impenetrable face of
his the slightest hint or expression which might have told Flint that he
understood the Billionaire's vice. If Flint were Vulture, Waldron was
Tiger, indeed. And so, for a brief moment, these two soulless men of
gold and power stood eyeing each other, in silence.

Suddenly Waldron spoke.

"There's one thing you've forgotten to speak of, Flint," he said.

"And that is?" demanded the other, already calmed by the quick action of
the subtle, enslaving drug.

"The effect on the world's poor--on the toiling millions! The results of
this innovation, in slum, and slave-quarter, and in the haunts of
poverty. Your talk has all been of the middle and upper classes, and of
the benefits accruing to them, from increased oxygen-consumption. But
how about the others? Every ounce of oxygen you take out of the air,
leaves it just so much poorer. Store thousands of tons of the
life-giving gas, in monster tanks, and you vitiate the entire
atmosphere. How about that? How can even the well-to-do breathe, then,
out-doors, to say nothing of the poverty-stricken millions?"

Flint grimaced, showing a glint of his gold tooth--his substitute for a
smile.

"That's all reckoned for," he answered. "I thought I made it quite
clear, in our previous talk. To begin with, we will withdraw the oxygen
from the atmosphere so slowly that at first there won't be any
noticeable effect on the out-door air. For a while, the only thing that
will be noticed by the world will be that our gas service, to private
residences and institutions, will result in greatly increased comfort
and health to the better classes. And the cost will be so low--at first,
mind you, only at first--that every family of any means at all can take
it. In fact, Wally, we can afford practically to give away the service,
for the first year, until we get our grip firmly fixed on the throat of
the world. Do you get the idea?"

Waldron nodded, as he drew leisurely on his cigar.

"Practical to a degree," he answered. "That is, until the poor begin to
gasp for breath. But what then?"

"By the time the outer atmosphere really begins to show the effect of
withdrawing a considerable percentage of the oxygen," Flint answered,
"we will have our pocket respirators on the market. Well-to-do people
will as soon think of going out without their shoes, as they will with
their respirators. No, there won't be any visible tubes or attachments,
Wally. Nothing of that kind. Only, each person will carry a properly
insulated cake of solidified oxygen that will evaporate through the
special apparatus and surround him with a normally rich atmosphere.
And--"

"Yes, but the poor? The workers? What of them?"

"Devil take _them_, if it comes to that!" retorted Flint, with some
heat. "Who ever gives them any serious attention, as it is? Who bothers
about their health? They eat and drink and breathe the leavings,
anyhow--eat the cheapest and most adulterated food, drink the vilest
slop and breathe the most vitiated slum air. Nobody cares, except
perhaps those crazy Socialists that once in a while get up on the
street-corner and howl about the rights of man and all that rubbish!
Working-class? What do _I_ care about the cattle? Let them die, if they
want to! D'you suppose, for one minute, I'm going to limit or delay this
big innovation, because there's a working-class that may suffer?"

"They'll do more than suffer, Flint, if you seriously depreciate the
atmosphere. They'll die!"

"Well, let them, and be damned to them!" retorted Flint, already
showing symptoms of drug-stimulation. Waldron, smoking meanwhile, eyed
him with a dangerous smile lurking in his cold eyes. "Let them, I say!
They die off, now, twice or thrice as fast as the better classes, but
what difference does it make? Great breeders, those people are. The more
they die, the faster they multiply. Let them go their way and do as they
like, so long as they don't interfere with _us_! The only really
important factor to reckon on is this, that with an impoverished air to
breathe, their rebellious spirit will die out--the dogs!--and we'll have
no more talk of social revolution. We'll draw their teeth, all right
enough; or rather, twist the bowstring round their damned necks so tight
that all their energy, outside of work, will be consumed in just keeping
alive. Revolution, then? Forget it, Waldron! We'll kill _that_ viper
once and for all!"

"Good idea, Flint," the other replied, with approbation. "Only a
master-mind like yours could have conceived it. I'm with you, all right
enough. Only, tell me--do you really believe we can put this whole
program through, without a hitch? Without a leak, anywhere? Without
barricades in the streets, wild-eyed agitators howling, machine-guns
chattering, and Hell to pay?"

Flint smiled grimly.

"Wait and see!" he growled.

"Maybe you're right," his partner answered. "But slow and easy is the
only way."

"Slow and easy," Flint assented. "Of course we can't go too fast. In
1850, for example, do you suppose the public would have tolerated the
sudden imposition of monopolies? Hardly! But now they lie down under
them, and even vote and fight to keep them! So, too, with this Air
Trust. Time will show you I'm right."

Waldron glanced at his watch.

"Long past lunch-time, Flint," said he. "Enough of this, for now. And
this afternoon, I've got that D. K. & E. directors' meeting on
hand. When shall we go on with our plans, and get down to specific
details?"

"This evening, say?"

"Very well. At my house?"

"No. Too noisy. Run out to Englewood, to mine. We'll be quiet there. And
come early, Waldron. We've no end of things to discuss. The quicker we
get the actual work under way, now, the better. You can see Catherine,
too. Isn't that an inducement?"

Thus ended the conference. It resumed, that night, in Flint's luxurious
study at "Idle Hour," his superb estate on the Palisades. Waldron paid
only a perfunctory court to Catherine, who manifested her pleasure by
studied indifference. Both magnates felt relieved when she withdrew.
They had other and larger matters under way than any dealing with the
amenities of life.

Until past midnight the session in the study lasted, under the soft glow
of the Billionaire's reading-light. And many choice cigars were smoked,
many sheets of paper covered with diagrams and calculations, many vast
schemes of conquest expanded, ere the two masters said good-night and
separated.

At the very hour of Waldron's leave-taking, another man was pondering
deeply, studying the problem from quite another angle, and--no less
earnestly, than the two magnates--laying careful plans.

This man, sturdy, well-built and keen, smoked an old briar as he
worked. A flannel shirt, open at the throat, showed a well-sinewed neck
and powerful chest. Under the inverted cone of a shaded incandescent in
his room, at the electricians' quarters of the Oakwood Heights
enclosure, one could see the deep lines of thought and careful study
crease his high and prominent brow.

From time to time he gazed out through the open window, off toward the
whispering lines of surf on the eastern shores of Staten Island--the
surf forever talking, forever striving to give its mystic message to the
unheeding ear of man. And as he gazed, his blue eyes narrowed with the
intensity of his thought. Once, as though some sudden understanding had
come to him, he smote the pine table with a corded fist, and swore below
his breath.

It was past two in the morning when he finally rose, stretched, yawned
and made ready for sleep on his hard iron bunk.

"Can it be?" he muttered, as he undressed. "Can it be possible, or am I
dreaming? No--this is no dream! This is reality; and thank God, I
understand."

Then, before he extinguished his light, he took from the table the
material he had been studying over, and put it beneath his pillow, where
he could guard it safe till morning.

The thing he thus protected was none other than a small note-book,
filled with diagrams, jottings and calculations, and bound in red
morocco covers.

That night, at Englewood--in the Billionaire's home and in the
workman's simple room at Oakwood Heights--history was being made.

The outcome, tragic and terrible, who could have foreseen?



CHAPTER IX.

DISCHARGED.


Almost all the following morning, working at his bench in the
electro-chemical laboratories of the great Oakwood Heights plant,
Gabriel Armstrong pondered deeply on the problems and responsibilities
now opening out before him.

The finding of that little red-leather note-book, he fully understood,
had at one stroke put him in possession of facts more vital to the
labor-movement and the world at large than any which had ever developed
since the very beginning of Capitalism. A Socialist to the backbone,
thoroughly class-conscious and dowered with an incisive intellect,
Gabriel thrilled at thought that he, by chance, had been chosen as the
instrument through which he felt the final revolution now must work. And
though he remained outwardly calm, as he bent above his toil, inwardly
he was aflame. His heart throbbed with an excitement he could scarce
control. His brain seemed on fire; his soul pulsed with savage joy and
magnificent inspiration. For he was only four-and-twenty, and the bitter
grind of years and toil had not yet worn his spirit down nor quelled the
ardor of his splendid strength and optimism.

Working at his routine labor, his mind was not upon it. No, rather it
dwelt upon the vast discovery he had made--or seemed to have made--the
night before. Clearly limned before his vision, he still saw the notes,
the plans, the calculations he had been able to decipher in the
Billionaire's lost note-book--the note-book which now, deep in the
pocket of his jumper that hung behind him on a hook against the wall,
drew his every thought, as steel draws the compass-needle.

"Incredible, yet true!" he pondered, as he filed a brass casting for a
new-type dynamo. "These men are plotting to strangle the world to
death--to strangle, if they cannot own and rule it! And, what's more, I
see nothing to prevent their doing it. The plan is sound. They have the
means. At this very moment, the whole human race is standing in the
shadow of a peril so great, a slavery so imminent, that the most savage
war of conquest ever waged would be a mere skirmish, by comparison!"

Mechanically he labored on and on, turning the tremendous problem in his
brain, striving in vain for some solution, some grasp at effective
opposition. And, as he thought, a kind of dumb hopelessness settled down
about him, tangible almost as a curtain black and heavy.

"What shall I do?" he muttered to himself. "What can I do, to strike
these devils from their villainous plan of mastery?"

As yet, he saw nothing clearly. No way seemed open to him. Alone, he
knew he could do nothing; yet whither should he turn for help? To rival
capitalist groups? They would not even listen to him; or, if they
listened and believed, they would only combine with the plotters, or
else, on their own hook, try to emulate them. To the labor movement? It
would mock him as a chimerical dreamer, despite all his proofs. At best,
he might start a few ineffectual strikes, petty and futile, indeed,
against this vast, on-moving power. To the Socialists? They, through
their press and speakers--in case they should believe him and co-operate
with him--could, indeed, give the matter vast publicity and excite
popular opposition; but, after all, could they abort the plan? He feared
they could not. The time, he knew, was not yet ripe when Labor, on the
political field, could meet and overthrow forces such as these.

And so, for all his fevered thinking, he got no radical, no practical
solution of the terrible problem. More and more definitely, as he
weighed the pros and cons, the belief was borne in upon him that in this
case he must appeal to nobody but himself, count on nobody, trust in
nobody save Gabriel Armstrong.

"I must play a lone hand game, for a while at least," he concluded, as
he finished his casting and took another. "Later, perhaps, I can enlist
my comrades. But for now, I must watch, wait, work, all alone. Perhaps,
armed with this knowledge--invaluable knowledge shared by no one--I can
meet their moves, checkmate their plans and defeat their ends. Perhaps!
It will be a battle between one man, obscure and without means, and two
men who hold billions of dollars and unlimited resources in their grasp.
A battle unequal in every sense; a battle to the death. But I may win,
after all. Every probability is that I shall lose, lose everything, even
my life. Yet still, there is a chance. By God, I'll take it!"

The last words, uttered aloud, seemed to spring from his lips as though
uttered by the very power of invincible determination. A sneer, behind
him, brought him round with a start. His gaze widened, at sight of
Herzog standing there, cold and dangerous looking, with a venomous
expression in those ill-mated eyes of his.

"Take it, will you?" jibed the scientist. "You thief!"

Gabriel sprang up so suddenly that his stool clattered over backward on
the red-tiled floor. His big fist clenched and lifted. But Herzog never
flinched.

"Thief!" he repeated, with an ugly thrust of the jaw. Servile and
crawling to his masters, the man was ever arrogant and harsh with those
beneath his authority. "I repeat the word. Drop that fist, Armstrong, if
you know what's good for you. I warn you. Any disturbance, here,
and--well, you know what we can do!"

The electrician paled, slightly. But it was not through cowardice. Rage,
passion unspeakable, a sudden and animal hate of this lick-spittle and
supine toady shook him to the heart's core. Yet he managed to control
himself, not through any personal apprehension, but because of the great
work he knew still lay before him. At all hazards, come what might, he
must stay on, there, at the Oakwood Heights plant. Nothing, now, must
come between him and that one supreme labor.

Thus he controlled himself, with an effort so tremendous that it
wrenched his very soul. This trouble, whatever it might be, must not be
noised about. Already, up and down the shop, workers were peering
curiously at him. He must be calm; must pass the insult, smooth the
situation and remain employed there.

"I--I beg pardon," he managed to articulate, with pale lips that
trembled. He wiped the beaded sweat from his broad forehead. "Excuse me,
Mr. Herzog. I--you startled me. What's the trouble? Any complaint to
make? If so, I'm here to listen."

Herzog's teeth showed in a rat-like grin of malice.

"Yes, you'll listen, all right enough," he sneered. "I've named you, and
that goes! You're a thief, Armstrong, and this proves it! Look!"

From behind his back, where he had been holding it, he produced the
little morocco-covered book. Right in Armstrong's face he shook it, with
an oath.

"Steal, will you?" he jibed. "For it's the same thing--no difference
whether you picked it out of Mr. Flint's pocket or found it on the floor
here, and tried to keep it! Steal, eh? Hold it for some possible reward?
You skunk! Lucky you haven't brains enough to make out what's in it!
Thought you'd keep it, did you? But you weren't smart enough,
Armstrong--no, not quite smart enough for me! After looking the whole
place over, I thought I'd have a go at a few pockets--and, you see? Oh,
you'll have to get up early to beat _me_ at the game you--you thief!"

With the last word, he raised the book and struck the young man a
blistering welt across the face with it.

Armstrong fell back, against the bench, perfectly livid, with the wale
of the blow standing out red and distinct across his cheek. Then he went
pale as death, and staggered as though about to faint.

"God--God in heaven!" he gasped. "Give me--strength--not to kill this
animal!"

A startled look came into Herzog's face. He recognized, at last, the
nature of the rage he had awakened. In those twitching fists and that
white, writhen face he recognized the signs of passion that might, on a
second's notice, leap to murder. And, shot through with panic, he now
retreated, like the coward he was, though with the sneer still on his
thin and cruel lips.

"Get your time!" he commanded, with crude brutality. "Go, get it at
once. You're lucky to get off so easily. If Flint knew this, you'd land
behind bars. But we want no scenes here. Get your money from Sanderson,
and clear out. Your job ended the minute my hand touched that book in
your pocket!"

Still Armstrong made no reply. Still he remained there, dazed and
stricken, pallid as milk, a wild and terrible light in his blue eyes.

An ugly murmur rose. Two or three of his fellow-workmen had come
drifting down the shop, toward the scene of altercation. Another joined
them, and another. Not one of them but hated Herzog with a bitter
animosity. And now perhaps, the time was come to pay a score or two.

But Armstrong, suddenly lifting his head, faced them all, his comrades.
His mind, quick-acting, had realized that, now his possession of the
book had been discovered, his chances of discovering anything more, at
the works, had utterly vanished. Even though he should remain, he could
do nothing there. If he were to act, it must be from the outside, now,
following the trend of events, dogging each development, striving in
hidden, devious ways--violent ways, perhaps--to pull down this horrible
edifice of enslavement ere it should whelm and crush the world.

So, acting as quickly as he had thought, and now ignoring the man Herzog
as though he had never existed, Armstrong faced his fellows.

"It's all right, boys," said he, quite slowly, his voice seeming to
come from a distance, his tones forced and unnatural. "It's all right,
every way. I'm caught with the goods. Don't any of you butt in. Don't
mix with my trouble. For once I'm glad this is a scab shop, otherwise
there might be a strike, here, and worse Hell to pay than there will be
otherwise. I'm done. I'll get my time, and quit. But--remember one
thing, you'll understand some day what this is all about.

"I'm glad to have worked with you fellows, the past few months. You're
all right, every one of you. Good-bye, and remember--"

"Here, you men, get back to work!" cried Herzog, suddenly. "No
hand-shaking here, and no speech-making. This man's a sneak-thief and
he's fired, that's all there is to it. Now, get onto your job! The first
man that puts up a complaint about it, can get through, too!"

For a moment they glowered at him, there in the white-lighted glare of
the big shop. A fight, even then, was perilously near, but Armstrong
averted it by turning away.

"I'm done." he repeated. He gathered up a few tools that belonged to
him, personally, gave one look at his comrades, waved a hand at them,
and then, followed by Herzog, strode off down the long aisle, toward the
door.

"Herzog," said he, calmly and with cold emphasis, "listen to this."

"Get out! Get your time, I tell you, and go!" repeated the bully. "To
Hell with you! Clear out of here!"

"I'm going," the young man answered. "But before I do, remember this;
you grazed death, just now. Well for you, Herzog, almighty well for you,
my temper didn't best me. For remember, you struck me and called me
'thief'--and that sort of thing can't be forgotten, ever, even though
we live a thousand years.

"Remember, Herzog--not now, but sometime. Remember that one
word--sometime! That's all!"

With no further speech, and while Herzog still stood there by the shop
door, sneering at him, Armstrong turned and passed out. A few minutes
later he had been paid off, had packed his knapsack with his few
belongings, and was outside the big palisade, striding along the hard
and glaring road toward the station.

"I did it," his one overmastering thought was. "Thank heaven, I did it!
I held my temper and my tongue, didn't kill that spawn of Hell, and
saved the whole situation. I'm out of a job, true enough, and out of the
plant; but after all, I'm free--and I know what's in the wind!

"There's yet hope. There'll be a way, a way to do this work! What a man
_must_ do, he _can_ do!"

Up came Armstrong's chin, as he walked. His shoulders squared, with
strength and purpose, and his stride swung into the easy machine gait
that had already carried him so many thousand miles along the hard and
bitter highways of the world.

As he strode away, on the long road toward he knew not what, words
seemed to form and shape in his strengthened and refortified mind--words
for long years forgotten--words that he once had heard at his mother's
knee:

"_He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city!_"



CHAPTER X.

A GLIMPSE AT THE PARASITES.


The Longmeadow Country Club, on the Saturday afternoon following
Armstrong's abrupt dismissal, was a scene of gaiety and beauty without
compare. Set in broad acres of wood and lawn, the club-house proudly
dominated far-flung golf-links and nearer tennis-courts. Shining motors
stood parked on the plaza before the club garage, each valued at several
years' wages of a workingman. Men and women--exploiters all, or
parasites--elegantly and coolly clad in white, smote the swift sphere
upon the tennis-court, with jest and laughter. Others, attended by
caddies--mere proletarian scum, bent beneath the weight of cleeks and
brassies--moved across the smooth-cropped links, kept in condition by
grazing sheep and by steam-rollers. On putting-green and around bunkers
these idlers struggled with artificial difficulties, while in shops and
mines and factories, on railways and in the blazing Hells of
stoke-holes, men of another class, a slave-class, labored and agonized,
toiled and died that _these_ might wear fine linen and spend the long
June afternoon in play.

From the huge, cobble-stone chimney of the Country Club, upwafting smoke
told of the viands now preparing for the idlers' dinner, after
sport--rich meats and dainties of the rarest. In the rathskeller some of
the elder and more indolent men were absorbing alcohol while music
played and painted nymphs of abundant charms looked down from the
wall-frescoes. Out on the broad piazzas, well sheltered by awnings from
the rather ardent sun, men and women sat at spotless tables, dallying
with drinks of rare hues and exalted prices. Cigarette-smoke wafted away
on the pure breeze from over the Catskills, far to northwest, defiling
the sweet breath of Nature, herself, with fumes of nicotine and dope. A
Hungarian orchestra was playing the latest Manhattan ragtime, at the far
end of the piazza. It was, all in all, a scene of rare refinement,
characteristic to a degree of the efflorescence of American capitalism.

At one of the tables, obviously bored, sat Catherine Flint, only
daughter of the Billionaire. A rare girl, she, to look
upon--deep-bosomed and erect, dressed simply in a middy-blouse with a
blue tie, a khaki skirt and low, rubber-soled shoes revealing a
silk-stockinged ankle that would have attracted the enthusiastic
attention of gentlemen in any city of the world. No hat disfigured the
coiled and braided masses of coppery hair that circled her shapely head.
A healthy tan on face and arms and open throat bespoke her keen devotion
to all outdoor life. Her fingers, lithe and strong, were graced by but
two rings--a monogram, of gold, and the betrothal ring that Maxim
Waldron had put there, only three weeks before.

Impatience dominated her. One could see that, in the nervous tapping of
her fingers on the cloth; the slight swing of her right foot as she sat
there, one knee crossed over the other; the glance of her keen, gray
eyes down the broad drive-way that led from the huge stone gates up to
the club-house.

Beside her sat a nonentity in impeccable dress, dangling a monocle and
trying to make small-talk, the while he dallied with a Bronx cocktail,
costing more than a day's wage for a childish flower-making slave of the
tenements, and inhaled a Rotten Row cigarette, the "last word" from
London in the tobacco line. To the sallies of this elegant, the girl
replied by only monosyllables. Her glass was empty, nor would she have
it filled, despite the exquisite's entreaties. From time to time she
glanced impatiently at the long bag of golf-sticks leaning against the
porch rail; and, now and then, her eyes sought the little Cervine watch
set in a leather wristlet on her arm.

"Inconsiderate of him, I'm sure--ah--to keep so magnificent a Diana
waiting," drawled her companion, blowing a lungful of thin blue smoke
athwart the breeze. "Especially when you're so deuced keen on doing the
course before dinner. Now if _I_ were the favored swain, wild horses
wouldn't keep me away."

She made no answer, but turned a look of indifference on the shrimp
beside her. Had he possessed the soul of a real man, he would have
shriveled; but, being oblivious to all things save the pride of wealth
and monstrous self-conceit, he merely snickered and reached for his
cocktail--which, by the way, he was absorbing through a straw.

"I say, Miss Flint?" he presently began again, stirring the ice in the
cocktail.

"Well?" she answered, curtly.

"If you--er--are really very, _very_ impatient to have a go at the
links, why wait for Wally? I--I should be only too glad to volunteer my
services as your knight-errant, and all that sort of thing."

"Thanks, awfully," she answered, "but Mr. Waldron promised to go round
the course with me, this afternoon, and I'll wait."

The impeccable one grinned fatuously, invited her again to have a
drink--which she declined--and ordered another for himself, with profuse
apologies for drinking alone; apologies which she hardly seemed to
notice.

"Deuced bad form of Wally, I must say," the gilded youth resumed, trying
to make capital for himself, "to leave you in the lurch, this way!"

Silence from Catherine. The would-be interloper, feeling that he was on
the wrong track, took counsel with himself and remained for a moment
immersed in what he imagined to be thought. At last, however, with an
oblique glance at his indifferent companion, he remarked.

"Devilish hard time women have in this world, you know! Don't you
sometimes wish you were a man?"

Her answer flashed back like a rapier:

"No! Do you wish _you_ were?"

Stunned by this "facer," Reginald Van Slyke gasped and stared. That he,
a scion of the Philadelphia Van Slykes, in his own right worth two
hundred million dollars--dollars ground out of the Kensington
carpet-mill slaves by his grandfather--should be thus flouted and put
upon by the daughter of Flint, that parvenu, absolutely floored him. For
a moment he sat there speechless, unable even to reach for his drink;
but presently some coherence returned. He was about to utter what he
conceived to be a strong rejoinder, when the girl suddenly standing up,
turned her back upon him and ignored him as completely as she might have
ignored any of the menials of the club.

His irritated glance followed hers. There, far down the drive, just
rounding the long turn by the artificial lake, a big blue motor car was
speeding up the grade at a good clip. Van Slyke recognized it, and swore
below his breath.

"Wally, at last, damn him!" he muttered. "Just when I was beginning to
make headway with Kate!"

Vexed beyond endurance, he drummed on the cloth with angry fingers; but
Catherine was oblivious. Unmindful of the merry-makers at the other
tables, the girl waved her handkerchief at the swiftly-approaching
motor. Waldron, from the back seat, raised an answering hand--though
without enthusiasm. Above all things he hated demonstration, and the
girl's frank manner, free, unconventional and not yet broken to the
harness of Mrs. Grundy, never failed to irritate him.

"Very incorrect for people in our set," he often thought. "But for the
present I can do nothing. Once she is my wife, ah, then I shall find
means to curb her. For the present, however, I must let her have her
head."

Such was now his frame of mind as the long car slid under the
porte-cochère and came to a stand. He would have infinitely preferred
that the girl should wait his coming to her, on the piazza; but already
she had slung her bag of sticks over her strong shoulder, and was down
the steps to meet him. Her leave-taking of the incensed Van Slyke had
been the merest nod.

"You're late, Wally," said she, smiling with her usual good humor, which
had already quite dissipated her impatience. "Late, but I'll forgive
you, this time. I'm afraid we won't have time to do all eighteen holes
round. What kept you?"

"Business, business!" he answered, frowning. "Always the same old
grind, Kate. You women don't understand. I tell you, this slaving in
Wall Street isn't what it's cracked up to be. I couldn't get away till
11:30. Then, just had a quick bite of lunch, and broke every speed law
in New York getting here. Do you forgive me?"

He had descended from the car, in speaking. They shook hands, while the
chauffeur stood at attention and all the gossips on the piazza, scenting
the possibility of a disagreement, craned discreetly eager necks and
listened intently.

"Forgive you? Of course--this time, but never again," the girl laughed.
"Now, run along and get into your flannels. I'll meet you on the driving
green, in ten minutes. Not another second, mind, or--"

"I'll be on the dot," he answered. "Here, boy," beckoning a caddy, "take
Miss Flint's sticks. And have mine carried to the green. Look sharp,
now!"

Then, with a nod at the girl, he ran up the steps and vanished in the
club-house, bound for the locker-room.

Fifteen minutes the girl waited on the green, watching others drive off
from the little tees and inwardly chafing to be in action. Fifteen, and
then twenty, before Waldron finally appeared, immaculate in white,
bare-armed and with a loose, checked cap shading his close-set eyes. The
fact was, in addition to having changed his clothes, he had felt obliged
to linger in the bar for a little Scotch; and one drink had meant
another; and thus precious moments had sped.

But his smile was confident as he approached the green. Women, after
all, he reflected, were meant to be kept waiting. They never appreciated
a man who kept appointments exactly. Not less fatuous at heart, in
truth, was he, than the unfortunate Van Slyke. But his manner was
perfection as he saluted her and bade the caddy build their tees.

The girl, however, was now plainly vexed. Her mouth had drawn a trifle
tight and the tilt of her chin was determined. Her eyes were far from
soft, as she surveyed this delinquent fiancé.

"I don't like you a bit, today, Wally," said she, as he deliberated
over the club-bag, choosing a driver. "This makes twice you've kept me
waiting. I warn you don't let it happen again!"

Under the seeming banter of her tone lurked real resentment. But he,
with a smile--partly due to a finger too much Scotch--only answered, in
a low tone:

"You're adorable, today, Kate! The combination of fresh air and
annoyance has painted the most wonderful roses on your cheeks!"

She shrugged her shoulders with a little motion she had inherited from
French ancestry, stooped, set her golf ball on the little mound of sand,
exactly to suit her, and raised her driver on high.

"Nine holes," said she, "and I'm going to beat you, today!"

He frowned a little at the spirit of the threat, for any self-assertion
in a woman crossed his grain; but soon forgot his pique in admiration of
the drive.

Swishing, her club flashed down in a quick circle. _Crack_! It struck
the gutta-percha squarely. The little white sphere zipped away like a
rocket, rose in a far trajectory, up, up, toward the water-hazard at the
foot of the grassy slope, then down in a long curve.

Even while the girl's cry of "Fore!" was echoing across the green, the
ball struck earth, ricochetted and sped on, away, across the turf, till
it came to rest not twenty yards from the putting green of the first
hole.

"Wheeoo!" whistled Waldron. "Some drive. I guess you're going to make
good your threat, today, Kate of my heart!"

The smile she flashed at him showed that her resentment had, for the
moment, been forgotten.

"Come on, Wally, now let's see what _you_ can do," said she, starting
off down the slope, while her meek caddy tagged at a respectful
distance.

Waldron, thus adjured, teed up and swung at the ball. But the Scotch had
by no means steadied his aim. He foozled badly and broke his pet driver,
into the bargain. The steel head of it flew farther even than the ball,
which moved hardly ten yards.

"Damn!" he muttered, under his breath, choosing another stick and
glancing with real irritation at Catherine's lithe, splendidly poised
figure already some distance down the slope.

His second stroke was more successful, nearly equalling hers. But her
advantage, thus early won, was not destined to be lost again. And as the
game proceeded, Waldron's temper grew steadily worse and worse.

Thus began, for these two people, an hour destined to be fraught with
such pregnant developments--an hour which, in its own way, vitally bore
on the great loom now weaving warp and woof of world events.



CHAPTER XI.

THE END OF TWO GAMES.


Trivial events sometimes precipitate catastrophies. It has been said
that had James MacDonald not left the farm gate open, at Hugomont,
Waterloo might have ended otherwise. So now, the rupture between
Catherine Flint and Maxim Waldron was precipitated by a single unguarded
oath.

It was at the ninth hole, down back of the Terrace Woods bunker.
Waldron, heated by exercise and the whiskey he had drunk, had already
dismissed the caddies and had undertaken to carry the clubs, himself,
hoping--man-fashion--to steal a kiss or two from Catherine, along the
edge of the close-growing oaks and maples. But all his plans went agley,
for Catherine really made good and beat him, there, by half a dozen
strokes; and as her little sphere, deftly driven by the putting-iron
gripped in her brown, firm hands, rolled precisely over the cropped turf
and fell into the tinned hole, the man ejaculated a perfectly audible
"_Hell!_"

She stood erect and faced him, with a singular expression in those level
gray eyes--eyes the look of which could allure or wither, could entice
or command.

"Wally," said she, "did you swear?"

"I--er--why, yes," he stammered, taken aback and realizing, despite his
chagrin, how very poor and unsportsmanlike a figure he was cutting.

"I don't like it," she returned. "Not a little bit, Wally. It isn't
game, and it isn't manly. You must respect me, now and always. I can't
have profanity, and I won't."

He essayed lame apologies, but a sudden, hot anger seemed to have
possessed him, in presence of this free, independent, exacting
woman--this woman who, worst of all, had just beaten him at the game of
all games he prided himself on playing well. And despite his every
effort, she saw through the veil of sheer, perfunctory courtesy; and
seeing, flushed with indignation.

"Wally," she said in a low, quiet tone, fixing a singular gaze upon him,
"Wally, I don't know what to make of you lately. The other night at Idle
Hour, you hardly looked at me. You and father spent the whole evening
discussing some business or other--"

"Most important business, my dear girl, I do assure you," protested
Waldron, trying to steady his voice. "Most vitally--"

"No matter about that," she interposed. "It could have been abridged, a
trifle. I barely got six words out of you, that evening; and let me tell
you, Wally, a woman never forgets neglect. She may forgive it; but
forget it, never!"

"Oh, well, if you put it that way--" he began, but checked himself in
time to suppress the cutting rejoinder he had at his tongue's end.

"I do, and it's vital, Wally," she answered. "It's all part and parcel
of some singular kind of change that's been coming over you, lately,
like a blight. You haven't been yourself, at all, these few days past.
Something or other, I don't know what, has been coming between us.
You've got something else on your mind, beside me--something bigger and
more important to you than I am--and--and--"

He pulled out his gold cigar-case, chose and lighted a cigar to steady
his nerve, and faced her with a smile--the worst tactic he could
possibly have chosen in dealing with this woman. Supremely successful in
handling men, he lacked finesse and insight with the other sex; and now
that lack, in his moment of need, was bringing him moment by moment
nearer the edge of catastrophe.

"I don't like it at all, Waldron," she resumed, again. "You were late,
the other night, in taking me to the Flower Show. You were late, today,
for our appointment here; and the ten minutes I gave you to get ready
in, stretched out to twenty before you--"

He interrupted her with a gesture of uncontrollable vexation.

"Really, my dear Kate," he exclaimed, "if you--er--insist on holding me
to account for every moment--"

"You've been drinking, too, a little," she kept on. "And you know I
detest it! And just now, when I beat you in a square game, you so far
forgot yourself as to swear. Now, Waldron--"

"Oh, puritanical, eh?" he sneered, ignoring the danger signals in her
eyes. Even yet there might have been some chance of avoiding shipwreck,
had he heeded those twin beacons, humbled himself, made amends by due
apology and promised reformation. For though Catherine never had truly
loved this man, some years older than herself and of radically different
character, still she liked and respected him, and found him--by his very
force and dominance--far more to her taste than the insipid hangers-on,
sons of fortune or fortune-hunters, who, like the sap-brained Van
Slyke, made up so great a part of her "set."

So, all might yet have been amended; but this was not to be. Never yet
had "Tiger" Waldron bowed the neck to living man or woman. Dominance was
his whole scheme of life. Though he might purr, politely enough, so long
as his fur was smoothed the right way, a single backward stroke set his
fangs gleaming and unsheathed every sabre-like claw. And now this woman,
his fiancée though she was, her beauty dear to him and her charm most
fascinating, her fortune much desired and most of all, an alliance with
her father--now this woman, despite all these considerations, had with a
few incisive words ruffled his temper beyond endurance.

So great was his agitation that, despite his strongest instinct of
saving, he flung away the scarcely-tasted cigar.

"Kate," he exclaimed, his very tongue thick with the rage he could not
quell, "Kate, I can't stand this! You're going too far. What do you know
of men's work and men's affairs? Who are you, to judge of their times of
coming and going, their obligations, their habits and man of life? What
do _you_ understand--?"

"It's obvious," she replied with glacial coldness, "that I don't
understand _you_, and never have. I have been living in a dream, Wally;
seeing you through the glass of illusion; not reality. After all, you're
like all men--just the same, no different. Idealism, self-sacrifice, con
true nobility of character, where are these, in you? What is there but
the same old selfishness, the same innate masculine conceit and--"

"No more of this, Kate!" cried the financier, paling a little. "No more!
I can't have it! I won't--it's impossible! You--you don't understand, I
tell you. In your narrow, untrained, woman's way, you try to set up
standards for me; try to judge me, and dictate to me. Some old
puritanical streak in you is cropping out, some blue-law atavism, some I
know not what, that rebels against my taking a drink--like every other
man. That cries out against my letting slip a harmless oath--again, like
every other man that lives and breathes. Every man, that is, who _is_ a
man, a real man, not a dummy! If you've been mistaken in me, how much
more have I, in you! And so--"

"And so," she took the very words from his pale lips, "we've both been
mistaken, that's all. No, no," she forbade him with raised hand, as he
would have interrupted with protests. "No, you needn't try to convince
me otherwise, now. A thousand volumes of speeches, after this, couldn't
do it. An hour's insight into the true depths of a man's character--yes,
even a moment's--perfectly suffices to show the truth. You've just drawn
the veil aside, Wally, for me, and let me look at the true picture. All
that I've known and thought of you, so far, has been sham and illusion.
Now, I _know_ you!"

"You--you don't, Catherine!" he exclaimed, half in anger, half
contrition, terrified at last by the imminent break between them, by the
thought of losing this rich flower from the garden of womanhood, this
splendid financial and social prize. "I--I've done wrong, Kate. I admit
it. But, truly--"

"No more," said she, and in her voice sounded a command he knew, at
last, was quite inexorable. "I'm not like other women of our set,
perhaps. I can't be bought and sold, Wally, with money and position. I
can't marry a man, and have to live with him, if he shows himself
petty, or small, or narrow in any way. I must be free, free as air, as
long as I live. Even in marriage, I must be free. Freedom can only come
with the union of two souls that understand and help and inspire each
other. Anything else is slavery--and worse!"

She shuddered, and for a moment turned half away from him, as, now
contrite enough for the minute, he stood there looking at her with dazed
eyes. For a second the idea came to him that he must take her in his
arms, there in the edge of the woods, burn kisses on her ripe mouth, win
her back to him by force, as he had won all life's battles. He would
not, could not, let this prize escape him now. A wave of desire surged
through his being. He took a step toward her, his trembling arms open to
seize her lithe, seductive body. But she, retreating, held him away with
repellant palms.

"No, no, no!" she cried. "Not now--never that, any more! I must be free,
Wally--free as air!"

She raised her face toward the vast reaches of the sky, breathed deep
and for a moment closed her eyes, as though bathing her very soul in the
sweet freedom of the out-of-doors.

"Free as air!" she whispered. "Let me go!"

He started violently. Her simile had struck him like a lash.

"Free--as what?" he exclaimed hoarsely. "As _air_? But--but there's no
such freedom, I tell you! Air isn't free any more--or won't be, soon! It
will be everything, anything but free, before another year is gone! Free
as air? You--you don't understand! Your father and I--we shall soon own
the air. Free as air? Yes, if you like! For that--that means you, too,
must belong to me!"

Again he sought to take her, to hold her and overmaster her. But she,
now wide-eyed with a kind of sudden terror at this latest outbreak, this
seeming madness on his part, which she could nowise fathom or
comprehend, retreated ever more and more, away from him.

Then suddenly with a quick effort, she stripped off the splendid,
blazing diamond from her finger, and held it out to him.

"Wally," said she, calm now and quite herself again, "Wally, let's be
friends. Just that and nothing more. Dear, good, companionable friends,
as we used to be, long years ago, before this madness seized us--this
chimera of--of love!"

As a bull charging, is struck to the heart by the sword of the matador,
and stops in his tracks, motionless and dazed before he falls, so
"Tiger" Waldron stopped, wholly stunned by this abrupt and crushing
denouement.

For a moment, man and woman faced each other. Not a word was spoken.
Catherine had no word to say; and Waldron, though his lips worked, could
bring none to utterance. Then their eyes met; and his lowered.

"Good-bye," said she quietly. "Good-bye forever, as my betrothed. When
we meet again, Wally, it will be as friends, and nothing more. And now,
let me go. Don't come with me. I prefer to be alone. I'd rather walk, a
bit, and think--and then go back quietly to the club-house, and so home,
in my car. Don't follow me. Here--take this, and--good-bye."

Mechanically he accepted the gleaming jewel. Mechanically, like a man
without sense or reason, he watched her walk away from him, upright and
strong and lithe, voluptuous and desirable in every motion of that
splendid body, now lost to him forever. Then all at once, entering a
woodland path that led by a short cut back to the club-house, she
vanished from his sight.

Vanished, without having even so much as turned to look at him again, or
wave that firm brown hand.

Then, seeming to waken from his daze, "Tiger" laughed, a terrible and
cruel laugh; and then he flung a frightful blasphemy upon the still June
air; and then he dashed the wondrous diamond to earth, and stamped and
dug it with a perfect frenzy of rage into the soft mold.

And, last of all, with lowered head and lips that moved in fearful
curses, he crashed away into the woods, away from the path where the
girl was, away from the club-house, away, away, thirsting for solitude
and time to quell his passion, salve his wounded pride and ponder
measures of terrible revenge.

The diamond ring, crushed into the earth, and the golf clubs, lying
where they had fallen from the disputants' hands, now remained there as
melancholy reminders of the double game--love and golf--which had so
suddenly ended in disaster.



CHAPTER XII.

ON THE GREAT HIGHWAY.


As violently rent from his job as Maxim Waldron had been torn from his
alliance with Catherine, Gabriel Armstrong met the sudden change in his
affairs with far more equanimity than the financier could muster. Once
the young electrician's first anger had subsided--and he had pretty well
mastered it before he had reached the Oakwood Heights station--he began
philosophically to turn the situation in his mind, and to rough out his
plans for the future.

"Things might be worse, all round," he reflected, as he strode along at
a smart pace. "During the seven months I've been working for these
pirates, I've managed to pay off the debt I got into at the time of the
big E. W. strike, and I've got eighteen dollars or a little more in
my pocket. My clothes will do a while longer. Even though Flint
blacklists me all over the country, as he probably will, I can duck into
some job or other, somewhere. And most important of all, I know what's
due to happen in America--I've seen that note-book! Let them do what
they will, they can't take _that_ knowledge away from me!"

The outlook, on the whole, was cheering. Gabriel broke into a whistle,
as he swung along the highway, and slashed cheerfully with his heavy
stick at the dusty bushes by the roadside. A vigorous, pleasing figure
of a man he made, striding onward in his blue flannel shirt and
corduroys, stout boots making light of distance, somewhat rebellious
black hair clustering under his cap, blue eyes clear and steady as the
sunlight itself. There must have been a drop of Irish blood somewhere or
other in his veins, to have given him that ruddy cheek, those eyes, that
hair, that quick enthusiasm and that swiftness to anger--then, by
reaction, that quick buoyancy which so soon banished everything but
courageous optimism from his hot heart.

Thus the man walked, all his few worldly belongings--most precious among
them his union card and his red Socialist card--packed in the knapsack
strapped to his broad shoulders. And as he walked, he formulated his
plans.

"Niagara for mine," he decided. "It's there these hellions mean to start
their devilish work of enslaving the whole world. It's there I want to
be, and must be, to follow the infernal job from the beginning and to
nail it, when the right time comes. I'll put in a day or two with my old
friend, Sam Underwood, up in the Bronx, and maybe tell him what's doing
and frame out the line of action with him. But after that, I strike for
Niagara--yes, and on foot!"

This decision came to him as strongly desirable. Not for some time, he
knew, could the actual work of building the Air Trust plant be started
at Niagara. Meanwhile, he wanted to keep out of sight, as much as
possible. He wanted, also to save every cent. Again, his usual mode of
travel had always been either to ride the rods or "hike" it on shanks'
mare. Bitterly opposed to swelling the railways' revenues by even a
penny, Armstrong in the past few years of his life had done some
thousands of miles, afoot, all over the country. His best means of
Socialist propaganda, he had found, was in just such meanderings along
the highways and hedges of existence--a casual job, here or there, for a
day, a week, a month--then, quick friendships; a little talk; a few
leaflets handed to the intelligent, if he could find any. He had laced
the continent with such peregrinations, always sowing the seed of
revolution wherever he had passed; getting in touch with the Movement
all over the republic; keeping his finger on the pulse of ever-growing,
always-strengthening Socialism.

Such had his habits long been. And now, once more adrift and jobless,
but with the most tremendous secret of the ages in his possession, he
naturally turned to the comfort and the calming influence of the broad
highway, in his long journey towards the place where he was to meet, in
desperate opposition, the machinations of the Air Trust magnates.

"It's the only way for me," he decided, as he turned into the road
leading toward Saint George and the Manhattan Ferry. "Flint and Herzog
will be sure to put Slade and the Cosmos people after me. Blacklisting
will be the least of what they'll try to do. They'll use slugging
tactics, sure, if they get a chance, or railroad me to some Pen or
other, if possible. My one best bet is to keep out of their way; and I
figure I'm ten times safer on the open road, with a few dollars to stave
off a vagrancy charge, and with two good fists and this stick to keep
'em at a distance, than I would be on the railroads or in cheap dumps
along the way.

"The last place they'll ever think of looking for me will be the big
outdoors. _Their_ idea of hunting for a workman is to dragnet the back
rooms of saloons--especially if they're after a Socialist. That's the
limit of their intelligence, to connect Socialism and beer. I'll beat
'em; I'll hike--and it's a hundred to one I land in Niagara with more
cash than when I started, with better health, more knowledge, and the
freedom that, alone, can save the world now from the most damnable
slavery that ever threatened its existence!"

Thus reasoning, with perfect clarity and a long-headedness that proved
him a strategist at four-and-twenty, Gabriel Armstrong whistled a louder
note as he tramped away to northward, away from the hateful presence of
Herzog, away from the wage-slavery of the Oakwood Heights plant,
away--with that precious secret in his brain--toward the far scene of
destined warfare, where stranger things were to ensue than even he could
possibly conceive.

Saturday morning found him, his visit with Underwood at an end, already
twenty miles or more from the Bronx River, marching along through
Haverstraw, up the magnificent road that fringes the Hudson--now hidden
from the mighty river behind a forest-screen, now curving on bold
abutments right above the sun-kissed expanses of Haverstraw Bay, here
more than two miles from wooded shore to shore.

At eleven, he halted at a farm house, some miles north of the town, got
a job on the woodpile, and astonished the farmer by the amount of birch
he could saw in an hour. He took his pay in the shape of a bountiful
dinner, and--after half an hour's smoke and talk with the farmer, to
whom he gave a few pamphlets from the store in his knapsack--said
good-bye to all hands and once more set his face northward for the long
hike through much wilder country, to West Point, where he hoped to pass
the night.

Thus we must leave him, for a while. For now the thread of our
narration, like the silken cord in the Labyrinth of Crete, leads us back
to the Country Club at Longmeadow, the scene, that very afternoon, of
the sudden and violent rupture between the financier and Catherine
Flint.

Catherine, her first indignation somewhat abated, and now vastly
relieved at the realization that she indeed was free from her loveless
and long-since irksome alliance with Waldron, calmly enough returned to
the club-house. Head well up, and eyes defiant, she walked up the broad
steps and into the office. Little cared she whether the piazza
gossips--The Hammer and Anvil Club, in local slang--divined the quarrel
or not. The girl felt herself immeasurably indifferent to such
pettinesses as prying small talk and innuendo. Let people know, or not,
as might be, she cared not a whit. Her business was her own. No wagging
of tongues could one hair's breadth disturb that splendid calm of hers.

The clerk, behind the desk, smiled and nodded at her approach.

"Please have my car brought round to the porte-cochère, at once?" she
asked. "And tell Herrick to be sure there's plenty of gas for a long
run. I'm going through to New York."

"So soon?" queried the clerk. "I'm sure your father will be
disappointed, Miss Flint. He's just wired that he's coming out tomorrow,
to spend Sunday here. He particularly asks to have you remain. See
here?"

He handed her a telegram. She glanced it over, then crumpled it and
tossed it into the office fire-place.

"I'm sorry," she answered. "But I can't stay. I must get back, to-night.
I'll telegraph father not to come. A blank, please?"

The clerk handed her one. She pondered a second, then wrote:

     Dear Father: A change of plans makes me return home at once.
     Please wait and see me there. I've something important to talk over
     with you.

     Affectionately,

     Kate.

Ordinarily people try to squeeze their message to ten words, and count
and prune and count again; but not so, Catherine. For her, a telegram
had never contained any space limit. It meant less to her than a
post-card to you or me. Not that the girl was consciously extravagant.
No, had you asked her, she would have claimed rigid economy--she rarely,
for instance, paid more than a hundred dollars for a morning gown, or
more than a thousand for a ball-dress. It was simply that the idea of
counting words had never yet occurred to her. And so now, she
complacently handed this verbose message to the clerk, who--thoroughly
well-trained--understood it was to be charged on her father's perfectly
staggering monthly bill.

"Very well, Miss Flint," said he. "I'll send this at once. And your car
will be ready for you in ten minutes--or five, if you like?"

"Ten will do, thank you," she answered. Then she crossed to the
elevator and went up to her own suite of rooms on the second floor, for
her motor-coat and veils.

"Free, thank heaven!" she breathed, with infinite relief, as she stood
before the tall mirror, adjusting these for the long trip. "Free from
that man forever. What a narrow escape! If things hadn't happened just
as they did, and if I hadn't had that precious insight into Wally's
character--good Lord!--catastrophe! Oh, I haven't been so happy since
I--since--why, I've _never_ been so happy in all my life!

"Wally, dear boy," she added, turning toward the window as though
apostrophizing him in reality, "now we can be good friends. Now all the
sham and pretense are at an end, forever. As a friend, you may be
splendid. As a husband--oh, impossible!"

Lighter of heart than she had been for years, was she, with the added
zest of the long spin through the beauty of the June country before
her--down among the hills and cliffs, among the forests and broad
valleys--down to New York again, back to the father and the home she
loved better than all else in the world.

In this happy frame of mind she presently entered the low-hung,
swift-motored car, settled herself on the luxurious cushions and said
"Home, at once!" to Herrick.

He nodded, but did not speak. He felt, in truth, somewhat incapable of
quite incoherent speech. Not having expected any service till next day,
he had foregathered with others of his ilk in the servants' bar,
below-stairs, and had with wassail and good cheer very effectively put
himself out of commission.

But, somewhat sobered by this quick summons, he had managed to pull
together. Now, drunk though he was, he sat there at the wheel, steady
enough--so long as he held on to it--and only by the redness of his face
and a certain glassy look in his eye, betrayed the fact of his
intoxication. The girl, busy with her farewells as the car drew up for
her, had not observed him. At the last moment Van Slyke waved a foppish
hand at her, and smirked adieux. She acknowledged his good-bye with a
smile, so happy was she at the outcome of her golf-game; then cast a
quick glance up at the club windows, fearing to see the harsh face of
Wally peeping down at her in anger.

But he was nowhere to be seen; and now, with a sudden acceleration of
the powerful six-cylinder engine, the big gray car moved smoothly
forward. Growling in its might, it swung in a wide circle round the
sweep of the drive, gathered speed and shot away down the grade toward
the stone gates of the entrance, a quarter mile distant.

Presently it swerved through these, to southward. Club-house, waving
handkerchiefs and all vanished from Kate's view.

"Faster, Herrick," she commanded, leaning forward, "I must be home by
half past five."

Again he nodded, and notched spark and throttle down. The car, leaping
like a wild creature, began to hum at a swift clip along the smooth,
white road toward Newburgh on the Hudson.

Thirty miles an hour the speedometer showed, then thirty-five and forty.
Again the drunken chauffeur, still master of his machine despite the
poison pulsing in his dazed brain, snicked the little levers further
down. Forty-five, fifty, fifty-five, the figures on the dial showed.

Now the exhaust ripped in a crackling staccato, like a machine gun, as
the chauffeur threw out the muffler. Behind, a long trail of dust rose,
whirling in the air. Catherine, a sportswoman born, leaned back and
smiled with keen pleasure, while her yellow veil, whipping sharply on
the wind, let stray locks of that wonderful red-gold hair stream about
her flushed face.

Thus she sped homeward, driven at a mad race by a man whose every sense
was numbed and stultified by alcohol--homeward, along a road up which,
far, far away, another man, keen, sober and alert, was trudging with a
knapsack on his broad back, swinging a stick and whistling cheerily as
he went.

Fate, that strange moulder of human destinies, what had it in store for
these two, this woman and this man? This daughter of a billionaire, and
this young proletarian?

Who could foresee, or, foreseeing, could believe what even now stood
written on the Book of Destiny?



CHAPTER XIII.

CATASTROPHE!


For a time no danger seemed to threaten. Kate was not only fearless as a
passenger, but equally intrepid at the wheel. Many a time and oft she
had driven her father's highest-powered car at dizzying speeds along
worse roads than the one her machine was now following. Velocity was to
her a kind of stimulant, wonderfully pleasurable; and now, realizing
nothing of the truth that Herrick was badly the worse for liquor, she
leaned back in the tonneau, breathed the keen slashing air with delight,
and let her eyes wander over the swiftly-changing panorama of forest,
valley, lake and hill that, in ever new and more radiant beauty, sped
away, away, as the huge car leaped down the smooth and rushing road.

Dust and pebbles flew in the wake of the machine, as it gathered
velocity. Beneath it, the highway sped like an endless white ribbon,
whirling back and away with smooth rapidity. No common road, this, but
one which the State authorities had very obligingly built especially for
the use of millionaires' motor cars, all through the region of
country-clubs, parks, bungalows and summer-resorts dotting the west
shore region of the Hudson. Let the farmer truck his produce through mud
and ruts, if he would. Let the country folk drive their ramshackle
buggies over rocks and stumps, if they so chose. Nothing of that sort
for millionaires! No, _they_ must have macadam and smooth, long curves,
easy grades and--where the road swung high above the gleaming
river--retaining walls to guard them from plunging into the palisaded
abyss below.

At just such a place it was, where the road made a sharper turn than any
the drunken chauffeur had reckoned on, that catastrophe leaped out to
shatter the rushing car.

Only a minute before, Kate--a little uneasy now, at the truly reckless
speeding of the driver, and at the daredevil way in which he was taking
curves without either sounding his siren or reducing speed--had touched
him on the shoulder, with a command: "Not _quite_ so fast, Herrick! Be
careful!"

His only answer had been a drunken laugh.

"Careful nothing!" he slobbered, to himself. "You wanted speed--an'
now--hc!--b'Jesus, you _get_--hc!--speed! _I_ ain't
'fraid--are--hc!--_you_?"

She had not heard the words, but had divined their meaning.

"Herrick!" she commanded sharply, leaning forward. "What's the matter
with you? Obey me, do you hear? Not so fast!"

A whiff of alcoholic breath suddenly told her the truth. For a second
she sat there, as though petrified, with fear now for the first time
clutching at her heart.

"Stop at once!" she cried, gripping the man by the collar of his livery.
"You--you're drunk, Herrick! I--I'll have you discharged, at once, when
we get home. Stop, do you hear me? You're not fit to drive. I'll take
the wheel myself!"

But Herrick, hopelessly under the influence of the poison, which had
now produced its full effect, paid no heed.

"Y'--can't dri' _thish_ car!" he muttered, in maudlin accents. "Too
big--too heavy for--hc!--woman! I--_I_ dri' it all right, drunk or
sober! Good chauffeur--good car--I know thish car! You won't fire
me--hc!--for takin' drink or two, huh? I drive you all ri'--drive you to
New York or to--hc!--Hell! Same thing, no difference, ha! ha!--I--"

A sudden blaze of rage crimsoned the girl's face. In all her life she
never had been thus spoken to. For a second she clenched her fist, as
though to strike down this sodden brute there in the seat before her--a
feat she would have been quite capable of. But second thought convinced
her of the peril of such an act. Ahead of them a long down-grade
stretched away, away, to a turn half-hidden under the arching greenery.
As the car struck this slope, it leaped into ever greater speed; and
now, under the erratic guidance of the lolling wretch at the wheel, it
began to sway in long, unsteady curves, first toward one ditch, then the
other.

Another woman would have screamed; might even have tried to jump out.
But Kate was not of the hysteric sort. More practical, she.

"I've got to climb over into the front seat," she realized in a flash,
"and shut off the current--cut the power off--stop the car!"

On the instant, she acted. But as she arose in the tonneau, Herrick,
sensing her purpose, turned toward her in the sudden rage of complete
intoxication.

"Naw--naw y' don't!" he shouted, his face perfectly purple with fury
and drink. "No woman--he!--runs this old boat while I'm aboard, see? Go
on, fire me! _I_ don't give--damn! But you don't run--car! Sit down! _I_
run car--New York or Hell--no matter which! _I_--"

Hurtling down the slope like a runaway comet, now wholly out of control,
the powerful gray car leaped madly at the turn.

Catherine, her heart sick at last with terror, caught a second's glimpse
of forest, on one hand; of a stone wall with tree-tops on some steep
abyss below, just grazing it, on the other. Through these trees she saw
a momentary flash of water, far beneath.

Then the leaping front wheels struck a cluster of loose pebbles, at the
bend.

Wrenched from the drunkard's grip, the steering wheel jerked sharply
round.

A skidding--a crash--a cry!

Over the roadway, vacant now, floated a tenuous cloud of dust and
gasoline-vapor, commingled.

In the retaining-wall at the left, a jagged gap appeared. Suddenly, far
below, toward the river, a crashing detonation shattered harsh echoes
from shore to shore.

Came a quick flash of light; then thick, black, greasy smoke arose, and,
wafting through the treetops, drifted away on the warm wind of that late
June afternoon.

A man, some quarter of a mile to southward, on the great highway, paused
suddenly at sound of this explosion.

For a moment he stood there listening acutely, a knotted stick in hand,
his flannel shirt, open at the throat, showing a brown and corded neck.
The heavy knapsack on his shoulders seemed no burden to that rugged
strength, as he stood, poised and eager, every sense centered in keen
attention.

"Trouble ahead, there, by the Eternal!" he suddenly exclaimed. His eye
had just caught sight of the first trailing wreaths of smoke, from up
the cliff. "An auto's gone to smash, down there, or I'm a plute!"

He needed no second thought to hurl him forward to the rescue. At a
smart pace he ran, halloo'ing loudly, to tell the victims--should they
still live--that help was at hand. At his right, extended the wall. At
his left, a grove of sugar-maples, sparsely set, climbed a long slope,
over the ridge of which the descending sun glowed warmly. Somewhat back
from the road, a rough shack which served as a sugar-house for the
spring sap-boiling, stood with gaping door, open to all the winds that
blew. These things he noted subconsciously, as he ran.

Then, all at once, as he rounded a sharp turn, he drew up with a cry.

"Down the cliff!" he exclaimed. "Knocked the wall clean out, and
plunged! Holy Mackinaw, what a smash!"

In a moment he had reached the scene of the catastrophe. His quick eye
took in, almost at a glance, the skidding mark of the wheels, the ragged
rent in the wall, the broken limbs of trees below.

"Some wreck!" he ejaculated, dropping his stick and throwing off his
knapsack. "_Hello, Hello, down there!_" he loudly hailed, scrambling
through the gap.

From below, no answer.

A silence, as of death, broken only by the echo of his own voice, was
all that greeted his wild cry.

[Illustration: He gathered her up as though she had been a child.]



CHAPTER XIV.

THE RESCUE.


Gabriel Armstrong leaped, rather than clambered, through the gap in the
wall, and, following the track of devastation through the trees,
scrambled down the steep slope that led toward the Hudson.

The forest looked as though a car of Juggernaut had passed that way.
Limbs and saplings lay in confusion, larger trees showed long wounds
upon their bark, and here and there pieces of metal--a gray mud-guard, a
car door, a wind-shield frame, with shattered plate glass still clinging
to it--lay scattered on the precipitous declivity. Beside these, hanging
to a branch, Gabriel saw a gaily-striped auto robe; and, further down, a
heavy, fringed shawl.

Again he shouted, holding to a tree-trunk at the very edge of a cliff of
limestone, and peering far down into the abyss where the car had taken
its final plunge. Still no answer. But, from below, the heavy smoke
still rose. And now, peering more keenly, Armstrong caught sight of the
wreck itself.

"There it is, and burning like the pit of Hell!" he exclaimed.
"And--what's that, under it? A man?"

He could not distinctly make out, so thick the foliage was. But it
seemed to him that, from under the jumbled wreckage of the blazing
machine, something protruded, something that suggested a human form,
horribly mangled.

"Here's where I go down this cliff, whatever happens!" decided Gabriel.
And, acting on the instant, he began swinging himself down from tree to
bush, from shrub to tuft of grass, clinging wherever handhold or
foothold offered, digging his stout boots into every cleft and cranny of
the precipice.

The height could not have been less than a hundred and fifty feet. By
dint of wonderful strength and agility, and at the momentary risk of
falling, himself, to almost certain death, Gabriel descended in less
than ten minutes. The last quarter of the distance he practically fell,
sliding at a tremendous rate, with boulders and loose earth cascading
all about him in a shower.

He landed close by the flaming ruin.

"Lucky this isn't in the autumn, in the dry season!" thought he, as he
approached. "If it were, this whole cliff-side, and the woods beyond,
would be a roaring furnace. Some forest-fire, all right, if the woods
weren't wet and full of sap!"

Parting the brush, he made his way as close to the car as the intense
heat would let him. The gasoline-tank, he understood, had burst with the
shock, and, taking fire, had wrapped the car in an Inferno of
unquenchable flame. Now, the woodwork was entirely gone; and of the
wheels, as the long machine lay there on its back, only a few blazing
spokes were left. The steel chassis and the engine were red-hot, twisted
and broken as though a giant hammer had smitten them on some Vulcanic
anvil.

"There's a few thousand dollars gone to the devil!" thought he. But his
mind did not dwell on this phase of the disaster. Still he was hoping,
against hope, that human life had not been dashed and roasted out, in
the wreck. And again he shouted, as he worked his way to the other side
of the machine--to the side which, seen from the cliff above, had seemed
to show him that inert and mangled body.

All at once he stopped short, shielding his face with his hands, against
the blaze.

"Good God!" he exclaimed; and involuntarily took off his cap, there in
the presence of death.

That the man _was_ dead, admitted of no question. Pinned under the
heavy, glowing mass of metal, his body must already have been roasted to
a char. The head could not be seen; but part of one shoulder and one arm
protruded, with the coat burned off and the flesh horribly crackled;
while, nearer Gabriel, a leg showed, with a regulation chauffeur's
legging, also burned to a crisp.

"Nothing for me to do, here," said Gabriel aloud. "He's past all human
help, poor chap. I don't imagine there can be anybody else in this
wreck. I haven't seen anybody, and nobody has answered my shouts. What's
to be done next?"

He pondered a moment, then, looking at the license plate of the
machine--its enamel now half cracked off, but the numbers still
legible--drew out his note-book and pencil and made a memo of the
figures.

"Four-six-two-two, N.Y.," he read, again verifying his numbers. "That
will identify things. And now--the quicker I get back on the road again,
and reach a telephone at West Point, the better."

Accordingly, after a brief search through the bushes near at hand, for
any other victim--a search which brought no results--he set to work once
more to climb the cliff above him.

The fire, though still raging, was obviously dying down. In half an
hour, he knew, it would be dead. There was no use in trying to
extinguish it, for gasoline defies water, and no sand was to be had
along that rocky river shore.

"Let her burn herself out," judged Gabriel. "She can't do any harm, now.
The road for mine!"

He found the upward path infinitely more difficult than the downward,
and was forced to make a long detour and do some hard climbing that left
him spent and sweating, before he again approached the gap in the wall.
Pausing here to breathe, a minute or two, he once more peered down at
the still-smoking ruin far below. And, as he stood there all at once he
thought he heard a sound not very far away to his right.

A sound--a groan, a half-inchoate murmur--a cry!

Instantly his every sense grew keen. Holding his breath he listened
intently. Was it a cry? Or had the breeze but swayed one tree limb
against another; or did some boatman's hail, from far across the river,
but drift upward to him on the cliff?

"Hello! _Hello_!" he shouted again. "Anybody there?"

Once more he listened; and now, once more, he heard the sound--this time
he knew it was a cry for help!

"Where are you?" shouted he, plunging forward along the steep side of
the cliff. "Where?"

No answer, save a groan.

"Coming! Coming!" he hailed loudly. Then, guided as it seemed by
instinct, almost as much as by the vague direction of the moaning call,
he ploughed his way through brush and briar, on rescue bent.

All at once he stopped short in his tracks, wild-eyed, a stammering
exclamation on his lips.

"A woman!" he cried.

True. There, lying as though violently flung, a woman was half-crouched,
half-prone behind the roots of a huge maple that leaned out far above a
sheer declivity.

He saw torn clothing, through the foliage; a white hand, out-stretched
and bleeding; a mass of golden-coppery hair that lay dishevelled on the
bed of moss and last autumn's leaves.

"A woman! Dying?" he thought, with a sudden stab of pity in his heart.

Then, forcing his way along, he reached her, and fell upon his knees at
her side.

"Not dead! Not dying! Thank God!" he exclaimed. One glance showed him
she would live. Though an ugly gash upon her forehead had bathed her
face in blood, and though he knew not but bones were broken, he
recognized the fact that she was now returning, fast, to consciousness.

Already she had opened her eyes--wild eyes, understanding nothing--and
was staring up at him in dazed, blank terror. Then one hand came up to
her face; and, even as he lifted her in both his powerful arms, she
began to sob hysterically.

He knew the value of that weeping, and made no attempt to stop it. The
overwrought nerves, he understood, must find some outlet. Asking no
question, speaking no word--for Gabriel was a man of action, not
speech--he gathered her up as though she had been a child. A tall woman,
she; almost as tall as he himself, and proportioned like a Venus. Yet to
him her weight was nothing.

Sure-footed, now, and bursting through the brambles with fine energy, he
carried her to the gap in the wall, up through it, and so to the roadway
itself.

"Where--where am I?" the woman cried incoherently. "O--what--where--?"

"You're all right!" he exclaimed. "Just a little accident, that's all.
Don't worry! I'll take care of you. Just keep quiet, now, and don't
think of anything. You'll be all right, in no time!"

But she still wept and cried out to know where she might be and what had
happened. Obviously, Gabriel saw, her reason had not yet fully returned.
His first aim must be to bathe her wound, find out what damage had been
done, and keeping her quiet, try to get help.

Swiftly he thought. Here he and the woman were, miles from any
settlement or house, nearly in the middle of a long stretch of road that
skirted the river through dense woods. At any time a motor might come
along; and then again, one might not arrive for hours. No dependence
could be put on this. There was no telephone for a long distance back;
and even had one been near he would not have ventured to leave the girl.

Could he carry her back to Fort Clinton, the last settlement he had
passed through? Impossible! No man's strength could stand such a
tremendous task. And even had it been within Gabriel's means, he would
have chosen otherwise. For most of all the girl needed rest and quiet
and immediate care. To bear her all that distance in his arms might
produce serious, even fatal results.

"No!" he decided. "I must do what I can for her, here and now, and trust
to luck to send help in an auto, down this road!"

His next thought was that bandages and wraps would be needed for her cut
and to make her a bed. Instantly he remembered the shawl and the big
auto-robe that he had seen caught among the trees.

"I must have those at once!" he realized. "When the machine went over
the edge, they were thrown out, just as the girl was. A miracle she
wasn't carried down, with the car, and crushed or burned to death down
there by the river, with that poor devil of a chauffeur!"

Laying her down in the soft grass along the wall, he ran back to where
the wraps were, and, detaching them from the branches, quickly regained
the road once more.

"Now for the old sugar-house in the maple-grove," said he. "Poor
shelter, but the best to be had. Thank heaven it's fair weather, and
warm!"

The task was awkward, to carry both the girl and the bulky robes, but
Gabriel was equal to it She had by now regained some measure of
rationality; and though very pale and shaken, manifested her nerve and
courage by no longer weeping or asking questions.

Instead, she lay in his arms, eyes closed, with the blood stiffening on
her face; and let him bear her whither he would. She seemed to sense his
strength and mastery, his tender care and complete command of the
situation. And, like a hurt and tired child, outworn and suffering, she
yielded herself, unquestioningly, to his ministrations.

Thus Gabriel, the discharged, blacklisted, outcast rebel and
proletarian, bore in his arms of mercy and compassion the only daughter
of old Isaac Flint, his enemy, Flint the would-be master of the world.

Thus he bore the woman who had been betrothed to "Tiger" Waldron,
unscrupulous and cruel partner in that scheme of dominance and
enslavement.

Such was the meeting of this woman and this man. Thus, in his arms, he
carried her to the old sugar-house.

And far below, the mighty river gleamed, unheeding the tragedy that had
been enacted on its shores, unmindful of the threads of destiny even now
being spun by the swift shuttles of Fate.

In the branches, above Gabriel and Catherine, birdsong and golden
sunlight seemed to prophesy. But what this message might be, neither the
woman nor the man had any thought or dream.



CHAPTER XV.

AN HOUR AND A PARTING.


Arriving at the sugar-house, tired yet strong, Gabriel put the wounded
girl down, quickly raked together a few armfuls of dead leaves, in the
most sheltered corner of the ramshackle structure, and laid the heavy
auto-robe upon this improvised bed. Then he helped his patient to lie
down, there, and bade her wait till he got water to wash and dress her
cut.

"Don't worry about anything," he reassured her. "You're alive, and
that's the main thing, now. I'll see you through with this, whatever
happens. Just keep calm, and don't let anything distress you!"

She looked at him with big, anxious eyes--eyes where still the full
light of understanding had not yet returned.

"It--it all happened so suddenly!" she managed to articulate. "He was
drunk--the chauffeur. The car ran away. Where is it? Where is
Herrick--the man?"

"I don't know," Gabriel lied promptly and with force. Not for worlds
would he have excited her with the truth. "Never you mind about that.
Just lie still, now, till I come back!"

Already, among the rusty utensils that had served for the
"sugaring-off," the previous spring, he had routed out a tin pail. He
kicked a quantity of leaves in under the sheet-iron open stove, flung
some sticks atop of them, and started a little blaze. Warm water, he
reflected, would serve better than cold in removing that clotting blood
and dressing the hurt.

Then, saying no further word, but filled with admiration for the girl's
pluck, he seized the pail and started for water.

"Nerve?" he said to himself, as he ran down the road toward a little
brook he remembered having crossed, a few hundred yards to southward.
"Nerve, indeed! Not one complaint about her own injuries! Not a word of
lamentation! If this isn't a thoroughbred, whoever or whatever she is, I
never saw one!"

He returned, presently, with the pail nearly full of cold and sparkling
water. Ignoring rust, he made her drink as deeply as she would, and then
set a dipperful of water on the now hot sheet-iron.

Then, tearing a strip off the shawl, he made ready for his work as an
amateur physician.

"Tell me," said he, kneeling there beside her in the hut which was
already beginning to grow dusk, "except for this cut on your forehead,
do you feel any injury? Think you've got any broken bones? See if you
can move your legs and arms, all right."

She obeyed.

"Nothing broken, I guess," she answered. "What a miracle! Please leave
me, now. I can wash my own hurt. Go--go find Herrick! He needs you worse
than I do!"

"No he doesn't!" blurted Gabriel with such conviction that she
understood.

"You mean?" she queried, as he brought the dipper of now tepid water to
her side. "He--he's dead?"

He hesitated to answer.

"Dead! Yes, I understand!" she interpreted his silence. "You needn't
tell me. I know!"

He nodded.

"Yes," said he. "Your chauffeur has paid the penalty of trying to drive
a six-cylinder car with alcohol. Now, think no more of him! Here, let me
see how badly you're cut."

"Let me sit up, first," she begged. "I--I'm not hurt enough to be lying
here like--like an invalid!"

She tried to rise, but with a strong hand on her shoulder he forced her
back. She shuddered, with the horror of the chauffeur's death strong
upon her.

"Please lie still," he begged. "You've had a terrific shock, and have
lived through it by a miracle, indeed. You're wounded and still
bleeding. You _must_ be quiet!"

The tone in his voice admitted no argument. Submissive now to his
greater strength, this daughter of wealth and power lay back, closed her
tired eyes and let the revolutionist, the proletarian, minister to her.

Dipping the piece of shawl into the warm water, he deftly moistened the
dried blood on her brow and cheek, and washed it all away. He cleansed
her sullied hair, as well, and laid it back from the wound.

"Tell me if I hurt you, now," he bade, gently as a woman. "I've got to
wash the cut itself."

She answered nothing, but lay quite still. And so, hardly wincing, she
let him lave the jagged wound that stretched from her right temple up
into the first tendrils of the glorious red-gold hair.

"H'm!" thought Gabriel, as he now observed the cut with close
attention. "I'm afraid there'll have to be some stitches taken here!"
But of this he said nothing. All he told her was: "Nothing to worry
over. You'll be as good as new in a few days. As a miracle, it's _some_
miracle!"

Having completed the cleansing of the cut, he fetched his knapsack and
produced a clean handkerchief, which he folded and laid over the wound.
This pad he secured in place by a long bandage cut from the edge of the
shawl and tied securely round her shapely head.

"There," said he, surveying his improvisation with considerable
satisfaction. "Now you'll do, till we can undertake the next thing.
Sorry I haven't any brandy to give you, or anything of that sort. The
fact is, I don't use it, and have none with me. How do you feel, now?"

She opened her eyes and looked up at him with the ghost of a smile on
her pale lips.

"Oh, much, much better, thank you!" she answered. "I don't need any
brandy. I'm--awfully strong, really. In a little while I'll be all
right. Just give me a little more water, and--and tell me--who are you?"

"Who am I?" he queried, holding up her head while she drank from the tin
cup he had now taken from his knapsack. "I? Oh, just an out-of-work.
Nobody of any interest to you!"

A certain tinge of bitterness crept into his voice. In health, he knew,
a woman of this class would not suffer him even to touch her hand.

"_Don't_ ask me who I am, please. And I--I won't ask _your_ name. We're
of different worlds, I guess. But for the moment, Fate has levelled the
barriers. Just let it go at that. And now, if you can stay here, all
right; perhaps I can hike back to the next house, below here, and
telephone, and summon help."

"How far is it?" she asked, looking at him with wonder in her lovely
eyes--wonder, and new thoughts, and a strange kind of longing to know
more of this extraordinary man, so strong, so gentle, so unwilling to
divulge himself or ask her name.

"How far?" he repeated. "Oh, four or five miles. I can make it in no
time. And with luck, I can have an auto and a doctor here before dark.
Well, does that suit you?"

"Don't go, please," she answered. "I--I may be still a little weak and
foolish, but--somehow, I don't want to be left alone. I want to be kept
from remembering, from thinking of those last, awful moments when the
car was running away; when it struck the wall, at the turn; when I was
thrown out, and--and knew no more. Don't go just yet," the girl
entreated, covering her eyes with both hands, as though to shut out the
horrible vision of the catastrophe.

"All right," Gabriel answered. "Just as you please. Only, if I stay, you
must promise to stop thinking about the accident, and try to pull
together."

"I promise," she agreed, looking at him with strange eyes. "Oh dear,"
she added, with feminine inconsequentiality, "my hair's all down, and
Lord knows where the pins are!"

He smiled to himself as she managed, with the aid of such few hairpins
as remained, to coil the coppery meshes once more round her head and
even somewhat over the bandage, and secure them in place.

At sight of his face as he watched her, she too smiled wanly--the first
time he had seen a real smile on her mouth.

"I'm only a woman, after all," she apologized. "You don't understand.
You can't. But no matter. Tell me--why need you go, at all?"

"Why? For help, of course."

"There's sure to be a motor, or something, along this road, before very
long," she answered. "Put up some signal or other, to stop it. That will
save you a long, long walk, and save me from--remembering! I need you
here with me," she added earnestly. "Don't go--please!"

"All right, as you will," the man made reply. "I'll rig a danger-signal
on the road; and then all we can do will be to wait."

This plan he immediately put into effect, setting his knapsack in the
middle of the road and piling up brush and limbs of trees about it.

"There," he said to himself, as he surveyed the result, "no car will get
by _that_, without noticing it!"

Then he returned to the sugar-house, some hundred yards back from the
highway in the grove, now already beginning to grow dim with the shadows
of approaching nightfall. The glowing coals of the fire gleamed redly,
through the rough place. The girl, still lying on her bed of leaves and
auto-robes, with the mutilated shawl drawn over her, looked up at him
with an expression of trust and gratitude. For a second, only one,
something quick and vital gripped at the wanderer's heart--some vague,
intangible longing for a home and a woman, a longing old as our race,
deep-planted in the inmost citadel of every man's soul. But,
half-impatiently, he drove the thought away, dismissed it, and, smiling
down at her with cheerful eyes and white, even teeth, said reassuringly:

"Everything's all right now. The first machine that passes, will take
you to civilization."

"And you?" she asked. "What of you, then?"

"Me? Oh, I'll hike," he answered. "I'll plug along just as I was doing
when I found you."

"Where to?"

"Oh, north."

"What for?"

"Work. Please don't question me. I'd rather you wouldn't."

She pondered a moment.

"Are you--what they call a--workingman?" she presently resumed.

"Yes," said he. "Why?"

"And are you happy?"

"Yes. In a way. Or shall be, when I've done what I mean to do."

"But--forgive me--you're very poor?"

"Not at all! I have, at this present moment, more than eighteen dollars
in my pocket, and I have _these_!"

He showed her his two hands, big and sinewed, capable and strong.

"Eighteen dollars," she mused, half to herself. "Why, I have spent that,
and more, for a single ounce of a new perfume--something very rare, you
know, from Japan."

"Indeed? Well, don't tell _me_," he replied. "I'm not interested in how
you spend money, but how you get it."

"Get it? Oh, father gives me my allowance, that's all."

"And he squeezes it out of the common people?"

She glanced at him quickly.

"You--you aren't a Socialist, into the bargain, are you?" she inquired.

"At your service," he bowed.

"This is strange, strange indeed," she said. "Tell me your name."

"No," he refused. "I'd still rather not. Nor shall I ask yours. Please
don't volunteer it."

Came a moment's silence, there in the darkening hut, with the fire-glow
red upon their faces.

"Happy," said the girl. "You say you're happy. While I--"

"Are not unhappy, surely?" asked Gabriel, leaning forward as he sat
there beside her, and gazing keenly into her face.

"How should I know?" she answered. "Unhappy? No, perhaps not. But
vacant--empty--futile!"

"Yes, I believe you," Gabriel judged. "You tell me no news. And as you
are, you will ever be. You will live so and die so. No, I won't preach.
I won't proselytize. I won't even explain. It would be useless. You are
one pole, I the other. And the world--the whole wide world--lies
between!"

Suddenly she spoke.

"You're a Socialist," said she. "What does it mean to be a Socialist?"

He shook his head.

"You couldn't understand, if I told you," he answered.

"Why not?"

"Oh, because your ideas and environments and interests and everything
have been so different from mine--because you're what you are--because
you can never be anything else."

"You mean Socialism is something beyond my understanding?" she demanded,
piqued. "Of course, that's nonsense. I'm a human being. I've got brains,
haven't I? I can understand a scheme of dividing up, or levelling down,
or whatever it is, even if I can't believe in it!"

He smiled oddly.

"You've just proved, by what you've said," he answered slowly, "that
your whole concepts are mistaken. Socialism isn't anything like what you
think it is, and if I should try to explain it, you'd raise ten thousand
futile objections, and beg the question, and defeat my object of
explanation by your very inability to get the point of view. So you
see--"

"I see that I want to know more!" she exclaimed, with determination. "If
there's any branch of human knowledge that lies outside my reasoning
powers, it's time I found that fact out. I thought Socialists were wild,
crazy, erratic cranks; but if you're one, then I seem to have been
wrong. You look rational enough, and you talk in an eminently sane
manner."

"Thank you," he replied, ironically.

"Don't be sarcastic!" she retorted. "I only meant--"

"It's all right, anyhow," said he. "You've simply got the old, stupid,
wornout ideas of your class. You can't grasp this new ideal, rising
through the ruck and waste and sin and misery of the present system. I
don't blame you. You're a product of your environment. You can't help
it. With that environment, how can you sense the newer and more vital
ideas of the day?"

For a moment she fixed eager eyes on him, in silence. Then asked she:

"Ideals? You mean that Socialism has ideals, and that it's not all a
matter of tearing down and dividing up, and destroying everything good
and noble and right--all the accumulated wisdom and resources of the
world?"

He laughed heartily.

"Who handed you that bunk?" he demanded.

"Father told me Socialism was all that, and more,"

"What's your father's business?"

"Why, investments, stocks, bonds, industrial development and all that
sort of thing."

"Hm!" he grunted. "I thought as much!"

"You mean that father misinformed me?"

"Rather!"

"Well, if he did, what is Socialism?"

"Socialism," answered the young man slowly, while he fixed his eyes on
the smouldering fire, "Socialism is a political movement, a concept of
life, a philosophy, an interpretation, a prophecy, an ideal. It embraces
history, economics, science, art, religion, literature and every phase
of human activity. It explains life, points the way to better things,
gives us hope, strengthens the weary and heavy-laden, bids us look
upward and onward, and constitutes the most sublime ideal ever conceived
by the soul of man!"

"Can this be true?" the girl demanded, astonished.

"Not only can, but is! Socialism would free the world from slavery and
slaves, from war, poverty, prostitution, vice and crime; would cleanse
the sores of our rotting capitalism, would loose the gyves from the
fettered hands of mankind, would bid the imprisoned soul of man awake to
nobler and to purer things! How? The answer to that would take me weeks.
You would have to read and study many books, to learn the entire truth.
But I am telling you the substance of the ideal--a realizable ideal, and
no chimera--when I say that Socialism sums up all that is good, and
banishes all that is evil! And do you wonder that I love and serve it,
all my life?"

She peered at him in wonder.

"You serve it? How?" she demanded.

"By spreading it abroad; by speaking for it, working for it, fighting
for it! By the spoken and the printed word! By every act and through
every means whereby I can bring it nearer and nearer realization!"

"You're a dreamer, a visionary, a fanatic!" she exclaimed.

"You think so? No, I can't agree. Time will judge that matter.
Meanwhile, I travel up and down the earth, spreading Socialism."

"And what do you get out of it, personally?"

"I? What do you mean? I never thought of that question."

"I mean, money. What do you make out of it?"

He laughed heartily.

"I get a few jail-sentences, once in a while; now and then a crack over
the head with a policeman's billy, or maybe a peek down the muzzle of a
rifle. I get--"

"You mean that you're a martyr?"

"By no means! I've never even thought of being called such. This is a
privilege, this propaganda of ours. It's the greatest privilege in the
world--bringing the word of life and hope and joy to a crushed, bleeding
and despairing world!"

She thought a moment, in silence.

"You're a poet, I believe!" said she.

"No, not that. Only a worker in the ranks."

"But do you write poetry?"

"I write verses. You'd hardly call them poetry!"

"Verses? About Socialism?"

"Sometimes."

"Will you give me some?"

"What do you mean?"

"Tell me some of them."

"Of course not! I can't recite my verses! They aren't worth bothering
you with!"

"That's for me to judge. Let me hear something of that kind. If you only
knew how terribly much you interest me!"

"You mean that?"

"Of course I do! Please let me hear something you've written!"

He pondered a moment, then in his well-modulated, deep-toned voice
began:


    _HESPERIDES_.


    I.

    My feet, used to pine-needles, moss and turf,
    And the gray boulders at the lip o' the sea,
    Where the cold brine jets up its creamy surf,
    Now tread once more these city ways, unloved by me,
    Hateful and hot, gross with iniquity.
    And so I grieve,
    Grieve when I wake, or at high blinding noon
    Or when the moon
    Mocks this sad Ninevah where the throngs weave
    Their jostling ways by day, their paths by night;
    Where darkness is not--where the streets burn bright
    With hectic fevers, eloquent of death!
    I gasp for breath....
    Visions have I, visions! So sweet they seem
    That from this welter of men and things I turn, to dream
    Of the dim Wood-world, calling out to me.
    Where forest-virgins I half glimpse, half see
    With cool mysterious fingers beckoning!
    Where vine-wreathed woodland altars sunlit burn,
    Or Dryads dance their mystic rounds and sing,
    Sing high, sing low, with magic cadences
    That once the wild oaks of Dodona heard;
    And every wood-note bids me burst asunder
    The bonds that hold me from the leaf-hid bird.
    I quaff thee, O Nepenthe! Ah, the wonder
    Grows, that there be who buy their wealth, their ease
    By damning serfs to cities, hot and blurred,
    Far from thy golden quest, Hesperides!...


    II.

    I see this August sun again
    Sheer up high heaven wheel his angry way;
    And hordes of men
    Bleared with unrestful sleep rise up another day,
    Their bodies racked with aftermaths of toil.
    Over the city, in each gasping street,
    Shudders a haze of heat,
    Reverberant from pillar, span and plinth.
    Once more, cribbed in this monstrous labyrinth
    Sacrificed to the Minotaur of Greed
    Men bear the turmoil, glare, sweat, brute inharmonies;
    Denial of each simplest human need,
    Loss of life's meaning as day lags on day;
    And my rebellious spirit rises, flies
    In dreams to the green quiet wood away,
    Away! Away!


    III.

    And now, and now...I feel the forest-moss...
    Come! On these moss-beds let me lie with Pan,
    Twined with the ivy-vine in tendrill'd curls,
    And I will hold all gold, that hampers man,
    Only the ashes of base, barren dross!
    On with the love-dance of the pagan girls!
    The pagan girls with lips all rosy-red,
    With breasts upgirt and foreheads garlanded,
    With fair white foreheads nobly garlanded!
    With sandalled feet that weave the magic ring!
    Now...let them sing,
    And I will pipe a tune that all may hear,
    To bid them mind the time of my wild rhyme;
    To warn profaning feet lest they draw near.
    Away! Away! Beware these mystic trees!
    Who dares to quest you now, Hesperides?


    IV.

    Great men of song, what sing ye? Woodland meadows?
    Rocks, trees and rills where sunlight glints to gold?
    Sing ye the hills, adown whose sides blue shadows
    Creep when the westering day is growing old?
    Sing ye the brooks where in the purling shallows
    The small fish dart and gleam?
    Sing ye the pale green tresses of the willows
    That stoop to kiss the stream?
    Or sing ye burning streets, foul with the breath
    Of sweatshop, tenement, where endlessly
    Spawned swarms of folk serve tyrant masters twain--
    Profit, and his twin-brother, grinning Death?
    Where millions toil, hedged off from aught save pain?
    Far from thee ever, O mine Arcady?...


His voice ceased and silence fell between the man and woman in the old
sugar-house. Gabriel sat there by the dying fire, which cast its ruddy
light over his strongly virile face, and gazed into the coals. The girl,
lying on the rude bed, her face eager, her slim strong hands tightly
clasped, had almost forgotten to breathe.

At last she spoke.

"That--that is wonderful!" she cried, a tremor of enthusiasm in her
voice.

He shook his head.

"No compliments, please," said he.

"I'm not complimenting you! I think it _is_ wonderful. You're a true
poet!"

"I wish I were--so I might use it all for Socialism!"

"You could make a fortune, if you'd work for some paper or
magazine--some regular one, I mean, not Socialist."

He shook his head.

"Dead sea fruit," he answered. "Fairy gold, fading in the clutch,
worthless through and through. No, if my work has any merit, it's all
for Socialism, now and ever!"

Silence again. Neither now found a word to say, but their eyes met and
read each other; and a kind of solemn hush seemed to lie over their
hearts.

Then, as they sat there, looking each at each--for now the girl had
raised herself on the crude bed and was supporting herself with one
hand--a sudden sound of a motor, on the road, awakened them from their
musing.

Came the raucous wail of a siren. Then the engine-exhaust ceased; and a
voice, raised in some annoyance, hailed loudly through the maple-grove:

"Hello! Hello? What's wrong here?"

Gabriel stepped to the sugar-house door:

"Here! Come here!" he shouted in a ringing voice that echoed wildly from
between his hollowed palms.

As the motorist still sat there, uncomprehending, Gabriel made his way
toward the road.

"Accident here," said he. "Girl in here, injured. Can you take her to
the nearest town, at once? She needs a doctor."

Instantly the man was out of his car, and hastening toward Gabriel.

"Eh? What?" he asked. "Anything serious?"

In a few words, Gabriel told him the outlines of the tale.

"The quicker you get the girl to a town, and let her have a doctor and
communication with her family, the better," he concluded.

"Right! I'll do all in my power," said the other, a rather stout,
well-to-do, vulgar-looking man.

"Good! This way, then!"

The man followed Gabriel to the sugar-house. They found the girl already
on her feet, standing there a bit unsteadily, but with determination to
be game, in every feature.

Five minutes later she was in the new-comer's car, which had been turned
around and now was headed back toward Haverstraw. The shawl and robe
serving her as wraps, she was made comfortable in the tonneau.

"Think you can stand it, all right?" asked Gabriel, as he took in his
the hand she extended. "In half an hour, you'll be under a doctor's
care, and your father will be on his way toward you."

She nodded, and for a second tightened the grasp of her hand.

"I--I'm not even going to know who you are?" she asked, a strange tone
in her voice.

"No," he answered. "And now, good luck, and good-bye!"

"Good-bye," she echoed, her voice almost inaudible. "I--I won't forget
you."

He made no answer, but only smiled in a peculiar way.

Then, as the car rolled slowly forward, their hands separated.

Gabriel, bareheaded and with level gaze, stood there in the middle of
the great highway, looking after her. A minute, under the darkening
arches of the forest road, he saw her, still. Then the car swung round
a bend, and vanished.

Had she waved her hand at him? He could not tell. Motionless he stood, a
while, then cleared away the barrier of branches that obstructed the
road, took up his knapsack, and with slow steps returned to the
sugar-house.

Almost on the threshold, a white something caught his eye. He picked it
up. Her handkerchief! A moment he held the dainty, filmy thing in his
rough hand. A vague perfume reached his nostrils, disquieting and
seductive.

"More than eighteen dollars an ounce, perhaps!" he exclaimed, with
sudden bitterness; but still he did not throw the handkerchief away.
Instead, he looked at it more keenly. In one corner, the fading light
just showed him some initials. He studied them, a moment.

"C. J. F." he read. Then, yielding to a sudden impulse, he
folded the kerchief and put it in his pocket.

He entered the sugar-house, to make sure, before departing, that he had
left no danger of fire behind him.

Another impulse bade him sit down on a rough box, there, before the
dying embers. He gazed at the bed of leaves, a while, immersed in
thought, then filled his pipe and lighted it with a glowing brand, and
sat there--while the night came--smoking and musing, in a reverie.

The overpowering lure of the woman who had lain in his arms, as he had
borne her thither; her breath upon his face; the perfume of her, even
her blood that he had washed away--all these were working on his senses,
still. But most of all he seemed to see her eyes, there in the
ember-lit gloom, and hear her voice, and feel her lithe young body and
her breast against his breast.

For a long time he sat there, thinking, dreaming, smoking, till the last
shred of tobacco was burned out in the heel of his briar; till the last
ember had winked and died under the old sheet-iron stove.

At last, with a peculiar laugh, he rose, slung the knapsack once more on
his shoulders, settled his cap upon his head, and made ready to depart.

But still, one moment, he lingered in the doorway. Lingered and looked
back, as though in his mind's eye he would have borne the place away
with him forever.

Suddenly he stooped, picked up a leaf from the bed where she had lain,
and put that, too, in his pocket where the kerchief was.

Then, looking no more behind him, he strode off across the maple-grove,
through which, now, the first pale stars were glimmering. He reached the
road again, swung to the north, and, striking into his long marching
stride, pushed onward northward, away and away into the soft June
twilight.



CHAPTER XVI.

TIGER WALDRON "COMES BACK."


Old Isaac Flint loved but two things in all this world--power, and his
daughter Catherine.

I speak advisedly in putting "power" first. Much as he idolized the
girl, much as she reminded him of the long-dead wife of his youth, he
could have survived the loss of her. The loss of power would inevitably
have crushed and broken him, stunned him, killed him. Yet, so far as
human affection could still blossom in that withered heart, shrunk by
cold scheming and the cruel piracies of many decades, he loved the girl.

And so it was that when the message came in, that evening, over the
telephone, the news that Kate had been injured in an auto-accident which
had entirely destroyed the machine and killed Herrick, he paled,
trembled, and clutched the receiver, hardly able to hold it to his ear
with his shaking hand.

"Here! You!" he cried. "She--she's not badly hurt? She's living? She's
safe? No lies, now! The truth!"

"Your daughter is very much alive, and perfectly safe," a voice
answered. "This is Doctor MacDougal, of Haverstraw, speaking. The
patient is now having a superficial scalp wound dressed by my assistant.
You can speak to her, in a few minutes, if you like."

"Now! For God's sake, let me speak _now_!" entreated the Billionaire;
but the doctor refused. Not all Flint's urging or bribing would turn him
one hair's breadth.

"No," he insisted. "In ten minutes she can talk to you. Not now. But
have no fear, sir. She is perfectly safe and--barring her wound, which
will probably heal almost without a scar--is as well as ever. A little
nervous and unstrung, of course, but that's to be expected."

"What happened, and how?" demanded Flint, in terrible agitation.

The doctor briefly gave him such facts as he knew, ending with the
statement that a passing automobilist had brought the girl to him, and
outlining the situation of the first-aid measures in the sugar-house. At
the thought that Herrick, the drunken cause of it all, was dead and
burned, Flint smiled with real satisfaction.

"Damn him! It's too good for the scum!" he muttered. Then, aloud, he
asked over the wire:

"And who was the rescuer?"

"I don't know," MacDougal answered. "Your daughter didn't tell me. But
from what I've learned, he must have been a man of rare strength and
presence of mind. It may well be that you owe your daughter's life to
his prompt work."

"I'll find him, yet. He'll be suitably rewarded," thought the
Billionaire. "No matter what my enemies have called me, I'm not
incapable of gratitude!"

Some few minutes later, having paced the library floor meanwhile, in
great excitement, he called the doctor's house again by long-distance,
and this time succeeded in having speech with his daughter. Her voice,
though a little weak, vastly reassured him. Once more he asked for the
outline of the story. She told him all the essentials, and finished by:

"Now, come and get me, won't you, father dear? I want to go home. And
the quicker you come for me, the happier I'll be."

"Bless your heart, Kate!" he exclaimed, deeply moved. "Nothing like the
old man, after all, is there? Yes, I'll start at once. I've only been
waiting here, to talk with you and _know_ you're safe. In five minutes
I'll be on my way, with the racing-car. And if I don't break a few
records between here and Haverstraw, my name's not Isaac Flint!"

After an affectionate good-bye, the old man hung up, rang for Slawson,
his private valet, and ordered the swiftest car in his garage made ready
at once, for a quick run.

Two hours later, Doctor MacDougal had pocketed the largest fee he ever
had received or ever would, again; and Kate was safe at home, in Idle
Hour.

On the homeward journey, Flint learned every detail of the affair, from
start to finish; and again grimly consigned the soul of the dead
chauffeur to the nethermost pits of Hell. Yes, he realized, he must have
the body brought in and decently buried, after the coroner's verdict had
been rendered; but in his heart he knew that, save for the eye of public
opinion and the law, he would let those charred remnants lie and rot
there, by the river bank, under the twisted wreckage of the car--and
revel in the thought of that last, barbarous revenge.

Arrived at home, Flint routed specialists out of their offices, and at a
large expense satisfied himself the girl had really taken no serious
harm. Next day, and the days following, all that money and science
could do to make the gash heal without a scar, was done. Waldron called,
greatly unnerved and not at all himself; and Kate received him with
amicable interest. She had not yet informed her father of the rupture
between Waldron and herself, nor did he suspect it. As for "Tiger," he
realized the time was inopportune for any statement of conditions, and
held his peace. But once she should be well, again, he had savagely
resolved this decision of hers should not stand.

"Damn it, it can't! It mustn't!" he reflected, as on the third evening
he returned to his Fifth Avenue house. "Now that I'm really in danger of
losing her, I'm just beginning to realize what an extraordinary woman
she is! As a wife, the mistress of my establishment, a hostess, a social
leader, what a figure she would make! And too, the alliance between
Flint and myself simply must not be shattered. Kate is the only child.
The old man's billion, or more, will surely come to her, practically
every penny of it. Flint is more than sixty-three this very minute, he's
a dope-fiend, and his heart's damned weak. He's liable to drop off, any
moment. If I get Kate, and he dies, what a fortune! What a prize! Added
to my interests, it will make me master of the world!

"Then, too, this new Air Trust scheme positively demands that Flint and
I should be bound together by something closer than mere financial
association. I've simply got to be one of the family. I've got to be his
son-in-law. That's a positive necessity! God, what a fool I was at
Longmeadow, to have taken those three drinks, and have been piqued at
her beating me--to have let my tongue and temper slip--in short, to have
acted like an ass!"

Ugly and grim, he puffed at his Londres. Vast schemes of finance and of
conquest wove through his busy, plotting brain. Visions of the girl
arose, too, tempting him still more, though his chill heart was
powerless to feel the urge of any real, self-sacrificing or devoted
love. Sensual passion he knew, and ambition, and the lust of power;
nothing else. But these all opened his eyes to the vast blunder he had
committed, and nerved him to reconquest of the ground that he had lost.

"I can win her, yet," reflected he, as his car swung into the long and
brilliant night-vista of Fifth Avenue. "I know women, and I understand
the game. Flowers, letters, telephone calls, attention every day--every
hour, if need be--these are the artillery to batter down the strongest
fortresses of indifference, even of dislike. And she shall have them
all--all and more. Wally, old chap, you've never been beaten at any
game, whether in the Street or in the pursuit of woman. You'll win yet;
you're bound to win! And Kate shall yet open the door to you, toward
wealth and power and position such as never yet were seen on earth!"

Thus fortified by his own determination, he slept more calmly that
night. And, on the morrow, his campaign began.

It lasted but a week.

At the end of that time, a friendly little note from Idle Hour told him,
frankly and in the kindest manner possible, that--much as she still
liked and respected him--Catherine could not, now or ever, think of him
in any other way than as a friend.

Stunned by this body-blow, "Tiger" first swore with hideous blasphemies
that caused his valet to retreat precipitately from the famous,
nymph-frieze bedchamber; then ordered drink, then walked the floor a
while in a violent passion; and finally knit up his decision.

"By God!" he swore, shaking his fist in the direction of Englewood.
"She's balky, eh? She won't, eh? But _I_ say she _will_! And if I can't
make her, there's her father, who can. Together we can break this
stiff-necked spirit and bring her to time. Hm! Fancy anybody or anything
in this world setting up opposition to Flint and Waldron, combined! Just
fancy it, that's all!

"So then, what's to do? This: See her father and have a heart-to-heart
talk with him. It's obvious she hasn't told him, yet, the real state of
affairs. I doubt if the old idiot has even noticed the absence of my
ring from her finger. And if he has, she's been able to fool him, easily
enough. But not much longer, so help me!

"No, this very morning he shall hear from me, the whole infernal
story--he shall learn his daughter's unreasonable rebellion, the slight
she's put upon me and her opposition to his will. _Then_ we shall
see--we shall see who's master in that family, he or the girl!"

With this strong determination in his superheated mind, Waldron rang up
Flint, asked for a private talk, at eleven, in the Wall Street office,
and made ready the mustering of his arguments; his self-defense; his
appeals to Flint's every sense of interest and liking; his whole plea
for the resumption of the broken betrothal.

And Catherine, all this time of convalescence--what were her thoughts,
and whither were they straying? Not thoughts of Waldron, that is sure,
despite his notes, his telephoning, his flowers, his visits. Not to him
did they wander, as she sat in her sunny bedroom bay-window, looking
out over the great, close cropped lawn, through the oaks and elms, to
the Palisades and the sparkling Hudson beneath.

No, not to Waldron. Yet wander they did, despite her; and with
persistence they followed channels till then quite unknown to her.

What might these channels be? And whither, I ask again, did the girl's
memories and fancies, her wondering thoughts, her vague, half-formulated
longings, lead?

You, perhaps, can answer, as well as I, if you but remember
that--Billionaire's daughter though she was, and all unversed in the
hard realities of life--she was, at heart and soul, very much a woman
after all.



CHAPTER XVII.

THOUGHTS.


During the long days, the June days, of her convalescence, Catherine
found herself involuntarily reverting, more often than she could
understand, to thoughts of the inscrutable and unknown man who had in
all probability saved her life.

"Had it not been for him," she reflected, as she sat there gazing out
over the river, "I might not be here, this minute. Caught as I was, on
the very brink of the precipice, I should almost certainly have slipped
and fallen over, in my dazed condition, when I tried to get up. If I'd
been alone, if he hadn't found me just when he did--!"

She shuddered at thought of what must almost inevitably have happened,
and covered her face with both hands. Her cheeks burned; she knew
emotion such as not once had Waldron's kiss ever been able to arouse in
her. The memory of how she, half-unconscious, had lain in that
stranger's arms, so powerful and tense; had been carried by him, as
though she had been a child; had felt his breath upon her face and the
quick, vigorous beating of his heart--all this, and more, dwelt in her
soul, nor could she banish it.

Gratitude? Yes, and more. For the first time in her two-and-twenty
years, Catherine had sensed the power, the virility of a real man--not
of the make-believe, manicured and tailored parasites of her own
class--and something elemental in her, some urge of primitive womanhood,
grappled her to that memory and, all against her will, caused her to
live and re-live those moments, time and time again, as the most strange
and vital of her life.

Yet, it was not this physical call alone, in her, that had awakened her
being. The man's eyes, and mouth and hair, true, all remained with her
as a subtly compelling lure; his strength and straight directness seemed
to conquer her and draw her to him; but beyond all this, something in
his speech, in his ideas and the strange reticence that had so puzzled
her, kept him even more constantly in her wondering thoughts.

"A workingman," she murmured to herself, in uncomprehending revery, "he
said he was a workingman--and he knew that I was very, very rich. He
knew my father would have rewarded him magnificently, given him money,
work, anything he might have asked. And yet, and yet--he would not even
tell his name. And he refused to know mine! He didn't want to know! His
pride--why, in all my life, among all the proud, rich people that I've
known, I've never found such pride as that!"

She reflected what would have happened had any man of the usual type
rescued her, even a man of wealth and position. Of course, thought she,
that man would have made himself known and would have called on her,
ostensibly to inquire after her condition, yet really to ingratiate
himself. At this reflection she shuddered again.

"Ugh!" she whispered. "He'd have tried to take liberties, any other man
would. He'd have presumed on the accident--he'd have been--oh,
everything that _that_ man was not, and could never be!"

Now her thoughts wandered to the brief talk they two had had there in
the old sugar-house. Every word of it seemed graven on her memory.
Disconnected bits of what he had told her, seemed to float before her
mental vision--: "I? Oh, I'm just an out-of-work--don't ask me who I am;
and I won't ask who _you_ are. We're of different worlds, I guess--don't
question me; I'd rather you wouldn't. Am I happy? Yes, in a way, or
shall be, when I've done what I mean to do!"

Such were some of his phrases that kept coming back to her, as she sat
there in that luxurious and beautiful room, her book lying unread in her
lap, the scent of flowers everywhere, and, merely for her taking, all
the world's treasures hers to command. Strange man, indeed, and stranger
speech, to her! Never had she been thus spoken to. His every word and
thought and point of view, commonplace enough, perhaps, seemed
peculiarly stimulating to her, and wakened eager curiosity, and would
not let her live in peace, as heretofore.

"He said he was a Socialist, too," she murmured, "whatever that may be.
But he--he didn't _look_ it! On the contrary, he looked remarkably clean
and intelligent. And the words he used were the words of an educated
man. Far better vocabulary than Waldron's, for example; and as for poor
little Van Slyke, and that set, why this man's mind seems to have
towered above them as the Palisades tower above the river!

"Happy? Rich? He said he was both--and all he had was eighteen dollars
and his two big hands! Just fancy that, will you? He might as well have
said eighteen cents; it would have been about as much! And I--what did
I tell him? I told him I, with all my money and everything, was vacant,
empty, futile! Just those words. And--God help me, I--I am!"

Suddenly, she felt her eyes were wet. What was the reason? Herself she
knew not. All she knew was that with her beautiful and queenly head
bowed on the arm of her Japanese silk morning gown, as its loose sleeves
lay along the edge of the Chippendale table, she was crying like a
child.

Crying bitterly; and yet in a kind of new, strange joy. Crying with
tears so bitter-sweet that she, herself, could not half understand them;
could not fathom the deeper meaning that lay hidden there.

"If!" she whispered to her heart. "If only I were of his class, or he of
mine!"

And Gabriel, what of him?

As he swung north and westward, day by day, on the long hike toward
Niagara, the memory of the girl went with him, and hour by hour bore him
company.

He was not forgetting. Could he forget? Strive as he might, to thrust
her out of his heart and soul, she still indwelt there.

Not all his philosophy, nor all his realization that this woman he had
saved, this woman who had lain in his two arms and mingled her breath
with his, belonged to another and an alien class, could banish her.

And as he strode along, swinging his knotted stick at the daisies and
pondering on all that might have been and now could never be, a sudden,
passionate longing burst over him, as a long sea-roller, hurled against
a cliff, flings upward in vast tourbillions of spume.

Raising his face to the summer sky, his bare head high with emotion and
his eyes wide with the thought of strange possibilities that shook and
intoxicated him, he cried:

"Oh--would God she were an orphan and an outcast! Would God she had no
penny in this world to call her own!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

FLINT AND WALDRON PLAN.


"Tiger" Waldron's interview with old man Flint, regarding Catherine's
breaking of the engagement, was particularly electric. Promptly at the
appointed hour, Waldron appeared, shook hands with the older man, sat
down and lighted a cigar, then proceeded to business.

"Flint," said he, without any ado, "I've come here to tell you some very
unpleasant news and to ask your help. Can you stand the one, and give me
the other?"

The Billionaire looked at him through his pince-nez, poised on that
vulture-beak, with some astonishment. Then he smiled nervously, showing
his gleaming tooth of gold, and answered:

"Yes, I guess so. What's wrong?"

"What's wrong? Everything! Catherine has broken our engagement!"

For a moment old Flint sat there motionless and staring. Then, moving
his head forward with a peculiar, pecking twitch that still further
enhanced his likeness to a buzzard, he stammered:

"You--you mean--?"

"I mean just what I say. Your daughter has severed the betrothal.
Haven't you noticed my ring was gone from her finger?"

"Gone? Bless my soul, no--that is, yes--maybe. I don't know. But--but
at any rate, I thought nothing of it. So then, you say--she's broken it
off? But, why? And when? And--and tell me, Wally, what's it all about?"

"Listen, and I _will_ tell you," Tiger answered. "And I'll give it to
you straight. I'm partly at fault. Mostly so, it may be. Let me assume
all the blame, at any rate. I'm not sparing myself and have no intention
of doing so. My conduct, I admit, was beastly. No excuses offered. All I
want to do, now, is to make the _amende honorable_, be forgiven, and
have the former status resumed."

Thus spoke Waldron. But all the time his soul lay hot within him, at
having so to humble himself before Flint; at being thus obliged to eat
crow, and fawn and feign and creep.

"If I didn't need your billion, old man," his secret thought was, as he
eyed Flint with pretended humility, "you might go to Hell, for all of
me--you and your daughter with you, damn you both!"

The Billionaire sat blinking, for a moment. Then, picking up a pencil
and idly scrawling pothooks on the big clean sheet of blotting-paper
that covered his reference-book table, beside which the men were
sitting, he asked:

"Well, what's the trouble all about? What are the facts? I must have
those, in full, before I can guarantee to do anything toward changing my
daughter's opinion. Much as I deplore her action, Wally, I don't know
whether she's right or wrong, till you tell me. Now, let's have it."

"I will," the other answered; and he was as good as his word. Realizing
the prime futility of any subterfuge, or any misstatement of
fact--which Catherine would surely discover and tell her father, and
which would react against him--Waldron began at the beginning and
narrated the entire affair, with every detail precisely accurate. Nay,
he even exaggerated the offensiveness of his conduct, at the Longmeadow
Club, and in various ways gave the Billionaire to understand that he was
a more serious offender than in truth he really was. For, after all, the
only real offense was the lack of any compatibility between the girl and
himself--the total absence of love.

Flint listened carefully and with a judicial expression. If he blamed
Waldron, he made no statement of that fact. A man himself, and one who
viewed man's weaknesses and woman's foibles with a cynic eye, he could
judge motives and weigh actions with considerable skill.

"I see, I see," he commented, when Waldron had quite done, and had
poured forth a highly false declaration of his great love for the girl
and his determination that this rupture should not be permanent. "I
understand the case, I think. It all seems an unfortunate accident--just
one of those unavoidable incidents which strike into and upset human
calculations, against all expectation.

"You're not terribly guilty, Waldron. You acted inconsiderably.
Irritatingly, perhaps, and not wholly like a gentleman--for which, blame
the rotten Scotch they _will_ persist in selling, out there at
Longmeadow. But even that's not fatal. Many men have done worse and been
forgiven. I'll have a talk with Catherine, inside a day or two, when the
psychological moment offers. And you may be sure, if a father's advice
and good offices are of any avail, this little quarrel will be all
patched up between you two. Surely will be! I can almost positively
promise you that!"

"Promise it?" asked Waldron, leaning eagerly forward, a strange light in
those close-set, greenish eyes.

Flint nodded. "Yes," he answered. "I've never yet failed to bring Kate
to reason and good common-sense, when I've set out to. This will be no
exception. My word and my counsel possess the greatest weight with her.
She'll listen and be advised, I'm sure. So have no uneasiness," he
concluded, holding out his hand to his partner. "Leave everything to me.
You'll see, it will all come right, in the end."

"Tiger" shook his hand, cordially.

"I haven't words to thank you!" he exclaimed, with as much emotion as he
could simulate from a perfectly cold heart and calculating soul.

"Don't try to," the Billionaire replied, with seeming benevolence. "All
the thanks I want, Wally, is to patch up this little difficulty and
reunite two--that is--two loving, sympathetic hearts!"

"You old hypocrite!" Waldron thought, eyeing him. "All _you_ want of me,
if anything, is to keep me as your partner, because you know you're
growing old and losing your grip, and I'm still in the game with all
four claws! Paternal philanthropist _you_ are--I don't think!"

Wally was dead right.

"I can't lose this man," the Billionaire was thinking. "Whether or no,
Kate has got to marry him. This Air Trust business demands a strong, a
quick, a perfectly unscrupulous hand. And no outsider will do. My
partner has got to be my son-in-law. Love be damned! Romantic slush can
go to Hell! Kate will marry him--she's _got_ to--or I'll know the reason
why!

"Though, after all," he soothed his conscience, as Waldron stood up,
walked to the window and stood gazing out as he smoked, "after all,
Wally will make her as happy, I fancy, as any man. He's a fine figure in
the world, commanding, heavily propertied, energetic and successful,
also of the finest family connections. Yes, a husband any woman might
admire and be proud of. Certainly, the only son-in-law for _me_. Even if
she can't idolize and worship him, as some fool women think they must, a
man, she can respect and be respected with him. And with him she can
take the highest position in the land, without a qualm as to his
competence and manner. Beside all that, what's love? Love? Bah!"

With which philosophy, he too arose, went back into his own office, and
returned to the dictating of some very private letters to Slade, the
Cosmos Detective Agency manager, _in re_ the ferreting-out and jailing
or deporting of all Socialists and labor leaders at Niagara. This
preparatory work on the ground of the huge new Air Trust plant, he
deemed most essential. The Cosmos people, scenting a big contract, had
fostered his belief, and now, already, the work was well under way.
Subterranean methods were still sufficing; but, should these fail,
others lay in the background.

Flint smiled a grim, vulturine smile as he read over the finished
letters of instruction, a few minutes later.

"And to think," he mused, as he finished them, "that these fanatics
believe--really believe--they can make headway anywhere in this country,
now! Ten years ago, yes, they might have. But that's not today. Then,
publie opinion--stupid and futile as it was--could still be aroused.
Then, there was a really effective labor and Socialist press. And the
Limited Franchise Bill hadn't gone through. Neither had the enlarged
Military Bill, the National Censorship nor even the Grays--the National
Mounted Police. While _now_--ah, thank Heaven, it's all so different and
so easy that I call myself a fool, at times, for even giving these
matters a single thought!

"Well," he concluded, handing the letters back to his confidential
secretary, for mailing, "well, now _that's_ done, at any rate. So then,
to the S. & S. committee meeting. And tonight my little
talk with Kate. I'll soon bring her to reason, I'm sure. There's nothing
can't be accomplished by a little patience and persuasion."

The old Billionaire chose his time well, that night, for the vital
interview with his daughter, who had so far rebelled against his
authority as to break with the man most eminently acceptable to him.
After a simple but exquisite dinner in the Venetian room, he asked the
girl to play for him, which (he knew) always pleased her and put her in
a receptive mood.

"Play for you, father?" she answered. "Of course I will, anything and as
much as you like! What shall it be, tonight? Chopin, or Grieg, or--?"

"Anything that pleases you, suits me, my dear," he answered, smiling
with satisfaction at his ruse. Never had he felt more masterful. He had
allowed himself a trifle more morphia than usual that day, by reason of
the approaching interview; and now the subtle drug filled him with
well-being and seemed to enhance his self-control and power. Lighting a
cigar--rare treat for him--he offered Kate his arm; and together,
unattended by any valet or domestic, they walked along the high,
paneled hallway, hung with Gobelin tapestries, and so reached the
magnificent music-room which Kate claimed, in a way, as her own special
place at Idle Hour.

Here everything suggested harmony. The mahogany wainscotted walls were
decked with fine portraits of the world's great masters of melody.
Handsome cabinets contained costly and elaborate collections and folios
of music, a complete library of the entire world's best productions. The
girl's harp--a masterpiece by Pestalozzi of Venice--stood at one side;
on the other, a five hundred dollar Victrola, with a wonderful
repertoire of records. But the grand piano itself dominated all,
especially made for Catherine by Durand Frères, in Paris, and imported
on the Billionaire's own yacht, the "Bandit." A wondrous instrument,
this, finer even than the pipe-organ in an alcove at the far end of the
room. It summed up all that the world's masters knew of
instrument-production; and its cost, from factory to its present place
at Idle Hour, represented twenty years' wages, and more, of any of
Flint's slaves in the West Virginia mines or the Glenn Pool oil-fields
of Oklahoma.

At this magnificent piano the girl now seated herself, on a bench of
polished teak, from Mindanao. And, turning to her father, who had sunk
down in his favorite easy-chair of Russia leather, she asked with a
smile:

"Well, daddy, what shall I play for you, to-night?"

He looked at her a minute, before replying. Never had she seemed to
dear, so beautiful to him. The rose-tinted light that fell softly from a
Bohemian chandelier over her head, flooded her coiled hair, her face,
her hands, with soft warm color. The slight dressing that her wound now
required was covered by a deft arrangement of her hair. She had regained
her usual tint. Nothing now told of the accident, the close call she had
had, from death, so short a time before. And old Flint smiled, as he
answered her:

"What shall you play? Anything you like, my dear. You know best--only,
don't make it too classical. Your old father isn't up to that ultra
music, you know, and never will be!"

She smiled again with understanding, and turned to the keyboard. Then,
without notes, and with a delicate touch of perfectly modulated
interpretation, she began to render "Traümerei," as though she, too, had
been dreaming of something that might have been.

Flint listened, with perfect content. The music soothed and quieted him.
Even the foreknowledge of the difficult task that lay before him, the
interview that he must have with his daughter, faded from his mind, a
little, and left him wholly calm. Eyes closed, every sense intent on the
delicious harmony, he followed the masterpiece to the end; and sighed
when the last notes had died away, and kept silence.

Then Kate, still needing no music on the rack before her, played the
"Miserere" from "Il Trovatore," a Hungarian "Czardas," Mendelssohn's
"Frühlingslied" and the overture from "William Tell." She followed these
with the "Intermezzo" and the "Pizzicato" from "Sylvia," and then with
"Narcissus" and "Sans Souci." And at the end of this, she paused again;
for now her father had arisen and come close to her. With a hand on her
shoulder, looking down at her with stern yet kindly eyes, he said:

"'Sans Souci'? That means 'Without Care,' doesn't it, Kate?"

"Yes, Daddy. Why?" she answered.

"Oh, I was just thinking, that's all," said he. "It made me wish _I_ had
no cares, no troubles, no sorrows."

"Sorrows, father? Why should you have sorrows?" she queried, turning to
him and taking both his shriveled hands in her warm, strong ones.

"Sorrows? Why shouldn't I?" said he. "Every man of large affairs has
them. Every father has them, too." And he bent over her and kissed her,
with unusual emotion.

"Every father?" asked she. "What do you mean? Am _I_ a sorrow to you?"

"A joy in many ways," he answered. "In some, a sorrow."

"In what ways?" she asked quickly, her eyes widening.

"In this way, most of all," he told her, as he took her left hand up,
and pointed at the finger where Waldron's ring had been and now no
longer was.

She looked at him a moment, hardly understanding; then bowed her head.

"Father," she whispered. "Forgive me--but I couldn't! I--I couldn't! No,
not for the world!"

Flint's drug-contracted eyes hardened as he stood there gazing down at
her. Once, twice he essayed to speak, but found no words. At last,
however, blinking nervously, he said:

"This, Kate, is what I want to talk with you about, to-night. Will you
hear me?"



CHAPTER XIX.

CATHERINE'S DEFIANCE.


"Hear you, best and dearest father in the world?" she cried, looking
quickly up at him again. "Of course I will! Only, I beg you,
don't--don't ask me to--"

"I will ask you nothing, Kate, my girl, save this--to consider
everything well, and to act like a reasoning, thinking creature, not
like an impetuous and romantic school-girl!"

Releasing her hands, he once more sat down in the easy-chair, crossed
his legs and peered keenly at her, to fathom if he could the inner
workings of that other brain and heart.

"Well, father," she said, "I'll admit, right away, that I've done wrong
to keep this from you, or to try to. We--I--broke the engagement, that
day of the accident, out at Longmeadow. I _meant_ to tell you, tell you
everything and explain it all, but somehow--"

"You needn't explain, my dear," said Flint, judicially. "Wally has
already done so."

"And does he blame me, father?" cried the girl, eagerly, clasping her
hands on her knees.

"No, not at all. On the contrary, he claims the fault is all his own.
And he's most contrite and repentant, Kate. Absolutely so. All he asks
in the world is to make amends and--well, resume the old relation,
whenever you are willing."

Kate shook her head.

"That's noble and big of him, father," said she, "to assume all the
blame. Really, half of it is mine. But he's acted like a true man, in
taking it. However, that can't change my decision. I want him for a
friend, in every way. But for a husband, no, no, never in this world!"

The Billionaire frowned darkly. Already a stronger opposition was
developing than he had expected; and opposition was the one thing in all
the world that he could neither tolerate nor endure.

"Listen, Kate," said he. "You don't grasp the situation at all. Waldron
is an extraordinary man in many ways. In refusing him, you seriously
injure yourself. Of course, he has never done any spectacular, heroic
thing for you, like--for instance--that young man who rescued you, and
whom I shall suitably reward as soon as I find him--"

"What!" she exclaimed, peering eagerly at her father. "What do you mean?
Find him? Reward him?"

"Eh? Why, naturally," the Billionaire replied, scowling at the
interruption. "His game of refusing his identity was, of course, just a
clever dodge on his part. He certainly must expect something out of it.
I have--er--set certain forces at work to discover him; and, as I say,
when I've done so, I will reward him liberally, and--"

"You'd better _not_!" ejaculated Kate, with animation. "He isn't the
sort of man you can take liberties with!"

"Hm? What now?" said Flint, with vexation. "What do _you_ know about
him?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing, father," the girl answered quickly. "Only, I
think you're making a mistake to try and force a reward on a man who
doesn't want it. But no matter," she added, her face tinged by a warmer
glow--which Flint was quick to see. "Forgive my interruption. Now, about
Wally?"

The old man peered intently at his daughter, a full minute, then with a
peculiar sinking at his heart, made shift to say:

"About Wally, yes; you simply don't understand. That's all. Listen now,
Kate, and be reasonable."

"I will, daddy. Only don't ask me to marry a man I don't and can't love,
ever, ever, so long as I live!"

"That isn't anything, my girl. Love isn't all."

"It is, to _me_! Without it, marriage is only--" She shuddered. "No,
daddy; a thousand times better for me to be an old maid, and--and all
that, than give myself to _him_!"

Flint set his teeth hard together.

"Kate," said he, his voice like wire, "now hear what I have to say! I
want you fully to understand the character and desirability of Maxim
Waldron!"

Then in a cold, analytic voice, carefully, point by point, he analyzed
the suitor, told of his wealth and power, his connections and his
prospects, his culture, travel, political influence and world-wide
reputation.

"Furthermore," he added, while Kate listened with an expression as cold
as her father's tone itself, "he is my partner. We are allied, in
business. I hope we may be, too, in family. This man is one that any
woman in the world might be proud to call her husband--proud, and glad!
Love flies away, in a few brief months or years. Wealth and power and
respect remain. And, with these, love too may come. Be strong, Kate! Be
sensible! You are no child, but a grown woman. I shall not try to force
you. All I want to do is show you your own best interest. Think this all
over. Sleep on it. Tomorrow, let us talk of it again. For your own sake,
and mine, do as you should, and let folly be averted. Renew the
engagement. Hush the breath of gossip and scandal. Conform. Play the
game! Do right--be strong!"

She only shook her head; and now he saw the glister of tear-drops in
those beautiful gray eyes.

"Father," cried she, standing up and holding out both hands to him.
"Have mercy on me! I can't--I can't! My heart refuses and I cannot force
it. All this--what is it to me?" She swept her hand at the glowing
luxury around her. "Without love, what would such another home be to me?
Worse than a prison-cell, I swear! A living death, to one like me!
Barter and sale--cold calculation--oh, horrible prostitution, horrible,
unspeakable!

"Poverty, with love--yes, I would choose it. Without love, I never,
never can give myself! Never, as long as I live!"

The Billionaire, too, stood up. He was shaking, now, as in a palsy,
striving to control his rage. His fingers twitched spasmodically, and
his eyes burned like firecoals behind those gleaming lenses.

Then, as he peered at her, he suddenly went even paler than before.
Through his heart a stab of understanding had all at once gone home. The
veils were lifted, and he knew the truth.

Her manner in speaking of that unknown, wandering rescuer; the blush
that had burned from breast to brow, when he had mentioned the fellow;
her aversion for Waldron and her reticence in talking of the
accident--all this, and more, now surged on Flint's comprehension,
flooding his mind with light--with light and with terrible anger.

And, losing all control, he took a step or two, and raised his shaking
hand. His big-knuckled finger, shaken in denunciation, was raised almost
in her face. Choking, stammering, he cried:

"Ah! Now I know! Now, now I understand you!"

Terrified, she retreated toward the door of the music-room.

"Father, father! What makes you look so?" she gasped. "Oh, you have
never looked or spoken to me this way! What--what can it be?"

"What can it be?" he mouthed at her. "You ask me, you hypocrite, when
you well know?"

Suddenly she faced him, stiffening into pride and hard rebellion.

"No more of that, father!" she exclaimed, her eyes blazing. "I am your
daughter, but you can't talk to me thus. You must not!"

"Who--who are _you_ to say 'must not?'" he gibed, now wholly beside
himself. "You--you, who love a vagabond, a tramp, scum and off-scouring
of the gutter?"

A strange, half-choking sound was his only answer. Then, with no word,
she turned away from him, biting her lip lest she answer and betray
herself.

"Go!" he commanded, bloodless and quivering. "Go to your room. No more
of this! We shall see, soon, who's master of this house!"

She was already gone.

Old Flint stood there a moment, listening to her retreating footfalls on
the parquetry of the vast hall. Then, as these died he turned and
groped his way, as though blind, back to his chair, and fell in it, and
covered his eyes with both his shaking hands.

For a long time he sat there, anguished and crucified amid all that
unmeaning luxury and splendor.

At last he rose and with uncertain steps sought his own suite,
above-stairs.

Billionaire and world-master though he was, that night he knew his heart
lay dead within him. He realized that all the fruits of life were Dead
Sea fruits, withered to dust and ashes on his pale and quivering lips.



CHAPTER XX.

THE BILLIONAIRE'S PLOT.


He was aroused from this bitter revery by a rapping at the door.
Opening, he admitted Slawson, his valet. The servile one handed him a
letter with a special-delivery stamp on it.

"Excuse me for intruding, sir," said Slawson, meekly smiling, "but I
knew this was urgent."

"All right. Get out!" growled Flint. When the man was gone, he fortified
himself with a couple of morphine tablets, and ripped the long envelope.
It was from Slade, he knew, of the Cosmos Agency.

With a rapid eye he glanced it over. Then uttering a sudden oath, he
studied it carefully, under the electric bulb beside his dressing-table.

"Gods and devils!" he ejaculated. "What next?"

The letter read:

     142A Park Row, New York City, June 28, 1921.

     Isaac L. Flint, Esq.,

     Idle Hour, Englewood, N. J.

     Dear Sir:

      Reporting in the matter of the young man who rescued your
     daughter, in the recent accident, let me say I have discovered his
     identity and some important facts concerning him. I take the
     liberty of thinking that your intention of rewarding him, when
     found, will be somewhat modified by this information.

     This man's name is Gabriel Armstrong, age 24. Occupation, expert
     electrical and chemical worker. A Socialist and labor agitator, of
     the most dangerous type, because intellectual and well-read. A man
     of considerable power and influence in Socialist and labor
     circles. Has been something of a wanderer. Is well known to union
     men and Socialists, all over the country. A powerful speaker, and
     resourceful.

     He was last employed at your testing-works on Staten Island.
     Discharged by your Mr. Herzog, about two weeks ago for having, I
     understand, been in possession of a certain red-covered note-book,
     which Mr. Herzog found in his pocket. This book is the same which
     you commissioned me to find, but which Mr. Herzog returned to you
     before I undertook the search for it. The inference is that this
     Armstrong is in possession of some private information about your
     work, which may make him even more dangerous. Herzog informs me
     that you and Mr. Waldron have had Armstrong blacklisted. But this
     seems of no importance to the man, as he is clever and can live
     anywhere, by casual labor and by working with the Socialists.

     Armstrong is now at Syracuse. He has been tramping the roads. Have
     had two of my operators enter his room at the Excelsior Lodging
     House and search, his effects, while he was taking a bath. Can find
     nothing to give me any legal means of proceeding against him. He
     has some ready money, so a vagrancy-charge will not hold. If you
     wish me to resort to extreme measures to "get" him, kindly give me
     carte blanche, and guarantee me protection in case of trouble. The
     job can be done, but it may be risky, in view of his influence and
     backing among the Socialists and labor people. Before proceeding
     further I want to know how far you will support me.

     Am having him shadowed. He cannot get away. As yet he suspects
     nothing. On receipt of your next, will take measures to put him
     away for a few months. I know that, once he lands behind bars, his
     finish can be easily arranged.

     Trusting this information will prove satisfactory to you, and
     awaiting your further instructions, I am,

     Very truly yours,

     THE COSMOS AGENCY,

     Dillon F. Slade, Mgr.

Old Flint read this extraordinary communication twice through, then,
raising his head, growled in his shrunken throat, for all the world like
a wild beast. His gold tooth, gleaming in the light, made his rictus of
passion more venomous, more malevolent still.

"The--the Hell-hound!" he stammered, his eyes narrowed with hate and
rage. "Oh, wait! Wait till we land him! And this--_this_ is the devil,
the scum, that Kate, my daughter--"

He could not finish; but, clutching at his sparse gray hair, fell to
pacing the floor and mouthing execrations. Had he been of the sanguine
manner of body, he must inevitably have suffered an apoplexy. Only his
spare frame and bloodless type, due to the drug, saved his life, at that
first shock of rage and hate.

Grown calmer, presently, he took quick action. Seating himself at a desk
in the corner of his bed-chamber--a desk where some of his most
important private matters had been put through--he chose a sheet of
blank paper, with no monogram, and wrote:

     Take immediate action. Will back you to the limit, and beyond. Ten
     thousand bonus if you land him behind bars inside a week. Stop at
     nothing, but get results. F.

This he folded and put in an envelope which he addressed to Slade, and
was about to seal, when another idea struck him.

"By God!" he exclaimed, smiting the desk. "It won't do to have this just
some ordinary charge. The thing has got to be disgraceful, unpardonable,
hideous!

"There are two things to be considered now. One is to 'get' him, in
connection with that red book of my plans--to head him off from making
any possible trouble in the development of the Air Trust.

"The other is--Kate! Nothing catches a woman, like martyrdom. If
anything happens to this cur, and she suspects that I've done it, out of
spite, all Hell can't hold her. I know her well enough for _that_. No,
this fellow has got to be put away on some charge that will absolutely
and utterly ruin him, in her eyes, for good and all--that will blast and
wreck him, forever, with her. Something that, when I tell her, will fill
her with loathing and horror. Something that will cause a terrible and
complete revulsion of feeling in her, and bring her back to Waldron, as
to a strong refuge in time of trouble. Something that will crush and
quell her, utterly cure her of those idiotic, school-girl notions of
hers, and make her--as she should be--submissive to my will and my
demands!"

He pondered a moment, an ugly, crafty smile on those old lips of his;
then, struck by sudden inspiration, laughed a dry, harsh laugh.

"The very thing!" he exulted, with the mirth of a vulture that has just
found a peculiarly revolting mass of carrion. "Fool that I was, not to
have thought of it before!"

Hastily he withdrew the letter from the envelope, opened it, and with
eager hand wrote three short sentences. He read these over, nodded
approval, and this time sealed and addressed the letter. Then he pushed
an electric button over the desk.

"Have this letter carried to this address at once," he commanded
Slawson. "Mr. Dillon Slade, 432 Highland Avenue, Rutherford, N. J.
See? Special delivery won't do. Have Sanders take it at once, in the
racer. No answer required. And after you've seen it start on its way,
come back here. I want to go to bed."

"Yes, sir. All right, sir," the valet bowed as he took the letter and
departed.

Ten minutes later, he was back again, helping old Flint undress.

Long after the Billionaire was in bed, in the big, luxurious room, with
its windows open toward the river--the room guarded all night by armed
men in the house and on the lawn outside--he lay there thinking of his
plot, chuckling to himself over its infernal cunning, and filled with
joy at the prospects now opening out ahead of him.

"Two birds with one stone, this time, for sure," he pondered. "Ha!
They'll try to beat old Isaac Flint at this or any other game, will
they? Man or woman, I don't care which, they'll never get away with
it--never, so long as life and breath remain in me!"

Then, soothed by these happy thoughts, and by a somewhat increased
dosage of his drug, the Billionaire gradually and contentedly fell
asleep, to dream of victory, and vengeance, and power.

Not in weeks had he slumbered so peacefully.

But for many hours after her father was asleep, Catherine sat at her
window, in a silk kimono, and with fevered pulses and dry eyes, with
throbbing heart and leaping pulses, thought long thoughts.

Sleepless she sat there, counting the hours tolled from the church-spire
in the town, below.

Morning still found her at the window, her brain afire, her heart laid
desolate and waste by the consuming struggle which, that night, had
swept and ravaged it.



CHAPTER XXI.

GABRIEL, GOOD SAMARITAN.


On the evening of July third, a week later, Gabriel Armstrong found
himself at Rochester, having tramped the hundred miles from Syracuse, by
easy stages. During this week, old Flint took good care not to reopen
the subject of the break with Waldron; and his daughter, too, avoided
it. They two were apparently at an impasse regarding it. But Flint
inwardly rejoiced, knowing full well the plot now under way. And though
Waldron urged him to take some further action and force the issue, Flint
bade him hold his peace, and wait, telling him all would yet be well.

Outwardly calmer, the old man was raging, within, more and ever more
bitterly, against Armstrong. On July first, Slade had reported in person
that his operators who were trailing the quarry had--in the
night--discovered in one of his pockets a maple leaf wrapped in a fine
linen handkerchief marked "C. J. F." Flint, recognizing his
daughter's initials, well-nigh burst a blood-vessel for wrath. But he
instructed Slade not to have the handkerchief abstracted from
Armstrong's possession. By no sign or hint must the victim be made aware
that he was being spied upon. When the final blow should fall, then
(reflected the Billionaire, with devilish satisfaction) all scores would
be paid in full, and more than paid.

July third, then, found Gabriel at Rochester, now seventy-five or
eighty miles from Niagara Falls, his goal, where--he had already
heard--ground was being actually broken for the huge new power plant of
which he alone, of all outsiders, understood the meaning. Gabriel
counted on spending the Fourth at Rochester where a Socialist picnic and
celebration had been arranged. Ordinarily, he would have taken part in
the work and volunteered as a speaker, but now, anxious to keep out of
sight, he counted merely on forming one of the crowd. There could be
little danger, thought he, in such a mass. Despite the recent stringent
censorship and military rule of the district by the new Mounted Police,
a huge gathering was expected. The big railway and lake-traffic strikes,
both recently lost, had produced keen resentment, and, as political and
economic power had been narrowed here, as all over the country, in these
last few months of on-sweeping capitalist domination, the Socialist
movement had been growing ever more and more swiftly.

"It will be worth seeing," thought Gabriel, as he stood outside the
lodging-house where he had taken a room for the night. The workers are
surely awakening, at last. The spirit I've been meeting, lately, is
uglier and more determined than anything I ever used to find, a year or
two ago. It seems to me, if conditions are like this all over the
country, the safety-valve is about ready to pop, and the masters had
better look out, or some of them are going to land in Hell!

"Yes, I'll stop over here, one day, and look and listen. Sorry I can't
take part, but I mustn't. My game, now, is to travel underground as it
were. I've got a bigger job in view than soap-boxing, just _now_!"

He ate a simple supper at an "Owl" lunch-cart, totally unaware that,
across the street, a couple of Cosmos men were waiting for him to come
out. And, after this, buying a Socialist paper, he strolled into Evans
Park to sit and read, a while, by the red light of the descending sun.

Here he remained till dark, smoking his briar, watching the dirty,
ragged children of the wretched wage-slaves at play; observing the
exploited men and women on the park-benches, as they sought a little
fresh air and respite from toil; and pondering the problems that still
lay before him. At times--often indeed--his thoughts wandered to the
maple-grove and the old sugar-house, far away on the Hudson. Memories of
the girl would not be banished, nor longings for her. Who she might be,
he still knew not. Unwilling to learn, he had refrained from looking up
the number he had copied from the plate of the wrecked machine. He had
even abstained from reading the papers, a few days, lest he might see
some account of the accident. A strange kind of unwillingness to know
the woman's name possessed him--a feeling that, if he positively
identified her as one of some famous clan of robbers and exploiters, he
could no longer cherish her memory or love the thought of how they two
had, for an hour, sat together and talked and been good, honest friends.

"No," he murmured to himself, "it's better this way--just to recall her
as a girl in need, a girl who let me help her, a girl I can always
remember with kind thoughts, as long as I live!"

From his pocket he took the little handkerchief, which wrapped the
leaf, once part of her bed. A faint, elusive scent still hung about
it--something of her, still it seemed. He closed his eyes, there on the
hard park bench, and let his fancies rove whither they would; and for a
time it seemed to him a wondrous peace possessed him.

"If it could only have been," he murmured, at last. "If only it could
be!"

Then suddenly urged by a realization of the hopelessness of it all, he
stood up, pocketed the souvenirs of her again, and walked away in the
dusk; away, through the park; away, at random, through squalid, ugly
streets, where the first electric-lights were just beginning to flare;
where children swarmed in the close heat, wallowing along the gutters,
dodging teams and cars, as they essayed to play, setting off a few
premature firecrackers and mocking the police--all in all, leading the
ugly, unnatural, destructive life of all children of the city
proletariat.

"Poor little devils!" thought Gabriel, stopping to observe a dirty group
clustered about an ice-cream cart, where cheap, adulterated,
high-colored stuff was being sold for a penny a square--aniline poison,
no doubt, and God knows what else. "Poor little kids! Not much like the
children of the masters, eh? with their lawns and playgrounds, their
beaches and flowery fields, their gardens and fine schools, their dogs,
ponies, autos and all the rest! Some difference, all right--and it takes
a thousand of _these_, yes, ten thousand, to keep one of _those_.
And--and _she_ was one of the rich and dainty children! Her beauty,
health and grace were bought at the price of ten thousand other
children's health, and joy and lives! Ah, God, what a price! What a
cruel, awful, barbarous price to pay!"

Saddened and pensive, he passed on, still thinking of the woman he could
not banish from his mind, despite his bitterness against her class.

So he walked on and on, now through better streets and now through
worse, up and down the city.

Here and there, detonations and red fire marked the impatience of some
demonstrator who could not wait till midnight to show his ardent
patriotism and his public spirit by risking life and property. The
saloons were all doing a land-office business, with the holiday
impending and the thermometer at 97. Now and then, slattern women, in
foul clothes and with huge, gelatinous breasts, could be seen rushing
the growler, at the "family entrance" of some low dive. Even little
girls bore tin pails, for the evening's "scuttle o' suds" to be consumed
on roof, or in back yard of stinking tenement, or on some fire-escape.
The city, in fine, was relaxing from its toil; and, as the workers for
the most part knew no other way, nor could afford any, they were trying
to snatch some brief moment of respite from the Hell of their slavery,
by recourse to rough ribaldry and alcohol.

Nine o'clock had just struck from the church-spires which mocked the
slums with their appeal to an impassive Heaven, when, passing a foul and
narrow alley that led down to the Genesee River, Gabriel saw a woman
sitting on a doorstep, weeping bitterly.

This woman--hardly more than a girl--was holding a little bundle in one
hand. The other covered her face. Her sobs were audible. Grief of the
most intense, he saw at once, convulsed her. Two or three by-standers,
watching with a kind of pleased curiosity, completed the scene, most
sordid in its setting, there under the flicker of a gas-light on the
corner.

"Hm! What now?" thought Gabriel, stopping to watch the little tragedy.
"More trouble, eh? It's trouble all up and down the line, for these poor
devils! Nothing but trouble for the slave-class. Well, well, let's see
what's wrong _now_!"

Gabriel turned down the alley, drew near the little group, and halted.

"What's wrong?" he asked, in the tone of authority he knew how to use;
the tone which always overbore his outward aspect, even though he might
have been clad in rags; the tone which made men yield to him, and women
look at him with trustful eyes, even as the Billionaire's daughter had
looked.

"Search _me_!" murmured one of the men, shrugging his shoulders. "_I_
can't git nothin' out o' her. She's been sittin' here, cryin', a few
minutes, that's all I know; an' she won't say nothin' to nobody.

"Any of you men know anything about it?" demanded Gabriel, looking at
the rest.

A murmur of negation was his only answer. One or two others, scenting
some excitement, even though only that of a distressed woman--common
sight, indeed!--lingered near. The little group was growing.

Gabriel bent and touched the woman's shoulder.

"What's the matter?" asked he, in a gentle voice. "If you're in trouble,
let me help you."

Renewed sobs were her only answer.

"If you'll only tell me what's the matter," Gabriel went on, "I'm sure
I can do something for you."

"You--you can't!" choked the woman, without raising her head from the
corner of the ragged shawl that she was holding over her eyes. "Nobody
can't! Bill, he's gone, and Eddy's gone, and Mr. Micolo says he won't
let me in. So there ain't nothin' to do. Let me alone--oh dear, oh dear,
dear!"

Fresh tears and grief. The little knot of spectators, still growing,
nodded with approval, and figuratively licked its lips, in satisfaction.
Somewhere a boy snickered.

"Come, come," said Gabriel, bending close over the grief-stricken woman,
"pull together, and let's hear what the trouble is! Who's Bill, and
who's Eddy--and what about Mr. Micolo? Come, tell me. I'm sure I can do
something to straighten things out."

No answer. Gabriel turned to the increasing crowd, again.

"Any of you people know what about it?" he asked.

Again no answer, save that one elderly man, standing on the steps beside
the woman, remarked casually:

"I guess she's got fired out of her room. That's all I know."

Gabriel took her by the arm, and drew her up.

"Come, now!" said he, a sterner note in his voice. "This won't do! You
mustn't sit here, and draw a crowd. First thing you know an officer will
be along, and you may get into trouble. Tell me what's wrong, and I
promise to see you through it, as far as I can."

She raised her face, now, and looked at him, a moment. Tear-stained and
dishevelled though she was, and soiled by marks of drink and
debauchery, Gabriel saw she must once have been very beautiful and still
was comely.

"Well," he asked. "Aren't you going to tell me?"

"Tell you?" she repeated. "I--oh, I can't! Not in front of all them
men!"

"Very well!" said he, "walk with me, and give me your story. Will you do
that? At all events, you mustn't stay here, making a disturbance on the
highway. If you knew the police as well as I do, you'd understand that!"

"You're right, friend," said she, hoarsely. "I'm on, now. Come along
then--I'll tell you. It ain't much to tell; but it's a lot to me!"

She glanced at the curious faces of the watchers, then turned and
followed Gabriel, who was already walking up the alley, toward the
brighter lights of Stuart Street. For a moment, one or two of the men
hesitated as though undecided whether or not to follow after; but one
backward look by Gabriel instantly dispelled any desire to intrude. And
as Gabriel and the woman turned into the street, the little knot of
curiosity-seekers dissolved into its component atoms, and vanished.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE TRAP IS SPRUNG.


"It--it's all along o' that there Mr. Micolo!" the woman suddenly
exclaimed, "Him an' his rent-bill! If he'd ha' let me in, there,
tonight, I could ha' got Ed's things an' then started to my sister's,
out to Scottsville. But he wouldn't. He claimed they was
two-seventy-five still owin', and I didn't have but about fifty cents,
so I couldn't pay it. So he wouldn't let me in. Natchally, anybody'd
feel bad, like that, 'specially when a man told 'em he'd hold their
kid's clothes an' things till they paid--which they couldn't!"

"Naturally, of course," answered Gabriel, rather dazed by this sudden
burst of details, with which she seemed to think he should already be
quite familiar--details all sordid and commonplace, through which he
seemed to perceive, dimly as in a dark glass, some mean and ugly tragedy
of poverty and ignorance and sin.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, all at once. "If so, come in here, where we
can talk quietly and get things straight." He pointed at a cheap
restaurant, across the street.

"Hungry? Gord, yes!" she exclaimed. Only I--I wouldn't ask, if I fell on
the sidewalk! Fifty cents--yes, I got that much, but I been tryin' to
get enough to pay Mr. Micolo, an' get hold of Ed's things, an'--"

"All right, forget that, now," commanded Gabriel. He took her by the
arm and piloted her across the thoroughfare, then into the dingy
hash-house and to a table in a far corner. A few minutes later, pretty
much everything on the bill of fare was before them on the greasy table.

"Not a word till you're satisfied," directed Armstrong. "I'll just take
a little bread and coffee, to keep you company."

The woman adequately proved her statement that she was hungry. Rarely
had Gabriel seen anybody eat with such ravenous appetite. He watched her
with satisfaction, and when she could consume no more, smiled as he
asked:

"Now, then, feel better? If so, let's tackle the next problem. What's
your grief?"

The woman stared at him a long moment before she made reply. Then she
exclaimed suddenly:

"You ain't no kind of 'bull,' are you? Nor plain-clothes man?"

Gabriel shook his head.

"No," said he, "nothing of that kind. You can trust me. Let's have the
story."

"Hm! It ain't much, I s'pose," she answered still half-suspiciously.
"Bill and me was livin' together, that's all. No, not married, nor
nothin'--but--"

"All right. Go on."

"That was last winter. When the kid happened--Ed, you know--Bill, he got
sore, an' beat it. Then I--I went on the street, to keep Ed. Nothin'
else to do, Mister, so help me, an'--"

"Never mind, I understand," said Gabriel. "What next?"

"And after that, I gets sick. _You_ know. Almost right away. So I has
to go to St. Luke's hospital. I leaves Ed with Mrs. McCane, at the same
house. That place in the alley, you know. Well, when I gets out, the
boy's dead. _An_' they never even tells me, till I goes back! An' I
can't even get his things. Because why? Mrs. McCane's gone, Gord knows
where, an' Mr. Micolo says I still owe two-seventy-five. I want to get
down there to Scottsville, to my sister's; but curse _me_ if I'll go
till I pay that devil an' get them clothes!"

A sudden savage light in her blurred eyes betrayed the passion of the
mother-love, through all the filth and soilure of her degradation.
Gabriel felt his heart deeply moved. He bent toward her, across the
table, touched her hand and asked:

"Will you accept five dollars, to pay this man and get you down to
Scottsville?"

"Huh?" she queried, gazing at him with vacant, uncomprehending eyes.

He repeated his query. Then, as he saw the slow tears start and roll
down her wan cheeks, he felt a greater joy within his breast than if the
world and all its treasures had been his.

"Will I take it?" she whispered. "Gord, _will_ I? You bet I will! That
is, if I can have your name, an' pay it back some time?"

He promised, and wrote it down for her, giving as his address Socialist
Headquarters in Chicago. Then, without publicity, he slipped a V into
her trembling hand.

"Come on," said he. "_That's_ all settled!"

He paid the check, and they went out, together. For a moment they stood
together, undecided, on the sidewalk.

"Couldn't I get them things to-night, an' start?" asked she, eagerly.
"There's a train at 11:08, on the B. R. & P."

"All right," he assented. "Can you see this Micolo, now? It's after
ten."

"Oh, _that_ don't make no difference," she answered. "He runs a pawnshop
over here on Dexter Street, two blocks east. He'll be open till
midnight, easy, tomorrow bein' the Fourth."

"Come on, then," said Gabriel. "I'll see you through the whole business,
and onto the train. Maybe I can help you, all along."

Without another word she started, with Gabriel at her side. They
traversed the main street, two blocks, then turned to the left down a
narrower, darker one.

"Here's Micolo's," said she, pausing at a doorway. Gabriel nodded. "All
right," he answered. He had not noted, nor did he dream, that, at the
corner behind them, two slinking, sneaking figures were now watching his
every move.

The woman turned the knob, and entered. Gabriel followed.

"It's on the second floor," said she. Gabriel saw a sign, on the
landing: "S. L. Micolo, Pawn Broker," and motioned her to precede
him.

In a minute they had reached the upper hallway. The woman opened another
door. The room, inside, was dark.

"This way," said she. "He's in the inside office, I guess. The light
must ha' gone out here, some way or other."

Gabriel hesitated. Some inkling, some vague intuition all at once had
come upon him, that all was not well. At his elbow some invisible force
seemed plucking. "Come away! Come back, before it is too late!" some
ghostly voice seemed calling in his ear.

But still, he did not fully understand. Still he remained there, his
mind obsessed by the plausibility of the woman's story and by the pity
he so keenly felt.

And now he heard her voice again:

"Mr. Micolo! Oh, Mr. Micolo! Where are you?"

Striking a match, he advanced into the room.

"Any gas here?" he asked, peering about for a burner.

Suddenly he started with violent emotion. Behind him, in some
unaccountable way, the door had been closed. He heard a key turn,
softly.

"What--what's this?" he exclaimed. He heard the woman moving about,
somewhere in the gloom. "See here!" he cried. "What kind of a--?"

The match burned brightly, all at once. He peered about him, wide-eyed.

"This is no office!" shouted he. "Here, you! What's the meaning of this?
This is a bed-room!"

Sudden realization of the trap stunned and sickened him.

"God! They've got me! Flint and Waldron--they've landed me, at last!" he
choked. "But--but not till I've broken a few heads, by God!"

The match fell from his burnt fingers. Whirling toward the door, he
rained powerful kicks upon it. He would get out, he must get out, at all
hazards!

Suddenly the woman began to scream, with harsh and piercing cries that
seemed to rip the very atmosphere.

[Illustration: Aiming at the base of the skull she struck.]

At the third scream, or the fourth, the key was turned and the door
jerked open.

In its aperture, three men stood--the two who had been so long trailing
Gabriel, and a policeman, burly, red-jowled, big-paunched.

Gabriel stared at them. His mouth opened, then closed again without a
word. As well for a trapped animal to make explanations to the Indian
hunter, as for him to tell these men the truth. The truth? _They_ knew
the truth; and they were there to crucify him. He read it in their
cruel, eager eyes.

The woman had stopped screaming now, and was weeping with abandon,
pouring forth a tale of insults and abuse and robbery, with hysterical
sobs.

Full in the faces of the three men Gabriel sneered.

"You've done a good job of it, this time, you skunks!" he gibed. "I'm
on. You'll get me, in the end; but not just yet. The first man through
this door gets his head broken--and that goes, too!"

With a snarl of "You damned white slaver!" the officer raised his
night-stick and hurled himself at Gabriel.

Gabriel ducked and planted a terrific left-hander on the "bull's" ear.
Roaring, the majesty of the law careened against the bed, crashed the
flimsy thing to wreckage and went down.

Then, fighting back into the gloom of the trap, Gabriel engaged the two
detectives. For a moment he held them. One went to the floor with an
uppercut under the chin; but came back. The other landed hard on
Gabriel's jaw.

He turned to strike down, again, the first of the two. He heard the bed
creaking, and saw the policeman struggling to arise. In a whirlwind of
blows, the second detective flailed at him, striving to beat down his
guard and floor him with a vicious rib-jolt.

"All's fair, here!" thought Gabriel, snatching up a chair. For a moment
he brandished it on high. With this weapon, he knew--though final defeat
was inevitable, when reinforcements should arrive--he could sweep a
clear space.

Perhaps he might even yet escape! He heard feet trampling on the stairs,
and his heart died within him. Well, even though escape were impossible,
he would fight to a finish and die game, if die he must!

Down swung the chair, and round, crashing to ruin as it struck the
policeman who was just getting to his feet again. Oaths, cries, screams
made the place hideous. Dust rose, and blood began to flow.

Armed now with one leg of the chair, Gabriel retreated; and as he went,
he hurled the bitterness of all his scorn and hate upon these vile
conspirators.

And as he flayed them with his tongue, he struck; and like Samson
against the Philistines, he did great execution.

Like Samson, too, he lost his power through a woman's treachery. For,
even as the attackers seemed to fall back, shattered and at a loss
before such fury and tremendous strength, behind Gabriel the woman rose,
a laugh of malice on her lips, the policeman's long and heavy
night-stick in her hand.

A moment she poised it, crouching as he--seeing her not--swung his
weapon and hurled his defiance at the baffled men in front.

Then, aiming at the base of the skull, she struck.

Sudden bright lights spangled the darkness, for Gabriel. Everything
whirled about, in dizzying confusion. A strange, far roaring sounded in
his ears.

Then he fell; and oblivion took him to its blessed peace and rest; and
all grew still and black.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE BEAST GLOATS.


"Fer Gawd's sake, let's have a light here, somebody!" panted the
dishevelled policeman. Outside, the ringing of a gong became audible.
Then came a clattering of hoofs, as the police-patrol, nicely-timed by
the conspirators, and summoned by a confederate, drew up at the box on
the corner.

Somebody struck another match, and a raw gas-light flared. From the
hallway, two or three others crowded into the wrecked room. Disjointed
exclamations, oaths and curses intermingled with harsh laughter.

The woman--Lillian Rafter, probably the finest actress and stool-pigeon
in the whole detective world of graft and crookedness--lighted a
cigarette at the gas-burner, and laughed with triumph.

"Some make-up, eh kid?" she demanded of the taller detective, who was
now nursing a bad "shiner," as a black eye is known in the under-world,
and whose face was battered to a bleeding pulp. "Believe me, as a job,
this is some job! From start to finish, a pippin. He was bound to fall
for it though. No help for him. Even if he hadn't butted into the
'plant' we fixed for him in the alley, there, I could have braced him in
the street with my tale of woe. He was just bound to be 'it,' this time.
We had him going, all ways for Sunday!"

Scornfully the woman Gabriel had befriended in her seeming misery, spat
at him as he lay there stunned and scarcely breathing on the dirty
floor.

"And just pipe this, will you, too?" she exulted, holding up the
five-dollar bill he had given her. "And this?" She exhibited his name
and address, written on a card. "In his own writing, boys. As evidence
to hold him on a white slave charge, is this some evidence or isn't it?"

"Oh, we'll hold him, all right!" growled the other detective, whose
right arm dangled limp, where the chair had struck him. "The ---- ----
of a ----! He'll go up for a finif, a five-spot, or I'm a liar! And once
we get him behind bars, good-night!"

He deliberately drew back his heavy boot and kicked Gabriel full in the
face.

"You ---- ----!" he cursed. "Try to bean _me_, will you? Damn you!
You've made _your_ last soap-box spiel!"

"Come on, now, boys, out with him, an' no more rag-chewin'!" the
policeman exclaimed. "Git him in the wagon, an' away, before a gang
piles in here! You, Caffery, take his feet. I'll manage his head. Jesus,
but he's some big guy, though, the ---- ---- of a ----!"

Together, the battered policeman and the detective who still had some
strength left in him, raised Gabriel's limp body and carried it from the
room. The woman, meanwhile, stood there inhaling cigarette-smoke and
laughing viciously to herself.

"You easy mutt!" she exclaimed. "Dead baby, room-rent due, wanted to get
home to sister--and you fell for that old gag with whiskers on it!
You're some wise guy all right, all right, I don't think. Well, as a
stall it was a beaut. And I must say I never screamed better in all my
life. And that wallop I handed out, was a peach. If I don't pull down
five hundred for this night's work--"

"Shut up, you ----!" snarled Caffery, as he turned into the stairway.
"Keep that lip o' yours quiet, will you, or--"

The woman stared at him a moment, then laughed insolently and snapped
her smoke-yellowed fingers at him in defiance.

"Mind you show up in court, in the mornin'!" panted the officer,
staggering downstairs under the weight of Gabriel's huge shoulders.

"Better arrest her now," suggested Caffery, "an' hold her."

"You will, like Hell!" retorted the woman.

"Shhh! In one door an' out the other," the second detective whispered in
her ear, as she stood there in the doorway. "I'll see to it you get
fifty extra for _that_!"

"Oh, if that's the game, fine business!" she smiled. "Go to it--I'm your
huckleberry!"

Thus it befell that, while a large and growing crowd observed, under the
arc-light on the corner--a crowd where no fewer than six reporters, all
duly tipped off in advance, were taking notes--Gabriel Armstrong, the
Socialist speaker and leader, was bundled, unconscious, into a patrol
wagon of the City of Rochester; and with him, a drunken-acting harlot,
babbling charges of white-slave extortion and violence against him; and
with them both, several witnesses, who would have sworn that Heaven was
Hell, for five dollars cash in hand.

Thus was the stage set, for the next session of the honorable court.
Thus were the wires pulled. Thus, the prison doors were swung wide open,
and, above all, the honor and the reputation of a man swept to the
garbage-heaps of life.

True, at the morrow's great mass-meeting, there were destined to be
protests and calls for investigation. The Socialist press was destined
to take it up, defend him and demand the truth. But, swamped by a
perfectly overwhelming capitalist press, not only naturally hostile but
in this case already heavily subsidized; shattered by the close-knit,
circumstantial evidence; hamstrung and hampered in every way by the
power of unlimited money and Tammany pull, the Socialists might as well
have tried to sweep back the sea with a broom as save this man from
legal crucifixion. Worse still, they themselves, and the beaten strikers
with whom they had been fraternizing, got a black eye in the affair; and
many an editorial column, many a pulpit, unctuously discoursed thereon.
Many an anti-Socialist thug and grafter, loud-mouthed and blatant,
bellowed revamped platitudes of "immorality" and "breaking up the home,"
and the "nation of fatherless children," pointing at Gabriel Armstrong
as a shining example of Socialist hypocrisy and filth.

Press, law, church, capitalism itself nailed this man and the movement
he stood for, to the cross. And the pimps and parasites of the private
detective agency chuckled in their well-paid glee. The woman, Gabriel's
betrayer, counted her "thirty pieces of silver" and laughed in the foul
dark. The police cut a fine melon secretly handed them by Flint; and so,
too, did the local papers and more than one local pulpit.

So, in Gabriel's grief and woe and desolation, as he sat in his grim
cell with aching head, bruised face and bleeding heart, with all his
plans now broken, with the very soul within him dead--in this grief and
anguish, I say, the foul harpy-brood of Capitalism revelled and rioted
like maggots in carrion.

None more viciously than old Flint, himself. None with more brutal joy,
more savage satisfaction. One of the culminant moments of his life, he
felt, was on the evening after the dastardly plot had been carried to
its putrid conclusion.

Opening the Rochester "News-Intelligencer" which Slade had sent him, his
glittering eyes seemed to sparkle joy as a blue-penciled column met his
gaze.

Eagerly he read it all, every word, and weighed it, and re-read it, as
men do when news is dear to their souls. Already, through the New York
papers he had got the essentials of the affair. Already, by long
distance 'phone he had received the outlines of the news from Slade, as
well as a code telegram of more than 500 words, giving him additional
details. But this paper especially pleased him. The other Rochester
sheets, which Slade would send as fast as they appeared, he already was
looking forward to, with keenest pleasure.

"Ah! _This_ is what I call efficiency!" he exclaimed, settling himself
in his big chair, adjusting the pince-nez on his hawk-bill and preparing
to read the column for the third time. "The way this thing was planned
and carried out, and the manner in which Slade has managed to get it
played up in the papers, proves to me he's a general in his line, a true
Napoleon. I may safely intrust any affair of this sort to him and his
agency. No fee of his shall ever be questioned; and as for
bonuses--well, he shall have no reason to complain. An admirable man, in
every way--a wonderful organization! With men and agencies like _these_
at work in our interests, what have we, really, to be uneasy about?"

Smacking his mental lips, if I may be pardoned the phrase, he once more
slowly read the delightful, gratifying news:

     _SOCIALIST WHITE-SLAVER!_

     _Rotten Affair Unearthed by Police!_

     _Gabriel Armstrong, Socialist Leader, Caught With the Goods!!!_

     Rochester, July 4.

     "In one of the most sensational raids ever made in this city, by
     the vice squad, under the auspices of the Purity League, what is
     believed to be a well-organized white-slave business was unearthed
     last night. The leader and brains of the association, Gabriel
     Armstrong, a Socialist speaker and worker of national prominence,
     was arrested, and is now lodged in Police Headquarters, with
     serious charges pending.

     "The arrest was made as a result of the keen work of Officer
     Michael P. Duffey, sergeant of the vice squad. Hearing screams in
     the assignation house at 42A Belding street, he made his way up
     stairs, accompanied by two or three citizens. The screams were
     coming from a room on the second floor. Duffey promptly battered
     the door down only to be met by a furious assault from Armstrong,
     who was intoxicated and extremely violent.

     "A savage hand-to-hand struggle took place, in which furniture was
     broken, the policeman badly injured and two of the volunteers
     knocked out. Armstrong was finally subdued, however, by the
     jiu-jitsu method, in which Duffey is an expert, and was lodged in
     the Central Station, together with the woman.

     "According to her statement, the man, Armstrong, had not only been
     guilty of grossly immoral practices with her, but had also been
     trying to force her to share with him the proceeds of her life of
     shame, thus making out against him a clear case under the Mann
     White-Slave Traffic law. She has material evidence of this
     fact--money which he had given her, to finance her till she could
     begin bringing in revenue to him, and also his name and address,
     written by his own hand. A significant fact is that the address
     given by this white slaver is Socialist headquarters, in Chicago.
     The police are now working on the theory that the entire Socialist
     organization is honeycombed with this traffic, and that the
     Socialist movement is only a blind to cover a wholesale
     distribution of women for immoral purposes. Drastic Federal action
     against the Socialist Party is now being considered.

     "Still further and more sensational facts are expected to develop
     at the preliminary hearing, which will take place tomorrow morning.
     In case Armstrong is bound over to the Grand Jury, and convicted,
     he may get a heavy fine and as much as five years in a Federal
     penitentiary. He is described as being a surly, low type, reticent
     and vindictive, of vicious characteristics and mentally defective.
     The local Socialists have already taken up arms in his defense, as
     was to be expected.

     "Interest is added to the case by the fact that Armstrong is known
     to be the man who, at the time of the recent automobile accident to
     Miss Catherine Flint--daughter of Isaac Flint, of Englewood,
     N. J.--gave the alarm. A theory is now being formed that he
     was, in some way, involved in a plot with Miss Flint's chauffeur to
     wreck the machine and share a big reward for rescuing the girl. The
     plot, however, evidently miscarried, for the chauffeur was killed,
     and Armstrong, after giving the alarm, feared to divulge his
     identity but fled in disguise.

     "Public interest is greatly aroused in this matter. And if, as now
     seems positively certain, this arrest and forthcoming conviction
     break up the vicious white-slave gang for some time operating in
     Rochester and Ontario Beach, the public will have a still greater
     debt of gratitude toward the Purity League, the Vice Squad and the
     untiring efforts and bravery of Sergeant Duffey."

"That, ah that," remarked old Flint, as he finished his last reading,
"is what I call literature! It may not be Scott or Shelley or Dickens,
but it's got far more than _they_ ever had--tremendous value to--er--to
the rightful masters of society. I dare say that this article and also
others like it that are bound to be printed during the trial and after,
will do more to secure our position in society than a whole army with
machine guns. Socialism, eh? After this campaign gets through, by God,
we'll sweep up the leavings in a dustpan and throw them out the window!"

Again he surveyed the article, smiling thinly.

"Literature, yes," he repeated. "The writer of those lines, and the
master-minds who engineered the whole affair, must and shall be
liberally rewarded. Editors, preachers, writers, they're all on our
side. All safe and sane--that is, nearly all--enough, at any event, to
assure our safety. I rejoice that I have lived to see this day!"

He turned the sheets of the paper, to see if any other notice of the
affair was printed; and as he looked, he pondered.

"Imagine the effect of this, on Kate!" thought he. "It will be just as I
planned it. Nothing will be left in her mind now, but loathing, hate and
rage against this man. In two days, she and Waldron will have patched up
their little difference, and all will be well. A master-stroke on my
part, eh? Yes, yes indeed, a master-stroke!"

His eye caught another blue-pencilling.

"Editorial, eh?" said he, adjusting his glasses. "Better and better!
This affair will sweep those troublemakers off the map, or I'm a
beggar!"

Then, with the keenest of satisfaction, he focussed his attention on the
sapient editorial:

     _SOCIALISM UNVEILED_.

     The arrest and impending conviction of Gabriel Armstrong, the noted
     Socialist leader, on a white-slave traffic charge, will do much to
     set all sane thinkers right in regard to this whole matter of
     Socialist ethics. Socialists, as we have all heard, contend that
     their system of thought teaches a high and pure form of morality.
     How will they square this assertion with the hard, cold facts, as
     brought to light in this most revolting case?

     Much more seems to lie beneath the surface than at first sight
     appears. Though we desire to suspend judgment until all the data
     are known, it appears conclusively proved that Armstrong is but one
     of a band of white-slavers operating through the organization of,
     and with the consent of the Socialist party, or at least of its
     responsible officials.

     If this prove to be the case, it will substantiate the suspicion
     long felt in many quarters that this whole movement, ostensibly
     political, is really a menace to the moral and social welfare of
     the nation. A foreign importation, openly standing against the
     home, the family and religion, may well be expected to foster such
     crimes and to be a "culture-medium" for the growth of such vile
     microbes as this man Armstrong, and others of his kind.

     Turn on the light! Bring the social antiseptics! Let all the facts
     be established; and when known, if--as we anticipate--they prove
     this nasty conspiracy, let us make an end, now and forever, to this
     un-American, immoral and filthy thing, Socialism! To this object
     this paper now and henceforth pledges its policy; and all decent
     publications, all citizens who love their country, their God, their
     homes, their flag, will join with it in a nation-wide crusade to
     choke this slimy monster of Anarchy and Free-love, and fling it
     back into the Pit where it belongs.

     Long live religion, purity and the flag! Down with Socialism!

Flint regarded this masterpiece with an approving eye. Then, chuckling
to himself, he arose and with slow steps advanced toward the dining-room
where already Catherine was awaiting him.

"Now," he murmured to himself, and smiled thinly, "now for a little
scene with Kate!"



CHAPTER XXIV.

CATHERINE'S SUPREME DECISION.


The meal was almost at an end--silently, like all their hours spent
together, now--before the old man sprang his _coup_. It was
characteristic of him to wait thus, to hold his fire till what he
conceived to be the opportune moment; never to act prematurely, under
any circumstances whatever.

"By the way, Kate," he remarked, casually, when coffee had been served
and he had motioned the butlers out of the room, "by the way, I've been
rather badly disappointed, today. Did you know that?"

"No, father," she answered. She never called him "daddy," now. "No, I'm
sorry to hear it. What's gone wrong?"

He looked at her a moment before replying, as though to gauge her mind
and the effect his announcement might have. Very charming she looked,
that evening, in a crêpe de Chine gown with three-quarter lace sleeves
and an Oriental girdle--a wonderful Nile-green creation, very simple
(she had told herself) yet of staggering cost. A single white rose
graced her hair. The low-cut neck of the gown revealed a full, strong
bosom. Around her throat she wore a fine gold chain, with a French
20-franc piece and her Vassar Phi Beta Kappa key attached--the only
pendants she cared for. The gold coin spoke to her of the land of her
far ancestry, a land oft visited by her and greatly loved; the gold key
reminded her of college, and high rank taken in studies there.

Old Flint noted some of these details as he sat looking at her across
the white and gleaming table, where silver and gold plate, cut glass and
flowers and fine Sèvres china all combined to make a picture of splendor
such as the average workingman or his wife has never even dreamed of or
imagined; a picture the merest commonplace, however, to Flint and
Catherine.

"A devilish fine-looking girl!" thought he, eyeing his daughter with
approval. "She'd grace any board in the world, whether billionaire's or
prince's! Waldron, old man, you'll never be able to thank me
sufficiently for what I'm going to do for you tonight--never, that is,
unless you help me make the Air Trust the staggering success I think you
can, and give me the boost I need to land the whole damned world as my
own private property!"

He chuckled dryly to himself, then drew the paper from his pocket.

"Well, father, what's gone wrong?" asked Kale, again. "Your
disappointment--what was it?"

She spoke without animation, tonelessly, in a flat, even voice. Since
that night when her father had tried to force Waldron upon her, and had
taunted her with loving the vagabond (as he said) who had rescued her,
something seemed to have been broken, in her manner; some spring of
action had snapped; some force was lacking now.

"What's wrong with me?" asked Flint, trying to veil the secret malice
and keen satisfaction that underlay his speech. "Oh, just this. You
remember about a week ago, when we--ah--had that little talk in the
music room--?"

"Don't, father, please!" she begged, raising one strong, brown hand.
"Don't bring that up again. It's all over and done with, that matter is.
I beg you, don't re-open it!"

"I--you misunderstand me, my dear child," said Flint, trying to smile,
but only flashing his gold tooth. "At that time I told you I was looking
for, and would reward, if found, the--er--man who had been so brave and
quick-witted as to rescue you. You remember?"

"Really, father, I beg you not to--"

"Why not, pray?" requested Flint, gazing at her through his pince-nez.
"My intentions, I assure you, were most honest and philanthropic. If I
had found him--_then_--I'd have given him--"

"Oh, but he wouldn't have taken anything, you see!" the girl
interrupted, with some spirit. "I told you that, at the time. It's just
as true, now. So please, father, let's drop the question altogether."

"I'm sorry not to be able to grant your request, my dear," said the old
man, with hidden malice. "But really, this time, you must hear me. My
disappointment arises from the fact that I've just discovered the young
man's identity, and--"

"You--you have?" Kate exclaimed, grasping the edge of the table with a
nervous hand. Her father smiled again, bitterly.

"Yes, I have," said he, with slow emphasis, "and I regret to say, my
dear child, that my diagnosis of his character is precisely what I first
thought. Any interest you may feel in that quarter is being applied to a
very unworthy object. The man is one of my discharged employees, a
thorough rascal and hard ticket in every way--one of the lowest-bred and
most villainous persons yet unhung, I grieve to state. The fact that he
carried you in his arms, and that I owe your preservation to him, is one
of the bitterest facts in my life. Had it been any other man, no matter
of what humble birth--"

"Father!" she cried, bending forward and gazing at him with strange
eyes. "Father! By what right and on what authority do you make these
accusations? That man, I know, was all that innate gentleness and
upright manhood could make any man. His nobility was not of wealth or
title, but of--"

"Nonsense!" Flint interrupted. "Nobility, eh? Read _that_, will you?"

Leering, despite himself, he handed the paper across the table to his
daughter.

"Those marked passages," said he. "And remember, this is only the
beginning. Wait till all the facts are known, the whole conspiracy laid
bare and everything exposed to public view! _Then_ tell me, if you can,
that he is poor but noble! Bah! Sunday-school dope, that! Noble, yes!"

Catherine sat there staring at the paper, a minute, as though quite
unable to decipher a word. Through a kind of wavering mist that seemed
to swim before her eyes, she vaguely saw the words: "Socialist White
Slaver!" but that these bore any relation to the man she remembered,
back there at the sugar-house, had not yet occurred to her mind. She
simply could not grasp the significance of the glaring headlines. And,
turning a blank gaze on her father's face, she stammered:

"Why--why do you give me this? What has this got to do with--_me_? With
_him_?"

"Everything!" snarled the Billionaire, violently irritated by his
daughter's seeming obtuseness. "Everything, I tell you! That man, that
strong and noble hero of yours, is this man! This white slaver! This
wild beast--this Socialist--this Anarchist! Do you understand now, or
don't you? Do you grasp the truth at last, or is your mind incapable of
apprehending it?"

He had risen, and now was standing there at his side of the table,
shaking with violent emotion, his glasses awry, face wrinkled and drawn,
hands twitching. His daughter, making no answer to his taunts, sat with
the paper spread before her on the table. A wine glass, overset, had
spilled a red stain--for all the world like the workers' blood, spilled
in war and industry for the greater wealth and glory of the masters--out
across the costly damask, but neither she nor Flint paid any heed.

For he was staring only at her; and she, now having mastered herself a
little, though her full breast still rose and fell too quickly, was
struggling to read the slanderous lies and foul libels of the
blue-penciled article.

Silently she read, paling a little but otherwise giving no sign to show
her father how the tide of her thought was setting. Twice over she read
the article; then, pushing the paper back, looked at old Flint with eyes
that seemed to question his very soul--eyes that saw the living truth,
below.

"It is a lie!" said she, at last, in a grave, quiet voice.

"What?" blurted the old man. "A--a lie?"

She nodded.

"Yes," said she. "A lie."

Furious, he ripped open the paper, and once more shoved it at her.

"Fool!" cried he. "Read _that_!" And his shaking, big-knuckled finger
tapped the editorial on "Socialism Unveiled."

"No," she answered, "I need read no more. I know; I understand!"

"You--you know _what_?" choked Flint. "This is an editorial, I tell you!
It represents the best thought and the most careful opinion of the
paper. And it condemns this man, absolutely, as a criminal and a menace
to society. It denounces him and his whole gang of Socialists or
Anarchists or White-slavers--they're all the same thing--as a plague to
the world. That's the editor's opinion; and remember, he's on the
ground, there. He has all the facts. You--_you_ are at a distance, and
have none! Yet you set up your futile, childish opinion--"

"No more, father! No more!" cried Catherine, also standing up. She faced
him calmly, coldly, magnificently. "You can't talk to me this way, any
more. Cannot, and must not! As I see this thing--and my woman's
intuition tells me more in a minute than you can explain away in an
hour--this fabrication here has all, or nearly all, been invented and
carried out by you. For what reason? This--to discredit this man! To
make me hate and loathe him! To force me back to Waldron. To--"

"Stop!" shouted the old man, in a well-assumed passion. "No daughter of
mine shall talk to me this way! Silence! It is monstrous and
unthinkable. It--it is horrible beyond belief! Silence, I tell
you--and--"

"No, father, not silence," she replied, with perfect poise. "Not
silence now, but speech. Either this thing is true or it is false. In
either case, I must know the facts. The papers? No truth in _those_! The
finding of the courts? today, they are a by-word and a mockery! All I
can trust is the evidence of my own senses; what I hear, and feel, and
see. So then--"

"Then?" gulped the Billionaire, holding the back of his chair in a
trembling grasp.

"Just this, father. I'm going to Rochester, myself, to investigate this
thing, to see this man, to hear his side of the story, to know--"

"Do that," cried Flint in a terrible voice, "and you never enter these
doors again! From the minute you leave Idle Hour on that fool's errand,
my daughter is dead to me, forever!"

Swept clean off his feet by rage, as well as by the deadly fear of what
might happen if his daughter really were to learn the truth, he had lost
his head completely.

With quiet attention, the girl regarded him, then smiled inscrutably.

"So it be," she replied. "Even though you disinherit me or turn me off
with a penny, my mind is made up, and my duty's clear.

"While things like these are going on in the world, outside, I have no
right to linger and to idle here. I am no child, now; I have been
thinking of late, reading, learning. Though I can't see it all clearly,
yet, I know that every bite we eat, means deprivation to some other
people, somewhere. This light and luxury mean poverty and darkness
elsewhere. This fruit, this wine, this very bread is ours because some
obscure and unknown men have toiled and sweat and given them to us. Even
this cut glass on our table--see! What tragedies it could reveal, could
it but speak! What tales of coughing, consumptive glass-cutters, bending
over wheels, their lungs cut to pieces by the myriad spicules of sharp
glass, so that we, we of our class, may enjoy beauty of design and
coloring! And the silken gown I wear--that too has cost--"

"No more! No more of this!" gurgled old Flint, now nearly in apoplexy.
"I deny you! I repudiate you, Anarchist that you are! Go! Never come
back--never, never--!"

Stumbling blindly, he turned and staggered out of the room. She watched
him go, nor tried to steady his uncertain steps. In the hallway,
outside, she heard him ring for Slawson, heard the valet come, and both
of them ascend the stairs.

"Father," she whispered to herself, a look of great and pure spiritual
beauty on her noble face, "father, this had to come. Sooner or later, it
was inevitable. Whatever you have done, I forgive you, for you _are_ my
father, and have surely acted for what you think my interest.

"But none the less, the end is here and now. Between you and me, a great
gulf is fixed. And from tonight I face the world, to battle with it,
learn from it, and know the truth in every way. Enough of this false,
easy, unnatural life. I cannot live it any longer; it would crush and
stifle me! Enough! I must be free, I shall be free, to know, and dare,
and do!"

That night, having had no further speech with old Flint, Kate left Idle
Hour, taking just a few necessities in a suit-case, and a few dollars
for her immediate needs.

Giving no explanation to maid, valet or anyone, she let herself out,
walked through the great estate and down Englewood Avenue, to the
station, where she caught a train for Jersey City.

The midnight special for Chicago bore her swiftly westward. No sleeping
car she took, but passed the night in a seat of an ordinary coach. Her
ticket read "Rochester."

The old page of her Book of Life was closed forever. A new and better
page was open wide.



CHAPTER XXV.

THROUGH STEEL BARS.


True to her plan, Catherine ended her journey at Rochester. She engaged
a room at a second-rate hotel--marvelling greatly at the meanness of the
accommodations, the like of which she had never seen--and, at ten
o'clock of the morning, appeared at the Central Police Station. The
bundle of papers in her hand indicated that she had read the latest lies
and venom poured out on Gabriel's defenseless head.

The haughty, full-fed sergeant in charge of the station made some
objections, at first, to letting her see Gabriel; but the tone of her
voice and the level look of her gray eye presently convinced him he was
playing with fire, and he gave in. Summoning an officer, he bade the man
conduct her. Iron doors opened and closed for her. She was conscious of
long, ill-smelling, concrete-floored corridors, with little steel cages
at either side--cages where hopeless, sodden wrecks of men were
standing, or sitting in attitudes of brutal despair, or lying on foul
bunks, motionless and inert as logs.

For a moment her heart failed her.

"Good Lord! Can such things be?" she whispered to herself. "So
this--this is a police station? And real jails and penitentiaries are
worse? Oh, horrible! I never dreamed of anything like this, or any men
like these!"

The officer, stopping at a cell-door and banging thereon with some
keys, startled her.

"Here, youse," he addressed the man within, "lady to see youse!"

Catherine was conscious that her heart was pounding hard and her breath
coming fast, as she peered in through those cold, harsh metal bars. For
a minute she could find no thought, no word. Within, her eyes--still
unaccustomed to the gloom--vaguely perceived a man's figure, big and
powerful, and different in its bearing from those other cringing
wretches she had glimpsed.

Then the man came toward her, stopped, peered and for a second drew
back. And then--then she heard his voice, in a kind of startled joy:

"Oh--is it--is it _you_?"

"Yes," she answered. "I must see you! I must talk with you, again, and
know the truth!"

The officer edged nearer.

"Youse can talk all y' want to," he dictated, hoarsely, "but don't you
pass nothin' in. No dope, nor nothin', see? I'll stick around an' watch,
anyhow; but don't try to slip him no dream powders or no 'snow.' 'Cause
if you do--"

"What--what _on_ earth are you talking about?" the girl demanded,
turning on the officer with absolute astonishment. But he, only winking
wisely, repeated:

"You heard me, didn't you? No dope. I'm wise to this whole game."

At a loss for his meaning, yet without any real desire to fathom it,
Kate turned back toward Gabriel.

A moment they two looked at each other, each noting any change that
might have taken place since that wonderful hour in the sugar-house,
each hungering and thirsting for a sight of the other's face. In her
heart, already Kate knew as well as she knew she was alive, that this
man was totally innocent of the foul charges heaped upon him. And so she
looked at him with eyes wherein lay no reproach, no doubt and no
suspicion. And, as she looked, tears started, and her heart swelled
hotly in her breast; for he was bruised and battered and a helpless
captive.

"He, caged like a trapped animal!" her thought was. "He, so strong, and
free, and brave! Oh, horrible, horrible!"

He must have read something of this feeling, in her face; for now,
coming close to the bars, he said in a low tone:

"Girl--your name I don't know, even yet--girl, you mustn't pity me!
That's _one_ thing I can't have. I'm here because the master class is
stronger than my class, the working class. Here, because I'm dangerous
to that master class. This isn't said to make myself out a martyr. It's
only to make you see things right. I'm not complaining at this plight.
I've richly earned it--under Capitalism. So, then, _that's_ settled.

"And now, what's more important, tell me how _you_ are! And did your
wound cause you much trouble? I confess I've passed many an anxious
hour, thinking of your narrow escape and of your injury. It wasn't too
bad, was it? Tell me!"

"No," she answered, still holding to the bars, for she somehow felt
quite unaccountably weak. "It wasn't very bad. There's hardly any scar
at all--or won't be, when it's fully healed. But all this is trifling,
compared to what _you've_ suffered and are suffering. Oh, what a
horrible affair! What frightful accusations! Tell me the truth,
Boy--how, why could--?"

He looked at her a moment, in silence, noting her splendid hair and eyes
and mouth, the firm, well-moulded chin, the confident and self-reliant
poise of the shapely head; and as he looked, he knew he loved this
woman. He understood, at last, how dear she was to him--dearer than
anything else in all the world save just his principles and stern life
work. He comprehended the meaning of all, his dreams and visions and
long thoughts. And, caring nothing for consequences, unskilled in the
finesse of dealing with women, acting wholly on the irresistible
impulses of a heart that overflowed, he looked deep into those gray eyes
and said in a tone that set her heart-strings vibrating:

"Listen! The truth? How could I tell you anything else? I know not who
you are, and care not. That you are rich and powerful and free, while I
am poor and in captivity, means nothing. Love cares not for such
trifles. It dares all, hopes all, trusts all, believes all--and is
patient in adversity."

"Love?" she whispered, her face paling. "How do you dare to--?"

"Dare? Because my heart bids me. And where it bids, I care not for
conventions or consequences!" He flung his hand out with a splendid
gesture, his head high, his eyes lustrous in the half-light of the cell.
"Where it leads, I have to follow. That is why I am a Socialist! That is
why I am here, today, outcast and execrated, a prisoner, in danger of
long years of living death in the pestilential tomb of some foul
penitentiary!"

"You're here because--because you are a Socialist?" she asked.

He nodded.

"Yes," said he. "I tried to help a suffering, outcast woman--or one who
posed as such. And she betrayed me to my enemies. And so--"

"There _was_ a woman in this affair, then?" Catherine queried with
sudden pain. "The newspapers haven't made the story _all_ up out of
whole cloth?"

"No. There _was_ a woman. A Delilah, who delivered me into the hands of
the Philistines, when I tried to help her in what she lied in telling me
was her need. Will you hear the story?"

Still very pale, she formed a half-inarticulate "Yes!" with her full
lips. Then, seeming to brace herself by a tighter clasp on the hard
steel grating, she listened while he spoke.

Earnestly, honestly and with perfect straightforwardness, omitting
nothing, adding nothing, he gave her the narrative of that fatal night's
events, from the first moment he had laid eyes on the
wonderfully-disguised woman, till her cudgel-blow had laid him senseless
on the floor.

He told her the part that every actor therein had played; how the whole
drama had been staged, to dishonor and convict him, to railroad him to
the Pen for a long term, perhaps to kill him. He spoke in a low voice,
to prevent the watching officer from overhearing; and as he talked, he
thanked his stars that in all this network of conspiracy and crime
against the Party and against himself, his captors had not yet placed
him incommunicado. For some reason--perhaps because they thought their
case against him absolutely secure and wanted to avoid any appearance of
unfairness or of martyrizing him--this restriction had not yet been laid
upon him. So now his message of the truth could reach the ears of her
who, more than all the world beside, had grown dear to him and precious
beyond words.

He told her, then, not only the story of that night, but also all that
had since happened--the newspaper attacks on him and on the Party; the
deliberate attempt to poison the community and the nation against him;
the struggle to fix a foul and lasting blot upon his name, and ruin him
beyond redemption.

"And why, all this?" he added, while she--listening so intently that she
hardly breathed--knew that he spoke the living, vital truth. "Why this
persecution, this plotting, this labor and expense to 'get' me. Do you
want to know?"

"Yes, tell me!" she whispered. "I don't understand. I can't! It--it all
seems so horrible, so unreal, so--so different from what I've always
believed about the majesty and purity of the law! Can these things be,
indeed?"

He laughed bitterly.

"Can they?" he repeated. "When you see that they _are_, isn't that
answer enough? And the reason of it all is that I'm a Socialist and know
certain secrets of certain men, which--if I should tell the
world--might, nay, surely would precipitate a revolution. So, these men,
and the System behind them, have tried to discredit me by this foul
charge. After this, if the charge sticks, I may shout my head off,
exposing what I know; and who will listen? You know the answer as well
as I! Do I complain? No, not once! What I must suffer, for this
wondrous Cause, is not a tenth what thousands suffer every day, in
silence and high courage. What has happened to me, personally, is but
the merest trifle beside what has already happened to thousands,
fighting for life and liberty, for wife and home and children; for the
right to work and live like men, not beasts!"

"You mean the--the working class?" she ventured, wonderingly. "Is this
outrage really a minor one, compared with what they, who feed and warm
and carry the whole world, have to suffer? Tell me, for I--God help me,
I am ignorant! I am beginning to see, to half-see, awful, dim, ghostly
shapes of huge, unspeakable wrongs. Tell me the truth about all this, as
you have told it about yourself--and let me know!"

Then Gabriel talked as never he had talked before. To this, his audience
of one, there in the dirty and ill-smelling police station, he unfolded
the sad tale of the disinherited, the enslaved, the wretched, as never
to a huge, and spell-bound audience in hall or park or city street. His
eloquence, always convincing, now became sublime.

With master strokes he painted vast outlines of the whole sad
picture--the System based on robbery and fraud and exploitation; its
natural results in millionaire and tramp and harlot and degenerate; the
crime of armies of unemployed and starving men, of millions of women
forced into the factories and shops, there to compete with men and lower
wages and lose their finest feminine attributes in the sordid and
heartless drudging for a pittance.

He told her of child slavery, and brought before her eyes the pictures
he himself had seen, of the pale, stunted little victims of Mammon's
greed, toiling by day and night in stifling, dangerous mines; in the
Hell-glare of the glass-factories; in the hand-bruising,
soul-obliterating Inferno of the coal-breakers; in the hot, linty,
sickening atmosphere of the southern cotton-mills. And as he talked, she
saw for the first time the figures of these bowed and bloodless little
boys and girls, giving their lives drop by drop, and cough by cough,
that _she_ might have purple and fine linen and the rich, soft, easy
paths of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, pausing not, he spoke to her of white slavery, of girls and women
by the uncounted thousand forced to barter their own bodies for a
mockery of life; and, stinging as a nagaika, he laid the lash of blame
on Capitalism, evil cause of an evil and rotten fruit, of disease and
crime, and misery, and death. He told her of political corruption beyond
belief; of cheating, lying, trickery and greed, for power. Of war, he
told her, and made all its inner, hideous motives clear. She seemed
verily to see the trenches, the "red rampart's slippery edge," the
spattered blood and brains and all the horror of Hell's nethermost
infamy--and then the blasted, wrecked and wasted homes, the long trail
of mourning and of hopeless ruin--the horror of this crime of crimes,
all for profit, all for gold and markets, all for Capitalism!

And then, while the girl stood there listening, spell-bound by her first
insight, her first understanding of the true character of this, our
striving, slaving world, held by a few for their own inordinate pride
and power, the man's voice changed.

With new intonations and a deeper tone, he launched into some outlines
of the great hope, the splendid vision, the Wondrous Ideal--Socialism,
the world-salvation.

Sentence by sentence, imagery of this vast, noble thought flowed from
his inspired lips. Clearly he showed this woman all the causes of the
world's travail and pain; and clearly made her see that only in one way,
only through the ownership of the world by the world's children as a
whole, could peace and justice, life and joy and plenty and the New Time
come to pass, dreamed of and yearned for by many sages and prophets, and
now close at hand on the very threshold of reality!

Socialism! It leaped from his spirit like a living flame, consuming
dross and waste and evil, lighting up the future with its shining
beacon, its message of hope to the hopeless, of rest and cheer and peace
to all who labored and were heavy laden.

Socialism! The glory of the vision seemed to blind and dazzle Catherine.
In its supernal light, things grievous to be understood and borne were
now made clear. For the first time in all her life, the woman saw, and
knew, and grasped the truths of this strange nexus of conflict, pain and
sorrow, that we know as our existence.

"Socialism! The Hope of the World!" Gabriel finished. "And for this, and
for what I know about its enemies, I stand here in this cell and may yet
go to a living death. This is my crime, and nothing else--this battle
for the freedom and the joy of the world--this struggle against the
powers of ignorance and darkness, priestcraft and greed, lust, treachery
and foulness, cruelty and hate and war! This, and this only. You have
heard me. I have spoken!"

He fell silent, crossed his arms upon the bars of the cage that pent
him, and laid his head upon them with a motion of weariness.

Something strangely stirred the heart of the woman. Her hand went out
and touched his thick, black hair.

"Be of good cheer," she whispered. "Though I am ignorant and do not
fully understand, as yet, some glimmer of the light has reached my eyes.
I can learn, and I _will_ learn, and dare, and do! All my life I have
eaten the bread of this bitter slavery, taken the thing I had no right
to take, unknowingly wielded the lash on bleeding backs of men and women
and children.

"All my life have I, in ignorance and idleness, done these things. But
never shall I do them again. That is all past and gone, an evil dream
that is no more. From now, if you will be patient and forgive and teach
me, I will stand with you and yours, and glory in the new-found strength
and majesty of this supreme ideal!"

He made no answer, save to reach one hand to her, through the bars.
Their hands met in a long, clinging tension. The policeman, somewhat
down the corridor, moved officiously in their direction.

"Here, now, none o' that!" he blurted. "Break away! An' say, time's up.
Yuh stayed too long, miss, as it is!"

Their hands parted. Still Gabriel did not look up.

"Are--are you coming back again?" he asked.

"Yes, Gabriel. Tomorrow."

"And will you tell me then who you are?"

"I'll tell you now, if you want to know."

"I do," he answered, and raised his head. Their eyes met, steadily. "I
do, now that you too have seen the light, and that you understand. Tell
me, who are you?"

A moment's pause.

Then, facing him, she answered:

"I am Catherine Flint, only daughter of Isaac Flint, the Billionaire!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

"GUILTY."


Speechless and dazed, Gabriel stared at her as though at some strange
apparition.

"Daughter of--of Isaac Flint?" he stammered, clinging to the bars.

"Come, come, lady, yuh can't stay no longer!" the officer again
insisted, tapping her on the shoulder. "Yuh'd oughta been out o' here
ten minutes ago! No, nuthin' doin'!" he concluded, as she turned to him
appealingly. "Not today! Time's up an' more than up!"

Catherine stretched out her hand to Gabriel, in farewell. He took it,
silently.

"Good-bye!" said she. "Until I come again, good-bye. Keep up a stout
heart, for I am with you. We--we _can't_ lose. We shall win--we _must_
win! Don't condemn me for being what I am and who I am, Gabriel. Only
think what--with your help--I may yet be! And now again, good-bye!"

Their hands parted. Gabriel, still silent, stood there in his cell,
watching her till she vanished from his sight down the long corridor of
grief and tears. The officer, winking wisely to himself, thrust his
tongue into his cheek.

"Daughter of Isaac Flint, th' Billionaire!" he was thinking, with
derision. "Oh, yes, billionaires' daughters would be visitin' Socialists
an' bums an' red-light con-workers like this geezer. Oh yes, sure, sure
they would--I should worry!"

Which mental attitude was fortunate, indeed; for it, and it alone,
preserved the girl from a wild blare of newspaper notoriety. Had the
truth been known, who could have imagined the results?

For a long time after the girl had departed, Gabriel sat there in his
cell, motionless and sunk in deepest thought. His emotions passed
recording. That this woman, his ideal, his best-beloved, the cherished,
inmost treasure of his heart and soul--she whom he had rescued, she who
had lain in his arms and shared with him that unforgettable hour in the
old sugar-house--should now prove to be the daughter of his bitterest
enemy, surpassed belief and stunned all clear understanding.

Flint! The very name connoted, for Gabriel, all that was cruel and
rapacious, hateful, vicious and greedy; all that meant pain and woe and
death to him and his class. Visions of West Virginia and Colorado rose
before his mind. He heard again the whistle of the "Bull Moose Death
Special" as it sped on its swift errand of barbarism up Cabin Creek,
hurling its sprays of leaden death among the slaves of this man and his
vulturine associates.

Flint! He whispered the name; and now he seemed to see the burning tents
at Ludlow; the fleeing women and children, shot down by barbarous thugs
and gunmen, ghouls in human form! He saw the pits of death, where the
charred bodies of innocent victims of greed and heartless rapacity lay
in mute protest under the far Colorado sky. And more he saw, east and
west, north and south, of this man's inhuman work; and his thoughts,
projected into the future, dwelt bitterly on the Air Trust now already
under way--the terrible, coming slavery which he, Gabriel, had struggled
to checkmate, only to find himself locked like a rat in a steel trap!

"And this woman," he groaned in agony of soul, "this woman, all in all
to me, is--is _his_ daughter!"

Flinging himself upon his hard and narrow bunk, he buried his head in
his powerful arms, and tried to blot out thought from his fevered brain;
but still the current ran on and on and on, endlessly, maddeningly. And
to the problem, no answer seemed to come.

"She must know who I am," he pondered. "Even if her father has not told
her, the papers have. True, she doesn't believe the infamous charge
against me; but what then? Can she, on the other hand, believe the
truth, that her father has conspired with Slade and those Cosmos thugs,
and with the press and courts and the whole damnable prostituted system,
to suppress and kill me?

"Can she believe her father guilty of all that? And of all the horrors
of this capitalist Hell, that I have told her about? No! Human nature is
incapable of such vast turnings from all the habits and environments of
a lifetime. In her veins flows the blood of that arch-criminal, Flint.
Her thoughts must be, to some extent, his thoughts. She must share his
viewpoint, and be loyal to him. After this first flush of reaction
against her father, she will go back to him. It is inevitable. Betwixt
her and me is fixed a boundless space, wider than Heaven and earth. She
is one pole, and I the other. If I have any strength or resolution or
philosophy, now is the hour for its trial.

"This woman must be, shall be put away from every thought and wish and
hope. And the word FINIS must be written at the end of the one brief
chapter where our life-stories seem to have run along together in a
false harmony and a fictitious peace!"

Thus pondered Gabriel, in the gloom of his harsh cell, branded with
crime and writhing in the agony of soul that only those who love
hopelessly can ever know.

And Catherine, what of her? What were her thoughts, emotions,
inspirations as--seeming to live in a dream, with Gabriel's eloquence
and the new vision of a better, saner, kindlier world shining through
her soul--she made her way back to the dingy hotel where now, shabby as
it was, she felt she had no right to stay, while others, homeless,
walked the brutal streets?

Who shall know them? Who shall tell? A blind man, suddenly made to see,
can find no words to express the wonder and bright glory of that sudden
sight. A deaf man, regaining his lost sense, cannot describe the sudden
burst of sound that fills the new, strange world wherein he finds
himself. So, now, this cultured, gently bred woman, for the first time
in her life understanding the facts, glimpsing the tragedy and grasping
the answer to it all, felt that no words could compass her strange
exultation and enlargement.

"It--it's like a chrysalis emerging into the form of a light, swift
butterfly!" she pondered, as, back in her room once more, she prepared
to write two letters. "Just for the present, I can't understand it all.
I don't know, yet, whether I'm worthy to be a Socialist, to be one of
that company of earnest, noble men and women striving for life and
liberty and joy for all the world. But with the help of the man I trust
and honor and believe in, and--and love--perhaps I may yet be. God
grant it may be so!"

She thought, a few minutes more, her face lighted by an inner radiance
that made its beauty spiritual and pure and calm. Then, having somewhat
composed her thoughts, she wrote this letter to Maxim Waldron:

     My Dear Wally:

     I am writing you without date or place, just as I shall write my
     father, because whatever happens, I insist that you two let me go
     my way in peace, without trying to find, or hamper, or importune
     me. My mind is fully made up. Nothing can change it. We have come
     to the parting of the ways, forever.

     Though I may feel bitterly toward you for what I now understand as
     your harsh and cruel attitude toward the world, and the rôle you
     play as an exploiter of human labor, I shall not reproach you. You
     simply cannot see these things as I have come to see them since my
     feet have been set upon the road toward Socialism. Don't start,
     Wally--that's the truth. Perhaps I'm not much of a Socialist yet,
     because I don't know much about it. But I am learning, and shall
     learn. My teacher is the best one in the world, I'm sure; and added
     to this, all my natural energy and innate radicalism have flamed
     into activity with this new thought. So, you see, the past is even
     more effectively buried than ever. How could anything ever be
     possible, now, between you and me?

     Cease to think of me, Wally. I am gone out of your life, for all
     time, as out of that whole circle of false, insincere, wicked and
     parasitic existence that we call "society." That other world, where
     you still are, shall see me no more. I have found a better and a
     nobler kind of life; and to this, and to all it implies, I mean to
     be forever faithful. I beg you, never try to find me or to answer
     this.

     Good-bye, then, forever.

     Catherine.

After having read this over and sealed it, she wrote still another:

     Dear Father:

     It is hard to write these words to you. I owe you a debt of
     gratitude and love, in many ways; yet, after all, your will and
     mine conflict. You have tried to force me to a union abhorrent and
     impossible to me. My only course is this--independence to think,
     and act, and live as I, no longer a child but a grown woman, now
     see fit.

     I shall never return to you, father. Life means one thing to you,
     another to me. You cannot change; I would not, now, for all the
     world. I must go my way, thinking my own thoughts, doing my own
     work, living up to my own ideals, whatever these may be. Your money
     cannot lure me back to you, back to that old, false, sheltered,
     horrible life of ease and idleness and veiled robbery! The skill
     you have given me as a musician will open out a way for me to earn
     my own living and be free. For this I thank you, and for much else,
     even as I say good-bye to you for all time.

     I have written Wally. He will tell you more about me, and about
     the change in my views and ambitions, which has taken place. Do not
     think harshly of me, father, and I will try to forgive you for the
     burden I now know you have laid upon the aching shoulders of this
     sad, old world.

     And now, good-bye. Though you have lost a daughter, you may still
     rejoice to know that that daughter has found peace and joy and vast
     outlets for the energies of her whole heart and soul and being, in
     working for Socialism, the noblest ideal ever conceived by the mind
     of man.

     Farewell, father; and think sometimes, not too unkindly, of

     Your

     Kate.

One week after these letters were mailed, "Tiger" Waldron, fanning the
fires of the old man's terrible rage, had decided Flint to disinherit
Catherine and to name him, Waldron, as his executor. Gabriel's fervent
wish that she might be penniless, was granted.

On the very day this business was put through, practically delivering
the Flint interests into Waldron's hands in the case of the old man's
death, a verdict was reached in Gabriel's case, at Rochester.

This case, crammed through the calendar, ahead of a large jam of other
business, proved how well unlimited funds can grease the wheels of Law.
It proved, also, that in the face of infinitely-subsidized witnesses,
lawyers, judge and jurymen, black becomes white, and a good deed is
written down a crime.

Catherine, working incognito, co-operated with the Socialist defense,
and did all that could be humanely done to have the truth made known, to
overset the mass of perjury and fraud enmeshing Gabriel, and to force
his acquittal.

As easily might she have bidden the sea rise from its bed and flood the
dry and arid wastes of old Sahara. Her voice and that of the Socialists,
their lawyers and their press, sounded in vain. A solid battery of
capitalist papers, legal lights, private detectives and other
means--particularly including the majority of the priests and
clergy--swamped the man and damned him and doomed him from the first
word of the trial.

Money flowed in floods. Perjury overran the banks of the River of
Corruption. Herzog branded the man a thief and fire-eater. Dope-fiends
and harlots from the Red-Light district, "madames" and pimps and
hangers-on, swore to the white-slave activities of this man, who never
yet in all his four and twenty years had so much as entered a brothel.

Forged papers fixed past crimes and sentences on him. By innuendo and
direct statement, dynamitings, arsons, violence and rioting in many
strikes were laid at his door. His Socialist activities were dragged in
the slime of every gutter; and his Party made to suffer for evil deeds
existing only in the foul imagination of the prosecuting attorneys. The
finest "kept" brains in the legal profession conducted the case from
start to finish; and not a juryman was drawn on the panel who was not,
from the first, sworn to convict, and bought and paid for in hard cash.

After three days--days in which Gabriel plumbed the bitterest depths of
Hell and drank full draughts of gall and wormwood--the verdict came.
Came, and was flashed from sea to sea by an exulting press; and preached
on, and editorialized on, and gloated over by Flint and Waldron and
many, many others of that ilk--while Catherine wept tears that seemed to
drain her very heart of its last drops of blood.

At last she knew the meaning of the Class Struggle and her terrible
father's part in it all. At last she understood what Gabriel had so long
understood and now was paying for--the fact that Hell hath no fury like
Capitalism when endangered or opposed.

The Price! Gabriel now must pay it, to the full. For that foul verdict,
bought with gold wrung from the very blood and marrow of countless
toilers, opened the way to the sentence which Judge Harpies regretted
only that he could not make more severe--the sentence which the
detectives and the prison authorities, well "fixed," counted on making a
death-sentence, too.

"Gabriel Armstrong, stand up!"

He arose and faced the court. A deathlike stillness hushed the room,
crowded with Socialists, reporters, emissaries of Flint, private
detectives and hangers-on of the System. Heavily veiled, lest some of
her father's people recognize her, Catherine herself sat in a back seat,
very pale yet calm.

"Prisoner at the bar, have you anything to say, why sentence should not
be pronounced upon you?"

Gabriel, also a little pale, but with a steadfast and fearless gaze,
looked at the legal prostitute upon the bench, and shook his head in
negation. He deigned not, even, to answer this kept puppet of the ruling
class.

Judge Harpies frowned a trifle, cleared his throat, glanced about him
with pompous dignity; and then, in a sonorous and impressive tone--his
best asset on the bench, for legal knowledge and probity were not
his--announced:

"_It is the judgment of this court that you do stand committed to pay a
fine of three thousand dollars into the treasury of the United States,
and to serve five years at hard labor in the Federal Penitentiary at
Atlanta!_"



CHAPTER XXVII.

BACK IN THE SUNLIGHT.


Four years and two months from the day when this iniquitous verdict fell
from the lips of the "bought and paid for" judge, a sturdily built and
square jawed man stood on the steps of the Atlanta Penitentiary and, for
the first time in all these weary months and years, faced the sun.

Pale with the prison-pallor that never fails to set its seal on the
victims of a diseased society, which that society retaliates upon by
shutting away from God's own light and air, this man stood there on the
steps, a moment, then advanced to meet a woman who was coming toward him
in the August glare. As he removed his cheap, convict-made cap, one saw
his finely shaped head, close cropped with the infamous prison badge of
servitude. Despite the shoddy miserable prison-suit that the prostituted
government had given him--a suit that would have made Apollo grotesque
and would have marked any man as an ex-convict, thus heavily
handicapping him from the start--Gabriel Armstrong's poise and strength
still made themselves manifest.

And the smile as they two, the woman and he, came together and their
hands clasped, lighted his pale features with a ray brighter than that
of the blistering Southern sunshine flooding down upon them both.

"I knew you'd come, Catherine," said he, simply, his voice still the
same deep, vibrant, earnest voice which, all that time ago, had thrilled
and inspired her at the hour of her great conversion. Still were his
eyes clear, level and commanding; and through his splendid body, despite
all his jailers had been able to do, coursed an abundant life and strong
vitality.

Gabriel had served his time with consummate skill, courage and
intelligence. Like all wise men, he had recognized _force majeure_, and
had submitted. He had made practically no infractions of the prison
rules, during his whole "bit." He had been quiet, obedient and
industrious. His work, in the brush factory, had always been well done;
and though he had consistently refused to bear tales, to spy, to inform
or be a stool-pigeon--the quickest means of winning favor in any
prison--yet he had given no opportunity for savagery and violence to be
applied to him. Not even Flint's eager wish to have his jailers force
him into rebellion had succeeded. Realizing to the full the sort of
tactics that would be used to break, and if possible to kill him,
Gabriel had met them all with calm self-reliance and with a generalship
that showed his brain and nerves were still unshaken. On their own
ground he had met these brutes, and he had beaten them at their own
game.

Their attempt to make a "dope" out of him had ignominiously failed. He
had detected the morphine they had cleverly mixed with his water; and,
after his drowsiness and weird dreams had convinced him of the plot, had
turned the trick on it by secretly emptying this water out and by
drinking only while in the shop, where he could draw water from the
faucet. The cell guards' intelligence had been too limited to make them
inquire of the brush shop guards about his habits. Also, Gabriel, had
feigned stupefaction while in the cell. Thus he had simulated the
effects of the drug, and had really thrown his tormentors off the track.
For months and months they were convinced that they were weakening his
will and destroying his mentality, while as a matter of fact his
reasoning powers and determination never had been more keen.

By bathing as often as possible, by taking regular and carefully planned
calisthenics, by reading the best books in the prison library, by
attention to every rule of health within his means, and by allowing
himself no vices, not even his pipe, Gabriel now was emerging from the
Bastile of Capitalism in a condition of mind and body so little impaired
that he knew a few weeks would entirely restore him. The good conduct
allowance, or "copper," which they had been forced to allow him for
exemplary conduct, had cut ten months off his sentence. And now in
mid-August of 1925, there he stood, a free man again, with purpose still
unshaken and with a woman by his side who shared his high ambition and
asked no better lot than to work with him toward the one great
aim--Socialism!

Now, as these two walked side by side along the sunbaked street of the
sweltering Southern town, Gabriel was saying:

"So I haven't changed as much as you expected? I'm glad of that, Kate.
Only superficial changes, at most. Just give me a little time to pull
together and get my legs under me again, and--forward march! Charge the
forts! Eh, Catherine?"

She nodded, smiling. Smiles were rare with her, now. She had grown
sober and serious, in these years of work and battle and stern endeavor.
The Catherine Flint of the old times had vanished--the Catherine of
country club days, and golf and tennis, and the opera--the Catherine of
Newport, of the horse show, of Paris, of "society." In her place now
lived another and a nobler woman, a woman known and loved the length and
breadth of the land, a woman exalted and strengthened by new, high and
splendid race-aspirations; by a vision of supernal beauty--the vision of
the world for the workers, each for all and all for each!

She had grown more mature and beautiful, with the passing years. No mark
of time had yet laid its hand upon her face or figure. Young, still--she
was now but five-and-twenty, and Gabriel only twenty-eight--she walked
like a goddess, lithe, strong and filled with overflowing vigor. Her
eyes glowed with noble enthusiasms; and every thought, every impulse and
endeavor now was upward, onward, filled with stimulus and hope and
courage.

Thus, a braver, broader and more splendid woman than Gabriel had known
in the other days of his first love for her--the days when he had wished
her penniless, the days when her prospective millions stood between
them--she walked beside him now. And they two, comrades, understood each
other; spoke the same language, shared the same aspirations, dreamed the
same wondrous dreams. Their smile, as their eyes met, was in itself a
benediction and a warm caress.

"Charge the forts!" Gabriel repeated. "Yes, Kate, the battle still goes
on, no matter what happens. Here and there, soldiers fall and die. Even
battalions perish; but the war continues. When I think of all the
fights you've been in, since I was put away, I'm unspeakably envious.
You've been through the Tawana Valley strike, the big Consolidated
Western lockout and the Imperial Mills massacre. You were a delegate to
the 1923 Revolution Congress, in Berlin, and saw the slaughter in Unter
den Linden--helped nurse the wounded comrades, inside the Treptow Park
barricades. Then, out in California--"

She checked him, with a hand on his arm.

"Please don't, Gabriel," she entreated. "What I have done has been so
little, so terribly, pitiably little, compared to what _needs_ to be
done! And then remember, too, that in and through all, this thought has
run, like the red thread through every cable of the British navy--the
thought that in my every activity, I am working against my own father,
combatting him, being as it were a traitor and--"

"Traitor?" exclaimed the man. "Never! The bond between you two is
forever broken. You recognize in him, now, an enemy of all mankind.
Waldron is another. So is every one of the Air Trust group--that is to
say, the small handful of men who today own the whole world and
everything in it.

"Your father, as President of that world-corporation which potentially
controls two thousand millions of human beings--and which will,
tomorrow, absolutely control them, is no longer any father of yours.

"He is a world-emperor, and his few associates are princes of the royal
house. Your life and thought have forever broken with him. No more can
bonds and ties of blood hold you. Your larger duty calls to battle
against this man. Treachery? A thousand times, no! Treason to tyrants
is obedience to God! Or, if not God, then to mankind!"

He paused and looked at her. They had now reached a little park, some
half mile from the grim and dour old walls of the Federal Pen. Trees and
grass and playing children seemed to invite them to stop and rest.
Though strong, moreover, Gabriel had for so long been unused to walking,
that even this short distance had tired him a little. And the oppressive
heat had them both by the throat.

"Shall we sit down here and wait a little?" asked he. "Plan a little,
see where we are and what's to be done next?"

She nodded assent.

"Of course," she said, "even if I could have got word in to you, I
wouldn't have given you our real plans."

"Hardly!" he exclaimed. Then, coming to a fountain, they sat down on a
bench close by. Nobody, they made sure, was within ear-shot.

"Thank God," he breathed, "that you, Kate, and only you, met me as I
came out! It was a grand good idea, wasn't it, to keep my time of
liberation a secret from the comrades? Otherwise there might have been a
crowd on hand, and various kinds of foolishness; and time and energy
would have been used that might have been better spent in working for
the Revolution!"

She looked at him a trifle curiously.

"You forget," said she, "that all public meetings have been prohibited,
ever since last April. Federal statute--the new Penfield Bill--'The
Muzzler' as we call it."

"That's so!" he murmured. "I forgot. Fact is, Kate, I _am_ out of touch
with things. While you've been fighting, I've been buried alive. Now, I
must learn much, before I can jump back into the war again. And above
all, I must lose my identity. That's the first and most essential thing
of all!"

"Of course," she assented. "They--the Air Trust World-corporation--will
trail you, everywhere you go. All this, as you know, has been provided
for. You must vanish a while."

"Indeed I must. If they 'jobbed' me like that, in 1921, what won't they
do now in 1925?"

"They won't ever get you, again, Gabriel," she answered, "if your wits
and ours combined, can beat them. True, the Movement has been badly shot
to pieces. That is, its visible organization has suffered, and it's
outlawed. But under the surface, Gabriel, you haven't an idea of its
spread and power. It's tremendous--it's a volcano waiting to burst! Let
the moment come, the leader rise, the fire burst forth, and God knows
what may not happen!"

"Splendid!" exclaimed Gabriel. "The battle calls me, like a
clarion-call! But we must act with circumspection. The Plutes, powerful
as they now are, won't need even the shadow of an excuse to plant me for
life, or slug or shoot me. Things were rotten enough, then; but today
they're worse. The hand of this Air Trust monopoly, grasping every line
of work and product in the world, has got the lid nailed fast. We're all
slaves, every man and woman of us. Even our Socialists in Congress can
do nothing, with all these muzzling and sedition and treason bills, and
with this conscription law just through. Now that the government--the
Air Trust, that is to say--is running the railways and telegraphs and
telephones, a strike is treason--and treason is death! Kate, this year
of grace, 1925, is worse than ever I dreamed it would be. Oh, infinitely
worse! No wonder our movement has been driven largely underground. No
wonder that the war of mass and class is drawing near--the actual,
physical war between the Air Trust few and the vast, toiling, suffering,
stifling world!"

She nodded.

"Yes," said she, "it's coming, and soon. Things are as you say, and even
worse than you say, Gabriel. I know more of them, now, than you can
know. Remember London's 'Iron Heel?' When I first read it I thought it
fanciful and wild. God knows I was mistaken! London didn't put it half
strongly enough. The beginning was made when the National Mounted Police
came in. All the rest has swiftly followed. If you and I live five years
longer, Gabriel, we'll see a harsher, sterner and more murderous
trampling of that Heel than ever Comrade Jack imagined!"

"Right!" said he. "And for that very reason, Kate, I've got to go into
hiding till my beard and hair grow and I can reappear as a different
man. Don't look, just now, but in a minute take a peek. Over on that
third bench, on the other side of the park, see that man? Well, he's a
'shadow.' There were three waiting for me, at the prison gates. You
couldn't spot them, but I could. One was that Italian banana-seller that
stood at the curb, on the first corner. Another was a taxi driver. And
this one, over there, is the third. From now till they 'get' me again,
they'll follow me like bloodhounds. I can't go free, to do my work and
take part in the impending war, till I shake them. Look, now, do you
see the one I mean?"

Cautiously the girl looked round, with casual glance as though to see a
little boy playing by the fountain.

"Yes," she murmured. "Who is he? Do you know his name?"

"No," answered Gabriel. "His name, no. But I remember him, well enough.
He's the larger of the two detectives I knocked out, in that room in
Rochester. Beside his pay, he's got a personal motive in landing me back
in 'stir,' or sending me 'up the escape,' as prison slang names a
penitentiary and a death. So then," he added, "what's the first thing?
Where shall I go, and how, to hide and metamorphose? I'm in your hands,
now, Kate. More than four years out of the world, remember, makes a
fellow want a little lift when he comes back!"

She smiled and nodded comprehension.

"Don't explain, Gabriel," said she. "I understand. And I've got just the
place in mind for you. Also, the way to get there. You see, comrade,
we've been planning on this release. When can you go?"

"When? Right now!" exclaimed Gabriel, standing up. "The quicker, the
better. Every minute I lose in getting myself ready to jump back into
the fight, is a precious treasure that can never be regained!"

"Go, then," said she, with pride in her eyes. "I will wait here. Don't
think of me; leave me here; I am self-reliant in every way. Go to the
Cuthbert House, on Desplaines Street. Everything has been arranged for
your escape. Every link in the chain is complete. Remember, we are
working more underground, now, than when you were sentenced. And our
machinery is almost perfect. Register at the hotel and take a room for a
week. Then--"

"Register, under my own name?" asked he.

"Under your own name. Stay there two days. You won't be molested so
soon, and things won't be ready for you till the third day. On that
day--"

"Well, what then?"

"A message will come for you, that's all. Obey it. You have nothing more
to do."

He nodded.

"I understand," said he. "But, Kate--who's paying for all this? Not
_you_? I--I can't have _you_ paying, now that every dollar you have must
be earned by your own labor!"

She smiled a smile of wonderful beauty.

"Foolish, rebellious boy!" said she. "Have no fear! All expense will be
borne by the Party, just as the Party paid your fine. It needs you and
must have you; and were the cost ten times as great, would bear it to
get you back! Remember, Gabriel, the Party is far larger than when you
were buried alive in a cell. Even though in some ways outlawed and
suppressed, its potential power is tremendous. All it needs is the
electric spark to cause the world-shaking explosion. All that keeps us
from power now is the Iron Heel--that, and the clutch of the Air Trust
already crushing and mangling us!

"Go, now," she concluded. "Go, and rest a while, and wait. All shall be
well. But first, you must get back your strength completely, and find
yourself, and take your place again in the ranks of the great,
subterranean army!"

"And shall I see you soon, again?" he asked, his voice trembling just a
little as their hands clasped once more, and once more parted.

"You will see me soon," she answered.

"Where?"

"In a safe place, where we can plan, and work, and organize for the
final blow! Now, you shall know no more. Good-bye!"

One last look each gave the other. Their eyes met, more caressingly than
many a kiss; and, turning, Gabriel took his way, alone, toward
Desplaines Street.

At the exit of the park, he looked around.

There Catherine sat, on the bench. But, seemingly quite oblivious to
everything, she was now reading a little book. Though he lingered a
moment, hoping to get some signal from her, she never stirred or looked
up from the page.

Sighing, with a strange feeling of sudden loneliness and a vast, empty
yearning in his heart, Gabriel continued on his way, toward what? He
knew not.

The detective on the other side of the park, no longer sat there.
Somehow, somewhere, he had disappeared.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

IN THE REFUGE.


Far on the western slopes of Clingman Dome in the great Smoky Mountains
of North Carolina, a broad, low-built bungalow stood facing the setting
sun. Vast stretches of pine forest shut it off from civilization and the
prying activities of Plutocracy. The nearest settlement was Ravens,
twenty miles away to eastward, across inaccessible ridges and ravines.
Running far to southward, the railway left this wilderness untouched.
High overhead, an eagle soared among the "thunder-heads" that presaged a
storm up Sevier Pass. And, red through the haze to westward, the great
huge sunball slid down the heavens toward the tumbled, jagged mass of
peaks that rimmed the far horizon.

Within the bungalow, a murmur of voices sounded; and from the huge stone
chimney a curl of smoke, arising, told of the evening meal, within, now
being made ready. On the wide piazza sat a man, writing at a table of
plain boards roughly pegged together. Still a trifle pale, yet with a
look of health and vigor, he sat there hard at work, writing as fast as
pen could travel. Hardly a word he changed. Sheet by sheet he wrote, and
pushed them aside and still worked on. Some of the pages slid to the
porch-floor, but he gave no heed. His brow was wrinkled with the
intensity of his thought; and over his face, where now a disguising
beard was beginning to be visible, the light of the sinking sun cast as
it were a kind of glowing radiance.

At last the man looked up, and smiled, and eyed the golden mountain-tops
far off across the valley.

"Wonderful aerie in the hills!" he murmured. "Wonderful retreat and
hiding-place--wonderful care and forethought to have made this possible
for me! How shall I ever repay all this? How, save by giving my last
drop of blood, if need be, for the final victory?"

He pondered a moment, still half-thinking of the poem he had just
finished, half-reflecting on the strange events of the past week--the
secret ways, by swift auto, by boat, by monoplane which had brought him
hither to this still undiscovered refuge. How had it all been arranged,
he wondered; and who had made it possible? He could not tell, as yet. No
information was forthcoming. But in his heart he understood, and his
lips, murmuring the name of Catherine, blessed that name and tenderly
revered it.

At last Gabriel bent, picked up the pages that had fallen, and arranged
them all in order.

"Tomorrow this shall go out to the world," said he, "and to our
press--such of it as still remains. It may inspire some fainting heart
and thrill some lagging mind. Now, that the final struggle is at hand,
more than guns we need inspiration. More than force, to meet the force
that has ravished our every right and crushed Constitution and Law,
alike, we need spiritual insight and integrity. Only through these, and
by these, come what may, can a true, lasting victory be attained!"

In the doorway of the bungalow a woman appeared, her smile illumined by
the sunset warmth.

"Come, Gabriel," said she. "We're waiting--the Granthams, Craig, and
Brevard. Supper's ready. Not one of them will sit down, till you come."

"Have I been delaying you?" asked Gabriel, turning toward the woman,
with a smile that matched her own.

"I'm afraid so, just a little," she answered. "But no matter; I'm glad.
When you get to writing, you know, nothing else matters. One line of
your verse is worth all the suppers in the world."

"Nonsense!" he retorted. "I'm a mere scribbler!"

"We won't argue that point," she answered. "But at any rate, you're
done, now. So come along, boy--or the comrades will begin 'dividing up'
without us; for this mountain air won't brook delay."

Gabriel took a long breath, stretched his powerful arms out toward the
mountains, and raised his face to the last light of day.

"Nature!" he whispered. "Ever beautiful and ever young! Ah, could man
but learn thy lessons and live close to thy great heart!"

Then, turning, he followed Catherine into the bungalow.

Beautiful and restful though the outside was, the interior was more
restful and more charming still.

In the vast fireplace, to left, a fire of pine roots was crackling. The
room was filled with their pitchy, wholesome perfume, with the dancing
light of their blaze and with the warmth made grateful by that mountain
height.

Simple and comfortable all the furnishings were, hand-wrought for use
and pleasure. Big chairs invited. Broad couches offered rest. No
hunting-trophies, no heads of slaughtered wild things disfigured the
walls, as in most bungalows; but the flickering firelight showed
pictures that inspired thought and carried lessons home--pictures of
toil and of repose, pictures of life, and love, and simple joy--pictures
of tragedy, of reality and deep significance. Here one saw Millet's
"Sower," and "Gleaners" and "The Man with the Hoe." There, Fritel's "The
Conquerors," and Stuck's "War." A large copy of Bernard's "Labor,"--the
sensation of the 1922 Paris Salon--hung above the mantelpiece, on which
stood Rodin's "Miner" in bronze. Portraits of Marx, Engels, LaSalle and
Debs, with others loved and honored in the Movement, showed between
original sketches by Walter Crane, Balfour Kerr, Art Young and Ryan
Walker. And in the well-filled bookshelves at the right, Socialist books
in abundance all told the same tale to the observer--that this was a
Socialist nest high up there among the mountains, and that every thought
and word and deed was inspired by one great ideal and one alone--the
Revolution!

At a plain but well-covered table near the western windows, where fading
sunlight helped firelight to illumine the little company, sat three
men--two of them armed with heavy automatics--and a woman. Another
woman, Catherine, was standing by her chair and beckoning Gabriel to
his.

"Come, Comrade!" she exclaimed. "If you delay much longer, everything
will be stone cold, and _then_ beg forgiveness if you dare!"

Gabriel laughed.

"Your own fault, if you wait for me," he answered, seating himself. "You
know how it is when you get to scribbling--you never know when to stop.
And the scenery, up here, won't let you go. Positively fascinating,
that view is! If the Plutes knew of it, they'd put a summer resort
here, and coin millions!"

"Yes," answered Craig, once Congressman Craig, but now hiding from the
Air Trust spies. "And what's more, they'd mighty soon confiscate this
resting-up place of the Comrades, and have us back behind bars, or
worse. But they _don't_ know about it, and aren't likely to. Thank
Heaven for at least one place the Party can maintain as an asylum for
our people when too hard-pressed! Not a road within ten miles of here.
No way to reach this place, masked here in the cliffs and mountains,
except by aeroplane. Not one chance in a thousand, fellows, that they'll
ever find it. Confusion take them all!"

The meal progressed, with plenty of serious and earnest discussion of
the pressing problems now close at hand. Brevard, a short, spare man,
editor of the recently-suppressed "San Francisco Revolutionist" and now
in hiding, made a few trenchant remarks, from time to time. Grantham and
his wife, both active speakers on the "Underground Circuit" and both
under sentence of long imprisonment, said little. Most of the
conversation was between Catherine, Craig and Gabriel. Long before the
supper was done, lamps had to be brought and curtains lowered. At last
the meal was over.

"Dessert, now, Gabriel!" exclaimed Grantham. "Your turn!"

"Eh? What?" asked Armstrong. "My turn for what?"

"Your turn to do your part! Don't think that you're going to write a
poem and then put it in your pocket, that way. Come, out with it!"

Gabriel's protests availed nothing. The others overbore him. And at
last, unwillingly, he drew out the manuscript and spread it open on his
knee.

"You really want to hear this?" he demanded. "If you can possibly spare
me, I wish you would!"

For all answer, Craig pushed a lamp over toward him. The warm light on
Gabriel's face, now slightly bearded, and on his strong, corded throat,
made a striking picture as he cast his eyes on the manuscript and in
vibrant and harmonious voice, read:


    _I SAW THE SOCIALIST_

    I saw the Socialist sitting at a great Banquet of Men,
    Sitting with honored leaders of the blind, unwitting Multitude;
    I saw him there with the writers, editors, painters, men of letters,
    Legislators and judges, the Leaders of the People,
    Leaders flushed with the wines of price, eating costly and rare
        foods,
    Making loud talk, and boastful, of that marvel, American Liberty!
    Thinking were they no thought of hunger and pinching cold;
    Of the blue-lipped, skinny children, the thin-chested, coughing men,
    The dry-breasted mothers, the dirt, disease and ignorance,
    The mangled workmen, the tramps, drunkards, pickpockets,
        prostitutes, thieves,
    The mad-houses, jails, asylums and hospitals, the sores, the blood
        of war,
    And all the other wondrous blessings that attend our civilization--
    That civilization through which the wines and foods were given them.

    I saw the Socialist there, calm, unmoved, unsmiling, thoughtful,
    Sober, serious, full of dispassionate and prophetic vision,
    Not like the other men, the all-wise Leaders of the People.
    The political economists, the professors, the militarists, heroes
        and statisticians;
    Not like the kings and presidents and emperors, the nobles and
        gold-crammed bankers,
    But mindful, more than they, of the cellars under the House of Life
    Where blind things crawl in the dark, things men and yet not human,
    Things whose toil makes possible the Banquets of the Leaders of Men,
    Things that live and yet are not alive; things that never taste of
        Life;
    Things that make the rich foods, themselves snatching filthy crumbs;
    Things that produce the wines of price, and must be content with
        lees;
    Things that shiver and cringe and whine, that snarl sometimes,
    That are men and women and children, and yet that know not Life!

    I saw the Socialist there; I sat at the banquet; beside him,
    Listened to the surging music, saw all the lights and flowers,
    Flowers and lights and crystal cups, whereof the price for each
    Might have brought back from Potter's Field some bloodless,
        starving baby.
    I heard the Leaders' speeches, the turgid oratory,
    The well-turned phrases of the Captains, the rotund babble of
        prosperity,
    (Prosperity for whom? Nay, ask not troublesome questions!)
    The Captains' vaunting I heard, their boasts of glory and victory,
    While red, red, red their hands dripped red with the blood of the
        butchered workers.
    I heard the Judges' self-glorification, Quixotic fighting of
        windmills,
    Heard also the unclean jests that those respected Leaders told.
    And as I looked and listened, I still observed the Socialist,
    Unmoved and patient and serious, calm, full of sober reflections.

    Then there spake (among many others) an honored and full-paunched
        Bishop.
    Rubicund he was, and of portly habit of body,
    Shepherd of a well-pastured flock, mightily content with God,
    Out of whose omnipotent Hand (no doubt) the blessings of his life
        descended.
    I heard this exponent of Christ the Crucified, Christ the Carpenter,
    Christ the Leader of Workingmen, the Agitator, the Disturber,
    Christ the Labor-organizer, Christ the Archetypal Socialist,
    Friend of the dwellers in the pits of Life, Consoler of earth's
        exploited,
    Who once with the lash scourged from the Temple the unclean
        graft-brood of usurers.
    And the rotund Bishop's words were as the crackling of dry thorns
    Under a pot, bubbling without use in the desert of dreary
        platitudes.
    The story he told was spiced and garnished with profane words,
    Whereat the Leaders laughed in their cups, making great show of
        merriment,
    So that the banquet-hall rang, and wine was spilt on the linen.
    Wine as red as blood--the blood of the shattered miner,
    Blood of the boy in the rifle-pits, blood of the coughing
        child-slave,
    Blood of the mangled trainman, blood that the Carpenter shed.

    And still I watched the Socialist. Sober, judicial, observant
    And full of greater wisdom he was than to laugh with the tipsy
        Leaders.
    His eyes were fixed on the Bishop, vice-regent of God upon earth.
    And as I watched the Socialist, the unmoved, the contemplative one,
    He thoughtfully took his pencil, he took the fine and large card
    Whereon the names of the rich foods and all the costly wines were
        printed,
    And made a few notes of the feast, notes of the Bishop's speech,
    Notes to remind him to search the slums for the great, God-given
        prosperity,
    Which all the Judges, Lawmakers, Captains and Leaders knew to be
        "our" portion;
    Notes of the flowers, the wine, the lights, the music, the splendor,
    Notes of the Leaders' oratory, notes of the Bishop's deep-voiced
        unctiousness,
    Notes he made; and as I looked at the notes he was carefully
        writing,
    The words ran red like wine and blood, they blazed like the blazing
        lights!
    Words they were of blood and fire, that spread, that filled the
        banquet-hall.
    Words of old, I read them--"MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSHIN!--
    Weighed in the Balance you are, ye Leaders respected of men,
    You Statesmen, Lawmakers, Judges, Captains, Bishops, vice-regents of
        God!
    Weighed and tried and found wanting. Give way, now, to what shall
        come after!
    Make ye way for the Men who shall do what ye have but neglected and
        shirked!
    Make ye way for a Time which hath more than Power and Greed for its
        watchwords!
    Soon your day shall decline forever, your sun shall sink and shall
        vanish.
    Then from the Cellars of Life the darkness-dwellers shall issue,
    Greeting another daunt which shall have more than pain for its
        portion.
    Then no more shall the humble, the lowly, the friends of the
        Nazarene Carpenter
    Be starved, be mangled for gold, be crucified, slaughtered, bled.
    Make ye way!...Make ye way!..."

    Such was the message I read, the words of that fire-writ warning.
    Then peace came back to my spirit, calm peace, and hope and
        patience:
    Then, through my anger and heat, I thought of the Retribution.
    But even more clearly I saw the New Birth of this weary world,
    This world now groaning in chains, with the bloody sweat of
        oppression.
    These things and many more, such as were hard to write of,
    I read in the words of the Socialist, patient, peaceful and sober,
    Full of prophetic vision, above all things hopeful and patient,
    Written in living flame at the Feast of the Leaders of Men....



CHAPTER XXIX.

"APRÈS NOUS LE DÉLUGE!"


As Gabriel's voice fell to silence, after the last words, a stillness
came upon the lamp-lit room, a hush broken only by the snapping of the
pine-root fire on the hearth and by the busy ticking of the clock upon
the chimneypiece. Then, after a minute's pause, Craig reached over and
took Gabriel by the hand.

"I salute you, O poet of the Revolution now impending!" he cried, while
Catherine's eyes gleamed bright with tears. "Would God that _I_ could
write like that, old man!"

"And would God that my paper was still being issued!" Brevard added,
making a gesture with the pipe that, in his eagerness to hear, he had
allowed to die. "If it were I'd give that poem my front page, and fling
its message full in the faces of Plutocracy!"

Gabriel smiled a bit nervously.

"Don't, please don't," he begged. "If you really do like it help me
spread it. Don't waste words on praise, but plan with me, tonight, how
we can get this to the people--how we can perfect our final
arrangements--what we must do, now, at once, to meet the Air Trust and
defeat it before its terrible and unrelenting grip closes on the throat
of the world!"

"Right!" said Craig. "We must act at once, while there's yet time.
today, all seems safe. The Air Trust spies haven't ferreted this place
out. A week from now, they may have, and one of the most secure and
useful Socialist refuges in the country may be only a heap of
ashes--like the ones at Kenwyck, Hampden, Mount Desert and Loftiss.
Every day is precious. Every one helps to perfect Gabriel's disguise and
adds materially to his strength."

"True," assented Gabriel. "We mustn't wait too long, now. That last
report we got yesterday, by our wireless, ought to stimulate us.
Brainard says, in it, that the Air Trust people are now putting the
finishing touches on the Niagara plant. That will give them condensing
machinery for over 90,000,000 horsepower, all told. As I see the thing,
it looks absolutely as though, when _that_ is done, the whole Capitalist
system of the world will center right there--focus there, as at a point.
Let kings and emperors continue to strut and mouth vain phrases; let our
own President and Congress make the motions of governing; even let Wall
Street play at finance and power. All, all are empty and meaningless!

"Power has been sucked dry, out of them all, comrades. You know as well
as I know--better, perhaps--that all real power in the world, today,
whether economic or political--nay, even the power of life and death,
the power of breath or strangulation, has clotted at Niagara, in the
central offices of the Air Trust; nay, right in Flint and Waldron's own
inner office!"

Gabriel had stood up, while speaking; and now, pacing the floor of the
big living-room, glanced first at one eager and familiar face, then at
another.

"Comrades," said he, "we should not sleep, tonight. We should get out
all our plans and data, all the dispatches that have come to us here,
all the information at hand about our organization, whether open or
subterranean. We should make this room and this time, in fact, the place
and the hour for the planning of the last great blow on which hangs the
fate of the world. If it succeed, the human race goes free again. If it
fail--and God forbid!--then the whole world will lie in the grip of
Flint and Waldron! With our other centers broken up and under espionage,
our press forced into impotence--save our underground press--and
political action now rendered farcical as ever it was in Mexico, when
Diaz ruled, we have but one recourse!"

"And that is?" asked Catherine. "The general strike?"

"A final, general, paralyzing strike; and with it, the actual, physical
destruction of the colossal crime of crimes, the Air Trust works at
Niagara!"

A little silence followed. They all drew round the reading-table, now,
near the fireplace. Mrs. Grantham brought a lamp; and Brevard, opening a
chest near the book-case, fetched a portfolio of papers, dispatches,
plans, reports and data of all kinds.

"Gabriel's right," said he. "The time is ripe, now, or will be in a week
or so. Nothing can be gained by delaying any longer. Every day adds to
their power and may weaken ours. Our organization, for the strike and
the attack on the works, is as complete as we can make it. We must come
to extreme measures, at once, or world-strangulation will set in, and we
shall be eternally too late!"

"Extreme measures, yes," said Gabriel, while Brevard spread the papers
out and sorted them, and Craig drew contemplatively at his pipe. "The
masters would have it so. Our one-time academic discussion about ways
and means has become absurd, in the face of plutocratic savagery. We're
up against facts, now, not theories. God knows it's against the dictates
of my heart to do what must be done; but it's that or stand back and see
the world be murdered, together with our own selves! And in a case of
self-defense, no measures are unjustifiable.

"Whatever happens our hands are clean. The plutocrats are the attacking
force. They have chosen, and must take the consequences; they have sown,
and must reap. One by one, they have limited and withdrawn every
political right. They have taken away free speech and free assemblage,
free press and universal suffrage. They have limited the right to vote,
by property qualifications that have deprived the proletariat of every
chance to make their will felt. They have put through this National
Censorship outrage and--still worse--the National Mounted Police Bill,
making Cossack rule supreme in the United States of America, as they
have made it in the United States of Europe.

"Before they elected that tool of tools, President Supple, in 1920, on
the Anti-Socialist ticket, we still had some constitutional rights
left--a few. But now, all are gone. With the absorption and annexation
of Canada, Mexico and Central America, slavery full and absolute settled
down upon us. The unions simply crumbled to dust as you know, in face of
all those millions of Mexican peons swamping the labor-market with
starvation-wage labor. Then, as we all remember, came the terrible
series of strikes in 1921 and 1922, and the massacres at Hopedale and
Boulder, at Los Angeles and Pittsburg, and, worst of all, Gary. That
finished what few rights were left, that killing did. And then came the
army of spies, and the proscriptions, and the electrocution of those
hundred and eleven editors, speakers and organizers--why bring up all
these things that we all know so well? _We_ were willing to play the
game fair and square, and _they_ refused. Say that, and you say all.

"No need to dwell on details, comrades. The Air Trust has had its will
with the world, so far. It has crushed all opposition as relentlessly as
the car of Juggernaut used to crush its blind, fanatical devotees. True,
our Party still exists and has some standing and some representatives;
but we all know what _power_ it has--in the open! Not _that_ much!" And
he snapped his fingers in the air.

"In the open, none!" said Craig, blowing a cloud of smoke. "I admit
that, Gabriel. But, underground--ah!"

"Underground," Gabriel took up the word, "forces are now at work that
can shatter the whole infernal slavery to dust! This way of working is
not our choice; it is theirs. They would have it so--now let them take
their medicine!"

"Yes, yes," eagerly exclaimed Catherine, her face flushed and intense.
"I'm with you, Gabriel. To work!"

"To work, yes," put in Craig, "but with system, order and method. My
experience in Congress has taught me some valuable lessons. The
universal, all-embracing Trust made marionettes of us, every one. Our
strength was, to them, no more than that of a mouse to a lion. Their
system is perfect, their lines of supply and communication are without a
flaw. The Prussian army machine of other days was but a bungling
experiment by comparison with the efficiency of this new mechanism. I
tell you, Gabriel, we've got to give these tyrants credit for being
infernally efficient tyrants! All that science has been able to devise,
or press and church and university teach, or political subservience make
possible, is theirs. And back of that, military power, and the courts
and the prisons and the electric chair! And back of all _those_, the
power to choke the whole world to submission, in a week!"

Gabriel thought, a moment, before replying. Then said he:

"I know it, Craig. All the more reason why we must hit them at once, and
hit hard! These reports here," and he gestured at the papers that
Brevard had spread out under the lamp-light, "prove that, at the proper
signal, every chance indicates that we can paralyze transportation--the
keynote of the whole situation.

"True, the government--that is to say, the Air Trust, and _that_ is to
say, Flint and Waldron--can keep men in every engine-cab in the country.
They can keep them at every switch and junction. But this isn't France,
remember, nor is it any small, compact European country. Conditions are
wholly different here. Everywhere, vast stretches of track exist. No
power on earth--not even Flint and Waldron's--can guard all those
hundreds of thousands of miles. And so I tell you, taking our data
simply from these reports and not counting on any more organized
strength than they show, we have today got the means of cutting and
crippling, for a week at least, the movements of troops to Niagara. And
that, just that, is all we need!"

A little silence. Then said Catherine:

"You mean, Gabriel, that if we can keep the troops back for a little
while, and annihilate the Air Trust plant itself, the great revolution
will follow?"

He nodded, with a smouldering fire in his eyes.

"Yes," said he. "If we can loosen the grip of this monster for only
forty-eight hours, and flash the news to this bleeding, sweating,
choking land that the grip _is_ loosened--after that we need do no more.
_Après nous, le déluge_; only not now in the sense of wreck and ruin,
but meaning that this deluge shall forever wash away the tyranny and
crime of Capitalism! Forever and a day, to leave us free once more, free
men and women, standing erect and facing God's own sunlight, our
heritage and birthplace in this world!"

Catherine made no answer, but her hand clasped his. The light on her
magnificent masses of copper-golden hair, braided about her head,
enhanced her beauty. And so for a moment, the little group sat there
about the table--the group on which now so infinitely much depended; and
the lamp-glow shone upon their precious plans, reports and diagrams.

Into each others' eyes they looked, and knew the moment of final
conflict was drawn very near, at last. The moment which, in failure or
success, should for long years, for decades, for centuries perhaps,
determine whether the world and all its teeming millions were to be
slave or free.

They spoke no word and took no oath of life-and-death fidelity, those
men and women who now had been entrusted with the fate of the world. But
in their eyes one read unshakable devotion to the Cause of Man,
unswerving loyalty to the Great Ideal, and a calm, holy faith that would
make light of death itself, could death but pave the way to victory!



CHAPTER XXX.

TRAPPED!


Brevard was the first to speak. "Gabriel," said he, "we have agreed that
you must be the leader in this whole affair. The actual, personal
leader. To begin with, you're younger and physically stronger than any
of us men. Your executive ability is, without any question whatever, far
and away ahead of ours--for we are more in the analytical, compiling,
organizing, preparing line. To cap all, your personality carries more,
far more, with the mass of the comrades than any of ours. Your career,
in the past, your conflict with Flint and Waldron, and your long
imprisonment, have given you the necessary following. You, and you
alone, must issue the final call, lead the last, supreme attack, and
carry the old flag, the Crimson Banner of Brotherhood, to the topmost
battlement of an annihilated Capitalism!"

Gabriel demurred, but they overruled him. So, presently, he consented;
and pledged his life to it; and thrilled with pride and joy at thought
of what now lay written in the Book of Fate, for him to read.

Catherine's eyes shone with a strange light, as she looked upon him
there, so modest yet so strong. And he, smiling a little as his gaze met
hers, foresaw other things than war, and was glad. His heart sang within
him, that memorable and wondrous night, up there in the hiding-place
among the Great Smokies--there with Catherine and the other
comrades--there planning the last great blow to strike away forever the
shackles from the bleeding limbs of all the human race!

But serious and urgent things were to be thought of, and at once, for on
the morrow Brevard was going down, disguised, to Louisville, in one of
the two monoplanes, to attend a final secret meeting of the North-middle
Section Committee. From this he would proceed to the refuge near Port
Colborne, Ontario.

"Let us make that our meeting-place, one week from tonight," said
Gabriel, "in case anything happens. Should we be detected, or should any
accident befall, we must have some time and place to rally by. Is my
suggestion taken?"

They all agreed, after some discussion.

"But," added Mrs. Grantham, "let's hope we're still secure here, for a
while. It doesn't seem possible they could find us _here_, in this broad
mountain wilderness!"

Brevard, meanwhile, was spreading out diagrams and plans.

"The plant at Niagara," said he. "Gabriel, study this, now, as you never
yet have studied anything! For on your intimate knowledge of these
plans--which, by the way, have been obtained only at the cost of eight
lives of our comrades, and through adventures which alone would make a
wonderful book--depends everything. With all communications cut, and
troops kept away, and our own people storming the works, you will yet
fail, Gabriel, unless you know every building, every courtyard, wall and
passage, every door and window, almost, I might say. For the place is
more than a manufacturing plant. It's a fortress, a city in itself, a
wonderful, gigantic center to the whole web of world-domination!

"So now, to the plans!"

For hours, while Gabriel took notes and listened keenly, asked questions
and made minute memoranda, Brevard explained the situation at the great
Air Trust works. The others looked on, listened, and from time to time
made suggestions; but for the most part they kept silent, unwilling to
disturb this most important work.

Carefully and with painstaking accuracy he showed Gabriel how the plant
now embraced more than two square miles of territory around the Falls,
all guarded by tremendous barricades mounting machine-guns and
search-lights. On both sides of the river this huge monster had
squatted, effectually shutting out all sight of the Falls and depriving
the people of their birthright of beauty, at the same time that it had
harnessed the vast waterpower to the task of enslaving the world.

"From the Grand Trunk steel arch bridge up to and including the former
plant of the Niagara Falls Power Company," said Brevard, "you see the
plant extends. And, on the Canadian side--or what was the Canadian,
before 'we' absorbed Canada--it stretches from the Ontario Power
Company's works to those of the Toronto-Niagara Power Company, including
both. In addition to having absorbed these, it has taken over the
Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company, the Canadian
Power Company and half a dozen others, and has, as you see, established
its central offices and plant on Goat Island.

"Here Flint and Waldron have what may be called a citadel within a
citadel--twelve acres of administration buildings, laboratories (in
charge of your old friend Herzog, by the way!) and experimental works,
including also the big steel chambers, vacuum-lined, where they are
already storing their liquid oxygen to be turned into their pipe-lines
and tank-cars. This Goat Island central plant will be the real kernel in
the nut, Gabriel. Once _that_ is gone, you'll have ripped the heart out
of the beast, smashed the vital ganglia, and given the world the
respite, the breathing-space it must have, to free itself!"

"And if I don't?" asked Gabriel. "If anything happens to upset our
blockading tactics, or if our attacking forces are defeated or our
aeroplanes shot down, what then?"

"Then," said Brevard, slowly, "then the world had better die than
survive under the abominable slavery now impending. Already the
pipe-lines have been laid to Buffalo, Cleveland, Albany and Scranton.
Already they're under way to New York City itself, and to Cincinnati.
Already other plants have been projected for Chicago, Denver, San
Francisco and New Orleans, to say nothing of half a dozen in the Old
World. At this present moment, as we all sit here in this quiet room on
this remote mountain-slope, the world's air is being cornered! All the
atmospheric nitrogen is planned for, by Flint and Waldron, to pass under
their control--and with it, every crop that grows. All the oxygen will
follow. They're already having their domestic-service apparatus
manufactured--their cold-pipe radiators, meters, evaporators and
respirators. I tell you, comrades, this thing is close upon us, not as a
theory, now, but as a terrible, an inconceivably ghastly reality!

"Even as we talk this thing over, those devils in human form are at
work impoverishing the atmosphere, the very basis of all life. My
oxymeter, today, showed a diminution of .047 per cent. in the amount of
free oxygen in the air right on this mountain. And their plant is hardly
running yet! Wait till they get it under full swing--wait till their
pipe-lines and tanks and instruments and all their vast, infernal
apparatus of exploitation and enslavement are in operation! Even in a
week from now, or less, by the time you issue the call, Gabriel, you may
see wretches gasping in vain for breath, in some dark alley of Niagara
where the air is being drained!"

"Oh, devilish and infernal plot against the world!" said Gabriel,
bitterly. "Yet in essence, after all, no different from the system of
ten years ago, which kept food and shelter, light and fuel, under lock
and key--and made the dollar the only key to fit the lock! Yet this
seems worse, somehow; and though I die for it, my last supreme blow
shall be against such unutterable, such murderous villainy! So then,
comrades--"

He paused, suddenly, as Kate laid a hand on his arm.

"Hark! What's that?" she whispered.

Outside, somewhere, a sound had made itself heard. Then on the porch, a
loose board creaked.

Gabriel sprang to his feet. The others stood up and faced the door.

"In heaven's name, what's that outside?" demanded Craig.

On the instant, a heavy foot crashed through the panels of their door.
The door, burst open, flew back.

In the aperture, stood a man, in aviator's dress, with another dimly
visible behind him. Both these men held long, blue-nosed,
oxygen-bullet-shooting revolvers levelled at the little group around the
table.

"My God! Air Trust spies!" cried Grantham, pale as death.

"Hands up, you!" shouted the man in the doorway, with a wild triumph in
his voice. "You're caught, all of you! Not a move, you ---- ---- ----!
Hands up!"



CHAPTER XXXI.

ESCAPE!


Quick as thought, at sound of the imperative summons and sight of the
levelled weapons, Gabriel swept up most of the papers and crammed them
into the breast of his loose flannel shirt, then dashed the lamp to the
floor, extinguishing it. The room grew dark, for now the fire had burned
down to hardly more than glowing coals.

There was no panic; the men did not curse, neither did the women scream.
As though the tactic had already been agreed on, Craig tipped the table
up, making a kind of barricade; and over it Grantham's revolver,
snatched from his belt, spat viciously.

It all happened in a moment.

The foremost spy grunted, coughed and plunged forward. As he fell, he
fired his terrible weapon.

The bullet--a small, thin metal shell, filled with a secret chemical and
liquid oxygen--went wild. It struck the wall, some feet to the left of
the fireplace, and instantly the wood burst into vivid flame. Flesh
would crisp to nothing, solid stone would crumble, metal would gutter
and run down, under that awful incandescence.

Again Grantham's revolver barked, while Bevard tugged at his own, which
had unaccountably got stuck in its holster. But this second shot missed.
And even as Grantham's bullet snicked a long splinter from the
door-jamb, the second spy fired.

Brevard's choking cry died as the gushing flame enveloped him. He
staggered, flung up both arms and fell stone dead, the life seared clean
out of him, as a lamp sears a moth.

Gasping, blinded, the others scattered; and for the third time--while
the room now glowed with this unquenchable blossoming of flame--Grantham
shot.

The spy's body burst into a sheaf of fire. Up past the lintel streamed
the burning swirl. Mute and annihilated, his charred body dropped beside
that of his mate.

The total time from challenge to complete victory had not exceeded ten
seconds.

"I exploded some of his cartridges!" choked Grantham. shielding his wife
from the glare, while Gabriel protected Catherine.

"His--his cartridge belt!" gasped Craig.

"Yes! And now, out--out of here!"

"Brevard? We must save his body!" cried Gabriel, pointing.

"Impossible!" shouted Grantham. "That hellish compound will burn for
hours! And in three minutes this whole place will be a roaring furnace!
Out of here--out--away! We must save the hangar, at all hazards!"

Against their will, but absolutely unable to approach the now
wildly-roaring fire on the floor that marked the spot where Brevard had
fallen in the Battle with Plutocracy, the comrades quickly retreated.

Raging fire now hemmed them on three sides. Their only avenue of escape
was through the eastern windows, eight or ten feet above the ground.
Hastily snatching up such of the plans and papers as he had not already
secured--and some of these already were beginning to smoke and turn
brown, in the infernal heat--Gabriel shielded Catherine's retreat. The
others followed.

Craig and Grantham first jumped from the windows, then caught Mrs.
Grantham and Catherine as Gabriel helped them to escape. He himself was
the last to leave the room, now a raging furnace. Together they all ran
from the building, and none too soon; for suddenly the roof collapsed, a
tremendous burst of crackling flames and sheaved sparks leaped high
above the tree-tops, and the walls came crashing in.

In the welter of incandescence, where now only the stone chimney
stood--and this, too, was already cracking and swaying--Brevard had
found his tomb, together with the two Air Trust spies. All that
pleasant, necessary place was now a mass of white-hot ruin; all those
books and pictures now had turned to ash.

The five remaining comrades paused by the hangar, and looked mournfully
back at the still-leaping volcano of destruction.

"Poor Brevard! Poor old chap!" said Craig. He peered at the women.
Neither one was crying--they were not that type--but both were pale.

"I don't feel that way," said Gabriel. "Brevard is not to be pitied.
He's to be envied! He died in the noblest war we can conceive--the war
for the human race! And his last act was to take part in a battle that
stamped out two vipers, Air Trust spies, who would have joyed to burn us
all alive!"

[Illustration: The spy's body burst into a sheaf of fire.]

"Thank God, I got the Hell-hounds!" muttered Craig. "Two less of Slade's
infamous army, anyhow." Though Gabriel knew it not, the first one to
fall was the same who had battled with him in the trap at Rochester, the
same who had trailed him when he, Gabriel, had left the Federal pen. So
one score, at least, was settled.

"They're gone, anyhow," said Gabriel, "and five of us still live--and
I've still got the plans and all. Moreover, the monoplanes are safe. The
quicker we get away from here, now, the better. Away, and to our last
remaining refuge near Port Colborne, on the shores of Lake Erie. Other
Air Trust forces may be here, before morning. We must get away!"

A frightful shock awaited them when, entering the hangar--eager now to
escape at once from the scene of the tragedy--they beheld their
aeroplanes.

By the ruddy light which shone in through the wide doors, from the fire,
they saw long strips and tatters of canvas hanging from the 'planes.

"Smashed! Broken! Wrecked!" cried Gabriel, starting back aghast.

The others stared. Only too true; the monoplanes were practically
destroyed. Not only had the spies, before attacking the refuge, slashed
the 'planes to rags, but they had also partly dismantled the motors.
Bits of machinery lay scattered on the floor of the hangar.

Stunned and unable to gather speech or coherent thought, the five
Socialists stood staring. Then, after a moment, Craig made shift to
exclaim bitterly:

"A good job, all right! The curs must have got in at the window, and
spent an hour in this work. Whatever happened, they didn't intend we
should have any means of retreat--for of course it's out of the question
for anybody to get away from here through the forest over the ridges
and down the cliffs!"

"They meant to trap us, this way, that's certain," added Gabriel. "There
surely will be others of the same breed, here before morning. They must
not find us here!"

"But Gabriel, how shall we escape?" asked Catherine, her face illumined
by the leaping flames of the bungalow.

"How! In their own machine! The machine that Slade and the Air Trust
secret-service gave them, to come here and catch or murder us!"

"By the Almighty! So we will!" cried Grantham. "Come on, let's find it!"

The little party hurried off toward the landing-ground, a cleared and
levelled space further up the mountainside. The light of the burning
bungalow helped show them their path; and Craig had also taken an
electric flash-lamp from the hangar. With this he led the way.

"Right! There it is!" suddenly exclaimed Gabriel, pointing. Craig
painted a brush of electric light over the vague outlines of the Air
Trust machine, a steel racer of the latest kind.

"A Floriot biplane," said he. "Will hold two and a passenger. Familiar
type. I guess all of us, here, can operate it."

They all--even the women--could. For you must understand that after the
Great Massacres had foreshown the only possible trend the Movement could
take, practically all the leaders in the work had studied aeronautics,
also chemistry, as most essential branches of knowledge in the
inevitable war.

"Two, and a passenger," repeated Gabriel, as though echoing Craig's
words. "Who goes first?"

"You!" said Grantham. "You and Catherine, with Craig to bring the
machine back. You're needed, now, at the front--imperatively needed.
Freda and I," gesturing at his wife, "will hold the fort, here--will
keep watch over our dead, over poor old Brevard, the first to fall in
this great, final battle!"

A spirited argument followed. Gabriel insisted on being left for the
second trip. A compromise was made by having him get the two women out
of danger, at once, leaving Craig and Grantham on the mountain.

"I'll send Hazen or Keyes back with the 'plane, for you," said he, as he
climbed into the driving seat, after the passengers had been stowed.
"That will be tomorrow night. Of course, we daren't fly by day. And
mind," he added, adjusting his spark and throttle, "mind you meet me
with this very same machine, safe and sound, at the Lake Erie refuge!"

"Why this same machine?" inquired Craig.

"Why? Because I intend to use this, and no other, in the final attack.
Could poetic justice be finer than that the Air Trust works be destroyed
with the help of one of their own 'planes?"

No more was said, save brief good-byes. Those were times when
demonstrativeness, whether in life or death, was at a discount. A
hand-clasp and a few last instructions as to the time and place of
meeting, sufficed. Then Gabriel pressed the button of the self-starter
and opened the throttle.

With a sudden gusty chatter, the engine caught. A great wind sprang up,
from the roaring, whirling blades. The Floriot rolled easily forward,
speeded up, and gathered headway.

Gabriel suddenly rotated the rising-plane. The great gull soared,
careened and took the air with majestic power. The watchers on the
mountain-side saw its hooded lights, that glowed upon its compass and
barometric-gauge, slowly spiralling upward, ever upward, as Gabriel
climbed with his two passengers.

Then the lights sped forward, northward, in a long tangent, and, as they
swiftly diminished to mere specks, the echo of a farewell hail drifted
downward from the black and star-dusted emptiness above.

Craig turned to Grantham, when the last gleam of light had faded in a
swift trajectory.

"God grant they reach the last remaining refuge safely!" said he, with
deep emotion. "And may their flight be quick and sure! For the fate of
the world, its hope and its salvation from infinite enslavement, are
whirling through the trackless wastes of air, to-night!"



CHAPTER XXXII.

OMINOUS DEVELOPMENTS.


The first intimation that Flint and Waldron had of any opposition to
their plans, of any revolt, of any danger, was at quarter past three on
the afternoon of October 8th, 1925. All that afternoon, busy with their
final plans for the immediate extension of their system, they had been
going over certain data with Herzog, receiving reports from branch
managers and conferring with the Congressional committee that--together
with Dillon Slade, their secret-service tool, now also President
Supple's private secretary--they had peremptorily summoned from
Washington to receive instructions.

In the more than four years that had passed since they had put Gabriel
behind bars--years fruitful in strikes and lockouts, in prostitutions of
justice, in sluggings and crude massacres--both men had altered notably.

Though the National Censorship now no longer permitted any cartooning of
a "seditious" nature, i.e., representing any of the Air Trust notables,
old Flint's features tempted the artist's pencil more than ever. Save
for a little white fringe of hair at the back of his head, he had become
almost bald, thus adding greatly to his strong suggestion of a vulture.
His face was now more yellow and shrunken than ever, due to a rather
heavier consumption of his favorite drug, morphine; his nose had hooked
more strongly, and his one gold tooth of other days now had two more to
bear it company. His eyes, too, behind his thick pince-nez, had grown
more shifty, cold and cruelly calculating. If it be possible to conceive
a fox, a buzzard and a jackal merged in one, old Isaac Flint today
represented that unnatural and hideous hybrid.

Now, as he stood facing "Tiger" Waldron, in the inner and sancrosanct
office of the Air Trust plant at Niagara--the office that even the
President of these United States approached with deference and due
humility--the snarl on his face revealed the beast-soul of the man.

"Damnation!" he was saying, as he shook a newly-received aerogram at his
partner. "What's this, I'd like to know? What does this mean? All
telegraphic communication west of Chicago has suddenly stopped, and from
half a dozen points in the Southern States news is coming in that
railway service is being interrupted! See here, Waldron, this won't do!
Your part of the business has always been to carry on the publicity end,
the newspaper end, the moulding of public opinion and political thought,
_and_ the maintenance of free, clear rail and aero communication
everywhere, all over the world. But now, all at once, see here?"

Waldron raised red, bleared eyes at his irate partner. He, too, was more
the beast than four years ago. No less the tiger, now, but more the pig.
High, evil living had done its work on him. An unhealthy purple suffused
his heavily-jowled face. Beneath his eyes, sodden bags of flesh hung
pendant. His lips, loose and lascivious, now sucked indolently at the
costly cigar he was smoking as he sat leaning far back in his
desk-chair. And so those two, angry accuser and indifferent accused,
faced each other for a moment; while, incessant, dull, mighty, the
thunders of the giant cataract mingled with the trembling diapason of
the stupendous turbines in the rock-hewn caverns where old Niagara now
toiled in fetters, to swell their power and fling gold into their
bottomless coffers.

"See here!" Flint repeated angrily, once more shaking the dispatches at
his mate. "Even our wireless system, all over the west and southwest,
has quit working! And you sit there staring at me like--like--"

"That'll do, Flint!" the younger man retorted in a rough, hoarse voice.
"If there's any trouble, I'll find it and repair it. Very well. But I'll
not be talked to in any such way. Damn it, you can't speak to me Flint,
as if I were one of the people! If you own half the earth, I'll have you
understand I own the other half. So go easy, Flint--go damned easy!"

Malevolently he eyed the old man's beast-like face. The scorn and
dislike he had conceived for Flint, years ago, when Flint had failed to
win back Catherine to him, had long grown keener and more bitter.
Waldron took it as a personal affront that Flint, apparently so worn and
feeble, could still hang on to life and brains enough to dominate the
enterprise. A thousand times, if once, he had wished Flint well dead and
buried and out of the way, so that he, Waldron, could grasp the whole
circle of the stupendous Air Trust. This, his supreme ambition, had been
constantly curbed by Flint's survival; and as the months and years had
passed, his hate had grown more deep, more ugly, more venomous.

"Why, curse it," Waldron often thought, "the old dope has taken enough
morphine in his lifetime to have killed a hundred ordinary men! And yet
he still clings on, and withers, and grows yellow like an old dead leaf
that will not drop from the tree! When _will_ he drop? When _will_
Father Time pick the despicable antique? My God, is the man immortal?"

Such being the usual tenor of his thoughts, concerning Flint, small
wonder that he took the old man's chiding with an ill grace, and warned
him pointedly not to continue it. Now, facing the Billionaire, he fairly
stared him out of countenance. An awkward silence followed. Both heard,
with relief, a rapping at the office door.

"Come!" snapped Flint.

A clerk appeared, with a yellow envelope in hand.

"Another wireless, sir," said he.

Flint snatched it from him.

"Send Herzog and Slade, at once," he commanded, as he ripped the
envelope.

"Well, more trouble?" insolently drawled "Tiger" happy in the paling of
the old man's face and the sudden look of apprehension there.

For all answer, Flint handed him the message. Waldron read:

     Southern and Gulf States all seemingly cut off from every kind of
     communication this P.M. Can get no news. Is this according to your
     orders? If not, can you inform me probable cause? I ask
     instructions. "K."

Silence, a minute, then Waldron whistled, and began pulling at his thick
lower lip, a sure sign of perturbation.

"By the Almighty, Flint" said he. "I--maybe I was wrong just now, to be
so confoundedly touchy about--about what you said. This--certainly looks
odd, doesn't it? It _can't_ be a series of coincidences! There must be
something back of it, all. But--but _what_? Rebellion is out of the
question, now, and has been for a long time. Revolution? The way we're
organized, the very idea's an absurdity! But, if not these, what?"

Flint stared at him with drug-contracted eyes.

"Yes, that's the question," he rapped out. "What can it mean? Ah,
perhaps Slade can tell us," he added, as the secret-service man quietly
entered through a private door at the rear of the office.

"Tell you what, gentlemen?" asked Slade, smirking and rubbing his hands.

"The meaning of that, and that, and _that_!" snapped old Flint,
thrusting the telegrams at the newcomer.

"Hm!" grunted the secret-service man, as he glanced them over. "That's
damned odd! But it's of no real moment. If--if there's really any
trouble, any outbreak or what not, of course it can't amount to
anything. All you have to do is order the President to call out the
troops, and--"

"Yes, I can order him, all right," snarled Flint, "but in case all our
wires are down and all our wireless plants put out of commission, to say
nothing of our transport service interrupted, what then? There's no
doubt in _my_ mind, Slade, that another upheaval is upon us. The fact
that we stamped out the 1918 and 1922 uprisings, and that rivers ran red
and city streets were flushed with blood, apparently hasn't made any
impression on the cattle! Damn it all, I say, _can't_ you keep things
quiet? _Can't_ you?"

In a very frenzy he paced the office, his face twitching, his bony
fingers snapping with the extremity of his agitation. Suddenly he faced
Slade.

"See here, you!" he exclaimed. "This certainly means another uprising.
It can't mean anything else! And you've allowed it, you hear? No, no,
don't deny the fact!" he cried, as the detective tried to oppose a word
of self-defense. "It's your fault, at last analysis; and if anything
happens, you and the President, Supple, have got to answer to me,
personally, do you hear? You've got to pay!"

"Pay, and with devilish big interest, too!" growled "Tiger," fixing his
bleared, savage eyes on Slade.

"What did I make that man President for, anyhow?" snarled Flint, "if not
to do my bidding and keep things still? Why did I put you in as his
private secretary, if not to have you watch him and see that he _did_ do
my bidding? Why did I have Congress pass all those bills and things,
except to give you the weapons and tools to hold the lid on?

"You've had a huge army and a conscripted militia given you; and
hundreds of wireless plants, and military roads and war-equipment beyond
all calculating. You've had thousands of spies organized and put under
your control. At your suggestion I've had all political power taken away
from the dogs--and everything done that you've asked for--and this,
_this_ is the kind of work you do!"

Livid with rage, the old Billionaire stood there shaking by his desk,
his face a fearful mask of passions and evil lusts for vengeance and
power. Slade, recognizing his master, even as President Supple on more
than one occasion had been forced in terrible personal interviews to
recognize him, said no word; but in the secret-service man's eyes a
brutal gleam flashed its message of hate and loathing. Foul as Slade
was, he balked at times, in face of this man's cruel and naked savagery.

"I tell you," continued Flint, now having recovered his breath, "I tell
you, you're worse than useless, you and your President, ha!
ha!--President Puppet, indeed! Take that great Smoky Mountain clue, for
instance! On the rumor that the ring-leaders of the swine were up there,
somewhere, in the North Carolina mountains, you sent your two best men.
And what's the latest news? What have you to tell me? _You_ know! Other
airmen of yours have just reported that nothing can be found but ruins
of the Socialist refuge, there--nothing but those, and the half-melted
vanadium steel identification-tags of your best scouts! _And_ their
machine is gone--and with it, the birds we wanted! Then, close on the
heels of this, all wires go flat, all wireless breaks down, all rails
are interrupted, and--and Hell's to pay!" Fair in Slade's face he shook
his trembling first.

"Urrh! You devilish, impotent faker! You four-flusher! You toy
detective! You and your President, too, aren't worth the liquid oxygen
to blow you to Hades! See here, Slade, you get out on this job, now, and
do it damned quick, you understand, or there'll be _some_ shake-up in
your office and in the White House, too. When I buy and pay for tools, I
insist that the tools work. If they don't--!"

He snatched up a pencil from the desk, broke it in half and threw the
pieces on the floor.

"Like that!" said he, and stamped on them.

Waldron nodded approval.

"Just like that," he echoed, "and then some!"

"Go, now!" Flint commanded, pointing at the door. "Inside an hour, I
want some reports, and I want them to be satisfactory. If you and Supple
can't get things open again, and start the troops and machine-guns
before then, look out! That's all I've got to say. Now, _go_!"



CHAPTER XXXIII.

"NOW COMES THE HOUR SUPREME."


Hardly had the secret-service man taken his leave, slinking away like a
whipped cur, yet with an ugly snarl that presaged evil, when Herzog
appeared.

"Come here," said Flint, curtly, heated with his burst of passion.

"Yes, sir," the scientist replied, approaching. "What is it, sir?"

Still shifty and cringing was he, in presence of the masters; though
with the men beneath him, at the vast plant--and now his importance had
grown till he controlled more than eight thousand--rumor declared him an
intolerable tyrant.

"Tell me, Herzog, what's the condition of the plant, at this present
moment?"

"Just how do you mean, sir?"

"Suppose there were to be trouble, of any kind, how are we fixed for it?
How's the oxygen supply, and--and everything? Good God, man, unlimber!
You're paid to know things and tell 'em. Now, talk."

Thus adjured, Herzog washed his hands with imaginary soap and in a
deprecating voice began:

"Trouble, sir? What trouble could there be? There's not the faintest
sign of any organization among the men. They're submissive as so many
rabbits, sir, and--"

"Damn you, shut up!" roared Flint. "I didn't summon you to come up here
and give me a lecture on labor conditions at the works! The trouble I
refer to is possible outside interference. Maybe some kind of wild-eyed
Socialist upheaval, or attack, or what not. In case it comes, what's our
condition? Tell me, in a few words, and for God's sake keep to the
point! The way you wander, and always have, gives me the creeps!"

Herzog ventured nothing in reply to this outburst, save a conciliatory
leer. Then, collecting his thoughts, he began:

"Well, sir, in a general way, our condition is perfect. We've got two
regiments of rifle and machine gunmen, half of them equipped with the
oxygen bullets. I guarantee that I could have them away from their
benches and machines, and on the fortifications, inside of fifteen
minutes. Slade's armed guards, 2,500 or so, are all ready, too.

"Then, beside that, there are eight 'planes in the hangars, and plenty
of men to take them up. If you wish, sir, I can have others brought in.
The aerial-bomb guns are ready. As for the oxygen supply, Tanks F and L
are full, K is half filled, and N and Q each have about 6,000 gallons,
making a total of--let's see, sir--a total of just about 755,000
gallons."

"How protected? Have you got those bomb-proof overhead nets on, yet?"

"Not yet, sir. That is, not over all the lines of tanks. We ran short of
steel wire, last week, and have only got eight of the tanks under
netting. But the work is going on fast, sir, and--"

"Rush it! At all hazards, get nets over the rest of the tanks. If
anything happens, through this delay, remember, Herzog, I shall hold
you personally responsible, and it will go hard with you!"

"Yes, sir; thank you, sir," murmured the servile wretch. "Anything else,
sir?"

Flint thought a moment, glaring at Herzog with angry eyes, then shook
his head in negation.

"Very well, sir," said Herzog, withdrawing. "I'll go to work at once. By
tomorrow, everything will be safe, I guarantee."

He closed the door softly--as softly as he had spoken--as softly as he
always did everything.

Flint glared at the door.

"The sneaking whelp!" he murmured. "He makes my very flesh crawl. I wish
to heaven he weren't so essential to us; we'd let him go, damned quick!"

"You forget," put in Tiger, "that he knows too much to be let go, ever.
No, he's a fixture. And now, dismiss him from your mind, and let's go
over those telegrams and radiograms again. If there _is_ a new Socialist
revolt under way--and I admit it certainly begins to look like it--we've
got to understand the situation. Slade will have some more reports for
us, in an hour or so. Till then, these must suffice."

Flint, curbing his agitation, sat down at the big table and turned on
the vacuum-glow light, for the October afternoon was foggy--a fog that
mingled with the spray of the vast Falls and hung heavy over the
world--and already daylight was beginning to fail.

"Fools!" he muttered to himself. "Fools, to think they can rebel against
_us_! Ants would have just as much show of success, charging elephants,
as _they_ have against the Air Trust! By tomorrow they'll be wiped out,
smeared out, shattered and annihilated, whoever and wherever they are.
By tomorrow, at the latest. Again I say, blind, suicidal fools!"

"Right you are," assented Waldron, drawing up his chair. "They don't
seem to realize, even yet, that we own the whole round earth and all
that is in it. They don't understand that their rebelling is like a
tribe of naked savages going against a modern army with explosive
bullets. Ah, well, let them learn, let them learn! It takes a whip to
teach a cur. Let them feel the lash, and learn!..."


At this same hour, in the last retreat, near Port Colborne, in the State
of Ontario--once a province of Canada--half a dozen grim and determined
men were gathered together. We already recognize Craig, Grantham and
Gabriel. The other three, like them, all wore the Socialist button and
the little tab of red ribbon that marked them as members of the Fighting
Sections.

"Tonight," Gabriel was saying, as he stood there in the gathering
dusk--they dared not show a light, even behind the drawn curtains of
their refuge--"tonight, comrades, the final die is cast. Everything is
ready, or as nearly ready as we shall ever be able to make it. Our
reports already show that every line of communication has been broken by
one swift, sharp blow. True, in a few hours all these avenues can be
opened up again. By morning, the Niagara works will be in receipt of
messages; trains will be running; the troop-planes will be carrying
their hordes at the command of Flint. By morning, yes. But in the
meantime--"

He spread his fingers, upward, with an expressive gesture.

"By morning," Craig mumbled, "what will there be left to protect?"

A little silence followed. Each was busy with his own thoughts.

All at once, one of the three newcomers spoke--a tall, light-haired
fellow, he seemed, in that dim light, with a strong Southern accent.

"Pardon me for asking, Gabriel," said he, removing a pipe from his
mouth, "or for discussing details familiar to you all. But, coming as I
_have_ come direct from the New Orleans refuge--they blew it up, last
week, you know--of course I haven't got things as clearly in mind yet,
as you-all have. Now, as I understand it, while we manoeuvre over the
plant, blow up the barricades and, if possible, 'get' the oxygen-tanks,
our men on the ground will pour in through the gaps and storm the place,
under the command of Edward Hargreaves. Is that the idea?"

"Exactly, Comrade Marion," answered Gabriel. "You've hit it to a T."

Craig laughed grimly, as he drew at his pipe.

"Just as we're going to hit those big tanks!" said he. "It's tonight or
never, comrades. They're putting steel nets over them, already. By
tomorrow the whole place will be protected by huge grill-work fully a
hundred feet above the tops of the tanks. Oh, they seem to have thought
of everything, those plutes! But they'll be just a shade too late, this
time; just a shade too late!"

Another silence, broken again by the tall Southerner.

"Just let me get this thing quite clear," said he. "We're to start at
5:30, you say, walk past the Welland Canal Feeder out to the Monck
Aviation Grounds, and find everything ready there?"

"Correct," said Gabriel. "All six of us. That's our part of the program.
Comrades you don't know, out there--comrades in the employ of the Air
Trust itself--will have six machines ready. One of them will be the very
machine that they tried to get us with, in the Great Smokies! So you
see, we're going to use the Air Trust equipment, their field and even
their own telenite, to put them out of business forever and to free the
world!"

"Poetic justice, all right enough!" laughed Marion. "At the same time
that we're attacking from an elevation of perhaps three thousand feet,
the lateral attack will be delivered. About how many men do you count,
on, for that?"

"Well," judged Gabriel, "within a ten-mile radius of the plant, at least
a hundred thousand men are waiting, this very instant, with every nerve
keyed up to fighting tension. Scattered in a vast variety of ingenious
and cleverly-devised hiding places, with their chlorine grenades and
their revolvers shooting little hydrocyanic acid gas bullets, they're
waiting the signal--a rocket in mid-heaven."

"Hydrocyanic acid gas!" exclaimed Marion, forgetting to smoke. "Why, one
whiff of that is death!"

"It is," agreed Gabriel. "Remember, this is a war of extermination. It's
a case of _them_ or _us_! And if we're worsted, the whole world loses;
while if they are, then liberty is born! That's why this gas is
justifiable. They'll try to use oxygen-bullets on us, never fear. But
where they can kill ten, with those, we can annihilate a hundred with
our kind. Swine, they have called us, and fools and apes. Well, we
shall see, we shall see, when it comes to an out-and-out fight between
Plutocrat and Proletarian, who is the better man!"

Again came silence. And this time it was Grantham who broke it.

"Comrades," said he, "after you've seen as many Socialists shot down as
_I_ have--shot down and burned, as Brevard was--you'll lose any
lingering ideas of civilized warfare you may still retain. They hunt us
like beasts, prison us in foul traps, ride us down, crush us, break and
tear us, and burn us alive, because we struggle to be free men and
women, not slaves. Now that our hour has struck, now that their lines of
communication and defense are breached, and they--though they still
don't fully understand it--are penned there in their heaven-offending,
monstrous, horrible plant at the Falls, no true man can hesitate to
smash them down with no more compunction than as though they were so
many rattlesnakes or scorpions!

"This isn't 1915, when political and civil rights still existed, and we
weren't hunted outlaws. This is 1925, and conditions are all different.
It's war, war, war to the death, now; and if war is Hell, then _they_
are going to get Hell this time, not we."

Nobody spoke, for a little while; but Marion and Craig smoked
contemplatively, and the others sat there in the dusk, sunk in thought.

All at once a door opened, and the vague form of a woman became visible.

"Comrades, you must go," said she. "It's nearly half past five. By the
time you've got everything in readiness, you'll have no time to lose."

"Right, Catherine," answered Gabriel. "Come, comrades! Up and at it!"

Ten minutes later they all issued forth into the soft gloom. All were in
aviator's dress, and each carried a parcel by a handle held with stout
straps. Had you seen them, you would have noticed they took particular
pains not to jar or shake these parcels, or approach unduly near each
other.

At the door of the refuge, Catherine said good-bye to each, and added
some brave word of cheer. Her farewell to Gabriel was longer than to the
others; and for a moment their hands met and clung.

"Go," she whispered, "go, and God bless you! Go even though it be to
death! Their airmen will take toll of some of the attackers, Gabriel.
Not all the Comrades will return. Oh, may _you_--may _you_!"

"What is written on the Book of Fate, will be," he answered. "Our petty
hopes and fears are nothing, Catherine. If death awaits me, it will be
sweet; for it will come, tonight, in the supreme service of the human
race! Good-bye!"

With a sudden motion, the girl took his face between her hands, and
kissed his forehead. For all her courage and strength, he sensed her
heart wildly beating and he felt her tears.

"Good-bye, Gabriel," she breathed. "Would I might go with you! Would
that my duty did not hold me here! Good-bye!"

Then he was gone, gone with the others, into the thickening obscurity of
the fog-shrouded evening. Now Catherine stood there alone, head bowed
and wet face hidden in both hands.

As the little fighting band disappeared, back to the girl drifted a few
words of song, soft-hummed through the dusk--the deathless chorus of the
International:

    "Now comes the hour supreme!
    To arms, each in his place!
    The new dawn's International
    Shall be the human race!..."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE ATTACK.


"Halt! Who goes there?"

The challenge rang sharply on the night air, outside a small gate in the
barricade of the Monck Aviation Grounds.

"Liberty!" answered Gabriel, pausing as he gave the password.

"All right, come on," said a vague figure at the gate. The little group
approached. The gate opened. Silently they entered the enclosure.

Another man stepped from a hangar. In his hand he held an electric
flash, which he threw upon the newcomers, one by one.

"Right!" he commented, and took Gabriel by the hand. "This way!"

Ten minutes later, all of them were in the air, save only Gabriel, who
insisted on staying till his entire squad had made a clean getaway. Then
he too rose; and now in a long, swift line, the fighting squadron
straightened away to north-eastward, on the twenty-mile run to Niagara.

The night was foggy, chill and dark. All the aviators had instructions
to fly not less than 2,500 feet high, to keep a careful lookout lest
they collide, and to steer by the lights of the great Air Trust plant.
For, misty though the heavens were, still Gabriel could see the dim glow
of the tremendous aerial search-lights dominating Goat Island--lights
of 5,000,000 candle-power, maintained by current from the Falls,
incessantly sweeping the sky on the lookout for just such perils as now,
indeed, were drawing near.

Momently, as he flew, Gabriel perceived these huge lights growing
brighter, through the mist, and apprehension won upon him.

"Incredibly strong!" he muttered to himself, as he glanced from his
barometer to the shining fog ahead. "Even though the mist will be
thicker over the Falls than anywhere else, there's a good possibility
they may pierce it and pick us up--and _then_, look out for their
'planes and swift, fighting dirigibles!"

He rotated the rising-plane, and now soared to 2,800 feet. Below and on
either side of him, nothing but tenuous fog. Ahead, the
swiftly-approaching fan of radiance, white, dazzling, beautiful, that
seemed to gush from earth so far below and to the eastward. Already the
thunders of the Falls were audible.

"Where are the others?" Gabriel wondered, his thoughts seeming to hum
and roar in his head, in harmony with the shuddering diapason of the
muffler-deadened exhaust. "No way of telling, now. Each man for
himself--and each to do his best!"

And then his thoughts reverted to Catherine; and round his heart a
sudden yearning seemed to strengthen his stern, indomitable
resolve--"Victory or death!"

But now there was scant time for thought. The moment of action was
already close at hand. Far below there, hidden by night and dark and
mist, Gabriel knew a hundred thousand comrades, of the Fighting
Sections, were lying hidden, waiting for the signal to advance.

"And it's time, now!" he said aloud, thrilled by a wondrous sense of
vast responsibility--a sense that on this moment hung the fate of the
world. "It's time for the signal. Now then, up and at them!"

Taking the rocket--a powerful affair, capable of casting an intense,
calcium light--he touched the fuse to a bit of smouldering punk fastened
in a metal cup at his right hand. Then, as it flared, he launched the
rocket far into the void.

Below, came a quick spurt of radiance, in a long, vivid streak that shot
away with incredible rapidity. Gabriel followed it a moment, with his
gaze, then smiled.

"The Rubicon is crossed," said he. "The gates of the Temple of Janus are
open wide--and now comes War!"

He rose again, skimming to a still higher altitude as the glare of the
great Works drew closer and closer underneath. The wind roared in his
ears, louder than the whirling propellers. The whole fabric of the
aeroplane quivered as it climbed, up, up above the rushing, bellowing
cataract.

"Where are the others?" thought he, and reached for a thanatos
projectile, in the rack near the metal cup where the punk still
glowered.

All at once, a glare of light burst upward through the white-glowing
mist; and the 'plane reeled with the air-wave, as now a thunderous
concussion boomed across the empty spaces of the sky.

At the same moment, a faint, ripping noise mounted to Gabriel--a sound
for all the world like the tearing of stout canvas. Then followed a
chattering racket, something like distant mowing-machines at work; and
now all blent to a steady, determined uproar. Gabriel almost thought to
hear, as he launched his own projectile, far sounds as of the shouts and
cries of men; but of this he could not make sure.

"They're at it, anyhow!" he exulted. "At it, at last! By the way our men
have launched the attack, the first explosion must have breached a wall!
God! What wouldn't I give to be down there, in the thick of it, rather
than here! I--"

_Crash_!

Again a spouting geyser of light and uproar burst into mid-air.

"That was _my_ thanatos speaking!" cried Gabriel. "Now for another!"

Before he could drop it, as he circled round and round, directly over
the great, flailing beams of the Air Trust search-lights, a third
detonation shattered the heavens, nearly unseating him. Up sprang the
roar, with wonderful intensity, reflected from the earth as from a giant
sounding-board. And Gabriel noted, with keen satisfaction, that one of
the huge light-beams had gone dark.

"Put out _one_ of them, anyway, so far!" thought he, and swung again to
westward, and once more dropped a messenger of death to tyranny.

Now the bombardment became general. Trust aerial-gun projectiles began
bursting all about. Every second or two, terrible concussions leaped
toward the zenith; and the earth, hidden somewhere down there below the
fog-blanket, seemed flaming upward like a huge volcano. One by one the
search-lights, whipping the sky, went black; and now the glow of them
was fast diminishing, only to be replaced by a ruddier and more
intermittent glare.

"The plant's burning, at last," thought Gabriel. "Heaven grant the fire
may spread to the oxygen-tanks! If we can only get _those_--!"

Again he launched a projectile, and again he circled over the doomed
plant.

A swift black shape swooped by him. He had just time to exchange a yell
of warning, when it was gone. The near peril gripped his heart, but did
not shake it.

"Close call!" said he.

If that machine and his had met, good-bye forever! But after all, the
danger of collision in mid-air, or of being struck by a projectile from
some other machine, above, was no greater than his comrades on the
ground were facing. Not so great, perhaps. Many a one would meet his
death from the aerial attack. In a war like this, a thousand perils
threatened. Gabriel only hoped that Hargreaves, down below there, could
hold them back, away, till the walls should have been destroyed.

Circling, ever circling, now hearing some echoes of the earth-battle,
some grenade-volleys and rapid-fire clattering, now deafened and all but
blinded by the vast, up-belching explosions of the thanatos projectiles,
Gabriel flew among the drifting mists and vapors. Still was he guided by
one or two search-lights; but most of these were gone, now. Yet the
glare of the conflagration, below, was luridly shuddering through the
fog, painting it all a dull and awful red.

Red! Suddenly words came into Gabriel's mind--the words of his own poem:

    ... Red as blood, red as blood! The blood of the shattered miner,
    Blood of the boy in the rifle pits, blood of the coughing child-slave,
    Blood of the mangled trainman, blood that the Carpenter shed!

"For your sake! For the world's sake, this!" he cried, and hurled
another thanatos. "If ever war of liberation was holy, this is that
war!"

Suddenly, through all the turmoil of shattering explosions, tossing
air-currents and drifting, acrid smoke, he became conscious of a sudden,
swift-flying pursuer.

By the light of the burning Plant, down there somewhere in the vapors of
the thunderous Falls, he saw a hawk-like 'plane that swooped toward him
with incredible velocity, savage and lean and black.

Off to the right, a sudden spattering of shots in mid-air told him the
battle in the sky was likewise being engaged. He saw vague, veiled
explosions, there, then a swift, falling trail of flame. A pang shot
through his heart. Had one of his companions fallen and been dashed to
death? He could not tell--he had no time to wonder, even, for already
the attacker was upon him, the swift Air Trust _épervier,_ one of the
dreaded air-fleet of the world-monopoly!

Gabriel had just time to swerve from the attack, and swoop
aloft--dropping his next to last projectile as he did so--when the
whirling shape zoomed past, swung round and once more charged. He saw,
vaguely, two men sat in it. One was the pilot, a "Gray" or Cosmos
mercenary. The other--could it be? Yes, there was no mistaking! The
other was Slade himself, commander of the hireling army of Plutocracy!

Out from the attacking 'plane jetted sadden spurts of fire. Gabriel
heard the zip-zip-zip of bullets; heard a ripping tear, as one of his
canvas wings was punctured--God help him, had that explosive bullet
struck a wire or a stay!

Then, maddened to despair; and burning with fierce rage against this
monster of the upper air that now was hurling death at him, he once more
"banked," brought his machine sharp round, and charged, full drive, at
the attacker!

This tactic for a second must have disconcerted the Air Trust
mercenaries. Gabriel's speed was terrific. With stupefying suddenness,
the _épervier_ loomed up ahead of him.

"Now!" he shouted. "Take this, from me!"

Half rising from his seat, he hurled his last remaining projectile full
at Slade, then wrenched his own 'plane off sharply to the left.

A thunderous concussion and a dazzling burst of light told him his
chance shot had been effective.

He got a second's vision of a shattered black mass, a tangle of girders,
wires, collapsed planes, that seemed to hang a moment in midair--of
whirling bodies--of wreckage indescribable. Then the broken debris
plunged with awful speed and vanished through the red-glowing mist.

Even as he shuddered, sickened at the terrible, though necessary deed,
the deed which alone could save him from swift death, an overwhelming
air-wave from the terrible explosion struck his speeding machine, the
machine captured in the Great Smokies from the Air Trust itself.

It heeled over like an unballasted yacht under the lash of a hurricane.
Vainly Gabriel jerked at wheel and levers; he could not right it.

As it seemed to come under control, a stay snapped. The 'plane swooped,
yawned forward and stuck its nose into an air-hole, caused by the vast,
uprising smoke and heat of the huge conflagration beneath.

Then, lost and beyond all guidance, it somersaulted, slid away down a
long drop and, whirling wildly over and over, plunged with Gabriel into
the glowing, smoking, detonating void!



CHAPTER XXXV.

TERROR AND RETREAT.


When, despite Flint's imperative orders, Slade failed to reopen the
lines of communication for him, before nightfall, and when President
Supple wired in code for a little more time in obeying Air Trust orders,
the Billionaire recognized that something of terrible menace now had
suddenly broken in upon his dream of universal power.

He summoned Waldron and Herzog for another conference and together they
feverishly planned to put the works under defense, until such time as
troops could be got through to them.

The plant regiment was mustered and the Cosmos mercenaries and scabs
were made ready. The machine-guns were unlimbered for action and large
quantities of ammunition were delivered to them and to the aerial-bomb
guns, as nightfall lowered. Herzog set eight hundred men to work
covering all the tanks possible, with wire netting of heavy steel. The
search-lights were all ordered into use; steam and electrical
connections were made, the air-fleet was manned, and everything was done
that unlimited wealth and bitter hate of the Workers could suggest.

With curses on the fog, which hid the upper air from view, the old man
now stood at one of the west windows of his inner office--the office on
the top floor of the main Administration Building, overlooking nearly
the whole Plant.

"Damn the weather!" he snarled, his gold teeth glinting. "In addition to
all this mist from the Falls, there's a regular cloud-bank settling
down, tonight! Under cover of it, what may not happen? Nothing could
have been worse, Waldron. Though we shall soon control the air, that
won't be enough, so long as fogs and mists escape us. Our next
problem--hello! Now what the devil's _that_?"

"What's what?" retorted Waldron, testily. He had been drinking rather
more heavily than usual, that day, both because of the dull weather and
because the Falls invariably got on his nerves, during his brief
sojourns there. Away from New York and his favorite haunts, Waldron was
lost. "What's what?" he repeated with an ugly look. "This roaring,
glaring, trembling place gives me--"

"That! That light in the sky!" cried Flint, excitedly pointing. "See?
No--it's gone now! But it looked like--like a rocket! A signal, of some
kind, thrown from an aeroplane! A--"

Waldron laughed harshly.

"Seeing things, eh?" he sneered, coming across to the window, himself,
and peering out. "_I_ don't see anything! Nothing here to worry about,
Flint. With all these walls and guns, and netting, and air-ships and a
private army and all, what more do you want? Not getting nervous in your
old age, are you, eh?" he gibed bitterly. "Or is your conscience
beginning to wake up, as the graveyard becomes more a probability
than--"

"Enough!" Flint snapped at him. "When you drink, Waldron, you're an
idiot! Now, forget all this, and let's get down to work. I tell you, I
just now saw a signal-light up there in the mist. There's trouble coming
tonight, as sure as we own the earth. Trouble, maybe big trouble.
Merciful God, I--I rather think we oughtn't to be here, in person, eh?
We'd be much better off out of here. If there--there should be any
fighting, you know--"

His voice broke in a falsetto pipe. Waldron laughed brutally.

"Bravo!" cried he, with flushed and mottled face. "You'll do, Flint! I
see, right now, the firing-line is the life for you! Well, let the row
come, and devil take it, say I. Better anything than--"

The sentence was never finished, For suddenly a shattering explosion
hurled a vast section of the western encircling wall outward, out into
the River, and, where but a moment before, the partners had been gazing
at a high concrete-and-steel barrier, with electric lights on top, now
only a huge gap appeared, through which the foam-tossed current could be
seen leaping swiftly onward toward the Falls.

Hurled back from the window by the force of the explosion, both men were
struck dumb with terror and amaze. Flint rallied first, and with a cry
of rage, inarticulate as a beast's howl, sprang to the window again.

Outside, a scene of desolation and wild activity was visible. The great,
paved courtyard, flanked by the turbine houses and the wall, on one
hand, and on the other by the oxygen tanks' huge bulk that loomed
vaguely through the electric-lighted mist, now had begun to swarm with
men.

Flint saw a few forms lying prone under the hard glare of the arcs and
vacuum lights. Others were crawling, writhing, making strange
contortions. Here, there, men with rifles were running to take their
posts. Hoarse orders were shouted, and shrill replies rang back.

Then, all at once, a kind of sputtering series of small explosions began
to rip along the edge of the south wall. And now, machine-guns began to
talk, with a dry, hard metallic clatter. And--though whence these came,
Flint could not see--grenades began flying over the wall and bursting in
the court. Though unwounded, men fell everywhere these gas-projectiles
exploded--fell, stone dead and stiffening at once--fell, in strange,
monstrous, awful attitudes of death.

Steam began billowing up; and crackling electrical discharges leaped
along the naked wires of the outer barricades.

The whole Plant shook and rattled with the violent concussions of the
aerial-bomb guns, already searching the upper air with shrapnel.

Somewhere, out of the range of vision, another terrible shock made the
building tremble to its nethermost foundation; and wild yells and cries,
as of a charge, a repulse, a savage and determined rush, echoed through
the vast enclosure. Came a third detonation--and, blinding in its
intensity, a globe of fire burst almost beneath the window, five stories
below.

The partners, shaking and pale, retreated hastily. A swift,
upward-rising shape swept over the courtyard and was gone--one of the
air-fleet now launched to meet the attackers.

Far below a sudden crumbling shudder of masonry told the Billionaire
not a moment was to be lost, for already one wing of the Administration
Building was swaying to its fall.

"Quick, Waldron! Quick!" he shouted, in the shrill treble of senility,
and ran into the corridor that led to the north wing. Waldron, suddenly
sobered, followed; and from the offices, where the night-shift of clerks
were laboring (or had been, till the first explosion), came crowding
pale and frightened men. Not the fighting cast of Air Trust slaves,
these, but the anaemic chemists and experimenters and clerical workers,
scabs, to a man. Now, in the common sentiment of fear, they jostled
Flint and Waldron, as though these plutocrats had been but common clay.
And in the corridor a babel rose, through which fresh volleys and ever
more and more violent explosions ripped and thundered.

Flint struck savagely at some who barred his way; and Waldron elbowed
through, with curses.

"Get out of the way, you swine!" shrilled the old Billionaire. "Make
way, there! Way!"

The two men reached a door that led by a private passage, through to the
steel-and-concrete laboratories.

"Here, this way, Flint!" shouted Waldron. "If those Hell-devils drop a
bomb on us, this building will cave in like jackstraws! Our only safety
is here, _here_!"

Thoroughly cowed now, with all the brutal bluster and half-drunken
swagger gone, Waldron whipped out a bunch of keys, tremblingly unlocked
the door and blundered through. Flint followed. Behind them, others
tried to press, on toward the armored laboratories; but with vile
blasphemies the plutocrats beat them back and slammed the door.

"To Hell with _them_!" shouted Flint, perfectly ashen now and shaking
like a leaf, the fear of death strong on his withered soul. "We've got
all we can do to look after ourselves! Quick, Waldron, quick!"

Both men, sick with panic, with fear of the unknown terror from above,
stumbled rather than ran along the passage, and presently reached the
laboratory.

Here Waldron unlocked another door, this time a steel one, and--as they
both crowded through--pressed a hand to his dizzy head.

"Safe!" he gulped, slamming the door again. "They can't get us _here_,
at any rate, no matter what happens! This place is like a fort, and--"

His speech was interrupted by a dazing, deafening tumult of sound. The
earth trembled, and the laboratory, steel though it was, with concrete
facing, rocked on its foundation. A glare through the windows, quickly
fading, told them the building they had just quitted was now but a
smoking pile of ruin.

Flint gasped, unable to speak. Waldron, shaking and cowed, tried to
moisten his dry lips with a thick tongue.

"We--we weren't any too soon!" he gulped, without one thought of the
doomed scabs in the Administration Building. Stern justice was now
overtaking these wretches. False to the working-class, and eager to
serve the Air Trust--not only eager to serve, but zealous in any attack
on the proletariat, and by their very employment serving to rivet the
shackles on the world--now they were abandoned by their masters.

Between upper and nether millstone, moving with neither, they were
caught and crushed. And as the great building quivered, gaped wide
open, swayed and came thundering down in a vast pile of flame-lit ruin,
whence a volcanic burst of fire, smoke and dust arose, they perished
miserably, time-servers, cowards and self-seekers to the last.

But Flint and Waldron still survived. Though the very earth shook and
trembled with the roar of bombs, the crumbling of massive walls, the
rattle of volley-fire and the crashing of the terrible grenades that
mowed down hundreds as they spread their poisonous gas abroad--though
the shriek of projectiles, the thunder of the air-ship guns now sweeping
the sky in blind endeavor to shatter the attackers all swelled the
tumult to a frightful storm of terror and of death; they still lived,
cowered and cringed there in the bomb-proof steel-and-concrete of the
inner laboratories.

"Come, come!" Flint quavered, peering about him at the deserted room,
still glaring with electric light--the room now abandoned by all its
workers, who, members of Herzog's regiment, had run to take their posts
at the first signal of attack. "Come--this isn't safe enough, even here.
In--in there!"

He pointed toward a vault-like door, leading to the subterranean steel
chambers where Herzog eventually counted on storing some hundreds of
thousands of tons of liquid oxygen--the reserve-chambers, impregnable to
lightning, fire, frost or storm, to man's attacks or nature's--the
chambers blasted from the living rock, deep as the Falls themselves,
vacuum-lined, wondrous achievement of the highest engineering skill the
world could boast.

"There! There!" repeated Flint, plucking at the dazed Waldron's sleeve.
"Tool-steel and concrete, twenty-five feet thick--and vacuum chambers
all about--_there_ we can hide! There's safety! Come, come quick!"

Staring, white-faced (he who had been so red!) and dumb, Waldron
yielded. Together, furtive as the criminals they were, these two
world-masters slunk toward the steel door, while without, their empire
was crashing down in smoke, and flame, and blood!

They had almost reached it when a smash of glass at the far end of the
laboratory whipped them round, in keener terror.

Staring, wild-eyed, they beheld the crouching figure of Herzog. Running,
even as he cringed, he had upset a glass retort, which had shattered on
the concrete floor. And as he ran, he screamed:

"_They're in! They're coming! Quick--the steel vaults! Let me in, there!
Let me in!_"

The coward was now a maniac with terror, his face perfectly white,
writhen with panic, and with staring eyes that gleamed horribly under
the greenish vacuum-lights.

"Back, you! Get out!" roared Waldron, raising a fist. "We--"

A sudden belch of flame, outside, split the night with terrible
virescence. The whole steel building trembled and swayed. Some of its
girders buckled; and the east wall, nearest the oxygen-tanks, caved
inward as a mass of many tons was hurled against it.

A stunning concussion flung all three men to the floor; and, as they
fell, a withering heat-wave quivered through the place.

"The oxygen-tanks!" gasped Flint. "They're blown up--they're
burning--God help us!"

Scorching, yet still eager to live, he crawled on hands and knees toward
the steel door. Waldron dragged himself along, half-dead with terror.
Now, dripping gouts of inextinguishable fire were raining on the roof of
the building. A whirlwind of flame was sweeping all its eastern side;
and a glare like that of Hell itself seared the eyes of the fugitives.

Quivering, trembling, slavering, the old man and Waldron wrenched the
steel door open.

"_Me! Me! Let me in! Me! Save me!_" howled Herzog, dragging himself
toward them.

They only laughed derisively, with howls of demoniacal scorn.

"You slave! You cur!" shouted Waldron, and spat at him as he drew the
vault door shut. "You cringing dog--stay there, now, and face it!"

The great door boomed shut. In the cool of the winding stairway of steel
which led, lighted by electricity, to the trap-door and the ladder down
into the tremendous vaults, the world-masters breathed deeply once more,
respited from death.

Herzog, screaming like a fiend in torment, clawed at the impenetrable
steel door, raved, begged, entreated, and tore his fingers on the lock.

No answer, save the muffled echo of a jeer, from within.

_Boom!_

What was that?

Mad with terror though he was, he whirled about, and faced the room now
quivering with heat.

Even as he looked, a great gap yawned in the western wall, farthest from
the flame-belching oxygen-tank that had been struck.

Through this gap, pouring irresistibly as the sea, swept a tide of
attackers, storming the inner citadel of the infernal, world-strangling
Air Trust.

At the head of this victorious army, this flood triumphant of the
embattled proletaire, Herzog's staring eyes caught a moment's glimpse of
a dreaded face--the face of Gabriel Armstrong.

Gasping, the coward and tool of the world-masters made one supreme
decision. Close by, a rack of vials stood. He whirled to it, snatched
out a tiny bottle and waiting not even to draw the cork--craunched the
bottle, glass and all, in his fang-like, uneven teeth.

An instant change swept over him. His staring eyes closed, his head fell
forward, his whole body collapsed like an empty sack. He fell, twitched
once or twice, and was dead--dead ere the attackers could reach the door
of steel where his bestial masters had betrayed him.

Thus perished Herzog, coward and tool, a victim of the very forces he
himself had helped create.

And at the moment of his death, the masters he had cringed to and had
served, sneering with scorn at him even in their mortal terror, were
tremblingly descending the long metal ladder to the impregnable vaults
of steel below.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE STORMING OF THE WORKS.


Plunged into the abyss of mist and flame by the attack of the Air Trust
_épervier_, Gabriel had abandoned himself for lost. Death, mercifully
swift, he had felt could be his only fate; and with this thought had
come no fear, but only a wild joy that he had shared this glorious
battle, sure to end in victory! This was his only thought--this, and a
quick vision of Catherine.

Then, as he hurtled down and over, whirling drunkenly in the void, all
clear perception left him. Everything became a swift blur, a rushing
confusion of terrible wind, and lurid light, and the wild roar of myriad
explosions.

Came a shock, a sudden checking of the plunge, a long and rapid glide,
as the DeVreeland stabilizer of the machine, asserting its automatic
action, brought it to a level keel once more.

But now the engine was stopped. Gabriel, realizing that some chance
still existed to save his life, wrenched madly at his levers.

"If I can volplane down!" he panted, sick and dizzy, "there may yet be
hope!"

Hope! Yes, but how tenuous! What chance had he, coasting to earth at
that low level, to avoid the detonating bombs, the aerial shrapnel being
hurled aloft, the poisonous gas, the surface-fire?

Here, there and yonder, terrific explosions were shattering the echoes,
as the Air Trust batteries swept the fog with their aeroplane-destroying
missiles. Whither should he steer? He knew not. All sense of direction
was lost, nor could the compass tell him anything. A glance at the
barometric gauge showed him an altitude of but 850 feet, and this was
decreasing with terrible rapidity.

Strive as he might, he could not check the swift descent.

"God send me a soft place to fall on!" he thought, grimly, still
clinging to his machine and laboring to jockey it under control.

Close by, a thunderous detonation crashed through the mist. His machine
reeled and swerved, then plunged more swiftly still. All became vague,
to Gabriel--a dream--a nightmare!

_Crash!_

Flung from the seat, he sprawled through treetops, caught himself, fell
to a lower limb, slid off and landed among thick bushes; and through
these came to earth.

The wrecked 'plane, whirling away and down, fell crashing into the river
that rushed cascading by, and vanished in the firelit mist.

Stunned, yet half-conscious, Gabriel presently sat up and pressed his
right hand to his head. His left arm felt numb and useless; and when he
tried to raise it, he found it refused his will.

"Where am I, now, I'd like to know?" he muttered. "Not dead, anyhow--not
_yet_!"

A continuous roar of explosions shuddered the air, mingled with the
booming of the mighty Falls. Shouts and cheers and the rattle of
machine-guns assailed his ear. The glare of the search-lights, through
the mist and steam, was darkened momentarily by thick, greasy coils of
smoke, shot through by violent flashes of light as explosions took
place.

Gabriel struggled to his feet, and peered about him,

"Still alive!" said he. "And I must get back into the fight! That's all
that matters, now--the fight!"

He knew not, yet, where he was; but this mattered nothing. His machine
had, in fact, fallen near the river bank, in the eastern section of
Prospect Park, beyond the Goat Island bridge--this region of the Park
having been left outside the fortifications, in the extension of the Air
Trust plant.

The trees, here, had saved his life. Had he smashed to earth a hundred
yards further north, he would have been shattered against high walls and
roofs.

Still giddy, but sensing no pain from his injured left arm, Gabriel made
way toward the scene of conflict. He knew nothing of how the tide of
battle was going; nothing of his position; nothing as to what men he
would first meet, his comrades or the enemy.

But for these considerations he had no thought. His only idea, fixed and
grim, was "The fight!" Dazed though he still was, he nerved himself for
action.

And so, pressing onward through the livid glare, through the night
shattered by stupendous detonations, he drew his revolver and broke into
a run.

Strange evidences of the battle now became evident. He saw an unexploded
grenade lying beside a wounded man who grasped at him and moaned with
pain. Over a wrecked motor-car, greasy smoke was rising, as it burned.
Louder shouting drew him down a path to the left. Masses of moving
figures became dimly visible, through the mist. And now, stabs of fire
pierced the confusion and clamorous night.

Gabriel jerked up his revolver, as he ran, the terrible weapon shooting
bullets charged with hydrocyanic-acid gas.

A man rose before him, shouting.

Gabriel levelled the weapon; but a glimpse of red ribbon in the other's
coat brought it down again.

"Comrade!" cried he. "Where's the attack?"

The other pointed.

"Gabriel! Is that you?" he gasped, staring.

"Yes! I fell--machine smashed--come on!"

"Hurt?"

"No! Arm, maybe. No matter! God! What's this?"

Toward them a sudden swirl of men came sweeping, stumbling, shouting, in
pandemonium.

"Our men!" cried Gabriel, starting forward again. "We're being driven!
Rally, here! Rally!"

Beyond, a louder crackling sounded. Here, there, men plunged down. The
retreat was becoming a rout!

Yelling, Gabriel flung himself upon the men.

"Back there!" he vociferated. "Back, and at the walls! Come on, boys,
now! Come on!"

His voice, well known to nearly all, thrilled them again with new
determination. A shout rose up; it swelled, deepened, roared to majestic
volume.

Then the tide turned.

Back went the fighting men of the great Revolution. back at the
machine-guns, mounted in the breached walls.

Gabriel was caught and whirled along in that living tide. He found
himself at its crest, its foremost wave. Behind him, a roaring, rushing
river of men. Before the Inner Citadel.

Gathering speed and weight as it rolled up, the wave broke like an ocean
surge over a crumbling dyke.

Down went the Air Trust gunners and the guns, down, down to
annihilation!

Through the breach, foaming and swelling with irresistible power burst
the tides of victory.

Silenced now were the Trust guns. The steam-jets had none to man them.
Far aloft, a last explosion told the death story of the final
_épervier_.

Here and there, from windows and corners of the wrecked and blazing
plant, a little intermittent firing still continued; but now the hearts
of these Air Trust defenders--scabs, thugs and scourings of the
slum--had turned to water, in face of the triumphant army of the working
class.

They fled, those mercenaries, and all the ways and inner
strongholds--such as still were left--now lay open to Gabriel and his
comrades.

Lighted by the blazing buildings and the vast fire torch of an
oxygen-tank off to eastward, they stormed the final citadel, the steel
and concrete laboratories, heart and soul and center of the hellish
world-conspiracy.

Stormed it, as it began to blaze and crumble; stormed it, in search of
Flint and Waldron, would-be murderers of the world.

Stormed it, only to see Herzog gnash his teeth upon the flask, and
fall, and die; only to know that there, within the rock-hewn,
steel-lined tanks, below, their enemies had still outwitted them!

The swift onrush of the fire drove the victors back.

"_Out, comrades! Out of here_!" shouted Gabriel, facing the attackers.

None too soon. Hardly had they beaten a retreat, back into the vast
courtyard again, strewn with the dead, when a second oxygen tank
exploded, overwhelming the laboratory building with tons of flying
steel.

Leaping toward the zenith, a giant tongue of flame roared heavenward. So
intense the heat had now become, that the solid brick and concrete
walls, exposed to the direct verberation of the flame, began to crack
and crumble.

Gabriel ordered a general retreat of the attacking army. Victory was
won; and to stay near that gushing tornado of flame, with new explosions
bound to occur as the other oxygen tanks let go, must mean annihilation.

So the triumphant Army of the Proletaire fell back and back still
further, out into the wrecked and trampled Park, and all through the
city, where shattered buildings, many of them ablaze, and broken trees,
dead bodies, smashed ordnance and chaos absolute told something of the
story of that brief but terrible war.

Ringed round the perishing ruins of the Air Trust they stood, these
mute, thrilled thousands. Silence fell, now, as they watched the
roaring, ever-mounting flames that, whipped by the breeze, crashed
upward in long and cadenced tourbillions of white, of awful
incandescence.

And the river, ever-hurrying, always foaming on and downward to its
titanic plunge, sparkled with eerie lights in that vast glow. Its voice
of thunder seemed to chant the passing and the requiem of the Curse of
the World, Capitalism.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

DEATH IN THE PIT OF STEEL.


And Flint, now, what of him! And Waldron?

While the Air Trust plant was burning, crumbling, smashing down, what of
its masters, the masters of the world?

A sense of vast relief possessed them both, at first, as the steel door
clanged after them.

Now, for a time at least, they realized that they were safe, safe from
the People, safe from the awakened and triumphant Proletariat. Even now,
had they surrendered, they would have been spared; but nothing was
further from their thoughts than any treating with the despised and
hated enemy.

Foremost in the mind of each, now, was the thought that if they could
but stand siege, a day or so, the troops of the government--their
government and their troops, their own personal property--would
inevitably rescue them.

With this comforting belief, together they descended the long steel
staircase to the trap-door, passed through this, and climbed down the
metal ladder to the vast storage-vaults.

Here, everything was cool and quiet and well-lighted. Not yet had the
electric-generating plant been put out of action. Though all its workers
had either been drafted into the ranks of the Cosmos mercenaries, or
Herzog's regiments, or else had fled to hiding, still the huge turbines
and enormous dynamos were whirling, unattended. Thus, for the first few
minutes, in their living tomb, down over which the ruins of the now
white-hot laboratory-building had crashed, the world-masters had
electric light.

Reassured a little, they descended to the very bottom of the first huge
tank.

"God!" snarled Flint, as he breathed deeply and glared about him. "The
curs! The swine! To think of this, _this_ really happening! And to think
that if we hadn't got here just in time, they'd actually have--have used
violence on _us_--"

Waldron laughed brutally, his body still trembling and his face chalky.
His laugh echoed, hollowly, from the metal walls.

"You old fool!" he spat. "Canting old hypocrite to the last, eh?
Violence? What the devil do you expect? Rosewater and confetti? Violence
was all that ever held 'em, wasn't it? And when they slipped the leash,
naturally they retorted--that's all! Violence? You make me sick! Damned
lucky for us if we get through this yet, without violence, you whining
cur!"

Flint, for the first time hearing Waldron's honest opinion of him,
failed even to note it. All his panic-stricken ear had caught was the
note of hope, of survival.

Clutching eagerly at Waldron's sleeve, he cackled:

"If we get through? If we get through, you say? Then, in your opinion,
there _is_ a chance to get through? They can't get us here? We surely
shall be rescued?"

"Bah!" Waldron flung at him, some latent spark of courage still
smouldering in his sodden breast, whereas old Flint was craven to the
marrow. "You nauseate me! Afraid to die, eh? Well, so am I; but not so
damned paralyzed and sick with panic as all that! If you'd taken less
dope, the last twenty years, you'd have more nerve now, to face the
music! World-master, you? Eh? Playing the biggest game on earth--and
now, when things break bad, you squeal! Arrrh! You called me a quitter
once, you mealy-mouthed old Pecksniff! We'll see, now, who quits! We'll
see, at a show-down, who can face it, you or I!"

[Illustration: His fingers lost their hold--he dropped like a Plummet.]

Waldron's brutality, the hard, savage quality that all his life had made
him "Tiger" Waldron, now was beginning to reassert itself. His first
sheer panic over, a little manhood was returning. But as for Flint, no
manhood dwelt in him to be awakened. Instead, each moment found him more
abject and more pitiable. Like an old woman he now wrung his hands and
groaned, hysterically; and now he paced the steel floor of the vault
that was destined to be his tomb; and now he stopped again and stared
about him with wild eyes.

On all sides, sheer up a hundred feet or more, the smooth steel sides of
the vast oxygen tank rose, studded with long lines of rivets.

Near the top a dark aperture showed where the six-inch pipe joined the
tank; the pipe destined to fill it, when Herzog's last process--never,
now, to be completed--should have been done.

The huge floor, 150 feet in diameter, sloped gently downward toward the
center; and here yawned another pipe, covered by a grating--the pipe to
drain the liquid oxygen out to the pumping station.

So deeply set in the rock of the Niagara cliff was this stupendous
tank, and so cunningly surrounded by vacuum-chambers, that now no
faintest sound of the Falls was audible. All that betrayed the nearness
of the cataract was a faint, incessant trembling of the metal walls, as
though the solid ribs of Earth herself were shuddering with the impact
of the plunge.

Old Flint surveyed this extraordinary chamber with mingled feelings. It
surely offered absolute protection, for the present--or seemed to--but
his distressed mind conjured alarming pictures of the future, in case no
rescue came. Death by starvation, thirst and madness loomed before him.
Nervously he recommenced his pacing. Another terribly serious factor was
to be considered. He had now been three hours without his dose of
morphia, and his nerves were calling, tugging insistently for it.

"Rotten luck," he grumbled, "that I've got none with me!" Even there, in
the imminent presence of disaster and death, his mind reverted to the
poison, more necessary to him than food.

Waldron now had grown fairly calm. He stood leaning against the steel
ladder, down which they had descended. Choosing a cigar, he proceeded to
light up.

"Might as well be comfortable while we wait," said he. "I only wish we
had a couple of chairs, down here. Oversight on our part that we didn't
have some steel ones put in, and a line of canned goods and a few quarts
of Scotch. The floor's a bit damp and cold to sit on, and I want a drink
damn bad!"

Flint swung about and faced him, pale and shaking, tortured with fear
and with longing for his dope.

"You--you don't think it _will_ be long, eh, do you?" he demanded. "Not
long before we're taken out?"

Waldron shrugged his shoulders and blew a long, thin arrow of smoke
athwart the brightly-lighted air.

"Search me!" he exclaimed. "To judge by what was happening when we made
our exit, the Plant must be a mess, by this time. We seem to have been
checked, even if not mated, Flint. I must admit they caught us by
surprise. Caught us napping, damn them, after all! They were stronger
than we thought, Flint, and cleverer, and better organized. And so--"

"Don't say 'we,' curse you!" snarled Flint. "Blame yourself, if you want
to, but leave me out! _I_ knew there was trouble due, I tell you. _I_
saw it coming! Who's been trying to crush the swine completely, if not
I? Who's worked night and day to have those bills put through, and who
had the army increased, and conscription started? Who's driven the
President to back all sorts of things? Who's forced them? Who made the
National Mounted Police a reality, if not I? Damn you, don't include
_me_ in your blame!"

Waldron shrugged his shoulders, and smoked contemplatively.

"Suit yourself," he answered. "If we both die, down here, it won't
matter much either way."

"Die?" quavered the old jackal, suddenly forgetting his rage and peering
about with furtive eyes. "Did you say die, Wally? No, no! You didn't say
that! You didn't mean that, surely!"

Waldron smiled, evilly, joying in this abject fear of his hated partner.

"Oh, yes, I did, though," he retorted. "It's quite possible, you know.
In case our government--yours, if you prefer--can't get troops through,
here, or a big general revolution sweeps things, inside a day or two,
we're done. We'll starve and stifle, here, sure as shooting!"

"No, no, no! Not that, not _that_!" whimpered Flint, shuddering. "I
can't die, yet. I--I'm not ready for it! There's all that missionary
work of mine not yet done, and my huge international Sunday School
League to perfect; and there's the tremendous ten-million-dollar
Cathedral of Saint Luke the Pious that I'm having built on Riverside
Drive, and there's--"

"Cut it!" gibed Waldron, spitting with very disgust. "If your time's
come, Flint, you'll die, cathedrals or no cathedrals. Your Sunday
schools won't save you any more than my investments will--which have
largely been wine, women and song. As a matter of fact, if it comes to
starvation, if we aren't rescued and taken out from under the red-hot
wreckage that's on top of us, I'll outlive _you_! I can exist on my
surplus adipose tissue, for a while; but you--_you're_ nothing but skin
and bone. You'll starve far quicker than I will, old man."

"Don't! Don't!" implored the shaking wretch, covering his eyes with both
trembling hands.

"Moral, you oughtn't to have been a dope-fiend, all these years,"
continued Waldron, cuttingly, determined that now, once for all, his
despised partner should hear the truth. "How you've lived so long, as it
is, I don't understand. When I tried to marry Kate, and failed, I
reckoned you'd pass over in almost no time--and, by the way, that's why
I was so insistent. But you've disappointed me, Flint. Disappointed me
sorely. You still live. It won't be long, however. Down here, you know,
you simply can't get any dope. In a little while you'll begin to suffer
the torments of Hell. You'll die of starvation and drug 'yen,' Flint,
and you'll die mad, mad, _mad_! Understand me! Mad, for morphine! And I,
I shall watch you, and exult!"

Flint cringed, shuddering and stopped his ears. His partner, gloating
over him, smoked faster now. A strange light shone in his eyes. His
pulse beat faster than usual, and a certain extravagance of thought and
speech had become manifest in him.

He tried to compose himself, feeling that he must not push the cowardly
Flint too far, but his ideas refused to flow in orderly sequence.
Wonderingly he stared at his cigar, the tip of which was now glowing
more brightly than before.

And then, suddenly sniffing the air he understood. His eyes widened with
horror absolute. He started forward, gasped and cried:

"_Flint! Flint! The oxygen is coming in!_"

Uncomprehending, the old man still stood there, mumbling to himself. His
face was now tinged with unusual color, and his heart, too, was thumping
strangely.

"_Oxygen_!" shouted Waldron, shaking him by the shoulder. "It--it's
leaking in, here, somewhere! If we can't stop it--_we're dead men_!"

"Eh? _What_?" stammered the Billionaire, staring at him with eyes of
half-intoxicated fear. "What d'you mean, the oxygen? In--in here?"

"_In here_!" cried "Tiger," casting a wild and terrible gaze about him
at the vast, empty trap of steel. "Can't you smell it? That ozone
smell? My God, we're lost! We're lost!"

"You're crazy!" retorted Flint, with vigor. "Nothing of the sort could
happen!" His head was held high, now, and new life seemed surging
through that spent and drug-wrecked body. "There's no way those curs
could have turned on any gas, here. You're crazy, ha! ha! ha! Insane,
eh? A good joke--capital joke, that! I must tell it at the Union League
Club! 'Tiger' Waldron, suddenly insane, and--ha! ha! ha!"

He burst into a long, shrill cacchination. Already his face was scarlet
and his mind a whirl. Though neither man understood the reason, yet the
fact remained that one of the last great explosions had ruptured a
subterranean check-valve closing the six-inch pipe that was to feed the
storage-tanks; and now a swift, huge stream of pure oxygen gas was
rushing at tremendous velocity into the vast chamber of steel.

Waldron, his heart leaping as though it would burst his ribs, raised a
fist to strike down his insulter; then, with drunken indecision, joined
in the maniacal laughter of the staggering old man.

In their ears a strange, wild humming now became audible. Lights danced
before their eyes; their senses reeled, and violent, extravagant ideas
surged through their drunken brains.

"_Ha! Ha! Ha!_" rang Waldron's crazy laughter, echoing the old man's.
All at once, his cigar broke into flame. Cursing, he hurled it away,
staggering back against the ladder and stood there swaying, clutching it
to hold himself from falling.

There he stood, and stared at Flint, with eyes that started from his
head, with panting breath and crimson face.

The old man, in a sudden revulsion of terror, was now grovelling along
the floor, by one of the massive walls, clawing at the steel with
impotent hands and screaming mingled prayers and oaths. His ravings,
horrible to hear, echoed through the great tank, now swiftly filling
with gas.

"Help! Help!" he screamed. "Save me--my God--save me--. Let me out, let
me out! A million, if you let me out! A billion--_the whole world_! The
world, ha! ha! ha! Damn it to Hell--the world, I say! I'll give the
world to be let out! It's mine--I own it--_all, all mine!_ Ha! Dogs! You
would rise up against your master and your God, would you? But it's no
use--we'll beat you yet--out! _out_!--the world--I own it! All this
plant--this gas, all mine! My oxygen--ah! it chokes me! _Help!
Help!_--Swine! I'll scourge you yet--_absolute power_--_the world_--!"

With one final spark of energy, panting, his heart flailing itself to
death under the pitiless urge of the oxygen, old Flint sprang up, ran
wildly, blindly straight across the steel floor, and, screaming
blasphemies like a soul in Hell, dashed into the opposite wall.

He recoiled, staggered, spun round and fell sprawling most
horribly--stone dead.

Waldron, at sight of this awful end, felt an uncontrollable terror sweep
over his drunk and maddened senses. Though all his blood was leaping in
his arteries, and his breath coming so fast it choked him, yet a
moment's seeming sanity possessed his reeling brain.

"The door! The door, up there!" he screamed, with a wild, terrible
curse.

Then, turning toward the ladder, in spite of his fat and flabby muscles
quivering in terrible spasms, he ran up the long steel structure with a
supreme and ape-like agility.

Fifty feet he made, seventy-five, ninety--

But, all at once, something seemed to break in his overtaxed heart.

A blackness swam before his dazzled eyes. His head fell back. Unnerved,
his fingers lost their hold. And, whirling over and over in midair, he
dropped like a plummet.

By one wall lay Flint's body. At the foot of the ladder, like a crushed
sack of bones, sprawled the corpse of "Tiger" Waldron.

And still the rushing oxygen, with which they two had hoped to dominate
the world, poured through the six-inch main, far, far above--senseless
matter, blindly avenging itself upon the rash and evil men who impiously
had sought to cage and master it!



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

VISIONS.


Thus perished Flint and Waldron, scourges of the earth. Thus they died,
slain by the very force which they had planned would betray mankind and
deliver it into their chains. Thus vanished, forever, the most sinister
and cruel minds ever evolved upon this planet; the greatest menace the
human race had ever known; the evil Masters of the World.

And as they died, massed around their perished Air Trust plant, a throng
of silent, earnest watchers stood, with faces illumined by the symbolic,
sacrificial flames--a throng of emancipated workers, of toilers from
whose bowed shoulders now forever had been lifted the frightful menace
of a universal bondage.

Explosion after explosion burst from the tortured Inferno of the vast
plant. Buildings came crashing, reeling, thundering down; walls fell,
amid vast, belching clouds of dust and smoke; a white, consuming sheet
of flame crackled across the sinister and evil place; and in its wake
glowed incandescent ruins.

Then, in one final burst of thunderous tumult, the hugest tank of all,
exploding with a roar like that of Doom itself, hurled belching flames
on high.

For many miles--in Buffalo, Rochester, Toronto and scores of cities on
both sides of the Great Lakes--silent multitudes watched the glare
against the midnight sky; and many wept for joy; and many prayed. All
understood the meaning of that sight. The light upon the heavens seemed
a signal and a beacon--a promise that the Old Times had passed away
forever--a covenant of the New.

And, as the final explosion shattered the Temple of Bondage to wreckage,
flung it far into the rushing river and swept it over the leaping,
thundering Falls, the news flashed on a thousand wires, to all cities
and all lands; and though the mercenaries of the two dead world-masters
still might struggle and might strive to beat the toilers back to
slavery again, their days were numbered and their powers forever broken.

Together in the doorway of the refuge at Port Colborne, Catherine stood
with Gabriel, watching the beacon of liberty upon the heavens. The
light, a halo round her eager face, showed his powerful figure and the
smile of triumph in his eyes. His left arm, broken by the fall in the
aeroplane, now rested in a sling. His right, protecting in its strength,
was round the girl. And as her head found shelter and rest, at length,
upon his shoulder, she, too, smiled; and her eyes seemed to see visions
in the glory of the sky.

"Visions!" said she, softly, as though voicing a universal thought. "Do
you behold them, too?"

He nodded.

"Yes," he answered, "and they are beautiful and sweet and pure!"

"Visions that we now shall surely see?"

"Shall surely see!" he echoed; and a little silence fell. Far off, they
seemed to hear a vast and thousand-throated cheering, that the
night-wind brought to them in long and heart-inspiring cadences.

"Gabriel," she said, at last.

"Well?"

"I wish _he_ might have seen them, and have understood! In spite of all
he did, and was, he was my father!"

"Yes," answered Gabriel, sensing her grief. "But would you have had him
live through this? Live, with the whole world out of his grasp, again?
Live, with all his plans wrecked and broken? Live on in this new time,
where he could have comprehended nothing? Live on, in misery and rage
and impotence?

"Your father was an old man, Catherine. You know as well as I
do--better, perhaps--the whole trend of his life's thought and ambition.
Even if he'd lived, he couldn't have changed, now, at his age. It would
have been an utter impossibility. Why say more?"

Catherine made no reply; but in her very attitude of trust and
confidence, Gabriel knew he read the comfort he had given her.

Silence, a while. At last she spoke.

"Visions!" she whispered. "Wonderful visions of the glad, new time! How
do you see them, Gabriel?"

"How do I see them?" His face seemed to glow with inspiration under the
shining light in the far heavens. "I see them as the realization of a
time, now really close at hand, when this old world of ours shall be, as
it never yet has been, in truth civilized, emancipated, free. When the
night of ignorance, kingcraft, priestcraft, servility and prejudice,
bigotry and superstition shall be forever swept away by the dawn of
intelligence and universal education, by scientific truth and light--by
understanding and by fearlessness.

"When Science shall no longer be 'the mystery of a class,' but shall
become the heritage of all mankind. When, because much is known by all,
nothing shall be dreaded by any. When all mankind shall be absolutely
its own master, strong, and brave, and free!"

"Like you, Gabriel!" the girl exclaimed, from her heart.

"Don't say that!" he disclaimed. "Don't--"

She put her hand over his mouth.

"Shhhh!" she forbade him. "You mustn't argue, now, because your arm's
just been set and we don't want any fever. If my dreams include you,
too, Gabriel, don't try to tell me I'm mistaken--because I'm not, to
begin with, and I _know_ I'm not!"

He laughed, and shook his head.

"Do you realize," said he, "that when it comes to bravery, and strength,
and the splendid freedom of an emancipated soul, I must look to _you_
for light and leading?"

"Don't!" she whispered. "Look only to the future--to the newer, better
world now coming to birth! The time which is to know no poverty, no
crime, no children's blood wrung out for dividends!

"The future when no longer Idleness can enslave Labor to its tasks. When
every man who will, may labor freely, whether with hand or brain, and
receive the full value of his toil, undiminished by any theft or
purloining whatsoever!"

"The future," he continued, as she paused, "when crowns, titles, swords,
rifles and dreadnaughts shall be known only by history. When the earth
and the fulness thereof shall belong to all Earth's people; and when its
soil need be no longer fertilized with human blood, its crops no longer
be brought forth watered by sweat and tears.

"Such have been my visions and my dreams, Catherine--a few of them. Now
they are coming true! And other dreams and other visions--dreams of you
and visions of our life together--what of them?"

"Why need you ask, Gabriel?" she answered, raising her lips to his.

The sound of singing, a triumphal chorus of the accomplished Revolution,
a vast and million-throated song, seemed wafted to them on the wings of
night.

And the pure stars, witnessing their love and troth, looked down upon
them from the heavens where shone the fire-glow of the Great
Emancipation.


THE END.



[Transcriber's note: In the following paragraph, I corrected the second
"Flint" to "Waldron":

"Very likely," answered Flint, who had now at last entirely recovered
his sang-froid. "But in that event, our work would be at a standstill.
No, Flint, we mustn't oppose this fellow. Better let the check go
through, if he has nerve enough to fill it out and cash it. He won't
dare gouge very deep; and no matter what he takes, it won't be a drop in
the ocean, compared to the golden flood now almost within our grasp!"]





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