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Title: A Hoosier Chronicle
Author: Nicholson, Meredith, 1866-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Hoosier Chronicle" ***

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By Meredith Nicholson

     A HOOSIER CHRONICLE. With illustrations.
     THE SIEGE OF THE SEVEN SUITORS. With illustrations.
     HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
     Boston and New York



A HOOSIER CHRONICLE

     "Dreams books, are each a world and books, we know,
     Are a substantial world, both pure and good;
     Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
     Our pastime and our happiness will grow"

     Wordsworth
     in
     Personal Talk

[Illustration: SYLVIA AND PROFESSOR KELTON]

A HOOSIER
CHRONICLE

MEREDITH NICHOLSON

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
BY F.C. YOHN

BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge

_Published March 1912_



TO

EVANS WOOLLEN, ESQ.


The wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand which perishes
in the twisting; that the State must follow and not lead the character
and progress of the citizen; the strongest usurper is quickly got rid
of; and they only who build on Ideas, build for eternity; and that the
form of government which prevails is the expression of what cultivation
exists in the population which permits it. The law is only a memorandum.
We are superstitious, and esteem the statute somewhat; so much life as
it has in the character of living men is its force.

EMERSON: _Politics_.



CONTENTS

     I.  My LADY OF THE CONSTELLATIONS            1
    II.  SYLVIA GOES VISITING                    20
   III.  A SMALL DINNER AT MRS. OWEN'S           39
    IV.  WE LEARN MORE OF SYLVIA                 62
     V.  INTRODUCING MR. DANIEL HARWOOD          79
    VI.  HOME LIFE OF HOOSIER STATESMEN          89
   VII.  SYLVIA AT LAKE WAUPEGAN                113
  VIII.  SILK STOCKINGS AND BLUE OVERALLS       136
    IX.  DANIEL HARWOOD RECEIVES AN OFFER       152
     X.  IN THE BOORDMAN BUILDING               168
    XI.  THE MAP ABOVE BASSETT'S DESK           193
   XII.  BLURRED WINDOWS                        212
  XIII.  THE WAYS OF MARIAN                     225
   XIV.  THE PASSING OF ANDREW KELTON           246
    XV.  A SURPRISE AT THE COUNTRY CLUB         257
   XVI.  "STOP, LOOK, LISTEN"                   271
  XVII.  A STROLL ACROSS THE CAMPUS             288
 XVIII.  THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD              297
   XIX.  THE THUNDER OF THE CAPTAINS            321
    XX.  INTERVIEWS IN TWO KEYS                 350
   XXI.  A SHORT HORSE SOON CURRIED             374
  XXII.  THE GRAY SISTERHOOD                    393
 XXIII.  A HOUSE-BOAT ON THE KANKAKEE           403
  XXIV.  A WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY BALL           418
   XXV.  THE LADY OF THE DAGUERREOTYPE          439
  XXVI.  APRIL VISTAS                           460
 XXVII.  HEAT LIGHTNING                         474
XXVIII.  A CHEERFUL BRINGER OF BAD TIDINGS      497
  XXIX.  A SONG AND A FALLING STAR              511
   XXX.  THE KING HATH SUMMONED HIS PARLIAMENT  534
  XXXI.  SYLVIA ASKS QUESTIONS                  542
 XXXII.  "MY BEAUTIFUL ONE"                     560
XXXIII.  THE MAN OF SHADOWS                     570
 XXXIV.  WE GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING            591
         A POSTSCRIPT BY THE CHRONICLER         602



ILLUSTRATIONS


SYLVIA AND PROFESSOR KELTON         _Frontispiece_
WHOEVER WROTE THAT LETTER WAS TROUBLED ABOUT SYLVIA 284
A SUDDEN FIERCE ANGER BURNED IN HER HEART           458
SYLVIA MUST KNOW JUST WHAT WE KNOW                  556

_From drawings by F.C. Yohn_



A HOOSIER CHRONICLE



CHAPTER I

MY LADY OF THE CONSTELLATIONS


Sylvia was reading in her grandfather's library when the bell tinkled.
Professor Kelton had few callers, and as there was never any certainty
that the maid-of-all-work would trouble herself to answer, Sylvia put
down her book and went to the door. Very likely it was a student or a
member of the faculty, and as her grandfather was not at home Sylvia was
quite sure that the interruption would be the briefest.

The Kelton cottage stood just off the campus, and was separated from it
by a narrow street that curved round the college and stole, after many
twists and turns, into town. This thoroughfare was called "Buckeye
Lane," or more commonly the "Lane." The college had been planted
literally in the wilderness by its founders, at a time when Montgomery,
for all its dignity as the seat of the county court, was the most
colorless of Hoosier hamlets, save only as the prevailing mud colored
everything. Buckeye Lane was originally a cow-path, in the good old
times when every reputable villager kept a red cow and pastured it in
the woodlot that subsequently became Madison Athletic Field. In those
days the Madison faculty, and their wives and daughters, seeking social
diversion among the hospitable townfolk, picked their way down the Lane
by lantern light. An ignorant municipal council had later, when natural
gas threatened to boom the town into cityhood, changed Buckeye Lane to
University Avenue, but the community refused to countenance any such
impious trifling with tradition. And besides, Madison prided herself
then as now on being a college that taught the humanities in all
soberness, according to ideals brought out of New England by its
founders. The proposed change caused an historic clash between town and
gown in which the gown triumphed. University forsooth!

Professor Kelton's house was guarded on all sides by trees and
shrubbery, and a tall privet hedge shut it off from the Lane. He tended
with his own hands a flower garden whose roses were the despair of all
the women of the community. The clapboards of the simple
story-and-a-half cottage had faded to a dull gray, but the little plot
of ground in which the house stood was cultivated with scrupulous care.
The lawn was always fresh and crisp, the borders of privet were neatly
trimmed and the flower beds disposed effectively. A woman would have
seen at once that this was a man's work; it was all a little too
regular, suggesting engineering methods rather than polite gardening.

Once you had stepped inside the cottage the absence of the feminine
touch was even more strikingly apparent. Book shelves crowded to the
door,--open shelves, that had the effect of pressing at once upon the
visitor the most formidable of dingy volumes, signifying that such
things were of moment to the master of the house. There was no parlor,
for the room that had originally been used as such was now shelf-hung
and book-lined, and served as an approach to the study into which it
opened. The furniture was old and frayed as to upholstery, and the
bric-à-brac on an old-fashioned what-not was faintly murmurous of some
long-vanished feminine hand. The scant lares and penates were sufficient
to explain something of this shiplike trimness of the housekeeping. The
broken half of a ship's wheel clung to the wall above the narrow grate,
and the white marble mantel supported a sextant, a binocular, and other
incidentals of a shipmaster's profession. An engraving of the battle of
Trafalgar and a portrait of Farragut spoke further of the sea. If we
take a liberty and run our eyes over the bookshelves we find many
volumes relating to the development of sea power and textbooks of an old
vintage on the sailing of ships and like matters. And if we were to pry
into the drawers of an old walnut cabinet in the study we should find
illuminative data touching the life of Andrew Kelton. It is well for us
to know that he was born in Indiana, as far as possible from salt water;
and that, after being graduated from Annapolis, he served his country
until retired for disabilities due to a wound received at Mobile Bay. He
thereafter became and continued for fifteen years the professor of
mathematics and astronomy at Madison College, in his native state; and
it is there that we find him, living peacefully with his granddaughter
Sylvia in the shadow of the college.

Comfort had set its seal everywhere, but it was keyed to male ideals of
ease and convenience; the thousand and one things in which women express
themselves were absent. The eye was everywhere struck by the strict
order of the immaculate small rooms and the snugness with which every
article had been fitted to its place. The professor's broad desk was
free of litter; his tobacco jar neighbored his inkstand on a clean,
fresh blotter. It is a bit significant that Sylvia, in putting down her
book to answer the bell, marked her place carefully with an envelope,
for Sylvia, we may say at once, was a young person disciplined to
careful habits.

"Is this Professor Kelton's? I should like very much to see him," said
the young man to whom she opened.

"I'm sorry, but he isn't at home," replied Sylvia, with that directness
which, we shall find, characterized her speech.

The visitor was neither a member of the faculty nor a student, and as
her grandfather was particularly wary of agents she was on guard against
the stranger.

"It is important for me to see him. If he will be back later I can come
again."

The young man did not look like an agent; he carried no telltale
insignia. He was tall and straight and decidedly blond, and he smiled
pleasantly as he fanned himself with his straw hat. Where his brown hair
parted there was a cowlick that flung an untamable bang upon his
forehead, giving him a combative look that his smile belied. He was a
trifle too old for a senior, Sylvia reflected, soberly studying his
lean, smooth-shaven face, but not nearly old enough to be a professor;
and except the pastor of the church which she attended, and the
physician who had been called to see her in her childish ailments, all
men in her world were either students or teachers. The town men were
strange beings, whom Professor Kelton darkly called Philistines, and
their ways and interests were beyond her comprehension.

"If you will wait I think I may be able to find him. He may have gone to
the library or to the observatory, or for a walk. Won't you please come
in?"

Her gravity amused the young man, who did not think it so serious a
matter to gain an interview with a retired professor in a small college.
They debated, with much formality on both sides, whether Sylvia should
seek her grandfather or merely direct the visitor to places where he
would be likely to find him; but as the stranger had never seen
Professor Kelton, they concluded that it would be wiser for Sylvia to do
the seeking.

She ushered the visitor into the library, where it was cooler than on
the doorstep, and turned toward the campus. It is to be noted that
Sylvia moves with the buoyant ease of youth. She crosses the Lane and is
on her own ground now as she follows the familiar walks that link the
college buildings together. The students who pass her grin cheerfully
and tug at their caps; several, from a distance, wave a hand at her. One
young gentleman, leaning from the upper window of the chemical
laboratory, calls, "Hello, Sylvia," and jerks his head out of sight.
Sylvia's chin lifts a trifle, disdainful of the impudence of sophomores.
She has recognized the culprit's voice, and will deal with him later in
her own fashion.

Sylvia is olive-skinned and dark of eye. And they are interesting
eyes--those of Sylvia, luminous and eager--and not fully taken in at a
glance. They call us back for further parley by reason of their grave
and steady gaze. There is something appealing in her that takes hold of
the heart, and we remember her after she has passed us by. We shall not
pretend that her features are perfect, but their trifling irregularities
contribute to an impression of individuality and character. Her mouth,
for example, is a bit large, but it speaks for good humor. Even at
fifteen, her lips suggest firmness and decision. Her forehead is high
and broad, and her head is well set on straight shoulders. Her dark hair
is combed back smoothly and braided and the braid is doubled and tied
with a red ribbon. The same color flashes in a flowing bow at her
throat. These notes will serve to identify Sylvia as she crosses the
campus of this honorable seat of learning on a June afternoon.

This particular June afternoon fell somewhat later than the second
consulship of Grover Cleveland and well within the ensuing period of
radicalism. The Hoosiers with whom we shall have to do are not those set
forth by Eggleston, but the breed visible to-day in urban marketplaces,
who submit themselves meekly to tailors and schoolmasters. There is
always corn in their Egypt, and no village is so small but it lifts a
smokestack toward a sky that yields nothing to Italy's. The heavens are
a soundingboard devised for the sole purpose of throwing back the
mellifluous voices of native orators. At the cross-roads store,
philosophers, perched upon barrel and soap-box (note the soap-box),
clinch in endless argument. Every county has its Theocritus who sings
the nearest creek, the bloom of the may-apple, the squirrel on the
stake-and-rider fence, the rabbit in the corn, the paw-paw thicket where
fruit for the gods lures farm boys on frosty mornings in golden autumn.
In olden times the French _voyageur_, paddling his canoe from Montreal
to New Orleans, sang cheerily through the Hoosier wilderness, little
knowing that one day men should stand all night before bulletin boards
in New York and Boston awaiting the judgment of citizens of the Wabash
country upon the issues of national campaigns. The Hoosier, pondering
all things himself, cares little what Ohio or Illinois may think or do.
He ventures eastward to Broadway only to deepen his satisfaction in the
lights of Washington or Main Street at home. He is satisfied to live
upon a soil more truly blessed than any that lies beyond the borders of
his own commonwealth. No wonder Ben Parker, of Henry County, born in a
log cabin, attuned his lyre to the note of the first blue-bird and
sang,--

     'Tis morning and the days are long.

It is always morning and all the days are long in Indiana.

Sylvia was three years old when she came to her grandfather's. This she
knew from the old servant; but where her earlier years had been spent or
why or with whom she did not know; and when her grandfather was so kind,
and her studies so absorbing, it did not seem worth while to trouble
about any state of existence antedating her first clear
recollections--which were of days punctuated and governed by the college
bell, and of people who either taught or studied, with glimpses now and
then of the women and children of the professors' households. There were
times, when the winds whispered sharply round the cottage on winter
nights, or when the snow lay white on the campus and in the woods
beyond, when some memory taunted her, teasing and luring afar off; and
once, as she walked with her grandfather on a day in March, and he
pointed to a flock of wild geese moving _en échelon_ toward the Kankakee
and the far white Canadian frontier, she experienced a similar vague
thrill of consciousness, as though remembering that elsewhere, against
blue spring sky, she had watched similar migrant battalions sweeping
into the north.

She had never known a playmate. The children of the college circle went
to school in town, while she, from her sixth year, was taught
systematically by her grandfather. The faithful oversight of Mary, the
maid-of-all-work, constituted Sylvia's sole acquaintance with anything
approximating maternal care. Mary, unknown to Sylvia and Professor
Kelton, sometimes took counsel--the privilege of her long residence in
the Lane--of some of the professors' wives, who would have been glad to
help directly but for the increasing reserve that had latterly marked
Professor Kelton's intercourse with his friends and neighbors.

Sylvia was vaguely aware of the existence of social distinctions, but in
Buckeye Lane these were entirely negligible; they were, in fact, purely
academic, to be studied with other interesting phenomena by spectacled
professors in quiet laboratories. It may, however, be remarked that
Sylvia had sometimes gazed, not without a twinge, upon the daughter of a
village manufacturer whom she espied flashing through the Lane on a
black pony, and this young person symbolized all worldly grandeur to
Sylvia's adoring vision. Sylvia knew the world chiefly from her
reading,--Miss Alcott's and Mrs. Whitney's stories at first, and "St.
Nicholas" every month, on a certain day that found her meeting the
postman far across the campus; and she had read all the "Frank"
books,--the prized possessions of a neighbor's boy,--from the Maine
woods through the gunboat and prairie exploits of that delectable hero.
At fourteen she had fallen upon Scott and Bulwer and had devoured them
voraciously during the long vacation, in shady corners of the deserted
campus; and she was now fixing Dickens's characters ineffaceably in her
mind by Cruikshank's drawings. She was well grounded in Latin and had a
fair reading knowledge of French and German. It was true of Sylvia, then
and later, that poetry did not greatly interest her, and this had been
attributed to her undoubted genius for mathematics. She was old for her
age, people said, and the Lane wondered what her grandfather meant to
do with her.

The finding of Professor Kelton proves to be, as Sylvia had surmised, a
simple matter. He is at work in a quiet alcove of the college library, a
man just entering sixty, with white, close-trimmed hair and beard. The
eyes he raises to his granddaughter are like hers, and there is a
further resemblance in the dark skin. His face brightens and his eyes
kindle as he clasps Sylvia's slender, supple hand.

"It must be a student--are you sure he isn't a student?"

Sylvia was confident of it.

"Very likely an agent, then. They're very clever about disguising
themselves. I never see agents, you know, Sylvia."

Sylvia declared her belief that the stranger was not an agent, and the
professor glanced at his book reluctantly.

"Very well; I will see him. I wish you would run down these references
for me, Sylvia. Don't trouble about those I have checked off. It can't
be possible I am following a false clue. I'm sure I printed that article
in the 'Popular Science Monthly,' for I recall perfectly that John Fiske
wrote me a letter about it. Come home when you have finished and we'll
take our usual walk together."

Professor Kelton had relinquished his chair in the college when Sylvia
came to live with him twelve years before the beginning of this history,
and had shut himself away from the world; but no one knew why. Sylvia
was the child of his only daughter, of whom no one ever spoke, though
the older members of the faculty had known her, as they had known also
the professor's wife, now dead many years. Professor Kelton had changed
with the coming of Sylvia, so his old associates said; and their wives
wondered that he should have undertaken the bringing-up of the child
without other aid than that of the Irishwoman who had cooked his meals
and taken care of the house ever since Mrs. Kelton's death. He was still
a special lecturer at Madison, and he derived some income from the sale
of his textbooks in mathematics, which he revised from time to time to
bring them in touch with changing educational methods.

He had given as his reason for resigning a wish to secure leisure for
writing, and he was known to suffer severely at times from the wounds
that had driven him from active naval service. But those who knew him
best imagined that he bore in his breast deeper wounds than those of
war. These old friends of the college circle wondered sometimes at the
strange passing of his daughter and only child, who had vanished from
their sight as a girl, never to return. They were men of quality, these
teachers who had been identified with the college so long; they and
their households were like a large family; and when younger men joined
the faculty and inquired, or when their wives asked perfectly natural
questions about Professor Kelton and Sylvia, their inquiries were met by
an evasion that definitely dismissed the matter. And out of this spirit,
which marked all the social intercourse of the college folk, affection
for Professor Kelton steadily increased, and its light fell upon Sylvia
abundantly. There was a particular smile for her into which much might
be read; there was a tenderness manifested toward her which communicated
itself to the students, who were proud to win her favor and were forever
seeking little excuses for bandying words with her when they met.

The tradition of Professor Kelton's scholarship had descended to Sylvia
amusingly. She had never attended school, but he had taught her
systematically at home, and his interests were hers. The students
attributed to her the most abstruse knowledge, and stories of her
precocity were repeated proudly by the Lane folk. Many evenings spent
with her grandfather at the observatory had not been wasted. She knew
the paths of the stars as she knew the walks of the campus. Dr.
Wandless, the president emeritus, addressed her always as "My Lady of
the Constellations," and told her solemnly that from much peering
through the telescope she had coaxed the stars into her own eyes.
Professor Kelton and his granddaughter were thus fully identified with
the college and its business, which was to impart knowledge,--an
old-fashioned but not yet wholly neglected function at Madison. She
reckoned time by semesters; the campus had always been her playground;
and the excitements of her life were those of a small and sober academic
community. The darkest tragedies she had known had, indeed, been related
to the life of the college,--the disciplining of the class of '01 for
publishing itself in numerals on the face of the court-house clock; the
recurring conflicts between town and gown that shook the community
every Washington's birthday; the predatory habits of the Greek
professor's cow, that botanized freely in alien gardens and occasionally
immured herself in Professor Kelton's lettuce frames; these and like
heroic matters had marked the high latitudes of Sylvia's life. In the
long vacations, when most of the faculty sought the Northern lakes, the
Keltons remained at home; and Sylvia knew all the trees of the campus,
and could tell you just what books she had read under particular maples
or elms.

Andrew Kelton was a mathematical scholar of high attainments. In the
field of astronomy he had made important discoveries, and he carried on
an extensive correspondence with observers of stellar phenomena in many
far corners of the world. His name in the Madison catalogue was followed
by a bewildering line of cabalistic letters testifying to the honor in
which other institutions of learning held him. Wishing to devise for him
a title that combined due recognition of both his naval exploits and his
fine scholarship, the undergraduates called him "Capordoc"; and it was
part of a freshman's initiation to learn that at all times and in all
places he was to stand and uncover when Professor Kelton passed by.

Professor Kelton's occasional lectures in the college were a feature of
the year, and were given in Mills Hall to accommodate the large audience
of students and town folk that never failed to assemble every winter to
hear him. For into discourses on astronomy he threw an immense amount of
knowledge of all the sciences, and once every year, though no one ever
knew when he would be moved to relate it, he told a thrilling story of
how once, guided by the stars, he had run a Confederate blockade in a
waterlogged ironclad under a withering fire from the enemy's batteries.
And when he had finished and the applause ceased, he glanced about with
an air of surprise and said: "Thank you, young gentlemen; it pleases me
to find you so enthusiastic in your pursuit of knowledge. Learn the
stars and you won't get lost in strange waters. As we were saying--" It
was because of still other stories which he never told or referred to,
but which are written in the nation's history, that the students loved
him; and it was for this that they gave him at every opportunity their
lustiest cheer.

The professor found the stranger Sylvia had announced waiting for him at
the cottage. The young man did not mention his own name but drew from
his pocket a sealed letter.

"Is this Professor Andrew Kelton? I am to give you this letter and wait
for an answer."

Professor Kelton sat down at his desk and slit the envelope. The letter
covered only one page and he read slowly to the end. He then re-read the
whole carefully, and placed the sheet on his desk and laid a weight upon
it before he faced the messenger. He passed his hand across his
forehead, stroked his beard, and said, speaking slowly,--

"You were to bring this letter and bear back an answer to the writer,
but you were instructed not to discuss it in any way or disclose the
name or the residence of the person who sent you. So much I learn from
the letter itself."

"Yes, sir. I know nothing of the contents of the letter. I was told to
deliver it and to carry back the answer."

"Very good, sir. You have fulfilled your mission. Please note carefully
what I say. The reply is _No_. There must be no mistake about that,--do
you understand?"

"I am to report that you answered 'No'."

"That is correct, sir," replied Professor Kelton quietly. The young man
rose, and the Professor followed him to the door.

"I thank you for your trouble; it has been a warm day, the warmest of
the season. Good-afternoon, sir."

He watched the young fellow's prompt exit through the gate in the hedge
to the Lane and then returned to the library, where he re-read the
letter. Now that he was alone he relaxed somewhat; his manner expressed
mingled trepidation and curiosity. The letter was type-written and was
neither dated nor signed. He carried it to the window and held it
against the sunlight, but there was not even a watermark by which it
might be traced. Nor was there anything in the few straightforward
sentences that proved suggestive. The letter ran:--

     Your granddaughter has reached an age at which her maintenance and
     education require serious consideration. A friend who cannot be
     known in the matter wishes to provide a sum of money to be held
     and expended by you for her benefit. No obligations of any sort
     will be incurred by you in accepting this offer. It is hardly
     conceivable that you will decline it, though it is quite optional
     with you to do so. It will not, however, be repeated.

     Kindly designate by a verbal "Yes" or "No" to the bearer whether
     you accept or decline. The messenger is a stranger to the person
     making the offer and the contents of this communication are unknown
     to him. If you wish to avail yourself of this gift, the amount will
     be paid in cash immediately, and it is suggested that you refrain
     from mentioning the matter to your granddaughter in any way.

Professor Kelton had given his answer to the messenger unhesitatingly,
and the trouble reflected in his dark eyes was not due, we may assume,
to any regret for his negative reply, but to the jangling of old, harsh
chords of memory. He crossed and recrossed the room, lost in reverie;
then paused at his desk and tore the letter once across with the evident
intention of destroying it; but he hesitated, changed his mind, and
carried it to his bedroom. There he took from a closet shelf a battered
tin box marked "A. Kelton, U.S.N." which contained his commissions in
the Navy. He sat down on the bed, folded the letter the long way of the
sheet and indorsed it in pencil: "Declined." Then he slipped it under
the faded tape that bound the official papers together, and locked and
replaced the box.

Sylvia meanwhile had found the review article noted on her grandfather's
memorandum, and leaving a receipt with the librarian started home with
the book under her arm. Halfway across the campus she met her
grandfather's caller, hurrying townward. He lifted his hat, and Sylvia
paused a moment to ask if he had found her grandfather.

"Yes; thank you. My business didn't take much time, you see. I'm sorry I
put you to so much bother."

"Oh, that was nothing."

"Is that new building the college library?"

"Yes," replied Sylvia. "Are you a Madison man?"

"No. I was never here before. I went to a very different college
and"--he hesitated--"a little bigger one."

"I suppose there are bigger colleges," Sylvia remarked, with the
slightest accent on the adjective.

The young man laughed.

"That's the right spirit! Madison needs no praise from me; it speaks for
itself. Is this the nearest way to the station?"

It had been on Sylvia's tongue to ask him the name of his college, but
he had perhaps read this inquiry in her eyes, and as though suddenly
roused by the remembrance of the secrecy that had been imposed upon him,
he moved on.

"Yes, I understand," he called over his shoulder. "Thank you, very
much."

He whistled softly to himself as he continued on his way, still glancing
about alertly.

The manner of the old professor in receiving the letter and the calmness
with which he had given his reply minimized the importance of the
transaction in the mind of the messenger. He was thinking of Sylvia and
smiling still at her implication that while there were larger colleges
than Madison there was none better. He turned to look again at the
college buildings closely clasped by their strip of woodland. Madison
was not a college to sneer at; he had scanned the bronze tablet on the
library wall that published the roll of her Sons who had served in the
Civil War. Many of the names were written high in the state's history
and for a moment they filled the young man's mind.

As she neared home Sylvia met her friend Dr. Wandless, the former
president, who always had his joke with her.

"Hail, Lady of the Constellations! You have been looting the library, I
see. Hast thou named the stars without a gun?"

"That isn't right," protested Sylvia. "You're purposely misquoting.
You've only spoiled Emerson's line about the birds."

"Bless me, I believe that's so!" laughed the old gentleman. "But tell
me, Sylvia: 'Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose
the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or
guide Arcturus with his sons?'"

Sylvia, with brightening eyes and a smile on her lips, answered:--

"Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion
thereof in the earth?"

"Ah, if only I could, Sylvia!" said the old minister, smiling gravely.

They came in high spirits to the parting of their ways and Sylvia kept
on through the hedge to her grandfather's cottage. The minister turned
once, a venerable figure with snowy beard and hair, and beat the path
softly with his stick and glanced back, as Sylvia's red ribbon bobbed
through the greenery.

"'Whose daughter art thou?'" he murmured gently.

Then, glancing furtively about, he increased his gait as though to
escape from his own thoughts; but the question asked of Bethuel's
daughter by Abraham's servant came again to his lips, and he shook his
head as he repeated:--

"Whose daughter art thou?"



CHAPTER II

SYLVIA GOES VISITING


"How old did you say you were, Sylvia?"

"I'm sixteen in October, grandpa," answered Sylvia.

"Is it possible!" murmured the professor. "And to think that you've
never been to school."

"Why, I've been going to school every day, almost, ever since I can
remember. And haven't I had the finest teacher in the world, all to
myself?"

His face brightened responsive to her laugh.

This was at the tea-table--for the Keltons dined at noon in conformity
with local custom--nearly a week after the unsigned letter had been
delivered to Andrew Kelton by the unknown messenger. Sylvia and her
grandfather had just returned from a walk, prolonged into the cool dusk.
They sat at the square walnut table, where they had so long faced each
other three times a day. Sylvia had never doubted that their lives would
go on forever in just this way,--that they would always be, as her
grandfather liked to put it, "shipmates," walking together, studying
together, sitting as they sat now, at their simple meals, with just the
same quaintly flowered dishes, the same oddly turned teapot, with its
attendant cream pitcher (slightly cracked as to lip) and the sugar-bowl,
with a laboring ship depicted in blue on its curved side, which was not
related, even by the most remote cousinship, to anything else in the
pantry.

Professor Kelton was unwontedly preoccupied to-night. Sylvia saw that he
had barely touched his strawberries--their first of the season, though
they were fine ones and the cream was the thickest. She folded her hands
on the edge of the table and watched him gravely in the light of the
four candles whose flame flared in the breeze that swept softly through
the dining-room windows. Feeling her eyes upon him the old gentleman
suddenly roused himself.

"We've had good times, haven't we, Sylvia? And I wonder if I have really
taught you anything. I suppose I ought to have been sending you to
school with the other youngsters about here, but the fact is that I
never saw a time when I wanted to part with you! You've been a fine
little shipmate, but you're not so little any more. Sixteen your next
birthday! If that's so it isn't best for us to go on this way. You must
try your oar in deeper water. You've outgrown me--and I'm a dull old
fellow at best. You must go where you will meet other girls, and deal
with a variety of teachers,--not just one dingy old fellow like me. Have
you ever thought what kind of a school you'd like to go to?"

"I don't believe I have; I don't know much about schools."

"Well, don't you think you'd like to get away from so much mathematics
and learn things that will fit you to be entertaining and amusing? You
know I've taught you a lot of things just to amuse myself and they can
never be of the slightest use to you. I suppose you are the only girl of
your age in America who can read the sextant and calculate latitude and
longitude. But, bless me, what's the use?"

"Oh, if I could only--"

"Only what?" he encouraged her. He was greatly interested in getting her
point of view, and it was perfectly clear that a great idea possessed
her.

"Oh, if I could only go to college, that would be the finest thing in
the world!"

"You think that would be more interesting than boarding-school? If you
go to college they may require Greek and you don't even know what the
letters look like!"

"Oh, yes, I know a little about it!"

"I think not, Sylvia. How could you?"

"Oh, the letters were so queer, I learned them just for fun out of an
old textbook I found on the campus one day. Nobody ever came to claim
it, so I read it all through and learned all the declensions and
vocabularies, though I only guessed at the pronunciation."

Professor Kelton was greatly amused. "You tackled Greek just for fun,
did you?" he laughed; then, after a moment's absorption: "I'm going to
Indianapolis to-morrow and I'll take you with me, if you care to go
along. In fact, I've written to Mrs. Owen that we're coming, and I've
kept this as a little surprise for you."

So, after an early breakfast the next morning, they were off for the
station in one of those disreputable, shaky village hacks that Dr.
Wandless always called "dark Icarian birds," with their two bags piled
on the seat before them. On the few railway journeys Sylvia remembered,
she had been carried on half-fare tickets, an ignominy which she
recalled with shame. To-day she was a full-grown passenger with a seat
to herself, her grandfather being engaged through nearly the whole of
their hour's swift journey in a political discussion with a lawyer who
was one of the college trustees.

"I told Mrs. Owen not to meet us; it's a nuisance having to meet
people," said the professor when they had reached the city. "But she
always sends a carriage when she expects me."

As they stepped out upon the street a station wagon driven by an old
negro appeared promptly at the curb.

"Mawnin', Cap'n; mawnin'! Yo' just on time. Mis' Sally tole me to kerry
you all right up to the haouse. Yes, seh."

Sylvia did not know, what later historians may be interested to learn
from these pages, that the station wagon, drawn by a single horse, was
for years the commonest vehicle known to the people of the Hoosier
capital. The panic of 1873 had hit the town so hard, the community's
punishment for its sins of inflation had been so drastic, that it had
accepted meekly the rebuke implied in its designation as a one-horse
town. In 1884 came another shock to confidence, and in 1893, still
another earthquake, as though the knees of the proud must at intervals
be humbled. The one-horse station wagon continued to symbolize the
quiet domesticity of the citizens of the Hoosier capital: women of
unimpeachable social standing carried their own baskets through the
aisles of the city market or drove home with onion tops waving
triumphantly on the seat beside them. We had not yet hitched our wagon
to a gasoline tank, but traffic regulations were enforced by cruel
policemen, to the terror of women long given to leisurely manoeuvres on
the wrong side of our busiest thoroughfares. The driving of cattle
through Washington Street did not cease until 1888, when cobbles yielded
to asphalt. It was in that same year that Benjamin Harrison was chosen
to the seat of the Presidents. What hallowed niches now enshrine the
General's fence, utterly disintegrated and appropriated, during that
bannered and vociferous summer, by pious pilgrims!

Down the busy meridional avenue that opened before Sylvia as they drove
uptown loomed the tall shaft of the soldiers' monument, and they were
soon swinging round the encompassing plaza. Professor Kelton explained
that the monument filled a space once called Circle Park, where the
Governor's Mansion had stood in old times. In her hurried glimpses
Sylvia was unable to account for the lack of sociability among the
distinguished gentlemen posed in bronze around the circular
thoroughfare; and she thought it odd that William Henry Harrison wore so
much better clothes than George Rogers Clark, who was immortalized for
her especial pleasure in the very act of delivering the Wabash from the
British yoke.

"I wonder whether Mrs. Owen will like me?" said Sylvia a little
plaintively, the least bit homesick as they turned into Delaware Street.

"Of course she will like you!" laughed Professor Kelton, "though I will
say that she doesn't like everybody by any manner of means. You mustn't
be afraid of her; she gets on best with people who are not afraid to
talk to her. She isn't like anybody you ever saw, or, I think, anybody
you are ever likely to see again!" And the professor chuckled softly to
himself.

Mrs. Owen's big comfortable brick house stood in that broad part of
Delaware Street where the maple arch rises highest, and it was
surrounded by the smoothest of lawns, broken only by a stone basin in
whose centre posed the jolliest of Cupids holding a green glass
umbrella, over which a jet of water played in the most realistic
rainstorm imaginable.

Another negro, not quite as venerable as the coachman, opened the door
and took their bags. He explained that Mrs. Owen (he called her "Mis'
Sally") had been obliged to attend a meeting of some board or other, but
would return shortly. The guests' rooms were ready and he at once led
the way upstairs, where a white maid met them.

Professor Kelton explained that he must go down into the city on some
errands, but that he would be back shortly, and Sylvia was thus left to
her own devices.

It was like a story book to arrive at a strange house and be carried off
to a beautiful room, with a window-seat from which one could look down
into the most charming of gardens. She opened her bag and disposed her
few belongings and was exploring the bathroom wonderingly (for the bath
at home was an affair of a tin tub to which water was carried by hand)
when a maid appeared with a glass of lemonade and a plate of cakes.

It was while she munched her cakes and sipped the cool lemonade in the
window-seat with an elm's branches so close that she could touch them,
and wondered how near to this room her grandfather had been lodged, and
what the mistress of the house was like, that Mrs. Owen appeared, after
the lightest tap on the high walnut door. Throughout her life Sylvia
will remember that moment when she first measured Mrs. Owen's fine
height and was aware of her quick, eager entrance; but above all else
the serious gray eyes that were so alive with kindness were the chief
item of Sylvia's inventory.

"I thought you were older,--or younger! I didn't know you would be just
like this! I didn't know just when you were coming or I should have
tried to be at home--but there was a meeting,--there are so many things,
child!"

Mrs. Owen did not sigh at the thought of her burdens, but smiled quite
cheerfully as though the fact of the world's being a busy place was
wholly agreeable. She sat down beside Sylvia in the window-seat and took
one of the cakes and nibbled it while they talked. Sylvia had never been
so wholly at ease in her life. It was as though she had been launched
into the midst of an old friendship, and she felt that she had conferred
the greatest possible favor in consenting to visit this house, for was
not this dear old lady saying,--

"You see, I'm lonesome sometimes and I almost kidnap people to get them
to visit me. I'm a terribly practical old woman. If you haven't heard it
I must tell you the truth--I'm a farmer! And I don't let anybody run my
business. Other widows have to take what the lawyers give them; but
while I can tell oats from corn and horses from pigs I'm going to handle
my own money. We women are a lot of geese, I tell you, child! I'm
treasurer of a lot of things women run, and I can see a deficit through
a brick wall as quick as any man on earth. Don't you ever let any man
vote any proxy for you--you tell 'em you'll attend the stockholders'
meetings yourself, and when you go, kick!"

Sylvia had not the faintest notion of what proxy meant, but she was sure
it must be something both interesting and important or Mrs. Owen would
not feel so strongly about it.

"When I was your age," Mrs. Owen continued, "girls weren't allowed to
learn anything but embroidery and housekeeping. But my father had some
sense. He was a Kentucky farmer and raised horses and mules. I never
knew anything about music, for I wouldn't learn; but I own a stock farm
near Lexington, and just between ourselves I don't lose any money on it.
And most that I know about men I learned from mules; there's nothing in
the world so interesting as a mule."

When Professor Kelton had declared to Sylvia on the way from the station
that Mrs. Owen was unlike any other woman in the world, Sylvia had not
thought very much about it. To be sure Sylvia's knowledge of the world
was the meagrest, but certainly she could never have imagined any woman
as remarkable as Mrs. Owen. The idea that a mule, instead of being a
dull beast of burden, had really an educational value struck her as
decidedly novel, and she did not know just what to make of it. Mrs. Owen
readjusted the pillow at her back, and went on spiritedly:--

"Your grandpa has often spoken of you, and it's mighty nice to have you
here. You see a good many of us Hoosiers are Kentucky people, and your
grandpa's father was. I remember perfectly well when your grandpa went
to the Naval Academy; and we were all mighty proud of him in the war."

Mrs. Owen's white hair was beautifully soft and wavy, and she wore it in
the prevailing manner. Her eyes narrowed occasionally with an effect of
sudden dreaminess, and these momentary reveries seemed to the adoring
Sylvia wholly fascinating. She spoke incisively and her voice was deep
and resonant. She was exceedingly thin and wiry, and her movements were
quick and nervous. Hearing the whirr of a lawn-mower in the yard she
drew a pair of spectacles from a case she produced from an incredibly
deep pocket, put them on, and criticized the black man below sharply for
his manner of running the machine. This done, the spectacles went back
to the case and the case to the pocket. In our capital a woman in a
kimono may still admonish her servants from a second-story window
without loss of dignity, and gentlemen holding high place in dignified
callings may sprinkle their own lawns in the cool of the evening if they
find delight in that cheering diversion. Joy in the simple life dies in
us slowly. The galloping Time-Spirit will run us down eventually, but on
Sundays that are not too hot or too cold one may even to-day count a
handsome total of bank balances represented in our churches, so strong
is habit in a people bred to righteousness.

"You needn't be afraid of me; my bark is worse than my bite; you have to
talk just that way to these black people. They've all worked for me for
years and they don't any of 'em pay the slightest attention to what I
say. But," she concluded, "they'd be a lot worse if I didn't say it."

We reckon time in our capital not from fires or floods or even _anno
urbis conditæ_, but from seemingly minor incidents that have
nevertheless marked new eras and changed the channels of history.
Precedents sustain us in this. A startled goose rousing the sleeping
sentinels on the ramparts; a dull peasant sending an army in the wrong
direction; the mischievous phrase uttered by an inconspicuous minister
of the gospel to a few auditors,--such unconsidered trifles play havoc
with Fame's calculations. And so in our calendar the disbanding of the
volunteer fire department in 1859 looms gloomily above the highest
altitudes of the strenuous sixties; the fact that Billy Sanderson, after
his father's failure in 1873, became a brakeman on the J.M. & I.
Railroad and invested his first month's salary in a silver-mounted
lantern, is more luminous in the retrospect than the panic itself; the
coming of a lady with a lorgnette in 1889 (the scion of one of our
ancient houses married her in Ohio) overshadows even the passing of
Beecher's church; and the three-days' sojourn of Henry James in 1905
shattered all records and established a new orientation for our people.
It was Sally Owen who said, when certain citizens declared that Mr.
James was inaudible, that many heard him perfectly that night in the
Propylæum who had always thought Balzac the name of a tooth-powder.

Mrs. Owen's family, the Singletons, had crossed the Ohio into Hoosier
territory along in the fifties, in time for Sally to have been a
student--not the demurest from all accounts--at Indiana Female College.
Where stood the college the Board of Trade has lately planted itself,
frowning down upon Christ Church, whose admirable Gothic spire chimed
for Union victories in the sixties (there's a story about that, too!)
and still pleads with the ungodly on those days of the week appointed by
the Book of Common Prayer for offices to be said or sung. Mrs. Jackson
Owen was at this time sixty years old, and she had been a widow for
thirty years. The old citizens who remembered Jackson Owen always spoke
of him with a smile. He held an undisputed record of having been
defeated for more offices than any other Hoosier of his time. His chief
assets when he died were a number of farms, plastered with mortgages,
scattered over the commonwealth in inaccessible localities. His wife,
left a widow with a daughter who died at fourteen, addressed herself
zealously to the task of paying the indebtedness with which the
lamented Jackson had encumbered his property. She had made a point of
clinging to all the farms that had been so profitless under his
direction, and so successfully had she managed them that they were all
paying handsomely. A four-hundred-acre tract of the tallest corn I ever
saw was once pointed out to me in Greene County and this plantation, it
was explained, had been a worthless bog before Mrs. Owen "tiled" it; and
later I saw stalks of this corn displayed in the rooms of the
Agricultural Society to illustrate what intelligent farming can do.

At the State Fair every fall it was taken as a matter of course that "S.
Owen" (such was her business designation) should win more red ribbons
than any other exhibitor either of cereals or live stock. There was
nothing that Sally Owen did not know about feeding cattle, and a paper
she once read before the Short-Horn Breeders' Association is a classic
on this important subject. Mrs. Owen still retained the active control
of her affairs, though she had gradually given over to a superintendent
much of the work long done by herself; but woe unto him who ever tried
to deceive her! She maintained an office on the ground floor of her
house where she transacted business and kept inventories of every stick
of wood, every bushel of corn, every litter of pigs to which she had
ever been entitled. For years she had spent much time at her farms,
particularly through the open months of the year when farm tasks are
most urgent; but as her indulgence in masculine pursuits had not abated
her womanly fastidiousness, she carried with her in all her journeys a
negro woman whose business it was to cook for her mistress and otherwise
care for her comfort. She had acquired the farm in Kentucky to continue
her ties with the state of her birth, but this sentimental consideration
did not deter her from making the Lexington farm pay; Sally Owen made
everything pay! Her Southern ancestry was manifest in nothing more
strikingly than in her treatment of the blacks she had always had about
her. She called them niggers--as only a Southerner may, and they called
her "Mis' Sally" and were her most devoted and obedient servants.

Much of this Sylvia was to learn later; but just now, as Mrs. Owen sat
in the cool window-seat, it was enough for Sylvia to be there, in the
company of the first woman--so it seemed to her--she had ever known,
except Irish Mary at home. The wives of the professors in Buckeye Lane
were not like this; no one was ever like this, she was sure!

"We shall be having luncheon at half-past twelve, and my grandniece
Marian will be here. Marian is the daughter of my niece, Mrs. Morton
Bassett, who lives at Fraserville. Marian comes to town pretty often and
I've asked her down to-day particularly to meet you."

"I'm sure that is very kind," murmured Sylvia, though she would have
been perfectly happy if just she and her grandfather had been left alone
with Mrs. Owen.

"There's the bell; that must be Marian now," said Mrs. Owen a moment
later, and vanished in her quick fashion. Then the door opened again
instantly and she returned to the room smiling.

"What _is_ your name, dear?" Mrs. Owen demanded. "How very stupid of me
not to have asked before! Your grandpa in speaking of you always says my
granddaughter, and that doesn't tell anything, does it?"

"My name is Sylvia--Sylvia Garrison."

"And that's a very nice name," said Mrs. Owen, looking at her fixedly
with her fine gray eyes. "You're the first Sylvia I have ever known. I'm
just plain Sally!" Then she seized Sylvia's hands and drew her close and
kissed her.

As Sylvia had brought but one white gown, she decided that the blue
serge skirt and linen shirt-waist in which she had traveled would do for
luncheon. She put on a fresh collar and knotted a black scarf under it
and went downstairs.

She ran down quickly, to have the meeting with the strange niece over as
quickly as possible. Mrs. Owen was not in sight, and her grandfather had
not returned from town; but as Sylvia paused a moment at the door of the
spacious high-ceilinged drawing-room she saw a golden head bent over a
music rack by the piano. Sylvia stood on the threshold an instant, shy
and uncertain as to how she should make herself known. The sun flooding
the windows glinted on the bright hair of the girl at the piano; she was
very fair, and her features were clear-cut and regular. There was no
sound in the room but the crisp rustle of the leaves of music as the
girl tossed them about. Then as she flung aside the last sheet with an
exclamation of disappointment, Sylvia made herself known.

"I'm Sylvia Garrison," she said, advancing.

They gravely inspected each other for a moment; then Marian put out her
hand.

"I'm Marian Bassett. Aunt Sally told me you were coming."

Marian seated herself with the greatest composure and Sylvia noted her
white lawn gown and white half-shoes, and the bow of white ribbon at the
back of her head. Sylvia, in her blue serge, black ribbons, and high
shoes, felt the superiority of this radiant being. Marian took charge of
the conversation.

"I suppose you like to visit; I love it. I've visited a lot, and I'm
always coming to Aunt Sally's. I'm in Miss Waring's School, here in this
city, so I come to spend Sundays with Aunt Sally very often. Mama is
always coming to town to see how I'm getting on. She's terribly
ambitious for me, but I hate school, and I simply _cannot_ learn French.
Miss Waring is terribly severe; she says it's merely a lack of
application in my case; that I _could_ learn but won't. When mama comes
she takes me to luncheon at the Whitcomb and sometimes to the matinée.
We saw John Drew last winter: he's simply perfect--so refined and
gentlemanly; and I've seen Julia Marlowe twice; she's my favorite
actress. Mama says that if I just will read novels I ought to read good
ones, and she gave me a set of Thackeray for my own; but you can skip a
whole lot in him, I'm here to state! One of our best critics has said
(mama's always saying that) that the best readers are those who know
how to skip, and I'm a good skipper. I always want to know how it's
going to come out. If they can't live happy forever afterward I want
them to part beautifully, with soft music playing; and _he_ must go away
and leave _her_ holding a rose as a pledge that _he_ will never forget."

When Marian paused there was a silence as Sylvia tried to pick out of
this long speech something to which she could respond. Marian was
astonishingly wise; Sylvia felt herself immeasurably younger, and she
was appalled by her own ignorance before this child who had touched so
many sides of life and who recounted her experiences so calmly and
lightly.

"This is the first time I ever visited," Sylvia confessed. "I live with
my grandfather Kelton, right by Madison College, that's at Montgomery,
you know. Grandfather was a professor in the college, and still lectures
there sometimes. I've never been to school--"

"How on earth do you escape?" demanded Marian.

"It's not an escape," laughed Sylvia; "you see grandfather, being a
professor, began teaching me almost before I began remembering."

"Oh! But even that would be better than a boarding-school, where they
make you study. It would be easy to tell your grandfather that you
didn't want to do things."

"I suppose it would," Sylvia acknowledged; "but it's so nice to have him
for a teacher that I shouldn't know just how to do it."

This point of view did not interest Marian, and she recurred to her own
affairs.

"I've been to Europe. Papa took us all last year. We went to Paris and
London. It was fine."

"My grandfather was in the United States Navy, before he began teaching
at Madison, so I know a good deal from him about Europe."

"Blackford--he's my brother--is going to Annapolis," said Marian, thus
reminded of her brother's aspirations. "At least he says he is, though
he used to talk about West Point. I hope he will go into the Army. I
should like to visit West Point; it must be perfectly fascinating."

"I suppose it is. I think I should like college."

"Not for me!" exclaimed Marian. "I want to go to a convent in Paris. I
know a girl right here in Indianapolis who did that, and it's perfectly
fine and ever so romantic. To get into college you have to know algebra,
don't you?"

"Yes; I think they require that," Sylvia replied, on guard against a
display of too much knowledge.

"Do you know algebra?" demanded Marian.

"Sometimes I think I don't!"

"Well, there's no doubt about me! I'm sure I don't. It's perfectly
horrid."

The entrance of Mrs. Owen and the return of Professor Kelton terminated
these confidences. The four were soon at the luncheon table, where the
array of crystal and silver seemed magnificent to Sylvia's unaccustomed
eyes. She had supposed that luncheon meant some such simple meal as the
suppers she had been used to at home; but it included fried chicken and
cold ham, and there were several vegetables; and hot biscuits and hot
corn bread; and it became necessary for Sylvia to decline an endless
succession of preserves and jellies. For dessert there were the most
fragrant red raspberries conceivable, with golden sponge cake. The
colored man who served the table seemed to enjoy himself immensely. He
condescended to make suggestions as he moved about. "A little mo' of the
cold ham, Cap'n?" or, "I 'membah you like the sparrograss, Mis' Marian,"
he murmured. "The co'n bread's extra fine, Mis'"--to Sylvia. "The hossis
is awdahed for three, Mis' Sally"--to Mrs. Owen.

"You still have Kentucky cooking, Sally," remarked Professor Kelton, who
had praised the corn bread.

"I do, Andrew," replied the old lady; "everybody knows that the best
things in Indiana came through Kentucky. That includes you and me!"

Prompted by Mrs. Owen's friendly questioning, Sylvia found herself
talking. She felt that she was talking more than Marian; but she was
much less troubled by this than by Marian's sophisticated manner of
lifting her asparagus stalks with her fingers, while Sylvia resorted to
the fork. But Sylvia comforted herself with the reflection that this was
all in keeping with Marian Bassett's general superiority. Marian
conducted herself with the most mature air, and she made it quite
necessary for Professor Kelton to defend the Navy against her assertion
that the Army was much more useful to the country. The unhurried meal
passed, and after they had returned to the drawing-room Marian left to
meet her mother at the dressmaker's and return with her to Fraserville.

"I hope to see you again," said Marian, shaking hands with Sylvia.

"I hope so, too," Sylvia replied.



CHAPTER III

A SMALL DINNER AT MRS. OWEN'S


Professor Kelton announced that he had not finished his errands in town,
and begged to be excused from the drive which Mrs. Owen had planned.

"Very well, Andrew. Then I shall take your Sylvia for a longer drive
than I should expect you to survive. We'll go out and see how the wheat
looks."

In this new environment Sylvia was aware that despite his efforts to
appear gay her grandfather was not himself. She was quite sure that he
had not expected to spend the afternoon downtown, and she wondered what
was troubling him. The novelty of the drive, however, quickly won her to
the best of spirits. Mrs. Owen appeared ready for this adventure with
her tall figure wrapped in a linen "duster." Her hat was a practical
affair of straw, unadorned save by a black ribbon. As she drew on her
gloves in the _porte-cochère_ the old coachman held the heads of two
horses that were hitched to a smart road wagon. When her gloves had been
adjusted, Mrs. Owen surveyed the horses critically.

"Lift Pete's forefoot--the off one, Joe," she commanded, stepping down
into the asphalt court. "Um,--that's just what I thought. That new
blacksmith knows his business. That shoe's on straight. That other man
never did know anything. All right, Sylvia."

Mrs. Owen explained as the trim sorrels stepped off smartly toward the
north that they were Estabrook stock and that she had raised them
herself on her Kentucky farm, which she declared Sylvia must visit some
day. It was very pleasant to be driving in this way under a high blue
sky, beside a woman whose ways and interests were so unusual. The
spirited team held Mrs. Owen's attention, but she never allowed the
conversation to flag. Several times as they crossed car lines it seemed
to Sylvia that they missed being struck only by perilously narrow
margins. When they reached the creek they paused on the bridge to allow
the sorrels to rest, and Mrs. Owen indicated with her whip the line of
the new boulevard and recounted the history of the region.

At the State Fair grounds Mrs. Owen drove in, explaining that she wanted
to see what they were doing to the track. Sylvia noticed that the
employees they passed grinned at Mrs. Owen as though she were a familiar
acquaintance, and the superintendent came up and discussed horses and
the track changes with Mrs. Owen in a strange vocabulary. He listened
respectfully to what Mrs. Owen said and was impressed, Sylvia thought,
by her opinions. She referred to other tracks at Lexington and
Louisville as though they were, of course, something that everybody knew
about. The sun was hot, but Mrs. Owen did not seem to mind the heat a
particle. The superintendent looked the sorrels over carefully; they had
taken no end of ribbons at fairs and horse shows. Here was a team, Mrs.
Owen announced, that she was not afraid to show in Madison Square Garden
against any competitors in its class; and the superintendent admitted
that the Estabrooks were a fine stock. He nodded and kept repeating
"You're right," or "you're mighty right," to everything the old lady
said. It seemed to Sylvia that nobody would be likely to question or
gainsay any opinions Mrs. Owen might advance on the subject of horses.
She glanced over her shoulder as they were driving back toward the gate
and saw the superintendent looking after them.

"He's watching the team, ain't he, Sylvia? I thought I'd touch up his
envy a little. That man," continued Mrs. Owen, "really knows a horse
from an elephant. He's been trying to buy this team; but he hasn't bid
up high enough yet. It tickles me to think that some of those rich
fellows down in New York will pay me a good price when I send 'em down
there to the show. They need working; you can't do much with horses in
town; the asphalt plays smash with their feet. There's a good stretch of
pike out here and I'll show you what this team can do."

This promised demonstration was the least bit terrifying to Sylvia. Her
knowledge of horses was the slightest, and in reading of horse races she
had not imagined that there could be such a thrill in speeding along a
stretch of good road behind a pair of registered roadsters, the flower
of the Estabrook stock, driven by so intrepid and skillful a whip as
Mrs. Sally Owen.

"I guess that mile would worry the boys some," observed Mrs. Owen with
satisfaction as she brought the team to a walk.

This was wholly cryptic to Sylvia, but she was glad that Mrs. Owen was
not disappointed. As they loitered in a long shady lane Mrs. Owen made
it possible for Sylvia to talk of herself. Sally Owen was a wise woman,
who was considered a little rough and peculiar by some of her
townspeople, chiefly those later comers who did not understand the
conditions of life that had made such a character possible; but none had
ever questioned her kindness of heart. And in spite of her frank, direct
way of speech she was not deficient in tact. Sally Owen had an active
curiosity, but it was of the healthy sort that wastes no time on
trifling matters. She was curious about Sylvia, for Sylvia was a little
different from the young girls she knew. Quite naturally she was
comparing the slim, dark-eyed girl at her side with Marian Bassett.
Marian was altogether obvious; whereas Mrs. Owen felt the barriers of
reserve in Sylvia. Sylvia embodied questions in the Kelton family
history that she could not answer, though she had known Andrew Kelton
all his life, and remembered dimly his only daughter, who had
unaccountably vanished.

"Where do you go to school, Sylvia?" she asked.

"I don't go to school,--not to a real school,--but grandfather teaches
me; he has always taught me."

"And you are now about--how old?"

"Sixteen in October. I've been talking to grandfather about going to
college."

"They do send girls to college nowadays, don't they! We're beginning to
have some of these college women in our town here. I know some of 'em.
Let's see. What they say against colleges for women is that the girls
who go there learn too much, so that men are afraid to marry 'em. I
wonder how that is? But that's in favor of college, I think; don't you?"

Mrs. Owen answered her own question with a laugh; and having opened the
subject she went on to disclose her opinions further.

"I guess I'm too old to be one of these new women we're hearing so much
about. Even farming's got to be a science, and it keeps me hustling to
learn what the new words mean in the agricultural papers. I belong to a
generation of women who know how to sew rag carpets and make quilts and
stir soft soap in an iron kettle and darn socks; and I can still cure a
ham better than any Chicago factory does it," she added, raking a fly
from the back of the "off" sorrel with a neat turn of the whip. "And I
reckon I make 'em pay full price for my corn. Well, well; so you're
headed for college."

"I hope so," said Sylvia; "then after that I'm going to teach."

"Poor pay and hard work. I know lots of teachers; they're always having
nervous prostration. But you look healthy."

"Oh, I'm strong enough," replied Sylvia. "I think I should like
teaching."

"Marian was at Miss Waring's school last winter and I couldn't see what
she was interested in much but chasing to matinées. Are you crazy about
theatres?"

"Why, I've never been to one," Sylvia confessed.

"You're just as well off. Actors ain't what they used to be. When you
saw Edwin Booth in 'Hamlet' or Jefferson in 'Rip,' you saw acting. I
haven't been in any theatre since I saw Jefferson in the 'Rivals' the
last time he came round. There used to be a stock company at the
Metropolitan about war-time that beat any of these new actor folks. I'd
rather see a good circus any time than one of these singing pieces.
Sassafras tea and a circus every spring; I always take both."

Sylvia found these views on the drama wholly edifying. Circuses and
sassafras tea were within the range of her experience, and finding that
she had struck a point of contact, Mrs. Owen expressed her pity for any
child that did not enjoy a round of sassafras tea every spring.
Sassafras in the spring, and a few doses of quinine in the fall, to
eliminate the summer's possible accumulation of malaria, were all the
medicine that any good Hoosier needed, Mrs. Owen averred.

"I'm for all this new science, you understand that," Mrs. Owen
continued. "A good deal of it does seem to me mighty funny, but when
they tell me to boil drinking-water to kill the bugs in it, and show me
pictures of the bugs they take with the microscope, I don't snort just
because my grandfather didn't know about those things and lived to be
eighty-two and then died from being kicked by a colt. I go into the
kitchen and I say to Eliza, 'Bile the water, Liza; bile it twice.'
That's the kind of a new woman I am. But let's see; we were speaking of
Marian."

"I liked her very much; she's very nice and ever so interesting," said
Sylvia.

"Bless you, she's nice enough and pretty enough; but about this college
business. I always say that if it ain't in a colt the trainer can't put
it there. My niece--that's Mrs. Bassett, Marian's mother--wants Marian
to be an intellectual woman,--the kind that reads papers on the poets
before literary clubs. Mrs. Bassett runs a woman's club in Fraserville
and she's one of the lights in the Federation. They got me up to
Fraserville to speak to their club a few years ago. It's one of these
solemn clubs women have; awful literary and never get nearer home than
Doctor Johnson, who was nothing but a fat loafer anyhow. I told 'em
they'd better let me off; but they would have it and so I went up and
talked on ensilage. It was fall and I thought ensilage was seasonable
and they ought to know about it if they didn't. And they didn't, all
right."

Sylvia had been staring straight ahead across the backs of the team; she
was conscious suddenly that Mrs. Owen was looking at her fixedly, with
mirth kindling in her shrewd old eyes. Sylvia had no idea what ensilage
was, but she knew it must be something amusing or Mrs. Owen would not
have laughed so heartily.

"It was a good joke, wasn't it--talking to a literary club about silos.
I told 'em I'd come back and read my little piece on 'Winter Feeding,'
but they haven't called me yet."

They had driven across to Meridian Street, and Mrs. Owen sent the horses
into town at a comfortable trot. They traversed the new residential area
characterized by larger grounds and a higher average of architecture.

"That's Edward Thatcher's new house--the biggest one. They say it's
easier to pay for a castle like that out here than it is to keep a cook
so far away from Washington Street. I let go of ten acres right here in
the eighties; we used to think the town would stop at the creek," Mrs.
Owen explained, and then announced the dictum: "Keep land; mortgage if
you got to, but never sell; that's my motto."

It was nearly six when they reached home, and dinner was appointed for
seven. Mrs. Owen drove directly into the barn and gave minute
instructions as to the rubbing-down and feeding of the horses. In
addressing the negroes she imitated their own manner of speech. Sylvia
had noticed that Mrs. Owen did not always pronounce words in the same
way, but such variations are marked among our Southwestern people,
particularly where, as in Mrs. Owen's case, they have lived on both
sides of the Ohio River. Sometimes she said "hoss," unmistakably; and
here, and again when she said "bile" for "boil," it was obviously with
humorous intention. Except in long speeches she did not drawl; at times
she spoke rapidly, snapping off sentences abruptly. Her fashion of
referring to herself in the third person struck Sylvia as most amusing.

"Look here, you Joe, it's a nice way to treat yo' Mis' Sally, turning
out that wagon with the dash all scratched. Don' you think I'm blind
and can't tell when you boys dig a broom into a varnished buggy! Next
time I catch yo' doing that I'll send you down to Greene County to plow
co'n and yo'll not go to any more fancy hoss shows with me."

As she followed Mrs. Owen into the house Sylvia thought she heard
suppressed guffawing in the stable. Mrs. Owen must have heard it too.

"A worthless lot," she muttered; "I'm going to clean 'em all out some
day and try the Irish"; but Mrs. Sally Owen had often made this threat
without having the slightest intention of carrying it into effect.

Professor Kelton had just reached the house, and he seemed so hot and
tired that Sylvia was struck with pity for him. He insisted, however,
that he was perfectly well, but admitted that his errands had proved to
be more vexatious than he had expected.

"What kind of a time have you been having?" he asked as they went
upstairs together.

"Oh, the finest in the world! I'm sure I've learned a lot to-day--a
great many things I never dreamed about before."

"Horses?"

"I never knew before that there was anything to know about horses; but
Mrs. Owen knows all about them. And that team we drove behind is
wonderful; they move together perfectly and go like lightning when you
want them to."

"Well, I'm glad you've enjoyed yourself. You'd better put on your white
dress,--you brought one, didn't you? There will be company at dinner."

"Don't you scare that child about company, Andrew," said Mrs. Owen,
coming up behind them with the linen duster flung over her arm. "If you
haven't any white dress, Sylvia, that blue one's perfectly good and
proper."

She followed Sylvia to her room, continuing to reassure her. She even
shook out the gown, exclaiming, "Well, well" (Sylvia didn't know why),
and went out abruptly, instructing Sylvia to ring for the maid if she
needed help.

There were three other guests for dinner, and they were unlike any other
people that Sylvia had known. She was introduced first to Admiral
Martin, a retired officer of the Navy, who, having remained in the
service of his country to the retiring age, had just come home to live
in the capital of his native state. He was short and thick and talked in
a deep, growling voice exactly as admirals should. The suns and winds of
many seas had burned and scored his face, and a stubby mustache gave him
a belligerent aspect. He mopped his brow with a tremendous handkerchief
and when Mrs. Owen introduced Sylvia as Professor Kelton's granddaughter
he glared fiercely.

"Well, I declare, Andy, your granddaughter; well, I declare." He held
Sylvia's hand a moment and peered into her face. "I remember your mother
very well. Andy, I recall distinctly that you and your wife were at Old
Point in about the winter of '69 and your daughter was with you. So this
is your granddaughter? Well, I declare; I wish she was mine."

"I'm glad to see you, Sylvia," said Mrs. Martin, a shy, white-haired
little woman. "I remember that winter at Old Point. I was waiting for my
husband there. You look like your mother. It's really a very striking
resemblance. We were all so fond of Edna."

This was the first time that any one except her grandfather had ever
spoken to Sylvia of her mother, and the words of these strangers
thrilled her strangely and caused the tears to shine suddenly in her
eyes. It was all over in a moment, for Mrs. Martin, seeing Sylvia's
trembling lips, changed the subject quickly.

The last guest was just entering,--a tall trapper-like man who crossed
the room to Mrs. Owen with a long, curious stride. He had shaken hands
with Professor Kelton, and Mrs. Owen introduced him to the Martins, who
by reason of their long absences had never met him before.

"Mr. Ware, this is Sylvia Garrison," said Mrs. Owen.

Sylvia was given then as later to quick appraisements, and she liked the
Reverend John Ware on the instant. He did not look or act or talk in the
least like a minister. He was very dark, and his mustache was only
faintly sprinkled with gray. His hair still showed black at a distance,
though he was sixty-five. He had been, sometime earlier, the pastor of
the First Congregational Church, but after a sojourn in other fields had
retired to live among his old parishioners in the city which had loved
him best. It had been said of him in the days of his pastorate that he
drew the largest congregations and the smallest collections of any
preacher the community had ever known. But Ware was curiously unmindful
of criticism. He had fished and hunted, he had preached charity and
kindness, and when there was an unknown tramp to bury or some
unfortunate girl had yielded to despair, he had officiated at the
funeral, and, if need be, ridden to the cemetery on the hearse.

"I'm Mrs. Owen's neighbor, you know," he explained to Sylvia. "My family
have gone for the summer; I'm hanging on here till my Indian sends me a
postal that the fishing is right on the Nipigon. Nothing like getting
off the train somewhere and being met by an Indian with a paddle on his
shoulder. You can learn a lot from an Indian."

There were candles and flowers on the round table, and the dishes and
silver were Mrs. Owen's "company best," which was very good indeed. The
admiral and Professor Kelton sat at Mrs. Owen's right and left, and
Sylvia found herself between the minister and the admiral. The talk was
at once brisk and general. The admiral's voice boomed out tremendously
and when he laughed the glasses jingled. Every one was in the best of
spirits and Sylvia was relieved to find that her grandfather was
enjoying himself immensely. The admiral's jokes harked back to old
times, when he and Kelton were at the Naval Academy, or to their
adventures in the war. It was odd to hear Mrs. Owen and the admiral
calling her grandfather "Andrew" and "Andy"; no one else had ever done
that; and both men addressed Mrs. Owen as "Sally." At a moment when
Sylvia had begun to feel the least bit awkward at being the only silent
member of the company, the minister spoke to her. He had seemed at first
glance a stoical person; but his deep-set, brown eyes were bright with
good humor.

"These old sea dogs made a lot of history. I suppose you know a good
deal about the sea from your grandfather."

"Yes; but I've never seen the sea."

"I've crossed it once or twice and tramped England and Scotland. I
wanted to see Burns's country and the house at Chelsea where Carlyle
smoked his pipe. But I like our home folks best."

"Mr. Ware," growled the admiral, "a man told me the other day that you'd
served in the Army. I wish I'd had a chaplain like you in the Navy; I
might have been a different man."

Mrs. Owen glanced at Ware with a twinkle in her eyes.

"Afraid I'm going to be discovered," he remarked to Sylvia as he
buttered a bit of bread.

"Well, what part of the Army did you serve in?" demanded the admiral.

"Captain, Fifth New York Cavalry," replied the minister quietly,
shrugging his shoulders.

"Captain! You were a fighting man?" the admiral boomed.

"Sort of one. We had a good deal of fun one way or another. Four years
of it. Didn't begin fighting the Devil till afterward. How are things at
the college, Doctor Kelton?"

Ware thus characteristically turned the conversation from himself. It
was evident that he did not care to discuss his military experiences; in
a moment they were talking politics, in which he seemed greatly
interested.

"We've kept bosses out of this state pretty well," Professor Kelton was
saying, "but I can see one or two gentlemen on both sides of the fence
trying to play that game. I don't believe the people of Indiana will
submit to it. The bosses need big cities to prey on and we aren't big
enough for them to work in and hide in. We all live in the open and
we're mostly seasoned American stock who won't be driven like a lot of
foreign cattle. This city isn't a country town any longer, but it's
still American. I don't know of any boss here."

"Well, Sally, how about Mort Bassett?" asked the admiral. "I hope you
don't mind my speaking of him."

"Not in the slightest," Mrs. Owen replied. "The fact that Morton Bassett
married my niece doesn't make it necessary for me to approve of all he
does--and I don't. When I get a chance I give him the best licks I can.
He's a Democrat, but I'm not; neither am I a Republican. They're all
just as crooked as a dog's hind leg. I gave up when they beat Tilden out
of the presidency. Why, if I'd been Samuel Tilden I'd have moved into
the White House and dared 'em to throw me out. The Democratic Party
never did have any gumption!" she concluded vigorously.

"A sound idea, Sally," grumbled the admiral, "but it's not new."

"Bassett isn't a bad fellow," remarked Ware. "You can hardly call him a
boss in the usual sense of the term."

"Personally, he's certainly very agreeable," said Mrs. Martin. "You
remember, Mrs. Owen, I visited your niece the last time I was home and
I never saw a man more devoted to his family than Mr. Bassett."

"There's no complaint about that," Mrs. Owen assented. "And Morton's a
very intelligent man, too; you might even call him a student. I've been
sorry that he didn't keep to the law; but he's a moneymaker, and he's in
politics as a part of his business."

"I've wondered," said Professor Kelton, "just what he's aiming at. Most
of these men are ambitious to go high. He's a state senator, but there's
not much in that. He must see bigger game in the future. I don't know
him myself; but from what you hear of him he must be a man of force.
Weak men don't dominate political parties."

"This political game looks mighty queer to me," the admiral remarked.
"I've never voted in my life, but I guess I'll try it now they've put me
on the shelf. Do you vote, Mr. Ware?"

"Oh, yes! I'm one of these sentimentalists who tries to vote for the
best man. Naturally no man I ever vote for is elected."

"If I voted I should want to see the man first," Mrs. Owen averred. "I
should ask him how much he expected to make out of the job."

"You'd be a tartar in politics, Sally," said the admiral. "The Governor
told me the other day that when he hears that you're coming to the State
House to talk about the Woman's Reformatory,--or whatever it is you're
trustee of,--he crawls under the table. He says they were going to cut
down the Reformatory's appropriation last winter, but that you went to
the legislature and gave an example of lobbying that made the tough old
railroad campaigners green with envy."

"I reckon I did! I told the members of that committee that if they cut
that appropriation I'd go into their counties and spend every cent I've
got fighting 'em if they ever ran for office again. Joshua, fill the
glasses."

Sylvia was anxious to know the rest of the story.

"I hope they gave you the money, Mrs. Owen," she said.

Did they give it to me? Why, child, they raised it twenty thousand
dollars! I had to hold 'em down. Then Morton Bassett pulled it through
the senate for me. I told him if he didn't I'd cut his acquaintance."

"There's Ed Thatcher, too, if we're restricted to the Democratic camp,"
the minister was saying. "Thatcher has a fortune to use if he ever wants
to try for something big in politics, which doesn't seem likely."

"He has a family that can spend his money," said Mrs. Martin. "What
would he want with an office anyway? The governorship would bore him to
death."

"It might tickle him to go to the senate, particularly if he had a score
to clean up in connection with it," remarked Ware.

"Just what do you mean by that?" asked the admiral.

"Well," Ware replied, "he and Bassett are as thick as thieves just now
in business operations. If some day it came about that they didn't get
on so well,--if Bassett tried to drop him as they say he has sometimes
dropped men when he didn't have any more use for them,--then Thatcher's
sporting blood might assert itself. I should be sorry for Bassett if
that time came."

"Edward Thatcher knows a horse," interposed Mrs. Owen. "I like Edward
Thatcher."

"I've fished with Bassett," said the minister. "A good fisherman ought
to make a good politician; there's a lot, I guess, in knowing just how
to bait the hook, or where to drop the fly, and how to play your fish.
And Bassett is a man of surprising tastes. He's a book collector,--rare
editions and fine bindings and that sort of thing."

"Is it possible! The newspapers that abuse him never mention those
things, of course," said Mrs. Martin.

A brief restraint fell upon the company, as they realized suddenly that
they were discussing the husband of their hostess's niece, whom the
opposition press declared to be the most vicious character that had ever
appeared in the public life of the state. The minister had spoken well
of him; the others did not know him, or spoke cautiously; and Mrs. Owen
herself seemed, during Ware's last speech, to be a trifle restless. She
addressed some irrelevant remark to the admiral as they rose and
adjourned to the long side veranda where the men lighted cigars.

"I think I like this corner best," remarked Ware when the others had
disposed themselves. "Miss Sylvia, won't you sit by me?" She watched his
face as the match flamed to his cigar. It was deep-lined and rugged,
with high cheek bones, that showed plainly when he shut his jaws. It
occurred to Sylvia that but for his mustache his face would have been
almost typically Indian. She had seen somewhere a photograph of a Sioux
chief whose austere countenance was very like the minister's. Ware did
not fit into any of her preconceived ideas of the clerical office. Dr.
Wandless, the retired president of Madison College, was a minister, and
any one would have known it, for the fact was proclaimed by his dress
and manner; he might, in the most casual meeting on the campus, have
raised his hands in benediction without doing anything at all
extraordinary. Ware belonged to a strikingly different order, and Sylvia
did not understand him. He had been a soldier; and Sylvia could not
imagine Dr. Wandless in a cavalry charge. Ware flung the match-stick
away and settled himself comfortably into his chair. The others were
talking amongst themselves of old times, and Sylvia experienced a sense
of ease and security in the minister's company.

"Those people across there are talking of the Hoosiers that used to be,
and about the good folks who came into the wilderness and made Indiana a
commonwealth. I'm a pilgrim and a stranger comparatively speaking. I'm
not a Hoosier; are you?"

"No, Mr. Ware; I was born in New York City."

"Ho! I might have known there was some sort of tie between us. I was
born in New York myself--'way up in the Adirondack country. You've heard
of Old John Brown? My father's farm was only an hour's march from
Brown's place. I used to see the old man, and it wasn't my fault I
wasn't mixed up in some of his scrapes. Father caught me and took me
home--didn't see any reason why I should go off and get killed with a
crazy man. Didn't know Brown was going to be immortal."

"There must have been a good many people that didn't know it," Sylvia
responded.

She hoped that Ware would talk of himself and of the war; but in a
moment his thoughts took a new direction.

"Stars are fine to-night. It's a comfort to know they're up there all
the time. Know Matthew Arnold's poems? He says 'With joy the stars
perform their shining.' I like that. When I'm off camping the best fun
of it is lying by running water at night and looking at the stars. Odd,
though, I never knew the names of many of them; wouldn't know any if it
weren't for the dippers,--not sure of them as it is. There's the North
Star over there. Suppose your grandfather knows 'em all."

"I think he does," replied Sylvia. "He still lectures about them
sometimes."

"Wonder what that is, just across the farthest tip of that maple? It's
familiar, but I can't name it."

"That," said Sylvia, "is Cassiopeia."

"So? How many constellations do you know?"

Sylvia was silent a moment. She was not sure that it was polite to
disclose her knowledge of the subject to a man who had just confessed
his ignorance. She decided that anything beyond the most modest
admission would be unbecoming.

"I know several, or I think I do. This is June. That's the North Star
over the point of that tree, as you said, and above it is Ursa Minor,
and winding in and out between it and the Big Dipper is Draco. Then to
the east, higher up, are Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. And in the west--"

She paused, feeling that she had satisfied the amenities of conversation
with this gentleman who had so frankly stated his lack of knowledge.

Ware struck his knee with his hand and chuckled.

"I should say you do know a few! You've mentioned some I've always
wanted to get acquainted with. Now go back to Cygnus, the Swan. I like
the name of that one; I must be sure to remember it."

Politeness certainly demanded that Sylvia should answer; and now that
the minister plied her with questions, her own interest was aroused, and
she led him back and forth across the starry lanes, describing in the
most artless fashion her own method of remembering the names and
positions of the constellations. As their range of vision on the veranda
was circumscribed, Ware suggested that they step down upon the lawn to
get a wider sweep, a move which attracted the attention of the others.

"Sylvia, be careful of the wet. Josephus just moved the sprinkler and
that ground is soaked."

"Don't call attention to our feet; our heads are in the stars," answered
Ware. "I must tell the Indian boys on the Nipigon about this," he said
to Sylvia as they returned to the veranda. "I didn't know anybody knew
as much as you do. You make me ashamed of myself."

"You needn't be," laughed Sylvia. "Very likely most that I've told you
is wrong. I'm glad grandfather didn't hear me."

The admiral and Professor Kelton were launched upon a fresh exchange of
reminiscences and the return of Ware and Sylvia did not disturb them. It
seemed, however, that Ware was a famous story-teller, and when he had
lighted a fresh cigar he recounted a number of adventures, speaking in
his habitual, dry, matter-of-fact tone, and with curious unexpected
turns of phrase. Conversation in Indiana seems to drift into
story-telling inevitably. John Ware once read a paper before the
Indianapolis Literary Club to prove that this Hoosier trait was derived
from the South. He drew a species of ellipsoid of which the Ohio River
was the axis, sketching his line to include the Missouri of Mark Twain,
the Illinois of Lincoln, the Indiana of Eggleston and Riley, and the
Kentucky that so generously endowed these younger commonwealths. North
of the Ohio the anecdotal genius diminished, he declared, as one moved
toward the Great Lakes into a region where there had been an infusion of
population from New England and the Middle States. He suggested that the
early pioneers, having few books and no newspapers, had cultivated the
art of story-telling for their own entertainment and that the soldiers
returning from the Civil War had developed it further. Having made this
note of his thesis I hasten to run away from it. Let others, prone to
interminable debate, tear it to pieces if they must. This kind of social
intercourse, with its intimate talk, the references to famous public
characters, as though they were only human beings after all, the
anecdotal interchange, was wholly novel to Sylvia. She thought Ware's
stories much droller than the admiral's, and quite as good as her
grandfather's, which was a great concession.

The minister was beginning a new story. He knocked the ashes from his
cigar and threw out his arms with one of his odd, jerky gestures.

"There's a good deal of fun in living in the woods. Up in the
Adirondacks there was a lot for the boys to do when I was a youngster. I
liked winter better than summer; school was in winter, but when you had
the fun of fighting big drifts to get to it you didn't mind getting
licked after you got there. The silence of night in the woods, when the
snow is deep, the wind still, and the moon at full, is the solemnest
thing in the world. Not really of this world, I guess. Sometimes you can
hear a bough break under the weight of snow, with a report like a
cannon. The only thing finer than winter is spring. I don't mean lilac
time; but before that, the very earliest hint of the break-up. Used to
seem that there was something wild in me that wanted to be on the march
before there was a bud in sight. I'm a Northern animal some way; born in
December; always feel better in winter. I used to watch for the
northward flight of the game fowl--wanted to go with the birds. Too bad
they're killing them all off. Wild geese are getting mighty scarce;
geese always interested me. I once shot a gander in a Kankakee marsh
that had an Eskimo arrow in its breast. A friend of mine, distinguished
ethnologist, verified that; said he knew the tribe that made arrows of
that pattern. But I was going to say that one night,--must have been
when I was fourteen,--I had some fun with a bear . . ."

Sylvia did not hear the rest of the story. She had been sitting in the
shadow of the porch, with her lips apart, listening, wondering, during
this prelude. Ware's references to the North woods had touched lightly
some dim memory of her own; somewhere she had seen moon-flooded, snowy
woodlands where silence lay upon the world as soft as moonlight itself.
The picture drawn by the minister had been vivid enough; for a moment
her own memory of a similar winter landscape seemed equally clear; but
she realized with impatience that it faded quickly and became dim and
illusory, like a scene in an ill-lighted steropticon. To-night she felt
that a barrier lay between her and those years of her life that
antedated her coming to her grandfather's house by the college. It
troubled her, as such mirages of memory trouble all of us; but Ware
finished his story, and amid the laughter that followed Mrs. Martin
rose.

"Late hours, Sylvia," said Professor Kelton when they were alone. "It's
nearly eleven o'clock and time to turn in."



CHAPTER IV

WE LEARN MORE OF SYLVIA


Andrew Kelton put out his hand to say good-night a moment after Sylvia
had vanished.

"Sit down, Andrew," said Mrs. Owen. "It's too early to go to bed. That
draft's not good for the back of your head. Sit over here."

He had relaxed after the departure of the dinner guests and looked tired
and discouraged. Mrs. Owen brought a bottle of whiskey and a pitcher of
water and placed them near his elbow.

"Try it, Andrew. I usually take a thimbleful myself before going to
bed."

The novelty of this sort of ministration was in itself sufficient to
lift a weary and discouraged spirit. Mrs. Owen measured his whiskey, and
poured it into a tall glass, explaining as she did so that a friend of
hers in Louisville kept her supplied out of the stores of the Pendennis
Club.

"It's off the wood. This bottled drug-store whiskey is poison. I'd just
as lief take paregoric. I drew this from my own 'bar'l' this morning.
Don't imagine I'm a heavy consumer. A 'bar'l' lasts me a long time. I
divide it around among my friends. Remind me to give you some to take
home. Try one of those cigars; John Ware keeps a box here. If they're
cabbage leaf it isn't my fault."

"No, thanks, Sally. You're altogether too kind to me. It's mighty good
to be here, I can tell you."

"Now that you are here, Andrew, I want you to remember that I'm getting
on and you're just a trifle ahead of me on the dusty pike that has no
turning."

"I wish I had your eternal youth, Sally. I feel about ninety-nine
to-night."

"That's the reason I'm keeping you up. You came here to talk about
something that's on your mind, and the sooner it's over the better. No
use in your lying awake all night."

Professor Kelton played with his glass and moved uneasily in his chair.

"Come right out with it, Andrew. If it's money that worries you, don't
waste any time explaining how it happened; just tell me how much. I had
my bank book balanced yesterday and I've got exactly twelve thousand
four hundred and eighteen dollars and eleven cents down at Tom Adams's
bank. If you can use it you're welcome; if it ain't enough I'm about to
sell a bunch o' colts I've got on my Lexington place and they're good
for six thousand more. I can close the trade by a night telegram right
now."

Kelton laughed. The sums she named so lightly represented wealth beyond
the dreams of avarice. It afforded him infinite relief to be able to
talk to her, and though he had come to the city for the purpose, his
adventures of the day with banks and trust companies had given a new
direction to his needs. But the habit of secrecy, of fighting out his
battles alone, was so thoroughly established that he found it difficult
to enter into confidences even when this kind-hearted friend made the
way easy for him.

"Come, out with it, Andrew. You're the only person I know who's never
come to me with troubles. I'd begun to think you were among the lucky
ones who never have any or else you were afraid of me."

"It's not fair to trouble you about this, but I'm in a corner where I
need help. When I asked you to let me bring Sylvia here I merely wanted
you to look her over. She's got to an age where I can't trust my
judgment about her. I had a plan for her that I thought I could put
through without much trouble, but I found out to-day that it isn't so
easy. I wanted to send her to college."

"You want to send her to college and you thought you would come over and
let me give her a little motherly counsel while you borrowed the money
of Tom Adams to pay her college bills. Is that what's happened?"

"Just about that, Sally. Adams is all right; he has to protect the
bank."

"Adams is a doddering imbecile. How much did you ask him for?"

"Five thousand dollars. I offered to put up my life insurance policy for
that amount and some stock I own. He said money was tight just now and
they'd want a good name on the paper besides the collateral, and that
I'd better try my home bank. I didn't do that, of course, because
Montgomery is a small town and--well, I'd rather not advertise my
affairs to a whole community. I'm not a business man and these things
all seem terribly complicated and embarrassing to me."

"But you tried other places besides Adams? I saw it in your eye when you
came home this evening that you had struck a snag. Well, well! So money
is tight, is it? I must speak to Tom Adams about that. He told me
yesterday they had more money than they could lend and that the banks
were cutting down their dividends. He's no banker; he ought to be in the
old-clothes business."

"I can't blame him. I suppose my not being in business, and not living
here, makes a difference."

"Rubbish! But you ought to have come to me. You spoke of stock; what's
that in?"

"Shares in the White River Canneries. I put all I had in that company.
Everybody seemed to make money in the canning business and I thought it
would be a good investment. It promised well in the prospectus."

"It always does, Andrew," replied the old lady dryly. "Let me see,
Morton Bassett was in that."

"I believe so. He was one of the organizers."

"Um."

"Adams told me to-day there had been a reorganization and that my shares
were valueless."

"Well, well. So you were one of the suckers that put money into that
canning scheme. You can charge it off, Andrew. Let's drop the money
question for a minute, I want to talk about the little girl."

"Yes I'm anxious to know what you think of her"

"Well, she's a Kelton; it's in the eyes; but there's a good deal of her
Grandmother Evans in her, too. Let me see,--your wife was one of those
Posey County Evanses? I remember perfectly. The old original Evans came
to this country with Robert Owen and started in with the New Harmony
community down there. There was a streak o' genius in that whole set.
But about Sylvia. I don't think I ever saw Sylvia's mother after she was
Sylvia's age."

"I don't think you did. She was away at school a good many years. Sylvia
is the picture of her mother. It's a striking likeness; but their
natures are wholly different."

He was very grave, and the despondency that he had begun to throw off
settled upon him again.

"Andrew, who was Sylvia's father? I never asked you that question
before, and maybe I oughtn't to ask it now; but I've often wondered. Let
me see, what was your daughter's name?"

"Edna."

"Just what happened to Edna, Andrew?" she persisted.

Kelton rose and paced the floor. Thrice he crossed the room; then he
flung himself down on the davenport beside Mrs. Owen.

"I don't know, Sally; I don't know! She was high-spirited as a girl, a
little willful and impulsive, but with the best heart in the world. She
lost her mother too soon; and in her girlhood we had no home--not even
the half-homes possible to naval officers. She had a good natural voice
and wanted to study music, so after we had been settled at Madison
College a year I left her in New York with a woman I knew pretty
well--the widow of a brother officer. It was a horrible, terrible,
hideous mistake. The life of the city went to her head. She wanted to
fit herself for the stage and they told me she could do it--had the gift
and all that. I ought never to have left her down there, but what could
I do? There was nothing in a town like Montgomery for her; she wouldn't
listen to it."

"You did your best, Andrew; you don't have to prove that to me. Well--"

"Edna ran off--without giving me any hint of what was coming. It was a
queer business. The woman I had counted on to look out for her and
protect her seemed utterly astonished at her disappearance and was
helpless about the whole matter when I went down there. It was my
fault--all my fault!"

He rose and flung up his arms with a gesture of passionate despair.

"Sit down, Andrew, and let's go through with it," she said calmly. "I
reckon these things are hard, but it's better for you to tell me. You
can't tell everybody and somebody ought to know. For the sake of the
little girl upstairs you'd better tell me."

"What I've said to you I've never said to a soul," he went on. "I've
carried this thing all these years and have never mentioned it. My
friends at the college are the noblest people on earth; they have never
asked questions, but they must have wondered."

"Yes; and I've wondered, too, since the first time you came here and
told me you had brought your daughter's child home. It's perfectly
natural, Andrew, for folks to wonder. Go on and tell me the rest."

"The rest!" he cried. "Oh, that's the hardest part of it! I have told
you all I know! She wrote me after a time that she was married and was
happy, but she didn't explain her conduct in any way. She signed herself
Garrison, but begged me not to try to find her. She said her husband
wasn't quite prepared to disclose his marriage to his family, but that
it would all be right soon. The woman with whom I had left her couldn't
help me to identify him in any way; at least she didn't help me. There
had been a number of young men boarding in the neighborhood--medical and
law students; but there was no Garrison among them. It was in June that
this happened, and when I went down to try to trace her they had all
gone. I was never quite sure whether the woman dealt squarely with me or
not. But it was my fault, Sally; I want you to know that I have no
excuse to offer. I don't want you to try to say anything that would make
my lot easier."

It was not Sally Owen's way to extenuate errors of commission or
omission. Her mental processes were always singularly direct.

"Are you sure she was married; did you find any proof of it?" she asked
bluntly.

He was silent for a moment before he met her eyes.

"I have no proof of it. All I have is Edna's assurance in a letter."

Their gaze held while they read each other's thoughts. She made no
comment; there was nothing to say to this, nor did she show surprise or
repugnance at the dark shadow his answer had flung across the meagre
picture.

"And Garrison--who was he?"

"I don't know even that! From all I could learn I think it likely he was
a student in one of the professional schools; but whether law or
medicine, art or music--I couldn't determine. The whole colony of
students had scattered to the four winds. Probably Garrison was not his
real name; but that is wholly an assumption."

"It's clear enough that whoever the man was, and whether it was straight
or not, Edna felt bound to shield him. That's just like us fool women.
How did Sylvia come to your hands?"

"There was nothing in that to help. About four years had passed since I
lost track of her and I had traveled all over the East and followed
every clue in vain. I spent two summers in New York walking the streets
in the blind hope that I might meet her. Then, one day,--this was twelve
years ago,--I had a telegram from the superintendent of a public
hospital at Utica that Edna was there very ill. She died before I got
there. Just how she came to be in that particular place I have no idea.
The hospital authorities knew nothing except that she had gone to them,
apparently from the train, seriously ill. The little girl was with her.
She asked them to send for me, but told them nothing of herself. She had
only hand baggage and it told us nothing as to her home if she had one,
or where she was going. Her clothing, the nurse pointed out, was of a
style several years old, but it was clean and neat. Most surprising of
all, she had with her several hundred dollars; but there was nothing
whatever by which to reconstruct her life in those blank years."

"But she wrote to you--the letters would have given a clue of some
kind?"

"The few letters she wrote me were the most fragmentary and all in the
first year; they were like her, poor child; her letters were always the
merest scraps. In all of them she said she would come home in due
course; that some of her husband's affairs had to be straightened out
first, and that she was perfectly happy. They were traveling about, she
said, and she asked me not to try to write to her. The first letters
came from Canada--Montreal and Quebec; then one from Albany; then even
these messages ceased and I heard no more until the telegram called me
to Utica. She had never mentioned the birth of the child. I don't
know--I don't even know where Sylvia was born, or her exact age. The
nurse at the hospital said Edna called the child Sylvia."

"I overheard Sylvia telling Ware to-night that she was born in New York.
Could it be possible--"

"No; she knows nothing. You must remember that she was only three. When
she began to ask me when her birthday came--well, Sally, I felt that I'd
better give her one; and I told her, too, that she was born in New York
City. You understand--?"

"Of course, Andrew. You did perfectly right. She's likely to ask a good
many questions now that she's growing up."

"Oh," he cried despairingly, "she's already asked them! It's a
heartbreaking business, I tell you. Many a time when she's piped up in
our walks or at the table with some question about her father and mother
I've ignored it or feigned not to hear; but within the past year or two
I've had to fashion a background for her. I've surrounded her origin and
antecedents with a whole tissue of lies. But, Sally, it must have been
all right--I had Edna's own word for it!" he pleaded brokenly. "It must
have been all right!"

"Well, what if it wasn't! Does it make any difference about the girl?
All this mystery is a good thing; the denser the better maybe, as long
as there's any doubt at all. Your good name protects her; it's a good
name, Andrew. But go on; you may as well tell me the whole business."

"I've told you all I know; and as I've told it I've realized more than
before how pitifully little it is."

"Well, there's nothing to do about that. I've never seen any sense in
worrying over what's done. It's the future you've got to figure on for
Sylvia. So you think college is a good thing for girls--for a girl like
Sylvia?"

"Yes; but I want your opinion. You're the only person in the world I can
talk to; it's helped me more than I can tell you to shift some of this
burden to you. Maybe it isn't fair; you're a busy woman--"

"I guess I'm not so busy. I've been getting lazy, and needed a hard
jolt. I've been wondering a good deal about these girls' colleges. Some
of this new woman business looks awful queer to me, but so did the
electric light and the telephone a few years ago and I can even remember
when people were likely to drop dead when they got their first telegram.
Sylvia isn't"--she hesitated for an instant--"from what you say, Sylvia
isn't much like her mother?"

"No. Her qualities are wholly different. Edna had a different mind
altogether. There was nothing of the student about her. The only
thing that interested her was music, and that came natural to
her. I've studied Sylvia carefully,--I'm ashamed to confess how
carefully,--fearing that she would grow to be like her mother; but she's
another sort, and I doubt if she will change. You can already see the
woman in her. That child, Sally, has in her the making of a great woman.
I've been careful not to crowd her, but she has a wonderful mind,--not
the brilliant sort that half sees things in lightning flashes, but a
vigorous mind, that can grapple with a problem and fight it out. I'm
afraid to tell you how remarkable I think she is. No; poor Edna was not
like that. She hated study."

"Sylvia's very quiet, but I reckon she takes everything in. It's in her
eyes that she's different. And I guess that quietness means she's got
power locked up in her. Children do show it. Now Marian, my grandniece,
is a different sort. She's a forthputting youngster that's going to be
hard to break to harness. She looks pretty, grazing in the pasture and
kicking up her heels, but I don't see what class she's going to fit
into. Now, Hallie,--my niece, Mrs. Bassett,--she's one of these club
fussers,--always studying poetry and reading papers and coming up to
town to state conventions or federations and speaking pieces in a new
hat. Hallie's smart at it. She was president of the Daughters once, by
way of showing that our folks in North Carolina fought in the
Revolution, which I reckon they did; though I never saw where Hallie
proved it; but the speech I heard her make at the Propylæum wouldn't
have jarred things much if it hadn't been for Hallie's feathers. She
likes her clothes--she always had 'em, you know. My brother Blackford
left her a very nice fortune; and Morton Bassett makes money. Well, as I
started to say, there's all kinds of women,--the old ones like me that
never went to school much, and Hallie's kind, that sort o' walked
through the orchard and picked the nearest peaches, and then starts in
at thirty to take courses in Italian Art, and Marian, who gives her
teachers nervous prostration, and Sylvia, who takes to books naturally."

"There are all kinds of girls, just as there are all kinds of boys. Good
students, real scholars have always been rare in the world--men and
women. I should like to see Sylvia go high and far; I should like her to
have every chance."

"All right, Andrew; let's do it. How much does a college course cost for
a girl?"

"I didn't come here to interest you in the money side of it, Sally; I
expected--"

"Answer my question, Andrew."

"I had expected to give her a four-year course for five thousand
dollars. The actual tuition isn't so much; it's railroad fare, clothing,
and other expenses."

Mrs. Owen turned towards Kelton with a smile on her kind, shrewd face.

"Andrew, just to please me, I want you to let me be partners with you in
this. What you've told me and what I've seen of that little girl have
clinched me pretty strong. I wish she was mine! My little Elizabeth
would be a grown woman if she'd lived; and because of her I like to help
other people's little girls; you know I helped start Elizabeth House, a
home for working girls--and I'm getting my money back on that a thousand
times over. It's a pretty state of things if an old woman like me,
without a chick of my own, and with no sense but horse sense, can't back
a likely filly like your Sylvia. I want you to let me call her our
Sylvia. We'll train her in all the paces, Andrew, and I hope one of us
will live to see her strike the home stretch. Come into my office a
minute," she said, rising and leading the way.

The appointments of her "office" were plain and substantial. A
flat-topped desk stood in the middle of the room--a relic of the
lamented Jackson Owen; in one corner was an old-fashioned iron safe in
which she kept her account books. A print of Maud S. adorned one wall,
and facing it across the room hung a lithograph of Thomas A. Hendricks.
Twice a week a young woman came to assist Mrs. Owen with her
correspondence and accounts,--a concession to age, for until she was
well along in the fifties Sally Owen had managed these things alone.

"You've seen my picture-gallery before, Andrew? Small but select. I knew
both the lady and the gentleman," she continued, with one of her
humorous flashes. "I went to Cleveland in '85 to see Maud S. She ate up
a mile in 2:08-3/4--the prettiest thing I ever saw. You know Bonner
bought her as a four-year-old--the same Bonner that owned the 'New York
Ledger.' I used to read the 'Ledger' clear through, when Henry Ward
Beecher and Fanny Fern wrote for it. None of these new magazines touch
it. And you knew Tom Hendricks? That's a good picture. Tom looked like a
statesman anyhow, and that's more than most of 'em do."

She continued her efforts to divert his thoughts from the real matter at
hand, summoning from the shadows all the Hoosier statesmen of the
post-bellum period to aid her, and she purposely declared her admiration
of several of these to provoke Kelton's ire.

"That's right, Andrew; jump on 'em," she laughed, as she drew from the
desk a check book and began to write. When she had blotted and torn out
the check she examined it carefully and placed it near him on the edge
of her desk. "Now, Andrew Kelton, there's a check for six thousand
dollars; we'll call that our educational fund. You furnish the girl; I
put in the money. I only wish I had the girl to put into the business
instead of the cash."

"But I don't need the money yet; I shan't need it till fall," he
protested.

"That's all right. Fall's pretty close and you'll feel better if you
have it. Now, you may count on more when that's gone if you want it. In
case anything goes wrong with you or me it'll be fixed. I'll attend to
it. I look on it as a good investment. Your note? Look here, Andrew
Kelton, if you mention that life insurance to me again, I'll cut your
acquaintance. You go to bed; and don't you ever let on to that baby
upstairs that I have any hand in her schooling." She dropped her check
book into a drawer and swung round in her swivel chair until she faced
him. "I don't want to open up that affair of Sylvia's mother again, but
there's always the possibility that something may happen. You know
Edna's dead, but there's always a chance that Sylvia's father may turn
up. It's not likely; but there's no telling about such things; and it
wouldn't be quite fair for you to leave her unprepared if it should
happen."

"There's one more circumstance I haven't told you about. It happened
only a few days ago. It was that, in fact, which crystallized my own
ideas about Sylvia's education. A letter was sent to me by a stranger,
offering money for Sylvia's schooling. The whole thing was surrounded
with the utmost secrecy."

"So? Then some one is watching Sylvia; keeping track of her, and must be
kindly disposed from that. You never heard anything before?"

"Never. I was asked to send a verbal answer by the messenger who brought
me the letter, accepting or declining the offer. I declined it."

"That was right. But there's no hiding anything in this world; you must
have some idea where the offer came from."

"I haven't the slightest, not the remotest idea. The messenger was a
stranger to me; from what Sylvia said he was a stranger at Montgomery
and had never seen the college before. Time had begun to soften the
whole thing, and the knowledge that some one has been watching the child
all these years troubles me. It roused all my old resentment; I have
hardly slept since it occurred."

"It's queer; but you'd better try to forget it. Somebody's conscience is
hurting, I reckon. I wouldn't know how to account for it in any other
way. If it's a case of conscience, it may have satisfied itself by
offering money; if it didn't, you or Sylvia may hear from it again."

"It's just that that hurts and worries me,--the possibility that this
person may trouble Sylvia sometime when I am not here to help her. It's
an awful thing for a woman to go out into the world followed by a
shadow. It's so much worse for a woman; women are so helpless."

"Some of us, like me, are pretty tough, too. Sylvia will be able to take
care of herself; you don't need to worry about her. If that's gnawing
some man's conscience--and I reckon it is--you can forget all about it.
A man's conscience--the kind of man that would abandon a woman he had
married, or maybe hadn't married--ain't going to be a ghost that walks
often. You'd better go to bed, Andrew."

Kelton lingered to smoke a cigar in the open. He had enjoyed to-night an
experience that he had not known in years--that of unburdening himself
to a kindly, sympathetic, and resourceful woman.

While they talked of her, Sylvia sat in her window-seat in the dark
above looking at the stars. She lingered there until late, enjoying the
cool air, and unwilling to terminate in sleep so eventful a day. She
heard presently her grandfather's step below as he "stood watch,"
marking his brief course across the dim garden by the light of his
cigar. Sylvia was very happy. She had for a few hours breathed the
ampler ether of a new world; but she was unconscious in her dreaming
that her girlhood, that had been as tranquil water safe from current and
commotion, now felt the outward drawing of the tide.



CHAPTER V

INTRODUCING MR. DANIEL HARWOOD


On the day following the delivery to Andrew Kelton of the letter in
which money for Sylvia's education was offered by an unknown person, the
bearer of the message was to be seen at Indianapolis, in the law office
of Wright and Fitch, attorneys and counselors at law, on the fourth
floor of the White River Trust Company's building in Washington Street.
In that office young Mr. Harwood was one of half a dozen students, who
ran errands to the courts, kept the accounts, and otherwise made
themselves useful.

Wright and Fitch was the principal law firm in the state in the period
under scrutiny, as may readily be proved by an examination of the court
dockets. The firm's practice was, however, limited. Persons anxious to
mulct wicked corporations in damages for physical injuries did not
apply to Wright and Fitch, for the excellent reason that this capable
firm was retained by most of the public service corporations and had no
time to waste on the petty and vexatious claims of minor litigants. Mr.
Wright was a Republican, Mr. Fitch a Democrat, and each of these
gentlemen occasionally raised his voice loud enough in politics to
emphasize his party fealty. In the seventies Mr. Wright had served a
term as city attorney; on the other hand, Mr. Fitch had once declined
the Italian ambassadorship. Both had been mentioned at different times
for the governorship or for the United States Senate, and both had
declined to enter the lists for these offices.

Daniel Harwood had been graduated from Yale University a year before we
first observed him, and though the world lay before him where to choose,
he returned to his native state and gave himself to the study of law by
day and earned a livelihood by serving the "Courier" newspaper by night.
As Mr. Harwood is to appear frequently in this chronicle, it may be well
to summarize briefly the facts of his history. He was born on a farm in
Harrison County, and his aversion to farm life had been colored from
earliest childhood by the difficulties his father experienced in
wringing enough money out of eighty acres of land to buy food and
clothing and to pay taxes and interest on an insatiable mortgage held
somewhere by a ruthless life insurance company that seemed most
unreasonably insistent in its collections. Daniel had two older brothers
who, having satisfied their passion for enlightenment at the nearest
schoolhouse, meekly enlisted under their father in the task of fighting
the mortgage. Daniel, with a weaker hand and a better head, and with
vastly more enterprise, resolved to go to Yale. This seemed the most
fatuous, the most profane of ambitions. If college at all, why not the
State University, to support which the Harwood eighty acres were taxed;
but a college away off in Connecticut! There were no precedents for this
in Harrison County. No Harwood within the memory of man had ever
adventured farther into the unknown world than to the State Fair at
Indianapolis; and when it came to education, both the judge of the
Harrison County Circuit Court and the presiding elder of the district
had climbed to fame without other education than that afforded by the
common schools. Daniel's choice of Yale had been determined by the fact
that a professor in that institution had once addressed the county
teachers, and young Harwood had been greatly impressed by him. The Yale
professor was the first graduate of an Eastern university that Daniel
had ever seen, and he became the young Hoosier's ideal of elegance and
learning. Daniel had acquired at this time all that the county school
offered, and he made bold to approach the visitor and ask his advice as
to the best means of getting to college.

We need not trace the devious course by which, after much burning of oil
during half a dozen winters, Dan Harwood attained to a freshman's
dignity at New Haven, where, arriving with his effects in a canvas
telescope, he had found a scholarship awaiting him; nor need we do more
than record the fact that he had cared for furnaces, taken the night
shift on a trolley car, and otherwise earned money until, in his junior
year, his income from newspaper correspondence and tutoring made further
manual labor unnecessary. It is with profound regret that we cannot
point to Harwood as a football hero or the mainstay of the crew. Having
ploughed the mortgaged acres, and tossed hay and broken colts, college
athletics struck him as rather puerile diversion. He would have been
the least conspicuous man in college if he had not shone in debate and
gathered up such prizes and honors as were accessible in that field. His
big booming voice, recognizable above the din in all 'varsity
demonstrations, earned for him the sobriquet of "Foghorn" Harwood. For
the rest he studied early and late, and experienced the doubtful glory,
and accepted meekly the reproach, of being a grind.

History and the dismal science had interested him immensely. His
assiduous attention to the classes of Professor Sumner had not gone
unnoticed by that eminent instructor, who once called him by name in
Chapel Street, much to Dan's edification. He thought well of
belles-lettres and for a time toyed with an ambition to enrich English
literature with contributions of his own. During this period he
contributed to the "Lit" a sonnet called "The Clam-Digger" which
began:--

     At rosy dawn I see thine argosy;

and which closed with the invocation:--

     Fair tides reward thy long, laborious days.

The sonnet was neatly parodied in the "Record," and that journal printed
a gratuitous defense of the fisherman at whom, presumably, the poem had
been directed. "The sonnet discloses nothing," said the "Record," "as to
the race, color, or previous condition of servitude of the unfortunate
clammer to justify a son of Eli in attacking a poor man laudably engaged
in a perfectly honorable calling. The sonneteer, coming, we believe,
from the unsalt waters of the Wabash, seems to be unaware that the
fisherman at whom he has leveled his tuneful lyre is not seeking fair
tides but clams. We therefore suggest that the closing line of the
sextette be amended to read--

     Fair clams reward thy long, laborious days."

Harwood was liked by his fellow students in the law office. Two
Yalensians, already established there, made his lot easier, and they
combined against a lone Harvardian, who bitterly resented Harwood's
habit of smoking a cob pipe in the library at night. The bouquet of
Dan's pipe was pretty well dispelled by morning save to the discerning
nostril of the harvard man, who protested against it, and said the
offense was indictable at common law. Harwood stood stoutly for his
rights and privileges, and for Yale democracy, which he declared his
pipe exemplified. There was much good-natured banter of this sort in the
office.

Harwood was busy filing papers when Mr. Fitch summoned him to his
private room on the day indicated. Fitch was short, thin, and bald, with
a clipped reddish beard, brown eyes, and a turn-up nose. He was
considered a better lawyer than Wright, who was the orator of the firm,
and its reliance in dealing with juries. In the preparation of briefs
and in oral arguments before the Supreme Court, Fitch was the superior.
His personal peculiarities had greatly Interested Harwood; as, for
example, Fitch's manner of locking himself in his room for days at a
time while he was preparing to write a brief, denying himself to all
visitors, and only occasionally calling for books from the library.
Then, when he had formulated his ideas, he summoned the stenographer and
dictated at one sitting a brief that generally proved to be the
reviewing court's own judgment of the case in hand. Some of Fitch's
fellow practitioners intimated at times that he was tricky. In
conferences with opposing counsel, one heard, he required watching, as
he was wary of committing himself and it was difficult to discover what
line of reasoning he elected to oppose or defend. In such conferences it
was his fashion to begin any statement that might seem even remotely to
bind him with the remark, "I'm just thinking aloud on that proposition
and don't want to be bound by what I say." The students in the office,
to whom he was unfailingly courteous, apostrophized him as "the fox." He
called them all "Mister," and occasionally flattered them by presenting
a hypothetical case for their consideration.

Fitch was sitting before the immaculate desk he affected (no one ever
dared leave anything on it in his absence) when Harwood entered. The
lawyer's chair was an enormous piece of furniture in which his small
figure seemed to shrink and hide. His hands were thrust into his
pockets, as they usually were, and he piped out "Good-Morning" in a high
tenor voice.

"Shut the door, please, Mr. Harwood. What have you to report about your
errand to Montgomery?"

He indicated with a nod the one chair in the room and Harwood seated
himself.

"I found Professor Kelton without difficulty and presented the letter."

"You delivered the letter and you have told no one of your visit to
Montgomery."

"No one, sir; no one knows I have been away from town. I handed the
letter to the gentleman in his own house, alone, and he gave me his
answer."

"Well?"

"_No_ is the answer."

Fitch polished his eyeglasses with his handkerchief. He scrutinized
Harwood carefully for a moment, then asked:--

"Did the gentleman--whose name, by the way, you have forgotten--"

"Yes, sir; I have quite forgotten it," Harwood replied promptly.

"Did he show any feeling--indignation, pique, as he read the letter?"

"No; but he read it carefully. His face showed pain, I should say, sir,
rather than indignation. He gave his negative reply coldly--a little
sharply. He was very courteous--a gentleman, I should say, beyond any
question."

"I dare say. What kind of an establishment did he keep?"

"A small cottage, with books everywhere, right by the campus. A young
girl let me in; she spoke of the professor as her grandfather. She went
off to find him for me in the college library."

"A young person. What did she look like?"

"A dark young miss, with black hair tied with a red ribbon."

Fitch smiled.

"You are sure of the color, are you? This man lives there with his
granddaughter, and the place was simple--comfortable, no luxuries. You
had no conversation with him."

"I think we exchanged a word about the weather, which was warm."

Fitch smiled again. His was a rare smile, but it was worth waiting for.

"What did the trip cost you?"

Harwood named the amount and the lawyer drew a check book from his
impeccable desk and wrote.

"I have added one hundred dollars for your services. This is a personal
matter between you and me, and does not go on the office books. By the
way, Mr. Harwood, what are you doing out there?" he asked, moving his
head slightly toward the outer office.

"I'm reading law."

"Is it possible! The other youngsters in the office seem to be talking
politics or reading newspapers most of the time. How do you manage to
live?"

"I do some work for the 'Courier' from time to time."

"Ah! You are careful not to let your legal studies get mixed with the
newspaper work?"

"Yes, sir. They put me on meetings, and other night assignments. As to
the confidences of this office, you need have no fear of my--"

"I haven't, Mr. Harwood. Let me see. It was of you Professor Sumner
wrote me last year; he's an old friend of mine. He said he thought you
had a sinewy mind--a strong phrase for Sumner."

"He never told me that," said Dan, laughing. "He several times implied
quite the reverse."

"He's a great man--Sumner. I suppose you absorbed a good many of his
ideas at New Haven."

"I hope I did, sir: I believe in most of them anyhow."

"So do I, Mr. Harwood."

Fitch pointed to a huge pile of manuscript on a table by the window. It
was a stenographic transcript of testimony in a case which had been lost
in the trial court and was now going up on appeal.

"Digest that evidence and give me the gist of it in not more than five
hundred words. That's all."

Harwood's hand was on the door when Fitch arrested him with a word.

"To recur to this private transaction between us, you have not the
remotest idea what was in that letter, and nothing was said in the
interview that gave you any hint--is that entirely correct?"

"Absolutely."

"Very well. I know nothing of the matter myself; I am merely
accommodating a friend. We need not refer to this again."

When the door had closed, the lawyer wrote a brief note which he placed
in his pocket, and dropped later into a letter-box with his own hand.
Mr. Fitch, of the law firm of Wright and Fitch, was not in the habit of
acting as agent in matters he didn't comprehend, and his part in
Harwood's errand was not to his liking. He had spoken the truth when he
said that he knew no more of the nature of the letter that had been
carried to Professor Kelton than the messenger, and Harwood's replies
to his interrogatories had told him nothing.

Many matters, however, pressed upon his attention and offered abundant
exercise for his curiosity. With Harwood, too, pleased to have for the
first time in his life one hundred dollars in cash, the incident was
closed.



CHAPTER VI

HOME LIFE OF HOOSIER STATESMEN


In no other place can a young man so quickly attain wisdom as in a
newspaper office. There the names of the good and great are playthings,
and the bubble reputation is blown lightly, and as readily extinguished,
as part of the day's business. No other employment offers so many
excitements; in nothing else does the laborer live so truly behind the
scenes. The stage is wide, the action varied and constant. The youngest
tyro, watching from the wings, observes great incidents and becomes
their hasty historian. The reporter's status is unique. Youth on the
threshold of no other profession commands the same respect, gains
audience so readily to the same august personages. Doors slammed in his
face only flatter his self-importance. He becomes cynical as he sees how
easily the spot light is made to flash upon the unworthiest figures by
the flimsiest mechanism. He drops his plummet into shoal and deep water
and from his contemplation of the wreck-littered shore grows skeptical
of the wisdom of all pilots.

Harwood's connection with the "Courier" brought him in touch with
politics, which interested him greatly. The "Courier" was the organ of
the Democratic Party in the state, and though his father and brothers
in the country were Republicans, Dan found himself more in sympathy with
the views represented by the Democratic Party, even after it abandoned
its ancient conservatism and became aggressively radical. About the time
of Harwood's return to his native state the newspaper had changed hands.
At least the corporation which had owned it for a number of years had
apparently disposed of it, though the transaction had been effected so
quietly that the public received no outward hint beyond the deletion of
"Published by the Courier Newspaper Company" from the head of the
editorial page. The "policy" of the paper continued unchanged; the
editorial staff had not been disturbed; and in the counting-room there
had been no revolution, though an utterly unknown man had appeared
bearing the title of General Manager, which carried with it authority in
all departments.

This person was supposed to represent the unknown proprietor, about whom
there had been the liveliest speculation. The "Courier's" rivals gave
much space to rumors, real and imaginary, as to the new ownership,
attributing the purchase to a number of prominent politicians in rapid
succession, and to syndicates that had never existed. It was an odd
effect of the change in the "Courier's" ownership that almost
immediately mystery seemed to envelop the editorial rooms. The managing
editor, whose humors and moods fixed the tone of the office, may have
been responsible, but whatever the cause a stricter discipline was
manifest, and editors, reporters and copy-readers moved and labored with
a consciousness that an unknown being walked among the desks, and hung
over the forms to the very last moment before they were hurled to the
stereotypers. The editorial writers--those astute counselors of the
public who are half-revered and half-despised by their associates on the
news side of every American newspaper--wrote uneasily under a
mysterious, hidden censorship. It was possible that even the young woman
who gleaned society news might, by some unfortunate slip, offend the
invisible proprietor. But as time passed nothing happened. The
imaginable opaque pane that separated the owner from the desks of the
"Courier's" reporters and philosophers had disclosed no faintest shadow.
Occasionally the managing editor was summoned below by the general
manager, but the subordinates in the news department were unable, even
by much careful study of their subsequent instructions, to grasp the
slightest thread that might lead them to the concealed hand which swayed
the "Courier's" destiny. It must be confessed that under this ghostly
administration the paper improved. Every man did his best, and the
circulation statements as published monthly indicated a widening
constituency. Even the Sunday edition, long a forbidding and depressing
hodge-podge of ill-chosen and ill-digested rubbish, began to show order
and intelligence.

In October following his visit to Professor Kelton, Harwood was sent to
Fraserville, the seat of Fraser County, to write a sketch of the
Honorable Morton Bassett, in a series then adorning the Sunday
supplement under the title, "Home Life of Hoosier Statesmen." The
object of the series was frankly to aid the circulation manager's
efforts to build up subscription lists in the rural districts, and
personal sketches of local celebrities had proved potent in this
endeavor. Most of the subjects that had fallen to Harwood's lot had been
of a familiar type--country lawyers who sat in the legislature, or
county chairmen, or judges of county courts. As the "Sunday Courier"
eschewed politics, the series was not restricted to Democrats but
included men of all faiths. It was Harwood's habit to spend a day in the
towns he visited, gathering local color and collecting anecdotal matter.

While this employment cut deeply into his hours at the law office, he
reasoned that there was a compensating advantage in the knowledge he
gained on these excursions of the men of both political faiths.

Before the train stopped at Fraserville he saw from the car window the
name "Bassett" written large on a towering elevator,--a fact which he
noted carefully as offering a suggestion for the introductory line of
his sketch. As he left the station and struck off toward the heart of
the town, he was aware that Bassett was a name that appealed to the eye
frequently. The Bassett Block and Bassett's Bank spoke not merely for a
material prosperity, rare among the local statesmen he had described in
the "Courier," but, judging from the prominence of the name in
Fraserville nomenclature, he assumed that it had long been established
in the community. Harwood had not previously faced a second generation
in his pursuit of Hoosier celebrities, and he breathed a sigh of relief
at the prospect of a variation on the threadbare scenario of early
hardship, the little red schoolhouse, patient industry, and the
laborious attainment of meagre political honors--which had begun to bore
him.

Harwood sought first the editor of the "Fraser County Democrat," who was
also the "Courier's" Fraserville correspondent. Fraserville boasted two
other newspapers, the "Republican," which offset the "Democrat"
politically, and the "News," an independent afternoon daily whose
function was to encourage strife between its weekly contemporaries and
boom the commercial interests of the town. The editor of the "Democrat"
was an extremely stout person, who sprawled at ease in a battered swivel
chair, with his slippered feet thrown across a desk littered with
newspapers, clippings, letters, and manuscript. A file hook was
suspended on the wall over his shoulder, and on this it was his habit to
impale, by a remarkable twist of body and arm, gems for his hebdomadal
journal. He wrote on a pad held in his ample lap, the paste brush was
within easy reach, and once planted on his throne the editor was
established for the day. Bound volumes of the "Congressional Record" in
their original wrappers were piled in a corner. A consular report,
folded in half, was thrust under the editor's right thigh, easly
accessible in ferocious moments when he indulged himself in the felicity
of slaughtering the roaches with which the place swarmed. He gave Dan a
limp fat hand, and cleared a chair of exchanges with one foot, which he
thereupon laboriously restored to its accustomed place on the desk.

"So you're from the 'Courier'? Well, sir, you may tell your managing
editor for me that if he doesn't print more of my stuff he can get
somebody else on the job here."

Dan soothed Mr. Pettit's feelings as best he could; he confessed that
his own best work was mercilessly cut; and that, after all, the editors
of city newspapers were poor judges of the essential character of news.
When Pettit's good humor had been restored, Dan broached the nature of
his errand. As he mentioned Morton Bassett's name the huge editor's face
grew blank for a moment; then he was shaken with mirth that passed from
faint quivers until his whole frame was convulsed. His rickety chair
trembled and rattled ominously. It was noiseless laughter so far as any
vocal manifestations were concerned; but it shook the gigantic editor as
though he were a mould of jelly. He closed his eyes, but otherwise his
fat face was expressionless.

"Goin' to write Mort up, are you? Well, by gum! I've been readin' those
pieces in the 'Courier.' Your work? Good writin'; mighty interestin'
readin', as old Uncle Horace Greeley used to say. I guess you carry the
whitewash brush along with you in your pilgrimages. You certainly did
give Bill Ragsdale a clean bill o' health. That must have tickled the
folks in Tecumseh County. Know Ragsdale? I've set with Bill in the lower
house three sessions, and I come pretty near knowin' him. I don't say
that Bill is crooked; but I suspect that if Bill's moral nature could
be dug out and exposed to view it would be spiral like a bedspring; just
about. It's an awful load on the Republican Party in this state, having
to carry Bill Ragsdale. O Lord!"

He pursed his fat lips, and his eyes took on a far-away expression, as
though some profound utterance had diverted his thoughts to remote
realms of reverie. "So you're goin' to write Mort up; well, my God!"

The exact relevance of this was not apparent. Harwood had assumed on
general principles that the Honorable Isaac Pettit, of the "Fraser
County Democrat," was an humble and obedient servant of the Honorable
Morton Bassett, and would cringe at the mention of his name. To be sure,
Mr. Pettit had said nothing to disturb this belief; but neither had the
editor manifested that meek submission for which the reporter had been
prepared. The editor's Gargantuan girth trembled again. The spectacle he
presented as he shook thus with inexplicable mirth was so funny that
Harwood grinned; whereupon Pettit rubbed one of his great hands across
his three-days' growth of beard, evoking a harsh rasping sound in which
he seemed to find relief and satisfaction.

"You don't know Mort? Well, he's all right; he will he mighty nice to
you. Mort's one of the best fellows on earth; you won't find anybody out
here in Fraser County to say anything against Mort Bassett. No, sir; by
God!"

Again the ponderous frame shook; again the mysterious look came into the
man's curious small eyes, and Harwood witnessed another seismic
disturbance in the bulk before him; then the Honorable Isaac Pettit grew
serious.

"You want some facts for a starter. Well, I guess a few facts don't hurt
in this business, providin' you don't push in too many of 'em."

He pondered for a moment, then went on, as though summarizing from a
biography:--

"Only child of the late Jeremiah Bassett, founder of Bassett's Bank. Old
Jerry was pure boiler plate; he could squeeze ten per cent interest out
of a frozen parsnip. He and Blackford Singleton sort o' divided things
up in this section. Jerry Bassett corralled the coin; Blackford rolled
up a couple of hundred thousand and capped it with a United States
senatorship. Mort's not forty yet; married only child of Blackford F.
Singleton--Jerry made the match, I guess; it was the only way he could
get Blackford's money. Mort prepared for college, but didn't go. Took
his degree in law at Columbia, but never practiced. Always interested in
politics; been in the state senate twelve years; two children, boy and
girl. I guess Mort Bassett can do most anything he wants to--you can't
tell where he'll land."

"But the next steps are obvious," suggested Harwood, encouragingly--"the
governorship, the United States Senate--ever onward and upward."

"Well, yes; but you never know anything from _him_. _We_ don't know, and
you might think we'd understand him pretty well up here. He declined to
go to Congress from this district--could have had it without turning a
hand; but he put in his man and stayed in the state senate. I reckon he
cuts some ice there, but he's mighty quiet. Bassett doesn't beat the
tom-tom to call attention to himself. I guess no man swings more
influence in a state convention--but he's peculiar. You'll find him
different from these yahoos you've been writin' up. I know 'em all."

"A man of influence and power--leading citizen in every sense--" Dan
murmured as he scribbled a few notes.

"Yep. Mort's considered rich. You may have noticed his name printed on
most everything but the undertaker's and the jail as you came up from
the station. The elevator and the bank he inherited from his pap. Mort's
got a finger in most everything 'round here."

"Owns everything," said Harwood, with an attempt at facetiousness,
"except the brewery."

Mr. Pettit's eyes opened wide, and then closed; again he was
mirth-shaken; it seemed that the idea of linking Morton Bassett's name
with the manufacture of malt liquor was the most stupendous joke
possible. The editor's face did not change expression; the internal
disturbances were not more violent this time, but they continued longer;
when the strange spasm had passed he dug a fat fist into a tearful right
eye and was calm.

"Oh, my God," he blurted huskily. "Breweries? Let us say that he neither
makes nor consumes malt, vinous nor spirituous liquor, within the
meaning of the statutes in such cases made and provided. He and Ed
Thatcher make a strong team. Ed started out as a brewer, but there's
nothing wrong about that, I reckon. Over in England they make lords and
dukes of brewers."

"A man of rectitude--enshrined in the hearts of his fellow-citizens,
popular and all that?" suggested Harwood.

Yes. Mort rather _retains_ his heat, I guess. Some say he's cold as ice.
His ice is the kind that freezes to what he likes. Mort's a gentleman if
we have one in Fraser County. If you think you're chasin' one of these
blue jeans politicians you read about in comic papers you're hitting the
wrong trail, son. Mort can eat with a fork without appearin'
self-conscious. Good Lord, boy, if you can say these other fellows in
Indiana politics have brains, you got to say that Mort Bassett has
_intellect_. Which is different, son; a dern sight different."

"I shall be glad to use the word in my sketch of Mr. Bassett," remarked
Dan dryly. "It will lend variety to the series."

Harwood thanked the editor for his courtesy and walked to the door.
Strange creakings from the editorial chair caused him to turn. The
Honorable Isaac Pettit was in the throes of another convulsion. The
attack seemed more severe than its predecessors. Dan waited for him to
invoke deity with the asthmatic wheeziness to which mirth reduced his
vocal apparatus.

"It's nothin', son; it's nothin'. It's my temperament: I can't help it.
Did you say you were from the 'Courier'? Well, you better give Mort a
good send-off. He appreciates a good job; he's a sort o' literary cuss
himself."

As another mirthful spasm seemed imminent Dan retired, wondering just
what in himself or in his errand had so moved the fat editor's
risibilities. He learned at the Bassett Bank that Mr. Bassett was
spending the day in a neighboring town, but would be home at six
o'clock, so he surveyed Fraserville and killed time until evening,
eating luncheon and supper with sundry commercial travelers at the Grand
Hotel.

Harwood's instructions were in every case to take the subjects of his
sketches at their own valuation and to set them forth sympathetically.
The ambitions of most of the gentlemen he had interviewed had been
obvious--obvious and futile. Nearly every man who reached the
legislature felt a higher call to Congress or the governor's chair.
Harwood had already described in the "Courier" the attainments of
several statesmen who were willing to sacrifice their private interests
for the high seat at the state capitol. The pettiness and sordidness of
most of the politicians he met struck him humorously, but the tone of
his articles was uniformly laudatory.

When the iron gate clicked behind him at the Bassett residence, his
notebook was still barren of such anecdotes of his subject as he had
usually gathered in like cases in an afternoon spent at the court-house.
Stories of generosity, of the kindly care of widows and orphans, gifts
to indigent pastors, boys helped through college, and similar
benefactions had proved altogether elusive. Either Harwood had sought
in the wrong places or Morton Bassett was of tougher fibre than the
other gentlemen on whom his pencil had conferred immortality. In
response to his ring a boy opened the door and admitted him without
parley. He had a card ready to offer, but the lad ran to announce him
without waiting for his name and reappeared promptly.

"Papa says to come right in, sir," the boy reported.

Dan caught a glimpse of a girl at the piano in the parlor who turned to
glance at him and continued her playing. The lad indicated an open door
midway of the long hall and waited for Harwood to enter. A lady,
carrying a small workbasket in her hand, bade the reporter good-evening
as she passed out. On a table in the middle of the room a checkerboard's
white and black belligerents stood at truce, and from the interrupted
game rose a thick-set man of medium height, with dark hair and a
close-trimmed mustache, who came toward him inquiringly.

"Good-evening. I am Mr. Bassett. Have a chair."

Harwood felt the guilt of his intrusion upon a scene so sheltered and
domestic. The father had evidently been playing checkers with his son;
the mother's chair still rocked by another table on which stood a
reading lamp.

Harwood stated his errand, and Bassett merely nodded, offering none of
those protestations of surprise and humility, those pleas of
unworthiness that his predecessors on Dan's list had usually insisted
upon. Dan made mental note at once of the figure before him. Bassett's
jaw was square and firm--power was manifest there, unmistakably, and
his bristling mustache suggested combativeness. His dark eyes met
Harwood's gaze steadily--hardness might be there, though their gaze was
friendly enough. His voice was deep and its tone was pleasant. He opened
a drawer and produced a box of cigars.

"Won't you smoke? I don't smoke myself, but you mustn't mind that." And
Harwood accepted a cigar, which he found excellent. A moment later a
maid placed on the table beside the checkerboard a tray, with a decanter
and glasses, and a pitcher of water.

"That's for us," remarked Bassett, nodding toward the glasses. "Help
yourself."

"The cigar is all I need; thank you."

The reporter was prepared to ask questions, following a routine he had
employed with other subjects, but Bassett began to talk on his own
initiative--of the town, the county, the district. He expressed himself
well, in terse words and phrases. Harwood did not attempt to direct or
lead: Bassett had taken the interview into his own hands, and was
imparting information that might have been derived from a local history
at the town library. Dan ceased, after a time, to follow the narrative
in his absorption in the man himself. Harwood took his politics
seriously and the petty politicians with whom he had thus far become
acquainted in his newspaper work had impressed him chiefly by their
bigotry or venality. It was not for nothing that he had worshiped at
Sumner's feet at Yale and he held views that were not readily
reconcilable with parochial boss-ships and the meek swallowing of
machine-made platforms. Bassett was not the vulgar, intimate good-fellow
who slapped every man on the back--the teller of good stories over a
glass of whiskey and a cigar. He was, as Pettit had said, a new type,
not of the familiar _cliché_. The decanter was a "property" placed in
the scene at the dictates of hospitality; the checkerboard canceled any
suggestion of conviviality that might have been conveyed by the decanter
of whiskey.

Bassett's right hand lay on the table and Dan found himself watching it.
It was broad but not heavy; the fingers that opened and shut quietly on
a small paperweight were supple. It was a hand that would deal few
blows, but hard ones. Harwood was aware, at a moment when he began to be
bored by the bald facts of local history, that Bassett had abruptly
switched the subject.

"Parties are necessary to democratic government. I don't believe merely
in my own party; I want the opposition to be strong enough to make a
fight. The people are better satisfied if there's a contest for the
offices. I'm not sorry when we lose occasionally; defeat disciplines and
strengthens a party. I have made a point in our little local affairs of
not fighting independents when they break with us for any reason.
Believing as I do that parties are essential, and that schismatic
movements are futile, I make a point of not attacking them. Their
failures strengthen the party--and incidentally kill the men who have
kicked out of the traces. You never have to bother with them a second
time."

"But they help clear the air--they serve a purpose?" suggested Harwood.
He had acquired a taste for the "Nation" and the New York "Evening Post"
at college, and Bassett's frank statement of his political opinions
struck Dan as mediæval. He was, however, instinctively a reporter, and
he refrained from interposing himself further than was necessary to
stimulate the talk of the man before him.

"You are quite right, Mr. Harwood. They serve an excellent purpose. They
provide an outlet; they serve as a safety valve. Now and then they will
win a fight, and that's a good thing too, for they will prove, on
experiment, that they are just as human and weak in practical
application of their ideas as the rest of us. I'd even go as far as to
say that in certain circumstances I'd let them win. They help drive home
my idea that the old parties, like old, established business houses,
have got to maintain a standard or they will lose the business to which
they are rightfully entitled. When you see your customers passing your
front door to try a new shop farther up the street, you want to sit down
and consider what's the matter, and devise means of regaining your lost
ground. It doesn't pay merely to ridicule the new man or cry that his
goods are inferior. Yours have got to be superior--or"--and the gray
eyes twinkled for the first time--"they must be dressed up to look
better in your show window."

Bassett rose and walked the length of the room, with his hands thrust
into his trousers pockets, and before he sat down he poured himself a
glass of water from the pitcher and drank it slowly, with an air of
preoccupation. He moved easily, with a quicker step than might have been
expected in one of his figure. The strength of his hand was also in the
firm line of his vigorous, well-knit frame. And his rather large head,
Dan observed, rested solidly on broad shoulders.

Harwood's thoughts were, however, given another turn at once. Morton
Bassett had said all he cared to say about politics and he now asked Dan
whether he was a college man, to which prompting the reporter recited
succinctly the annals of his life.

"You're a Harrison County boy, are you? So you didn't like the farm, and
found a way out? That's good. You may be interested in some of my
books."

Dan was immediately on guard against being bored; the library of even an
intelligent local statesman like Morton Bassett was hardly likely to
prove interesting. One of his earlier subjects had asked him
particularly to mention his library, which consisted mainly of
government reports.

"I've been a collector of Americana," Bassett remarked, throwing open
several cases. "I've gone in for colonial history, particularly, and
some of these things are pretty rare."

The shelves rose to the ceiling and Bassett produced a ladder that he
might hand down a few of the more interesting volumes for Dan's closer
inspection.

"Here's Wainwright's 'Brief Description of the Ohio River, With some
Account of the Savages Living Thereon'--published in London in 1732,
and there are only three copies in existence. This is Atterbury's
'Chronicle of the Chesapeake Settlements'--the best thing I have. The
author was an English sailor who joined the colonists in the Revolution
and published a little memoir of his adventures in America. The only
other copy of that known to exist is in the British Museum. I fished
mine out of a pile of junk in Baltimore about ten years ago. When I get
old and have time on my hands I'm going to reprint some of these--wide
margins, and footnotes, and that sort of thing. But there's fun enough
now in just having them and knowing the other fellow hasn't!"

He flung open a panel of the wainscoting at a point still free of
shelves and disclosed a door of a small iron safe which he opened with a
key. "This isn't the family silver, but a few little things that are
more valuable. These are first editions of American authors. Here's
Lowell's 'Fable for Critics,' first edition; and this is Emerson's
'Nature,' 1836--a first. These are bound by Orpcutt; had them done
myself. They feel good to the hand, don't they!"

Harwood's pleasure in the beautiful specimens of the binder's art was
unfeigned and to his questioning Bassett dilated upon the craftsmanship.

"The red morocco of the Emerson takes the gold tooling beautifully, and
the oak-leaf border design couldn't be finer. I believe this olive-green
shade is the best of all. This Whittier--a first edition of 'In War
Time'--is by Durand, a French artist, and one of the best specimens of
his work."

Those strong hands of his touched the beautiful books fondly. Harwood
took advantage of a moment when Bassett carried to the lamp Lowell's
"Under the Willows" in gold and brown, the better to display the deft
workmanship, to look more closely at the owner of these lovely baubles.
The iron hand could be very gentle! Bassett touched the volume
caressingly as he called attention to its perfection. His face, in the
lamp's full light, softened, but there was in it no hint of sensuousness
to prepare one for this indulgence in luxurious bibliomania. There was a
childlike simplicity in Bassett's delight. A man who enjoyed such
playthings could not be hard, and Dan's heart warmed with liking.

"Are you a reader of poetry?" asked Dan, as Bassett carefully collected
the books and returned them to the safe.

"No. That is something we leave behind us with our youth," he said; and
looking down at the bent head and sturdy shoulders, and watching the
strong fingers turning the key, Dan wondered what the man's youth had
been and what elements were mixed in him that soft textures of leather
and delicate tracings of gold on brown and scarlet and olive could so
delight him. His rather jaunty attitude toward the "Home Life of Hoosier
Statesmen" experienced a change. Morton Bassett was not a man who could
be hit off in a few hundred words, but a complex character he did not
pretend to understand. Threads of various hues had passed before him,
but how to intertwine them was a question that already puzzled the
reporter. Bassett had rested his hand on Dan's shoulder for a moment as
the younger man bent over one of the prized volumes, and Dan was not
insensible to the friendliness of the act.

Mrs. Bassett and the two children appeared at the door a little later.

"Come in, Hallie," said the politician; "all of you come in."

He introduced the reporter to his wife and to Marian, the daughter, and
Blackford, the son.

"The children were just going up," said Mrs. Bassett. "As it's Saturday
they have an hour added to their evening. I think I heard Mr. Bassett
talking of books a moment ago. It's not often he brings out his first
editions for a visitor."

They talked of books for a moment, while the children listened. Then
Bassett recurred to the fact, already elicited, that Harwood was a Yale
man, whereupon colleges were discussed.

"Many of our small fresh-water colleges do excellent work," remarked
Bassett. "Some educator has explained the difference between large and
small colleges by saying that in the large one the boy goes through more
college, but in the small one more college goes through the boy. Of
course I'm not implying, Mr. Harwood, that that was true in your case."

"Oh, I'm not sensitive about that, Mr. Bassett. And I beg not to be
taken as an example of what Yale does for her students. Some of the
smaller colleges stand for the best things; there's Madison College,
here in our own state--its standards are severely high, and the place
itself has quality, atmosphere--you feel, even as a casual visitor,
that it's the real thing."

"So I've always heard," remarked Mrs. Bassett. "My father always admired
Madison. Strange to say, I have never been there. Are you acquainted in
Montgomery?"

Bassett bent forward slightly at the question.

"I was there for an hour or so last spring; but I was in a hurry. I
didn't even take time to run into my fraternity house, though I saw its
banner on the outer wall."

"Your newspaper work must give you many interesting adventures,"
suggested the politician.

"Not always as pleasant as this, I assure you. But I'm a person of two
occupations--I'm studying law, and my visit to Montgomery was on an
errand for the office where I'm allowed to use the books in return for
slight services of one kind and another. As a newspaper man I'm
something of an impostor; I hope I'm only a passing pilgrim in the
business."

Dan faced Mrs. Bassett as he made this explanation, and he was
conscious, as he turned toward the master of the house, that Bassett was
observing him intently. His gaze was so direct and searching that
Harwood was disconcerted for a moment; then Bassett remarked
carelessly,--

"I should think newspaper work a good training for the law. It drills
faculties that a lawyer exercises constantly."

Mrs. Bassett now made it possible for Marian and young Blackford to
contribute to the conversation.

"I'm going to Annapolis," announced the boy.

"You've had a change of heart," said his father, with a smile. "It was
West Point last week."

"Well, it will be Annapolis next week," the lad declared; and then, as
if to explain his abandonment of a military career, "In the Navy you get
to see the world, and in the Army you're likely to be stuck away at some
awful place on the Plains where you never see anything. The Indians are
nearly all killed anyhow."

"We hear a good deal nowadays about the higher education of woman," Mrs.
Bassett remarked, "and I suppose girls should be prepared to earn their
own living. Mothers of daughters have that to think about."

Miss Marian, catching Dan's eye, smiled as though to express her full
appreciation of the humor of her mother's remark.

"Mama learned that from my Aunt Sally," she ventured; and Dan saw that
she was an independent spirit, given to daring sayings, and indulged in
them by her parents.

"Well, Aunt Sally is the wisest woman in the world," replied Mrs.
Bassett, with emphasis. "It would be to your credit if you followed her,
my dear."

Marian ignored her mother's rebuke and addressed herself to the visitor.

"Aunt Sally lives in Indianapolis and I go there to Miss Waring's
School. I'm just home for Sunday."

"Mrs. Owen is my aunt; you may have heard of her, Mr. Harwood; she was
my father's only sister."

"Oh, _the_ Mrs. Owen! Of course every one has heard of her; and I knew
that she was Senator Singleton's sister. I am sorry to say I don't know
her."

Unconsciously the sense of Morton Bassett's importance deepened. In
marrying Mrs. Jackson Owen's niece Bassett had linked himself to the
richest woman at the state capital. He had not encumbered himself with a
crude wife from the countryside, but had married a woman with important
connections. Blackford Singleton had been one of the leading men of the
state, and Mrs. Owen, his sister, was not a negligible figure in the
background against which the reporter saw he must sketch the
Fraserville senator. Harwood had met the wives of other Hoosier
statesmen--uninteresting creatures in the main, and palpably of little
assistance to ambitious husbands.

It appeared that the Bassetts spent their summers at their cottage on
Lake Waupegan and that Mrs. Owen had a farm near them. It was clear that
Bassett enjoyed his family. He fell into a chaffing way with his
children and laughed heartily at Marian's forwardness. He met his son on
the lad's own note of self-importance and connived with him to provoke
her amusing impertinences.

Bassett imposed no restrictions upon Harwood's pencil, and this, too,
was a novel experience. His predecessors on the list of leaders in
Hoosier politics had not been backward about making suggestions, but
Bassett did not refer to Harwood's errand at all. When Dan asked for
photographs of Mrs. Bassett and the children with which to embellish
his article, Bassett declined to give them with a firmness that ended
the matter; but he promised to provide photographs of the house and
grounds and of the Waupegan cottage and send them to Harwood in a day or
two.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harwood gave to his sketch of Morton Bassett a care which he had not
bestowed upon any of his previous contributions to the "Courier's"
series of Hoosier statesmen. He remained away from the law office two
days the better to concentrate himself upon his task, and the result was
a careful, straightforward article, into which he threw shadings of
analysis and flashes of color that reflected very faithfully the
impression made upon his mind by the senator from Fraser. The managing
editor complained of its sobriety and lack of anecdote.

"It's good, Harwood, but it's too damned solemn. Can't you shoot a
little ginger into it?"

"I've tried to paint the real Bassett. He isn't one of these raw
hayseeds who hands you chestnuts out of patent medicine almanacs. I've
tried to make a document that would tell the truth and at the same time
please him."

"Why?" snapped the editor, pulling the green shade away from his eyes
and glaring at the reporter.

"Because he's the sort of man you feel you'd like to please! He's the
only one of these fellows I've tackled who didn't tell me a lot of
highfalutin rot they wanted put into the article. Bassett didn't seem to
care about it one way or another. I rewrote most of that stuff half a
dozen times to be sure to get the punk out of it, because I knew he
hated punk."

"You did, did you! Well, McNaughton of Tippecanoe County is the next
standard-bearer you're to tackle, and you needn't be afraid to pin
ribbons on him. You college fellows are all alike. Try to remember,
Harwood, that this paper ain't the 'North American Review'; it's a
newspaper for the plain people."

Dan, at some personal risk, saw to it that the illustrations were so
minimized that it became unnecessary to sacrifice his text to
accommodate it to the page set apart for it. He read his screed in type
with considerable satisfaction, feeling that it was an honest piece of
work and that it limned a portrait of Bassett that was vivid and
truthful. The editor-in-chief inquired who had written it, and took
occasion to commend Harwood for his good workmanship. A little later a
clerk in the counting-room told him that Bassett had ordered a hundred
copies of the issue containing the sketch, and this was consoling.
Several other subjects had written their thanks, and Dan had rather
hoped that Bassett would send him a line of approval; but on reflection
he concluded that it was not like Bassett to do so, and that this
failure to make any sign corroborated all that he knew or imagined of
the senator from Fraser.



CHAPTER VII

SYLVIA AT LAKE WAUPEGAN


The snow lay late the next year on the Madison campus. It had been a
busy winter for Sylvia, though in all ways a happy one. When it became
known that she was preparing for college all the Buckeye Lane folk were
anxious to help. Professor Kelton would not trust his own powers too far
and he availed himself of the offers of members of the faculty to tutor
Sylvia in their several branches. Buckeye Lane was proud of Sylvia and
glad that the old professor found college possible for her. Happiness
reigned in the cottage, and days were not so cold or snows so deep but
that Sylvia and her grandfather went forth for their afternoon tramp.
There was nothing morbid or anæmic about Sylvia. Every morning she
pulled weights and swung Indian clubs with her windows open. A
mischievous freshman who had thrown a snowball at Sylvia's heels, in the
hope of seeing her jump, regretted his bad manners: Sylvia caught him in
the ear with an unexpected return shot. A senior who observed the
incident dealt in the lordly way of his kind with the offender. They
called her "our co-ed" and "the boss girl" after that. The professor of
mathematics occasionally left on his blackboard Sylvia's demonstrations
and pointed them out to his class as models worthy of their emulation.

Spring stole into the heart of the Wabash country and the sap sang again
in maples and elms. Lilacs and snowballs bloomed, and Professor Kelton
went serenely about among his roses. Sylvia passed her examinations, and
was to be admitted to Wellesley without conditions,--all the Lane knew
and rejoiced! The good news was communicated to Mrs. Owen, who wrote at
once to Professor Kelton from the summer headquarters she had
established on her farm in northern Indiana that just then required
particular attention. It ran:--

     I want you to make me a visit. Sylvia must be pretty tired after
     her long, busy year and I have been tinkering the house here a
     little bit so you can both be perfectly comfortable. It's not so
     lonely as you might think, as my farm borders Lake Waupegan, and
     the young people have gay times. My niece, Mrs. Bassett, has a
     cottage on the lake only a minute's walk from me. I should like
     Marian and Sylvia to get acquainted and this will be easy if only
     you will come up for a couple of weeks. There are enough old folks
     around here, Andrew, to keep you and me in countenance. I inclose a
     timetable with the best trains marked. You leave the train at
     Waupegan Station, and take the steamer across the lake. I will meet
     you at any time you say.

So it happened that on a June evening they left the train at Waupegan
and crossed the platform to the wheezy little steamer which was waiting
just as the timetable had predicted; and soon they were embarked and
crossing the lake, which seemed to Sylvia a vast ocean. Twilight was
enfolding the world, and all manner of fairy lights began to twinkle at
the far edges of the water and on the dark heights above the lake.
Overhead the stars were slipping into their wonted places.

"You can get an idea of how it is at sea," said her grandfather, smiling
at her long upward gaze. "Only you can hardly feel the wonder of it all
here, or the great loneliness of the ocean at night."

It was, however, wonder enough, for a girl who had previously looked
upon no more impressive waters than those of Fall Creek, Sugar Creek,
and White River. The steamer, with much sputtering and churning and not
without excessive trepidation on the part of the captain and his lone
deck hand, stopped at many frail docks below the cottages that hung on
the bluff above. Every cottager maintained his own light or combination
of lights to facilitate identification by approaching visitors. They
passed a number of sailboats lazily idling in the light wind, and
several small power boats shot past with engines beating furiously upon
the still waters.

"The Bassetts' dock is the green light; the red, white, and blue is Mrs.
Owen's," explained the captain. "We ain't stoppin' at Bassett's
to-night."

These lights marked the farthest bounds of Lake Waupegan, and were the
last points touched by the boat. Sylvia watched the green light with
interest as they passed. She had thought of Marian often since their
meeting at Mrs. Owen's. She would doubtless see more of her now: the
green light and the red, white and blue were very close together.

Mrs. Owen called to them cheerily from the dock, and waved a lantern in
welcome. She began talking to her guests before they disembarked.

"Glad to see you, Andrew. You must be mighty hungry, Sylvia. Don't smash
my dock to pieces, Captain; it's only wood."

Mrs. Owen complained after a few days that she saw nothing of Sylvia, so
numerous were that young person's engagements. Mrs. Bassett and Marian
called promptly--the former a trifle dazed by Sylvia's sudden advent,
and Marian genuinely cordial. Mrs. Bassett had heard of the approaching
visit with liveliest interest. A year before, when Marian had reported
the presence in Mrs. Owen's house at Indianapolis of a strange girl with
Professor Kelton, her curiosity had been piqued, but she soon dismissed
the matter. Marian had carried home little information, and while Mrs.
Bassett saw her aunt often on her frequent excursions to the city, she
knew by long experience that Mrs. Owen did not yield gracefully to
prodding.

Mrs. Bassett had heard all her life of Professor Kelton and she had met
him now and then in the Delaware Street house, but her knowledge of him
and his family was only the most fragmentary. Nothing had occurred
during the year to bring the Keltons again to her attention; but now,
with a casualness in itself disconcerting, they had arrived at Mrs.
Owen's farmhouse, where, Mrs. Bassett was sure, no guests had ever been
entertained before. The house had just been remodeled and made
altogether habitable, a fact which, Mrs. Bassett had been flattering
herself, argued for Mrs. Owen's increasing interest in herself and her
family. The immediate arrival of the Keltons was disquieting.

Through most of her life Hallie Bassett had assumed that she and her
children, as Sally Owen's next of kin, quite filled the heart of that
admirable though often inexplicable woman. Mrs. Bassett had herself
inherited a small fortune from her father, Blackford F. Singleton, Mrs.
Owen's brother, a judge of the Indiana Supreme Court and a senator in
Congress, whose merits and services are set forth in a tablet at the
portal of the Fraser County Court-House. The Bassetts and the Singletons
had been early settlers of that region, and the marriage of Hallie
Singleton to Morton Bassett was a satisfactory incident in the history
of both families. Six years of Mrs. Bassett's girlhood had been passed
in Washington; the thought of power and influence was dear to her; and
nothing in her life had been more natural than the expectation that her
children would enjoy the fortune Mrs. Owen had been accumulating so long
and, from all accounts, by processes hardly less than magical. Mrs.
Bassett's humor was not always equal to the strain to which her aunt
subjected it. Hallie Bassett had, in fact, little humor of any sort. She
viewed life with a certain austerity, and in literature she had
fortified herself against the shocks of time. Conduct, she had read, is
three fourths of life; and Wordsworth had convinced her that the world
is too much with us. Mrs. Bassett discussed nothing so ably as a vague
something she was fond of characterizing as "the full life," and this
she wished to secure for her children. Her boy's future lay properly
with his father; she had no wish to meddle with it; but Marian was the
apple of her eye, and she was striving by all the means in her power to
direct her daughter into pleasant paths and bright meadows where the
"full life" is assured. Hers were no mean standards. She meant to be a
sympathetic and helpful wife, the wisest and most conscientious of
mothers.

Mrs. Bassett was immensely anxious to please her aunt in all ways; but
that intrepid woman's pleasure was not a thing to be counted on with
certainty. She not only sought to please her aunt by every means
possible, but she wished her children to intrench themselves strongly in
their great aunt's favor. The reports of such of Mrs. Owen's public
benefactions as occasionally reached the newspapers were always
alarming. No one ever knew just how much money Sally Owen gave away; but
some of her gifts in recent years had been too large to pass unnoticed
by the press. Only a few months before she had established a
working-girls' home in memory of a daughter--her only child--who had
died in early youth, and this crash from a clear sky had aroused in Mrs.
Bassett the gravest apprehensions. It was just so much money said to be
eighty thousand dollars--out of the pockets of Marian and Blackford;
and, besides, Mrs. Bassett held views on this type of benevolence. Homes
for working-girls might be well enough, but the danger of spoiling them
by too much indulgence was not inconsiderable; Mrs. Bassett's altruism
was directed to the moral and intellectual uplift of the mass (she never
said masses) and was not concerned with the plain prose of housing,
feeding, and clothing young women who earned their own living. Mrs.
Owen, in turning over this home to a board of trustees, had stipulated
that music for dancing should be provided every Saturday evening;
whereupon two trustees, on whom the Christian religion weighed heavily,
resigned; but Mrs. Owen did not care particularly. Trustees were only
necessary to satisfy the law and to assure the legal continuity of
Elizabeth House, which Mrs. Owen directed very well herself.

Mrs. Bassett encouraged Marian's attentions to Mrs. Owen's young
visitor; but it must be said that Marian, on her own account, liked
Sylvia and found delight in initiating her into the mysteries of
Waupegan life. She taught her to ride, to paddle a canoe, and to swim.
There were dances at the casino, and it was remarkable how easily Sylvia
learned to dance. Marian taught her a few steps on the first rainy day
at the Bassett house, and thereafter no one would have doubted that
Sylvia had been to dancing-school with the boys and girls she met at the
casino parties. Marian was the most popular girl in the summer colony
and Sylvia admired her ungrudgingly. In all outdoor sports Marian
excelled. She dived from a spring-board like a boy, she paddled a canoe
tirelessly and with inimitable grace, and it was a joy to see her at the
tennis court, where her nimbleness of foot and the certainty of her
stroke made her easily first in all competitions. At the casino, after
a hard round of tennis, and while waiting for cakes and lemonade to be
served, she would hammer ragtime on the piano or sing the latest lyrical
offerings of Broadway. Quiet, elderly gentlemen from Cincinnati,
Louisville, and Indianapolis, who went to the casino to read the
newspapers or to play bridge, grinned when Marian turned things upside
down. If any one else had improvised a bowling-alley of ginger-ale
bottles and croquet-balls on the veranda, they would have complained of
it bitterly. She was impatient of restraint, and it was apparent that
few restraints were imposed upon her. Her sophistication in certain
directions was to Sylvia well-nigh incomprehensible. In matters of
personal adornment, for example, the younger girl's accomplishments were
astonishing. She taught Sylvia how to arrange her hair in the latest
fashion promulgated by "Vogue"; she instructed her in the refined art of
manicuring according to the method of the best shop in Indianapolis; and
it was amazing how wonderfully Marian could improve a hat by the
slightest readjustments of ribbon and feather. She tested the world's
resources like a spoiled princess with an indulgent chancellor to pay
her bills. She gave a party and ordered the refreshments from Chicago,
though her mother protested that the domestic apparatus for making
ice-cream was wholly adequate for the occasion. When she wanted new
tennis shoes she telegraphed for them; and she kept in her room a small
library of mail-order catalogues to facilitate her extravagances.

Marian talked a great deal about boys, and confided to Sylvia her
sentimental attachment for one of the lads they saw from day to day, and
with whom they played tennis at the casino court. For the first time
Sylvia heard a girl talk of men as of romantic beings, and of love as a
part of the joy and excitement of life. A young gentleman in a Gibson
drawing which she had torn from an old copy of "Life" more nearly
approximated Marian's ideal than even the actors of her remote
adoration. She had a great number of gowns and was quite reckless in her
use of them. She tried to confer upon Sylvia scarf pins, ties, and like
articles, for which she declared she had not the slightest use. In the
purchase of soda water and candy at the casino, where she scribbled her
father's initials on the checks, or at the confectioner's in the village
where she enjoyed a flexible credit, her generosity was prodigal. She
was constantly picking up other youngsters and piloting them on
excursions that her ready fancy devised; and if they returned late for
meals or otherwise incurred parental displeasure, to Marian it was only
part of the joke. She was always late and ingeniously plausible in
excusing herself. "Mother won't bother; she wants me to have a good
time. And when papa is here he just laughs at me. Papa's just the best
ever."

Mrs. Bassett kept lamenting to Professor Kelton her husband's protracted
delay in Colorado. He was interested in a mining property there and was
waiting for the installation of new machinery, but she expected to hear
that he had left for Indiana at any time, and he was coming direct to
Waupegan for a long stay. Mrs. Owen was busy with the Waupegan farm and
with the direction of her farms elsewhere. On the veranda of her house
one might frequently hear her voice raised at the telephone as she gave
orders to the men in charge of her properties in central and southern
Indiana. Her hearing was perfect and she derived the greatest
satisfaction from telephoning. She sold stock or produce on these
distant estates with the market page of the "Courier" propped on the
telephone desk before her, and explained her transactions zestfully to
Professor Kelton and Sylvia. She communicated frequently with the
superintendent of her horse farm at Lexington about the "string" she
expected to send forth to triumph at county and state fairs. The "Annual
Stud Register" lay beside the Bible on the living-room table; and the
"Western Horseman" mingled amicably with the "Congregationalist" in the
newspaper rack.

The presence of the old professor and his granddaughter at Waupegan
continued to puzzle Mrs. Bassett. Mrs. Owen clearly admired Sylvia, and
Sylvia was a charming girl--there was no gainsaying that. At the
farmhouse a good deal had been said about Sylvia's plans for going to
college. Mrs. Owen had proudly called attention to them, to her niece's
annoyance. If Sylvia's advent marked the flowering in Mrs. Owen of some
new ideals of woman's development, Mrs. Bassett felt it to be her duty
to discover them and to train Marian along similar lines. She felt that
her husband would be displeased if anything occurred to thwart the hand
of destiny that had so clearly pointed to Marian and Blackford as the
natural beneficiaries of the estate which Mrs. Owen by due process of
nature must relinquish. In all her calculations for the future Mrs.
Owen's fortune was an integer.

Mrs. Bassett received a letter from her husband on Saturday morning in
the second week of Sylvia's stay. Its progress from the mining-camp in
the mountains had been slow and the boat that delivered the letter
brought also a telegram announcing Bassett's arrival in Chicago, so that
he was even now on his way to Waupegan. As Mrs. Bassett pondered this
intelligence Sylvia appeared at the veranda steps to inquire for Marian.

"She hasn't come down yet, Sylvia. You girls had a pretty lively day
yesterday and I told Marian she had better sleep a while longer."

"We certainly have the finest times in the world," replied Sylvia. "It
doesn't seem possible that I've been here nearly two weeks."

"I'm glad you're going to stay longer. Aunt Sally told me yesterday it
was arranged."

"We really didn't expect to stay more than our two weeks; but Mrs. Owen
made it seem very easy to do so."

"Oh, you needn't be afraid of outstaying your welcome. It's not Aunt
Sally's way to bore herself. If she didn't like you very much she
wouldn't have you here at all; Aunt Sally's always right straight out
from the shoulder."

"Marian has done everything to give me a good time. I want you to know I
appreciate it. I have never known girls; Marian is really the first
girl I have ever known, and she has taught me ever so many things."

"Marian is a dear," murmured Mrs. Bassett.

She was a murmurous person, whose speech was marked by a curious rising
inflection, that turned most of her statements into interrogatories. To
Sylvia this habit seemed altogether wonderful and elegant.

"Suppose we take a walk along the lake path, Sylvia. We can pretend
we're looking for wild flowers to have an excuse. I'll leave word for
Marian to follow."

They set off along the path together. Mrs. Bassett had never seemed
friendlier, and Sylvia was flattered by this mark of kindness. Mrs.
Bassett trailed her parasol, using it occasionally to point out plants
and flowers that called for comment. She knew the local flora well, and
kept a daybook of the wildflowers found in the longitude and latitude of
Waupegan; and she was an indefatigable ornithologist, going forth with
notebook and opera glass in hand. She spoke much of Thoreau and
Burroughs and they were the nucleus of her summer library; she said that
they gained tang and vigor from their winter hibernation at the cottage.
Her references to nature were a little self-conscious, as seems
inevitable with such devotees, but we cannot belittle the accuracy of
her knowledge or the cleverness of her detective skill in apprehending
the native flora. She found red and yellow columbines tucked away in odd
corners, and the blue-eyed-Mary with its four petals--two blue and two
white--as readily as Sylvia's inexperienced eye discovered the more
obvious ladies'-slipper and jack-in-the-pulpit. To-day Mrs. Bassett
rejoiced in the discovery of the season's first puccoon, showing its
orange-yellow cluster on a sandy slope. She plucked a spray of the
spreading dogbane, but only that she might descant upon it to Sylvia; it
was a crime, Mrs. Bassett said, to gather wild flowers, which were never
the same when transplanted to the house. When they came presently to a
rustic seat Mrs. Bassett suggested that they rest there and watch the
lake, which had always its mild excitements.

"You haven't known Aunt Sally a great while, I judge, Sylvia? Of course
you haven't known any one a great while!"

"No; I never saw her but once before this visit. That was when
grandfather took me to see her in Indianapolis a year ago. She and
grandfather are old friends."

"All the old citizens of Indiana have a kind of friendship among
themselves. Somebody said once that the difference between Indiana and
Kentucky is, that while the Kentuckians are all cousins we Hoosiers are
all neighbors. But of course so many of us have had Kentucky
grandfathers that we understand the Kentuckians almost as well as our
own people. I used to meet your grandfather now and then at Aunt
Sally's; but I can't say that I ever knew him. He's a delightful man and
it's plain that his heart is centred in you."

"There was never any one like grandfather," said Sylvia with feeling.

"I suppose that as he and Aunt Sally are such old friends they must have
talked a good deal together about you and your going to college. It
would be quite natural."

Sylvia had not thought of this. She was the least guileful of beings,
this Sylvia, and she saw nothing amiss in these inquiries.

"I suppose they may have done so; and Mrs. Owen talked to me about going
to college when I visited her."

"Oh! If _she_ undertook to persuade you, then it is no wonder you
decided to go. She's a very powerful pleader, as she would put it
herself."

"It wasn't just that way, Mrs. Bassett. I think grandfather had already
persuaded me. Mrs. Owen didn't know of it till afterward; but she seemed
to like the idea. Her ideas about girls and women are very interesting."

"Yes? She has a very decided way of expressing herself. I should
imagine, though, that with her training and manner of life she might
look a little warily at the idea of college training for women.
Personally, you understand, I am heartily in favor of it. I have hoped
that Marian might go to college. Aunt Sally takes the greatest interest
in Marian, naturally, but she has never urged it upon us."

Sylvia gazed off across the lake and made no reply. She recalled
distinctly Mrs. Owen's comments on Marian, expressed quite clearly on
the day of their drive into the country, a year before. It was not for
her to repeat those observations; she liked Marian and admired her, and
she saw no reason why Marian should not go to college. Sylvia, guessing
nothing of what was in Mrs. Bassett's mind, failed to understand that
Mrs. Owen's approval of Marian's education was of importance. Nothing
could have been more remote from her thoughts than the idea that her own
plans concerned any one but herself and her grandfather. She was not so
dull, however, but that she began to feel that Mrs. Bassett was speaking
defensively of Marian.

"Marian's taste in reading is very unusual, I think. I have always
insisted that she read only the best. She is very fond of Tennyson. I
fancy that after all, home training is really the most valuable,--I mean
that the atmosphere of the home can give a child what no school
supplies. I don't mean, of course, that we have it in _our_ home; but
I'm speaking of the ideal condition where there _is_ an atmosphere. I've
made a point of keeping good books lying about the house, and the best
magazines and reviews. I was never happier than the day I found Marian
curled up on a lounge reading Keats. It may be that the real literary
instinct, such as I feel Marian has, would only be spoiled by college;
and I should like nothing better than to have Marian become a writer. A
good many of our best American women writers have not been college
women; I was looking that up only the other day."

Sylvia listened, deeply interested; then she laughed suddenly, and as
Mrs. Bassett turned toward her she felt that it would do no harm to
repeat a remark of Mrs. Owen's that had struck her as being funny.

"I just happened to remember something Mrs. Owen said about colleges.
She said that if it isn't in the colt the trainer can't put it there;
and I suppose the successful literary women have had genius whether they
had higher education or not. George Eliot hadn't a college training, but
of course she was a very great woman."

Mrs. Bassett compressed her lips. She had not liked this quotation from
Mrs. Owen's utterances on this vexed question of higher education. Could
it be possible that Aunt Sally looked upon Marian as one of those colts
for whom the trainer could do nothing? It was not a reassuring thought;
her apprehensions as to Sylvia's place in her kinswoman's affections
were quickened by Sylvia's words; but Mrs. Bassett dropped the matter.

"I have never felt that young girls should read George Eliot. She
doesn't seem to me _quite_ an ideal to set before a young girl."

As Sylvia knew nothing of George Eliot, except what she had gleaned from
the biographical data in a text-book on nineteenth-century writers, she
was unable to follow Mrs. Bassett. She had read "Mill on the Floss," and
"Romola" and saw no reason why every one shouldn't enjoy them.

Mrs. Bassett twirled her closed parasol absently and studied the profile
of the girl beside her.

"The requirements for college are not really so difficult, I suppose?"
she suggested.

Sylvia's dark eyes brightened as she faced her interlocutor. Those of us
who know Sylvia find that quick flash of humor in her eyes adorable.

"Oh, they can't be, for I answered most of the questions!" she
exclaimed, and then, seeing no response in her inquisitor, she added
soberly: "It's all set out in the catalogue and I have one with me. I'd
be glad to bring it over if you'd like to see it."

"Thank you, Sylvia. I should like to see it. I may want to ask you some
questions about the work; but of course you won't say anything to Marian
of our talk. I am not quite sure, and I'll have to discuss it with Mr.
Bassett."

"Of course I shan't speak of it, Mrs. Bassett."

Marian's voice was now heard calling them, down the path, and the girl
appeared, a moment later, munching a bit of toast stuccoed with jam, and
eager to be off for the casino where a tennis match was scheduled for
the morning.

"Don't be late for dinner this evening, Marian; your father will be
here, and if you see Blackford, be sure to tell him to meet the 3.10."

"Yes, mama, I'll remember, and I'll try to meet the train too." And then
to Sylvia, as she led the way to the boathouse to get the canoe, "I'm
glad dad's coming. He's perfectly grand, and I'm going to see if he
won't give me a naphtha launch. Dad's a good old scout and he's pretty
sure to do it."

Marian's manner of speaking of her parents disclosed the filial
relationship in a new aspect to Sylvia, who did not at once reconcile it
with her own understanding of the fifth commandment. Marian referred to
her father variously as "the grand old man," "the true scout," "Sir
Morton the good knight," and to her mother as "the Princess Pauline,"
or "one's mama," giving to _mama_ the French pronunciation. All this
seemed to Sylvia to be in keeping with Marian's general precociousness.

Sylvia had formed the habit of stealing away in the long twilights,
after the cheerful gathering at Mrs. Owen's supper-table, for a little
self-communing. Usually Mrs. Owen and Professor Kelton fell to talking
of old times and old friends at this hour and Sylvia's disappearances
were unremarked. She felt the joy of living these days, and loved dearly
the delaying hour between day and night that is so lovely, so touched
with poetry in this region. There was always a robin's vesper song, that
may be heard elsewhere than in Indiana, but can nowhere else be so
tremulous with joy and pain. A little creek ran across Mrs. Owen's farm,
cutting for itself a sharp defile to facilitate its egress into the
lake; and Sylvia liked to throw herself down beside a favorite maple,
with the evening breeze whispering over the young corn behind her, and
the lake, with its heart open to the coming of the stars, quiet before
her, and dream the dreams that fill a girl's heart in those blessed and
wonderful days when the brook and river meet.

On this Saturday evening Sylvia was particularly happy. The day's
activities, that had begun late, left her a little breathless. She was
wondering whether any one had ever been so happy, and whether any other
girl's life had ever been so pleasantly ordered. Her heartbeat quickened
as she thought of college and the busy years that awaited her there; and
after that would come the great world's wide-open doors. She was
untouched by envy, hatred, or malice. There was no cloud anywhere that
could mar; the stars that stole out into the great span of sky were not
more tranquil than her own heart. The world existed only that people
might show kindness one to another, and that all this beauty of wood,
field, water, and starry sky might bring joy to the souls of men. She
knew that there was evil in the world; but she knew it from books and
not from life. Her path had fallen in pleasant places, and only
benignant spirits attended her.

She was roused suddenly by the sound of steps in the path beneath. This
twilight sanctuary had never been invaded before, and she rose hastily.
The course of an irregular path that followed the lake was broken here
by the creek's miniature chasm, but adventurous pedestrians might gain
the top and continue over a rough rustic bridge along the edge of Mrs.
Owen's cornfield. Sylvia peered down, expecting to see Marian or
Blackford, but a stranger was approaching, catching at bushes to
facilitate his ascent. Sylvia stepped back, assuming it to be a cottager
who had lost his way. A narrow-brimmed straw hat rose above the
elderberry bushes, and with a last effort the man stood on level ground,
panting from the climb. He took off his hat and mopped his face as he
glanced about. Sylvia had drawn back, but as the stranger could not go
on without seeing her she stepped forward, and they faced each other, in
a little plot of level ground beside the defile.

"Pardon me!" he exclaimed, still breathing hard; and then his eyes met
hers in a long gaze. His gray eyes searched her dark ones for what
seemed an interminable time. Sylvia's hand sought the maple but did not
touch it; and the keen eyes of the stranger did not loosen their hold of
hers. A breeze blowing across the cornfield swept over them, shaking the
maple leaves, and rippled the surface of the lake. The dusk, deepening
slowly, seemed to shut them in together.

"Pardon me, again! I hope I didn't frighten you! I am Mr. Bassett,
Marian's father."

"And I am Sylvia Garrison. I am staying--"

"Oh," he laughed, "you needn't tell me! They told me at the supper-table
all about you and that you and Marian are fast friends."

"I knew you were coming; they were speaking of it this morning."

They had drawn closer together during this friendly exchange. Again
their eyes met for an instant, then he surveyed her sharply from head to
foot, as he stood bareheaded leaning on his stick.

"I must be going," said Sylvia. "There's a path through the corn that
Mrs. Owen lets me use. They'll begin to wonder what's become of me."

"Why not follow the path to the lane,--I think there is a lane at the
edge of the field,--and I will walk to the house with you. The path
through the corn must be a little rough, and it's growing dark."

"Yes, thank you, Mr. Bassett."

"I had no idea of meeting any one when I came out. I usually take a
little walk after supper when I'm here, and I wanted to get all the car
smoke out of my lungs. I was glad to get out of Chicago; it was fiercely
hot there."

The path was not wide enough for two and she walked before him. After
they had exhausted the heat as a topic, silence fell upon them. He still
swung his hat in his hand. Once or twice he smote his stick smartly upon
the ground. He timed his pace to hers, keeping close, his eyes upon her
straight slender figure. When they reached the lane they walked together
until they came to the highway, which they followed to the house. An oil
lamp marked the walk that led through Mrs. Owen's flower garden.

"Aren't you coming in, Mr. Bassett?" asked Sylvia, as they paused.

Her hand clicked the latch and the little white-washed gate swung open.
In the lamplight their eyes met again.

"I'm sorry, but I must go home. This is the first time I've been here
this summer, and my stay is short. I must be off again to-morrow."

"Oh, that's too bad! Marian has been telling me that you would stay a
month, she will be terribly disappointed"

"My Western trip took more time than I expected I have a good deal to do
at Fraserville and must get back there"

She stepped inside, thinking he delayed out of courtesy to her, but to
her surprise he fastened the latch deliberately and lingered.

"They tell me you and your grandfather live at Montgomery. It's a
charming town, one of the most interesting in the state."

"Yes, Mr. Bassett. My grandfather taught in the college there."

"I have often heard of Professor Kelton, of course. He's a citizen our
state is proud of. Mrs. Bassett says you're going to college this
fall--to Wellesley, is it? Mrs. Bassett has an idea that Marian ought to
have a college education. What do you think about it?"

He smiled kindly, and there was kindness in his deep voice.

"I think girls should go who want to go," answered Sylvia, her hands on
the pickets of the gate.

"You speak like a politician," laughed Bassett. "That's exactly what I
think; and I haven't seen that Marian is dying for a college career."

"She has plenty of time to think of it," Sylvia replied. "I'm ever so
much older"; and this seemed to dispose of that matter.

"You are staying here some time?"

"Another week. It seems that we've hardly been here a day."

"You are fortunate in having Mrs. Owen for a friend. She is a very
unusual woman."

"The most wonderful person I ever knew!" responded Sylvia warmly.

He still showed no haste to leave her, though he had just reached
Waupegan, and was going away the next day.

"Your grandfather isn't teaching at Madison now, I believe?"

"No; but he lectures sometimes, and he has taught me; there was never a
better teacher," she answered, smiling.

"You must have been well taught if you are ready for college so early;
you are--you say you're older than Marian--do you mind my asking how old
you ate?"

"Nearly seventeen; seventeen in October."

"Oh! Then you are four years older than Marian. But I mustn't keep you
here. Please remember me to Mrs. Owen and tell her I'll drop in before I
go." He bent over the gate and put out his hand. "Good-night, Miss
Garrison!"

Sylvia had never been called Miss Garrison before, and it was not
without trepidation that she heard herself so addressed. Mr. Bassett had
spoken the name gravely, and their eyes met again in lingering contact.
When the door closed upon her he walked on rapidly; but once, before the
trees had obscured Mrs. Owen's lights, he turned and glanced back.



CHAPTER VIII

SILK STOCKINGS AND BLUE OVERALLS


One night in this same June, Harwood was directed by the city editor of
the "Courier" to find Mr. Edward G. Thatcher. Two reporters had failed
at it, and it was desirable to verify reports as to certain transactions
by which Thatcher, in conjunction with Morton Bassett, was believed to
be effecting a merger of various glass-manufacturing interests. Thatcher
had begun life as a brewer, but this would long since have been obscured
by the broadening currents of fortune if it had not been for his
persistent dabbling in politics. Whenever the Republican press was at a
loss for something to attack, Thatcher's breweries--which he had
concealed in a corporation that did not bear his name were an inviting
and unfailing target. For years, though never seeking office, he had
been a silent factor in politics, and he and Bassett, it was said,
controlled their party. Mrs. Thatcher had built an expensive house, but
fearing that the money her husband generously supplied was tainted by
the remote beer vats, she and her two daughters spent most of their time
in Europe, giving, however, as their reason the ill-health of Thatcher's
son. Thatcher's income was large and he spent it in his own fashion. He
made long journeys to witness prize fights; he had the reputation of
being a poor poker player, but "a good loser"; he kept a racing-stable
that lost money, and he was a patron of baseball and owned stock in the
local club. He was "a good fellow" in a sense of the phrase that
requires quotation marks. Mrs. Sally Owen, whose opinion in all matters
pertaining to her fellow citizens is not to be slighted, fearlessly
asked Thatcher to dinner at her house. She expressed her unfavorable
opinion of his family for deserting him, and told him to his face that a
man who knew as little about horses as he did should have a guardian.

"He's in town somewhere," said the city editor; "don't come back and
tell me you can't find him. Try the Country Club, where he was never
known to go, and the University Club, where he doesn't belong, and all
the other unlikely places you can think of. The other boys have thrown
up their hands."

Dan had several times been fortunate in like quests for men in hiding,
and he had that confidence in his luck which is part of the good
reporter's endowment. He called all the clubs and the Thatcher residence
by telephone. The clubs denied all knowledge of Edward G. Thatcher, and
his residence answered not at all; whereupon Harwood took the trolley
for the Thatcher mansion in the new quarter of Meridian Street beyond
the peaceful shores of Fall Creek. A humorist who described the passing
show from the stern of a rubber-neck wagon for the instruction of
tourists announced on every round that "This is Edward G. Thatcher's
residence; it contains twelve bath-rooms, and cost seventy-five thousand
dollars four years ago. The family have lived in it three months. Does
it pay to be rich?"

As Harwood entered the grounds the house loomed darkly before him. Most
of the houses in this quarter were closed for the summer, but Dan
assumed that there must be some sort of caretaker on the premises and he
began patiently punching the front-door bell. Failing of any response,
he next tried a side door and finally the extreme rear. He had begun to
feel discouraged when, as he approached the front entrance for a second
assault, he saw a light flash beyond the dark blinds. The door opened
cautiously, and a voice gruffly bade him begone.

"I have a message for Mr. Thatcher; it's very important--"

"Mr. Thatcher not at home; nobody home," growled a voice in broken
English. "You get right off dis place, quick!"

Dan thrust his walking-stick into the small opening to guard against
having the door slammed in his face and began a parley that continued
for several minutes with rising heat on the part of the caretaker. The
man's rage at being unable to close the door was not without its humor;
but Dan now saw, beyond the German's broad shoulders, a figure lurking
within, faintly discernible from the electric lamps in a bronze sconce
on the wall.

The reporter and the caretaker were making no progress in their colloquy
and Dan was trying to catch a glimpse of the other man, who leaned
against the wall quite indifferent to the struggle for the door. Dan
supposed him to be another servant, and he had abandoned hope of
learning anything of Thatcher, when a drawling voice called out:--

"Open the door, Hans, and let the gentleman in: I'll attend to him."

Dan found himself face to face with a young man of about his own age, a
slender young fellow, clad in blue overalls and flannel shirt. He
lounged forward with an air of languor that puzzled the reporter. His
dress was not wholly conclusive as to his position in the silent house;
the overalls still showed their pristine folds, the shirt was of good
quality and well-cut. The ends of a narrow red-silk four-in-hand swung
free. He was clean-shaven save for an absurd little mustache so fair as
to be almost indistinguishable. His blond hair was brushed back unparted
from his forehead. Another swift survey of the slight figure disclosed a
pair of patent-leather pumps. His socks, revealed at the ankles, were
scarlet. Dan was unfamiliar with the ménage of such establishments as
this, and he wondered whether this might not be an upper servant of a
new species peculiar to homes of wealth. He leaned on his stick, hat in
hand, and the big blue eyes of the young man rested upon him with
disconcerting gravity. A door slammed at the rear upon the retreating
German, whom this superior functionary had dispatched about his
business. At a moment when the silence became oppressive the young man
straightened himself slightly and spoke in a low voice, and with
amusement showing clearly in his eyes and about his lips,--

"You're a reporter."

"Yes; I'm from the 'Courier.' I'm looking for Mr. Thatcher."

"Suppose, suppose--if you're not in a great hurry, you come with me."

The pumps, with the scarlet socks showing below the overalls, turned at
the end of the broad hall and began ascending the stairs. The young
man's manner was perfectly assured. He had not taken his hands from his
pockets, and he carried himself with an ease and composure that set
Dan's conjectures at naught. In the absence of the family, a servant
might thus conduct himself; and yet, if Thatcher was not at home, why
should he be thus ushered into the inner sanctities of the mansion by
this singular young person, whose silk hose and bright pumps were so
utterly out of harmony with the rest of his garb. There might be a trick
in it; perhaps he had intruded upon a burglarious invasion,--this
invitation to the upper chambers might be for the purpose of shutting
him in somewhere until the place had been looted. It was, in any case, a
novel adventure, and his curiosity was aroused by the languid pace with
which, without pausing at the second floor, the young man continued on
to the third. Through an open door Dan saw a bedroom in order for
occupancy; but the furniture in the upper and lower halls was draped,
and a faint odor of camphor hung upon the air. It had occurred to
Harwood that he might be stumbling upon material for a good "story,"
though just what it might prove to be was still a baffling question. His
guide had not spoken or looked at him since beginning the ascent, and
Harwood grasped his stick more firmly when they gained the third floor.
If violence was in the programme he meant to meet it gallantly. His
conductor passed through a spacious bedroom, and led the way to a
pleasant lounging- and reading-room with walls lined with books. Without
pausing he flung open a door that divulged a shop, with a bench and
tools. The litter of carpentry on the bare floor testified to the room's
recent use.

"Sit down, won't you, and have a cigar?"

Dan hesitated. He felt that he must be the victim of a practical joke,
and it was time that his dignity asserted itself. He had accepted a
cigar and was holding it in his fingers, still standing. His strange
guide struck a match and held it, so that Dan perforce took advantage of
the proffered flame; and he noticed now for the first time the young
fellow's slender, nervous hands, which bore no marks of hard toil. He
continued to watch them with interest as they found and filled a pipe.
They were amazingly deft, expressive hands.

"Have a chair! It's a good one; I made it myself!"

With this the young gentleman jumped lightly upon the workbench where he
nursed his knees and smoked his pipe. He was a graceful person, trimly
and delicately fashioned, and in this strange setting altogether
inexplicable. But Dan's time was important, and he had not yet learned
anything as to Edward G. Thatcher's whereabouts. This languid young
gentleman seemed wholly indifferent to the reporter's restlessness, and
Dan's professional pride rebelled.

"Pardon me, but I must see Mr. Thatcher. Where is he, please?"

"He's gone, skipped! No manner of use in looking for him. On my honor,
he's not in town."

"Then why didn't you say so and be done with it?" demanded Dan angrily.

"Please keep your seat," replied the young fellow from the workbench. "I
really wish you would."

He drew on his pipe for a moment, and Dan, curiously held by his look
and manner and arrested by the gentleness of his voice, awaited further
developments. He had no weapons with which to deal with this composed
young person in overalls and scarlet hose. He swallowed his anger; but
his curiosity now clamored for satisfaction.

"May I ask just who you are and why on earth you brought me up here?"

"Those are fair questions--two of them. To the first, I am Allen
Thatcher, and this is my father's house. To the second--" He hesitated a
moment, then shrugged his shoulders and laughed. "Well, if you must
know,--I was so devilish lonesome!"

He gazed at Harwood quizzically, with a half-humorous, half-dejected
air.

"If you're lonesome, Mr. Thatcher, it must be because you prefer it that
way. It can't be necessary for you to resort to kidnapping just to have
somebody to talk to. I thought you were in Europe."

"Nothing as bad as that! What's your name, if you don't mind?"

When Dan gave it, Thatcher nodded and thanked him.

"College man?"

"Yale."

"That's altogether bully. I envy you, by George! You see," he went on
easily, as though in the midst of a long and intimate conversation,
"they took me abroad, and it never really counted. They always treated
me as though I were an invalid; and kept me for a year or two squatting
on an Alp on account of my lungs. It amused them, no doubt; and it
filled in my time till I was too old to go to college. But now that I'm
grown up, I'm going to stay at home. I've been here a month, having a
grand old time; a little lonesome, and yet I'm a person of occupations
and Hans cooks enough for me to eat. I haven't been down town much, but
nobody knows me here anyhow. Dad's been living at the club or a hotel,
but he moved up here to be with me. Dad's the best old chap on earth. I
guess he liked my coming back. They rather bore him, I fancy. We've had
a bully day or two, but dad has skipped. Gone to New York; be back in a
week. Wanted me to go; but not me! I've had enough travel for a while.
They gave me a dose of it."

These morsels of information fell from him carelessly. His "they," Dan
assumed, referred to his mother and sisters somewhere on the other side
of the Atlantic; and young Thatcher spoke of them in a curiously
impersonal and detached fashion. The whimsical humor that twinkled in
his eyes occasionally was interesting and pleasing; and Dan imagined
that he was enjoying the situation. Silk socks and overalls were
probably a part of some whim; they certainly added picturesqueness to
the scene. But the city editor must be informed that Edward G Thatcher
was beyond his jurisdiction and Dan rose and moved toward the door.
Allen jumped down and crossed to him quickly.

"Oh, I say! I really wish you wouldn't go!"

There was no doubt of the pleading in his voice and manner. He laid a
hand very gently on Dan's arm.

"But I've got to get back downtown, if your father has really gone and
isn't hidden away here somewhere."

"I've cut you a slice right out of the eternal truth on that, old man.
Father will be in New York for breakfast in the morning. Search the
house all you please; but, do you know, I'd rather like you to believe
me."

"Of course, I believe you; but it's odd the office didn't know you were
here. They told me you and your mother and sisters were abroad, but that
your father was in town. A personal item in the 'Courier' this morning
said that you were all in the Hartz Mountains."

"I dare say it did! The newspapers keep them all pretty well before the
public. But I've had enough junketing. I'm going to stay right here for
a while."

"You prefer it here--is that the idea?"

"Yes, I fancy I should if I knew it; I want to know it. But I'm all
kinds of crazy, you know. They really think I'm clear off, simply
because their kind of thing doesn't amuse me. I lost too much as a kid
being away from home. They said I had to be educated abroad, and there
you see me--Dresden awhile, Berlin another while, a lot of Geneva, and
Paris for grand sprees. And my lung was always the excuse if they wanted
to do a winter on the Nile,--ugh! The very thought of Egypt makes me ill
now."

"It all sounds pretty grand to me. I was never east of Boston in my
life."

"By Jove! I congratulate you," exclaimed the young man fervidly. "And
I'll wager that you went to school at a cross-roads school-house and
rode to town in a farm wagon to see a circus that had lions and
elephants; and you probably chopped wood and broke colts and went
swimming in an old swimmin'-hole and did all the other things you read
about in American biographies and story books. I can see it in your eye;
and you talk like it, too."

"I dare say I do!" laughed Dan. "They've always told me that my voice
sounds like a nutmeg grater."

"They filed mine off! Mother was quite strong for the Italian _a_, and
I'm afraid I've caught it, just like a disease."

"I should call it a pretty good case. I was admiral of a canal boat in
New Jersey one summer trying to earn enough money to carry my sophomore
year in college, and cussing the mules ruined my hope of a reputable
accent. It almost spoiled my Hoosier dialect!"

"By George, I wonder if the canal-boat people would take me! It would be
less lonesome than working at the bench here. Dad says I can do
anything I like. He's tickled to death because I've come home. He's
really the right sort; he did all the horny-handed business
himself--ploughed corn, wore red mittens to a red school-house, and got
licked with a hickory stick. But he doesn't understand why I don't
either take a job in his office or gallop the Paris boulevards with
mother and the girls; but he's all right. We're great pals. But the rest
of them made a row because I came home. For a while they had dad's
breweries as an excuse for keeping away, and my lungs! Dad hid the
breweries, so their hope of a villa at Sorrento is in my chest. Dad says
my lungs have been their main asset. There's really nothing the matter
with me; the best man in New York told me so as I came through."

His manner of speaking of his family was deliciously droll; he yielded
his confidences as artlessly as a child.

"They almost got a steam yacht on me last year," he went on. "Hired a
Vienna doctor to say I ought to be kept at sea between Gibraltar and the
Bosphorus. And here, by George, is America the dear, bully old America
of Washington, Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln! And they
want to keep me chasing around among ruins and tombs! I say to you, Mr.
Harwood, in all solemnity, that I've goo-gooed my last goo-goo at the
tombs of dead kings!"

They stood near the shop door during this interchange. Dan forgot, in
his increasing interest and mystification, that the "Courier's" city
editor was waiting for news of Thatcher, the capitalist. Young
Thatcher's narrative partook of the nature of a protest. He was
seriously in rebellion against his own expatriation. He stood erect now,
with the color bright in his cheeks, one hand thrust into his pocket,
the other clenching his pipe.

"I tell you," he declared, "I've missed too much! Life over here is a
big thing!--it's wonderful, marvelous, grand, glorious! And who am I to
spend winters on the dead old Nile when history is being made right here
on White River! I tell you I want to watch the Great Experiment, and if
I were not a poor, worthless, ignorant ass I'd be a part of it."

Dan did not question the young fellow's sincerity. His glowing eyes and
the half-choked voice in which he concluded gave an authentic stamp to
his lament and pronouncement. A look of dejection crossed his face. He
had, by his own confession, asked Dan into the house merely to have some
one to talk to; he was dissatisfied, unhappy, lonely; and his slender
figure and flushed cheeks supported his own testimony that his health
had been a matter of concern. The Nile and the Alps against which he had
revolted might not be so unnecessary as he believed.

The situation was so novel that Harwood's mind did not respond with the
promptness of his heart. He had known the sons of rich men at college,
and some of them had been his friends. It was quite the natural and
accepted order of things that some children should be born to sheltered,
pampered lives, while others were obliged to hew their own way to
success. He had observed in college that the sons of the rich had a
pretty good time of it; but he had gone his own way unenviously. It was
not easy to classify young Thatcher. He was clearly an exotic, a curious
pale flower with healthy roots and a yearning for clean, free air. Dan
was suddenly conscious that the young fellow's eyes were bent upon him
with a wistfulness, a kind of pleading sweetness, that the reporter had
no inclination to resist. He delayed speaking, anxious to say the right
word, to meet the plea in the right spirit.

"I think I understand; I believe I should feel just as you do if I were
in your shoes. It's mighty interesting, this whole big scheme we're a
part of. Over there on the other side it's all different, the life, the
aims, and the point of view. And here we've got just what you call
it--the most wonderful experiment the world ever saw. Great Scott!" he
exclaimed, kindling from the spark struck by Thatcher's closing words,
"it's prodigious, overwhelming! There mustn't be any question of
losing!"

"That's right!" broke in Thatcher eagerly; "that's what I've been
wanting somebody to say! It's so beautiful, so wonderful; the hope and
promise are so immense! You believe it; I can see you do!" he concluded
happily.

His hand stole shyly from the pocket that seemed to be its inevitable
hiding-place, and paused uncertainly; then he thrust it out, smiling.

"Will you shake hands with me?"

"Let us be old friends," replied Dan heartily. "And now I've got to get
out of here or I'll lose my job."

"Then I should have to get you another. I never meant to keep you so
long. You've been mighty nice about it. I suppose I couldn't help you--I
mean about dad? All you wanted was to see father or find you couldn't."

"I had questions to ask him, of course. They were about a glass-factory
deal with Bassett."

"Oh, I dare say they bought them! He asked me if I didn't want to go
into the glass business. He talks to me a lot about things. Dad's
thinking about going to the Senate. Dad's a Democrat, like Jefferson and
Jackson. If he goes to the Senate I'll have a chance to see the wheels
go round at Washington. Perfectly bully for me!"

Harwood grinned at the youth's naïve references to Edward Thatcher's
political ambitions. Thatcher was known as a wealthy "sport," and Dan
had resented his meddling in politics. But this was startling news--that
Thatcher was measuring himself for a senatorial toga.

"You'd better be careful! There's a good story in that!"

"But you wouldn't! You see, I'm not supposed to know!"

"Bassett and your father will probably pull it off, if they try hard
enough. They've pulled off worse things. If you're interested in
American types you should know Bassett. Ever see him?"

Allen laughed. His way of laughing was pleasant; there was a real
bubbling mirth in him.

"No; but I read about him in the 'Courier,' which they always have
follow them about--I don't know why. It must be that it helps them to
rejoice that they are so far away from home; but I always used to read
it over there, I suppose to see how much fun I missed! And at a queer
little place in Switzerland where we were staying--I remember, because
our landlord had the drollest wart on his chin--a copy of the 'Courier'
turned up on a rainy day and I read it through. A sketch of Bassett
tickled me because he seemed so real. I felt that I'd like to be Morton
Bassett myself,--the man who does things,--the masterful American,--a
real type, by George! And that safe filled with beautiful bindings; it's
fine to know there are such fellows."

"Your words affect me strangely; I wrote the piece!"

"Now that is funny!" Allen glanced at Dan with frank admiration. "You
write well--praise from Sir Hubert--I scribble verses myself! So our
acquaintance really began a long time ago. It must have been last
October that we were at that place."

"Yes; it was in the fall sometime. It's pleasant to know that anything
printed in a newspaper is ever remembered so long. Bassett is an
interesting man all right enough."

"It must be bully to meet men like that--the men who have a hand in the
big things. I must get dad to introduce me. I suppose you know
everybody!" he ended admiringly.

They retraced their steps through the silent house and down to the front
door, continuing their talk. As Dan turned for their last words on the
veranda steps he acted on an impulse and said:--

"Have supper with me to-morrow night--we won't call it dinner--at the
Whitcomb House. I'll meet you in the lobby at six o'clock. The honorable
state committee is in town and I'll point out some of the moulders of
our political destiny. They're a joy to the eye, I can tell you!"

Allen's eager acquiescence, his stumbling, murmured thanks, emphasized
Dan's sense of the forlorn life young Thatcher had described.

       *       *       *       *       *

"So the old boy's skipped, has he?" demanded the city editor. "Well,
that's one on us! Who put you on?"

"I kept at the bell until the door opened and then I saw Thatcher's son.
He told me."

"Oh, the family idiot let you in, did he? Then there's no telling
whether it's true or not. He's nutty, that fellow. Didn't know he was
here."

"I believe he told me the truth. His father's on his way to New York."

"Well, that sounds definite; but it doesn't make any difference now.
We've just had a tip to let the deal alone. For God's sake, keep at the
law, Harwood; this business is hell." The city editor bit a fat cigar
savagely. "You no sooner strike a good thing and work on it for two days
than you butt into a dead wall. What? No; there's nothing more for you
to-night."



CHAPTER IX

DANIEL HARWOOD RECEIVES AN OFFER


A brief note from Morton Bassett, dated at Fraserville, reached Harwood
in July. In five lines Bassett asked Dan to meet him at the Whitcomb
House on a day and hour succinctly specified.

Harwood had long since exhausted the list of Hoosier statesmen selected
for niches in the "Courier's" pantheon. After his visit to Fraserville,
he had met Bassett occasionally in the street or at the Whitcomb House;
and several times he had caught a glimpse of him passing through the
reception room of the law office into Mr. Fitch's private room. On these
occasions Dan was aware that Bassett's presence caused a ripple of
interest to run through the office. The students in the library
generally turned from their books to speak of Bassett in low tones; and
Mr. Wright, coming in from a journey on one of these occasions and
anxious to see his partner forthwith, lifted his brow and said "Oh!"
meaningfully when told that it was Morton Bassett who engaged the time
of the junior member. Bassett's name did not appear in the office
records to Dan's knowledge nor was he engaged in litigation. His
conferences were always with Fitch alone, and they were sometimes of
length.

Harwood was not without his perplexities these days. His work for the
"Courier" had gradually increased until he found that his time for study
had diminished almost to the vanishing point. The home acres continued
unprofitable, and he had, since leaving college, devoted a considerable
part of his earnings to the relief of his father. His father's lack of
success was an old story and the home-keeping sons were deficient in
initiative and energy. Dan, with his ampler outlook, grudged them
nothing, but the home needs were to be reckoned with in the disposition
of his own time. He had now a regular assignment to the county courts
and received a salary from the "Courier." He was usually so tired at the
end of his day's work that he found it difficult to settle down to study
at night in the deserted law office. The constant variety and excitement
of newspaper work militated against the sober pondering of legal
principles and Dan had begun to realize that, with the necessity for
earning money hanging over him, his way to the bar, or to a practice if
he should qualify himself, lay long and bleak before him.

Dan had heard much of Morton Bassett since his visit to Fraserville. His
conviction, dating from the Fraserville visit, that Bassett was a man of
unusual character, destined to go far in any direction in which he chose
to exert his energies, was proved by Bassett's growing prominence. A
session of the legislature had intervened, and the opposition press had
hammered Bassett hard. The Democratic minority under Bassett's
leadership had wielded power hardly second to that of the majority.
Bassett had introduced into state politics the bi-partisan alliance, a
device by virtue of which members of the assembly representing favored
interests cooperated, to the end that no legislation viciously directed
against railways, manufacturers, brewers and distillers should succeed
through the deplorable violence of reformers and radicals. Apparently
without realizing it, and clearly without caring greatly, Bassett was
thus doing much to destroy the party alignments that had in earlier
times nowhere else been so definitely marked as in Indiana. Partisan
editors of both camps were glad when the sessions closed, for it had
been no easy matter to defend or applaud the acts of either majority or
minority, so easily did Republicans and Democrats plot together at
neutral campfires. It had not been so in those early post-bellum years,
when Oliver Morton of the iron mace still hobbled on crutches. Harrison
and Hendricks had fought no straw men when they went forth to battle.
Harwood began to be conscious of these changes, which were wholly
irreconcilable with the political ideals he had imbibed from Sumner at
Yale. He had witnessed several political conventions of both parties
from the press table, and it was gradually dawning upon him that
politics is not readily expressed in academic terminology.

The silver lining of the Democratic cloud had not greatly disturbed
Morton Bassett. He had been a delegate to the national convention of
1896, but not conspicuous in its deliberations; and in the subsequent
turbulent campaign he had conducted himself with an admirable
discretion. He was a member of the state committee and the chairman was
said to be of his choosing. Bassett stood for party regularity and
deplored the action of those Democrats who held the schismatic national
convention at Indianapolis and nominated the Palmer and Buckner ticket
on a gold-standard platform. He had continued to reelect himself to the
senate without trouble, and waited for the political alchemists of his
party to change the silver back to gold. The tariff was, after all, the
main issue, Bassett held; but it was said that in his business
transactions during these vexed years he had stipulated gold payment in
his contracts. This was never proved; and if, as charged, he voted in
1896 for Republican presidential electors it did not greatly matter when
a considerable number of other Hoosier Democrats who, to outward view
were virtuously loyal, managed to run with both hounds and hare. Bassett
believed that his party would regain its lost prestige and come into
power again; meanwhile he prospered in business, and wielded the
Democratic minority at the state house effectively.

Dan presented himself punctually at the Whitcomb House where Bassett,
with his bag packed, sat reading a magazine. He wore a becoming gray
suit without a waistcoat, and a blue négligé shirt, with a turnover
collar and a blue tie. He pulled up his creased trousers when he sat
down, and the socks thus disclosed above his tan Oxfords proved to be
blue also. His manner was cordial without effusiveness; when they shook
hands his eyes met Dan's with a moment's keen, searching gaze, as though
he sought to affirm at once his earlier judgment of the young man
before him.

"I'm glad to see you again, Mr. Harwood. I was to be in town for the day
and named this hour knowing I should be free."

"I supposed you were taking it easy at Lake Waupegan. I remember you
told me you had a place there."

Bassett's eyes met Dan's quickly; then he answered:--

"Oh, I ought to be there, but I've only had a day of it all summer. I
had to spend a lot of time in Colorado on some business; and when I
struck Waupegan I found that matters had been accumulating at home and I
only spent one night at the lake. But I feel better when I'm at work.
I'm holding Waupegan in reserve for my old age."

"You don't look as though you needed a vacation," remarked Dan. "In fact
you look as though you'd had one."

"The Colorado sun did that. How are things going with you?"

"Well, I've kept busy since I saw you in Fraserville. But I seem doomed
to be a newspaper man in spite of myself. I like it well enough, but I
think I told you I started out with some hope of landing in the law."

"Yes, I remember. I'm afraid the trouble with you is that you're too
good a reporter. That sketch you wrote of me proved that. If I had not
been the subject of it I should be tempted to say that it showed what I
believe they call the literary touch. Mrs. Bassett liked it; maybe
because there was so little of her in it. We both appreciated your nice
feeling and consideration in the whole article. Well, just how are you
coming on in the law?"

"Some of my work at college was preliminary to a law course, and I have
done all the reading possible in Wright and Fitch's office. But I have
to eat and the 'Courier' takes care of that pretty well; I've had to
give less time to study. I don't know enough to be able to command a
position as law clerk,--there aren't many pay jobs of that sort in a
town like this."

"I suppose that's true," assented Bassett. "I suppose I shall always
regret I didn't hang on at the law, but I had other interests that
conflicted. But I'm a member of the bar, as I probably told you at
Fraserville, and I have a considerable library stored away."

"That," laughed Dan, "is susceptible of two interpretations."

"Oh, I don't mean it's in my head; it's in a warehouse in Fraserville."

The grimness of Bassett's face in repose was an effect of his
close-trimmed mustache. He was by no means humorless and his smile was
pleasant. Dan felt drawn to him again as at Fraserville. Here was a man
who stood four square to the winds, undisturbed by the cyclonic
outbursts of unfriendly newspapers. In spite of the clashing winter at
the state house and all he had heard and read of the senate leader since
the Fraserville visit, Dan's opinion of Bassett stood. His sturdy
figure, those firm, masterful hands, and his deep, serious voice all
spoke for strength.

"It has occurred to me, Mr. Harwood, that we might be of service to each
other. I have a good many interests. You may have gathered that I am a
very practical person. That is wholly true. In business I aim at
success; I didn't start out in life to be a failure."

Bassett paused a moment and Dan nodded. It was at the tip of his tongue
to say that such should be every man's hope and aim, but Bassett
continued.

"I'm talking to you frankly. I'm not often mistaken in my judgments of
men and I've taken a liking to you. I want to open an office here
chiefly to have a quiet place from which to keep track of things that
interest me. Fraserville is no longer quite central enough and I'm down
here a good deal. I need somebody to keep an office open for me. I've
been looking about and there are some rooms in the Boordman Building
that I think would be about right. You might call the position I'm
suggesting a private secretaryship, as I should want you to take charge
of correspondence, make appointments, scan the papers, and keep me
advised of the trend of things. I'm going to move my law library down
here to give the rooms a substantial look, and if you feel like joining
me you'll have a good deal of leisure for study. Then when you're ready
for practice I may be in a position to help you. You will have a salary
of, say, twelve hundred to begin with, but you can make yourself worth
more to me."

Dan murmured a reply which Bassett did not heed.

"Your visit to my home and the article in the 'Courier' first suggested
this to me. It struck me that you understood me pretty well. I read all
the other sketches in that series and the different tone in which you
wrote of me gave me the idea that you had tried to please me, and that
you knew how to do it. How does the proposition strike you?"

"It couldn't be otherwise than gratifying, Mr. Bassett. It's taken my
breath away. It widens all my horizons. I have been questioning my
destiny lately; the law as a goal had been drawing further away. And
this mark of confidence--"

"Oh, that point, the confidence will have to be mutual. I am a
close-mouthed person and have no confidants, but of necessity you will
learn my affairs pretty thoroughly if you accept my offer. You have
heard a good deal of talk about me--most of it unflattering. You have
heard that I drive hard bargains. At every session of the legislature I
am charged with the grossest corruption. There are men in my own party
who are bent on breaking me down and getting rid of me. I'm going to
give them the best fight I can put up. I can't see through the back of
my head: I want you to do that for me."

"I don't know much about the practical side of politics; it's full of
traps I've never seen sprung, but I know they're planted."

"To be perfectly frank, it's because you're inexperienced that I want
you. I wouldn't trust anybody who had political ambitions of his own, or
who had mixed up in any of these local squabbles. And, besides, you're a
gentleman and an educated man, and that counts for something."

"You are very kind and generous. I appreciate this more than I can tell
you. And I'd like--"

"Don't decide about it now. I'd rather you didn't. Take a week to it,
then drop me a line to Fraserville, or come up if you want to talk
further."

"Thank you; I shan't want so much time. In any event I appreciate your
kindness. It's the most cheering thing that ever happened to me."

Bassett glanced at his watch. He had said all he had to say in the
matter and closed the subject characteristically.

"Here's a little thing I picked up to-day,--a copy of Darlington's
'Narrative,'--he was with St. Clair, you know; and practically all the
copies of the book were burned in a Philadelphia printing-office before
they were bound; you will notice that some of the pages are slightly
singed. As you saw at my house, I'm interested in getting hold of books
relating to the achievements of the Western pioneers. Some of these
bald, unvarnished tales give a capital idea of the men who conquered the
wilderness. They had the real stuff in them, those fellows!"

He took the battered volume--a pamphlet clumsily encased in boards, and
drew his hand across its rough sides caressingly.

"Another of my jokes on the State Library. The librarian told me I'd
never find a copy, and this was on top of a pile of trash in a
second-hand shop right here in this town. It cost me just fifty cents."

He snapped his bag shut on the new-found treasure and bade Dan good-bye
without referring again to the proposed employment.

Dan knew, as he left the hotel, that if an answer had been imperatively
demanded on the spot, he should have accepted Bassett's proposition; but
as he walked slowly away questions rose in his mind. Bassett undoubtedly
expected to reap some benefit from his services, and such services would
not, of course, be in the line of the law. They were much more likely to
partake of the function of journalism, in obtaining publicity for such
matters as Bassett wished to promulgate. The proposed new office at the
capital marked an advance of Bassett's pickets. He was abandoning old
fortifications for newer and stronger ones, and Dan's imagination
kindled at the thought of serving this masterful general as
aide-de-camp.

He took a long walk, thinking of Bassett's offer and trying to view it
from a philosophical angle. The great leaders in American politics had
come oftener than not from the country, he reflected. Fraserville, in
Dan's cogitations, might, as Bassett's star rose, prove to be another
Springfield or Fremont or Canton, shrouding a planet destined to a
brilliant course toward the zenith. He did not doubt that Bassett's
plans were well-laid; the state senator was farseeing and shrewd, and by
attaching himself to this man, whose prospects were so bright, he would
shine in the reflected glory of his successes. And the flattery of the
offer was not in itself without its magic.

However, as the days passed Dan was glad that he had taken time for
reflection. He began to minimize the advantages of the proposed
relationship, and to ponder the ways in which it would compel a certain
self-effacement. He had sufficient imagination to color the various
scenes in which he saw himself Bassett's "man." In moods of
self-analysis he knew his nature to be sensitive, with an emotional side
whose expressions now and then surprised him. He rallied sharply at
times from the skeptical attitude which he felt journalism was
establishing in him, and assured himself that his old ideals were safe
in the citadel his boyhood imagination had built for them. Dan's father
was a veteran of the Civil War and he had been taught to believe that
the Democratic Party had sought to destroy the Union and that the
Republican Party alone had saved it. Throughout his boyhood on the
Harrison County farm, he had been conscious of the recrudescence of the
wartime feeling in every political campaign. His admiration for the
heroes of the war was in no wise shaken at New Haven, but he first
realized there that new issues demanded attention. He grew impatient of
all attempts to obscure these by harking back to questions that the war
had finally determined, if it had served any purpose whatever. He broke
a lance frequently with the young men who turned over the books in
Wright and Fitch's office, most of whom were Republicans and devout
believers that the furnace fires of America's industries were brought
down from Heaven by Protection, a modern Prometheus of a new order of
utilitarian gods. In the view of these earnest debaters, Protection was
the first and last commandment, the law and the prophets. The
"Indianapolis Advertiser" and protection newspapers generally had long
attacked periodically those gentlemen who, enjoying the sheltered life
of college and university, were corrupting the youth of the land by
questioning the wisdom of the fire-kindling god. There was a wide margin
between theory and practice, between academic dilletantism and a
prosperous industrial life fostered and shielded by acts of Congress. It
required courage for young men bred in the popular faith to turn their
backs upon the high altar, so firmly planted, so blazing with lamps of
perpetual adoration.

While Dan was considering the politician's offer, a letter from home
brought a fresh plea for help, and strengthened a growing feeling that
his wiser course was to throw in his fortunes with Bassett. In various
small ways Mr. Fitch had shown an interest in Harwood, and Dan resolved
to take counsel of the lawyer before giving his answer.

The little man sat in his private room in his shirt sleeves, with his
chair tipped back and his feet on his desk. He was, in his own phrase,
"thinking out a brief." He fanned himself in a desultory fashion with a
palm leaf. Dan had carried in an arm load of books which Fitch indicated
should be arranged, back-up, on the floor beside him.

Dan lingered a moment and Fitch's "Well" gave him leave to proceed. He
stated Bassett's offer succinctly, telling of his visit to Fraserville
and of the interview at the Whitcomb. When he had concluded Fitch
asked:--

"Why haven't you gone ahead and closed the matter? On the face of it
it's a good offer. It gives you a chance to read law and to be
associated with a man who is in a position to be of great service to
you."

"Well, to tell the truth, sir, I have had doubts. Bassett stands for
some things I don't approve of--his kind of politics, I mean."

"Oh! He doesn't quite square with your ideals, is that it?"

"I suppose that is it, Mr. Fitch."

The humor kindled in the little man's brown eyes, and his fingers played
with his whitening red beard.

"Just how strong are those ideals of yours, Mr. Harwood?"

"They're pretty strong, I hope, sir."

Fitch dropped his feet from the desk, opened a drawer, and drew out a
long envelope.

"It may amuse you to know that this is the sketch of Bassett you printed
in the 'Courier' last fall. I didn't know before that you wrote it. No
wonder it tickled him. And--er--some of it is true. I wouldn't talk to
any other man in Indiana about Bassett. He's a friend and a client of
mine. He doesn't trust many people; he doesn't"--the little man's eyes
twinkled--"he doesn't trust Wright!--and he trusts me because we are
alike in that we keep our mouths shut. You must have impressed him very
favorably. He seems willing to take you at face value. It would have
been quite natural for him to have asked me about you, but he didn't. Do
you know Thatcher--Edward G.? He has business interests with Bassett,
and Thatcher dabbles in politics just enough to give him power when he
wants it. Thatcher is a wealthy man, who isn't fooling with small
politics. If some day he sees a red apple at the top of the tree he may
go for it. There'd be some fun if Bassett tried to shake down the same
apple."

"I know Thatcher's son."

"Allen? I met him the other day. Odd boy; I guess that's one place where
Ed Thatcher's heart is all right."

After a moment's reflection with his face turned to the open window
Fitch added:--

"Mr. Harwood, if you should go to Bassett and in course of time,
everything running smoothly, he asked you to do something that jarred
with those ideals of yours, what should you do?"

"I should refuse, sir," answered Dan, earnestly.

Fitch nodded gravely.

"Very well; then I'd say go ahead. You understand that I'm not
predicting that such a moment is inevitable, but it's quite possible.
I'll say to you what I've never said before to any man: I don't
understand Morton Bassett. I've known him for ten years, and I know him
just as well now as I did the day I first met him. That may be my own
dullness; but ignoring all that his enemies say of him,--and he has some
very industrious ones, as you know,--he's still, at his best, a very
unusual and a somewhat peculiar and difficult person."

"He's different, at least; but I can't think him half as bad as they say
he is."

"He isn't, probably," replied Fitch, whose eyes were contemplating the
cornice of the building across the street. Then, as though just
recalling Dan's presence: "May I ask you whether, aside from that
'Courier' article, you ever consciously served Bassett in any way--ever
did anything that might have caused him to feel that he was under
obligations?"

"Why, no, sir; nothing whatever."

"--Or--" a considerable interval in which Fitch's gaze reverted to the
cornice--"that you might have some information that made it wise for him
to keep his hand on you?"

"Absolutely nothing," answered Dan, the least bit uncomfortable under
this questioning.

"You're not aware," the lawyer persisted deliberately, "that you ever
had any dealings of any kind even remotely with Mr. Bassett."

"No; never, beyond what I've told you."

"Then, if I were in your place, and the man I think you are, I'd accept
the offer, but don't bind yourself for a long period; keep your mouth
shut and hang on to your ideals,--it's rather odd that you and I should
be using that word; it doesn't get into a law office often. If you feel
tempted to do things that you know are crooked, think of Billy Sumner,
and act accordingly. It's getting to be truer all the time that few of
us are free men. What's Shakespeare's phrase?--'bound upon a wheel of
fire';--that, Mr. Harwood, is all of us. We have valuable clients in
this office that we'd lose if I got out and shouted my real political
convictions. We're all cowards; but don't you be one. As soon as I'm
sure I've provided for my family against the day of wrath I'm going to
quit the law and blow the dust off of some of my own ideals; it's thick,
I can tell you!"

This was seeing Fitch in a new aspect. Dan was immensely pleased by the
lawyer's friendliness, and he felt that his counsel was sound.

Fitch broke in on the young man's thoughts to say:--

"By the way, you know where I live? Come up and dine with me to-morrow
at seven if you're free. My folks are away and I'd like to swap views
with you on politics, religion, baseball, and great subjects like that."

Dan wrote his acceptance of Bassett's offer that night.



CHAPTER X

IN THE BOORDMAN BUILDING


Harwood opened the office in the Boordman Building, and settled in it
the law books Bassett sent from Fraserville. The lease was taken in
Dan's name, and he paid for the furniture with his own check, Bassett
having given him five hundred dollars for expenses. The Boordman was one
of the older buildings in Washington Street, and as it antedated the era
of elevators, only the first of its three stories was occupied by
offices. Its higher altitudes had fallen to miscellaneous tenants
including a few telegraph operators, printers, and other night workers
who lodged there for convenience. Dan's immediate neighbors proved to be
a shabby lawyer who concealed by a professional exterior his real
vocation, which was chattel mortgages; a fire insurance agency conducted
by several active young fellows of Dan's acquaintance; and the office of
a Pittsburg firm of construction contractors, presided over by a girl
who answered the telephone if haply it rang at moments when the heroes
of the novels she devoured were not in too imminent peril of death.

This office being nearest, Dan went in to borrow a match for his pipe
while in the midst of his moving and found the girl rearranging her hair
before a mirror.

"That's as near heart disease as I care to come," she said, turning at
his "Beg pardon." "There hasn't been a man in this place for two weeks,
much less a woman. Yes, I can stake you for a match. I keep them for
those insurance fellows--nice boys they are, too. You see," she
continued, not averse to prolonging the conversation, "our business is
mostly outside. Hear about the sky-scraper we're building in Elwood?
Three stories! One of the best little towns in Indiana, all right. Say,
the janitor service in this old ark is something I couldn't describe to
a gentleman. If there's anything in these microbe fairy stories we'll
all die early. You might as well know the worst:--they do light
housekeeping on the third floor and the smell of onions is what I call
annoying. Oh, that's all right; what's a match between friends! The last
man who had your office--you've taken sixty-six?--well, he always got
his matches here, and touched me occasionally for a pink photo of George
Washington--stamp, ha! ha! see! He was real nice and when his wife
dropped in to see him one day and I was sitting in there joshing him and
carrying on, he was that painfully embarrassed! I guess she made him
move; but, Lord, they have to bribe tenants to get 'em in here. To crawl
up one flight of that stairway you have to be a mountain climber. I only
stay because the work's so congenial and it's a quiet place for reading,
and all the processions pass here. The view of that hairdressing shop
across the way is something I recommend. If I hadn't studied stenography
I should have taken up hairdressing or manicuring. A little friend of
mine works in that shop and the society ladies are most confidential.
I'm Miss Rose Farrell, if you tease me to tell. You needn't say by any
other name it's just as sweet--the ruffle's a little frayed on that."

Bassett had stipulated that his name should not appear and he suggested
that Dan place his own on the door. Later, when he had been admitted to
the bar it would be easy to add "attorney at law," Bassett said. Each of
the three rooms of what the agent of the building liked to call a suite
opened directly into the hall. In the first Harwood set up a desk for
himself; in the second he placed the library, and the third and largest
was to be Bassett's at such times as he cared to use it. Throughout the
summer Harwood hardly saw Bassett, and he began to regret his reluctant
assent to a relationship which conferred so many benefits with so little
work. He dug hungrily at the law, and felt that he was making progress.
Fitch, who was braving the heat in town, had outlined a course of
reading for him, and continued his manifestations of friendliness by
several times asking him to dinner, with a motor ride later to cool them
off before going to bed.

Bassett kept pretty close to Fraserville, running into the city
occasionally for a few hours. He complained now and then because he saw
so little of his family, who continued at the lake. Dan had certain
prescribed duties, but these were not onerous. A great many of the
country newspapers began to come to the office, and it was Harwood's
business to read them and cut out any items bearing upon local
political conditions. Bassett winnowed these carefully, brushing the
chaff into his wastebasket and retaining a few kernels for later use. He
seemed thoroughly familiar with the state press and spoke of the rural
newspapers with a respect that surprised Harwood, who had little
patience with what he called the "grapevine dailies," with their scrappy
local news, patent insides, and servile partisan opinions. Still, he
began to find in a considerable number of these papers, even those
emanating from remote county seats, a certain raciness and independence.
This newspaper reading, which Dan had begun perfunctorily, soon
interested him. It was thus, he saw, that Bassett kept in touch with
state affairs. Sporadic temperance movements, squabbles over local
improvements, rows in school boards, and like matters were not beneath
Bassett's notice. He discussed these incidents and conditions with
Harwood, who was astonished to find how thoroughly Bassett knew the
state.

Through all this Dan was not blind to the sins charged against Bassett.
There were certain corporations which it was said Bassett protected from
violence at the state house. But as against this did not the vast horde
of greedy corporations maintain a lobby at every session and was not a
certain amount of lobbying legitimate? Again, Bassett had shielded the
liquor interests from many attacks; but had not these interests their
rights, and was it not a sound doctrine that favored government with the
least restraint? Rather uglier had been Bassett's identification with
the organization of the White River Canneries Company, a combination of
industries on which a scandalous overissue of stock had been sold in
generous chunks to a confiding public, followed in a couple of years by
a collapse of the business and a reorganization that had frozen out all
but a favored few. Still, Bassett had not been the sole culprit in that
affair, and was not this sort of financiering typical of the time?
Bassett and Thatcher had both played the gentle game of freeze-out in
half a dozen other instances, and if they were culpable, why had they
not been brought to book? In his inner soul Dan knew why not: in the
bi-partisan political game only the stupid are annoyed by grand juries,
which take their cue tamely from ambitious prosecuting attorneys eager
for higher office.

Bassett's desk stood against the wall and over it hung a map of Indiana.
It was no unusual thing for Dan to find Bassett with his chair tipped
back, his eyes fixed upon the map. The oblong checkerboard formed by the
ninety-two counties of the Hoosier commonwealth seemed to have a
fascination for the man from Fraserville. When Dan found him thus in
rapt contemplation Bassett usually turned toward him a little
reluctantly and absently. It was thus that Morton Bassett studied the
field, like a careful general outlining his campaigns, with ample data
and charts before him.

This was an "off" year politically, or, more accurately, the statutes
called for no state election in Indiana. For every one knows that there
is no hour of the day in any year when politics wholly cease from
agitating the waters of the Wabash: somewhere some one is always
dropping in a pebble to see how far the ripple will widen. In the torrid
first days of September the malfeasance of the treasurer of an Ohio
River county afforded the Republican press an opportunity to gloat, the
official in question being, of course, a Democrat, and a prominent
member of the state committee.

For several days before the exposure Bassett had appeared fitfully at
the Whitcomb and in the Boordman Building. On the day that the
Republican "Advertiser" screamed delightedly over the Democratic scandal
in Ranger County, Bassett called Dan into his office. Bassett's name had
been linked to that of Miles, the erring treasurer, in the
"Advertiser's" headlines; and its leading editorial had pointed to the
defalcation as the sort of thing that inevitably follows the domination
of a party by a spoilsman and corruptionist like the senator from
Fraser.

Bassett indicated by a nod a copy of the "Advertiser" on his desk.

"The joke was on us this time. They're pinning Miles on me, and I guess
I'll have to wear him like a bouquet. I've been in Louisville fixing
this thing up and they won't have as much fun as they thought. It's a
simple case: Miles hadn't found out yet that corn margins are not
legitimate investments for a county's money. He's a good fellow and will
know better next time. We couldn't afford to have a member of the state
committee in jail, so I met the bondsmen and the prosecuting
attorney--he's a Republican--in Louisville and we straightened it all
out. The money's in bank down there. It proves to be after all a matter
of bookkeeping,--technical differences, which were reconciled readily
enough. Miles got scared; those fellows always do. He'll be good now."

Dan had been standing. Bassett pointed to a chair.

"I want you to write an interview with me on this case, laying emphasis
on the fact that the trouble was all due to an antiquated system of
keeping the accounts, which Miles inherited from his predecessors in
office. The president of the bank and the prosecutor have prepared
statements,--I have them in my pocket,--and I want you to get all the
publicity you know how for these things. Let me see. In my interview
you'd better lay great stress on the imperative need for a uniform
accounting law for county officials. Say that we expect to stand for
this in our next platform; make it strong. Have me say that this
incident in Ranger County, while regrettable, will serve a good purpose
if it arouses the minds of the people to the importance of changing the
old unsatisfactory method of bookkeeping that so frequently leads
perfectly trustworthy and well-meaning officials into error. Do you get
the idea?"

"Yes; perfectly," Dan replied. "As I understand it, Miles isn't guilty,
but you would take advantage of the agitation to show the necessity for
reform."

"Exactly. And while you're about it, write a vigorous editorial for the
'Courier,' on the same line, and a few ironical squibs based on the
eagerness of the Republican papers to see all Democrats through black
goggles." The humor showed in Bassett's eyes for an instant, and he
added: "Praise the Republican prosecutor of Ranger County for refusing
to yield to partisan pressure and take advantage of a Democrat's
mistakes of judgment. He's a nice fellow and we've got to be good to
him."

This was the first task of importance that Bassett had assigned to him
and Dan addressed himself to it zealously. If Miles was not really a
defaulter there was every reason why the heinous aspersions of the
opposition press should be dealt with vigorously. Dan was impressed by
Bassett's method of dealing with a difficult situation. Miles had erred,
but Bassett had taken the matter in hand promptly, secretly, and
effectively. His attitude toward the treasurer's sin was tolerant and
amiable. Miles had squandered money in bucket-shop gambling, but the sin
was not uncommon, and the amount of his loss was sufficient to assure
his penitence; he was an ally of Bassett's and it was Bassett's way to
take care of his friends. Bassett had not denied that the culprit had
been guilty of indiscretions; but he had minimized the importance of his
error and adorned the tale with a moral on which Dan set about laying
the greatest emphasis. He enjoyed writing, and in the interview he
attributed ideas to Bassett that would have been creditable to the most
idealistic of statesmen. He based the editorial Bassett had suggested
upon the interview; and he wrote half a dozen editorial paragraphs in a
vein of caustic humor that the "Courier" affected. In the afternoon he
copied his articles on a typewriter and submitted them to Bassett.

"Good, very good. Too bad to take you out of the newspaper business; you
have the right point of view and you know how to get hold of the right
end of a sentence. Let me see. I wish you would do another interview
changing the phraseology and making it short, and we'll give the
'Advertiser' a chance to print it. I'll attend to these other things.
You'd better not be running into the 'Courier' office too much now that
you're with me. They haven't got on to that yet, but they'll give us a
twist when they do."

Dan had been admitted to the ante-chamber of Bassett's confidence, but
he was to be permitted to advance a step further. At four o'clock he was
surprised by the appearance of Atwill, the "Courier's" manager. Dan had
no acquaintance with Atwill, whose advent had been coincident with the
"Courier's" change of ownership shortly after Dan's tentative connection
with the paper began. Atwill had rarely visited the editorial
department, but it was no secret that he exercised general supervision
of the paper. It had been whispered among the reporters that every issue
was read carefully in proof by Atwill, but Dan had never been
particularly interested in this fact. As Atwill appeared in the outer
office, Bassett came from his own room to meet him. The door closed
quickly upon the two and they were together for half an hour or more.
Then Bassett summoned Dan.

"Mr. Atwill, this is Mr. Harwood. He was formerly employed on the
'Courier.' It was he that wrote up the Hoosier statesmen, you may
remember."

Atwill nodded.

"I remember very well. Those articles helped business,--we could follow
your pencil up and down the state on our circulation reports. I jumped
the city editor for letting you go."

Atwill was a lean, clean-shaven man who chewed gum hungrily. His eyes
were noticeably alert and keen. There was a tradition that he had been a
"star" reporter in New York, a managing editor in Pittsburg, and a
business manager in Minneapolis before coming to supervise the "Courier"
for its new owner.

"Atwill, you and Harwood had better keep in touch with each other.
Harwood is studying law here, but he will know pretty well what I'm
doing. He will probably write an editorial for you occasionally, and
when it comes in it won't be necessary for the regular employees of the
'Courier' to know where it comes from. Harwood won't mind if they take
all the glory for his work."

When Atwill left, Bassett talked further to Harwood, throwing his legs
across a chair and showing himself more at ease than Dan had yet seen
him.

"Harwood," he said,--he had dropped the mister to-day for the first time
in their intercourse,--"I've opened the door wider to you than I ever
did before to any man. I trust you."

"I appreciate that, Mr. Bassett."

"I've been carrying too much, and it's a relief to find that I've got a
man I can unload on. You understand, I trust you absolutely. And in
coming to me as you did, and accepting these confidences, I assume that
you don't think me as wicked as my enemies make me out."

"I liked you," said Dan, with real feeling, "from that moment you shook
hands with me in your house at Fraserville. When I don't believe in you
any longer, I'll quit; and if that time comes you may be sure that I
shan't traffic in what I learn of your affairs. I feel that I want to
say that to you."

"That's all right, Harwood. I hope our relations will be increasingly
friendly; but if you want to quit at any time you're not tied. Be sure
of that. If you should quit me to-morrow I should be disappointed but I
wouldn't kick. And don't build up any quixotic ideas of gratitude toward
me. When you don't like your job, move on. I guess we understand each
other."

If Dan entertained any doubts as to the ethics involved in Bassett's
handling of the situation in Ranger County they were swept away by the
perfect candor with which Bassett informed their new intimacy. The most
interesting and powerful character in Indiana politics had made a
confidant of him. Without attempting to exact vows of secrecy, or
threatening vengeance for infractions of faith, but in a spirit of
good-fellowship that appealed strongly to Harwood, Bassett had given him
a pass-key to many locked doors.

"As you probably gathered," Bassett was saying, "Atwill represents me at
the 'Courier' office."

"I had never suspected it," Dan replied.

"Has anybody suspected it?" asked Bassett quickly.

"Well; of course it has been said repeatedly that you own or control the
'Courier.'"

"Let them keep on saying it; they might have hard work to prove it.
And--" Bassett's eyes turned toward the window. His brows contracted and
he shut his lips tightly so that his stiff mustache gave to his mouth a
sinister look that Dan had never seen before. The disagreeable
expression vanished and he was his usual calm, unruffled self. "And," he
concluded, smiling, "I might have some trouble in proving it myself."

Dan was not only accumulating valuable information, but Bassett
interested him more and more as a character. He was an unusual man, a
new type, this senator from Fraser, with his alternating candor and
disingenuousness, his prompt solutions of perplexing problems. It was
unimaginable that a man so strong and so sure of himself, and so shrewd
in extricating others from their entanglements, could ever be cornered,
trapped, or beaten.

Bassett's hands had impressed Dan that first night at Fraserville, and
he watched them again as Bassett idly twisted a rubber band in his
fingers. How gentle those hands were and how cruel they might be!

The next morning Dan found that his interview with Bassett was the
feature of the first page of the "Courier," and the statement he had
sent to the "Advertiser" was hardly less prominently displayed. His
editorial was the "Courier's" leader, and it appeared _verbatim et
literatim_. He viewed his work with pride and satisfaction; even his
ironical editorial "briefs" had, he fancied, something of the piquancy
he admired in the paragraphing of the "New York Sun." But his
gratification at being able to write "must" matter for both sides of a
prominent journal was obscured by the greater joy of being the chief
adjutant of the "Courier's" sagacious concealed owner.

The "Advertiser" replied to Bassett's statement in a tone of hilarity.
Bassett's plea for a better accounting system was funny, that was all.
Miles, the treasurer of Ranger County, had been playing the bucket shops
with public moneys, and the Honorable Morton Bassett, of Fraserville,
with characteristic zeal in a bad cause, had not only adjusted the
shortage, but was craftily trying to turn the incident to the advantage
of his party. The text for the "Advertiser's" leader was the jingle:--

     "When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;
     When the devil got well, the devil a monk was he!"

Bassett had left town, but the regular staff of the "Courier" kept up
the fight along the lines of the articles Dan had contributed. The
"Advertiser," finding that the Republican prosecuting attorney of Ranger
County joined with the local bank in certifying to Miles's probity,
dropped the matter after a few scattering volleys.

However, within a week after the Miles incident, the "Advertiser" gave
Harwood the shock of an unlooked-for plunge into ice-water by printing a
sensational story under a double-column headline, reading, "The Boss in
the Boordman Building." The Honorable Morton Bassett, so the article
averred, no longer satisfied to rule his party amid the pastoral calm
of Fraser County, had stolen into the capital and secretly established
headquarters, which meant, beyond question, the manifestation of even a
wider exercise of his malign influence in Indiana politics. Harwood's
name enjoyed a fame that day that many years of laborious achievement
could not have won for it. The "Advertiser's" photographers had stolen
in at night and taken a flashlight picture of the office door, bearing
the legend

     66

     DANIEL HARWOOD

Harwood's personal history was set forth in florid phrases. It appeared
that he had been carefully chosen and trained by Bassett to aid in his
evil work. His connection with the "Courier," which had seemed to Dan at
the time so humble, assumed a dignity and importance that highly amused
him. It was quite like the Fraserville boss to choose a young man of
good antecedents, the graduate of a great university, with no previous
experience in politics, the better to bend him to his will. Dan's
talents and his brilliant career at college all helped to magnify the
importance of Bassett's latest move. Morton Bassett was dangerous, the
"Advertiser" conceded editorially, because he had brains; and he was
even more to be feared because he could command the brains of other men.

Dan called Bassett at Fraserville on the long distance telephone and
told him of the disclosure. Bassett replied in a few sentences.

"That won't hurt anything. I'd been expecting something of the kind. Put
you in, did they? I'll get my paper to-night and read it carefully.
Better cut the stuff out and send it in an envelope, to make sure. Call
Atwill over and tell him we ignore the whole business. I'm taking a
little rest, but I'll be in town in about a week."

Dan was surprised to find how bitterly he resented the attack on
Bassett. The "Advertiser" spoke of the leader as though he were a
monster of immorality and Dan honestly believed Bassett to be no such
thing. His loyalty was deeply intensified by the hot volleys poured into
the Boordman Building; but he was not disturbed by the references to
himself. He winced a little bit at being called a "stool pigeon"; but he
thought he knew the reporter who had written the article, and his
experience in the newspaper office had not been so brief but that it had
killed his layman's awe of the printed word. When he walked into the
Whitcomb that evening the clerk made a point of calling his name and
shaking hands with him. He was conscious that a number of idlers in the
hotel lobby regarded him with a new interest. Some one spoke his name
audibly, and he enjoyed in some degree the sensation of being a person
of mark.

He crossed University Square and walked out Meridian Street to Fitch's
house. The lawyer came downstairs in his shirt sleeves with a legal
envelope in his hand.

"Glad to see you, Harwood. I'm packing up; going to light out in the
morning and get in on the end of my family's vacation. They've moved out
of Maine into the Berkshires and the boys are going back to college
without coming home. I see the 'Advertiser' has been after you. How do
you like your job?"

"I'm not scared," Dan replied. "It's all very amusing and my moral
character hasn't suffered so far."

Fitch eyed him critically.

"Well, I haven't time to talk to you, but here's something I wish you'd
do for me. I have a quit-claim deed for Mrs. Owen to sign. I forgot to
tell one of the boys in the office to get her acknowledgment, but you're
a notary, aren't you? I've just been telephoning her about it. You know
who she is? Come to think of it, she's Bassett's aunt-in-law. You're not
a good Hoosier till you know Aunt Sally. I advise you to make yourself
solid with her. I don't know what she's doing in town just now, but her
ways are always inscrutable."

Dan was soon ringing the bell at Mrs. Owen's. Mrs. Owen was out, the
maid said, but would be back shortly. Dan explained that he had come
from Mr. Fitch, and she asked him to walk into the parlor and wait.

Sylvia Garrison and her grandfather had been at Montgomery since their
visit to Waupegan and were now in Indianapolis for a day on their way to
Boston. The Delaware Street house had been closed all summer. The floors
were bare and the furniture was still jacketed in linen. Sylvia rose as
Harwood appeared at the parlor door.

"Pardon me," said Dan, as the maid vanished. "I have an errand with Mrs.
Owen and I'll wait, if you don't mind?"

"Certainly. Mrs. Owen has gone out to make a call, but she will be back
soon. She went only a little way down the street. Please have a chair."

She hesitated a moment, not knowing whether to remain or to leave the
young man to himself. Dan determined the matter for her by opening a
conversation on the state of the weather.

"September is the most trying month of the year. Just when we're all
tired of summer, it takes its last fling at us."

"It has been very warm. I came over from Montgomery this afternoon and
it was very dusty and disagreeable on the train."

"From Montgomery?" repeated Dan, surprised and perplexed. Then, as it
dawned upon him that this was the girl who had opened the door for him
at Professor Kelton's house in Montgomery when he had gone there with a
letter from Fitch, "You see," he said, "we've met before, in your own
house. You very kindly went off to find some one for me--and didn't come
back; but I passed you on the campus as I was leaving."

He had for the moment forgotten the name of the old gentleman to whom he
had borne a letter from Mr. Fitch. He would have forgotten the incident
completely long ago if it had not been for the curious manner in which
the lawyer had received his report and the secrecy so carefully
enjoined. It was odd that he should have chanced upon these people
again. Dan did not know many women, young or old, and he found this
encounter with Sylvia wholly agreeable, Sylvia being, as we know,
seventeen, and not an offense to the eye.

"It was my grandfather, Professor Kelton, you came to see. He's here
with me now, but he's gone out to call on an old friend with Mrs. Owen."

Every detail of Dan's visit to the cottage was clear in Sylvia's mind;
callers had been too rare for there to be any dimness of memory as to
the visit of the stranger, particularly when she had associated her
grandfather's subsequent depression with his coming.

Dan felt that he should scrupulously avoid touching upon the visit to
Montgomery otherwise than casually. He was still bound in all honor to
forget that excursion as far as possible. This young person seemed very
serious, and he was not sure that she was comfortable in his presence.

"It was a warm day, I remember, but cool and pleasant in your library.
I'm going to make a confession. When you went off so kindly to find
Professor Kelton I picked up the book you had been reading, and it quite
laid me low. I had imagined it would be something cheerful and
frivolous, to lift the spirit of the jaded traveler."

"It must have been a good story," replied Sylvia, guardedly.

"It was! It was the 'Æneid,' and I began at your bookmark and tried to
stagger through a page, but it floored me. You see how frank I am; I
ought really to have kept this terrible disclosure from you."

"Didn't you like Madison? I remember that I thought you were comparing
us unfavorably with other places. You implied"--and Sylvia smiled--"that
you didn't think Madison a very important college."

"Then be sure of my contrition now! Your Virgil sank deep into my
consciousness, and I am glad of this chance to render unto Madison the
things that are Madison's."

His chaffing way reminded her of Dr. Wandless, who often struck a
similar note in their encounters.

Sylvia was quite at ease now. Her caller's smile encouraged
friendliness. He had dropped his fedora hat on a chair, but clung to his
bamboo stick. His gray sack suit with the trousers neatly creased and
his smartly knotted tie proclaimed him a man of fashion: the newest and
youngest member of the Madison faculty, who had introduced spats to the
campus, was not more impressively tailored.

"You said you had gone to a large college; and I said--"

"Oh, you hit me back straight enough!" laughed Harwood.

"I didn't mean to be rude," Sylvia protested, coloring.

They evidently both remembered what had been said at that interview.

"It wasn't rude; it was quite the retort courteous! My conceit at being
a Yale man was shattered by your shot."

"Well, I suppose Yale is a good place, too," said Sylvia, with a
generous intention that caused them both to laugh.

"By token of your Virgilian diversions shall I assume that you are a
collegian, really or almost?"

"Just almost. I'm on my way to Wellesley now."

"Ah!" and his exclamation was heavy with meaning. A girl bound for
college became immediately an integer with which a young man who had not
yet mislaid his diploma could reckon. "I have usually been a supporter
of Vassar. It's the only woman's college I ever attended. I went up
there once to see a girl I had met at a Prom--such is the weakness of
man! I had arrayed myself as the lilies of the field, and on my way
through Pokip I gathered up a beautiful two-seated trap with a driver,
thinking in my ignorance that I should make a big hit by driving the
fair one over the hills and far away. The horses were wonderful; I found
out later that they were the finest hearse horses in Poughkeepsie. She
was an awfully funny girl, that girl. She always used both 'shall' and
'will,' being afraid to take chances with either verb, an idea I'm often
tempted to adopt myself."

"It's ingenious, at any rate. But how did the drive go?"

"Oh, it didn't! She said she couldn't go with me alone unless I _was_ or
_were_ her cousin. It was against the rules. So we agreed to be cousins
and she went off to find the dean or some awful autocrat like that, to
spring the delightful surprise, that her long-lost cousin from Kalamazoo
had suddenly appeared, and might she go driving with him. That was her
idea, I assure you,--my own depravity could suggest nothing more
euphonious than Canajoharie. And would you believe it, the consent being
forthcoming, she came back and said she wouldn't go--absolutely
declined! She rested on the fine point in ethics that, while it was not
improper to tell the fib, it would be highly sinful to take advantage of
it! So we strolled over the campus and she showed me the sights, while
those funeral beasts champed their bits at so much per hour. She was a
Connecticut girl, and I made a note of the incident as illustrating a
curious phase of the New England conscience."

While they were gayly ringing the changes on these adventures, steps
sounded on the veranda.

"That's Mrs. Owen and my grandfather," said Sylvia.

"I wonder--" began Dan, grave at once.

"You're wondering," said Sylvia, "whether my grandfather will remember
you."

She recalled very well her grandfather's unusual seriousness after
Harwood's visit; it seemed wiser not to bring the matter again to his
attention.

"I think it would be better if he didn't," replied Dan, relieved that
she had anticipated his thought.

"I was only a messenger boy anyhow and I didn't know what my errand was
about that day."

"He doesn't remember faces well," said Sylvia, "and wouldn't be likely
to know you."

As Mrs. Owen asked Dan to her office at once, it was unnecessary for
Sylvia to introduce him to her grandfather.

Alone with Mrs. Owen, Dan's business was quickly transacted. She
produced an abstract of title and bade him read aloud the description of
the property conveyed while she held the deed. At one point she took a
pen and crossed a _t_; otherwise the work of Wright and Fitch was
approved. When she had signed her name, and while Dan was filling in the
certificate, she scrutinized him closely.

"You're in Mr. Fitch's office, are you?" she inquired.

"Not now; but I was there for a time. I happened to call on Mr. Fitch
this evening and he asked me to bring the deed over."

"Let me see, I don't believe I know any Harwoods here."

"I haven't been here long enough to be known," answered Dan, looking up
and smiling.

Mrs. Owen removed her hat and tossed it on a little stand, as though
hats were a nuisance in this world and not worthy of serious
consideration. She continued her observation of Dan, who was applying a
blotter to his signature.

"I'll have to take this to my office to affix the seal. I'm to give it
to Mr. Wright in the morning for recording."

"Where is your office, Mr. Harwood?" she asked flatly.

"Boordman Building," answered Dan, surprised to find himself
uncomfortable under her direct, penetrating gaze.

"Humph! So you're Morton Bassett's young man who was written up in the
'Advertiser.'"

"Mr. Bassett has given me a chance to read law in his office. He's a
prominent man and the 'Advertiser' chose to put its own interpretation
on his kindness to me. That's all," answered Dan with dignity.

"Sit still a minute. I forget sometimes that all the folks around here
don't know me. I didn't mean to be inquisitive, or disagreeable; I was
just looking for information. I took notice of that 'Advertiser's' piece
because Mr. Bassett married my niece, so I'm naturally interested in
what he does."

"Yes, Mrs. Owen, I understand."

Dan had heard a good deal about Mrs. Sally Owen, in one way or another,
and persuaded now, by her change of tone, that she had no intention of
pillorying him for Bassett's misdeeds, he began to enjoy his unexpected
colloquy with her. She bent forward and clasped her veined, bony hands
on the table.

"I'm glad of a chance to talk to you. It's providential, your turning up
this way. I just came to town yesterday and Edward Thatcher dropped in
last night and got to talking to me about his boy."

"Allen?"

Dan was greatly surprised at this turn of the conversation. Mrs. Owen's
tone was wholly kind, and she seemed deeply in earnest.

"Yes, I mean Allen Thatcher. His father says he's taken a great shine to
you. I hardly know the boy, but he's a little queer and he's always been
a little sickly. Edward doesn't know how to handle him, and the boy's
ma--well, she's one of those Terre Haute Bartlows, and those people
never would stay put. Edward's made too much money for his wife's good,
and the United States ain't big enough for her and the girls. But that
boy got tired o' gallivanting around over there, and he's back here on
Edward's hands. The boy's gaits are too much for Edward. He says you and
Allen get on well together. I met him in the bank to-day and he asked me
about you."

"I like Allen;--I'm even very fond of him, and I wish I could help him
find himself. He's amusing"--and Dan laughed, remembering their first
meeting--"but with a fine, serious, manly side that you can't help
liking."

"That's nice; it's mighty nice. You be good to that boy, and you won't
lose anything by it. How do you and Morton get on?"

"First-rate, I hope. He's treated me generously."

Then she fastened her eyes upon him with quizzical severity.

"Young man, the 'Advertiser' seems to think Morton Bassett is crooked.
What do you think about it?"

Dan gasped and stammered at this disconcerting question.

She rested her arms on the table and bent toward him, the humor showing
in her eyes.

"If he _is_ crooked, young man, you needn't think you have to be as big
a sinner as he is! You remember that Sally Owen told you that. Be your
own boss. Morton's a terrible persuader. Funny for me to be talking to
you this way; I don't usually get confidential so quick. I guess"--and
her eyes twinkled--"we'll have to consider ourselves old friends to make
it right."

"You are very kind, indeed, Mrs. Owen. I see that I have a
responsibility about Allen. I'll keep an eye on him.

"Drop in now and then. I eat a good many Sunday dinners alone when I'm
at home, and you may come whenever you feel like facing a tiresome old
woman across the table."

She followed him into the hall, where they ran into Sylvia, who had been
upstairs saying good-night to her grandfather. Mrs. Owen arrested
Sylvia's flight through the hall.

"Sylvia, I guess you and Mr. Harwood are already acquainted."

"Except," said Dan, "that we haven't been introduced!"

"Then, Miss Garrison, this is Mr. Harwood. He's a Yale College man, so I
read in the paper."

"Oh, I already knew that!" replied Sylvia, laughing.

"At Wellesley please remember, Miss Garrison, about the Kalamazoo
cousins," said Dan, his hand on the front door.

"I guess you young folks didn't need that introduction," observed Mrs.
Owen. "Don't forget to come and see me, Mr. Harwood."



CHAPTER XI

THE MAP ABOVE BASSETT'S DESK


Sometimes, in the rapid progress of their acquaintance, Allen Thatcher
exasperated Harwood, but more often he puzzled and interested him. It
was clear that the millionaire's son saw or thought he saw in Dan a
Type. To be thought a Type may be flattering or not; it depends upon the
point of view. Dan himself had no illusions in the matter. Allen wanted
to see and if possible meet the local characters of whom he read in the
newspapers; and he began joining Harwood in visits to the hotels at
night, hoping that these wonderful representatives of American democracy
might appear. Harwood's acquaintance was widening; he knew, by sight at
least, all the prominent men of the city and state, and after leaving
the newspaper he still spent one or two evenings a week lounging in the
hotel corridors. Tradition survived of taller giants before the days of
the contemporaneous Agamemnons. Allen asked questions about these and
mourned their passing. Harrison, the twenty-third President; Gresham, of
the brown eyes, judge and cabinet minister; Hendricks, the courtly
gentleman, sometime Vice-President; "Uncle Joe" McDonald and "Dan"
Voorhees, Senators in Congress, and loved in their day by wide
constituencies. These had vanished, but Dan and Allen made a pious
pilgrimage one night to sit at the feet of David Turpie, who had been a
Senator in two widely separated eras, and who, white and venerable, like
Aigyptos knew innumerable things.

The cloaked poets once visible in Market Street had vanished before our
chronicle opens, with the weekly literary journals in which they had
shone, but Dan was able to introduce Allen to James Whitcomb Riley in a
bookshop frequented by the poet; and that was a great day in Allen's
life. He formed the habit of lying in wait for the poet and walking with
him, discussing Keats and Burns, Stevenson and Kipling, and others of
their common admirations. One day of days the poet took Allen home with
him and read him a new, unpublished poem, and showed him a rare
photograph of Stevenson and the outside of a letter just received from
Kipling, from the uttermost parts of the world. It was a fine thing to
know a poet and to speak with him face to face,--particularly a poet who
sang of his own soil as Allen wished to know it. Still, Allen did not
quite understand how it happened that a poet who wrote of farmers and
country-town folk wore eyeglasses and patent-leather shoes and carried a
folded silk umbrella in all weathers.

The active politicians who crossed his horizon interested Allen greatly;
the rougher and more uncouth they were the more he admired them. They
were figures in the Great Experiment, no matter how sordid or
contemptible Harwood pronounced them. He was always looking for "types"
and "Big" Jordan, the Republican chief, afforded him the greatest
satisfaction. He viewed the local political scene from an angle that
Harwood found amusing, and Dan suggested that it must be because the
feudal taint and the servile tradition are still in our blood that we
submit so tamely to the rule of petty lordlings. In his exalted moments
Allen's ideas shot far into the air, and Dan found it necessary to pull
him back to earth.

"I hardly see a Greek frieze carved of these brethren," Dan remarked one
night as they lounged at the Whitcomb when a meeting of the state
committee was in progress. "These fellows would make you weep if you
knew as much about them as I do. There's one of the bright lights
now--the Honorable Ike Pettit, of Fraser. The Honorable Ike isn't smart
enough to be crooked; he's the bellowing Falstaff of the Hoosier
Democracy. I wonder who the laugh's on just now; he's shaking like a
jelly fish over something."

"Oh, I know him! He and father are great chums; he was at the house for
dinner last night."

"What!"

Harwood was unfeignedly surprised at this. The editor of the "Fraser
County Democrat" had probably never dined at the Bassetts' in his own
town, or at least Dan assumed as much; and since he had gained an
insight into Bassett's affairs he was aware that the physical property
of the "Fraser County Democrat" was mortgaged to Morton Bassett for
quite all it was worth. It was hardly possible that Thatcher was
cultivating Pettit's acquaintance for sheer joy of his society. As the
ponderous editor lumbered across the lobby to where they sat, Dan and
Allen rose to receive his noisily cordial salutations. On his visits to
the capital, arrayed in a tremendous frock coat and with a flapping
slouch hat crowning his big iron-gray head, he was a prodigious figure.

"Boys," he said, dropping an arm round each of the young men, "the
Democratic Party is the hope of mankind. Free her of the wicked bosses,
boil the corruption out of her, and the grand old Hoosier Democracy will
appear once more upon the mountain tops as the bringer of glad tidings.
What's the answer, my lads, to Uncle Ike's philosophy?"

"Between campaigns we're all reformers," said Harwood guardedly. "I feel
it working in my own system."

"Between campaigns," replied the Honorable Isaac Pettit impressively,
"we're all a contemptible lot of cowards, that's what's the matter with
us. Was Thomas Jefferson engaged in manipulating legislatures? Did he
obstruct the will of the people? Not by a long shot he did _not_! And
that grand old patriot, Andrew Jackson, wasn't he satisfied to take his
licker or let it alone without being like a heathen in his blindness,
bowing down to wood and stone carved into saloons and distilleries?"

"It's said by virtuous Republicans that our party is only a tail to the
liquor interests. If you're going back to the Sage of Monticello, how do
you think he would answer that?"

"Bless you, my dear boy; it's not the saloons we try to protect; it's
the plain people, who are entitled to the widest and broadest liberty.
If you screw the lid down on people too tight you'll smother 'em. I'm
not a drinkin' man; I go to church and in my newspaper I preach the
felicities of sobriety and domestic peace. But it's not for me to
dictate to my brother what he shall eat or wear. No, sir! And look here,
don't you try to read me out of the Democratic Party, young man. At
heart our party's as sweet and strong as corn; yea, as the young corn
that leapeth to the rains of June. It's the bosses that's keepin' us
down."

"Your reference to corn throws us back on the distilleries," suggested
Harwood, laughing.

But he was regarding the Honorable Isaac Pettit attentively. Pettit had
changed his manner and stood rocking himself slowly on his heels. He had
been a good deal at the capital of late, and this, together with his
visit to Thatcher's house, aroused Harwood's curiosity. He wondered
whether it were possible that Pettit and Thatcher were conspiring
against Bassett: the fact that he was so heavily in debt to the senator
from Fraser seemed to dispose of his fears. Since his first visit to
Fraserville Dan had heard many interesting and amusing things about the
editor. Pettit had begun life as a lawyer, but had relapsed into rural
journalism after a futile effort to find clients. He had some reputation
as an orator, and Dan had heard him make a speech distinguished by humor
and homely good sense at a meeting of the Democratic State Editorial
Association. Pettit, having once sat beside Henry Watterson at a public
dinner in Louisville, had thereafter encouraged as modestly as possible
a superstition that he and Mr. Watterson were the last survivors of the
"old school" of American editors. One of his favorite jokes was the use
of the editorial "we" in familiar conversation; he said "our wife" and
"our sanctum," and he amused himself by introducing into the "Democrat"
trifling incidents of his domestic life, beginning these items with such
phrases as, "While we were weeding our asparagus bed in the cool of
Tuesday morning, our wife--noble woman that she is--" etc., etc. His
squibs of this character, quoted sometimes in metropolitan newspapers,
afforded him the greatest glee. He appeared occasionally as a lecturer,
his favorite subject being American humor; and he was able to prove by
his scrap-book that he had penetrated as far east as Xenia, Ohio, and as
far west as Decatur, Illinois. Once, so ran Fraserville tradition, he
had been engaged for the lyceum course at Springfield, Missouri, but his
contract had been canceled when it was found that his discourse was
unillumined by the stereopticon, that vivifying accessory being just
then in high favor in that community.

Out of his own reading and reflections Allen had reached the conclusion
that Franklin, Emerson, and Lincoln were the greatest Americans. He
talked a great deal of Lincoln and of the Civil War, and the soldiers'
monument, in its circular plaza in the heart of the city, symbolized for
him all heroic things. He would sit on the steps in the gray shadow at
night, waiting for Dan to finish some task at his office, and Harwood
would find him absorbed, dreaming by the singing, foaming fountains.

Allen spoke with a kind of passionate eloquence of This Stupendous
Experiment, or This Beautiful Experiment, as he liked to call America.
Dan put Walt Whitman into his hands and afterwards regretted it, for
Allen developed an attack of acute Whitmania that tried Dan's patience
severely. Dan had passed through Whitman at college and emerged safely
on the other side. He begged Allen not to call him "camerado" or lift so
often the perpendicular hand. He suggested to him that while it might be
fine and patriotic to declaim

     "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,"

from the steps of the monument at midnight, the police might take
another view of the performance. He began to see, however, that beneath
much that was whimsical and sentimental the young fellow was sincerely
interested in the trend of things in what, during this Whitman period,
he called "these states." Sometimes Allen's remarks on current events
struck Harwood by their wisdom: the boy was wholesomely provocative and
stimulating. He began to feel that he understood him, and in his own
homelessness Allen became a resource.

Allen was a creature of moods, and vanished often for days or weeks. He
labored fitfully in his carpenter shop at home or with equal
irregularity at a bench in the shop of Lüders, a cabinetmaker. Dan
sometimes sought him at the shop, which was a headquarters for radicals
of all sorts. The workmen showed a great fondness for Allen, who had
been much in Germany and spoke their language well. He carried to the
shop quantities of German books and periodicals for their enlightenment.
The shop's visitors included several young Americans, among them a
newspaper artist, a violinist in a theatre orchestra, and a linotype
expert. They all wore large black scarfs and called each other
"comrade." Allen earnestly protested that he still believed in the
American Idea, the Great Experiment; but if democracy should fail he was
ready to take up socialism. He talked of his heroes; he said they all
owed it to the men who had made and preserved the Union to give the
existing government a chance. These discussions were entirely
good-humored and Harwood enjoyed them. Sometimes they met in the evening
at a saloon in the neighborhood of the shop where Allen, the son of
Edward Thatcher, whom everybody knew, was an object of special interest.
He would sit on a table and lecture the saloon loungers in German, and
at the end of a long debate made a point of paying the score. He was
most temperate himself, sipping a glass of wine or beer in the
deliberate German fashion.

Allen was a friendly soul and every one liked him. It was impossible not
to like a lad whose ways were so gentle, whose smile was so appealing.
He liked dancing and went to most of the parties--our capital has not
outgrown its homely provincial habit of calling all social
entertainments "parties." He was unfailingly courteous, with a manner
toward women slightly elaborate and reminiscent of other times. There
was no question of his social acceptance; mothers of daughters, who
declined to speak to his father, welcomed him to their houses.

Allen introduced Dan to the households he particularly fancied and they
made calls together on Dan's free evenings or on Sunday afternoons.
Snobbishness was a late arrival among us; any young man that any one
vouched for might know the "nicest" girls. Harwood's social circle was
widening; Fitch and his wife said a good word for him in influential
quarters, and the local Yale men had not neglected him. Allen liked the
theatre, and exercised considerable ingenuity in devising excuses for
paying for the tickets when they took young women of their acquaintance.
He pretended to Dan that he had free tickets or got them at a discount.
His father made him a generous allowance and he bought a motor car in
which he declared Dan had a half interest; they needed it, he said, for
their social adventures.

At the Thatcher house, Harwood caught fitful glimpses of Allen's father,
a bird of passage inured to sleeping-cars. Occasionally Harwood dined
with the father and son and they would all adjourn to Allen's shop on
the third floor to smoke and talk. When Allen gave rein to his fancy and
began descanting upon the grandeur of the Republic and the Beautiful
Experiment making in "these states," Dan would see a blank puzzled look
steal into Thatcher's face. Thatcher adored Allen: he had for him the
deep love of a lioness for her cubs; but all this idealistic patter the
boy had got hold of--God knew where!--sounded as strange to the rich
man as a discourse in Sanskrit.

Thatcher had not been among Bassett's callers in the new office in the
Boordman, but late one afternoon, when Dan was deep in the principles of
evidence, Thatcher came in.

"I'm not expecting Mr. Bassett to-day, if you wish to see him," said
Dan.

"Nope," Thatcher replied indifferently, "I'm not looking for Mort. He's
in Fraserville, I happen to know. Just talking to him on the telephone,
so I rather guessed you were alone, that's why I came up. I want to talk
to you a little bit, Harwood. It must be nearly closing time, so suppose
you lock the door. You see," he continued, idling about the room,
"Mort's in the newspapers a good deal, and not being any such terrible
sinner as he is I don't care to have his labels tacked on me too much.
Not that Mort isn't one of my best friends, you know; but a family man
like me has got to be careful of his reputation."

Harwood opened his drawer and took out a box of cigars. Thatcher
accepted one and lighted it deliberately, commenting on the office as he
did so. He even strolled through the library to the open door of
Bassett's private room beyond. The map of Indiana suspended above
Bassett's desk interested him and he stood leaning on his stick and
surveying it. There was something the least bit insinuating in his
manner. The room, the map, the fact that Morton Bassett of Fraserville
had, so to speak, planted a vedette in the heart of the capital, seemed
to afford him mild, cynical amusement. He drew his hand across his
face, twisted his mustache, and took the cigar from his mouth and
examined the end of it with fictitious interest.

"Well," he ejaculated, "damn it all, why not?"

Harwood did not know why not; but a man as rich as Edward Thatcher was
entitled to his vagaries. Thatcher sank into Bassett's swivel chair and
swung round once or twice as though testing it, meanwhile eyeing the
map. Then he tipped himself back comfortably and dropped his hat into
his lap. His grayish brown hair was combed carefully from one side
across the top in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal his baldness.

"I guess Mort wouldn't object to my sitting in his chair provided I
didn't look at that map too much. Who was the chap that the sword hung
over by a hair--Damocles? Well, maybe that's what that map is--it would
smash pretty hard if the whole state fell down on Mort. But Mort knows
just how many voters there are in every township and just how they line
up election morning. There's a lot of brains in Bassett's head; you've
noticed it?"

"It's admitted, I believe, that he's a man of ability," said Dan a
little coldly.

Thatcher grinned.

"You're all right, Harwood. I know you're all right or Mort wouldn't
have put you in here. I'm rather kicking myself that I didn't see you
first."

"Mr. Bassett has given me a chance I'd begun to fear I shouldn't get;
you see I'm studying law here. Mr. Bassett has made that possible. He's
the best friend I ever had."

"That's good. Bassett usually picks winners. From what I hear of you and
what I've seen I think you're all right myself. My boy has taken quite a
great fancy to you."

Thatcher looked at the end of his cigar and waited for Dan to reply.

"I've grown very fond of Allen. He's very unusual; he's full of
surprises."

"That boy," said Thatcher, pointing his cigar at Dan, "is the greatest
boy in the world; but, damn it all, I don't make him out."

"Well, he's different; he's an idealist. I'm not sure that he isn't a
philosopher!"

Thatcher nodded, as though this were a corroboration of his own
surmises.

"He has a lot of ideas that are what they call advanced, but it's not
for me to say that he isn't right about them. He talks nonsense some of
the time, but occasionally he knocks me down with a big idea--or his way
of putting a big idea. He doesn't understand a good deal that he sees;
and yet he sometimes says something perfectly staggering."

"He does; by George, he does! Damn it, I took him to see a glassworks
the other day; thought it would appeal to his sense of what you call the
picturesque; but, Lord bless me, he asked how much the blowers were paid
and wanted me to raise their pay on the spot. That was one on me, all
right; I'd thought of giving him the works to play with, but I didn't
have the nerve to offer it to him after that. 'Fraid he'd either turn it
down or take it and bust me."

Thatcher had referred to this incident with unmistakable pride; he was
evidently amused rather than chagrined by his son's scorn of the gift of
a profitable industry. "I offered him money to start a carpenter shop or
furniture factory or anything he wanted to tackle, but he wouldn't have
it. Said he wanted to work in somebody else's shop to get the
discipline. Discipline? That boy never had any discipline in his life!
I've kept my nose to the grindstone ever since I was knee-high to a toad
just so that boy wouldn't have to worry about his daily bread, and now,
damn it all, he runs a carpenter shop on the top floor of a house that
stands me, lot, furniture, and all, nearly a hundred thousand dollars! I
can't talk to everybody about this; my wife and daughters don't want any
discipline; don't like the United States or anything in it except
exchange on London; and here I am with a boy who wears overalls and
tries to callous his hands to look like a laboring man. If you can
figure that out, it's a damn sight more than I can do! It's one on Ed
Thatcher, that's all!"

"If I try to answer you, please don't think I pretend to any unusual
knowledge of human nature; but what I see in the boy is a kind of poetic
attitude toward America--our politics, the whole scheme; and it's a
poetic strain in him that accounts for this feeling about labor. And he
has a feeling for justice and mercy; he's strong for the underdog." "I
suppose," said Thatcher dryly, "that if he'd been an underdog the way I
was he'd be more tickled at a chance to sit on top. When I wore overalls
it wasn't funny. Well, what am I going to do with him?"

"If you really want me to tell you I'd say to let him alone. He's a
perfectly clean, straight, high-minded boy. If he were physically strong
enough I should recommend him to go to college, late as it is for him,
or better, to a school where he would really satisfy what seems to be
his sincere ambition to learn to do something with his hands. But he's
all right as he is. You ought to be glad that his aims are so wholesome.
There are sons of prosperous men right around here who see everything
red."

"That boy," declared Thatcher, pride and love surging in him, "is as
clean as wheat!"

"Quite so; no one could know him without loving him. And I don't mind
saying that I find myself in accord with many of his ideas."

"Sort of damned idealist yourself?"

"I should blush to say it," laughed Dan; "but I feel my heart warming
when Allen gets to soaring sometimes; he expresses himself with great
vividness. He goes after me hard on my _laissez-faire_ notions."

"I take the count and throw up the sponge!"

"Oh, that's a chestnut that means merely that the underdog had better
stay under if he can't fight his way out."

"It seems tough when you boil it down to that; I guess maybe Allen's
right--we all ought to divide up. I'm willing, only"--and he grinned
quizzically--"I'm paired with Mort Bassett."

The light in his cigar had gone out; he swung round and faced the map of
Indiana above Morton Bassett's desk, fumbling in his waistcoat for a
match. When he turned toward Harwood again he blew smoke rings
meditatively before speaking.

"If you're one of these rotten idealists, Harwood, what are you doing
here with Bassett? If that ain't a fair question, don't answer it."

Harwood was taken aback by the directness of the question. Bassett had
always spoken of Thatcher with respect, and he resented the new
direction given to this conversation in Bassett's own office. Dan
straightened himself with dignity, but before he could speak Thatcher
laughed, and fanned the smoke of his cigar away with his hands.

"Don't get hot. That was not a fair question; I know it. I guess Bassett
has his ideals just like the rest of us. I suppose I've got some, too,
though I'd be embarrassed if you asked me to name 'em. I suppose"--and
he narrowed his eyes--"I suppose Mort not only has his ideals but his
ambitions. They go together, I reckon."

"I hope he has both, Mr. Thatcher, but you are assuming that I'm deeper
in his confidence than the facts justify. You and he have been
acquainted so long that you ought to know him thoroughly."

Thatcher did not heed this mild rebuke; nor did he resort to
propitiatory speech. His cool way of ignoring Dan's reproach added to
the young man's annoyance; Dan felt that it was in poor taste and
ungenerous for a man of Thatcher's years and position to come into
Bassett's private office to discuss him with a subordinate. He had
already learned enough of the relations of the two men to realize that
perfect amity was essential between them; he was shocked by the
indifference with which Thatcher spoke of Bassett, of whom people did
not usually speak carelessly in this free fashion. Harwood's own sense
of loyalty was in arms; yet Thatcher seemed unmindful that anything
disagreeable had occurred. He threw away his cigar and drew out a fresh
one which he wobbled about in his mouth unlighted. He kept swinging
round in his chair to gaze at the map above Bassett's desk. The tinted
outlines of the map--green, pink, and orange--could not have had for him
any novelty; similar maps hung in many offices and Thatcher was moreover
a native of the state and long familiar with its configuration. Perhaps,
Dan reflected, its juxtaposition to Bassett's desk was what irritated
his visitor, though it had never occurred to him that this had any
significance. He recalled now, however, that when he had arranged the
rooms the map had been hung in the outer office, but that Bassett
himself had removed it to his private room--the only change he had made
in Dan's arrangements. It was conceivable that Thatcher saw in the
position of the map an adumbration of Bassett's higher political
ambition, and that this had affected the capitalist unpleasantly.

Thatcher's manner was that of a man so secure in his own position that
he could afford to trample others under foot if he liked. It was--not to
put too fine a point upon it--the manner of a bully. His reputation for
independence was well established; he was rich enough to say what he
pleased without regard to the consequences, and he undoubtedly enjoyed
his sense of power.

"I suppose I'm the only man in Indiana that ain't afraid of Mort
Bassett," he announced casually. "It's because Mort knows I ain't afraid
of him that we get on so well together. You've been with him long enough
by this time to know that we have some interests together."

Dan, with his fingers interlocked behind his head, nodded carelessly. He
had grown increasingly resentful of Thatcher's tone and manner, and was
anxious to be rid of him.

"Mort's a good deal closer-mouthed than I am. Mort likes to hide his
tracks--better than that, by George, Mort doesn't _make_ any tracks!
Well, every man is bound to break a twig now and then as he goes along.
By George, I tear down the trees like an elephant so they can't miss
me!"

As Dan made no reply to this Thatcher recurred in a moment to Allen and
Harwood's annoyance passed. It was obvious that the capitalist had
sought this interview to talk of the boy, to make sure that Harwood was
sincerely interested in him. Thatcher's manner of speaking of his son
was kind and affectionate. The introduction of Bassett into the
discussion had been purely incidental, but it was not less interesting
because of its unpremeditated interjection. There was possibly some
jealousy here that would manifest itself later; but that was not Dan's
affair. Bassett was beyond doubt able to take care of himself in
emergencies; Dan's admiration for his patron was strongly intrenched in
this belief. The bulkier Thatcher, with the marks of self-indulgence
upon him, and with his bright waistcoat and flashy necktie transcending
the bounds of good taste, struck him as a weaker character. If Thatcher
meditated a break with Bassett, the sturdier qualities, the even, hard
strokes that Bassett had a reputation for delivering, would count
heavily against him.

"I'm glad you get on so well with the boy," Thatcher was saying. "I
don't mind telling you that his upbringing has been a little
unfortunate--too much damned Europe. He's terribly sore because he
didn't go to college instead of being tutored all over Europe. It's
funny he's got all these romantic ideas about America; he's sore at me
because he wasn't born poor and didn't have to chop rails to earn his
way through college and all that. The rest of my family like the money
all right; they're only sore because I didn't make it raising tulips.
But that boy's all right. And see here--" Thatcher seemed for a moment
embarrassed by what was in his mind. He fidgeted in his chair and eyed
Harwood sharply. "See here, Harwood, if you find after awhile that you
don't get on with Bassett, or you want to change, why, I want you to
give me a chance at you. I'd like to put my boy with you, somehow. I'll
die some day and I want to be sure somebody'll look after him. By God,
he's all I got!"

He swung round, but his eyes were upon the floor; he drew out a
handkerchief and blew his nose noisily.

"By George," he exclaimed, "I promised Allen to take you up to Sally
Owen's. You know Mrs. Owen? That's right; Allen said she's been asking
about you. She likes young folks; she'll never be old herself. Allen and
I are going there for supper, and he's asked her if he might bring you
along. Aunt Sally's a great woman. And"--he grinned ruefully--"a good
trader. She has beat me on many a horse trade, that woman; and I always
go back to try it again. You kind o' like having her do you. And I guess
I'm the original easy mark when it comes to horse. Get your hat and come
along. Allen's fixed this all up with her. I guess you and she are the
best friends the boy's got."



CHAPTER XII

BLURRED WINDOWS


With Sylvia's life in college we have little to do, but a few notes we
must make now that she has reached her sophomore year. She had never
known girls until she went to college and she had been the shyest of
freshmen, the least obtrusive of sophomores.

She had carried her work from the start with remarkable ease and as the
dragons of failure were no longer a menace she began to give more heed
to the world about her. She was early recognized as an earnest,
conscientious student whose work in certain directions was brilliant;
and as a sophomore her fellows began to know her and take pride in her.
She was relieved to find herself swept naturally into the social
currents of the college. She had been afraid of appearing stiff or
priggish, but her self-consciousness quickly vanished in the broad,
wholesome democracy of college life. The best scholar in her class, she
was never called a grind and she was far from being a frump. The wisest
woman in the faculty said of Sylvia: "That girl with her head among the
stars has her feet planted on solid ground. Her life will count." And
the girlhood that Sylvia had partly lost, was recovered and prolonged.
It was a fine thing to be an American college girl, Sylvia realized, and
the varied intercourse, the day's hundred and one contacts and small
excitements, meant more to her than her fellow students knew. When there
was fun in the air Sylvia could be relied upon to take a hand in it. Her
allowance was not meagre and she joined zestfully in such excursions as
were possible, to concerts, lectures, and the theatre. She had that
reverence for New England traditions that is found in all young
Westerners. It was one of her jokes that she took two Boston girls on
their first pilgrimage to Concord, a joke that greatly tickled John
Ware, brooding in his library in Delaware Street.

A few passages from her letters home are illuminative of these college
years. Here are some snap-shots of her fellow students:--

     "I never knew before that there were so many kinds of people in the
     world--girls, I mean. All parts of the country are represented, and
     I suppose I shall always judge different cities and states by the
     girls they send here. There is a California freshman who is quite
     tall, like the redwood trees, I suppose. And there is a little girl
     in my class--she seems little--from Omaha who lives on a hilltop
     out there where she can see the Missouri River--and when her father
     first settled there, Indians were still about. She is the nicest
     and gentlest girl I know, and yet she brings before me all those
     pioneer times and makes me think how fast the country has grown.
     And there is a Virginia girl in my corridor who has the most
     wonderful way of talking, and there's history in that, too,--the
     history of all the great war and the things you fought for; but I
     was almost sorry to have to let her know that you fought on the
     other side, but I _did_ tell her. I never realized, just from books
     and maps, that the United States is so big. The girls bring their
     local backgrounds with them--the different aims and traits. . . . I
     have drawn a map of the country and named all the different states
     and cities for the girls who come from them, but this is just for
     my own fun, of course. . . . I never imagined one would have
     preferences and like and dislike people by a kind of instinct,
     without really knowing them, but I'm afraid I do it, and that all
     the rest of us do the same. . . . Nothing in the world is as
     interesting as people--just dear, good folksy people!"

The correspondence her dormitory neighbors carried on with parents and
brothers and sisters and friends impressed her by its abundance; and she
is to be pardoned if she weighed the letters, whose home news was quoted
constantly in her hearing, against her own slight receipts at the
college post-office. She knew that every Tuesday morning there would be
a letter from her grandfather. Her old friend Dr. Wandless sent
occasionally, in his kindly humorous fashion, the news of Buckeye Lane
and the college; and Mrs. Owen wrote a hurried line now and then,
usually to quote one of John Ware's sayings. The minister asked about
Sylvia, it seemed. These things helped, but they did not supply the
sympathy, of which she was conscious in countless ways, between her
fellow students and their near of kin. With the approach of holiday
times, the talk among her companions of the homes that awaited them, or,
in the case of many, of other homes where they were to visit, deepened
her newly awakened sense of isolation. Fathers and mothers appeared
constantly to visit their daughters, and questions that had never
troubled her heart before arose to vex her. Why was it, when these other
girls, flung together from all parts of the country, were so blest with
kindred, that she had literally but one kinsman, the grandfather on whom
all her love centred?

It should not be thought, however, that she yielded herself morbidly to
these reflections, but such little things as the receipt of gifts, the
daily references to home affairs, the photographs set out in the girls'
rooms, were not without their stab. She wrote to Professor Kelton:--

     "I wish you would send me your picture of mother. I often wondered
     why you didn't give it to me; won't you lend it to me now? I think
     it is put away in your desk in the library. Almost all the girls
     have pictures of their families--some of them of their houses and
     even the horse and dog--in their rooms. And you must have a new
     picture taken of yourself--I'd like it in your doctor's gown, that
     they gave you at Williams. It's put away in the cedar chest in the
     attic--Mary will know where. And if you have a picture of father
     anywhere I should like to have that too."

She did not know that when this reached him--one of the series of
letters on which the old gentleman lived these days, with its Wellesley
postmark, and addressed in Sylvia's clear, running hand, he bowed his
white head and wept; for he knew what was in the girl's heart--knew and
dreaded this roused yearning, and suffered as he realized the arid
wastes of his own ignorance. But he sent her the picture of her mother
for which she asked, and had the cottage photographed with Mills Hall
showing faintly beyond the hedge; and he meekly smuggled his doctor's
gown to the city and sat for his photograph. These things Sylvia proudly
spread upon the walls of her room. He wrote to her--a letter that cost
him a day's labor:--

     "We don't seem to have any photograph of your father; but things
     have a way of getting lost, particularly in the hands of an old
     fellow like me. However, I have had myself taken as you wished, and
     you can see now what a solemn person your grandfather is in his
     _toga academica_. I had forgotten I had that silk overcoat and I am
     not sure now that I didn't put the hood on wrong-side-out! I'm a
     sailor, you know, and these fancy things stump me. The photographer
     didn't seem to understand that sort of millinery. Please keep it
     dark; your teachers might resent the sudden appearance in the halls
     of Wellesley of a grim old professor _emeritus_ not known to your
     faculty."

The following has its significance in Sylvia's history and we must give
it place--this also to her grandfather:--

     "The most interesting lecture I ever heard (except yours!) was
     given at the college yesterday by Miss Jane Addams, of Hull House,
     the settlement worker and writer on social reforms. She's such a
     simple, modest little woman that everybody loved her at once. She
     made many things clear to me that I had only groped for before. She
     used an expression that was new to me, 'reciprocal obligations,'
     which we all have in this world, though I never quite thought of it
     before. She's a college woman herself, and feels that all of us who
     have better advantages than other people should help those who
     aren't taught to climb. It seems the most practical idea in the
     world, that we should gather up the loose, rough fringes of society
     and weave the broken threads into a common warp and woof. The
     social fabric is no stronger than its weakest thread. . . . To help
     and to save for the sheer love of helping and saving is the noblest
     thing any of us can do--I feel that. This must be an old story to
     you; I'm ashamed that I never saw it all for myself. It's as though
     I had been looking at the world through a blurred window, from a
     comfortable warm room, when some one came along and brushed the
     pane clear, so that I could see the suffering and hardship outside,
     and feel my own duty to go out and help."

Professor Kelton, spending a day in the city, showed this to Mrs. Owen
when she asked for news of Sylvia. Mrs. Owen kept the letter that John
Ware might see it. Ware said: "Deep nature; I knew that night she told
me about the stars that she would understand everything. You will hear
of her. Wish she would come here to live. We need women like that."

Professor Kelton met Sylvia in New York on her way home for the holidays
in her freshman year and they spent their Christmas together in the
cottage. She was bidden to several social gatherings in Buckeye Lane;
and to a dance in town. She was now Miss Garrison, a student at
Wellesley, and the good men and women at Madison paid tribute to her new
dignity. Something Sylvia was knowing of that sweet daffodil time in the
heart of a girl before the hovering swallows dare to fly.

In the midyear recess of her sophomore year she visited one of her new
friends in Boston in a charming home of cultivated people. The following
Easter vacation her grandfather joined her for a flight to New York and
Washington, and this was one of the happiest of experiences. During the
remainder of her college life she was often asked to the houses of her
girl friends in and about Boston; her diffidence passed; she found that
she had ideas and the means of expressing them. The long summers were
spent at the cottage in the Lane; she saw Mrs. Owen now and then with
deepening attachment, and her friend never forgot to send her a
Christmas gift--once a silver purse and a twenty-dollar gold piece;
again, a watch--always something carefully chosen and practical.

Sylvia arranged to return to college with two St. Louis girls after her
senior Christmas, to save her grandfather the long journey, for he had
stipulated that she should never travel alone. By a happy chance Dan
Harwood, on his way to Boston to deliver an issue of telephone bonds in
one of Bassett's companies, was a passenger on the same train, and he
promptly recalled himself to Sylvia, who proudly presented him as a Yale
man to her companions. A special car filled with young collegians from
Cincinnati and the South was later attached to the train, and Dan,
finding several Yalensians in the company, including the year's football
hero, made them all acquainted with Sylvia and her friends. It was not
till the next day that Dan found an opportunity for personal talk with
Sylvia, but he had already been making comparisons. Sylvia was as well
"put up" as any of the girls, and he began to note her quick changes of
expression, the tones of her voice, the grace of her slim, strong hands.
He wanted to impress himself upon her; he wanted her to like him.

"News? I don't know that I can give you any news. You probably know that
Mrs. Owen went to Fraserville for Christmas with the Bassetts? Let me
see, you do know the Bassetts, don't you?"

"Yes. I was at Waupegan three summers ago at Mrs. Owen's, and Mrs.
Bassett and all of them were very good to me."

"You probably don't know that I'm employed by Mr. Bassett. He has an
office in Indianapolis where I'm trying to be a lawyer and I do small
jobs for him. I'm doing an errand for him now. It will be the first time
I've been east of the mountains since I left college, and I'm going to
stop at New Haven on my way home to see how they're getting on without
me. By the way, you probably know that Marian is going to college?"

"No; I didn't know it," exclaimed Sylvia. "But I knew her mother was
interested and I gave her a Wellesley catalogue. That was a long time
ago!"

"That was when you were visiting Mrs. Owen at Waupegan? I see, said the
blind man!"

"What do you see?" asked Sylvia.

"I see Mrs. Bassett and Marian, niece and grandniece respectively, of
Aunt Sally Owen; and as I gaze, a stranger bound for college suddenly
appears on Mrs. Owen's veranda, in cap and gown. Tableau!"

"I don't see the picture," Sylvia replied, though she laughed in spite
of herself.

"I not only see," Dan continued, "but I hear the jingle of red, red
gold, off stage."

This was going a trifle too far. Sylvia shook her head and frowned.

"That isn't fair, Mr. Harwood, if I guess what you mean. There's no
reason why Marian shouldn't go to college. My going has nothing to do
with it. You have misunderstood the whole matter."

"Pardon me," said Dan quickly. "I mean no unkindness to any of them.
They are all very good to me. It's too bad, though, that Marian's
preparation for college hadn't been in mind until so recently. It would
save her a lot of hard digging now. I see a good deal of the family; and
I'm even aware of Marian's doings at Miss Waring's school. Master
Blackford beguiles me into taking him to football games, and I often go
with all of them to the theatre when they're in town. Mr. Bassett is
very busy, and he doesn't often indulge himself in pleasures. He's the
kind of man whose great joy is in work--and he has many things to look
after."

"You are a kind of private secretary to the whole family, then; but you
work at the law at the same time?"

Harwood's face clouded for a moment; she noticed it and was sorry she
had spoken; but he said immediately:--

"Well, I haven't had much time for the law this winter. I have more
things to do outside than I had expected. But I fear I need prodding;
I'm too prone to wander into other fields. And I'm getting a good deal
interested in politics. You know Mr. Bassett is one of the leading men
in our state."

"Yes, I had learned that; I suppose he may be Senator or Governor some
day. That makes it all the more important that Marian should be fitted
for high station."

"I don't know that just that idea has struck her!" he laughed, quite
cheerful again. "It's too bad it can't be suggested to her. It might
help her with her Latin. She tells me in our confidences that she thinks
Latin a beast. It's my rôle to pacify her. But a girl must live up to
her mother's ambitions, and Mrs. Bassett is ambitious for her children.
And then there's always the unencumbered aunt to please into the
bargain. Mrs. Owen is shrewd, wise, kind. Since that night I saw you
there we've become pals. She's the most stimulating person I ever knew.
She has talked to me about you several times"--Dan laughed and looked
Sylvia in the eyes as though wondering how far to go--"and if you're not
the greatest living girl you have shamefully fooled Mrs. Owen. Mr. Ware,
the minister, came in one evening when I was there and I never heard
such praise as they gave you. But I approved of it."

"Oh, how nice of you!" said Sylvia, in a tone so unlike her that Dan
laughed outright.

"You are the embodiment of loyalty; but believe me, I am a loyal person
myself. Please don't think me a gossip. Marian's mother still hopes to
land her in college next year, but she's the least studious of beings; I
can't see her doing it. Mrs. Bassett's never quite well, and that's been
bad for Marian. College would be a good thing for her. I've seen many
soaring young autocrats reduced to a proper humility at New Haven, and I
dare say you girls have your own way of humbling a proud spirit."

"I don't believe Marian needs humbling; one can't help liking her; and
she's ever so good to look at."

"She's certainly handsome," Dan admitted.

"She's altogether charming," said Sylvia warmly; "and she's young--much
younger than I am, for example."

"How old is young, or how young is old? I had an idea that you and she
were about the same age."

"You flatter me! I'm nearly four years older! but I suppose she seems
much more grown-up, and she knows a great many things I don't."

"I dare say she does!" Dan laughed. And with this they turned to other
matters.

Dan sat facing her, hat in hand, and as the train rushed through the
Berkshires Sylvia formed new impressions of him. She saw him now as a
young man of affairs, with errands abroad--this in itself of
significance; and he had to do with politics, a subject that had begun
to interest Sylvia. The cowlick where his hair parted kept a stubborn
wisp of brown hair in rebellion, and it shook amusingly when he spoke
earnestly or laughed. His gray eyes were far apart and his nose was
indubitably a big one. He laughed a good deal, by which token one saw
that his teeth were white and sound. Something of the Southwestern drawl
had survived his years at New Haven, but when he became earnest his eyes
snapped and he spoke with quick, nervous energy, in a deep voice that
was a little harsh. Sylvia had heard a great deal about the brothers and
young men friends of her companions at college and was now more
attentive to the outward form of man than she had thought of being
before.

When they reached Boston, Harwood took Sylvia and her companions to
luncheon at the Touraine and put them on their train for Wellesley. His
thoughtfulness and efficiency could not fail to impress the young women.
He was an admirable cavalier, and Sylvia's companions were delighted
with him. He threatened them with an early visit to college, suggesting
the most daring possibilities as to his appearance. He repeated, at
Sylvia's instigation, the incident of the hearse horses at Poughkeepsie,
with new flourishes, and cheerfully proposed a cousinship to all of
them.

"Or, perhaps," he said, when he had found seats for them and had been
admonished to leave, "perhaps it would be more in keeping with my great
age to become your uncle. Then you would be cousins to each other and we
should all be related."

Speculations as to whether he would ever come kept the young women
laughing as they discussed him. They declared that the meeting on the
train had been by ulterior design and they quite exhausted the fun of it
upon Sylvia, who gained greatly in importance through the encounter with
Harwood. She was not the demure young person they had thought her; it
was not every girl who could produce a personable young man on a railway
journey.

Sylvia wondered much about Marian and dramatized to herself the girl's
arrival at college. It did not seem credible that Mrs. Bassett was
preparing Marian for college because she, Sylvia Garrison, was enrolled
there. Sylvia was kindly disposed toward all the world, and she resented
Harwood's insinuations. As for Mrs. Owen and Dan's intimations that
Marian must be educated to satisfy the great aunt's ideals as
represented in Sylvia--well, Sylvia had no patience whatever with any
such idea.



CHAPTER XIII

THE WAYS OF MARIAN


The historian may not always wait for the last grain of sand to mark the
passing of an hour; he must hasten the flight of time frequently by
abrupt reversals of the glass. Much competent evidence (to borrow from
the lawyers) we must reject as irrelevant or immaterial to our main
issue. Harwood was admitted to practice in the United States courts
midway of his third year in Bassett's office. The doors of the state
courts swing inward to any Hoosier citizen of good moral character who
wants to practice law,--a drollery of the Hoosier constitution still
tolerated. The humor of being a mere "constitutional" lawyer did not
appeal to Harwood, who revered the traditions and the great names of his
chosen profession, and he had first written his name on the rolls of the
United States District Court.

His work for Bassett grew more and more congenial. The man from Fraser
was concentrating his attention on business; at least he found plenty of
non-political work for Dan to do. After the troubled waters in Ranger
County had been quieted and Bassett's advanced outpost in the Boordman
Building had ceased to attract newspaper reporters, an important
receivership to which Bassett had been appointed gave Harwood
employment of a semi-legal character. Bassett had been a minor
stockholder in a paper-mill which had got into difficulties through
sheer bad management, and as receiver he addressed himself to the task
of proving that the business could be made to pay. The work he assigned
to Harwood was to the young man's liking, requiring as it did
considerable travel, visits to the plant, which was only a few hours'
journey from the capital, and negotiations which required the exercise
of tact and judgment. However, Harwood found himself ineluctably drawn
into the state campaign that fall. Bassett was deeply engaged in all the
manoeuvres, and Harwood was dispatched frequently on errands to county
chairmen, and his aid was welcomed by the literary bureau of the state
committee. He prepared a speech whose quality he tested at small
meetings in his own county, and his efforts having been favorably
received he acted as a supply to fill appointments where the regular
schedule failed. Toward the end of the campaign his assignments
increased until all his time was taken. By studying his audiences he
caught the trick of holding the attention of large crowds; his old
college sobriquet of "Foghorn" Harwood had been revived and the
newspapers mentioned his engagements with a casualness that implied
fame. He enjoyed his public appearances, and the laughter and applause
were sweet to him.

After the election Bassett admonished him not to neglect the law.

"I want you to make your way in the profession," he said, "and not let
my affairs eat up all your time. Give me your mornings as far as
possible and keep your afternoons for study. If at any time you have to
give me a whole day, take the next day for yourself. But this work
you're doing will all help you later. Lawyers these days have got to be
business men; you understand that; and you want to get to the top."

Dan visited his parents and brothers as often as possible on the
infertile Harrison County acres, to which the mortgage still clung
tenaciously. He had felt since leaving college that he owed it to the
brothers who had remained behind to wipe out the old harassing debt as
soon as possible. The thought of their struggles often made him unhappy,
and he felt that he could only justify his own desertion by freeing the
farm. After one of these visits Bassett drew from him the fact that the
mortgage was about to mature, and that another of a long series of
renewals of the loan was necessary. Bassett was at once interested and
sympathetic. The amount of the debt was three thousand dollars, and he
proposed that Dan discharge it.

"I've never said so, but at the conclusion of the receivership I've
intended paying you for your additional work. If everything goes well my
own allowance ought to be ten thousand dollars, and you're entitled to a
share of it. I'll say now that it will be not less than two thousand
dollars. I'll advance you that amount at once and carry your personal
note for the other thousand in the Fraserville bank. It's too bad you
have to use your first money that way, but it's natural for you to want
to do it. I see that you feel a duty there, and the folks at home have
had that mortgage on their backs so long that it's taken all the spirit
out of them. You pay the mortgage when it's due and go down and make a
little celebration of it, to cheer them up. I'll carry that thousand as
long as you like."

Miss Rose Farrell, nigh to perishing of ennui in the lonely office of
the absentee steel construction agents, had been installed as
stenographer in Room 66 a year earlier. Miss Farrell had, it appeared,
served Bassett several terms as stenographer to one of the legislative
committees of which he was chairman.

"You needn't be afraid of my telling anything," she said in reply to
Dan's cautioning. "Those winters I worked at the State House I learned
enough to fill three penitentiaries with great and good men, but you
couldn't dig it out of me with a steam shovel. They were going to have
me up before an investigating committee once, but I had burned my
shorthand notes and couldn't remember a thing. Your little Irish Rose
knows a few things, Mr. Harwood. I was on to your office before the
'Advertiser' sprung that story and gave it away that Mr. Bassett had a
room here. I spotted the senator from Fraser coming up our pedestrian
elevator, and I know all those rubes that have been dropping up to see
him--struck 'em all in the legislature. He won't tear your collar if you
put me on the job. And if I do say it myself I'm about as speedy on the
machine as you find 'em. All your little Rose asks is the right to an
occasional Wednesday matinée when business droops like a sick oleander.
You needn't worry about me having callers. I'm a business woman, I am,
and I guess I know what's proper in a business office. If I don't
understand men, Mr. Harwood, no poor working girl does."

Bassett was pleased with Dan's choice of a stenographer. He turned over
to Rose the reading of the rural newspapers and sundry other routine
matters. There was no doubt of Miss Farrell's broad knowledge of the
world, or of her fidelity to duty. Harwood took early opportunity to
subdue somewhat the pungency of the essences with which she perfumed
herself, and she gave up gum-chewing meekly at his behest. She assumed
at once toward him that maternal attitude which is peculiar to office
girls endowed with psychological insight. He sought to improve the
character of fiction she kept at hand for leisure moments, and was
surprised by the aptness of her comments on the books she borrowed on
his advice from the Public Library. She was twenty-four, tall and trim,
with friendly blue-gray eyes and a wit that had been sharpened by
adversity.

It cannot be denied that Mrs. Bassett and Marian found Harwood a
convenient reed upon which to lean. Nor was Blackford above dragging his
father's secretary (as the family called him) forth into the bazaars of
Washington Street to assist in the purchase of a baseball suit or in
satisfying other cravings of his youthful heart. Mrs. Bassett, scorning
the doctors of Fraserville, had now found a nerve specialist at the
capital who understood her troubles perfectly.

Marian, at Miss Waring's school, was supposed to be preparing for
college, though Miss Waring had no illusions on the subject. Marian made
Mrs. Owen her excuse for many absences from school: what was the use of
having a wealthy great-aunt living all alone in a comfortable house in
Delaware Street if one didn't avail one's self of the rights and
privileges conferred by such relationship? When a note from Miss Waring
to Mrs. Bassett at Fraserville conveyed the disquieting news of her
daughter's unsatisfactory progress, Mrs. Bassett went to town and dealt
severely with Marian. Mrs. Owen was grimly silent when appealed to; it
had never been her idea that Marian should be prepared for college; but
now that the girl's mother had pledged herself to the undertaking Mrs.
Owen remained a passive spectator of the struggle. Mrs. Owen was not so
dull but that she surmised what had inspired this zeal for a collegiate
training for Marian; and her heart warmed toward the dark young person
at Wellesley, such being the contrariety of her kindly soul. To Miss
Waring, a particular friend of hers and one of her admirations, Mrs.
Owen said:--

"I want you to do the best you can for Marian, now that her mother's
bitten with this idea of sending her to college. She's smart enough, I
guess?"

"Too much smartness is Marian's trouble," replied Miss Waring. "There's
nothing in the gymnasium she can't do; she's become the best French
scholar we ever had, but that's about all. She's worked hard at French
because she thinks it gives her a grand air. I can't imagine any other
reason. She's adorable and--impossible!"

"Do the best you can for her; I want her to go to college if she can."

Miss Waring had the reputation of being strict, yet Marian slipped the
cords of routine and discipline with ease. She had passed triumphantly
from the kitchen "fudge" and homemade butterscotch period of a girl's
existence into the realm of _marrons glacés_. Nothing bored her so much
as the afternoon airings of the school under the eye of a teacher; and
these she turned into larks when she shared in them. Twice in one winter
she had hopped upon a passing street car and rolled away in triumph from
her meek and horrified companions and their outraged duenna. She
encouraged by means the subtlest, the attentions of a strange young
gentleman who followed the school's peregrinations afar off. She carried
on a brief correspondence with this cavalier, a fence corner in
Pennsylvania Street serving as post-office.

Luck favored her astonishingly in her efforts to escape the rigors of
school discipline. Just when she was forbidden to leave Miss Waring's to
spend nights and Sundays at Mrs. Owen's, her mother came to town and
opportunely (for Marian) fell ill, at the Whitcomb. Mrs. Bassett was
cruising languidly toward the sombre coasts of Neurasthenia, and though
she was under the supervision of a trained nurse, Marian made her
mother's illness an excuse for moving down to the hotel to take care of
her. Her father, in and out of the city caring for his multiplying
interests, objected mildly but acquiesced, which was simpler and more
comfortable than opposing her.

Having escaped from school and established herself at the Whitcomb,
Marian summoned Harwood to the hotel on the flimsiest pretexts, many of
them most ingeniously plausible. For example, she avowed her intention
of carrying on her studies at the hotel during her enforced retirement
from Miss Waring's, and her father's secretary, being a college man,
could assist her with her Latin as well as not. Dan set tasks for her
for a week, until she wearied of the pretense. She insisted that it was
too stupid for her to go unattended to the hotel restaurant for her
meals, and it was no fun eating in her mother's room with that lady in
bed and the trained nurse at hand; so Harwood must join her for luncheon
and dinner at the Whitcomb. Mrs. Owen was out of town, Bassett was most
uncertain in his goings and comings, and Mrs. Bassett was beyond
Harwood's reach, so he obeyed, not without chafing of spirit, these
commands of Marian. He was conscious that people pointed her out in the
restaurant as Morton Bassett's daughter, and he did not like the
responsibility of this unauthorized chaperonage.

Mrs. Bassett was going to a sanatorium as soon as she was able to move;
but for three weeks Marian was on Harwood's hands. Her bland airs of
proprietorship amused him when they did not annoy him, and when he
ventured to remonstrate with her for her unnecessary abandonment of
school to take care of her mother, her pretty _moue_ had mitigated his
impatience. She knew the value of her prettiness. Dan was a young man
and Marian was not without romantic longings. Just what passed between
her and her mother Harwood could not know, but the hand that ruled
indulgently in health had certainly not gained strength in sickness.

This was in January when the theatres were offering an unusual variety
of attractions. Dan had been obliged to refuse--more harshly than was
agreeable--to take Marian to see a French farce that had been widely
advertised by its indecency. Her cool announcement that she had read it
in French did not seem to Harwood to make an educational matter of it;
but he was obliged finally to compromise with her on another play. Her
mother was quite comfortable, she averred; there was no reason why she
should not go to the theatre, and she forced the issue by getting the
tickets herself.

That evening when they reached their seats Dan observed that Allen
Thatcher sat immediately in front of them. He turned and nodded to Dan,
and his eyes took in Marian. In a moment she murmured an inquiry as to
who the young man was; and Harwood was aware thereafter that Marian
divided her attention between Allen and the stage. Allen turned once or
twice in the entr'actes with some comment on the play, and Marian was
pleased with his profile; moreover he bore a name with which she had
long been familiar. As the curtain fell she whispered to Harwood:--

"You must introduce me to Mr. Thatcher,--please--! His father and papa
are friends, and I've heard so much about the family that I just have
to know him."

Harwood looked down at her gravely to be sure it was not one of her
jokes, but she was entirely serious. He felt that he must take a stand
with her; if her father and mother were unaware of her venturesome
nature he still had his responsibility, and it was not incumbent on him
to widen her acquaintance.

"No!" he said flatly.

But Marian knew a trick or two. She loitered by her seat adjusting her
wrap with unnecessary deliberation. Allen, wishing to arrange an
appointment with Dan for luncheon the next day, waited for him to come
into the aisle. Dan had not the slightest idea of introducing his charge
to Allen or to any one else, and he stepped in front of her to get rid
of his friend with the fewest words possible. But Marian so disposed
herself at his elbow that he could not without awkwardness refuse her.

She murmured Allen's name cordially, leveling her eyes at him smilingly.

"I've often heard Mr. Harwood speak of you, Mr. Thatcher! He has a great
way of speaking of his friends!"

Allen was not a forthputting person, and Dan's manner was not
encouraging; but the trio remained together necessarily through the
aisle to the foyer.

Marian took advantage of their slow exit to discuss the play and with
entire sophistication, expressing astonishment that Allen was lukewarm
in his praise of it. He could not agree with her that the leading woman
was beautiful, but she laughed when he remarked, with his droll
intonation, that the star reminded him of a dressed-up mannikin in a
clothing-store window.

"That is just the kind of thing I imagined you would say. My aunt, Mrs.
Owen, says that you always say something different."

"Oh, Aunt Sally! She's the grandest of women. I wish she were my aunt. I
have aunts I could trade for her."

At the door Allen paused. Marian, running on blithely, gave him no
opportunity to make his adieux.

"Oh, aren't you going our way?" she demanded, in a tone of invitation.

"Yes; come along; it's only a step to the hotel where Miss Bassett is
staying," said Harwood, finding that they blocked the entrance and not
seeing his way to abandoning Allen on the spot. He never escaped the
appeal that lay in Allen; he was not the sort of fellow one would wound;
and there could be no great harm in allowing him to walk a few blocks
with Marian Bassett, who had so managed the situation as to make his
elimination difficult. It was a cold, clear night and they walked
briskly to the Whitcomb. When they reached the hotel, Dan, who had left
the conversation to Marian and Allen, breathed a sigh that his
responsibility was at an end. He and Allen would have a walk and talk
together, or they might go up to the Boordman Building for the long
lounging parleys in which Allen delighted and which Dan himself enjoyed.
But Dan had not fully gauged the measure of Marian's daring.

"Won't you please wait a minute, Mr. Harwood, until I see if poor mama
needs anything. You know we all rely on you so. I'll be back in just a
moment."

"So that's Morton Bassett's daughter," observed Allen when Marian had
fluttered into the elevator. "You must have a lot of fun taking her
about; she's much more grown-up than I had imagined from what you've
said. She's almost a dangerous young person."

The young men found seats and Allen nursed his hat musingly. He had
nothing whatever to do, and the chance meeting with Harwood was a bright
incident in a bleak, eventless day.

"Oh, she's a nice child," replied Harwood indifferently. "But she finds
childhood irksome. It gives her ladyship a feeling of importance to hold
me here while she asks after the comfort of her mother. I suppose a girl
is a woman when she has learned that she can tell a man to wait."

"You should write a book of aphorisms and call it 'The Young Lady's Own
Handbook.' Perhaps I ought to be skipping."

"For Heaven's sake, don't! I want you as an excuse for getting away."

"I think I'd better go," suggested Allen. "I can wait for you in the
office."

"Then I should pay the penalty for allowing you to escape; she can be
very severe; she is a much harder taskmaster than her father. Don't
desert me."

Allen took this at face value; and it seemed only ordinary courtesy to
wait to say good-night to a young woman who was coming back in a moment
to report upon the condition of a sick mother. In ten minutes Marian
reappeared, having left her wraps behind.

"Mama is sleeping beautifully. And that's a sign that she's better."

Here clearly was an end of the matter, and Dan had begun to say
good-night; but with the prettiest grace possible Marian was addressing
Allen:--

"I'm terribly hungry and I sent down an order for just the smallest
supper. You see, I took it for granted that you would both be just as
hungry as I am, so you must come and keep me company." And to anticipate
the refusal that already glittered coldly in Dan's eye, she continued,
"Mama doesn't like me to be going into the restaurant alone, but she
approves of Mr. Harwood."

The head waiter was already leading them to a table set for three in
accordance with the order Manan had telephoned from her room. She had
eliminated the possibility of discussion, and Harwood raged in his
helplessness. There was no time for a scene even if he had thought it
wise to precipitate one.

"It's only a lobster, you know," she said, with the careless ease of a
young woman quite habituated to midnight suppers.

Harwood's frown of annoyance had not escaped her; but it only served to
add to her complete joy in the situation. There were other people about,
and music proceeded from a screen of palms at the end of the
dining-room. Having had her way, Marian nibbled celery and addressed
herself rather pointedly to Allen, unmindful of the lingering traces of
Harwood's discomfiture. By the time the lobster was served she was on
capital terms with Allen.

In his own delight in Marian, Allen failed utterly to comprehend
Harwood's gloomy silence. Dan scarcely touched his plate, and he knew
that Marian was covertly laughing at him.

"Do you know," said Allen, speaking directly to Dan, "we're having great
arguments at Lüders's; we turn the universe over every day."

"You see, Miss Bassett," Allen explained to Marian; "I'm a fair
carpenter and work almost every day at Louis Lüders's shop. I earn a
dollar a day and eat dinner--dinner, mind you!--at twelve o'clock, out
of a tin pail. You can see that I'm a laboring man--one of the toiling
millions."

"You don't mean that seriously, Mr. Thatcher; not really!"

"Oh, why will you say that? Every one says just that! No one ever
believes that I mean what I say!"

This was part of some joke, Marian surmised, though she did not quite
grasp it. It was inconceivable that the son of the house of Thatcher
should seriously seek a chance to do manual labor. Allen in his dinner
jacket did not look like a laborer: he was far more her idea of a poet
or a musician.

"I went to Lüders's house the other evening for supper," Allen was
saying. "I rather put it up to him to ask me, and he has a house with a
garden, and his wife was most amusing. We all talked German, including
the kids,--three of them, fascinating little fellows. He's a
cabinetmaker, Miss Bassett,--a producer of antiques, and a good one;
and about the gentlest human being you ever saw. He talks about existing
law as though it were some kind of devil,--a monster, devouring the
world's poor. But he won't let his wife spank the children,--wouldn't,
even when one of them kicked a hole in my hat! I supposed that of course
there would be dynamite lying round in tomato cans; and when I shook the
pepper box I expected an explosion; but I didn't see a gun on the place.
He's beautifully good-natured, and laughed in the greatest way when I
asked him how soon he thought of blowing up some of our prominent
citizens. I really believe he likes me--strange but true."

"Better not get in too deep with those fellows," warned Dan. "The police
watch Lüders carefully; he's considered dangerous. It's the quiet ones,
who are kind to their families and raise cabbages, that are the most
violent."

"Oh, Lüders says we've got to smash everything! He rather favors
socialism himself, but he wants to tear down the court-houses first and
begin again."

"You'd better be careful or you'll land in jail, Mr. Thatcher," remarked
Marian, taking an olive.

"Oh, if anything as interesting as that should happen to me, I should
certainly die of joy!"

"But your family wouldn't like it if you went to jail," persisted
Marian, delighting in the confidences of a young gentleman for whom
jails had no terrors.

"The thought of my family is disturbing, it's positively disturbing,"
Allen replied. "Lüders has given me a chance in his shop, and really
expects me to work. Surprising in an anarchist; you'd rather expect him
to press a stick of dynamite in your hand and tell you to go out and
blow up a bank. Lüders has a sense of humor, you know: hence the
antiques, made to coax money from the purses of the fat rich. There are
more ways than one of being a cut-purse."

The lobster had been consumed, and they were almost alone in the
restaurant. Marian, with her elbows on the table, was in no haste to
leave, but Dan caught the eye of the hovering waiter and paid the check.

"You shouldn't have done that," Marian protested; "it was my party. I
sign my own checks here."

But having now asserted himself, Dan rose, and in a moment he and Allen
had bidden her good-night at the elevator door.

"You didn't seem crazy about your lobster, and you were hardly more than
polite to our hostess. Sorry to have butted in. But why have you kept
these tender recreations from me!"

"Oh, that child vexes my spirit sometimes. She's bent on making people
do things they don't want to do. Of course the lobster was a mere excuse
for getting acquainted with you; but you needn't be too set up about it:
I think her curiosity about your family is responsible,--these fake
newspaper stories about your sister--which is it, Hermione or
Gwendolen--who is always about to marry a count. Countesses haven't been
common in Indiana. We need a few to add tone to the local gossip."

"Oh," murmured Allen dejectedly: "I'm sorry if you didn't want me in the
party. It's always the way with me. Nobody ever really loves me for
myself alone. What does the adorable do besides midnight lobsters? I
thought Aunt Sally said she was at Miss Waring's school."

"She is, more or less," growled Dan. "Her mother wants to put her
through college, to please the wealthy great-aunt. Mrs. Owen has shown
interest in another girl who is now at Wellesley; hence Marian must go
to college, and the bare thought of it bores her to death. She's as
little adapted to a course in college as one of those bright goddesses
who used to adorn Olympus."

"She doesn't strike me as needing education; she's a finished product. I
felt very young in the divine presence."

"She gives one that feeling," laughed Dan, his mood of impatience
dissolving.

"Who's this rival who has made the higher education seem necessary for
Morton Bassett's daughter?"

"She's an amazing girl; quite astonishing. If Mrs. Bassett were a wise
woman she wouldn't enter Marian in competition. And besides, I think her
fears are utterly groundless. Marian is delightful, with her waywardness
and high-handedness; and Mrs. Owen likes originals, not feeble
imitations. I should hate to try to deceive Mrs. Sally Owen--she's about
the wisest person I ever saw."

"Oh, Sylvia! Mrs. Owen has mentioned her. The girl that knows all the
stars and that sort of thing. But where's Morton Bassett in all this?
He's rather more than a shadow on the screen?"

"Same old story of the absorbed American father and the mother with
nerves"

       *       *       *       *       *

Two afternoons later, as Harwood was crossing University Park on his way
to his boarding-house, he stopped short and stared. A little ahead of
him in the walk strolled a girl and a young man, laughing and talking
with the greatest animation. There was no questioning their identity. It
was five o'clock and quite dark, and the air was sharp. Harwood paused
and waited for the two loiterers to cross the lighted space about the
little park's central fountain. It seemed incredible that Marian and
Allen should be abroad together in this dallying fashion. His anger rose
against Allen, but he curbed an impulse to send him promptly about his
business and take Marian back to the Whitcomb. Mr. Bassett was expected
in town that evening and Dan saw his duty clearly in regard to Marian;
she must be returned to school willy-nilly.

The young people were hitting it off wonderfully, and Marian's laughter
rang out clearly upon the winter air. Her tall, supple figure, her head
capped with a fur toque, and more than all, the indubitable evidence
that such a clandestine stroll as this gave her the keenest delight,
drove home to Harwood the realization that Marian was no longer a child,
but a young woman, obstinately bent upon her own way. Allen was an
ill-disciplined, emotional boy, whose susceptibilities in the matter of
girls Dan had already noted. The combination had its dangers and his
anger rose as he followed them at a safe distance. They prolonged their
walk for half an hour, coming at last to the Whitcomb.

Harwood waylaid Allen in the hotel office a moment after Marian had gone
to her room. The young fellow's cheeks were unwontedly bright from the
cold or from the excitement of his encounter.

"Halloa! I was going to look you up and ask you to have dinner with me."

"You were looking for me in a likely place," replied Harwood coldly.
"See here, Allen, I've been laboring under the delusion that you were a
gentleman."

"Oh! Have we come to that?"

"You know better than to go loafing through town with a truant
school-girl you hardly know. I suppose it's my fault for introducing you
to her. I want you to tell me how you managed this. Did you telephone
her or write a note? Sit down here now and let's have it out."

They drew away from the crowd and found seats in a quiet corner of the
lobby.

Harwood, his anger unabated, repeated his question.

"Out with it; just how did you manage it?"

Allen was twisting his gloves nervously; he had not been conscious of
transgressing any law, but he would not for worlds have invited
Harwood's displeasure. He was near to tears; but he remained stubbornly
silent until Harwood again demanded to know how he contrived the meeting
with Marian.

"I'm sorry, old man," Allen answered, "but I can't tell you anything
about it. I don't see that my crime is so heinous. She has been cooped
up in the hotel all day with her sick mother, and a short walk--it was
only a few blocks--couldn't have done her any harm. I think you're
making too much of it."

"You were dallying there in the park, in a way to attract attention,
with a headstrong, silly girl that you ought to have protected from that
sort of thing. You know better than that."

Allen, enfolded in his long ulster, shuffled his feet on the tiling like
a school-boy in disgrace. Deep down in his heart, Harwood did not
believe that Allen had proposed the walk to Marian; it was far likelier
that Marian had sought the meeting by note or telephone. He turned upon
Allen with a slight relaxation of his sternness.

"You didn't write her a note or telephone her,--you didn't do either,
did you?"

Allen, silent and dejected, dropped his gloves and picked them up, the
color deepening in his cheeks.

"I just happened to meet her; that's all," he said, avoiding Dan's eyes.

"She wrote you a note or telephoned you?"

Silence.

"Humph," grunted Harwood.

"She's wonderfully beautiful and strong and so tremendously vivid! I
think those nice girls you read of in the Greek mythology must have been
like that," murmured Allen, sighing heavily.

"I dare say they were!" snapped Harwood, searching the youngster's
thin, sensitive face, and meeting for an instant his dreamy eyes. He was
touched anew by the pathos in the boy, whose nature was a light web of
finespun golden cords thrilling to any breath of fancy. The superb
health, the dash and daring of a school-girl that he had seen but once
or twice, had sent him climbing upon a frail ladder of romantic dreams.

Harwood struck his hands together sharply. If he owed a duty to Marian
and her family, not less he was bound to turn Allen's thoughts into safe
channels.

"Of course it wouldn't do--that sort of thing, you know, Allen. I didn't
mean to beat you into the dust. Let's go over to Pop June's and get some
oysters. I don't feel up to our usual boarding-house discussion of
Christian Science to-night."

At the first opportunity Dan suggested to Bassett, without mentioning
Marian's adventure with Allen, that the Whitcomb was no place for her,
and that her pursuit of knowledge under his own tutorship was the merest
farce; whereupon Bassett sent her back immediately to Miss Waring's.



CHAPTER XIV

THE PASSING OF ANDREW KELTON


Andrew Kelton died suddenly, near the end of May, in Sylvia's senior
year at college. The end came unexpectedly, of heart trouble. Harwood
read of it in the morning newspaper, and soon after he reached his
office Mrs. Owen called him on the telephone to say that she was going
to Montgomery at once, and asking him to meet Sylvia as she passed
through Indianapolis on her way home. Both of the morning papers printed
laudatory articles on Kelton; he had been held in high esteem by all the
friends of Madison College, and his name was known to educators
throughout the country.

On the same afternoon Bassett appeared in town on the heels of a letter
saying that Dan need not expect him until the following week.

"Thought I'd better see Fitch about some receiver business, so I came
down a little ahead of time. What's new?"

"Nothing very exciting. There's a good deal of political buzz, but I
don't believe anything has happened that you don't know. From the way
candidates are turning up for state office our fellows must think they
have a chance of winning."

Bassett was unfailingly punctilious in forecasting his appearances in
town, and his explanation that legal matters had brought him down was
not wholly illuminative. Dan knew that the paper-mill receivership was
following its prescribed course, and he was himself, through an
arrangement made by Bassett, in touch with Fitch and understood the
legal status of the case perfectly. As Bassett passed through the
library to his own room he paused to indulge in a moment's banter with
Miss Farrell. It was not until he had opened his desk that he replied to
Harwood's remark.

"A few good men on our ticket might pull through next time, but it will
take us a little longer to get the party whipped into shape again and
strong enough to pull a ticket through. But hope springs eternal. You
have noticed that I don't talk on national affairs when the reporters
come to me. In the state committee I tell them to put all the snap they
can into the county organizations, and try to get good men on local
tickets. When the boys out West get tired of being licked we will start
in again and do business at the old stand. I've always taken care that
they shouldn't have a chance to attack my regularity."

"I've just been reading a book of Cleveland's speeches," remarked Dan.

"Solemn, but sound. He will undoubtedly go down as one of the great
Presidents. I think Republicans and men of all sorts of political ideas
will come to that."

"But I don't feel that all this radicalism is a passing phase. It's
eating deeply into the Republicans too. We're on the eve of a revival of
patriotism, and party names don't mean what they did. But I believe the
Democratic Party is still the best hope of the people, even when the
people go clean off their heads."

"You believe in Democracy, but you doubt sometimes whether the
Democratic Party is really the custodian of the true faith of
Democracy--is that it?"

"That's exactly it. And my young Republican friends feel the same way
about their party."

"Well, I guess I stand about where you do. I believe in parties. I don't
think there's much gained by jumping around from one party to another;
and independent movements are as likely to do harm as good. I don't mind
confessing to you that I had a good notion to join the Democratic schism
in '96, and support Palmer and Buckner. But I didn't, and I'm not sorry
I kept regular and held on. I believed the silver business would pass
over; and it's out of sight. They charged me with voting the Republican
ticket in '96; but that's a lie. I've never scratched a ticket since I
first voted, and"--Bassett smiled his grim smile--"I've naturally voted
for a good many rascals. By the way, how much are you seeing of Atwill?"


"I make a point of seeing him once a week or oftener. When I'm downtown
at night I usually catch him for a late supper."

"The 'Courier' is regular, all right enough. It's a good property, and
when our party gets through chasing meadow-larks and gets down to
business again it will be more valuable. Was that your editorial
yesterday on municipal government? Good. I'm for trying some of these
new ideas. I've been reading a lot of stuff on municipal government
abroad, and some of those foreign ideas we ought to try here. I want the
'Courier' to take the lead in those things; it may help"--and Bassett
smiled--"it may help to make the high brows see that ours has really
been the party of progress through these years when it's marched
backward."

Bassett swung round slowly until his gaze fell upon the map, reminding
the young man of Thatcher's interest in that varicolored oblong of
paper. Dan had never mentioned Thatcher's visit to the office, feeling
that if the capitalist were really the bold man he appeared to be, he
would show his hand to Bassett soon enough. Moreover, Harwood's
confidence in Bassett's powers had never wavered; in the management of
the paper-mill receivership the senator from Fraser had demonstrated a
sagacity and resourcefulness that had impressed Dan anew. Bassett
possessed, in unusual degree, the astuteness and executive force of the
successful American business man, and his nice feeling for the things
that interest cultivated people lifted him far above the common type of
political boss. Dan had yet to see a demonstration of Bassett's
political venality; the bank and his other interests at Fraserville were
profitable. It must be a craving for power, not money, Dan reasoned,
that led Bassett into politics. Bassett turned to his desk with some
letters he had taken from his pocket. It occurred to Dan that as Mrs.
Owen had suggested that he accompany Sylvia to Montgomery, it would be
well to mention the possibility of his leaving town for a day.

"Mrs. Owen telephoned me this morning of Professor Kelton's death. You
probably read of it in to-day's papers. Mrs. Owen is an old friend of
his, and went to Montgomery on the noon train. She asked me to meet the
Professor's granddaughter, Miss Garrison, when she comes through here in
the morning on her way home. I know her slightly, and I think I'd better
go over to Montgomery with her, if you don't mind."

"Yes, certainly; I was sorry to read of Kelton's death. Mrs. Owen will
feel it deeply. It's a blow to these old people when one of them drops
out of the ranks. I'm glad the 'Courier' printed that capital sketch of
him; much better than the 'Advertiser's.' While I think of it, I wish
you would tell Atwill that I like the idea of saying a word editorially
for these old citizens as they leave us. It gives the paper tone, and I
like to show appreciation of fine characters like Kelton."

Bassett had turned round with a letter in his hand. He unfolded it
slowly and went on, scanning it as he talked.

"I'm sorry I never knew Kelton. They say he was a very able
mathematician and astronomer. It's rather remarkable that we should have
kept him in Indiana. I suppose you may have seen him at Mrs. Owen's;
they had a common tie in their Kentucky connections. I guess there's no
tie quite like the Kentucky tie, unless it's the Virginian."

He seemed absorbed in the letter--one of a number he had taken from his
bag; then he glanced up as though waiting for Dan's reply.

"No, I never saw him at Mrs. Owen's; but I did meet him once, in
Montgomery. He was a fine old gentleman. You would hardly imagine him
ever to have been a naval officer; he was quite the elderly, spectacled
professor in his bearing and manner."

"I suppose even a man bred to the sea loses the look of a sailor if he
lives inland long enough," Bassett observed.

"I think my brief interview with him rather indicated that he had been a
man of action--the old discipline of the ship may have been in that,"
remarked Harwood. Then, fearing that he might be laying himself open to
questions that he should have to avoid answering, he said: "Kelton wrote
a good deal on astronomical subjects, and his textbooks have been
popular. Sylvia Garrison, the granddaughter, is something of a wonder
herself."

"Bright girl, is she?"

"Quite so; and very nice to look at. I met her on the train when I went
to Boston with those bonds in January. She was going back to college
after the holidays. She's very interesting--quite different."

"Different?" repeated Bassett vaguely, dropping back in his chair, but
again referring absently to the letter.

"Yes," Dan smiled. "She has a lot of individuality. She's a serious
young person; very practical-minded, I should say. They tell me she
walks through mathematics like a young duchess through the minuet. Some
other Wellesley girls were on the train and they did not scruple to
attribute miraculous powers to her; a good sign, other girls liking her
so much. They were very frank in their admiration."

"Mrs. Owen had her at Waupegan several years ago, and my wife and Marian
met her there. Mrs. Bassett was greatly impressed by her fine mind. It
seems to me I saw her, too, that summer; but of course she's grown up
since then."

He glanced at Harwood as though for confirmation of these details, but
Dan's thoughts were elsewhere. He was thinking of Sylvia speeding
homeward, and of the little cottage beside the campus. His subsequent
meetings with Sylvia had caused a requickening of all the impressions of
his visit to Professor Kelton, and he had been recalling that errand
again to-day. The old gentleman had given his answer with decision;
Harwood recalled the crisp biting-off of the negative, and the Professor
had lifted his head slightly as he spoke the word. Dan remembered the
peace of the cottage, the sweet scents of June blowing through the open
windows; and he remembered Sylvia as she had opened the door, and their
colloquy later, on the campus.

"You'd better go to Montgomery with Miss Garrison and report to Mrs.
Owen for any service you may render her. Does the old gentleman's death
leave the girl alone?"

"Quite so, I think. She had lived with him nearly all her life. The
papers mentioned no other near relatives."

"I'll be in town a day or two. You do what you can over there for Mrs.
Owen."

That evening, returning to the office to clear off his desk in
preparation for his absence the next day, Dan found Bassett there. This
was unusual; Bassett rarely visited the office at night. He had
evidently been deeply occupied with his thoughts, for when Dan entered
he was sitting before his closed desk with his hat on. He nodded, and a
few moments later passed through the library on his way out.

"Suppose I won't see you to-morrow. Well, I'm going to be in town a few
days. Take your time."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dan Harwood never doubted that he loved Sally Owen after that dark day
of Sylvia's home-coming. From the time Sylvia stepped from the train
till the moment when, late that same afternoon, just as the shadows were
gathering, Andrew Kelton was buried with academic and military honors
befitting his two-fold achievements, Mrs. Owen had shown the tenderness
of the gentlest of mothers to the forlorn girl. The scene at the grave
sank deep into Dan's memory--the patriarchal figure of Dr. Wandless,
with the faculty and undergraduates ranged behind him; the old
minister's voice lifted in a benediction that thrilled with a note of
triumphant faith; and the hymn sung by the students at the end, boys'
voices, sweet and clear, floating off into the sunset. And nothing in
Dan's life had ever moved him so much as when Mrs. Owen, standing beside
Sylvia and representing in her gaunt figure the whole world of love and
kindness, bent down at the very end and kissed the sobbing girl and led
her away.

Harwood called on Mrs. Owen at the cottage in Buckeye Lane that
evening. She came down from Sylvia's room and met him in the little
library, which he found unchanged from the day of his visit five years
before.

"That little girl is a hero," she began. "I guess she's about the
lonesomest girl in the world to-night. Andrew Kelton was a man and a
good one. He hadn't been well for years, the doctor tells me; trouble
with his heart, but he kept it to himself; didn't want to worry the
girl. I tell you everything helps at a time like this. Admiral Martin
came over to represent the Navy, and you saw the G.A.R. there; it caught
me in the throat when the bugle blew good-night for Andrew. Sylvia will
rally and go on and do some big thing. It's in her. I reckon she'll have
to go back to college, this being her last year. Too bad the
commencement's all spoiled for her."

"Yes; she won't have much heart for it; but she must get her degree."

"She'll need a rest after this. I'll go back with her, and then I'm
going to take her up to Waupegan with me for the summer. There are some
things to settle about her, and I'm glad you stayed. Andrew owned this
house, but I shouldn't think Sylvia would want to keep it: houses in a
town like this are a nuisance if you don't live where you can watch the
tenants," she went on, her practical mind asserting itself.

"I suppose--" Dan began and then hesitated. It gave him a curious
feeling to be talking of Sylvia's affairs in this way.

"Go on, Daniel,"--this marked a departure; she had never called him by
his first name before. "I'm closer to that girl than anybody, and I'm
glad to talk to you about her affairs."

"I suppose there will be something for her; she's not thrown on her own
resources?"

"I guess he didn't make any will, but what he left is Sylvia's. He had a
brother in Los Angeles, who died ten years ago. He was a rich man, and
left a big fortune to his children. If there's no will there'll have to
be an administrator. Sylvia's of age and she won't need a guardian."

Dan nodded. He knew Mrs. Owen well enough by this time to understand
that she usually perfected her plans before speaking, and that she
doubtless had decided exactly how Andrew Kelton's estate should be
administered.

"I'm going to ask the court to appoint you administrator, Daniel. You
ever acted? Well, you might as well have the experience. I might take it
myself, but I'm pretty busy and there'll be some running back and forth
to do. You come back in a day or two and we'll see how things stand by
that time. As soon as Sylvia gets rested she'll go back to college to
finish up, and then come to me for the summer."

"She might not like my having anything to do with her affairs," Dan
suggested. "I shouldn't want to seem to be intruding."

"Oh, Sylvia likes you well enough. The main thing is getting somebody
that you've got confidence in. I know some people here, and I guess the
court will do about what we want."

"I should have to come over here frequently until everything was
settled," Dan added, thinking of his duties in the city. "I suppose if
you find it possible for me to serve that I shall have to get Mr.
Bassett's consent; he pays for my time, you know."

"That's right, you ask him; but be sure to tell him that I want it to be
that way. Morton won't make any fuss about it. I guess you do enough
work for him. What's he paying you, Daniel?"

"Eighteen hundred since he got the paper-mill receivership."

She made no comment, but received the intelligence in silence. He knew
from the characteristic quick movement of her eyelids that she was
pondering the equity of this carefully; and his loyalty to Bassett
asserting itself, he added, defensively:--

"It's more than I could begin to make any other way; and he's really
generous about my time--he's made it plain that he wants me to keep up
my reading."

"They don't read much after they're admitted, do they? I thought when
you got admitted you knew it all."

"Not if you mean to be a real lawyer," said Dan, smiling.

"Well, I guess you had better go now. I don't want to leave Sylvia alone
up there, poor little girl. I'll let you know when to come back."



CHAPTER XV

A SURPRISE AT THE COUNTRY CLUB


"That's all right. I shall be glad to have you serve Mrs. Owen in any
way. It's a good deal of a compliment that she thought of you in that
connection. Go ahead, and call on me if I can help you. You'll have to
furnish local bondsmen. See what's required and let me know."

Such was Bassett's reply when Harwood asked his permission to serve as
administrator of Andrew Kelton's estate. Bassett was a busy man, and his
domestic affairs often gave him concern. He had talked to Harwood a good
deal about Marian, several times in fits of anger at her extravagance.
His wife retired fitfully to sanatoriums, and he had been obliged to
undertake the supervision of his children's schooling. Blackford was
safe for the time in a military school, and Marian had been tutored for
a year at home. The idea of a college course for Marian had been, since
Sylvia appeared, a mania with Mrs. Bassett. Marian had not the slightest
interest in the matter, and Bassett was weary of the struggle, and sick
of the idea, that only by a college career for her could Mrs. Owen's
money be assured to his children. Mrs. Bassett being now at a rest cure
in Connecticut, and Bassett, much away from home, and seeing nothing to
be gained by keeping his daughter at Fraserville, had persuaded Miss
Waring to take her as a special student, subject to the discipline of
the school, but permitted to elect her own studies. It was only because
Bassett was a man she liked to please that the principal accepted
Marian, now eighteen years old, on this anomalous basis. Marian was
relieved to find herself freed of the horror of college, but she wished
to be launched at once upon a social career; and the capital and not
Fraserville must be the scene of her introduction. Bassett was merely
tiding over the difficult situation until his wife should be able to
deal with it. Marian undoubtedly wheedled her father a good deal in the
manner of handsome and willful daughters. She had rarely experienced his
anger; but the remembrance of these occasions rose before her as the
shadowy background of any filial awe she may be said to have had.

Bassett asked Dan to accompany him and Marian to the Country Club for
dinner one evening while Harwood still waited for Mrs. Owen's summons to
Montgomery. Picking up Marian at Miss Waring's, they drove out early and
indulged in a loitering walk along the towpath of the old canal, not
returning to the clubhouse until after seven. When they had found a
table on the veranda, Dan turned his head slightly and saw Thatcher,
Allen, and Pettit, the Fraserville editor, lounging in after-dinner ease
at a table in a dim corner.

"Why, there's Mr. Thatcher," exclaimed Marian.

"And if that isn't Mr. Pettit! I didn't know he ever broke into a place
like this."

They all bowed to the trio. Thatcher waved his hand.

"Mr. Pettit," observed Bassett dryly, "is a man of the world and likely
to break in anywhere."

His manner betrayed no surprise; he asked Marian to order dinner, and
bowed to a tableful of golfers, where an acquaintance was whispering his
name to some guests from out of town.

It was the least bit surprising that the Honorable Isaac Pettit should
be dining at the Country Club with Mr. Edward Thatcher, and yet it was
possible to read too much seriousness into the situation. Harwood was
immensely interested, but he knew it was Bassett's way to betray no
trepidation at even such a curious conjunction of planets as this. Dan
was in fact relieved that Bassett had found the men together: Bassett
had seen with his own eyes and might make what he pleased of this sudden
intimacy.

Marian had scorned the table d'hôte dinner, and was choosing, from the
"special" offerings, green turtle soup and guinea fowl, as affording a
pleasant relief from the austere regimen of Miss Waring's table. The
roasting of the guinea hen would require thirty minutes the waiter
warned them, but Bassett made no objection. Marian thereupon interjected
a postscript of frogs' legs between soup and roast, and Bassett
cheerfully acquiesced.

"You seem to be picking the most musical birds offered," he remarked
amiably. "I don't believe I'd eat the rest of the olives if I were you."

"Why doesn't Allen Thatcher come over here and speak to us, I'd like to
know," asked Marian. "You wouldn't think he'd ever seen us before."

The three men having dined had, from appearances, been idling at the
table for some time. Pettit was doing most of the talking, regaling his
two auditors with tales from his abundant store of anecdotes. At the end
of a story at which Thatcher had guffawed loudly, they rose and crossed
the veranda. Hearing them approaching, Bassett rose promptly, and they
shook hands all round.

If there were any embarrassments in the meeting for the older men, it
was concealed under the cordiality of their greetings. Pettit took
charge of the situation.

"Well, sir," he boomed, "I might've known that if I came to town and
broke into sassiety I'd get caught at it; you can't get away from home
folks! Thatcher has filled me amply with expensive urban food in this
sylvan retreat--nectar and ambrosia. I'm even as one who drinks deep of
the waters of life and throws the dipper in the well. Just come to town
and wander from the straight and narrow path and your next-door neighbor
will catch you every time. Fact is I lectured on 'American Humor' in
Churubusco last night and am lifting the spirits of Brazil to-morrow.
This will be all from Ike Pettit, the Fraserville funny man, until the
wheat's safe and our Chautauquas pitch their tents in green fields far
away. Reminds me of what Dan Voorhees said once,--dear old Dan
Voorhees,--I almost cry when I think o' Dan: well, as I was saying--"

"Didn't know you were in town, Mort," Thatcher interrupted. "I've been
in Chicago a week and only got back this evening. I found your esteemed
fellow townsman about to hit a one-arm lunch downtown and thought it
best to draw him away from the lights of the great city."

This was apology or explanation, as one chose to take it. Bassett was
apparently unmoved by it.

"I've been in town a day or two. I don't live in sleeping-cars the way
you do, Ed. I keep to the main traveled road--the straight and narrow
path, as our brother calls it," said Bassett.

"Well, I'm going to quit working myself to death. It's getting too hot
for poker, and I'm almost driven to lead a wholesome life. The thought
pains me, Mort."

Marian had opened briskly upon Allen. She wanted to know whether he had
passed the school the night before with a girl in a blue hat; she had
been sure it was he, and his denial only intensified her belief that she
had seen him. She had wagered a box of caramels with her roommate that
it was Allen; how dare he deny it and cause her to lose a dollar of her
allowance? Allen said the least he could do would be to send the candy
himself; a proposition which she declared, in a horrified whisper, he
must put from his thoughts forever. Candy, it appeared, was contraband
at Miss Waring's! Bassett, ignoring the vivacious colloquy between his
daughter and Allen, continued to exchange commonplaces with Thatcher and
Pettit. Marian's ease of manner amused Harwood; Allen was bending over
her in his eager way; there was no question but that he admired her
tremendously. The situation was greatly to her liking, and she was
making the most of it. It was in her eye that she knew how to manage
men. Seeing that Mr. Thatcher was edging away, she played upon him to
delay his escape.

"I wish you would come up to Waupegan this summer, Mr. Thatcher. You and
father are such friends, and we should all be so glad to have you for a
neighbor. There are always houses to be rented, you know."

"Stranger things have happened than that, Miss Marian," replied
Thatcher, eying her boldly and quite satisfied with her appearance. "My
women folks want Allen and me to come across for the summer; but we like
this side of the big water. Little Old United States--nothing touches
it! Allen and I may take a run up into Canada sometime when it gets red
hot."

"Reminds me--speaking of the heat--back in the Hancock campaign--"
Pettit was beginning, but Thatcher was leaving and the editor and Allen
followed perforce. In a moment they heard Thatcher's voice peremptorily
demanding his motor from the steps of the entrance.

"Pettit's lecture dates must be multiplying," observed Dan carelessly.

"They seem to be," Bassett replied, indifferently.

"I can find out easily enough whether he lectured at Churubusco last
night or not, or is going to invade Brazil to-morrow," Dan suggested.

"Easy, but unnecessary. I think I know what's in your mind," Bassett
answered, as Marian, interested in the passing show, turned away, "but
it isn't of the slightest importance one way or another."

"That was Miss Bosworth," announced Marian--"the one in the white
flannel coat; she's certainly grand to look at."

"Please keep your eyes to the front," Bassett admonished; "you mustn't
stare at people, Marian." And then, having dismissed Pettit, and feeling
called upon to bring his daughter into the conversation, he said:
"Marian, you remember the Miss Garrison your aunt is so fond of? Her
grandfather died the other day and Miss Garrison had to come home. Your
Aunt Sally is in Montgomery with her now. Mr. Harwood went to the
funeral."

"That's too bad," said Marian, at once interested. "Sylvia's a mighty
nice girl, and I guess her grandfather had just about raised her, from
what she told me. I wonder what she's going to do?" she asked, turning
to Harwood.

"She's going back to college to take her degree, and then Mrs. Owen is
going to have her at Waupegan this summer."

"Oh! I didn't know Aunt Sally was going to open her house this summer!"
said Marian, clearly surprised. "It must be just that she wants to have
Sylvia with her. They're the best kind of pals, and of course Aunt Sally
and the old professor were friends all their lives. I'm glad Sylvia's
going to be at the lake; she will help some," she concluded.

"You don't mean that you're tired of the lake?" asked Harwood, noting
the half-sigh with which she had concluded. "I thought all Waupegan
people preferred it to the Maine coast or Europe."

"Oh, I suppose they do," said Marian. "But I think I could live through
a season somewhere else. It will be good fun to have Aunt Sally's house
open again. She must be making money out of that farm now. I suppose
Sylvia's grandfather didn't have much money. Still Sylvia's the kind of
girl that wouldn't much mind not having money. She isn't much for style,
but she does know an awful lot."

"Don't you think a girl may be stylish and know a lot, too?" asked her
father.

"I suppose it _is_ possible," the girl assented, with a reluctance that
caused both men to laugh.

"Let me see: Papa, you didn't see Sylvia that summer she was at the
lake. That was the summer you played a trick on us and only spent a day
at Waupegan. Yes; I remember now; you came home from Colorado and said
hello and skipped the next morning. Of course you didn't see Sylvia."

"Oh, yes, I did," replied Bassett. "I remember her very well, indeed. I
quite agree with your mother and Aunt Sally that she is an exceedingly
fine girl."

"She certainly discouraged me a good deal about college. Four years of
school after you're seventeen or eighteen! Not for Marian!" and she
shook her head drolly.

Bassett was either absorbed in thought or he chose to ignore Marian's
remark. He was silent for some time, and the girl went on banteringly
with Harwood. She availed herself of all those immunities and
privileges which the gods confer upon young women whom they endow with
good looks. In the half-freedom of the past year she had bought her own
clothes, with only the nominal supervision of Miss Waring's assistant;
and in her new spring raiment she was very much the young lady, and
decidedly a modish one. Dan glanced from her to the young people at a
neighboring table. Among the girls in the party none was prettier or
more charmingly gowned than Marian. In the light of this proximity he
watched her with a new attention, and he saw that her father, too,
studied her covertly, as though realizing that he had a grown daughter
on his hands. Her way with Harwood was not without coquetry; she tapped
his arm with her fan lightly when he refused to enter into a discussion
of his attentions, of which she protested she knew much, to Miss
Bosworth. He admitted having called on Miss Bosworth once; her brother
was a Yale man, and had asked him to the house on the score of that tie;
but Marian knew much better. She was sure that he was devoting himself
to Miss Bosworth; every one said that he was becoming a great society
man.

She had wearied of his big-brother attitude toward her. Except the
callow youth of Fraserville and the boys she had known all the summers
of her life at Waupegan, Harwood and Allen Thatcher were the only young
men she knew. In her later freedom at school she had made the office
telephone a nuisance to him, but he sympathized with her discreetly in
her perplexities. Several times she had appealed to him to help her out
of financial difficulties, confiding to him tragically that if certain
bills reached Fraserville she would be ruined forever.

Marian found the Country Club highly diverting; it gave her visions of
the social life of the capital of which she had only vaguely dreamed.
She knew many people by sight who were socially prominent, and she
longed to be of their number. It pleased her to find that her father,
who was a non-resident member and a rare visitor at the club, attracted
a good deal of attention; she liked to think him a celebrity. The
Speaker of the House in the last session of the general assembly came
out and asked Bassett to meet some men with whom he had been dining in
the rathskeller; while her father was away, Marian, with elbows resting
on the table, her firm, round chin touching her lightly interlaced
fingers, gave a capital imitation of a girl making herself agreeable to
a young man. Dan was well hardened to her cajoleries by this time; he
was confident that she would have made "sweet eyes at Caliban." Harwood,
smoking the cigar Bassett had ordered for him, compared favorably with
other young men who had dawned upon Marian's horizon. Like most Western
boys who go East to college, he had acquired the habit of careful
pressing and brushing and combing; his lean face had a certain
distinction, and he was unfailingly courteous and well-mannered.

"This will be tough on mama," she observed casually.

"Pray, be more explicit!"

"Oh, Aunt Sally having Sylvia up there at the lake again."

"Why shouldn't she have her there if she wants her? I thought your
mother admired Sylvia. I gathered that ray of light somewhere, from you
or Mrs. Owen."

"Oh, mama was beautiful to her; but I shall always think, just between
you and me and that spoon, that it was Aunt Sally asking Sylvia to the
lake that time that gave mama nervous prostration."

"Nonsense! I advise you, as an old friend, not to say such things: you'd
better not even think them."

"Well, it was after that, when she saw that Aunt Sally had taken up
Sylvia, that mama got that bug about having me go to college. She got
the notion that it was Sylvia's intellectual gifts that interested Aunt
Sally; and mama thought I'd better improve my mind and get into the
competition."

"You thought your mother was jealous? I call that very unkind; it's not
the way to speak of your mother."

"Well, if you want to be nasty and lecture me, go ahead, Mr. Harwood.
You must like Sylvia pretty well yourself; you took her back to college
once and had no end of a lark,--I got that from Aunt Sally, so you
needn't deny it."

"Humph! Of course I like Sylvia; any one's bound to."

"But if Aunt Sally leaves her all her money, just because she's so
bright, and educated, and cuts me off, then what would be the answer?"

"I shouldn't have anything to say about it; it would be Mrs. Owen that
did the saying," laughed Dan. "Why didn't you meet the competition and
go to college? You have brains, but you don't seem interested in
anything but keeping amused."

"I suppose," she answered petulantly, "it would please you to see me go
to teaching a kindergarten or something like that. Not for Marian! I'm
going to see life--" and she added ruefully--"if I get the chance! Why
doesn't papa leave Fraserville and come to the city? They say he can
have any political office he wants, and he ought to run for governor or
something like that, just on my account."

"I dare say he's just waiting for you to suggest it. Why not the
presidency? You could get a lot of fun out of the White House, ordering
the army around, and using the battleships to play with. The
governorship and trifles like that would only bore you."

"Don't be silly. The newspapers print most horrible things about papa--"

"Which aren't true."

"Of course they're newspaper lies; but if he lets them say all those
things he ought to get something to pay for it. He's only a state
senator from the jayest county in Indiana. It makes me tired."

The girl's keen penetration had often surprised and it had sometimes
appalled Harwood in the curious intimacy that had grown up between them.
Her intuitions were active and she had a daring imagination. He wondered
whether Bassett was fully aware of the problem Marian presented. Dan had
never ventured to suggest a sharper discipline for the girl, except on
the occasion when he had caught her walking with Allen in the park. He
had regretted his interference afterward; for Bassett's anger had
seemed to him out of all proportion to the offense. Like most
indifferent or indulgent parents, Bassett was prone to excesses in his
fitful experiments in discipline. Dan had resolved not to meddle again;
but Marian was undeniably a provoking young person. It had been
suggested to him of late by one or two of his intimates that in due
course of events he would of course marry his employer's daughter. As
she faced him across the table, the pink light of the candle-shade
adding to the glow of health in her pretty cheeks, she caused him to
start by the abruptness with which she said:--

"I don't see much ahead of me but to get married; do you?"

"If you put it up to me, I don't see anything ahead of you, unless you
take a different view of life; you never seem to have a serious
thought."

"Mr. Harwood, you can be immensely unpleasant when you choose to be. You
talk to me as though I were only nine years old. You ought to see that
I'm very unhappy. I'm the oldest girl at Miss Waring's--locked up there
with a lot of little pigeons that coo every time you look at them. They
treat me as though I were their grandmother."

"Why don't you say all these things to your father?" asked Harwood,
trying to laugh. "I dare say he'll do anything you like. But please
cheer up; those people over there will think we're having a terrible
quarrel."

The fact that they were drawing the glances of Miss Bosworth's party
pleased her; she had been perfectly conscious of it all the time.

"Well, they won't think you're making _love_ to me, Mr. Harwood; there's
that to console you." And she added icily, settling back in her chair as
her father approached, "I hope you understand that I'm not even leading
you on!"



CHAPTER XVI

"STOP, LOOK, LISTEN"


Bassett and Atwill held a conference the next day and the interview was
one of length. The manager of the "Courier" came to the office in the
Boordman Building at eleven o'clock, and when Harwood went to luncheon
at one the door had not been opened. Miss Farrell, returning from her
midday repast, pointed to the closed door, lifted her brows, and held up
her forefinger to express surprise and caution. Miss Farrell's
prescience was astonishing; of women she held the lightest opinion, Dan
had learned; her concern was with the affairs of men. Harwood, intent
upon the compilation of a report of the paper-mill receivership, was
nevertheless mindful of the unwonted length of the conference. When he
returned from luncheon, Bassett had gone, but he reappeared at three
o'clock, and a little later Atwill came back and the door closed again.
This second interview was short, but it seemed to leave Bassett in a
meditative frame of mind. Wishing to discuss some points in the trial
balance of the receiver's accountant, Harwood entered and found Bassett
with his hat on, slowly pacing the floor.

"Yes; all right; come in," he said, as Harwood hesitated. He at once
addressed himself to the reports with his accustomed care. Bassett
carried an immense amount of data in his head. He understood
bookkeeping and was essentially thorough. Dan constantly found penciled
calculations on the margins of the daily reports from the paper-mill,
indicating that Bassett scrutinized the figures carefully, and he
promptly questioned any deviation from the established average of loss
and gain. Bassett threw down his pencil at the end of half an hour and
told Dan to proceed with the writing of the report.

"I'd like to file it personally so I can talk over the prospect of
getting an order of sale before the judge goes on his vacation. We've
paid the debts and stopped the flow of red ink, so we're about ready to
let go."

While they were talking Miss Farrell brought in a telegram for Harwood;
it was the summons from Mrs. Owen that he had been waiting for; she bade
him come to Montgomery the next day. He handed the message to Bassett.

"Go ahead. I'll go over there if you like and find you the necessary
bondsmen. I know the judge of the circuit court at Montgomery very well.
You go in the morning? Very well; I'll stay here till you get back. Mrs.
Bassett will be well enough to leave the sanatorium in a few days, and
I'm going up to Waupegan to get the house ready."

"It will be pleasant for Mrs. Bassett to have Mrs. Owen there this
summer. Anybody is lucky to have a woman of her qualities for a
neighbor."

"She's a noblewoman," said Bassett impressively, "and a good friend to
all of us."

On the train the next morning Harwood unfolded the day's "Courier" in
the languidly critical frame of mind that former employees of newspapers
bring to the reading of the journals they have served. He scanned the
news columns and opened to the editorial page. The leader at once caught
his eye. It was double-leaded,--an emphasis rarely employed at the
"Courier" office, and was condensed in a single brief paragraph that
stared oddly at the reader under the caption "STOP, LOOK, LISTEN." It
held Harwood's attention through a dozen amazed and mystified readings.
It ran thus:--

     It has long been Indiana's proud boast that money unsupported by
     honest merit has never intruded in her politics. A malign force
     threatens to mar this record. It is incumbent upon honest men of
     all parties who have the best interests of our state at heart to
     stop, look, listen. The COURIER gives notice that it is fully
     advised of the intentions, and perfectly aware of the methods, by
     which the fair name of the Hoosier State is menaced. The COURIER,
     being thoroughly informed of the beginnings of this movement, whose
     purpose is the seizure of the Democratic Party, and the
     manipulation of its power for private ends, will antagonize to the
     utmost the element that has initiated it. Honorable defeats the
     party in Indiana has known, and it will hardly at this late day
     surrender tamely to the buccaneers and adventurers that seek to
     capture its battleflag. This warning will not be repeated. Stop!
     Look! Listen!

From internal evidence Harwood placed the authorship readily enough:
the paragraph had been written by the chief editorial writer, an old
hand at the game, who indulged frequently in such terms as "adventurer"
and "buccaneer." It was he who wrote sagely of foreign affairs, and once
caused riotous delight in the reporters' room by an editorial on Turkish
politics, containing the phrase, "We hope the Sultan--" But not without
special authority would such an article have been planted at the top of
the editorial page, and beyond doubt these lines were the residuum of
Bassett's long interview with Atwill. And its aim was unmistakable: Mr.
Bassett was thus paying his compliments to Mr. Thatcher. The encounter
at the Country Club might have precipitated the crisis, but, knowing
Bassett, Dan did not believe that the "Courier's" batteries would have
been fired on so little provocation. Bassett was not a man to shoot
wildly in the dark, nor was he likely to fire at all without being sure
of the state of his ammunition chests. So, at least, Harwood reasoned to
himself. Several of his fellow passengers in the smoking-car were
passing the "Courier" about and pointing to the editorial. All over
Indiana it would be the subject of discussion for a long time to come;
and Dan's journalistic sense told him that in the surrounding capitals
it would not be ignored.

"If Thatcher and Bassett get to fighting, the people may find a chance
to sneak in and get something," a man behind Dan was saying.

"Nope," said another voice; "there won't be 'no core' when those fellows
get through with the apple."

"I can hear the cheering in the Republican camp this morning," remarked
another voice gleefully.

"Oh, pshaw!" said still another speaker; "Bassett will simply grind
Thatcher to powder. Thatcher hasn't any business in politics anyhow and
doesn't know the game. By George, Bassett does! And this is the first
time he's struck a full blow since he got behind the 'Courier.'
Something must have made him pretty hot, though, to have let off a
scream like that."

Harwood was interested in these remarks because they indicated a
prevalent impression that Bassett dominated the "Courier," in spite of
the mystery with which the ownership of the paper was enveloped. The
only doubt in Harwood's own mind had been left there by Bassett himself.
He recalled now Bassett's remark on the day he had taken him into his
confidence in the Ranger County affair. "I might have some trouble in
proving it myself," Bassett had said. Harwood thought it strange that
after that first deliberate confidence and his introduction to Atwill,
Bassett had, in this important move, ignored him. It was possible that
his relations with Allen Thatcher, which Bassett knew to be intimate,
accounted for the change; or it might be due to a lessening warmth in
Bassett's feeling toward him. He recalled now that Bassett had lately
seemed moody,--a new development in the man from Fraser,--and that he
had several times been abrupt and unreasonable about small matters in
the office. Certain incidents that had appeared trivial at the time of
their occurrence stood forth disquietingly now. If Bassett had ceased
to trust him, there must be a cause for the change; slight
manifestations of impatience in a man so habitually calm and rational
might be overlooked, but Dan had not been prepared for this abrupt
cessation of confidential relations. He was a bit piqued, the more so
that this astounding editorial indicated a range and depth of purpose in
Bassett's plans that Dan's imagination had not fathomed. He tore out the
editorial and put it away carefully in his pocketbook as Montgomery was
called.

A messenger was at the station to guide him to the court-house, where he
found Mrs. Owen and Sylvia waiting for him in the private room of the
judge of the circuit court. Mrs. Owen had, in her thorough fashion,
arranged all the preliminaries. She had found in Akins, the president of
the Montgomery National Bank, an old friend, and it was her way to use
her friends when she needed them. At her instance, Akins and another
resident freeholder had already signed the bond when Dan arrived. Dan
was amused by the direct manner in which Mrs. Owen addressed the court;
the terminology pertaining to the administration of estates was at her
fingers' ends, and there was no doubt that the judge was impressed by
her.

"We won't need any lawyer over here, Daniel; you can save the estate
lawyer's fees by acting yourself. I guess that will be all right,
Judge?"

His Honor said it would be; people usually yielded readily to Mrs.
Owen's suggestions.

"You can go up to the house now, Sylvia, and I'll be along pretty soon.
I want to make a memorandum for an inventory with Daniel."

At the bank Akins gave them the directors' room, and Andrew Kelton's
papers were produced from his box in the safety vault. Akins explained
that Kelton had been obliged to drop life insurance policies for a
considerable amount; only one policy for two thousand dollars had been
carried through. There were a number of contracts with publishers
covering the copyrights in Kelton's mathematical and astronomical
textbooks. The royalties on these had been diminishing steadily, the
banker said, and they could hardly be regarded as an asset.

"Life insurance two thousand, contracts nothing, and the house is worth
two with good luck. Take it all in--and I reckon this _is_ all--we'll be
in luck to pinch a little pin-money out of the estate for Sylvia. It's
more than I expected. You think there ain't anything else, Mr. Akins?"

"The Professor talked to me about his affairs frequently, and I have no
reason to think there's anything more. He had five thousand dollars in
government bonds, but he sold them and bought shares in that White River
Canneries combination. A lot of our Montgomery people lost money in that
scheme. It promised fifteen per cent--with the usual result."

"Yes. Andrew told me about that once. Well, well!"

"He had money to educate his granddaughter; I don't know how he raised
it, but he kept it in a special account in the bank. He told me that if
he died before she finished college that was to be applied strictly to
her education. There is eight hundred dollars left of that."

"Sylvia's going to teach," said Mrs. Owen. "I've been talking to her and
she's got her plans all made. She's got a head for business, that girl,
and nothing can shake her idea that she's got a work to do in the world.
She knows what she's going to do every day for a good many years, from
the way she talks. I had it all fixed to take her with me up to Waupegan
for the summer; thought she'd be ready to take a rest after her hard
work at college, and this blow of her grandpa dying and all; but not
that girl! She's going to spend the summer taking a normal course in
town, to be ready to begin teaching in Indianapolis next September. I
guess if we had found a million dollars in her grandpa's box it would
have been the same. When you talk about health, she laughs; I guess if
there's a healthy woman on earth it's that girl. She says she doubled
all her gymnasium work at college to build herself up ready for
business. You know Dr. Wandless's daughter is a Wellesley woman, and
keeps in touch with the college. She wrote home that Sylvia had 'em all
beat a mile down there; that she just walked through everything and
would be chosen for the Phi Beta Kappa--is that right, Daniel? She sort
o' throws you out of your calculations, that girl does. I'd counted on
having a good time with her up at the lake, and now it looks like I'd
have to stay in town all summer if I'm going to see anything of her."

It was clear enough that Mrs. Owen was not interesting herself in
Sylvia merely because the girl was the granddaughter of an old friend;
she admired Sylvia on her own account and was at no pains to disguise
the fact. The Bassett expectations were, Dan reflected, scarcely at a
premium to-day!

Mr. Akins returned the papers to the safety box, and when Mrs. Owen and
Harwood were alone, she closed the door carefully.

"Now, Daniel," she began, opening her hand-satchel, "I always hold that
this is a funny world, but that things come out right in the end. They
mostly do; but sometimes the Devil gets into things and it ain't so
easy. You believe in the Devil, Daniel?"

"Well, my folks are Presbyterians," said Dan. "My own religion is the
same as Ware's. I'm not sure he vouches for the Devil."

"It's my firm conviction that there is one, Daniel,--a red one with a
forked tail; you see his works scattered around too often to doubt it."

Dan nodded. Mrs. Owen had placed carefully under a weight a paper she
had taken from her reticule.

"Daniel,"--she looked around at the door again, and dropped her
voice,--"I believe you're a good man, and a clean one. And Fitch says
you're a smart young man. It's as much because you're a good man as
because you've got brains that I've called on you to attend to Sylvia's
business. Now I'm going to tell you something that I wouldn't tell
anybody else on earth; it's a sacred trust, and I want you to feel bound
by a more solemn oath than the one you took at the clerk's office not
to steal Sylvia's money."

She fixed her remarkably penetrating gaze upon him so intently that he
turned uneasily in his chair. "It's something somebody who appreciates
Sylvia, as I think you do, ought to know about her. Andrew Kelton told
me just before Sylvia started to college. The poor man had been carrying
it alone till it broke him down; he had never told another soul. I
reckon it was the hardest job he ever did to tell me; and I wouldn't be
telling you except somebody ought to know who's in a position to help
Sylvia--sort o' look out for her and protect her. I believe"--and she
put out her hand and touched his arm lightly--"I believe I can trust you
to do that."

"Yes, Mrs. Owen."

She waited until he had answered her, and even then she was silent, lost
in thought.

"Professor Kelton didn't know, Daniel," she began gravely, "who Sylvia's
father was." She minimized the significance of this by continuing
rapidly. "Andrew had quit the Navy soon after the war and came out here
to Madison College to teach, and his wife had died and he didn't know
what to do with his daughter. Edna Kelton was a little headstrong, I
reckon, and wanted her own way. She didn't like living in a country
college town; there wasn't anything here to interest her. I won't tell
you all of Andrew's story, but it boils down to just this, that while
Edna was in New York studying music she got married without telling
where, or to whom. Andrew never saw her till she was dying in a
hospital and had a little girl with her,--that's Sylvia. Now, whether
there was any disgrace about it Andrew didn't know; and we owe it to
that dead woman and to Sylvia to believe it was all right. You see what
I mean, Daniel? Now that brings me down to what I want you to know.
Somebody has been keeping watch of Sylvia,--Andrew told me that."

She was thinking deeply as though pondering just how much more it was
necessary to tell him, and before she spoke she picked up the folded
paper and read it through carefully. "When Andrew got this it troubled
him a lot: the idea that somebody had an eye on the girl, and took
enough interest in her to do this, made him uneasy. Sylvia never knew
anything about it, of course; she doesn't know anything about anything,
and she won't ever need to."

"As I understand you, Mrs. Owen, you want some friend of hers to be in a
position to protect her if any one tries to harm her; you want to shield
her from any evil that might follow her from her mother's errors, if
they were indeed errors. We have no right to assume that she had done
anything to be ashamed of. That's the only just position for us to take
in such a matter."

"That's right, Daniel. I knew you'd see it that way. It looks bad, and
Andrew knew it looked bad; but at my age I ain't thinking evil of people
if I can help it. If a woman goes wrong, she pays for it--keeps on
paying after she's paid the whole mortgage. That's the blackest thing in
the world--that a woman never shakes a debt like that the way a man
can. You foreclose on a woman and take away everything she's got; put
her clean through bankruptcy, and the balance is still against her; but
we can't make over society and laws just sitting here talking about it.
I reckon Edna Kelton suffered enough. But we don't want Sylvia to
suffer. She's entitled to a happy life, and we don't want any shadows
hanging over her. Now that her grandpa's gone she can't go behind what
he told her,--poor man, he had trouble enough answering the questions
she had a right to ask; and he had to lie to her some."

"Yes; I suppose she will be content now; she will feel that what he
didn't tell her she will never know. She's not a morbid person, and
won't be likely to bother about it."

"No; I ain't afraid of her brooding on what she doesn't know. It's the
fear it may fly up and strike her when she ain't looking that worries
me, and it worried the Professor, too. That was why he told me. I guess
when he talked to me that time he knew his heart was going to stop
suddenly some day. And he'd got a hint that somebody was interested in
watching Sylvia--sort o' keeping track of her. And there was conscience
in it; whoever it is or was hadn't got clean away from what he'd done.
Now I had a narrow escape from letting Sylvia see this letter. It was
stuck away in a tin box in Andrew's bedroom, along with his commissions
in the Navy. I was poking round the house, thinking there might be
things it would be better not to show Sylvia, and I struck this box, and
there was this letter, stuck away in the middle of the package. I gave
Sylvia the commissions, but she didn't see this. I don't want to burn it
till you've seen it. This must have been what Andrew spoke to me about
that time; it was hardly before that, and it might have been later. You
see it isn't dated. He started to tear it up, but changed his mind, so
now we've got to pass on it."

She pushed the letter across the table to Harwood, and he read it
through carefully. He turned it over after the first reading, and the
word "Declined," written firmly and underscored, held him long--so long
that he started when Mrs. Owen roused him with "Well, Daniel?"

He knew before he had finished reading that it was he who had borne the
letter to the cottage in Buckeye Lane, unless there had been a series of
such communications, which was unlikely on the face of it. Mrs. Owen had
herself offered confirmation by placing the delivery of the dateless
letter five years earlier. The internal evidence in the phrases
prescribing the manner in which the verbal reply was to be sent, and the
indorsement on the back of the sheet, were additional corroboration. It
was almost unimaginable that the letter should have come again to his
hand. He realized the importance and significance of the sheet of paper
with the swiftness of a lightning flash; but beyond the intelligence
conveyed by the letter itself there was still the darkness to grope in.
His wits had never worked so rapidly in his life; he felt his heart
beating uncomfortably; the perspiration broke out upon his forehead, and
he drew out his handkerchief and mopped his face.

"It's certainly very curious, very curious indeed," he said with all the
calmness he could muster. "But it doesn't tell us much."

"It wasn't intended to tell anything," said Mrs. Owen. "Whoever wrote
that letter, as I told you, was troubled about Sylvia. I reckon it was a
man; and I guess it's fair to assume that he felt under obligations, but
hadn't the nerve to face 'em as obligations. Is that the way it strikes
you?"

[Illustration: WHOEVER WROTE THAT LETTER WAS TROUBLED ABOUT SYLVIA]

"That seems clear enough," he replied lamely. He made a pretense of
rereading the letter, but only detached phrases penetrated to his
consciousness. His imagination was in rebellion against the curbing to
which he strove to subject it. When he had borne his answer back to
Fitch's office and been discharged with the generous payment of one
hundred dollars for his services as messenger, just what had been the
further history of the transaction? He had so far controlled his
agitation that he was able to continue discussing the letter formally
with the kind old woman who had placed the clue in his hands. He was
little experienced in the difficult art of conversing with half a mind,
and a direct question from Mrs. Owen roused him to the necessity of
heeding what she was saying. He had resolved, however, that he would not
tell her of his own connection with the message that lay on the table
before them. He needed time in which to consider; he must not add a
pebble's weight to an avalanche that might go crashing down upon the
innocent. His training had made him wary of circumstantial evidence;
after all it was possible that this was not the letter he had carried to
Professor Kelton. It would be very like Mrs. Owen, if she saw that
anything could be gained by such a course, to go direct to Fitch and
demand to know the source of the offer that had passed through his hands
so mysteriously; but Fitch had not known the contents of the letter, or
he had said as much to Harwood. There was also the consideration, and
not the lightest, that Dan was bound in honor to maintain the secrecy
Fitch had imposed upon him. The lawyer had confided the errand to him in
the belief that he would accept the mission in the spirit in which it
was entrusted to him, and his part in the transaction was a matter
between himself and Fitch and did not concern Mrs. Owen in any way
whatever. No possible benefit could accrue to Sylvia from a disclosure
of his suspicion that he had borne the letter to her grandfather. Mrs.
Owen had given him the letter that he might be in a position to protect
Sylvia, and there was nothing incompatible between this confidence and
his duty to Fitch, who continued to be a kind and helpful friend. He
dreaded the outcome of an interview between this shrewd, penetrating,
and indomitable woman and the lawyer. The letter, cold and colorless in
what it failed to say, and torn half across to mark the indecision of
the old professor, had in it a great power for mischief.

While Harwood's mind was busy with these reflections he had been
acquiescing in various speculations in which Mrs. Owen had been
indulging, without really being conscious of their import.

"I don't know that any good can come of keeping the letter, Daniel. I
reckon we might as well tear it up. You and I know what it is, and I've
been studying it for a couple of days without seeing where any good can
come of holding it. You might burn it in the grate there and we'll both
know it's out of the way. I guess that person feels that he done his
whole duty in making the offer and he won't be likely to bother any
more. That conscience was a long time getting waked up, and having done
that much it probably went to sleep again. There's nothing sleeps as
sound as a conscience, I reckon, and I shouldn't be a bit surprised if
mine took a nap occasionally. Better burn that little document, Daniel,
and we'll be rid of it and try to forget it."

"No; I don't believe I'd do that," he said slowly. "It might be better
to hold on to it, at least until the estate is closed up. You can't tell
what's behind it." And then, groping for a plausible reason, he added:
"The author of the letter may be in a position to annoy Sylvia by filing
a claim against the Professor's estate, or something of that kind. It's
better not to destroy the only thing we have that might help if that
should occur. I believe it's best to hold on to it till the estate's
settled."

This was pretty lame, as he realized, but his caution pleased her, and
she acquiesced. She was anxious to leave no ground for anyone to rob
Sylvia of her money, and if there was any remote possibility that the
letter might add to the girl's security she was willing that it should
be retained. She sent Dan out into the bank for an envelope, and when it
was brought, sealed up the letter and addressed it to Dan in her own
hand and marked it private.

"You take good care of that, Daniel, and when you get the estate closed
up you burn it."

"Yes, it can do no harm to hold it a little while," he said with
affected lightness.



CHAPTER XVII

A STROLL ACROSS THE CAMPUS


Dan joined Mrs. Owen and Sylvia at the cottage later. He was to see them
off in the morning; and he exerted himself to make Sylvia's last evening
in Buckeye Lane as happy as possible. The cottage was to be left in the
care of the old servant until it could be disposed of; Mary herself was
to be provided for in some way--Sylvia and Mrs. Owen had decided that
this was only fair and right.

After tea Mrs. Owen said she had letters to write and carried her
portfolio to the library for the purpose. Dan and Sylvia being thus left
to themselves, he proposed a stroll across the campus.

"There's something about a campus," he said, as they started
out;--"there's a likeness in all of them, or maybe it's sentiment that
binds them together. Wellesley speaks to Yale, and the language of both
is understood by Madison. Ah--there's the proof of it now!"

     Integer vitæ, scelerisque purus!

A dozen students lounging on the steps of the library had begun to sing
the Latin words to a familiar air. Dan followed in his deep bass to the
end.

"The words are the words of Horace, but the tune is the tune of Eli
with thanks to Dr. Fleming," he remarked. "It's that sort of thing that
makes college worth while. I'll wager those are seniors, who already
feel a little heartache because their college years are so nearly over.
I'm getting to be an old grad myself, but those songs still give me a
twinge."

"I understand that," said Sylvia. "I'll soon be saying good-bye to girls
I may never see again, or when I meet them at a reunion in five or ten
years, they'll be different. College is only the beginning, after all."

"It's only the beginning, but for some fellows it's the end, too. It
scares me to see how many of my classmates are already caught in the
undertow. I wonder sometimes whether I'm not going under myself."

Sylvia turned toward him.

"I rather imagine that you're a strong swimmer. It would surprise me if
you didn't do something pretty big. Mrs. Owen thinks you will; she's not
a person for any one to disappoint."

"Oh, she has a way of thinking in large totals of people she likes, and
she does like me, most unaccountably."

"She has real illusions about _me_," laughed Sylvia. "She has an idea
that colleges do things by magic; and I'm afraid she will find out that
the wand didn't touch me."

"You didn't need the wand's magic," he answered, "for you are a woman of
genius."

"Which sounds well, Mr. Harwood; no one ever used such words to me
before! I've learned one thing, though: that patience and work will
make up for a good many lacks. There are some things I'm going to try to
do."

They loitered in the quiet paths of the campus. "Bright College Years"
followed them from the singers at the library. If there's any sentiment
in man or woman the airs of a spring night in our midwestern country
will call it out. The planets shone benignantly through the leaves of
maple and elm; and the young grass was irregular, untouched as yet by
the mower--as we like it best who love our Madison! A week-old moon hung
in the sky--ample light for the first hay-ride of the season that is
moving toward Water Babble to the strains of guitar and banjo and boy
and girl voices. It's unaccountable that there should be so much music
in a sophomore--or maybe that's a fraternity affair--Sigma Chi or Delta
Tau or Deke. Or mayhap those lads wear a "Fiji" pin on their waistcoats;
I seem to recall spring hay-rides as an expression of "Fiji" spirit in
my own days at Madison, when I myself was that particular blithe
Hellenist with the guitar, and scornful of all Barbarians!

Sylvia was a woman now. Æons stretched between to-night and that
afternoon when she had opened the door for Harwood in Buckeye Lane. His
chivalry had been deeply touched by Mrs. Owen's disclosure at the bank,
and subsequent reflection had not lightened the burden of her
confidence. Such obscurities as existed in the first paragraph of the
first page of Sylvia's life's record were dark enough in any
circumstances, but the darkness was intensified by her singular
isolation. The commission he had accepted in her behalf from Mrs. Owen
carried a serious responsibility. These things he pondered as they
walked together. He felt the pathos of her black gown; but she had
rallied from the first shock of her sorrow, and met him in his key of
badinage. She was tall--almost as tall as he; and in the combined
moon- and star-light of the open spaces their eyes met easily.

He was conscious to-night of the charm in Sylvia that he had felt first
on the train that day they had sped through the Berkshires together. No
other girl had ever appealed to him so strongly. It was not the charm of
cleverness, for she was not clever in the usual sense; she said few
bright, quotable things, though her humor was keen. She had carried into
womanhood the good looks of her girlhood, and she was a person one
looked at twice. Her eyes were fine and expressive, and they faced the
world with an engaging candor. They had learned to laugh since we saw
her first--college and contact with the world had done that for her. Her
face was long, her nose a compromise of good models, her mouth a little
large, but offering compensations when she smiled in her quick,
responsive fashion. One must go deeper, Harwood reflected, for Sylvia's
charm, and it dawned upon him that it was in the girl's self, born of an
alert, clear-thinking mind and a kind and generous heart. Individuality,
personality, were words with which he sought to characterize her; and as
he struggled with terms, he found that she was carrying the burden of
the talk.

"I suppose," she was saying, in her voice that was deeper than most
women's voices, and musical and agreeable to hear,--"I suppose that
college is designed to save us all a lot of hard knocks; I wonder if it
does?"

"If you're asking me personally, I'll say that there are lumps on my
brow where I have bumped hard, in spite of my A.B. degree. I'm disposed
to think that college only postpones the day of our awakening; we've got
to shoot the chutes anyhow. It is so written."

She laughed at his way of putting it.

"Oh, you're not so much older that you can frighten me. People on the
toboggan always seem to be having a good time; the percentage of those
whose car jumps the track isn't formidable."

"Just enough fatalities to flavor the statistics. The seniors over there
have stopped singing; I dare say they're talking about life in large
capital letters."

"Well, there are plenty of chances. I'm rather of the opinion that we're
all here to do something for somebody. Nobody's life is just his own.
Whether we want it that way or not, we are all links in the chain, and
it's our business not to be the weakest."

"I'm an individualist," he said, "and I'm very largely concerned in
seeing what Daniel Harwood, a poor young lawyer of mediocre abilities,
can do with this thing we hear mentioned as life."

"Oh, but there's no such thing as an individualist; the idea is purely
academic!" and she laughed again, but less lightly. "We're all debtors
to somebody or something--to the world itself, for example."

"For the stars up there, for grass and trees, for the moon by night and
the sun by day--for the gracious gift of friends?"

"A little, yes; but they don't count so much. I owe my debt to
people--real human beings, who may not be as lucky as I. For a good many
thousand years people have been at work trying to cheer up the
world--brighten it and make it a better place to live in. I owe all
those people something; it's not merely a little something; it's a
tremendous lot, and I must pay these other human beings who don't know
what they're entitled to. You have felt that; you have felt it just as I
have, I'm sure."

"You are still in college, and that is what undergraduates are taught to
call ideals, Miss Garrison. I hope you will hold on to them: I had mine,
but I'm conscious of late that I'm losing my grip on them. It's
inevitable, in a man's life. It's a good thing that women hold on to
them longer; without woman's faith in such things the world would be a
sad old cinder, tumbling aimlessly around in the void."

She stopped abruptly in the path, very tall and slim in the dusk of
starlight and moonlight. He had been carrying his hat in his hand and he
leaned on his stick wondering whether she were really in earnest,
whether he had displeased her by the half-mocking tone in which he had
spoken.

"Please don't talk this old, romantic, mediæval nonsense about women!
This is the twentieth century, and I don't believe for a minute that a
woman, just by being a woman, can keep the world sweet and beautiful.
Once, maybe; but not any more! A woman's ideals aren't a bit better than
a man's unless she stands up for them and works for them. You don't have
to take that from a college senior; you can ask dear Mrs. Owen. I
suppose she knows life from experience if any woman ever did, and she
has held to her ideals and kept working away at them. But just being a
woman, and being good, and nice, and going to church, and belonging to a
missionary society--well, Mr. Harwood?"

She had changed from earnestness to a note of raillery.

"Yes, Miss Garrison," he replied in her own key; "if you expect me to
take issue with you or Mrs. Owen on any point, you're much mistaken. You
and she are rather fortunate over many of the rest of us in having both
brains and gentle hearts--the combination is irresistible! When you come
home to throw in your lot with that of about a quarter of a million of
us in our Hoosier capital, I'll put myself at your disposal. I've been
trying to figure some way of saving the American Republic for the plain
people, and I expect to go out in the campaign this fall and make some
speeches warning all good citizens to be on guard against corporate
greed, invasions of sacred rights, and so on. My way is plain, the duty
clear," he concluded, with a wave of his stick.

"Well," said Sylvia, "if you care enough about it to do that you must
still have a few ideals lying around somewhere."

"I don't know, to be honest about it, that it's so much my ideals as a
wish to help my friend Mr. Bassett win a fight."

"I didn't know that he ever needed help in winning what he really wanted
to win. I have heard of him only as the indomitable leader who wins
whenever it's worth while."

"Well," Dan answered, "he's got a fight on hand that he can't afford to
lose if he means to stay in politics."

"I must learn all about that when I come home. I never saw Mr. Bassett
but once; that was at Waupegan when I was up there with Mrs. Owen nearly
five years ago. He had just come back from the West and spent only a day
at the lake."

"Then you don't really know him?"

"No; they had counted on having him there for the rest of the summer,
but he came one day and left the next. He didn't even see Mrs. Owen; I
remember that she expressed surprise that he had come to the lake and
gone without seeing her."

"He's a busy man and works hard. You were getting acquainted with Marian
about that time?"

"Yes; she was awfully good to me that summer. I liked Mr. Bassett, the
glimpse I had of him; he seemed very interesting--a solid American
character, quiet and forceful."

"Yes, he is that; he's a strong character. He's shown me every
kindness--given me my chance. I should be ashamed of myself if I didn't
feel grateful to him."

They had made the complete circuit of the campus several times and
Sylvia said it was time to go back. The remembrance of Bassett had
turned her thoughts to Marian, and they were still talking of her when
Mrs. Owen greeted them cheerily from the little veranda. They were to
start for Boston in the morning, and Harwood was to stay in Montgomery a
day or two longer on business connected with the estate. "Don't let my
sad philosophy keep you awake, Mr. Harwood!--I've given him all my life
programme, Mrs. Owen. I think it has had a depressing influence on him."

"It's merely that you have roused me to a sense of my own general
worldliness and worthlessness," he replied, laughing as they shook
hands.

"I guess Sylvia can tell you a good many things, Daniel," said Mrs.
Owen. "I wish you'd call Myers--he's my Seymour farmer--on the long
distance in the morning, and tell him not to think I won't be down to
look at his corn when I get back. Tell him I've gone to college, but
I'll be right down there when I get home."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD


Harwood reached the capital on the afternoon of the second day after
Mrs. Owen and Sylvia had gone East, and went at once to the Boordman
Building. Miss Farrell was folding and sealing letters bearing Bassett's
signature.

"Hello, little stranger; I'd begun to think you had met with foul
play, as the hero says in scene two, act three, of 'The Dark
Switch-Lantern'--all week at the Park Theatre at prices within the reach
of all. Business has been good, if you press me for news, but that
paper-mill hasn't had much attention since you departed this life.
Everybody's saying 'Stop, Look, Listen!' When in doubt you say
that,--the white aprons in the one-arm lunch rooms say it now when you
kick on the size of the buns. You will find your letters in the
left-hand drawer. I told that collector from the necktie foundry that he
needn't wear himself to a shadow carrying bills up here; that you paid
all your bills by check on the tenth of the month. As that was the
twenty-ninth, you'd better frame some new by-laws to avoid other breaks
like that. I can't do much lying at my present salary."

She stood with her hands clasping her belt, and continued to enlighten
him on current history as he looked over his letters.

"That young Allen Thatcher has been making life a burden to me in your
lamented absence. Wanted to know every few hours if you had come back,
and threatened to call you up on the long distance at Montgomery, but I
told him you were trying a murder case over there, and that if he didn't
want to get nailed for contempt of court he'd better not interrupt the
proceedings."

"You're speaking of Mr. Allen Thatcher, are you, Miss Farrell?" asked
Harwood, in the tone to which the girl frequently drove him.

"The same, like the mind reader you are! Say, that boy isn't stuck on
you or anything. He came up here yesterday afternoon when the boss was
out and wanted to talk things over. He seemed to think I hadn't anything
to do but be a sister to him and hear his troubles. Well, I've got
embarrassments of my own, with that true sport his papa sending me an
offer of a hundred per month to work for him. One hundred dollars a
month in advance! This, Mr. Harwood, is private and confidential. I
guess I haven't worked at the State House without learning a few tricks
in this mortal vale of politics."

She had calculated nicely the effect of this shot. Harwood might treat
her, as she said, like a step-child with a harelip, but occasionally she
made him sit up. He sat up now. He remarked with the diplomatic
unconcern that it was best to employ with her:--

"Refused the offer, did you, Miss Farrell?"

"I certainly did. As between a fat old sport like Ed Thatcher and a
gentleman like Mr. Bassett, money doesn't count--not even with a
p.w.g., or poor working girl, like me. Hush!--are we quite alone?" She
bent toward the door dramatically. "What he was playing for, as neat as
a hatpin in your loved one's eye, was some facts about the boss's
committee work in that last session I worked at the State House. Cute of
Thatcher? Well, not so awful bright! He doesn't know what he's up
against if he thinks Mort Bassett can be caught on flypaper, and you can
be dead sure I'm not going to sprinkle the sugar to catch our boss with.
All that Transportation Committee business was just as straight as the
way home; but"--Miss Farrell tapped her mouth daintily with her fingers
to stifle an imaginary yawn--"but little Rose brought down her shorthand
notebooks marked 'M.B. personal,' and the boss and I burned them
yesterday morning early, right there in that grate in his room. That's
what I think of Mr. Ed Thatcher. A pearl necklace for my birthday ought
to be about right for that."

Harwood had been drinking this in as he opened and sorted his letters.
He paused and stared at her absently.

"You referred to a caller a moment ago--the gentleman who annoyed you so
much on the telephone. Was I to call him or anything like that?"

"He left a good many orders, but I think you were to eat food with him
in the frosty halls of the University Club almost at once. He's in a
state of mind. In love with the daughter of his father's enemy--just
like a Park Theatre thriller. Wants you to tell him what to do; and you
will pardon me for suggesting that if there's to be an elopement you
write it up yourself for the 'Courier.' I was talking to a friend of
mine who's on the ding-ding desk at the Whitcomb and she says the
long-distance business in that tavern is painful to handle--hot words
flying over the state about this Thatcher-Bassett rumpus. You may take
it from me that the fight is warm, and I guess somebody will know more
after the convention. But say--!"

"Um," said Harwood, whose gaze was upon the frame of a new building that
was rising across the street. He was thinking of Allen. If Marian and
Allen were subjects of gossip in connection with the break between their
fathers he foresaw trouble; and he was sorry, for he was sincerely
devoted to the boy; and Marian he liked also, in spite of her vagaries.
A great many people were likely to be affected by the personal
difficulties of Thatcher and Bassett. Even quiet Montgomery was teeming,
and on the way from the station he had met half a dozen acquaintances
who had paused to shake hands and say something about the political
situation. His ignorance of Bassett's real intentions, which presumably
the defiance of the "Courier" merely cloaked, was not without its
embarrassment. He had been known as a Bassett man; he had received and
talked to innumerable politicians of Bassett's party in the Boordman
Building; and during the four years of his identification with Bassett
he had visited most of the county seats on political and business
errands. The closeness of their association made all the more surprising
this sudden exclusion.

"I said 'say,'" repeated Miss Farrell, lightly touching the smooth cliff
of yellow hair above her brow with the back of her hand. "I was about to
give you a message from his majesty our king, but if you're on a pipe
dream don't let me call you home."

"Oh, yes; pardon me. What were you about to say?"

"Mr. Bassett said that if you came in before I quit to ask you to come
over to the Whitcomb. Mrs. Bassett blew in to-day from that sanatorium
in Connecticut where they've been working on her nerves. Miss Marian
brought her back, and they've stopped in town to rest. And say,"--here
Miss Farrell lowered her voice,--"the Missis must try his soul a good
deal! I wonder how he ever picked _her_ out of the bunch?"

"That will do!" said Harwood sharply. "I'll find Mr. Bassett at the
Whitcomb and I shan't have anything for you to-day."

There had been a meeting of the central committee preliminary to the
approaching state convention. A number of candidates had already opened
headquarters at the Whitcomb; members of Congress, aspirants for the
governor's seat, to be filled two years hence, and petty satraps from
far and near were visible at the hotel. If Bassett's star was declining
there was nothing to indicate it in the conduct of the advance guard. If
any change was apparent it pointed to an increase of personal
popularity. Bassett was not greatly given to loafing in public places;
he usually received visitors at such times in an upper room of the
hotel; but Harwood found him established on a settee in the lobby in
plain view of all seekers, and from the fixed appearance of the men
clustered about him he had held this position for some time. Harwood
drew into the outer edge of the crowd unnoticed for a moment. Bassett
was at his usual ease; a little cheerfuler of countenance than was his
wont, and yet not unduly anxious to appear tranquil. He had precipitated
one of the most interesting political struggles the state had ever
witnessed, but his air of unconcern before this mixed company of his
fellow partisans, among whom there were friends and foes, was well
calculated to inspire faith in his leadership. Some one was telling a
story, and at its conclusion Bassett caught Harwood's eye and called to
him in a manner that at once drew attention to the young man.

"Hello, Dan! You're back from the country all right, I see! I guess you
boys all know Harwood. You've seen his name in the newspapers!"

Several of the loungers shook hands with Harwood, who had cultivated the
handshaking habit, and he made a point of addressing to each one some
personal remark. Thus the gentleman from Tippecanoe, who had met Dan at
the congressional convention in Lafayette two years earlier, felt that
he must have favorably impressed Bassett's agent on that occasion; else
how had Harwood asked at once, with the most shameless flattery, whether
they still had the same brand of fried chicken at his house! And the
gentleman from the remote shores of the Lake, a rare visitor in town,
had every right to believe, from Dan's reference to the loss by fire of
the gentleman's house a year earlier, that that calamity had aroused in
Dan the deepest sympathy. Dan had mastered these tricks; it rather
tickled his sense of humor to practice them; but it must be said for him
that he was sincerely interested in people, particularly in these men
who played the great game. If he ever achieved anything in politics it
must be through just such material as offered itself on such occasions
as this in the halls of the Whitcomb. These men might be tearing the
leader to pieces to-morrow, or the day after; but he was still in the
saddle, and not knowing but that young Harwood might be of use to them
some day, they greeted him as one of the inner circle.

Most of these men sincerely liked and admired Bassett; and many of them
accepted the prevailing superstition as to his omniscience and
invulnerability; even in the Republican camp many shared the belief that
the spears of the righteous were of no avail against him. Dan's loyalty
to Bassett had never been more firmly planted. Bassett had always
preserved a certain formality in his relations with him; to-night he was
calling him Dan, naturally and as though unconscious of the transition.
This was not without its effect on Harwood; he was surprised to find how
agreeable it was to be thus familiarly addressed by the leader in such a
gathering.

Bassett suggested that he speak to Mrs. Bassett and Marian, who were
spending a few days in town, and he found them in the hotel parlor,
where Bassett joined them shortly. Mrs. Bassett and Dan had always got
on well together; his nearness to her husband brought him close to the
domestic circle; and he had been invariably responsive to her demands
upon his time. Dan had learned inevitably a good deal of the inner life
of the Bassetts, and now and then he had been aware that Mrs. Bassett
was sounding him discreetly as to her husband's plans and projects; but
these approaches had been managed with the nicest tact and discretion.
In her long absences from home she had lost touch with Bassett's
political interests and occupations, but she knew of his break with
Thatcher. She prided herself on being a woman of the world, and while
she had flinched sometimes at the attacks made upon her husband, she was
nevertheless proud of his influence in affairs. Bassett had once, at a
time when he was being assailed for smothering some measure in the
senate, given her a number of books bearing upon the anti-slavery
struggle, in which she read that the prominent leaders in that movement
had suffered the most unjust attacks, and while it was not quite clear
wherein lay Bassett's likeness to Lincoln, Lovejoy, and Wendell
Phillips, she had been persuaded that the most honorable men in public
life are often the targets of scandal. Her early years in Washington
with her father had impressed her imagination; the dream of returning
there as the wife of a Senator danced brightly in her horizons. It would
mean much to Marian and Blackford if their father, like their
Grandfather Singleton, should attain a seat in the Senate. And she was
aware that without such party service as Bassett was rendering, with
its resulting antagonisms, the virulent newspaper attacks, the social
estrangements that she had not escaped in Fraserville, a man could not
hope for party preferment.

Bassett had recently visited Blackford at the military school where his
son was established, and talk fell upon the boy.

"Black likes to have a good time, but he will come out all right. The
curriculum doesn't altogether fit him--that's his only trouble."

Bassett glanced at Harwood for approval and Dan promptly supported the
father's position. Blackford had, as a matter of fact, been threatened
with expulsion lately for insubordination. Bassett had confessed to Dan
several times his anxiety touching the boy. To-day, when the lad's
mother had just returned after a long sojourn in a rest cure, was not a
fit occasion for discussing such matters.

"What's Allen doing?" asked Marian. "I suppose now that papa is having a
rumpus with Mr. Thatcher I shall never see him any more."

"You shouldn't speak so, Marian. A hotel parlor is no place to discuss
your father's affairs," admonished Mrs. Bassett.

"Oh, Allen's ever so much fun. He's a Socialist or something. Aunt Sally
likes him ever so much. Aunt Sally likes Mr. Thatcher, too, for that
matter," she concluded boldly.

"Mr. Thatcher is an old friend of mine," said Bassett soberly.

"You can be awfully funny when you want to, papa," replied Marian. "As
we came through Pittsburg this morning I bought a paper that told about
'Stop, Look, Listen.' But Allen won't mind if you do whistle to his
father to keep off the track."

"Mr. Thatcher's name was never mentioned by me in any such connection,"
replied Bassett; but he laughed when Marian leaned over and patted his
cheek to express her satisfaction in her father's cleverness.

"I think it unfortunate that you have gone to war with that man,"
remarked Mrs. Bassett wearily.

"You dignify it too much by calling it a war," Harwood interjected. "We
don't want such men in politics in this state and somebody has to deal
with them."

"I guess it will be a lively scrap all right enough," said Marian,
delighted at the prospect. "We're going to move to the city this fall,
Mr. Harwood. Hasn't papa told you?"

Mrs. Bassett glanced at her husband with alert suspicion, thinking that
perhaps in her absence he had been conniving to this end with Marian.

Bassett smiled at his daughter's adroitness in taking advantage of
Harwood's presence to introduce this subject; it had been the paramount
issue with her for several years.

"I shall be glad enough to stay at Fraserville the rest of my days if I
get through another Waupegan summer safely," said Mrs. Bassett. "The
mere thought of moving is horrible!"

"Oh, we wouldn't exactly move in coming here; we'd have an apartment in
one of these comfortable new houses and come down while the
legislature's in session, so we can be with papa. And there's ever so
much music here now, and the theatres, and I could have a coming-out
party here. You know I never had one, papa. And it would be nice to be
near Aunt Sally; she's getting old and needs us."

"Yes; she undoubtedly does," said Bassett, with faint irony.

Her daughter's rapid fire of suggestions wearied Mrs. Bassett. She
turned to Harwood:--

"Mr. Bassett and Marian have been telling me, Mr. Harwood, that Aunt
Sally went back to college with Sylvia Garrison after Professor Kelton's
death. Poor girl, it's quite like Aunt Sally to do that. Sylvia must be
very forlorn, with all her people gone. I think Aunt Sally knew her
mother. I hope the girl isn't wholly destitute?"

"No, the Professor left a small estate and Miss Garrison expects to
teach," Dan answered.

"Dan is the administrator," remarked Bassett "I'm sure you will be glad
to know that Miss Garrison's affairs are in good hands, Hallie."

"Aunt Sally is very fond of you, Mr. Harwood; I hope you appreciate
that," said Mrs Bassett. "Aunt Sally doesn't like everybody."

"Aunt Sally's a brick, all right," declared Marian, as an accompaniment
to Dan's expression of his gratification that Mrs. Owen had honored him
with her friendship.

"It's too bad the girl will have to teach," said Mrs. Bassett; "it must
be a dog's life."

"I think Miss Garrison doesn't look at it that way," Harwood
intervened. "She thinks she's in the world to do something for somebody;
she's a very interesting, a very charming young woman."

"Well, I haven't seen her in five years; she was only a young girl that
summer at the lake. How soon will Aunt Sally be back? I do hope she's
coming to Waupegan. If I'd known she was going to Wellesley, we could
have waited for her in New York, and Marian and I could have gone with
them to see Sylvia graduated. I always wanted to visit the college."

"It was better for you to come home, Hallie," said Mr. Bassett. "You are
not quite up to sight-seeing yet. And now," he added, "Dan and I have
some business on hand for an hour or so, and I'm going to send you and
Marian for an automobile ride before dinner. You must quit the moment
you are tired. Wish we could all go, but I haven't seen Dan much lately,
and as I'm going home with you to-morrow we shan't have another chance."

When his wife and daughter had been dispatched in the motor Bassett
suggested that they go to a private room he had engaged in the hotel,
first giving orders at the office that he was not to be disturbed. He
did not, however, escape at once from men who had been lying in wait for
him in the lobby and corridors, but he made short work of them.

"I want to thresh out some things with you to-day, and I'll be as brief
as possible," said Bassett when he and Harwood were alone. "You got
matters fixed satisfactorily at Montgomery--no trouble about your
appointment?"

"None; Mrs. Owen had arranged all that."

"You mentioned to her, did you, my offer to help?"

"Oh, yes! But she had already arranged with Akins, the banker, about the
administrator's bond, and we went at once to business."

"That's all right; only I wanted to be sure Mrs. Owen understood I had
offered to help you. She's very kind to my wife and children; Mrs.
Bassett has been almost like a daughter to her, you know. There's really
some property to administer, is there?"

"Very little, sir. The Professor had been obliged to drop part of his
life insurance and there was only two thousand in force when he died.
The house he lived in may bring another two. There are some publishers'
contracts that seem to have no value. And the old gentleman had invested
what was a large sum for him in White River Canneries."

Bassett frowned and he asked quickly:--

"How much?"

"Five thousand dollars."

"As much as that?"

Bassett's connection with White River Canneries was an incident of the
politician's career to which Harwood had never been wholly reconciled.
Nor was he pleasantly impressed by Bassett's next remark, which, in view
of Mrs. Bassett's natural expectations,--and these Dan had frequently
heard mentioned at the capital,--partook of the nature of a leading
question. "That's unfortunate. But I suppose Mrs. Owen, by reason of her
friendship for the grandfather, won't let the girl suffer."

"She's not the sort of girl who would be dependent in any case. She
holds rather altruistic ideas in fact," remarked Harwood. "I mean," he
added, seeing that Bassett waited for him to explain himself, "that Miss
Garrison feels that she starts life in debt to the world--by reason of
her own opportunities and so on; she expects to make payments on that
debt."

"In debt?" Bassett repeated vacantly. "Oh, not literally, I see! She
expects to teach and help others in that way. That's commendable. But
let me see."

He had taken an unsharpened lead pencil from his pocket and was slipping
it through his fingers absently, allowing its blunt ends to tap the arm
of his chair at intervals. After a moment's silence he plunged into his
own affairs.

"You probably saw my tip to Thatcher in the 'Courier'? I guess everybody
has seen it by this time," he added grimly; and he went on as though
making a statement his mind had thoroughly rehearsed: "Thatcher and I
have been pretty thick. We've been in a good many business deals
together. We've been useful to each other. He had more money than I had
to begin with, but I had other resources--influence and so on that he
needed. I guess we're quits on the business side. You may be interested
to know that I never had a cent of money in his breweries and
distilleries; but I've helped protect the traffic in return for support
he has given some of my own enterprises. I never owned a penny in that
Fraserville brewery, for instance; but I've been pointed out as its
owner. They've got the idea here in Indiana that saloons are my chief
joy in life; but nothing is farther from the truth. When Mrs. Bassett
has been troubled about that I have always been able to tell her with a
good conscience that I hadn't a penny in the business. I've frankly
antagonized legislation directed against the saloon, for I've never
taken any stock in this clamor of the Prohibitionists and temperance
cranks generally; but I've stood consistently for a proper control.
Thatcher and I got along all right until he saw that the party was
coming into power again and got the senatorial bee in his bonnet. He's
got the idea that he can buy his way in; and to buy a seat he's got to
buy my friends. That's a clear proposition, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir; I haven't seen that he had any personal influence worth
counting."

"Exactly. Now, I don't intend that Ed Thatcher shall buy a seat in the
United States Senate if our party in Indiana has one to dispose of. I'm
not so good myself, but when I found that Thatcher had begun to build up
a little machine for himself, I resolved to show him that I can't be
used by any man so long as he thinks he needs me and then kicked out
when I'm in the way. And I've got some state pride, too, and with all
the scandals going around in other states over the sale of seats at
Washington I'm not going to have my party in the state where I was born
and where I have lived all my life lend itself to the ambitions of an Ed
Thatcher. I think you share that feeling?"

"The people of the whole state will commend that," replied Dan warmly.
"And if you want to go to the Senate--"

"I don't want anything from my party that it doesn't want me to have,"
interrupted Bassett.

He rose and paced the floor. An unusual color had come into his face,
but otherwise he betrayed no agitation. He crossed from the door to the
window and resumed his seat.

"They've said of me that I fight in the dark; that I'm a man of secret
and malign methods. The 'Advertiser' said only this morning that I have
no courage; that I never make an attack where it costs me anything. I've
already proved that to be a lie. My attack on Thatcher is likely to cost
me a good deal. You may be sure he won't scruple to make the bill as
heavy as he can. I'm talking to you freely, and I'll say to you that I
expect the better element of the party to rally to my support. You see,
I'm going to give you idealists a chance to do something that will
count. Thatcher is not a foe to be despised. Here's his reply to my
'Stop, Look, Listen,' editorial. The sheriff served it on me just as I
stepped into the elevator to come up here."

The paper Harwood took wonderingly was a writ citing Bassett to appear
as defendant in a suit brought in the circuit court by Edward G.
Thatcher against the Courier Publishing Company, Morton Bassett, and
Sarah Owen.

Bassett stretched himself at ease in his chair and explained.

"I wanted a newspaper and he was indifferent about it at the time; but
we went in together, and he consented that I should have a controlling
interest. As I was tied up tight right then I had to get Mrs. Owen to
help me out. It wasn't the kind of deal you want to hawk about town, and
neither Thatcher nor I cared to have it known for a while that we had
bought the paper. But it's hardly a secret now, of course. Mrs. Owen and
I together own one hundred and fifty-one shares of the total of three
hundred; Thatcher owns the rest and he was satisfied to let it go that
way. He signed an agreement that I should manage the paper, and said he
didn't want anything but dividends."

"Mrs. Owen's interest is subject to your wishes, of course; that goes
without saying."

"Well, I guaranteed eight per cent on her investment, but we've made it
lately, easily. I've now got to devise some means of getting rid of
Thatcher; but we'll let him cool till after the convention. Mrs. Owen
won't be back for several weeks, I suppose?"

"No; she and Miss Garrison will return immediately after the
commencement exercises."

"Well, Thatcher brought that suit, thinking that if he could throw the
paper into a receivership he'd run up the price when it came to be sold
and shake me out. He knew, too, that it would annoy Mrs. Owen to be
involved in litigation. It's surprising that he would incur her wrath
himself; she's always been mighty decent to Ed and kind to his boy. But
I'll have to buy her stock and let her out; it's a delicate business,
and for Mrs. Bassett's sake I've got to get her aunt out as quickly as
possible."

"That, of course, will be easily managed. It's too bad she's away just
now."

"It was the first time I ever asked her help in any of my business
affairs, and it's unfortunate. The fact is that Mrs. Bassett doesn't
know of it."

He rose and crossed the room slowly with his hands thrust deep into his
trousers pockets.

"But if Mrs. Owen is guaranteed against loss there's no ground for
criticizing you," said Dan. "There's nothing to trouble about on that
side of it, I should think."

"Oh, I'm not troubling about that," replied Bassett shortly. He shrugged
his shoulders and walked to the window, gazing out on the street in
silence for several minutes. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed.

"I told you, Dan, when you opened our office in the Boordman Building,
that if ever the time came when you didn't want to serve me any longer
you were to feel free to quit. You are under no obligations to me of any
sort. I caught a bargain in you; you have been useful to me in many
ways; you have carried nearly the whole burden of the paper-mill
receivership in a way to win me the praise of the court and all others
interested. If you should quit me to-night I should still be your
debtor. I had about decided to leave you out of my calculations in
politics; you have the making of a good lawyer and if you opened an
office to-morrow you would find clients without trouble. You are
beginning to be known, very well known for a man of your years."

Harwood demurred feebly, unheeded by Bassett, who continued steadily.

"I had thought for a time that I shouldn't encourage you to take any
part in politics--at least in my affairs. The receivership has been
giving you enough to do; and the game, after all, is a hard one. Even
after I decided to break with Thatcher I thought I'd leave you out of
it: that's why I gave you no intimation of what was coming, but put the
details into Atwill's hands. I had really meant to show you a proof of
that editorial, but I wasn't sure until they had to close the page that
night that I was ready to make the break. I had been pretty hot that
evening at the Country Club when I saw Pettit and Thatcher chumming
together; I wanted to be sure I had cooled off. But I find that I've got
in the habit of relying on you; I've been open with you from the
beginning, and as you know I'm not much given to taking men into my
confidence. But I've been leaning on you a good deal--more, in fact,
than I realized."

There was no questioning Bassett's sincerity, nor was there any doubt
that this appeal was having its effect on the younger man. If Bassett
had been a weakling timorously making overtures for help, Harwood would
have been sensible of it; but a man of demonstrated force and
intelligence, who had probably never talked thus to another soul in his
life, was addressing him with a candor at once disarming and compelling.
It was not easy to say to a man from whom he had accepted every kindness
that he had ceased to trust him; that while he had been his willing
companion on fair-weather voyages, he would desert without a qualm
before the tempest. But even now Bassett had asked nothing of him; why
should he harden his heart against the man who had been his friend?

"You have your ideals--fine ideas of public service that I admire. Our
party needs such men as you; the young fellows couldn't get away from us
fast enough after '96; many of the Sons of old-time Democrats joined the
Republicans. Fitch has spoken to me of you often as the kind of man we
ought to push forward, and I'm willing to put you out on the
firing-line, where you can work for your ideals. My help will handicap
you at first,"--his voice grew dry and hard here,-"but once you have got
a start you can shake me off as quick as you like. It's a perfectly
selfish proposition I'm making, Harwood; it simply gets down to this,
that I need your help."

"Of course, Mr. Bassett; if I can serve you in any way--"

"Anything you can do for me you may do if you don't feel that you will
be debasing yourself in fighting under my flag. It's a black flag, they
say--just as black as Thatcher's. I don't believe you want to join
Thatcher; the question is, do you want to stick to me?"

Bassett had spoken quietly throughout. He had made no effort to play
upon Harwood's sympathies or to appeal to his gratitude. He was, in
common phrase, to be taken or let alone. Harwood realized that he must
either decline outright or declare his fealty in a word. It was in no
view a debatable matter; he could not suggest points of difference or
even inquire as to the nature of the service to be exacted. He was face
to face with a man who, he had felt that night of their first meeting at
Fraserville, gave and received hard blows. Yet he did not doubt that if
their relations terminated to-day Bassett would deal with him
magnanimously. He realized that after all it was not Bassett who was on
trial; it was Daniel Harwood!

He saw his life in sharp fulgurations; the farm (cleared of debt through
Bassett's generosity, to be sure!) where his father and brothers
struggled to wrest a livelihood from reluctant soil, and their pride and
hope in him; he saw his teachers at college, men who had pointed the way
to useful and honorable lives; and more than all, Sumner rose before
him--Sumner who had impressed him more than any other man he had ever
known. Sumner's clean-cut visage was etched grimly in his consciousness;
verily Sumner would not have dallied with a man of Bassett's ilk. He had
believed when he left college that Sumner's teaching and example would
be a buckler and shield to him all the days of his life; and here he
was, faltering before a man to whom the great teacher would have given
scarce a moment's contemptuous thought. He could even hear the
professor's voice as he ironically pronounced upon sordid little despots
of Bassett's stamp. And only forty-eight hours earlier he had been
talking to a girl on the campus at Madison who had spoken of idealism
and service in the terms of which he had thought of those things when he
left college. Even Allen Thatcher, in his whimsical fashion, stood for
ideals, and dreamed of the heroic men who had labored steadfastly for
great causes. Here was his chance now to rid himself of Bassett; to
breathe free air again! On the other hand, Bassett had himself suggested
that Harwood, once in a position to command attention, might go his own
gait. His servitude would be for a day only, and by it he should win
eternal freedom. He caught eagerly at what Bassett was saying, grateful
that the moment of his choice was delayed.

"The state convention is only three weeks off and I had pretty carefully
mapped it out before the 'Courier' dropped that shot across Thatcher's
bows. I've arranged for you to go as delegate to the state convention
from this county and to have a place on the committee on resolutions.
This will give you an introduction to the party that will be of value.
They will say you are my man--but they've said that of other men who
have lived it down. I want Thatcher to have his way in that convention,
naming the ticket as far as he pleases, and appearing to give me a
drubbing. The party's going to be defeated in November--there's no
ducking that. We'll let Thatcher get the odium of that defeat. About the
next time we'll go in and win and there won't be any more Thatcher
nonsense. This is politics, you understand."

Harwood nodded; but Bassett had not finished; it clearly was not his
purpose to stand the young man in a corner and demand a choice from him.
Bassett pursued negotiations after a fashion of his own.

"Thatcher thinks he has scored heavily on me by sneaking into
Fraserville and kidnaping old Ike Pettit. That fellow has always been a
nuisance to me; I carried a mortgage on his newspaper for ten years, but
Thatcher has mercifully taken that burden off my shoulders by paying it.
Thatcher can print anything he wants to about me in my own town; but it
will cost him some money; those people up there don't think I'm so
wicked, and the 'Fraser County Democrat' won't have any advertisements
for a while but fake medical ads. But Ike will have more room for the
exploitation of his own peculiar brand of homely Hoosier humor."

Bassett smiled, and Harwood was relieved to be able to laugh aloud. He
was enjoying this glimpse of the inner mysteries of the great game. His
disdain of Thatcher's clumsy attempts to circumvent Bassett was
complete; in any view Bassett was preferable to Thatcher. As the senator
from Fraser had said, there was really nothing worse than Thatcher, with
his breweries and racing-stable, his sordidness and vulgarity.
Thatcher's efforts to practice Bassett's methods with Bassett's own
tools was a subject for laughter. It seemed for the moment that
Harwood's decision might be struck on this note of mirth. Dan wondered
whether, in permitting Bassett thus to disclose his plans and purposes,
he had not already nailed his flag to the Bassett masthead.

"I don't want these fellows who are old-timers in state
conventions--particularly those known to be my old friends--to figure
much," Bassett continued. "I'm asking your aid because you're new and
clean-handed. The meanest thing they can say against you is that you're
in my camp. They tell me you're an effective speaker, a number of
county chairmen have said your speeches in the last campaign made a good
impression. I shall want you to prepare a speech about four minutes
long, clean-cut and vigorous,--we'll decide later what that speech shall
be about. I've got it in mind to spring something in that convention
just to show Thatcher that there are turns of the game he doesn't know
yet. I'm going to give you a part that will make 'em remember you for
some time, Dan."

Bassett's smile showed his strong sound teeth. He rarely laughed, but he
yielded now to the contagion of the humor he had aroused in Harwood.

"It's a big chance you're giving me to get into things," replied
Harwood. "I'll do my best." Then he added, in the glow of his complete
surrender: "You've never asked me to do a dishonorable thing in the four
years I've been with you. There's nothing I oughtn't to be glad to do
from any standpoint, and I'm grateful for this new mark of your
confidence."

"That's all right, Dan. There are things in store for young men in
politics in this state--Republicans and Democrats," said Bassett,
without elation or any show of feeling whatever. "Once the limelight
hits you, you can go far--very far. I must go over to the 'Courier'
office now and see Atwill."



CHAPTER XIX

THE THUNDER OF THE CAPTAINS


Marian had suggested to her mother that they visit Mrs. Owen in town
before settling at Waupegan for the summer, and it was Marian's planning
that made this excursion synchronize with the state convention. Mr.
Bassett was not consulted in the matter; in fact, since his wife's
return from Connecticut he had been unusually occupied, and almost
constantly away from Fraserville. Mrs. Bassett and her daughter arrived
at the capital the day after Mrs. Owen reached home from Wellesley with
Sylvia, and the Bassetts listened perforce to their kinswoman's
enthusiastic account of the commencement exercises. Mrs. Owen had, it
appeared, looked upon Smith and Mount Holyoke also on this eastward
flight, and these inspections, mentioned in the most casual manner, did
not contribute to Mrs. Bassett's happiness.

Finding that her father was inaccessible by telephone, Marian summoned
Harwood and demanded tickets for the convention; she would make an
occasion of it, and Mrs. Owen and Sylvia should go with them. Mrs.
Bassett and her family had always enjoyed the freedom of Mrs. Owen's
house; it was disheartening to find Sylvia established in Delaware
Street on like terms of intimacy. The old heartache over Marian's
indifference to the call of higher education for women returned with a
new poignancy as Mrs. Bassett inspected Sylvia's diploma, as proudly
displayed by Mrs. Owen as though it marked the achievement of some near
and dear member of the family. Sylvia's undeniable good looks, her
agreeable manner, her ready talk, and the attention she received from
her elders, were well calculated to arm criticism in a prejudiced heart.
On the evening of their arrival Admiral and Mrs. Martin and the Reverend
John Ware had called, and while Mrs. Bassett assured herself that these
were, in a sense, visits of condolence upon Andrew Kelton's
granddaughter, the trio, who were persons of distinction, had seemed
sincerely interested in Mrs. Owen's protégée. Mrs. Bassett was obliged
to hear a lively dialogue between the minister and Sylvia touching some
memory of his first encounter with her about the stars. He brought her
as a "commencement present" Bacon's "Essays." People listened to Sylvia;
Sylvia had things to say! Even the gruff admiral paid her deference. He
demanded to know whether it was true that Sylvia had declined a position
at the Naval Observatory, which required the calculation of tides for
the Nautical Almanac. Mrs. Bassett was annoyed that Sylvia had refused a
position that would have removed her from a proximity to Mrs. Owen that
struck her as replete with danger. And yet Mrs. Bassett was outwardly
friendly, and she privately counseled Marian, quite unnecessarily, to be
"nice" to Sylvia. On the same evening Mrs. Bassett was disagreeably
impressed by Harwood's obvious rubrication in Mrs. Owen's good books.
It seemed darkly portentous that Dan was, at Mrs. Owen's instigation,
managing Sylvia's business affairs; she must warn her husband against
this employment of his secretary to strengthen the ties between Mrs.
Owen and this object of her benevolence.

Mrs. Bassett's presence at the convention did not pass unremarked by
many gentlemen upon the floor, or by the newspapers.

"While the state chairman struggled to bring the delegates to order,
Miss Marian Bassett, daughter of the Honorable Morton Bassett, of Fraser
County, was a charming and vivacious figure in the balcony. At a moment
when it seemed that the band would never cease from troubling the air
with the strains of 'Dixie,' Miss Bassett tossed a carnation into the
Marion County delegation. The flower was deftly caught by Mr. Daniel
Harwood, who wore it in his buttonhole throughout the strenuous events
of the day."

This item was among the "Kodak Shots" subjoined to the "Advertiser's"
account of the convention. It was stated elsewhere in the same journal
that "never before had so many ladies attended a state convention as
graced this occasion. The wives of both Republican United States
Senators and of many prominent politicians of both parties were present,
their summer costumes giving to the severe lines of the balcony a bright
note of color." The "Capital," in its minor notes of the day, remarked
upon the perfect amity that prevailed among the wives and daughters of
Republicans and Democrats. It noted also the presence in Mrs. Bassett's
party of her aunt, Mrs. Jackson Owen, and of Mrs. Owen's guest, Miss
Sylvia Garrison, a graduate of this year's class at Wellesley.

The experiences and sensations of a delegate to a large convention are
quite different from those of a reporter at the press table, as Dan
Harwood realized; and it must be confessed that he was keyed to a proper
pitch of excitement by the day's prospects. In spite of Bassett's
promise that he need not trouble to help elect himself a delegate,
Harwood had been drawn sharply into the preliminary skirmish at the
primaries. He had thought it wise to cultivate the acquaintance of the
men who ruled his own county even though his name had been written large
upon the Bassett slate.

In the weeks that intervened between his interview with Harwood in the
upper room of the Whitcomb and the primaries, Bassett had quietly
visited every congressional district, holding conferences and perfecting
his plans. "Never before," said the "Advertiser," "had Morton Bassett's
pernicious activity been so marked." The belief had grown that the
senator from Fraser was in imminent peril; in the Republican camp it was
thought that while Thatcher might not control the convention he would
prove himself strong enough to shake the faith of many of Bassett's
followers in the power of their chief. There had been, apparently, a hot
contest at the primaries. In the northern part of the state, in a region
long recognized as Bassett's stronghold, Thatcher had won easily; at
the capital the contestants had broken even, a result attributable to
Thatcher's residence in the county. The word had passed among the
faithful that Thatcher money was plentiful, and that it was not only
available in this preliminary skirmish, but that those who attached
themselves to Thatcher early were to enjoy his bounty throughout his
campaign--which might be protracted--for the senatorship. Bassett was
not scattering largess; it was whispered that the money he had used
previously in politics had come out of Thatcher's pocket and that he
would have less to spend in future.

Bassett, in keeping with his forecast to Harwood, had made a point of
having many new men, whose faces were unfamiliar in state conventions,
chosen at the primaries he controlled, so that in a superficial view of
the convention the complexion of a considerable body of the delegates
was neutral. Here and there among the delegations sat men who knew
precisely Bassett's plans and wishes. The day following the primaries,
Bassett, closeted with Harwood in his room at the Boordman Building, had
run the point of a walking-stick across every county in the state,
reciting from memory just how many delegates he absolutely controlled,
those he could get easily if he should by any chance need them, and the
number of undoubted Thatcher men there were to reckon with. In Dan's own
mingling with the crowd at the Whitcomb the night before the convention
he had learned nothing to shake his faith in Bassett's calculations.

The Honorable Isaac Pettit, of Fraser, was one of the most noteworthy
figures on the floor. Had he not thrown off the Bassett yoke and
trampled the lord of Fraser County underfoot? Did not the opposition
press applaud the editor for so courageously wresting from the
despicable chieftain the control of a county long inured to slavery?
Verily, the Honorable Isaac had done much to encourage belief in the
guileless that such were the facts. Even the "Courier" proved its sturdy
independence by printing the result of the primary without extenuation
or aught set down in malice. The Honorable Isaac Pettit undoubtedly
believed in himself as the savior of Fraser. He had personally led the
fight in the Fraser County primaries and had vanquished Bassett!
"Bassett had fought gamely," the Republican organ averred, to make more
glorious the Honorable Isaac's victory. It was almost inconceivable,
they said, that Bassett, who had dominated his party for years, should
not be able to elect himself a delegate to a state convention.

In a statement printed in the "Courier," Bassett had accepted defeat in
a commendable spirit of resignation. He and Atwill had framed that
statement a week before the primaries, and Miss Rose Farrell had copied
at least a dozen drafts before Bassett's critical sense was satisfied.
Harwood was increasingly amused by the manifestations of Bassett's
ironic humor. "I have never yet," ran the statement, "placed my own
ambitions before the wishes of my party; and if, when the Democrats of
Fraser County meet to choose a candidate for state senator, they are
not disposed to renominate me for a seat which I have held for twelve
years, I shall gladly resign to another and give my loyal support to the
candidate of their choice." It was whispered that the Honorable Isaac
Pettit would himself be a candidate for the nomination. The chattel
mortgage scrolls in the office of the recorder of Fraser County
indicated that his printing-press no longer owed allegiance to the
Honorable Morton Bassett. Thatcher had treated Pettit generously, taking
his unsecured note for the amount advanced to cleanse the "Fraser County
Democrat" of the taint of Bassettism.

As they gathered in the convention hall many of the delegates were
unable to adjust themselves to the fact that Bassett had not only failed
of election as delegate from his own county, but that he was not even
present as a spectator of the convention. The scene was set, the curtain
had risen, but Hamlet came not to the platform before the castle. Many
men sought Harwood and inquired in awed whispers as to Bassett's
whereabouts, but he gave evasive answers. He knew, however, that Bassett
had taken an early morning train for Waupegan, accompanied by Fitch,
their purpose being to discuss in peace and quiet the legal proceeding
begun to gain control of the "Courier." The few tried and trusted
Bassett men who knew exactly Bassett's plans for the convention listened
in silence to the hubbub occasioned by their chief's absence; silence
was a distinguishing trait of Bassett's lieutenants. Among the
uninitiated there were those who fondly believed that Bassett was
killed, not scotched, and they said among themselves that the party and
the state were well rid of him. Thatcher was to be reckoned with, but he
was no worse than Bassett: with such cogitations they comforted
themselves amid the noise and confusion. The old Bassett superstition
held, however, with many: this was only another of the Boss's deep-laid
schemes, and he would show his hand in due season and prove himself, as
usual, master of the situation. Others imagined that Bassett was
sulking, and these were not anxious to be the target of his wrath when
he chose to emerge from his tent in full armor.

A young woman reporter, traversing the galleries to note the names and
gowns of the ladies present, sought Mrs. Bassett for information as to
her husband's whereabouts. When Mrs. Bassett hesitated discreetly,
Marian rose promptly to the occasion:--

"Papa's gone fishing," she replied suavely.

This was not slow to reach the floor. "Papa's gone fishing" gained wide
currency as the answer to the most interesting question of the day.

The Honorable Isaac Pettit, seated majestically with the Fraser County
delegation, tested the acoustics of the hall at the first opportunity.
While the chairman of the state central committee was endeavoring to
present as the temporary chairman of the convention a patriot known as
the "War Eagle of the Wabash," the gentleman from Fraser insisted upon
recognition.

"Who is that preposterous fat man?" demanded Mrs. Owen, plying her
palm-leaf fan vigorously.

"That's Mr. Pettit, from our town," said Mrs. Bassett. "He's an editor
and lecturer."

"He's the man that defeated papa in our primaries," added Marian
cheerfully. "He's awfully funny, everybody says, and I suppose his
defeating papa was a joke. He's going to say something funny now."

"He doesn't need to," said Sylvia, not the least interested of the
spectators. "They are laughing before he begins."

The chairman of the state committee feigned not to hear or see the
delegate from Fraser, but Mr. Pettit continued to importune the chair
amid much laughter and confusion. The chairman had hardened his heart,
but the voice of the gentleman from Fraser alone rose above the tumult,
and in a moment of comparative calm he addressed the chair unrecognized
and unpermitted.

"I beg to call your attention, sir, to the presence in the gallery of
many of the fair daughters of the old Hoosier State. (Applause.) They
hover above us like guardian angels. They have come in the spirit that
brought their sisters of old to watch true knights battle in the
tourney. As a mark of respect to these ladies who do us so much honor, I
ask the chair to request gentlemen to desist from smoking, and that the
sergeant-at-arms be ordered to enforce the rule throughout our
deliberations." (Long-continued applause.)

The state chairman was annoyed and showed his annoyance. He had been
about to ingratiate himself with the ladies by making this request
unprompted; he made it now, but the gentleman from Fraser sat down
conscious that the renewed applause was his.

"Why don't they keep on smoking?" asked Mrs. Owen. "The hall couldn't
be any fuller of smoke than it is now."

"If they would all put on their coats the room would be more beautiful,"
said Marian. "They always say the Republicans are much more gentlemanly
than the Democrats."

"Hush, Marian; some one might hear you," Mrs. Bassett cautioned.

She did not understand her husband's absence; he rarely or never took
her into his confidence in political matters. She had not known until
that morning that he was not to be present at the convention. She did
not relish the idea that he had been defeated in the primaries; in her
mind defeat was inseparable from dishonor. The "War Eagle of the Wabash"
was in excellent voice and he spoke for thirty minutes; his speech would
have aroused greater enthusiasm if it had not been heard in many
previous state conventions and on the hustings through many campaigns.
Dan Voorhees had once expressed his admiration of that speech; and it
was said that Tom Hendricks had revised the original manuscript the year
he was chosen Vice-President. It was a safe speech, containing nothing
that any good American might not applaud; it named practically every
Democratic President except the twenty-second and twenty-fourth, whom it
seemed the better part of valor just then to ignore. With slight
emendations that same oration served admirably for high-school
commencements, and it had a recognized cash value on the Chautauqua
circuit. The peroration, closing with "Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of
State!" was well calculated to bring strong men to their feet. The only
complaint the War Eagle might have lodged against the Ship of State (in
some imaginable admiralty court having jurisdiction of that barnacled
old frigate) would have been for its oft-repeated rejection of his own
piloting.

The permanent chairman now disclosed was a man of business, who thanked
the convention briefly and went to work. By the time the committee on
resolutions had presented the platform (on which Bassett and Harwood had
collaborated) the convention enjoyed its first sensation as Thatcher
appeared, moving slowly down the crowded main aisle to join the
delegation of his county. His friends had planned a demonstration for
his entrance, and in calling it an ovation the newspapers hardly
magnified its apparent spontaneity and volume. The man who had
undertaken the herculean task of driving Morton Bassett out of politics
was entitled to consideration, and his appearance undoubtedly
interrupted the business of the convention for fully five minutes.
Thatcher bowed and waved his hand as he sat down. The cordiality of his
reception both pleased and embarrassed him. He fanned himself with his
hat and feigned indifference to the admiration of his countrymen.

"Papa always gets more applause than that," Marian remarked to Sylvia.
"I was at the state convention two years ago and father came in late,
just as Mr. Thatcher did. They always come in late after all the stupid
speeches have been made; they're surer to stir up a big rumpus that
way."

Sylvia gave serious heed to these transactions of history. Her knowledge
of politics was largely derived from lectures she had heard at college
and from a diligent reading of newspapers. The report of the committee
on resolutions--a succinct document to each of whose paragraphs the
delegates rose in stormy approval--had just been read.

"I don't see how you can listen to such stuff," said Marian during a
lull in the shouting. "It's only the platform and they don't mean a word
of it. There's Colonel Ramsay, of Aurora,--the man with white hair who
has just come on the stage. He had dinner at our house once and he's
perfectly lovely. He's a beautiful speaker, but they won't let him speak
any more because he was a gold bug--whatever that is. They say Colonel
Ramsay has stopped gold-bugging now and wants to be governor. Sylvia,
all these men that don't want to be United States Senator want to be
governor. Isn't it funny? I don't see why silver money isn't just as
good as any other kind, do you?"

"They told me at college," said Sylvia, "but it's rather complicated.
Why didn't your father come to the convention even if he wasn't a
delegate? He could have sat in the gallery; I suppose a lot of those men
down there are not really delegates."

"Oh, that wouldn't be papa's way of doing things. I wish he had come,
just on mama's account; she takes everything so hard. If papa ever did
half the naughty things they say he does he'd be in the penitentiary
good and tight. I should like to marry a public man; if I trusted a man
enough to marry him I shouldn't be jarred a bit by what the newspapers
said of him. I like politics; I don't know what it's all about, but I
think the men are ever so interesting."

"I think so too," said Sylvia; "only I don't understand why they make so
much noise and do so little. That platform they read a little bit ago
seemed splendid. I read a lot of political platforms once in
college--they were part of the course--and that was the best one I ever
heard. It declared for laws against child labor, and I'm interested in
that; and for juvenile courts and a lot of the new enlightened things.
It was all fine."

"Do you think so? It sounded just like a trombone solo to me. Mr.
Harwood was on that committee. Didn't you hear his name read? He's one
of these high brows in politics, and father's going to push him forward
so he can accomplish the noble things that interest him. Father told me
Mr. Harwood would be a delegate to the convention. That's the reason I
wanted to come. I hope he will make a speech; they say he's one of the
best of the younger men. I heard him at the Opera House at Fraserville
in the last campaign and he kept me awake, I can tell you. And funny!
You wouldn't think he could be funny."

"Oh, I can see that he has humor--the lines around his mouth show that."

They had discussed the convention and its possibilities at Mrs. Owen's
breakfast table and with the morning newspapers as their texts. Sylvia
had gained the impression that Bassett had met a serious defeat in the
choice of delegates, and she had been conscious that Mrs. Bassett was
distressed by the newspaper accounts of it. Marian bubbled on
elucidatively, answering all of Sylvia's questions.

"Don't you think that because papa isn't here he won't be heard from; I
think I know papa better than that. He didn't think this convention
would amount to enough for him to trouble with it. I told Aunt Sally not
to talk much before mother about papa and politics; you will notice that
Aunt Sally turned the subject several times this morning. That lawsuit
Mr. Thatcher brought against papa and Aunt Sally made her pretty hot,
but papa will fix that up all right. Papa always fixes up everything,"
she concluded admiringly.

It was in Sylvia's mind that she was witnessing a scene of the national
drama and that these men beneath her in the noisy hall were engaged upon
matters more or less remotely related to the business of
self-government. She had derived at college a fair idea of the questions
of the day, but the parliamentary mechanism and the thunder of the
captains and the shouting gave to politics a new, concrete expression.
These delegates, drawn from all occupations and conditions of life, were
citizens of a republic, endeavoring to put into tangible form their
ideas and preferences; and similar assemblies had, she knew, for years
been meeting in every American commonwealth, enacting just such scenes
as those that were passing under her eyes. Her gravity amused Mrs. Owen.

"Don't you worry, Sylvia; they are all kind to their families and most
of 'em earn an honest living. I've attended lots of conventions of all
parties and they're all about alike: there are more standing collars in
a Republican convention and more whiskers when the Prohibitionists get
together, but they're all mostly corn-fed and human. A few fellows with
brains in their heads run all the rest."

"Look, Marian, Mr. Harwood seems to be getting ready to do something,"
said Sylvia. "I wonder what that paper is he has in his hand. He's been
holding it all morning."

Harwood sat immediately under them. Several times men had passed notes
to him, whereupon he had risen and searched out the writer to give his
answer with a nod or shake of the head. When Thatcher appeared, Dan had
waited for the hubbub to subside and then he left his seat to shake
hands with Bassett's quondam ally. He held meanwhile a bit of notepaper
the size of his hand, and scrutinized it carefully from time to time. It
contained the precise programme of the convention as arranged by
Bassett. Morton Bassett was on a train bound for the pastoral shades of
Waupegan a hundred miles away, but the permanent chairman had in his
vest pocket a copy of Bassett's scheme of exercises; even Thatcher's
rapturous greeting had been ordered by Bassett. There had already been
one slight slip; the eagerness of the delegates to proceed to the
selection of the state ticket had sent matters forward for a moment
beyond the chairman's control. A delegate with a weak voice had gained
recognition for the laudable purpose of suggesting a limitation upon
nominating speeches; the permanent chairman had mistaken him for
another gentleman for whom he was prepared, and he hastened to correct
his blunder. He seized the gavel and began pounding vigorously and the
man with the weak voice never again caught his eye.

In the middle of the hall a delegate now drew attention to himself by
rising upon a chair; he held a piece of paper in his hand and waved it;
and the chairman promptly took cognizance of him. The chairman referred
to him as the gentleman from Pulaski, but he might have been the
gentleman from Vallombrosa for all that any one cared. The convention
was annoyed that a gentleman from Pulaski County should have dared to
flourish manuscript when there were innumerable orators present fully
prepared to speak extempore on any subject. For all that any one knew
the gentleman from Pulaski might be primed with a speech on the chinch
bug or the Jewish kritarchy; a man with a sheet of paper in his hand was
a formidable person, if not indeed a foe of mankind, and he was
certainly not to be countenaced or encouraged in a hot hall on a day of
June. Yet all other human beings save the gentleman from Pulaski were as
nothing, it seemed, to the chairman. The Tallest Delegate, around whose
lean form a frock coat hung like a fold of night, and who flung back
from a white brow an immense quantity of raven hair, sought to relieve
the convention of the sight and sound of the person from Pulaski. The
Tallest Delegate was called smartly to order; he rebelled, but when
threatened with the sergeant-at-arms subsided amid jeers. The gentleman
from Pulaski was indulged to the fullest extent by the chairman, to whom
it had occurred suddenly that the aisles must be cleared. The aisles
were cleared and delegates were obliged to find their seats before the
unknown gentleman from Pulaski was allowed to proceed. Even the War
Eagle had received no such consideration. The gentleman from Pulaski
calmly waited for a completer silence than the day had known. Ten men in
the hall knew what was coming--not more; Miss Rose Farrell had typed ten
copies of the memorandum which Harwood held in his hand!

The gentleman from Pulaski did not after all refer to his manuscript; he
spoke in a high, penetrating voice that reached the farthest corner of
the hall, reciting from memory:--

"Be it resolved by this convention that, whereas two years hence it will
be the privilege and duty of the Indiana Democracy to elect a United
States Senator to fill the seat now occupied by a Republican, we, the
delegates here assembled, do hereby pledge the party's support for the
office of Senator in Congress to the Honorable Edward G. Thatcher, of
Marion County."

There was a moment's awed calm before the storm broke; Thatcher rose in
his seat to look at the strange gentleman from Pulaski who had thus
flung his name into the arena. Thatcher men rose and clamored blindly
for recognition, without the faintest idea of what they should do if
haply the cold eye of the chairman fell upon them. The galleries joined
in the uproar; the band began to play "On the Banks of the Wabash" and
was with difficulty stopped; a few voices cried "Bassett," but cries of
"Thatcher" rose in a mighty roar and drowned them. The chairman hammered
monotonously for order; Mr. Daniel Harwood might have been seen to
thrust his memorandum into his trousers pocket; he bent forward in his
seat with his eye upon the chairman. The Honorable Isaac Pettit had been
for a moment nonplussed; he was unacquainted with the gentleman from
Pulaski, nor had he known that an effort was to be made to commit the
convention to Thatcher's candidacy; still the tone of the resolution was
friendly. Thatcher, rising to his feet, was noisily cheered; his face
was red and his manner betokened anger; but after glancing helplessly
over the hall he sank into his seat. The chairman thumped with his
gavel; it seemed for a moment that he had lost control of the
convention; and now the Honorable Isaac Pettit was observed demanding to
be heard. The chairman lifted his hand and the noise died away. It lay
in his power to ignore the resolution wholly or to rule it out of order;
the chairman was apparently in no haste to do anything.

"Good old Uncle Ike," howled some one encouragingly, and there was
laughter and applause. With superb dignity Mr. Pettit appealed for
silence with gestures that expressed self-depreciation, humility, and
latent power in one who would, in due course, explain everything. A
group of delegates in the rear began chanting stridently, "Order!
Order!" and it was flung back antiphonally from a dozen other
delegations.

Mr. Harwood became active and climbed upon his chair. Gentlemen in every
part of the hall seemed at once anxious to speak, but the chairman was
apparently oblivious of all but the delegate from Marion. The delegate
from Marion, like the mysterious person from Pulaski, was a stranger to
state conventions. The ladies were at once interested in the young
gentleman with the red carnation in his buttonhole--a trim young fellow,
in a blue serge suit, with a blue four-in-hand knotted under a white
winged collar. As he waited with his eye on the chairman he put his hand
to his head and smoothed his hair.

"Is Daniel going to speak?" asked Mrs. Owen. "He ought to have asked me
if he's going to back Edward Thatcher for Senator."

"I always think his cowlick's so funny. He's certainly the cool one,"
said Marian.

"I don't know what they're talking about a Senator for," said Mrs.
Bassett. "It's very unusual. If I'd known they were going to talk about
that I shouldn't have come. There's sure to be a row."

The chairman seemed anxious that the delegate from Marion should be
honored with the same close attention that had been secured for the
stranger from Pulaski.

"I hope he'll wait till they all sit down," said Sylvia; "I want to hear
him speak."

"You'll hear him, all right," said Marian. "You know at Yale they called
him 'Foghorn' Harwood, and they put him in front to lead the cheering at
all the big games."

Apparently something was expected of Mr. Harwood of Marion. Thatcher
had left his seat and was moving toward the corridors to find his
lieutenants. Half a dozen men accosted him as he moved through the
aisle, but he shook them off angrily. An effort to start another
demonstration in his honor was not wholly fruitless. It resulted at
least in a good deal of confusion of which the chair was briefly
tolerant; then he resumed his pounding, while Harwood stood stubbornly
on his chair.

The Tallest Delegate, known to be a recent convert to Thatcher, was
thoroughly aroused, and advanced toward the platform shouting; but the
chairman leveled his gavel at him and bade him sit down. The moment was
critical; the veriest tyro felt the storm-spirit brooding over the hall.

The voice of the chairman was now audible.

"The chair recognizes the delegate from Marion."

"Out of order! What's his name!" howled many voices.

The chairman graciously availed himself of the opportunity to announce
the name of the gentleman he had recognized.

"Mr. Harwood, of Marion, has the floor. The convention will be in order.
The gentleman will proceed."

"Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order."

Dan's voice rose sonorously; the convention was relieved to find that
the gentleman in blue serge could be heard; he was audible even to Mr.
Thatcher's excited counsellors in the corridors.

"The delegate will kindly state his point of order."

The chairman was quietly courteous. His right hand rested on his gavel,
he thrust his left into the side pocket of his long alpaca coat. He was
an old and tried hand in the chair, and his own deep absorption in the
remarks of Mr. Harwood communicated itself to the delegates.

Dan uttered rapidly the speech he had committed to memory for this
occasion a week earlier. Every sentence had been carefully pondered;
both Bassett and Atwill had blue penciled it until it expressed
concisely and pointedly exactly what Bassett wished to be said at this
point in the convention's proceedings. Interruptions, of applause or
derision, were to be reckoned with; but the speaker did not once drop
his voice or pause long enough for any one to drive in a wedge of
protest. He might have been swamped by an uprising of the whole
convention, but strange to say the convention was intent upon hearing
him. Once the horde of candidates and distinguished visitors on the
platform had been won to attention, Harwood turned slowly until he faced
the greater crowd behind him. Several times he lifted his right hand and
struck out with it, shaking his head with the vigor of his utterance.
("His voice," said the "Advertiser's" report, "rumbles and bangs like a
bowling-alley on Saturday night. There was a big bump every time a
sentence rumbled down the hall and struck the rear wall of the
building.")

"Sir, I make the obvious point of order that there are no vacancies to
fill in the office of United States Senator, and that it does not lie
within the province of the delegates chosen to this convention to pledge
the party to any man. I do not question the motive of the delegate from
Pulaski County, who is my personal friend; and I am animated by no
feelings of animosity in demanding that the convention proceed to the
discharge of its obligations without touching upon matters clearly
beyond its powers. I confidently hope and sincerely believe that our
party in Indiana is soon to receive a new commission of trust and
confidence from the people of the old Hoosier State. But our immediate
business is the choice of a ticket behind which the Hoosier Democracy
will move on to victory in November like an army with banners. (Cheers.)
There have been intimations in the camp of our enemy that the party is
threatened with schism and menaced by factional wars; but I declare my
conviction that the party is more harmonious and more truly devoted to
high ideals to-day than at any time since the grand old name of Democrat
became potent upon Hoosier soil. And what have we to do with leaders?
Men come and men go, but principles alone are eternal and live forever.
The great task of our party must be to bring the government back to the
people. (Scattering applause.) But the choice of an invulnerable state
ticket at this convention is our business and our only business. As for
Indiana's two seats in the national Senate which we shall soon wrest
from our adversaries, in due season we shall fill them with tried men
and true. Sir, let us remember that whosoever maketh himself a king
speaketh against Caesar. Stop, Look, Listen!"

Hardly a man in the hall so dull that this did not penetrate! Dan had
given to his last words a weird, mournful intonation whose effect was
startling. He jumped lightly to the floor and was in his seat before the
deep boom of his voice had ceased reverberating. Then instantly it
seemed that the seventeen hundred delegates had been multiplied by ten,
and that every man had become a raving lunatic. This was Bassett's
defiance--Bassett, who had gone fishing, but not before planting this
mine for the confusion of Thatcher. A hundred men who had already
committed themselves to Thatcher sought to rescue their new leader; they
rose upon chairs and demanded to be heard. "Stop, Look, Listen" had
suggested the idea of a locomotive bearing down upon a dangerous
crossing, and Bassett's men began to whistle. The whistling increased in
volume until it drowned the shouts, the cheers, and the laughter. Ladies
in the galleries stopped their ears while the whistling convention
earned its name. It now occurred to the chairman, who had wasted no
energy in futile efforts to stay the storm, that he had a duty to
perform. Even to his practiced hand the restoration of order was not
easy; but by dint of much bawling and pounding he subdued the uproar.
Then after impressive deliberation he said:--

"A point of order has been raised against the resolution offered by the
gentleman from Pulaski. It is the ruling of the chair that the point is
well taken. The resolution is out of order."

This was greeted with great applause; but the chair checked it promptly.
The ten gentlemen who had copies of the Bassett programme in their
pockets were not surprised by the decision. Thatcher stood at a side
door and two of his men were pushing their way through the aisles to
reach Pettit; for the Honorable Isaac Pettit was on his feet demanding
recognition while Thatcher's delegates shouted to him to sit down;
humiliation must go no farther, and if the Fraser County editor did not
realize that his new chief was the victim of a vile trick, the gentleman
from Fraser must be throttled, if necessary, to prevent a further
affront to Thatcher's dignity. Thatcher was purple with rage; it was
enough to have been made the plaything of an unscrupulous enemy once,
without having one's ambitions repeatedly kicked up and down a
convention hall.

The chairman, fully rehearsed in his part, showed a malevolent
disposition to continue toward the friends of Thatcher an attitude at
once benevolent and just. So many were demanding recognition amid
cat-calling and whistling that the fairest and least partial of
presiding officers might well have hesitated before singling out one
gentleman when so many were eagerly, even furiously, desirous of
enlightening the convention. But the presiding officer was obeying the
orders communicated to him by a gentleman who was even at this moment
skimming across the cool waters of Lake Waupegan. It would more fully
have satisfied the chairman's sense of humor to have recognized the
Honorable Isaac Pettit and have suffered an appeal from the ruling of
the chair, which presumably the editor wished to demand. By this means
the weakness of Thatcher might have expressed itself in figures that
would have deepened Thatcher's abasement in the eyes of his fellow
partisans; but this idea had been discussed with Bassett, who had
sharply vetoed it, and the chairman was not a man lightly to disobey
orders even to make a Hoosier holiday. He failed to see the editor of
the "Fraser County Democrat" and peremptorily closed the incident. There
was no mistaking his temper as he announced:--

"The chair announces that the next business in order is the call of the
roll of counties for nominations for the office of secretary of state.
What is the pleasure of the convention?"

Colonel Ramsay had repaired to the gallery to enjoy the proceedings with
Mrs. Bassett's party. In spite of his support of the Palmer and Buckner
ticket (how long ago that seems!), the Colonel had never lost touch with
the main body of his party, and he carried several Indiana counties in
his pocket. His relations with Bassett had never been in the least
intimate, though always outwardly cordial, and there were those who
looked to him to eliminate the Fraser County chief from politics. He was
quite as rich as Bassett, and a successful lawyer, who had become a
colonel by grace of a staff appointment in the Spanish War. He had a
weakness for the poets, and his speeches were informed with that grace
and sentiment which, we are fond of saying, is peculiar to Southern
oratory. The Colonel, at all fitting occasions in our commonwealth,
responded to "the ladies" in tender and moving phrases. He was a
bachelor, and the ladies in the gallery saw in him their true champion.

"Please tell _us_--we don't understand a bit of it," pleaded
Marian--"what it's all about, Colonel Ramsay."

"Oh, it's just a little joke of your father's; nothing funnier ever
happened in a state convention." Colonel Ramsay grinned. "The key to the
situation is right there: that Pulaski County delegate offered his
resolution just to make trouble; it was a fake resolution. Of course the
chairman is in the joke. This young fellow down here--yes, Harwood--made
his speech to add to the gayety of nations. He had no right to make it,
of course, but the word had been passed along the line to let him go
through. Amazing vocal powers, that boy,--you couldn't have stopped
him!"

Sylvia was aware that Colonel Ramsay's explanation had not pleased Mrs.
Bassett; but Mrs. Owen evinced no feeling. Marian was enjoying Colonel
Ramsay's praise of her father's adroitness. Near Sylvia were other women
who had much at stake in the result of the convention. The wife of a
candidate for secretary of state had invited herself to a seat beside
Mrs. Bassett; the wife of a Congressman who wished to be governor, sat
near, publishing to the world her intimate acquaintance with Morton
Bassett's family. The appearance and conduct of these women during the
day interested Sylvia almost as much as the incidents occurring on the
floor; it was a new idea that politics had a bearing upon the domestic
life of the men who engaged in the eternal contest for place and power.
The convention as a spectacle was immensely diverting, but she had her
misgivings about it as a transaction in history. Colonel Ramsay asked
her politics and she confessed that she had none. She had inherited
Republican prejudices from her grandfather, and most of the girls she
had known in college were of Republican antecedents; but she liked to
call herself an independent.

"You'd better not be a Democrat, Sylvia," Mrs. Owen warned her. "I
suffered a good deal in my husband's lifetime from being one. There are
still people in this town who think a Democrat's the same as a Rebel or
a Copperhead. It ain't hardly respectable yet, being a Democrat, and if
they don't all of 'em shut up about the 'fathers' and the Constitution,
I'm going to move to Mexico where it's all run by niggers."

Sylvia had singled out several figures in the drama enacting below for
special attention. The chairman had interested her by reason of his
attitude of scrupulous fairness, in which she now saw the transparent
irony; the banalities of the temporary chairman had touched her humor;
she watched him for the rest of the morning with a kind of awe that any
one could he so dull, so timorous, and yet be chosen to address nearly
two thousand American citizens on an occasion of importance. She was
unable to reconcile Thatcher's bald head, ruddy neck, and heavy
shoulders with Marian's description of the rich man's son, who dreamed
of heroes and played at carpentry. Dan's speech had not been without its
thrill for her, and she now realized its significance. It had been a
part of a trick, and in spite of herself she could not share the
admiration Colonel Ramsay was expressing for Harwood's share in it. He
was immeasurably superior to the majority of those about him in the
crowded hall; he was a man of education, a college man, and she had just
experienced in her own life that consecration, as by an apostolic
laying-on of hands, by which a college confers its honors and imposes
its obligations upon those who have enjoyed its ministry. Yet Harwood,
who had not struck her as weak or frivolous, had lent himself to-day to
a bit of cheap claptrap merely to humble one man for the glorification
of another. Bassett she had sincerely liked in their one meeting at
Waupegan; and yet this was of his plotting and Harwood was his
mouthpiece and tool. It did not seem fair to take advantage of such
supreme stupidity as Thatcher's supporters had manifested. Her
disappointment in Harwood--and it was quite that--was part of her
general disappointment in the methods by which men transacted the
serious business of governing themselves.

Harwood was conscious that he was one of the chief figures in the
convention; every one knew him now; he was called here and there on the
floor, by men anxious to impress themselves upon Bassett's authorized
spokesman. It is a fine thing at twenty-seven to find the doors of
opportunity flung wide--and had he not crossed the threshold and passed
within the portal? He was Bassett's man; every one knew that now; but
why should he not be Bassett's man? He would go higher and farther than
Bassett: Bassett had merely supplied the ladder on which he would climb.
He was happier than he had ever been before in his life; he had
experienced the intoxication of applause, and he was not averse to the
glances of the women in the gallery above him.

The nomination of candidates now went forward rather tamely, though
relieved by occasional sharp contests. The ten gentlemen who had been
favored with copies of the Bassett programme were not surprised that so
many of Thatcher's friends were nominated; they themselves voted for
most of them. It seemed remarkable to the uninitiated that Bassett
should have slapped Thatcher and then have allowed him to score in the
choice of the ticket. The "Advertiser," anxious to show Bassett as
strong and malignant as possible, expressed the opinion that the
Fraserville boss had not after all appreciated the full force of the
Thatcher movement.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the veranda of his Waupegan cottage Bassett and Fitch enjoyed the
wholesome airs of the country. Late in the afternoon the fussy little
steamer that traversed the lake paused at the Bassett dock to deliver a
telegram, which Bassett read without emotion. He passed the yellow slip
of paper to Fitch, who read it and handed it back.

"Harwood's a clever fellow; but you oughtn't to push him into politics.
He's better than that."

"I suppose he is," said Bassett; "but I need him."



CHAPTER XX

INTERVIEWS IN TWO KEYS


Mrs. Bassett remained in bed the day following the convention, less
exhausted by the scenes she had witnessed than appalled by their
interpretation in the newspapers. The reappearance of Sylvia Garrison
had revived the apprehensions which the girl's visit to Waupegan four
years earlier had awakened. She had hoped that Sylvia's long absences
might have operated to diminish Mrs. Owen's interest and she had managed
in one way and another to keep them apart during the college holidays,
but the death of Professor Kelton had evidently thrown Sylvia back upon
Mrs. Owen. Jealous fears danced blackly in Mrs. Bassett's tired brain.

At a season when she was always busiest with her farms Mrs. Owen had
made a long journey to see Sylvia graduated; and here was the girl
established on the most intimate terms in the Delaware Street house, no
doubt for the remainder of her life. Mrs. Owen did not lightly or often
change her plans; but she had abandoned her project of spending the
summer at the lake to accommodate herself to the convenience of her
protégée. Mrs. Bassett's ill-health was by no means a matter of
illusion; she was not well and her sojourns in sanatoriums had served
to alienate her in a measure from her family. Marian had grown to
womanhood without realizing her mother's ideals. She had hoped to make a
very different person of her daughter, and Sylvia's reappearance
intensified her sense of defeat. Even in the retrospect she saw no
reason why Marian might not have pursued the course that Sylvia had
followed; in her confused annoyances and agitations she was bitter not
only against Marian but against Marian's father. The time had come when
she must take a stand against his further dallyings in politics.

Her day at the convention hall had yielded only the most disagreeable
impressions. Such incidents as had not eluded her own understanding on
the spot had been freely rendered by the newspapers. It was all sordid
and gross--not at all in keeping with her first experience of politics,
gained in her girlhood, when her father had stood high in the councils
of the nation, winning coveted positions without the support of such
allies as she had seen cheering her husband's triumph on the floor of
the convention. There had strayed into her hands an envelope of
newspaper clippings from an agency that wished to supply her, as, its
circular announced, it supplied the wives of many other prominent
Americans, with newspaper comments on their husbands. As a bait for
securing a client these examples of what the American press was saying
of Morton Bassett were decidedly ill-chosen. The "Stop, Look, Listen"
editorial had suggested to many influential journals a re-indictment of
bossism with the Bassett-Thatcher imbroglio as text. It was
disenchanting to find one's husband enrolled in a list of political
reprobates whose activities in so many states were a menace to public
safety. Her father had served with distinction and honor this same
commonwealth that her husband was debasing; he had been a statesman, not
a politician, not a boss. Blackford Singleton had belonged to the
coterie that included such men as Hoar and Evarts, Thurman and Bayard;
neither her imagination nor her affection could bridge the chasm that
separated men of their type from her husband, who, in middle life, was
content with a seat in the state legislature and busied himself with
wars upon petty rivals. Such reflections as these did not contribute to
her peace of mind.

She was alone in her room at Mrs. Owen's when Bassett appeared, late in
the afternoon. Mrs. Owen was downtown on business matters; Marian, after
exhausting all her devices for making her mother comfortable, had flown
in search of acquaintances; and Sylvia had that day taken up her work in
the normal school. Left to herself for the greater part of the warm
afternoon, Mrs. Bassett had indulged luxuriously in forebodings. She had
not expected her husband, and his unannounced entrance startled her.

"Well," she remarked drearily, "so you have come back to face it, have
you?"

"I'm undoubtedly back, Hallie," he answered, with an effort at
lightness, crossing to the bedside and taking her hand.

He had rarely discussed his political plans with her, but he realized
that the rupture with Thatcher must naturally have distressed her; and
there was also Thatcher's lawsuit involving her aunt, which had
disagreeable possibilities.

"I'm sorry your name got into the papers, Hallie. I didn't want you to
go to the convention, but of course I knew you went to please Marian.
Where is Marian?"

"Oh, she's off somewhere. I couldn't expect her to stay here in this hot
room all day."

The room was not uncomfortable; but it seemed wiser not to debate
questions of temperature. He found a chair and sat down beside her.

"You mustn't worry about the newspapers, Hallie; they always make the
worst of everything. The temptation to distort facts to make a good
story is strong; I have seen it in my connection with the 'Courier.'
It's lamentable, but you can't correct it in a day. I'm pretty well
hardened to it myself, but I'm sorry you have let these attacks on me
annoy you. The only thing to do is to ignore them. What's that you have
there?"

She still clasped the envelope of clippings and thrust it at him
accusingly. The calmness of his inspection irritated her and she broke
out sharply:--

"I shouldn't think a man with a wife and family would lay himself open
to such attacks in all the newspapers in the country. Those papers call
you another such political boss as Quay and Gorman. There's nothing they
don't say about you."

"Well, Hallie, they've been saying it for some time; they will go on
saying it probably not only about me but about every other man who won't
be dictated to by impractical reformers and pharisaical newspapers. But
I must confess that this is rather hard luck!" He held up two of the
cuttings. "I've undertaken to do just what papers like the New York
'Evening Post' and the Springfield 'Republican' are forever begging
somebody with courage to do--I've been trying to drive a rascal out of
politics. I'm glad of this chance to talk to you about Thatcher. He and
I were friends for years, as you know."

"I never understood how you could tolerate that man; he's so coarse and
vulgar that his wife stays abroad to keep her daughters away from him."

"Well, that's not my affair. I have had all I want of him. There's
nothing mysterious about my breaking with him; he got it into his head
that he's a bigger man in this state than I am. I have known for several
years that he intended to get rid of me as soon as he felt he could do
it safely, and be ready to capture the senatorship when he saw that our
party was in shape to win again. I've always distrusted him, and I've
always kept an eye on him. When he came into Fraser County and stooped
low enough to buy old Ike Pettit, I thought it time to strike. You read
a lot about courage in politics in such newspapers as these that have
been philosophizing about me at long range. Well, I'm not going to brag
about myself, but it required some courage on my part to take the
initiative and read the riot act to Thatcher. I've done what men are
sometimes praised for doing; but I don't want praise; I only want to be
judged fairly. I've always avoided bringing business or politics home;
I've always had an idea that when a man goes home he ought to close the
door on everything but the interests the home has for him. I may have
been wrong about that; and I'm very sorry that you have been
troubled--sincerely sorry. But you may as well know the truth now, which
is that Thatcher is out of it altogether. You know enough of him to
understand that he's not a man to trust with power, and I've done the
state and my party a service in turning him out of doors."

He had spoken quietly and earnestly, and his words had not been without
their effect. He had never been harsh with her or the children; his
manner to-day was kind and considerate. He had to an extent measurably
rehabilitated himself as a heroic public character, a man of honor and a
husband to be proud of; but she had not spent a sleepless night and a
gray day without fortifying herself against him. All day her eyes had
been fixed upon an abandoned squirrel box in the crotch of an elm
outside her window; it had become the repository of her thoughts, the
habitation of her sorrows. She turned her head slightly so that her eyes
might rest upon this tabernacle of fear and illusion, and renewed the
assault refreshed.

"How is it, then, that newspapers away off in New York and Massachusetts
speak of you in this outrageous fashion? They're so far away that it
seems strange they speak of you at all."

He laughed with relief, feeling that the question marked a retreat
toward weaker fortifications.

"You're not very complimentary, are you, Hallie? They must think me of
some importance or they'd let me alone. I wouldn't subscribe to that
clipping bureau if you fear we're too much in the limelight. I've been
taking the service of one of these bureaus for several years, and I read
every line the papers print about me. It's part of the regular routine
in my office to paste them in scrapbooks."

"I shouldn't think you could burn them fast enough; what if the children
should see them some day!"

"Well, you may be surprised to know that they're not all so bitter. Once
in a long while I get a kind word. That bill I got through the assembly
separating hardened criminals from those susceptible of reform--the
indeterminate sentence law--was praised by penologists all over the
country. It's all in the day's work; sometimes you're patted on the back
and the next time they kick you down stairs. Without political influence
you have no chance to help the good causes or defeat the bad schemes."

"Yes, I suppose that is true," she murmured weakly.

He had successfully met and turned her attack and the worst had passed;
but he expected her to make some reference to Thatcher's lawsuit for the
control of the "Courier" and he was not disappointed. Marian, who had a
genius for collecting disagreeable information and a dramatic instinct
for using it effectively, had apprised her of it. This hazarding of Mrs.
Owen's favor became now the gravamen of his offense, the culmination of
all his offenses. She demanded to know why he had secretly borrowed
money of her aunt, when from the time of their marriage it had been
understood that they should never do so. Her own fortune he had been
free to use as he liked; she demanded to know why he had not taken her
own money; but to ask financial favors of Aunt Sally, and this, too,
without consultation, was beyond her comprehension. She was on secure
ground here; he had always shared her feeling that Mrs. Owen required
cautious handling, but he had nevertheless violated their compact. She
rushed breathlessly and with sobs through her recital.

"And you haven't seen Aunt Sally since; you have made no effort to make
it right with her!"

"As to that, Hallie, I haven't had a chance to see her; she's only been
home two days and I've been away myself since. Now that I'm in her house
I shall explain it all to her before I leave."

"But you haven't explained to me why you did it! It seems to me that I
have a right to know how you came to do such a thing."

"Well, then, the fact is that newspapers these days are not cheap and
the 'Courier' cost a lot of money. I've been pretty well tied up in
telephone and other investments of late; and I have never taken
advantage of my ownership of the Bassett Bank to use its money except
within my reasonable credit as it would be estimated by any one else.
Your own funds I have kept invested conservatively in gilt-edged
securities wholly removed from speculative influences. I knew that if I
didn't get the newspaper Thatcher would, so I made every possible turn
to go in with him. I was fifty thousand dollars shy of what I needed to
pay for my half, and after I had raked up all the money I could safely,
I asked Aunt Sally if she would lend me that sum with all my stock as
security."

"Fifty thousand dollars, Morton! You borrowed that much money of her!"

Her satisfaction in learning that Mrs. Owen commanded so large a sum was
crushed beneath his stupendous error in having gone to her for money at
all.

"Oh, she didn't lend it to me, after all, Hallie; she refused to do so;
but she allowed me to buy enough shares for her to make up my quota.
Thatcher and I bought at eighty cents on the dollar and she paid the
same. She has her shares and it's a good investment, and she knows it.
If she hadn't insisted on having the shares in her own name, Thatcher
would never have known it."

He turned uneasily in his chair, and she was keenly alert at this sign
of discomfiture, and not above taking advantage of it.

"So without her you are at Thatcher's mercy, are you? I haven't spoken
to her about this and she hasn't said anything to me; but Marian with
her usual heedlessness mentioned it, and it was clear that Aunt Sally
was very angry."

"What did she say?" asked Bassett anxiously.

"She didn't say anything, but she shut her jaw tight and changed the
subject. It was what she didn't say! You'd better think well before you
broach the subject to her."

"I've been thinking about it. If I take her stock at par she ought to be
satisfied. I'll pay more if it's necessary. And of course I'll make
every effort to restore good feeling. I think I understand her. I'll
take care of this, but you must stay out of it, and tell Marian to keep
quiet.

"Well, Aunt Sally and Thatcher are friends. He rather amuses her, with
his horse-racing, and drinking and gambling. That kind of thing doesn't
seem so bad to her. She's so used to dealing with men that she makes
allowances for them."

"Then," he said quickly, with a smile, eager to escape through any
loophole, "maybe she will make some allowances for me! For the purpose
of allaying her anger we'll assume that I'm as wicked as Thatcher."

"Well," she answered, gathering her strength for a final assault, "it
doesn't look as simple as that to me. Your first mistake was in getting
her into any of your businesses and the second was in making it possible
for Thatcher to annoy her by all this ugly publicity of a lawsuit. And
what do you think has happened on top of all this--_that girl is
here_--here under this very roof!"

"That girl--what girl?"

His opacity incensed her; she had been brooding over her aunt's renewed
interest in Sylvia Garrison all day and his dull ignorance was the last
straw upon nerves screwed to the breaking-point. She sat up in bed and
drew her dressing-gown about her as though it were the vesture of
despair.

"That Garrison girl! She's not only back here, but from all appearances
she's going to stay! Aunt Sally's infatuated with her. When the girl's
grandfather died, Aunt Sally did everything for her--went over to
Montgomery to take charge of the funeral, and then went back to
Wellesley to see the girl graduate. And now she's giving up her plan of
going to Waupegan for the summer to stay here in all the heat with a
girl who hasn't the slightest claim on her. When the Keltons visited
Waupegan four years ago I saw this coming. I wanted Marian to go to
college and tried to get you interested in the plan because that was
what first caught Aunt Sally's fancy--Sylvia's cleverness, and this
college idea. But you wouldn't do anything about Marian, and now she's
thrown away her chances, and here's this stranger graduating with honors
and Aunt Sally going down there to see it! Aunt Sally's going to make a
companion of her, and you can't tell what will happen! I'd like to know
what you can say to your children when all Aunt Sally's money, that
should rightly go to them, goes to a girl she's picked up out of
nowhere. This is what your politics has got us into, Morton Bassett!"

The soberness to which this brought him at last satisfied her. She had
freely expressed the anxiety caused by Sylvia's first appearance on the
domestic horizon, but for a year or two, in his wife's absences in
pursuit of health, he had heard little of her apprehensions. Marian's
own disinclination for a college career had, from the beginning, seemed
to him to interpose an insurmountable barrier to parental guidance in
that direction. His wife's attitude in these new circumstances of the
return of her aunt's protégée struck him as wholly unjustified and
unreasonable.

"You're not quite yourself when you talk that way, Hallie. Professor
Kelton was one of Aunt Sally's oldest friends; old people have a habit
of going back to the friends of their youth; there's nothing strange in
it. And this being true, nothing could have been more natural than for
Aunt Sally to help the girl in her trouble, even to the extent of seeing
her graduated. It was just like Aunt Sally," he continued, warming to
his subject, "who's one of the stanchest friends anybody could have.
Aunt Sally's devoted to you and your children; it's ungenerous to her to
assume that a young woman she hardly knows is supplanting you or Marian.
This newspaper notoriety I'm getting has troubled you and I'm sorry for
it; but I can't let you entertain this delusion that your aunt's
kindness to the granddaughter of one of her old friends means that Aunt
Sally has ceased to care for you, or lost her regard for Marian and
Blackford. If you think of it seriously for a moment you'll see how
foolish it is to harbor any jealousy of Miss Garrison. Come! Cheer up
and forget it. If Aunt Sally got an inkling of this you may be sure that
_would_ displease her. You say the girl is here in the house?"

"She's not only here, but she's here to stay! She's going to intrench
herself here!"

She sent him to the chiffonier to find a fresh handkerchief. He watched
her helplessly for a moment as she dried her eyes. Then he took her
hands and bent over her.

"Won't you try to see things a little brighter? It's all just because
you got too tired yesterday. You oughtn't to have gone to the
convention; and I didn't know you were going or I should have forbidden
it."

"Well, Marian wanted to go; and we were coming to town anyhow. And
besides, Aunt Sally had taken it into her head to go, too. She wanted
this Garrison girl to see a political convention; I suppose that was the
real reason."

He laughed, gazing down into her tearful face, in which resentment
lingered waveringly, as in the faces of children persuaded against their
will and parting reluctantly with the solace of tears.

"You must get up for dinner, Hallie. Your doctors have always insisted
that you needed variety and change; and to-morrow we'll take you up to
the lake out of this heat. We have a good deal to be grateful for, after
all, Hallie. You haven't any right to feel disappointed in Marian: she's
the nicest girl in the state, and the prettiest girl you'll find
anywhere. We ought to be glad she's so high-spirited and handsome and
clever. College never was for her; she certainly was never for college!
I talked that over with Miss Waring a number of times. And I don't
believe Aunt Sally thinks less of Marian because she isn't a better
scholar. Only a small per cent of women go to college, and I'm not sure
it's a good thing. I'm even a little doubtful about sending Blackford to
college; this education business is overdone, and the sooner a boy gets
into harness the better."

Her deep sigh implied that he might do as he liked with his son, now
that she had so completely failed with her daughter.

"Aunt Sally is very much interested in Mr. Harwood. She has put Sylvia's
affairs in his hands. Could it be possible--"

He groped for her unexpressed meaning, and seeing that he had not
grasped it she clarified it to his masculine intelligence.

"If there are two persons she is interested in, and they understand each
other, it's all so much more formidable." And then, seeing that this
also was too subtle, she put it flatly: "What if Harwood should marry
Sylvia!"

"Well, that _is_ borrowing trouble!" he cried impatiently. "Aunt Sally
is interested in a great many young people. She is very fond of Allen
Thatcher. And Allen seems to find Marian's society agreeable, more so, I
fancy, than Harwood does;--why not speculate along that line? It's as
plausible as the other."

"Oh, that boy! That's something we must guard against, Morton; that is
quite impossible."

"I dare say it is," he replied. "But not more unlikely than that Harwood
will marry this Sylvia who worries you so unnecessarily."

"Marian is going to marry somebody, some day, and that's on my mind a
great deal. You have got to give more thought to family matters. It's
right for Marian to marry, and I think a girl of her tastes should
settle early, but we must guard her from mistakes. I've had that on my
conscience several years."

"Of course, Hallie; and I've not been unmindful of it."

"And if Aunt Sally is interested in young Harwood and you think well of
him yourself--but of course I don't favor him for Marian. I should like
Marian to marry into a family of some standing."

"Well, we'll see to it that she does; we want our daughter to be
happy--we must do the best we can for our children," he concluded
largely.

She promised to appear at the dinner table, and he went down with some
idea of seeing Mrs. Owen at once, to assure her of his honorable
intentions toward her in the "Courier" matter; he wanted to relieve his
own fears as well as his wife's as to the mischief that had been wrought
by Thatcher's suit.

In the hall below he met Sylvia, just back from her first day at the
normal school. The maid had admitted her, and she was slipping her
parasol into the rack as he came downstairs. She heard his step and
turned toward him, a slender, dark young woman in black. In the dim hall
she did not at once recognize him, and he spoke first.

"Good-afternoon, Miss Garrison! I am Mr. Bassett; I believe I introduced
myself to you at Waupegan--and that seems a long time ago."

"I remember very well, Mr. Bassett," Sylvia replied, and they shook
hands. "You found me in my dream corner by the lake and walked to Mrs.
Owen's with me. I remember our meeting perfectly."

He stood with his hand on the newel regarding her intently. She was
entirely at ease, a young woman without awkwardness or embarrassment.
She had disposed of their previous meeting lightly, as though such
fortuitous incidents had not been lacking in her life. Her mourning hat
cast a shadow upon her face, but he had been conscious of the
friendliness of her smile. Her dark eyes had inspected him swiftly; he
was vaguely aware of a feeling that he wanted to impress her favorably.

"The maid said Mrs. Owen and Marian are still out. I hope Mrs. Bassett
is better. I wonder if I can do anything for her."

"No, thank you; she's quite comfortable and will be down for dinner."

"I'm glad to hear that; suppose we find seats here."

She walked before him into the parlor and threw back the curtains the
better to admit the air. He watched her attentively, noting the ease and
grace of her movements, and took the chair she indicated.

"It's very nice to see Mrs. Bassett and Marian again; they were so good
to me that summer at Waupegan; I have carried the pleasantest memories
of that visit ever since. It seems a long time ago and it is nearly four
years, isn't it."

"Four this summer, I think. I remember, because I had been to Colorado,
and that whole year was pretty full for me. But all these years have
been busy ones for you, too, I hear. Your grandfather's death must have
been a great shock to you. I knew him only by reputation, but it was a
reputation to be proud of."

"Yes; Grandfather Kelton had been everything to me."

"It was too bad he couldn't have lived to see you through college; he
must have taken a great interest in your work there, through his own
training and scholarship."

"It was what he wanted me to do, and I wish he could have known how I
value it. He was the best of men, the kindest and noblest; and he was a
wonderful scholar. He had the habit of thoroughness."

"That, I suppose, was partly due to the discipline of the Navy. I fancy
that a man trained in habits of exactness gets into the way of keeping
his mind ship-shape--no loose ends around anywhere."

She smiled at this, and regarded him with rather more attention, as
though his remark had given her a new impression of him which her eyes
wished to verify.

"They tell me you expect to teach in the city schools; that has always
seemed to me the hardest kind of work. I should think you would prefer a
college position;--there would be less drudgery, and better social
opportunities."

"Every one warns me that it's hard work, but I don't believe it can be
so terrible. Somebody has to do it. Of course college positions are more
dignified and likely to be better paid."

He started to speak and hesitated.

"Well," she laughed. "You were going to add your warning, weren't you!
I'm used to them."

"No; nothing of the sort; I was going to take the liberty of saying that
if you cared to have me I should be glad to see whether our state
university might not have something for you. I have friends and
acquaintances who could help there."

"Oh, you are very kind! It is very good of you to offer to do that;
but--"

A slight embarrassment was manifest in the quick opening and closing of
her eyes, a slight turning of the head, but she smiled pleasantly,
happily. He liked her way of smiling, and smiled himself. He found it
agreeable to be talking to this young woman with the fine, candid eyes,
whose manner was so assured--without assurance! She smoothed the black
gloves in her lap quietly; they were capable hands; her whole appearance
and manner somehow betokened competence.

"The fact is, Mr. Bassett, that I have declined one or two college
positions. My own college offered to take me in; and I believe there
were one or two other chances. But it is kind of you to offer to help
me."

She had minimized the importance of the offers she had declined so that
he might not feel the meagreness of his proffered help; and he liked her
way of doing it; but it was incredible that a young woman should decline
an advantageous and promising position to accept a minor one. In the
world he knew there were many hands on all the rounds of all the
available ladders.

"Of course," he hastened to say, "I knew you were efficient; that's why
I thought the public schools were not quite--not quite--worthy of your
talents!"

Some explanation seemed necessary, and Sylvia hesitated for a moment.

"Do I really have to be serious, Mr. Bassett? So many people--the girls
at college and some of my instructors and Mrs. Owen even--have assured
me that I am not quite right in my mind; but I will make short work of
my reasons. Please believe that I really don't mean to take myself too
seriously. I want to teach in the public schools merely to continue my
education; there are things to learn there that I want to know. So, you
see, after all, it's neither important nor interesting; it's only--only
my woman's insatiable curiosity!"

He smiled, but he frowned too; it annoyed him not to comprehend her.
School-teaching could only be a matter of necessity; her plea of
curiosity must cover something deeper that she withheld.

"I know," she continued, "if I may say it, ever so much from books; but
I have only the faintest notions of life. Now, isn't that terribly
muggy? People--and their conditions and circumstances--can only be
learned by going to the original sources."

This was not illuminative. She had only added to his befuddlement and he
bent forward, soliciting some more lucid statement of her position.

"I had hoped to go ahead and never have to explain, for I fear that in
explaining I seem to be appraising myself too high; but you won't
believe that of me, will you? If I took one of these college positions
and proved efficient, and had good luck, I should keep on knowing all
the rest of my life about the same sort of people, for the girls who go
to college are from the more fortunate classes. There are exceptions,
but they are drawn largely from homes that have some cultivation, some
sort of background. The experiences of teachers in such institutions are
likely to cramp. It's all right later on, but at first, it seems to me
better to experiment in the wider circle. Now--" and she broke off with
a light laugh, eager that he should understand.

"It's not, then, your own advantage you consult; the self-denial appeals
to you; it's rather like--like a nun's vocation. You think the service
is higher!"

"Oh, it would be if I could render service! Please don't think I feel
that the world is waiting for me to set it right; I don't believe it's
so wrong! All I mean to say is that I don't understand a lot of things,
and that the knowledge I lack isn't something we can dig out of a
library, but that we must go to life for it. There's a good deal to
learn in a city like this that's still in the making. I might have gone
to New York, but there are too many elements there; it's all too big for
me. Here you can see nearly as many kinds of people, and you can get
closer to them. You can see how they earn their living, and you can even
follow them to church on Sunday and see what they get out of that!"

"I'm afraid," he replied, after deliberating a moment, "that you are
going to make yourself uncomfortable; you are cutting out a programme of
unhappiness."

"Why shouldn't I make myself uncomfortable for a little while? I have
never known anything but comfort."

"But that's your blessing; no matter how much you want to do it you
can't remove all the unhappiness in the world--not even by dividing with
the less fortunate. I've never been able to follow that philosophy."

"Maybe," she said, "you have never tried it!" She was seeking neither to
convince him nor to accomplish his discomfiture and to this end was
maintaining her share of the dialogue to the accompaniment of a smile of
amity.

"Maybe I never have," he replied slowly. "I didn't have your advantage
of seeing a place to begin."

"But you have the advantage of every one; you have the thing that I can
never hope to have, that I don't ask for: you have the power in your
hands to do everything!"

His quick, direct glance expressed curiosity as to whether she were
appealing to his vanity or implying a sincere belief in his power.

"Power is too large a word to apply to me, Miss Garrison. I have had a
good deal of experience in politics, and in politics you can't do all
you like."

"I didn't question that: men of the finest intentions seem to fail, and
they will probably go on failing. I know that from books; you know it of
course from actual dealings with the men who find their way to
responsible places, and who very often fail to accomplish the things we
expect of them."

"The aims of most of the reformers are futile from the beginning.
Legislatures can pass laws; they pass far too many; but they can't make
ideal conditions out of those laws. I've seen it tried."

"Yesterday, when you were able to make that convention do exactly what
you wanted it to, without even being there to watch it, it must have
been because of some ideal you were working for. You thought you were
serving some good purpose; it wasn't just spite or to show your power.
It couldn't have been that!"

"I did it," he said doggedly, as though to destroy with a single blunt
thrust her tower of illusions--"I did it to smash a man named Thatcher.
There wasn't any ideal nonsense about it."

He frowned, surprised and displeased that he had spoken so roughly. He
rarely let go of himself in that fashion. He expected her to take
advantage of his admission to point a moral; but she said instantly:--

"Then, you did it beautifully! There was a certain perfection about it;
it was, oh, immensely funny!"

She laughed, tossing her head lightly, a laugh of real enjoyment, and he
was surprised to find himself laughing with her. It seemed that the
Thatcher incident was not only funny, but that its full humorous value
had not until that moment been wholly realized by either of them.

She rose quickly. One of her gloves fell to the floor and he picked it
up. The act of restoring it brought them close together, and their talk
had, he felt, justified another searching glance into her face. She
nodded her thanks, smiling again, and moved toward the door. He admired
the tact which had caused her to close the discussion at precisely the
safe moment. He was a master of the art of closing interviews, and she
had placed the period at the end of the right sentence; it was where he
would have placed it himself. She had laughed!--and the novelty of being
laughed at was refreshing. He and Thatcher had laughed in secret at the
confusion of their common enemies in old times; but most men feared him,
and he had the reputation of being a mirthless person. He had rarely
discussed politics with women; he had an idea that a woman's politics,
when she had any, partook of the nature of her religion, and that it was
something quite emotional, tending toward hysteria. He experienced a
sense of guilt at the relief he found in Sylvia's laughter, remembering
that scarcely half an hour earlier he had been at pains to justify
himself before his wife for the very act which had struck this girl as
funny. He had met Mrs. Bassett's accusations with evasion and
dissimulation, and he had accomplished an escape that was not, in
retrospect, wholly creditable. He hated scenes and tiresome debates as
he hated people who cringed and sidled before him.

His manner of dealing with Thatcher had been born of a diabolical humor
which he rarely exercised, but which afforded him a delicious
satisfaction. It was the sort of revenge one reserved for a foe capable
of appreciating its humor and malignity. The answer of laughter was one
to which he was unused, and he was amazed to find that it had effected
an understanding of some vague and intangible kind between him and
Sylvia Garrison. She might not approve of him, he had no idea that she
did; but she had struck a chord whose vibrations pleased and tantalized.
She was provocative and, to a degree, mystifying, and the abrupt
termination of their talk seemed to leave the way open to other
interviews. He thought of many things he might have said to her at the
moment; but her period was not to be changed to comma or semicolon; she
was satisfied with the punctuation and had, so to speak, run away with
the pencil! She had tossed his political aims and strifes into the air
with a bewildering dismissal, and he stood like a child whose toy
balloon has slipped away, half-pleased at its flight, half-mourning its
loss.

She picked up some books she had left on a stand in the hall. He stood
with his hands in his pockets, watching her ascent, hearing the swish of
her skirts on the stairs: but she did not look back. She was humming
softly to herself as she passed out of sight.



CHAPTER XXI

A SHORT HORSE SOON CURRIED


Sylvia sat beside Bassett at dinner that night, and it was on the whole
a cheerful party. Mrs. Bassett was restored to tranquillity, and before
her aunt she always strove to hide her ills, from a feeling that that
lady, who enjoyed perfect health, and carried on the most prodigious
undertakings, had little patience with her less fortunate sisters whom
the doctors never fully discharge. Mrs. Owen had returned so late that
Bassett was unable to dispose of the lawsuit before dinner; she had
greeted her niece's husband with her usual cordiality. She always called
him Morton, and she was Aunt Sally to him as to many hundreds of her
fellow citizens. She discussed crops, markets, rumors of foreign wars,
prospective changes in the President's Cabinet, the price of ice, and
the automobile invasion. Talk at Sally Owen's table was always likely to
be spirited. Bassett's anxiety as to his relations with her passed; he
had never felt more comfortable in her house.

Only the most temerarious ever ventured to ask a forecast of Mrs. Owen's
plans. Marian, who had found a school friend with an automobile and had
enjoyed a run into the country, did not share the common fear of her
great-aunt. Mrs. Owen liked Marian's straightforward ways even when
they approached rashness. It had occurred to her sometimes that there
was a good deal of Singleton in Marian; she, Sally Owen, was a Singleton
herself, and admired the traits of that side of her family. Marian
amused her now by plunging into a description of a new flat she had
passed that afternoon which would provide admirably a winter home for
the Bassetts. Mrs. Bassett shuddered, expecting her aunt to sound a
warning against the extravagance of maintaining two homes; but Mrs. Owen
rallied promptly to her grandniece's support.

"If you've got tired of my house, you couldn't do better than to take an
apartment in the Verona. I saw the plans before they began it, and it's
first-class and up-to-date. My house is open to you and always has been,
but I notice you go to the hotel about half the time. You'd better try a
flat for a winter, Hallie, and let Marian see how we do things in town."

Instantly Mrs. Bassett was alert. This could only be covert notice that
Sylvia was to be installed in the Delaware Street house. Marian was
engaging her father in debate upon the merits of her plan, fortified by
Mrs. Owen's unexpected approval. Mrs. Bassett raised her eyes to Sylvia.
Sylvia, in one of the white gowns with which she relieved her mourning,
tranquilly unconscious of the dark terror she awakened in Mrs. Bassett,
seemed to be sympathetically interested in the Bassetts' transfer to the
capital.

Sylvia was guilty of the deplorable sin of making herself agreeable to
every one. She had paused on the way to her room before dinner to
proffer assistance to Mrs. Bassett. With a light, soothing touch she had
brushed the invalid's hair and dressed it; and she had produced a new
kind of salts that proved delightfully refreshing. Since coming to the
table Mrs. Bassett had several times detected her husband in an exchange
of smiles with the young woman, and Marian and the usurper got on
famously.

Mrs. Bassett had observed that Sylvia's appetite was excellent, and this
had weakened her belief in the girl's genius; there was a good deal of
Early-Victorian superstition touching women in Hallie Bassett! But Mrs.
Owen was speaking.

"I suppose I'd see less of you all if you moved to town. Marian used to
run off from Miss Waring's to cheer me up, mostly when her lessons were
bad, wasn't it, Marian?"

"I love this house, Aunt Sally, but you can't have us all on your hands
all the time."

"Well," Mrs. Owen remarked, glancing round the table quizzically, "I
might do worse. But even Sylvia scorns me; she's going to move out
to-morrow."

Mrs. Bassett with difficulty concealed her immeasurable relief. Mrs.
Owen left explanations to Sylvia, who promptly supplied them.

"That sounds as though I were about to take leave without settling my
bill, doesn't it? But I thought it wise not to let it get too big; I'm
going to move to Elizabeth House."

"Elizabeth House! Why, Sylvia!" cried Marian.

Mrs. Bassett smothered a sigh of satisfaction. If Aunt Sally was
transferring her protégée to the home she had established for working
girls (and it was inconceivable that the removal could be upon Sylvia's
own initiative), the Bassett prospects brightened at once. Aunt Sally
was, in her way, an aristocrat; she was rich and her eccentricities were
due largely to her kindness of heart; but Mrs. Bassett was satisfied now
that she was not a woman to harbor in her home a girl who labored in a
public school-house. Not only did Mrs. Bassett's confidence in her aunt
rise, but she felt a thrill of admiration for Sylvia, who was
unmistakably a girl who knew her place, and her place as a wage-earner
was not in the home of one of the richest women in the state, but in a
house provided through that lady's beneficence for the shelter of young
women occupied in earning a livelihood.

"It's very nice there," Sylvia was saying. "I stopped on my way home
this afternoon and found that they could give me a room. It's all
arranged."

"But it's only for office girls and department store clerks and
dressmakers, Sylvia. I should think you would hate it. Why, my manicure
lives there!"

Marian desisted, warned by her mother, who wished no jarring note to mar
her satisfaction in the situation.

"That manicure girl is a circus," said Mrs. Owen, quite oblivious of the
undercurrent of her niece's thoughts. "When they had a vaudeville show
last winter she did the best stunts of any of 'em. You didn't mention
those Jewesses that I had such a row to get in? Smart girls. One of 'em
is the fastest typewriter in town; she's a credit to Jerusalem, that
girl. And a born banker. They've started a savings club and Miriam runs
it. They won't lose any money." Mrs. Owen chuckled; and the rest
laughed. There was no question of Mrs. Owen's pride in Elizabeth House.
"Did you see any plumbers around the place?" she demanded of Sylvia.
"I've been a month trying to get another bathroom put in on the third
floor, and plumbers do try the soul."

"That's all done," replied Sylvia. "The matron told me to tell you so."

"I'm about due to go over there and look over the linen," remarked Mrs.
Owen, with an air of making a memorandum of a duty neglected.

"Well, I guess it's comfortable enough," said Marian. "But I should
think you could do better than that, Sylvia. You'll have to eat at the
same table with some typewriter pounder. With all your education I
should think it would bore you."

"Sylvia will have to learn about it for herself, Marian," said Mrs.
Bassett. "I've always understood that the executive board is very
careful not to admit girls whose character isn't above reproach."

Mrs. Owen turned the key of her old-fashioned coffee urn sharply upon
the cup she was filling and looked her niece in the eye.

"Oh, we're careful, Hallie; we're careful; but I tell 'em not to be
_too_ careful!"

"Well, of course the aim is to protect girls," Mrs. Bassett replied,
conscious of a disconcerting acidity in her aunt's remark.

"I'm not afraid of contamination," observed Sylvia.

"Of course not _that_," rejoined Mrs. Bassett hastily. "I think it's
fine that with your culture you will go and live in such a place; it
shows a beautiful spirit of self-sacrifice."

"Oh, please don't say that! I'm going there just because I want to go!"
And then, smiling to ease the moment's tension, "I expect to have the
best of times at Elizabeth House."

"Sylvia"--remarked Mrs. Owen, drawling the name a trifle more than
usual--"Sylvia can do what she pleases anywhere."

"I think," said Bassett, who had not before entered into the discussion,
"that Aunt Sally has struck the right word there. In these days a girl
can do as she likes; and we haven't any business to discuss Miss
Garrison's right to live at Elizabeth House."

"Of course, Sylvia, we didn't mean to seem to criticize you. You know
that," said Mrs. Bassett, flushing.

"You are my friends," said Sylvia, glancing round the table, "and if
there's criticizing to be done, you have the first right."

"If Sylvia is to be criticized,--and I don't understand that any one has
tried it," remarked Mrs. Owen,--"I want the first chance at her myself."
And with the snapping of her spectacle case they rose from the table.

They had barely settled themselves in the parlor when Harwood and Allen
arrived in Allen's motor. Dan had expected his friend to resent his
part in the convention, and he had sought Allen at Lüders's shop to
satisfy himself that their personal relations had not been disturbed. He
had found Allen, at the end of a day's work, perched upon a bench
discoursing to the workmen on the Great Experiment. Allen had, it
seemed, watched the convention from an obscure corner of the gallery. He
pronounced Dan's speech "immense"; "perfectly bully"; he was extravagant
in his praise of it. His father's success in naming the ticket had
seemed to him a great triumph. Allen viewed the whole matter with a kind
of detachment, as a spectator whose interest is wholly impersonal. He
thought there would be a great fight between the combatants; his dad
hadn't finished yet, he declared, sententiously. The incidents of the
convention had convinced him that the Great Experiment was progressing
according to some predestined formula. He and Harwood had dined together
at the University Club and he was quite in the humor to call on the
Bassetts at Mrs. Owen's; and the coming of Sylvia, as to whom Mrs. Owen
had piqued his curiosity, was not to be overlooked.

He cleared the air by brushing away the convention with a word,
addressed daringly to Bassett:--

"Papa's come back from fishing! _My_ papa is digging bait," and they all
laughed.

"Miss Garrison, you must be the greatest of girls, for you have my own
ideas! Our invincible young orator here has been telling me so!"

"That was a grand speech; many happy returns of the day!" was Marian's
greeting to Dan.

"You certainly have a great voice, Daniel," remarked Mrs. Owen, "and you
had your nerve with you."

"You were effective from the first moment, Mr. Harwood. You ought to
consider going on the lecture platform," said Mrs. Bassett.

"Oh, Dan hasn't come to that yet; its only defeated statesmen who spout
in the Chautauquas," Bassett remarked.

Harwood was in fine fettle. Many men had expressed their approval of
him; at the club he had enjoyed the chaffing of the young gentlemen with
whom he ate luncheon daily, and whose tolerance of the universe was
tinged with a certain cynicism. They liked Harwood; they knew he was a
"smart" fellow; and because they liked and admired him they rallied him
freely. The president of a manufacturing company had called at the
Boordman Building to retain him in a damage suit; a tribute to his
growing fame. Dan was a victim of that error to which young men yield in
exultant moments, when, after a first brush with the pickets, they are
confident of making their own terms with life. Dan's attitude toward the
world was receptive; here in the Bassett domestic circle he felt no
shame at being a Bassett man. All but Sylvia had spoken to him of his
part in the convention, and she turned to him now after a passage with
Allen that had left the young man radiant.

"You have a devoted admirer in Mr. Thatcher. He must be a difficult
friend to satisfy," said Sylvia.

"Then do you think I don't satisfy him?"

"Oh, perfectly! He's a combination of optimist and fatalist, I judge. He
thinks nothing matters much, for everything is coming out all right in
the end."

"Then where do you place me in his scheme of things?"

"That depends, doesn't it," she replied carelessly, "on whether you are
the master of the ship or only a prisoner under the hatches."

He reddened, and she added nothing to relieve his embarrassment.

"You think, then--?" And he stopped, uneasy under her gaze.

"Some of the time I don't think; I just wonder. And that's very
different, isn't it?"

He realized now how much he had counted on the kind things he had
expected her to say. He had plainly lost ground with her since their
talk on the Madison campus, and he wanted to justify himself, to
convince her of his rectitude, and of her failure to understand his part
in the convention, but the time and place were unpropitious.

Allen was calling attention to the moonlight and proposing an automobile
flight into the country. His car would hold them all, and he announced
himself the safest of chauffeurs. Mrs. Owen declined, on the double plea
that she had business to attend to and did not ride in motor cars even
to please Allen Thatcher; Bassett also excused himself; so the rest set
off presently under Mrs. Bassett's chaperonage.

"Are you going downtown, Morton?" asked Mrs. Owen, as they watched the
motor roll away.

"No; I'd like to see you on a business matter, Aunt Sally, if you can
give me a few minutes."

"Certainly, Morton; come right in."

She flashed on the lights in her office where Thomas A. Hendricks still
gazed benevolently at Maud S. breaking her record.

"I owe you an apology, Aunt Sally," Bassett began at once. "I'm sorry I
got you into a lawsuit, but things moved so fast that I didn't have a
chance to pull you out of the way. Thatcher and I have agreed to
disagree, as you doubtless know."

Mrs. Owen drew her spectacle case from her pocket (there were pockets
and deep ones in all her gowns), wiped her glasses and put them on.

"You and Edward do seem to be having a little trouble. When I got home I
found that summons the sheriff left here. Let me see; it was away back
in '82 that I was sued the last time. Agent for a cornplanter sued me
for a machine I never ordered and it wasn't worth a farthing anyhow.
That was on my Greene County place. Just for that I had him arrested for
trespass for going on the farm to take away the machine. He paid the
costs all right, and I hope he learned better manners."

This reminiscence, recalled with evident enjoyment, was not wholly
encouraging. It seemed darkly possible that she had cited a precedent
applicable to every case where she was haled before a court. The chairs
in Mrs. Owen's office were decidedly uncomfortable; Bassett crossed and
recrossed his legs, and pressed his hand nervously to his pocket to make
sure of his check-book; for he was prepared to pay his wife's aunt for
her shares in the "Courier" newspaper to facilitate her elimination as a
co-defendant in the suit at bar.

"It was contemptible of Thatcher to drag you into this, for he knew you
took those shares merely to help me out. I'm sorry it has turned out
this way, but I'm anxious to make it right with you, and I'm ready to
buy your shares--at your own price, of course."

She chose a letter from the afternoon's mail, and opened it with a
horn-handled paper-cutter, crumpling the envelope and dropping it over
her shoulder into a big waste-paper basket. She was not apparently
overcome by his magnanimity.

"Well, well," she said, glancing over the letter; "that man I've got at
Waupegan is turning out better than I expected when I put him there; or
else he's the greatest living liar. You never can tell about these
people. Well, well!--Oh, yes, Morton; about that lawsuit. I saw Edward
this afternoon and had a little talk with him about it."

"You saw Thatcher about the suit!"

"I most certainly did, Morton. I had him go down to the bank to talk to
me."

"I'm sorry you took the trouble to do that. If you'd told me--"

"Oh, I'm not afraid of Edward Thatcher. If a man brings a lawsuit
against me, the sooner I see him the better. I sent word to Edward and
he was waiting at the bank when I got there."

"I'd given Thatcher credit for being above dragging a woman who had
always been his friend into a lawsuit. He certainly owed you an
apology."

"I didn't see it just that way, Morton, and he didn't apologize. I
wouldn't have let him!"

She looked at him over her glasses disconcertingly, and he could think
of no reply. It was possible that Thatcher had bought her stock or that
she had made him bid for it. She had a reputation for driving hard
bargains, and he judged from her manner that her conference with
Thatcher, whatever its nature, had not been unsatisfactory. He recalled
with exasperation his wife's displeasure over this whole affair; it was
incumbent upon him not only to reëstablish himself with Mrs. Owen, but
to do it in a way to satisfy Mrs. Bassett.

"You needn't worry about that lawsuit, Morton; there ain't going to be
any lawsuit."

She gave this time to "soak in," as she would have expressed it, and
then concluded:--

"It's all off; I persuaded Edward to drop the suit. The case will be
dismissed in the morning."

"Dismissed? How dismissed, Aunt Sally?"

"Just dismissed; that's all there is of it. I went to see Fitch, too,
and gave him a piece of my mind. He wrote me a letter I found here
saying that in my absence he'd taken the liberty of entering an
appearance for me, along with you, in the case. I told him I'd attend to
my own lawsuits, and that he could just scratch his appearance off the
docket."

The presumption of her lawyer seemed to obscure all other issues for the
moment. Morton Bassett was annoyed to be kept waiting for an explanation
that was clearly due him as her co-defendant; he controlled his
irritation with difficulty. Her imprudence in having approached his
enemy filled him with forebodings; there was no telling what compromises
she might have negotiated with Edward G. Thatcher.

"I suppose you shamed him out of it?" he suggested.

"Shamed him? I _scared_ him out of it! He owns a lot of property in this
town that's rented for unlawful purposes, and I told him I'd prosecute
him; that, and a few other things. He offered to buy me out at a good
price, but he didn't get very far with that. It was a good figure,
though," she added reflectively.

His spirits rose at this proof of her loyalty and he hastened to
manifest his appreciation. His wife's fears would be dispelled by this
evidence of her aunt's good will toward the family.

"I rather imagined that he'd be glad to quit if he saw an easy way out,
and I guess you gave it to him. Now about your stock, Aunt Sally. I
don't want you to be brought into my troubles with Thatcher any further.
I appreciate your help so far, and I'm able now to pay for your shares.
I don't doubt that Ed offered you a generous price to get a controlling
interest. I'll write a check for any sum you name, and you'll have my
gratitude besides."

He drew out his check-book and laid it on the table, with a feeling that
money, which according to tradition is a talkative commodity, might now
conclude the conversation. Mrs. Owen saw the check-book--looked at it
over her glasses, apparently without emotion.

"I'm not going to sell those shares, Morton; not to you or anybody
else."

"But as a matter of maintaining my own dignity--"

"Your own dignity is something I want to speak to you about, Morton.
I've been watching you ever since you married Hallie, and wondering just
where you'd bump. You and Edward Thatcher have been pretty thick and
you've had a lot of fun out of politics. This row you've got into with
him was bound to come. I know Edward better--just a little better than I
know you. He's not a beautiful character, but he's not as bad as they
make out. But you've given him a hard rub the wrong way and he's going
to get even with you. He's mighty bitter--bitterer than it's healthy for
one man to be against another. If it hadn't been for this newspaper fuss
I shouldn't ever have said a word to you about it; but I advise you to
straighten things up with Edward. You'd better do it for your own
good--for Hallie and the children. You've insulted him and held him up
to the whole state of Indiana as a fool. You needn't think he doesn't
know just where you gripped that convention tight, and just where you
let him have it to play with. He's got more money than you have, and
he's going to spend it to give you some of your own medicine or worse,
if he can. He's like a mule that lays for the nigger that put burrs
under his collar. You're that particular nigger just now. You've made a
mistake, Morton."

"But Aunt Sally--I didn't--"

"About that newspaper, Morton," she continued, ignoring him. "I've
decided that I'll just hang on to my stock. You've built up the
'Courier' better than I expected, and that last statement showed it to
be doing fine. I don't know any place right now where I can do as well
with the money. You see I've got about all the farms I can handle at my
age, and it will be some fun to have a hand in running a newspaper. I
want you to tell 'em down at the 'Courier' office--what's his name?
Atwill? Well, you tell him I want this 'Stop, Look, Listen' business
stopped. If you can't think of anything smarter to do than that, you 'd
better quit. You had no business to turn a newspaper against a man who
owns half of it without giving him a chance to get off the track. You
whistled, Morton, after you had pitched him and his side-bar buggy into
the ditch and killed his horse."

"But who had put him on the track? I hadn't! He'd been running over the
state for two years, to my knowledge, trying to undermine me. I was only
giving him in broad daylight what he was giving me in the dark. You
don't understand this, Aunt Sally; he's been playing on your feelings."

"Morton Bassett, there ain't a man on earth that can play on my
feelings. I didn't let him jump on you; and I don't intend to let you
abuse him. I've told you to stop nagging him, but I haven't any idea
you'll do it. That's your business. If you want a big bump, you go on
and get it. About this newspaper, I'm going to keep my shares, and I've
told Edward that you wouldn't use the paper as a club on him while I was
interested in it. You can print all the politics you want, but it must
be clean politics, straight out from the shoulder."

He had lapsed into sullen silence, too stunned to interrupt the placid
flow of her speech. She had not only meddled in his affairs in a fashion
that would afford comfort to his enemy, but she was now dictating
terms--this old woman whose mild tone was in itself maddening. The fear
of incurring his wife's wrath alone checked an outburst of indignation.
In all his life no one had ever warned him to his face that he was
pursuing a course that led to destruction. He had always enjoyed her
capriciousness, her whimsical humor, but there was certainly nothing for
him to smile at in this interview. She had so plied the lash that it cut
to the quick. His pride and self-confidence were deeply wounded;--his
wife's elderly aunt did not believe in his omnipotence! This was a shock
in itself; but what fantastic nonsense was she uttering now?

"Since I bought that stock, Morton, I've been reading the 'Courier'
clean through every day, and there are some things about that paper I
don't like. I guess you and Edward Thatcher ain't so particularly
religious, and when you took hold of it you cut out that religious page
they used to print every Sunday. You better tell Atwill to start that up
again. I notice, too, that the 'Courier' sneaks in little stingers at
the Jews occasionally--they may just get in by mistake, but you ought to
have a rule at the office against printing stories as old as the hills
about Jews burning down their clothing-stores to get the insurance. I've
known a few Gentiles that did that. The only man I know that I'd lend
money to without security is a Jew. Let's not jump on people just to
hurt their feelings. And besides, we don't any of us know much more
these days than old Moses knew. And that fellow who writes the little
two-line pieces under the regular editorials--he's too smart, and he
ain't always as funny as he thinks he is. There's no use in popping
bird-shot at things if they ain't right, and that fellow's always trying
to hurt somebody's feelings without doing anybody any good."

She opened a drawer of her desk and drew out a memorandum to refresh her
memory.

"You've got a whole page and on Sundays two pages about baseball and
automobiles, and the horse is getting crowded down into a corner.
We"--he was not unmindful of the plural--"we must print more horse news.
You tell Atwill to send his young man that does the 'Horse and Track'
around to see me occasionally and I'll be glad to help him get some
horse news that is news. I wouldn't want to have you bounce a young man
who's doing the best he can, but it doesn't do a newspaper any good to
speak of Dan Patch as a trotting-horse or give the record of my
two-year-old filly Penelope O as 2:09-1/4 when she made a clean 2:09.
You've got to print facts in a newspaper if you want people to respect
it. How about that, Morton?"

"You're right, Aunt Sally. I'll speak to Atwill about his horse news."

He began to wonder whether she were not amusing herself at his expense;
but she gave him no reason for doubting her seriousness. They might
have been partners from the beginning of time from her businesslike
manner of criticizing the paper. She had not only flatly refused to sell
her shares, but she was taking advantage of the opportunity (for which
she seemed to be prepared) to tell him how the "Courier" should be
conducted!

"About farming, Morton," she continued deliberately, "the 'Courier' has
fun every now and then over the poor but honest farmer, and prints
pictures of him when he comes to town for the State Fair that make him
look like a scarecrow. Farming, Morton, is a profession, nowadays, and
those poor yaps Eggleston wrote about in 'The Hoosier Schoolmaster' were
all dead and buried before you were born. Farmers are up and coming I
can tell you, and I wouldn't lose their business by poking fun at 'em.
That Saturday column of farm news, by the way, is a fraud--all stolen
out of the 'Western Farmers' Weekly' and no credit. They must keep that
column in cold storage to run it the way they do. They're usually about
a season behind time--telling how to plant corn along in August and
planting winter wheat about Christmas. Our farm editor must have been
raised on a New York roof-garden. Another thing I want to speak of is
the space they give to farmers' and stockmen's societies when they meet
here. The last time the Hoosier State Mulefoot Hog Association met right
here in town at the Horticultural Society's room at the State House--all
the notice they got in the 'Courier' was five lines in 'Minor Mention.'
The same day the State Bankers' Association filled three columns, and
most of that was a speech by Tom Adams on currency reform. You might
tell that funny editorial man to give Adams a poke now and then, and
stop throwing chestnuts about gold bricks and green goods at farmers.
And he needn't show the bad state of his liver by sarcastically speaking
of farmers as honest husbandmen either; a farmer is a farmer, unless,
for lack of God's grace, he's a fool! I guess the folks are coming now.
I hope Allen won't knock down the house with that threshing-machine of
his. That's all this time. Let me see--you'd better tell your editor to
call on me now and then. What did you say his name was, Morton?"

"Atwill--Arthur P."

"Is he a son of that Ebenezer Atwill who used to be a professor in
Asbury College?"

"I'm afraid not, Aunt Sally; I don't think he ever heard of Ebenezer,"
replied Bassett, with all the irony he dared.



CHAPTER XXII


THE GRAY SISTERHOOD

Elizabeth House was hospitable to male visitors, and Dan found Sylvia
there often on the warm, still summer evenings, when the young women of
the household filled the veranda and overflowed upon the steps. Sylvia's
choice of a boarding-house had puzzled Dan a good deal, but there were a
good many things about Sylvia that baffled him. For example, this
preparation for teaching in a public school when she might have had an
assistant professorship in a college seemed a sad waste of energy and
opportunity. She was going to school to her inferiors, he maintained,
submitting to instruction as meekly as though she were not qualified to
enlighten her teachers in any branch of knowledge. It was preposterous
that she should deliberately elect to spend the hottest of summers in
learning to combine the principles of Pestalozzi with the methods of
Dewey and Kendall.

The acquaintance of Sylvia and Allen prospered from the start. She was
not only a new girl in town, and one capable of debating the questions
that interested him, but he was charmed with Elizabeth House, which was
the kind of thing, he declared, that he had always stood for. The
democracy of the veranda, the good humor and ready give and take of the
young women delighted him. They liked him and openly called him "our
beau." He established himself on excellent terms with the matron to the
end that he might fill his automobile with her charges frequently and
take them for runs into the country. When Dan grumbled over Sylvia's
absurd immolation on the altar of education, Allen pronounced her the
grandest girl in the world and the glory of the Great Experiment.

Sylvia was intent these days upon fitting herself as quickly as possible
for teaching, becoming a part of the established system and avoiding
none of the processes by which teachers are created. Her fellow
students, most of whom were younger than she, were practically all the
green fruitage of high schools, but she asked no immunities or
privileges by reason of her college training; she yielded herself
submissively to the "system," and established herself among the other
novices on a footing of good comradeship. During the hot, vexatious days
she met them with unfailing good cheer. The inspiring example of her
college teachers, and not least the belief she had absorbed on the
Madison campus in her girlhood, that teaching is a high calling, eased
the way for her at times when--as occasionally happened--she failed to
appreciate the beauty of the "system."

The superintendent of schools, dropping into the Normal after hours,
caught Sylvia in the act of demonstrating a problem in geometry on the
blackboard for the benefit of a fellow student who had not yet abandoned
the hope of entering the state university that fall. The superintendent
had been in quest of a teacher of mathematics for the Manual Training
School, and on appealing to the Wellesley authorities they had sent him
Sylvia's name. Sylvia, the chalk still in her fingers, met his humorous
reproaches smilingly. She had made him appear ridiculous in the eyes of
her _alma mater_, he said. Sylvia declined his offer and smiled. The
superintendent was not used to smiles like that in his corps. And this
confident young woman seemed to know what she was about. He went away
mystified, and meeting John Ware related his experience. Ware laughed
and slapped his knee. "You let that girl alone," the minister said. "She
has her finger on Time's wrist. Physician of the golden age. Remember
Matthew Arnold's lines on Goethe? Good poem. Sylvia wants to know 'the
causes of things.' Watch her. Great nature."

At seven o'clock on a morning of September, Sylvia left Elizabeth House
to begin her novitiate as a teacher. Allen had declared his intention of
sending his automobile for her every morning, an offer that was promptly
declined. However, on that bright morning when the young world turned
schoolward, Harwood lay in wait for her.

"This must never happen again, sir! And of course you may not carry my
books--they're the symbol of my profession. Seventeen thousand young
persons about like me are on the way to school this morning right here
in Indiana. It would be frightfully embarrassing to the educational
system if young gentlemen were allowed to carry the implements of our
trade."

"You can't get rid of me now: I never get up as early as this unless I'm
catching a train."

"So much the worse for you, then!"

"There will be mornings when you won't think it so much fun. It rains
and snows in Indiana sometimes."

He still resented the idea of her sacrifice, as he called it, in the
cause of education. They were now so well acquainted that they were not
always careful to be polite in their talk; but he had an uneasy feeling
that she didn't wholly approve of him. All summer, when they had
discussed politics, she had avoided touching upon his personal interests
and activities. His alliance with Bassett, emphasized in the state
convention, was a subject she clearly avoided. This morning, as he kept
time to her quick step, he craved her interest and sympathy. Her plain
gray suit and simple cloth hat could not disguise her charm or grace. It
seemed to him that she was putting herself a little further away from
him, that she was approaching the business of life with a determination,
a spirit, a zest, that dwarfed to insignificance his own preoccupation
with far less important matters. She turned to glance back at a group of
children they had passed audibly speculating as to the character of
teacher the day held in store for them.

"Don't you think they're worth working for?" Sylvia asked.

Dan shrugged his shoulders.

"I suppose more lives are ground up in the school-teaching machine than
in any other way. Go on! The girl who taught me my alphabet in the
little red school-house in Harrison County earned her salary, I can tell
you. She was seventeen and wore a pink dress."

"I'm sorry you don't approve of me or my clothes. Now Allen approves of
me: I like Allen."

"His approval is important, I dare say."

"Yes, very. It's nice to be approved of. It helps some."

"And I suppose there ought to be a certain reciprocity in approval and
disapproval?"

"Oh, there's bound to be!"

Their eyes met and they laughed lightheartedly.

"I'm going to tell you something," said Dan. "On the reciprocal theory I
can't expect anything, but I'm lonesome and have no friends anyhow, so
I'll give you a chance to say something withering and edged with a fine
scorn."

"Good! I'll promise not to disappoint you."

"I'm going to be put on the legislature ticket to-day--to fill a
vacancy. I suppose you'll pray earnestly for my defeat."

"Why should I waste prayers on that? Besides, Allen solemnly declares
that the people are to be trusted. It's not for me to set my prayers
against the will of the pee-pull."

"If you had a vote," he persisted, "you wouldn't vote for me?"

"I should have to know what you want to go to the legislature for before
committing myself. What _are_ you doing it for?"

"To do all the mischief I can, of course; to support all the worst
measures that come up; to jump when the boss's whip cracks!"

She refused to meet him on this ground. He saw that any expectation he
might have that she would urge him to pledge himself to noble endeavor
and high achievements as a state legislator were doomed to
disappointment. He was taken aback by the tone of her retort.

"I hope you will do all those things. You could do nothing better
calculated to help your chances."

"Chances?"

"Your chances--and we don't any of us have too many of coming to some
good sometime."

"I believe you are really serious; but I don't understand you."

"Then I shall be explicit. Just this, then, to play the ungrateful part
of the frank friend. The sooner you get your fingers burnt, the sooner
you will let the fire alone. I suppose Mr. Bassett has given the word
that you are graciously to be permitted to sit in his legislature. He
could hardly do less for you than that, after he sent you into the arena
last June to prod the sick lion for his entertainment."

They were waiting at a corner for a break in the street traffic, and he
turned toward her guardedly.

"You put it pretty low," he mumbled.

"The thing itself is not so bad. From what I have heard and read about
Mr. Bassett, I don't think he is really an evil person. He probably
didn't start with any sort of ideals of public life: you did. I read in
an essay the other night that the appeal of the highest should be always
to the lowest. But you're not appealing to anybody; you're just
following the band wagon to the centre of the track. Stop, Look, Listen!
You've come far enough with me now. The walls of my prison house loom
before me. Good-morning!"

"Good-morning and good luck!"

That night Sylvia wrote a letter to one of her classmates in Boston.
"I'm a school-teacher," she said,--"a member of the gray sisterhood of
American nuns. All over this astonishing country my sisters of this
honorable order rise up in the morning, even as you and I, to teach the
young idea how to shoot. I look with veneration upon those of our
sisterhood who have grown old in the classroom. I can see myself reduced
to a bundle of nerves, irascible, worthless, ready for the scrap-pile
at, we will say, forty-two--only twenty years ahead of me! My work looks
so easy and I like it so much that I went in fright to the dictionary to
look up the definition of teacher. I find that I'm one who teaches or
instructs. Think of it--I! That definition should be revised to read,
'Teacher: one who, conveying certain information to others, reads in
fifty faces unanswerable questions as to the riddle of existence.'
'School: a place where the presumably wise are convinced of their own
folly.' Note well, my friend: I am a gray sister, in a gray serge suit
that fits, with white cuffs and collar, and with chalk on my fingers.
Oh, it's not what I'm required to teach, but what I'm going to learn
that worries me!"

Lüders's shop was not far from Sylvia's school and Allen devised many
excuses for waylaying her. His machine being forbidden, he hung about
until she appeared and trudged homeward with her. Often he came in a
glow from the cabinetmaker's and submitted for her judgment the
questions that had been debated that day at the shop. There was
something sweet and wistful and charming in his boyishness; and she was
surprised, as Harwood had been from the first, by the intelligence he
evinced in political and social questions. He demanded absolute answers
to problems that were perplexing wise men all over the world.

"If I could answer that," she would say to him, "I should be entitled to
a monument more enduring than brass. The comfort and happiness of
mankind isn't to be won in a day: we mustn't pull up the old tree till
we've got a new one planted and growing."

"The Great Experiment will turn out all right yet! Some fellow we never
heard of will give the lever a jerk some day, and there will be a rumble
and a flash and it will run perfectly," he asserted.

The state campaign got under way in October, and Harwood was often
discussed in relation to it. Allen always praised Dan extravagantly, and
was ever alert to defend him against her criticisms.

"My dad will run the roller over Bassett, but Dan will be smart enough
to get from under. It's the greatest show on earth--continuous
vaudeville--this politics! Dan's all right. He's got more brains than
Bassett. One of these days Dan will take a flop and land clean over in
the Thatcher camp. It's only a matter of time. Gratitude and
considerations like that are holding him back. But I'm not a
partisan--not even on dad's side. I'm the philosopher who sits on the
fence and keeps the score by innings."

It seemed to her, in those days and afterward, that Allen symbolized the
unknown quantity in all the problems that absorbed him. His idealism was
not a thing of the air, but a flowering from old and vigorous roots. His
politics was a kind of religion, and it did not prove upon analysis to
be either so fantastical or so fanatical as she had believed at first.
As the days shortened, he would prolong their walk until the shops and
factories discharged their employees upon the streets. The fine thing
about the people was, he said, the fact that they were content to go on
from day to day, doing the things they did, when the restraints upon
them were so light,--it proved the enduring worth of the Great
Experiment. Then they would plunge into the thick of the crowd and cross
the Monument plaza, where he never failed to pay a tribute in his own
fashion to the men the gray shaft commemorated. In these walks they
spoke French, which he employed more readily than she: in his high moods
it seemed to express him better than English. It amused him to apply new
names to the thoroughfares they traversed. For example, he gayly renamed
Monument Place the Place de la Concorde, assuring her that the southward
vista in the Rue de la Méridienne, disclosing the lamp-bestarred terrace
of the new Federal Building, and the electric torches of the Monument
beyond, was highly reminiscent of Paris. Sylvia was able to dramatize
for herself, from the abundant material he artlessly supplied, the life
he had led abroad during his long exile: as a youngster he had enjoyed
untrammeled freedom of the streets of Paris and Berlin, and he showed a
curiously developed sympathy for the lives of the poor and unfortunate
that had been born of those early experiences. He was a great resource
to her, and she enjoyed him as she would have enjoyed a girl comrade. He
confessed his admiration for Marian in the frankest fashion. She was
adorable; the greatest girl in the world.

"Ah, sometime," he would say, "who knows!"



CHAPTER XXIII

A HOUSE-BOAT ON THE KANKAKEE


Harwood's faith in Bassett as a political prophet was badly shaken by
the result of the campaign that fall. About half the Democratic
candidates for state office were elected, but even more surprising was
the rolling-up of a good working majority in both houses of the General
Assembly. If Thatcher had knifed Bassett men or if Thatcher men had been
knifed at Bassett's behest, evidence of such perfidy was difficult to
adduce from the returns. Harwood was not sure, as he studied the
figures, whether his party's surprising success was attributable to a
development of real strength in Thatcher, who had been much in evidence
throughout the campaign, or whether Bassett deserved the credit. He was
disposed to think it only another expression of that capriciousness of
the electorate which is often manifested in years when national success
is not directly involved. While Thatcher and Bassett had apparently
struck a truce and harmonized their factions, Harwood had at no time
entertained illusions as to the real attitude of the men toward each
other. When the _entente_ between the leaders was mentioned among
Thatcher's intimates they were prone to declare that Ed would "get"
Bassett; it might take time, but the day of retribution would surely
come.

As a candidate for the lower house in Marion County, Harwood had been
thrust forward prominently into a campaign whose liveliness belied the
traditional apathy of "off" years. On the Saturday night before the
election, Thatcher and Bassett had appeared together on the platform at
a great meeting at the capital--one of those final flourishes by which
county chairmen are prone to hearten their legions against the morrow's
battle. Bassett had spoken for ten minutes at this rally, urging support
of the ticket and in crisp phrases giving the lie to reports of his
lukewarmness. His speech was the more noteworthy from the fact that it
was the first time, in all his political career, that he had ever spoken
at a political meeting, and there was no questioning its favorable
impression.

Bassett was, moreover, reelected to his old seat in the senate without
difficulty; and Harwood ran ahead of his associates on the legislative
ticket in Marion County, scoring a plurality that testified to his
personal popularity. Another campaign must intervene before the United
States Senatorship became an acute issue, and meanwhile the party in the
state had not in many years been so united. Credit was freely given to
the "Courier" for the formidable strength developed by the Democracy:
and it had become indubitably a vigorous and conservative reflector of
party opinion, without estranging a growing constituency of readers who
liked its clean and orderly presentation of general news. The ownership
of the newspaper had become, since the abrupt termination of the lawsuit
instituted by Thatcher, almost as much of a mystery as formerly.
Harwood's intimate relations with it had not been revived, and neither
Mrs. Owen nor Bassett ever spoke to him of the newspaper except in the
most casual fashion.

Dan was conscious that the senator from Fraser had changed in the years
that had passed since the beginning of their acquaintance. Bassett had
outwardly altered little as he crossed the watershed of middle life; but
it seemed to Dan that the ill-temper he had manifested in the Thatcher
affair had marked a climacteric. The self-control and restraint that had
so impressed him at first had visibly diminished. What Harwood had taken
for steel seemed to him now only iron after all--and brittle iron.

During the last week of the campaign an incident occurred that shook
Harwood a good deal. He had been away from the capital for several days
making speeches, and finding that his itinerary would permit it, he ran
into town unexpectedly one night to replenish his linen and look at his
mail. An interurban car landed him in town at eleven o'clock, and he
went directly to the Boordman Building. As he walked down the hall
toward his office he was surprised to see a light showing on the
ground-glass door of Room 66. Though Bassett kept a room at the Whitcomb
for private conferences, he occasionally used his office in the Boordman
for the purpose, and seeing the rooms lighted, Dan expected to find him
there. He tried the door and found it locked, and as he drew out his key
he heard suddenly the click of the typewriter inside. Miss Farrell was
rarely at the office at night, but as Harwood opened the door, he found
her busily tapping the keys of her machine. She swung round quickly with
an air of surprise, stretched herself, and yawned.

"Well, I wasn't exactly looking for you, but I can't deny that I'm glad
to be interrupted. Hope you don't mind my doing a small job on the
side--"

As Harwood stood, suit-case in hand, blinking at her, he heard a door
farther down the hall close, followed by a step in the hall outside.
Harwood had seen no lights in the neighboring offices as he crossed the
hall, and in his frequent long night vigils with his law books, it was
the rarest thing to find any of the neighboring tenants about. He turned
quickly to the door while the retreating steps were still audible.

"Oh!"

Rose had half-risen from her seat as he put his hand to the knob and her
tone of alarm arrested him. Instead of flinging open the door he dropped
his bag into a corner. His face flushed with sudden anger.

"I didn't suppose you'd mind my doing a little extra work out of hours,
Mr. Harwood. Colonel Ramsay was in the office to see Mr. Bassett this
afternoon and asked me to take some dictation for him. I guess it's
about time for me to go home."

She pulled the sheet of paper from the typewriter with a sharp _brrrrr_
and dropped it into a drawer with a single deft twist of the wrist.

"The Colonel didn't mention it to me," remarked Dan, feigning
indifference and not looking at her. "He was making a speech at Terre
Haute to-night when I left there."

He tried to minimize the disagreeable aspects of the matter. Rose had
been employed by Bassett as stenographer to one of his legislative
committees before Dan's relations with the politician began. Since
Harwood employed her Bassett had made use of her constantly in the
writing of letters. There would have been nothing extraordinary in his
calling her to the office for an evening's work; it was the girl's
falsehood about Ramsay and the quiet closing of the door of Bassett's
inner room that disturbed Harwood. He passed into the library and Rose
left without saying good-night. The incident annoyed Dan; Bassett's step
had been unmistakable, and the girl's confusion had its disagreeable
significance. He had not thought this of Bassett; it was inconsonant
with the character of man he still believed Morton Bassett to be.

In winding up the receivership of the paper company Bassett had treated
Harwood generously. Dan was out of debt; he had added forty acres of
good land to his father's farm, and he kept a little money in bank. He
had even made a few small investments in local securities that promised
well, and his practice had become quite independent of Bassett: almost
imperceptibly Bassett had ceased to be a factor in his prosperity. The
office in the Boordman Building remained the same, and Bassett spent a
good deal of time there. There were days when he seemed deeply
preoccupied, and he sometimes buried himself in his room without
obvious reason; then after an interval he would come out and throw his
leg over a corner of Dan's desk and talk to him with his earlier
frankness. Once he suggested that Dan might like to leave the Boordman
for a new office building that was lifting the urban skyline; but the
following day he came rather pointedly to Dan's desk, and with an
embarrassment he rarely showed, said that of course if Dan moved he
should expect to go with him; he hoped Dan had understood that. A few
days later he entrusted Dan with several commissions that he seemed to
have devised solely to show his good will and confidence.

Harwood was happy these days. He was still young and life had dealt
kindly with him. Among lawyers he was pointed to as a coming light of
the bar; and in politics he was the most conspicuous man of his age in
the state. He was invited to Harrison County that fall to deliver an
address at a reunion of the veterans of his father's regiment, and that
had pleased him. He had more than justified the hopes of his parents and
brothers, and they were very proud of him. While they did not understand
his apostasy from the family's stern Republicanism, this did not greatly
matter when Dan's name so often came floating home in the Indianapolis
newspapers. His mother kept careful track of his social enthrallments;
her son was frequently among those present at private and public
dinners; and when the president of Yale visited Indiana, Dan spoke at
the banquet given in his honor by the alumni; and not without emotion
does a woman whose life has been spent on a humble farm find that her
son has won a place among people of distinction in a city which is to
her the capital of the Universe. There were times when Dan wished to be
free of Bassett. He had reached a point where Bassett was not only of
little service to him, but where he felt he was of little use to
Bassett. And it was irksome to find that all the local newspapers,
except the "Courier," constantly identified the Boordman Building with
Bassett's political activities.

Amid all the agitations of the campaign Dan had seen as much as possible
of Sylvia. The settlement of Andrew Kelton's estate gave him an excuse
for consulting her frequently, but he sought her frankly for the
pleasure of seeing her. He found that she was a good deal at Mrs.
Owen's, and it was pleasanter to run in upon her there than at Elizabeth
House, where they must needs share the parlor with other callers. Often
he and Allen met at Mrs. Owen's and debated the questions that were
forever perplexing young Thatcher's eager mind,--debates that Mrs. Owen
suffered to run so far and then terminated with a keen observation that
left no more to be said, sending them to the pantry to forage for food
and drink. Thatcher had resented for a time Harwood's participation in
his humiliation at the convention; but his ill-feeling had not been
proof against Allen's warm defense. Thatcher's devotion to his son had
in it a kind of pathos, and it was not in him to vent his spleen against
his son's best friend.

A few days after the election Thatcher invited Harwood to join him and
Allen in a week's shooting in the Kankakee where he owned a house-boat
that Allen had never seen.

"Come up, Dan, and rest your voice. It's a good place to loaf, and we'll
take John Ware along as our moral uplifter. Maybe we'll pot a few ducks,
but if we don't we'll get away from our troubles for a little while
anyhow."

The house-boat proved to be commodious and comfortable, and the ducks
scarce enough to make the hunter earn his supper. I may say in
parenthesis that long before Thatcher's day many great and good Hoosiers
scattered birdshot over the Kankakee marshes--which, alack! have been
drained to increase Indiana's total area of arable soil. "Lew" Wallace
and other Hoosier generals and judges used to hunt ducks on the
Kankakee; and Maurice Thompson not only camped there, but wrote a poem
about the marshes,--a poem that _is_ a poem,--all about the bittern and
the plover and the heron, which always, at the right season, called him
away from the desk and the town to try his bow (he was the last of the
toxophilites!) on winged things he scorned to destroy with gunpowder.
(Oh what a good fellow you were, Maurice Thompson, and what songs you
wrote of our lakes and rivers and feathered things! And how I gloated
over those songs of fair weather in old "Atlantics" in my grandfather's
garret, before they were bound into that slim, long volume with the
arrow-pierced heron on its cover!)

John Ware, an ancient and honorable son of the tribe of Nimrod, was the
best of comrades. The striking quality in Ware was his beautiful
humanness, which had given him a peculiar hold upon men. Thatcher was
far from being a saint, but, like many other cheerful sinners in our
capital, he had gone to church in the days when Ware occupied the First
Congregational pulpit. A good many years had passed since Ware had been
a captain of cavalry, chasing Stuart's boys in the Valley of Virginia,
but he was still a capital wing shot. A house-boat is the best place in
the world for talk, and the talk in Thatcher's boat, around the
sheet-iron stove, was good those crisp November evenings.

On Sunday Ware tramped off to a country church, taking his companions
with him. It was too bad to miss the ducks, he said, but a day's peace
in the marshes gave them a chance to accumulate. That evening he talked
of Emerson, with whom he had spoken face to face in Concord in that
whitest of houses. We shouldn't bring this into our pages if it hadn't
been that Ware's talk in that connection interested Thatcher greatly.
And ordinarily Thatcher knew and cared less about Emerson than about the
Vedic Hymns. Allen was serenely happy to be smoking his pipe in the
company of a man who had fought with Sheridan, heard Phillips speak, and
talked to John Brown and Emerson. When Ware had described his interview
with the poet he was silent for a moment, then he refilled his pipe.

"It's odd," he continued, "but I've picked up copies of Emerson's books
in queer places. Not so strange either; it seems the natural thing to
find loose pages of his essays stuck around in old logging-camps. I did
just that once, when I was following Thoreau's trail through the Maine
woods. Some fellow had pinned a page of 'Compensation' on the door of a
cabin I struck one night when it was mighty good to find shelter,--the
pines singing, snowstorm coming on. That leaf was pretty well
weather-stained; I carried it off with me and had it framed--hangs in my
house now. Another time I was doing California on horseback, and in an
abandoned shack in the Sierras I found Emerson's 'Poems'--an old copy
that somebody had thumbed a good deal. I poked it out of some rubbish
and came near making a fire of it. Left it, though, for the next fellow.
I've noticed that if one thing like that happens to you there's bound to
be another. Is that superstition, Thatcher? I'm not superstitious,--not
particularly,--but we've all got some of it in our hides. After that
second time--it was away back in the seventies, when I was preaching for
a spell in 'Frisco--I kept looking for the third experience that I felt
would come."

"Oh, of course it did come!" cried Allen eagerly.

"Well, that third time it wasn't a loose leaf torn out and stuck on a
plank, or just an old weather-stained book; it was a copy that had been
specially bound--a rare piece of work. I don't care particularly for
fine bindings, but that had been done with taste,--a dark green,--the
color you get looking across the top of a pine wood; and it seemed
appropriate. Emerson would have liked it himself."

The sheet-iron stove had grown red hot and Harwood flung open the door.
The glow from the fire fell full upon the dark, rugged face and the
white hair of the minister, who was sitting on a soap-box with his
elbows on his knees. In a gray flannel shirt he looked like a lumberman
of the North. An unusual tenderness had stolen into his lean,
Indian-like face.

"That was a long while after that ride in the Sierras. Let me see, it
was more than twenty years ago,--I can't just place the year; no
difference. I'd gone up into the Adirondacks to see my folks. I told you
about our farm once, Allen,--not far from John Brown's old place. It
isn't as lonesome up there now as it was when I was a boy; there were
bully places to hide up there; I used to think of that when I was
reading Scott and Cooper. Brown could have hid there forever if he'd got
out of Virginia after the raid. Nowadays there are too many hotels, and
people go canoeing in ironed collars. No good. My folks were all gone
even then, and strangers lived in my father's house. From the old place
I moved along, walking and canoeing it. Stopped on Saturday in a
settlement where there was a church that hadn't been preached in since
anybody could remember. Preached for 'em on Sunday. An old Indian died,
while I was there, and I baptized and buried him. But that wasn't what
kept me. There was a young woman staying at the small boarding-house
where I stopped--place run by a man and his wife. Stranger had brought
her there early in the summer. City people--they told the folks they
came from New York. They were young, well-appearing folks--at least the
girl was. The man had gone off and left her there, and she was going to
have a child soon and was terribly ill. They called me in one day when
they thought the woman was dying. The country doctor wasn't much
good--an old fellow who didn't know that anything particular had
happened in his profession since Harvey discovered the circulation of
the blood. I struck off to Saranac and got a city doctor to go and look
at the woman. Nice chap he was, too. He stayed there till the woman's
troubles were over. Daughter born and everything all right. She never
mentioned the man who had left her there. Wouldn't answer the doctor's
questions and didn't tell me anything either. Strange business, just to
drop in on a thing like that."

It occurred to Harwood that this big, gray, kindly man had probably
looked upon many dark pictures in his life. The minister appeared to be
talking half to himself, and there had been abrupt pauses in his
characteristically jerky recital. There was a long silence which he
broke by striking his hands together abruptly, and shaking his head.

"The man that kept the boarding-house was scared for fear the woman
wasn't straight; didn't like the idea of having a strange girl with a
baby left on his hands. I had to reason some with that fellow; but his
wife was all right, and did her full duty by the girl. She was a mighty
pretty young girl, and she took her troubles, whatever they were, like
what you'd call a true sport, Ed."

Thatcher, stretched out on a camp bed at the side of the room, chewing a
cigar, grunted.

"Well," the minister continued, "I was around there about three weeks;
put in all my vacation there. Fact is I hated to go off and leave that
girl until I was sure I couldn't do anything for her. But she was
getting out of the woods before I left, and I offered to help her any
way I could. She didn't seem to lack for money; a couple of letters with
money came for her, but didn't seem to cheer her much. There was a beast
in the jungle,--no doubt of that,--but she was taking good care to hide
him. Didn't seem to care much about taking care of herself, even when
she must have known that it looked bad for her. She was a flighty,
volatile sort of creature; made a lot of what I'd done for her in
bringing over the doctor. That doctor was a brick, too. Lots of good
people in the world, boys. Let me see; Dan, feel in that shooting-coat
of mine on the nail behind you and you'll find the book I started to
tell you about. Thanks. You see it's a little banged up because I've
carried it around with me a good deal--fishing-trips and so on; but it's
acquired tone since I began handling it--the green in that leather has
darkened. 'Society and Solitude.' There's the irony of fate for
you.--Where had I got to? When I went in to say good-bye we had quite a
talk. I thought maybe there was some message I could carry to her
friends for her, but she was game and wouldn't hear to it. She wanted
the little girl baptized, but said she hadn't decided what to name her;
asked me if I could baptize a baby without having a real name. She was
terribly cut up and cried about it. I said I guessed God Almighty didn't
care much about names, and if she hadn't decided on one I'd name the
baby myself and I did: I named the little girl--and a mighty cute
youngster she was, too--I named her Elizabeth--favorite name of
mine;--just the mother, lying there in bed, and the man and woman that
kept the boarding-house in the room. The mother said she wanted to do
something for me; and as I was leaving her she pulled this book out and
made me take it."

"I suppose it was a favorite book of hers and all that," suggested Dan.

"I don't think anybody had ever opened that book," replied Ware,
smiling. "It was brand-new--not a scratch on it."

"And afterward?" asked Allen, anxious for the rest of the story.

"Well, sir, I passed through there four years afterward and found the
same people living in the little cottage there at that settlement.
Strange to say, that woman had stayed there a couple of years after the
baby was born. Hadn't any place to go, I reckon. Nobody ever went near
her, they said; but finally she picked up and left; took the baby with
her. She had never been well afterward, and finally, seeing she hadn't
long to live, she struck out for home. Wanted to die among her own
people, maybe. I don't know the rest of the story, Allen. What I've told
you is all I know,--it's like finding a magazine in a country hotel
where you haven't anything to read and dip into the middle of a serial
story. I never told anybody about that but my wife. I had a feeling that
if that woman took such pains to bury herself up there in the wilderness
it wasn't my business to speak of it. But it's long ago now--most
everything that an old chap like me knows is!"

Thatcher rose and crossed to the stove and took the book. He turned it
over and scrutinized it carefully, scanned the blank pages and the
silk-faced lids in the glow from the stove, and then handed it to Allen.

"What does that say there, that small gold print on the inside of the
cover?"

"That's the binder's name--Z. Fenelsa."

Allen closed the book, passed his hand over the smooth covers, and
handed it back to Ware.

"What did you say the woman's name was, Ware?" asked Thatcher.

"Didn't say, but the name she went by up there was Forbes. She told me
it was an assumed name. The people she stayed with told me they never
knew any better."

Several minutes passed in which no one spoke. The minister lapsed into
one of his deep reveries. Thatcher stood just behind him peering into
the fire. Suddenly he muttered under his breath and almost inaudibly,
"Well, by God!"



CHAPTER XXIV

A WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY BALL


The Bassetts moved to the capital that winter, arriving with the phalanx
of legislators in January, and establishing themselves in a furnished
house opportunely vacated by the Bosworths, who were taking the
Mediterranean trip. Bassett had been careful to announce to the people
of Fraserville that the removal was only temporary, and that he and his
family would return in the spring, but Marian held private opinions
quite at variance with her father's published statements.

Mrs. Bassett's acquiescence had been due to Mrs. Owen's surprising
support of Marian's plan. In declaring that she would never, never
consent to live in a flat, Mrs. Bassett had hoped to dispose of Marian's
importunities, to which Bassett had latterly lent mild approval. When,
however, Mrs. Owen suggested the Bosworth house, which could be occupied
with the minimum of domestic vexation, Mrs. Bassett promptly consented,
feeling that her aunt's interest might conceal a desire in the old
lady's breast to have some of her kinsfolk near her. Mrs. Bassett had
not allowed her husband to forget the dangerous juxtaposition of Sylvia
Garrison to Mrs. Owen's check-book. "That girl," as Mrs. Bassett
designated Sylvia in private conversation with her husband, had been
planted in Elizabeth House for a purpose. Her relief that Sylvia had not
been settled in the Delaware Street residence had been of short
duration: Mrs. Bassett saw now that it was only the girl's adroit method
of impressing upon Mrs. Owen her humility and altruism. Still Mrs.
Bassett was not wholly unhappy. It was something to be near at hand
where she could keep track of Sylvia's movements; and the social scene
at the capital was not without its interest for her. She was not merely
the wife of Morton Bassett, but the only child of the late Blackford
Singleton, sometime Senator in Congress. She was moreover the niece of
Sally Owen, and this in itself was a social asset. She showed her
husband the cards that were left at their door, and called his attention
to the fact that the representative people of the capital were looking
them up. He made the mistake of suggesting that the husbands of most of
the women who had called had axes to grind at the State House,--a
suggestion intended to be humorous; but she answered that many of her
callers were old friends of the Singletons, and she expressed the hope
that he would so conduct himself as to adorn less frequently the
newspaper headlines; the broad advertisement of his iniquities would be
so much worse now that they were in the city, and with Marian's future
to consider, and all.

It should be said that Marian's arrival had not gone unheeded. The
society columns of the capital welcomed her, and the "Advertiser"
reproduced her photograph in a picture hat. She began at once to be
among those included in all manner of functions. Allen danced
cheerfully to her piping and she still telephoned to Harwood when she
thought of ways of using him. Mrs. Owen had declared her intention of
giving a "party" to introduce Marian to the society of the capital.
Sally Owen had not given a "party" since Mrs. Bassett's coming out, but
she brought the same energy and thoroughness to bear upon a social
affair that characterized her business undertakings. In preparing the
list (in itself a task) and in the discussion of details, it was
necessary of course to consult Marian,--one usually heard Marian's views
whether one consulted her or not,--but she and her aunt were on the best
of terms, and Mrs. Owen was sincerely anxious to satisfy her in every
particular. On half a dozen evenings Allen or Dan brought Sylvia to the
Delaware Street house to meet Marian and plan the coming event. No one
would have imagined, from the zest with which Sylvia discussed such deep
questions as the employment of musicians, the decorating of the hall,
the german favors and the refreshments, that she had been at work all
day in a schoolroom that had been built before ventilation was invented.

When Sylvia was busy, she was the busiest of mortals, but when she threw
herself heart and soul into play, it was with the completest detachment.
She accomplished wonderful things in the way of work after schoolhours
if she received warning that either of her faithful knights meditated a
descent upon her. During these councils of war to plan Marian's belated
début, Sylvia might snowball Allen or Dan or both of them all the way
from Elizabeth House to Mrs. Owen's door, and then appear demurely
before that amiable soul, with cheeks aglow and dark eyes flashing, and
Mrs. Owen would say: "This school-teaching ain't good for you, Sylvia;
it seems to be breaking down your health." That was a lively
quartette--Sylvia, Marian, Allen, and Dan!

Dan, now duly sworn to serve the state faithfully as a legislator, had
been placed on several important committees, and a busy winter stretched
before him. Morton Bassett's hand lay heavily upon the legislature; the
young man had never realized until he took his seat in the lower house
how firmly Bassett gripped the commonwealth. Every committee appointment
in both houses had to be approved by the senator from Fraser. Dan's
selection as chairman of the committee on corporations both pleased and
annoyed him. He would have liked to believe himself honestly chosen by
the speaker on the score of fitness; but he knew well enough that there
were older men, veteran legislators, more familiar with the state's
needs and dangers, who had a better right to the honor. The watchful
"Advertiser" had not overlooked his appointment. On the day the
committees were announced it laid before its readers a cartoon depicting
Bassett, seated at his desk in the senate, clutching wires that radiated
to every seat in the lower house. One desk set forth conspicuously in
the foreground was inscribed "D.H." "The Lion and Daniel" was the tag
affixed to this cartoon, which caused much merriment among Dan's friends
at the round table of the University Club.

Miss Bassett's début was fixed for Washington's Birthday, and as Mrs.
Owen's house had no ballroom (except one of those floored attics on
which our people persist in bestowing that ambitious title) she decided
that the Propylæum alone would serve. Pray do not reach for your
dictionary, my friend! No matter how much Greek may have survived your
commencement day, you would never know that our Propylæum (reared by the
women of our town in North Street, facing the pillared façade of the
Blind Institute) became, on its completion in 1890, the centre of our
intellectual and social life. The club "papers" read under that roof
constitute a literature all the nobler for the discretion that reserves
it for atrabilious local criticism; the later editions of our _jeunesse
dorée_ have danced there and Boxed and Coxed as Dramatic Club stars on
its stage. "Billy" Sumner once lectured there on "War" before the
Contemporary Club, to say nothing of Mr. James's appearance (herein
before mentioned), which left us, filled with wildest surmise, on the
crest of a new and ultimate Darien. Nor shall I omit that memorable tea
to the Chinese lady when the press became so great that a number of
timorous Occidentals in their best bib and tucker departed with all
possible dignity by way of the fire-escape. So the place being historic,
as things go in a new country, Mrs. Owen did not, in vulgar parlance,
"hire a hall," but gave her party in a social temple of loftiest
consecration.

It was a real winter night, with a snowstorm and the jangle of
sleigh-bells outside. The possibilities of a hall famed for its many
brilliant entertainments had never been more fully realized than on
this night of Marian Bassett's presentation. The stage was screened in a
rose-hung lattice that had denuded the conservatories of Newcastle and
Richmond; the fireplace was a bank of roses, and the walls were
festooned in evergreens. Nor should we overlook a profile of the father
of his country in white carnations on a green background, with all the
effect of a marble bas-relief,--a fitting embellishment for the
balcony,--done by the florist from Allen's design and under Allen's
critical eye.

In the receiving line, established in one of the lower parlors, were
Mrs. Owen, Mr. and Mrs. Morton Bassett, the Governor and his wife (he
happened just then to be a Republican), Colonel and Mrs. Vinning
(retired army people), and the pick of the last October's brides and
their young husbands. We may only glance hurriedly at the throng who
shook Mrs. Owen's hand, and were presented to Mr. and Mrs. Bassett and
by them in turn to their daughter. Every one remarked how stunning the
hostess looked (her gown was white, and in the latest fashion,
too,--none of your quaint old lace and lavender for Aunt Sally!), and
what amusing things she said to her guests as they filed by, knowing
them all and in her great good heart loving them all! It is something to
be an Aunt Sally where the name is a synonym for perpetual youth and
perpetual kindness and helpfulness. (And if Aunt Sally didn't live just
a little way down my own street, and if she hadn't bribed me not to "put
her in a book" with a gift of home-cured hams from her Greene County
farm last Christmas, there are many more things I should like to say of
her!)

Since the little affair of the "Courier" Morton Bassett had fought shy
of his wife's aunt; but to-night he stood beside her, enjoying, let us
hope, the grim humor of his juxtaposition to the only person who had
ever blocked any of his enterprises. Nothing escaped Mrs. Bassett, and
her heart softened toward her politician husband as she saw that next to
her aunt and Marian (a daughter to be proud of to-night!) Morton Bassett
was the person most observed of all observers. She noted the glances
bent upon him by the strangers to whom he was introduced, and many
acquaintances were at pains to recall themselves to him. Her husband was
a presentable man anywhere, and she resolved to deal more leniently with
his offenses in future. The governorship or a seat in the United States
Senate would amply repay her for the heartaches so often communicated by
the clipping bureau.

Mrs. Bassett prided herself on knowing who's who in her native state and
even she was satisfied that the gathering was representative. The "list"
had not been submitted for her approval; if it had been she might have
deleted certain names and substituted others. She was unable, for
example, to justify the presence of the senior Thatcher, though her
husband assured her in a tone of magnanimity that it was all right; and
she had never admired Colonel Ramsay, though to be sure nearly every one
else did. Was not the Colonel handsome, courteous, genial, eloquent,
worthy of all admiration? Mrs. Owen had chosen a few legislators from
among her acquaintances, chiefly gentlemen who had gallantly aided some
of her measures at earlier sessions of the assembly. This accounted for
the appearance of a lone Prohibitionist who by some miracle appeared
biennially in the lower house, and for a prominent labor leader whom
Mrs. Owen liked on general principles. The statesman who has already
loomed darkly in these pages as the Tallest Delegate was taller than
ever in a dress coat, but in all ways a citizen of whom Vermillion
County had reason to be proud. John Ware and Admiral Martin, finding
themselves uncomfortable in the crowd, rescued Thatcher and adjourned
with him to a room set apart for smokers. There they were regarded with
mild condescension by young gentlemen who rushed in from the dance,
mopping their brows and inhaling cigarettes for a moment, wearing the
melancholy air becoming to those who support the pillars of society.

At ten o'clock the receiving line had dissolved and the dance was in
full swing above. Sylvia had volunteered to act as Mrs. Owen's adjutant,
and she was up and down stairs many times looking after countless
details. She had just dispatched Allen to find partners for some
out-of-town girls when Morton Bassett accosted her in the hall.

"I'm thirsty, Miss Garrison; which punch bowl do you recommend to a man
of my temperate habits?"

She turned to the table and took a glass from Mrs. Owen's butler and
held it up.

"The only difference between the two is that one is pink. I put it in
myself. Your health and long life to Marian," said Sylvia.

"I'm going to take this chance to thank you for your kind interest in
Marian's party. We all appreciate it. Even if you didn't do it for us
but for Mrs. Owen, we're just as grateful. There's a lot of work in
carrying off an affair like this."

He seemed in no hurry and apparently wished to prolong the talk. They
withdrew out of the current of people passing up and down the stairway.

"You are not dancing?" he asked.

"No; I'm not here socially, so to speak. I'm not going out, you know; I
only wanted to help Mrs. Owen a little."

"Pardon me; I hadn't really forgotten. You are a busy person; Marian
tells me you have begun your teaching. You don't show any evidences of
wear."

"Oh, I never was so well in my life!"

"You will pardon me for mentioning it here, but--but I was sorry to hear
from Mr. Harwood that the teaching is necessary."

He was quite right, she thought, in saying that the time and place were
ill-suited to such a remark. He leaned against the wall and she noticed
that his lids drooped wearily. He seemed content to linger there, where
they caught fitfully glimpses of Marian's bright, happy face in the
dance. Mrs. Owen and Mrs. Bassett were sitting in a group of dowagers at
the other end of the ballroom, identifying and commenting upon the
season's débutantes.

"I suppose you are very busy now," Sylvia remarked.

Yes; this will be a busy session."

"And I suppose you have more to do than the others; it's the penalty of
leadership."

He flushed at the compliment, changed his position slightly, and avoided
her eyes for a moment. She detected in him to-night something that had
escaped her before. It might not be weariness after all that prompted
him to lean against the wall with one hand carelessly thrust into his
pocket; he was not a man to show physical weariness. It seemed, rather,
a stolid indifference either to the immediate scene or to more serious
matters. Their meeting had seemed accidental; she could not believe he
had contrived it. If the dance bored him she was by no means his only
refuge; many present would have thought themselves highly favored by a
word from him. A messenger brought Sylvia a question from Mrs. Owen. In
turning away to answer she gave him a chance to escape, but he waited,
and when she was free again she felt that he had been watching her.

He smiled, and stood erect as though impelled by an agreeable thought.

"We don't meet very often, Miss Garrison, and this is hardly the place
for long conversations; you're busy, too; but I'd like to ask you
something."

"Certainly, Mr. Bassett!"

The newest two-step struck up and she swung her head for a moment in
time to it and looked out upon the swaying forms of the dancers.

"That's Marian's favorite," she said.

"That afternoon, after the convention, you remember--"

"Of course, Mr. Bassett; I remember perfectly."

"You laughed!"

They both smiled; and it seemed to him that now, as then, it was a smile
of understanding, a curious reciprocal exchange that sufficed without
elucidation in words.

"Well!" said Sylvia.

"Would you mind telling me just why you laughed?"

"Oh! That would be telling a lot of things."

Any one seeing them might have thought that this middle-aged gentleman
was taking advantage of an opportunity to bask in the smile of a pretty
girl for the sheer pleasure of her company. He was purposely detaining
her, but whether from a wish to amuse himself or to mark his
indifference to what went on around him she did not fathom. The fact was
that Sylvia had wondered herself a good deal about that interview in
Mrs. Owen's house, and she was not quite sure why she had laughed.

"I'd really like to know, Miss Garrison. If I knew why you laughed at
me--"

"Oh, I didn't laugh at you! At least--it wasn't just you alone I was
laughing at!"

"Not at me?"

His look of indifference vanished wholly; he seemed sincerely interested
as he waited for her reply, delayed a moment by the passing of a group
of youngsters from the ballroom to the fresher air of the hall.

"I know perfectly well this isn't a good place to be serious in; but I
laughed--Do you really want to know?"

"Yes, please. Don't try to spare my feelings; they're pretty badly shot
up anyhow."

"It must have been because it struck me as funny that a man like
you--with all your influence and power--your capacity for doing big
things--should go to so much trouble merely to show another man your
contempt for him. Just a moment"--she deliberated an instant, lifting
her head a trifle,--"it was funny, just as it would be funny if the
United States went to war to crush a petty, ignorant pauper power; or it
would be like using the biggest pile driver to smash a mosquito. It was
ridiculous just because it seemed so unnecessarily elaborate--such a
waste of steam."

She had spoken earnestly and quickly, but he laughed to assure her that
he was not offended.

"So that was it, was it?"

"I think so; something like that. And you laughed too that day!"

"Yes; why did I laugh?" he demanded.

"Because you knew it was grotesque, and not to be taken at all seriously
as people did take it. And then, maybe--maybe I thought it funny that
you should have employed Mr. Harwood to pull the lever that sent the big
hammer smashing down on the insect."

"So that was it! Well, maybe it wasn't so unnecessary after all; to be
frank, I didn't think so. In my conceit I thought it a good stroke.
That's a secret; nobody else knows that! Why shouldn't I have used Mr.
Harwood--assuming that I did use him?"

"Can you stand any more? Shan't we talk of something else?"

Their colloquy had been longer than Sylvia found comfortable: every one
knew Bassett; every one did not know her. She was a comparative stranger
in the city, and it was not wholly kind in him to make her conspicuous;
yet he seemed oblivious to his surroundings.

"You cast an excellent actor for an unworthy part, that's all."

"I was debasing him? Is that what you think?" he persisted.

"Yes," she answered steadily, meeting his eyes.

"You like him; you believe in him?"

"He has ability," she answered guardedly.

"Then I've done nothing to thwart him in the use of it. He's the best
advertised young man in the state in either political party. He's in a
place now where he can make good."

His smile was grave; it was impossible to answer him in the key of
social small talk.

"The 'Advertiser' seems to think that he's in the legislature to do what
you tell him to."

"He doesn't have to do it, does he? He owes me nothing--absolutely
nothing. He can kick me down stairs to-morrow if he wants to. It was
understood when he came into my office that he should be free to quit me
whenever he liked. I'd like you to know that."

She was embarrassed by the direct look that accompanied this. Her
opinions could not interest him one way or another, and he was going far
in assuming that she was deeply concerned in Harwood's welfare. The
incongruity of their talk was emphasized by the languorous strains of
the newest popular waltz that floated over them from the ballroom.

"If it were any of my affair--which it certainly isn't--I should tell
him to stand by you--to say no to you if need be and yet remain your
friend."

"You think, then, that I am not beyond reclamation--that I might be
saved--pulled out of the mire?"

"No man is beyond reclamation, is he? I think not; I believe not."

The music ceased; the dancers were demanding a repetition of the number.
Bassett stood his ground stubbornly.

"Well, I've asked him to do something for me--the only thing I have ever
asked him to do that wasn't straight."

There was no evading this; she wondered whether he had deliberately
planned this talk, and what it was leading to. In any view it was
inexplicable. His brow knit and there was a curious gravity in his eyes
as they sought hers searchingly.

"That's his affair entirely, Mr. Bassett," she replied coldly. "He and I
are good friends, and of course I should hate to see him make a
mistake."

"But the mistake may be mine; let us say that it is mine."

"I had an idea that you didn't make mistakes. Why should you make the
serious mistake of asking a good man to do a bad thing?"

"The natural inference would be that I'm a bad man, wouldn't it?"

"It wouldn't be my way of looking at it. All you need is courage to be a
great man--you can go far!"

He smiled grimly.

"I need only one thing, you say;--but what if it's the thing I haven't
got?"

"Get it!" she replied lightly. "But your defiance in the convention
wasn't worthy of you; it was only a piece of bravado. You don't deserve
to be abused for that,--just scolded a little. That's why I laughed at
you that afternoon; I'm going to laugh at you now!"

The music had ceased again and Allen and Marian flashed out upon them in
the highest spirits.

"Well, I like this!" cried Marian. "What are you two talking so long
about? Oh, I saw you through three dances at least!"

"Miss Garrison has been laughing at me," said Bassett, smiling at his
daughter. "She doesn't take me at all seriously--or too seriously: I
don't know which!"

"How could she take you seriously!" demanded Marian. "I never do!
Sylvia, where on earth is our little Daniel? It's nearly time for the
cotillion. And if Dan Harwood doesn't show up for that I'll never
forgive him in this world."

"The cotillion?" repeated Bassett, glancing at his watch. "Hasn't Dan
got here yet? He had a committee meeting to-night, but it ought to have
been over before now."

Sylvia noted that the serious look came into his eyes again for an
instant.

"He oughtn't to have had a committe meeting on the night of my party.
And it's a holiday too."

"And after all the rehearsing we've done at Aunt Sally's the cherry-tree
figure absolutely has to have him," said Allen. "Maybe I'd better send a
scout to look him up or run over to the State House myself."

"Oh, he'll be here," murmured Sylvia.

Dan had undoubtedly intended to appear early at the dance, and she
wondered whether his delay might not be due to the crisis in his
relations with Bassett of which the politician had hinted. As she ran
off with Allen to make sure the apparatus for the german was in order,
she wished Bassett had not spoken to her of Harwood.

Sylvia and Allen had despaired of Dan when at a quarter of twelve he
appeared. He met their reproaches cheerfully, and airily explained his
delay.

"State's business! Can you imagine me fresh from Richelieu's cabinet,
with a trail of dead horses on the road behind me? In plain prose I
didn't get home to dress until eleven, and the snow makes it hard
going."

He had dressed with care nevertheless and had never looked better.
Sylvia sent Allen ahead to begin clearing the floor for the cotillion,
and followed more slowly with Harwood.

"I suppose," he remarked, half to himself, "that I really oughtn't to do
it."

"What--you hesitate now after keeping the stage waiting!"

"It may be a case for an understudy. There are reasons why."

"Then--you have done it?"

They were at the turn of the stair and Sylvia paused. He was conscious
of a quick catch in her breath. Her eyes met his for an instant
searchingly.

"Yes; I have done it," he answered, and looked at her wonderingly.

A moment later he had made his peace with Mrs. Owen and paid his
compliments to Mrs. Bassett at the favor table, heaped high with
beribboned hatchets and bunches of cherries for the first figure.

Morton Bassett had heard praise of his daughter from many lips, but he
watched her joyous course through the cherry-tree figure in the german
with an attention that was not wholly attributable to fatherly pride.
Harwood's white-gloved hand led her hither and thither through the
intricate maze; one must have been sadly lacking in the pictorial sense
not to have experienced a thrill of delight in a scene so animate with
grace, so touched with color. It was ungracious to question the
sincerity of those who pronounced Marian the belle of the ball when
Colonel Ramsay, the supreme authority in Hoosier pulchritude, declared
her to be the fairest rose in a rose-garden of girls. He said the same
thing to the adoring parents of a dozen other girls that night. (The
Colonel was born in Tecumseh County, on our side of the Ohio, and just
plays at being a Kentuckian!) Mothers of daughters, watching the dance
with a jealous eye on their own offspring, whispered among themselves
that as likely as not Marian's tall, broad-shouldered cavalier was the
man chosen of all time to be her husband. He was her father's
confidential man, and nothing could stay his upward course.

Bassett saw it all and guessed what they were thinking. Sylvia flashed
across his vision now and then. He overheard people asking who she was,
and he caught the answers, that she was a girl Mrs. Owen had taken up; a
public school-teacher, they believed, the daughter of an old friend.
Sylvia, quite unconscious of this interest, saw that the figures she had
done so much toward planning were enacted without a hitch. The last one,
the Pergola, with real roses, if you must know, well deserved Colonel
Ramsay's compliment. "You can't tell," said the Colonel in his best
manner, "where the roses end and the girls begin!"

It was two o'clock when Harwood, after taking Mrs. Owen down to supper,
found himself free. He met Thatcher in the lower hall, muffled in
astrakhan and swearing softly to himself because his carriage had been
lost in the blizzard.

"Well; how are things going with you, young man?"

"Right enough. I'm tired and it's about bed-time for me."

"Haven't got House Bill Ninety-five in your pockets have you?" asked
Thatcher with a grin. "A reporter for the 'Advertiser' was in here
looking for you a minute ago. He said your committee had taken a vote
to-night and he wanted to know about it. Told him you'd gone home. Hope
you appreciate that; I'm used to lying to reporters. You see, my son, I
ain't in that deal. You understand? That bill was fixed up in Chicago,
and every corporation lawyer that does business in the old Hoosier State
has his eye on it. I'm not asking any questions; Lord, no! It's up to
you. Grand party; that's a nice girl of Bassett's. My wagon here? All
right. Good-night, Dan! Good-night, Bassett!"

Harwood turned and found himself face to face with Bassett, who was
loitering aimlessly about the hall.

"Good-evening, sir," he said, and they shook hands mechanically.

"How are you? Party about over?"

"I should like to speak to you to-night, Mr. Bassett. It need take but a
minute."

"Better now, if it's important," replied Bassett carelessly.

"We voted on House Bill Ninety-five in committee to-night: the majority
report will be against it."

"So? What was the matter with it?"

"It's crooked, that's all. I wouldn't stand for it; two members were
willing to support it, and there will be a minority report. It's that
same bill that was jumped on so hard at the last session, only it's been
given a fresh coat of paint."

"It seems to have taken you several weeks to find that out. There's
nothing wrong with that bill. It merely frames a natural and reasonable
right into a statute. Those labor cranks at the State House have been
trying to scare you."

"No, sir; that thing's dead wrong! You not only know it's wrong, but you
misled me about it. That public benefit clause is put in there to throw
dust in the eyes of the people; it makes possible the very combination
and absorption of industries that the party is pledged to fight. I have
bawled against those things in every county in Indiana!"

Bassett nodded, but showed no irritation. His manner irritated Harwood.
The younger man's lips twitched slightly as he continued.

"And the fact that you were behind it has leaked out; the 'Advertiser'
is on to it and is going to go after it to-morrow. House Bill
Ninety-five is an outrage on the party honor and an affront to the
intelligence of the people. And moreover your interest in having me made
chairman of the committee that had to pass on it doesn't look good."

"Well, sir, what are you going to do about it? I'm not particularly
interested in that bill; but a lot of our friends are behind it, and
we've got to take care of our friends," said Bassett, without raising
his voice.

Their relations were practically at an end; and Bassett did not care.
But Dan felt the wrench; he felt it the more keenly because of Bassett's
impassiveness at this moment of parting.

"You've been a kind friend to me, sir; you've--"

Bassett laid his hand with an abrupt gesture upon Harwood's arm, and
smiled a curious, mirthless smile.

"None of that! I told you, when the time came for you to go, you need
shed no tears at the parting. Remember, you don't owe me anything; we're
quits."

"I hoped you wouldn't see it just this way; that you would realize the
danger of that bill--to the party, to yourself!"

"You can score heavily by showing up the bill for what you think it is.
Go ahead; it's your chance. I haven't a word to say to you."

He folded his white gloves and put them away carefully in his breast
pocket.

"Good-night, sir!"

"Good-night, Harwood!"

The dancing continued above. Mrs. Owen insisted on seeing her last guest
depart, but begged Harwood to take Sylvia home at once. As they left a
few minutes later Dan caught a glimpse of Bassett sitting alone in the
smoking-room.

On the way to Elizabeth House Dan told Sylvia what had happened.

The carriage plunged roughly through the drifting snow. Sleet drove
sharply against the windows.

"He lied to me about it; and I thought that with all his faults he would
play square with me. The whole corporation lobby is back of the bill. I
was stupid not to have seen it earlier; I've been a dull ass about a lot
of things. But it's over now; I'm done with him."

"I'm glad--glad you met it squarely--and glad that you settled it
quickly. I'm glad"--she repeated slowly--"but I'm sorry too."

"Sorry?"

"Oh, I'm so sorry for him!"



CHAPTER XXV

THE LADY OF THE DAGUERREOTYPE


"Daniel doesn't seem to be coming," remarked Mrs. Owen. "He hardly ever
misses a Sunday afternoon."

"He's working hard. I had no idea legislators had to work so hard," said
Sylvia.

They sat in Mrs. Owen's office, which was cosier than the sitting-room,
and the place where she seemed most comfortable. Since we looked at her
desk last a file-hook has been added to its furniture, and on it hang
impaled a few cuttings from agricultural newspapers. The content of
these clippings will ultimately reach the "Courier's" readers,--there is
no doubt of that, as Mrs. Owen and Mr. Atwill now understand each other
perfectly. It was the first Sunday in March and a blustery day, with
rain and sleet alternating at the windows and an impudent wind whistling
in the chimneys. Hickory logs snapped pleasantly in the small fireplace
that was a feature of the room. Sylvia had dined with her friend, and
the day being of the sort that encourages confidences, they had
prolonged their talk.

"When did you see Daniel last?" asked Mrs. Owen casually.

"Last night," replied Sylvia, meeting her friend's eyes easily. "He
dropped in for a little while. He wanted to talk about his stand on
that corporation bill."

"Well, he and Morton have broken up housekeeping. Daniel has climbed on
to the other side of the breastworks."

Sylvia smiled. "Yes, that's about it. But I think he has acted quite
finely about it."

"You mean he didn't jump on Morton as he might have done--didn't make a
grand stand play of it?"

"Yes; he might have made capital for himself out of the corporation
bill, but he didn't. He made his report without bringing personalities
into it."

"And the bill was passed over the governor's veto! That was Morton's way
of showing that he didn't need Daniel."

"Very likely. I'm rather glad it happened that way."

"Glad Daniel got a licking?"

"Oh, not just that; but it shows him that if he's going to be the
people's champion he will have to be unhorsed pretty often. If all these
things could be accomplished easily, there wouldn't be any glory in
success. It's not an easy thing to drive a man like Mr. Bassett out of
politics, or even to defeat the dangerous measures he introduces in the
legislature. If it were easy to get rid of them, such men wouldn't last
long. Besides, I'm a little afraid it wasn't half so much Dan's
patriotism that was involved as it was his vanity. He was bitter because
he found that Mr. Bassett had deceived him and was trying to use him.
But in view of Mr. Bassett's many kindnesses to him he wouldn't make a
personal matter of it in the House. Dan's opposition was based on legal
defects in that bill,--points that were over the heads of most of the
legislators,--but he is now determined to keep up the fight. He finds
that Mr. Bassett is quite able to do as he pleases even without his
services. He felt that he dealt with him magnanimously in keeping his
antagonism to the corporation bill on the high plane of its legal
unsoundness. Mr. Bassett ignored this, and merely secured the passage of
the bill by marshaling all the votes he needed in both parties."

"That's a new scheme they say Morton has introduced into Indiana--this
getting men on both sides to vote for one of these bad bills. That shuts
up the party newspapers, and neither side can use that particular thing
as ammunition at the next election. Instead of talking about House Bill
Ninety-five in the next campaign, they will howl about the tariff on
champagne, or pensions for veterans of the Black Hawk War. They're all
tarred with the same stick and don't dare call attention to the other
fellow. Daniel had better get out of politics," she ended leadingly.

"Please, no! He'd better stay in and learn how to make himself count. So
far as Mr. Bassett is concerned, I think that for some reason he had
gone as far with Dan as he cared to. I think he was prepared for the
break."

Mrs. Owen was wiping her spectacles on a piece of chamois skin she kept
in her desk for the purpose, and she concluded this rite with unusual
deliberation.

"How do you figure that out, Sylvia?"

"This must be confidential, Aunt Sally; I have said nothing to Dan about
it; but the night of your party Mr. Bassett was in a curious frame of
mind."

"It seemed to me he was particularly cheerful. I thought Morton had as
good a time as anybody."

"Superficially, yes; but I had a long talk with him--in the hall, after
the dancing had begun. I think in spite of his apparent indifference to
the constant fire of his enemies, it has had an effect on him. He's
hardened--or, if he was always hard, he doesn't care any longer whether
he wears the velvet glove or not. That attack on Mr. Thatcher in the
convention illustrates what I mean. His self-control isn't as complete
as most people seem to think it is; he lets go of himself like a
petulant child. That must be a new development in him. It doesn't chime
with the other things you hear of him as a shrewd, calculating manager,
who strikes his enemies in the dark. He was in an evil humor that night
or he wouldn't have talked to me as he did. He was ugly and vindictive.
He was not only glad he had put Dan in the way of temptation, but he
wanted me to know that he had done it. He seemed to be setting his back
to the wall and daring the world."

"Well, well," said Mrs. Owen. "Morton has seemed a little uneasy lately.
But there don't seem to be any reason why he should have picked you out
to jump on. You never did anything to Morton."

"Yes," said Sylvia, smiling; "I laughed at him once! I laughed at him
about the way he had treated Mr. Thatcher. We stopped right there, with
the laugh; he laughed too, you know. And he took that up again at the
party--and I had to explain what my laugh meant."

"Oh, you explained it, did you?"

And Sylvia recounted the interview.

"I guess Morton hasn't been laughed at much, and that was why he
remembered it and wanted to talk to you again. I suspect that Hallie
scolds him when she doesn't pet him. Most folks are afraid of Morton;
that's why he could take care of that corporation bill with the
'Advertiser' jumping him the way it did. Well, well! That must have been
quite a day for Morton. You laughed at him, and when the rest of you
went off in Allen's automobile that night I ran the harrow over him a
few times myself. Well, well!"

Mrs. Owen smiled as though recalling an agreeable experience. "As long
as there are old stumps in a field that you must plough around I haven't
got much use for the land. When the corn comes up you don't see the
stumps, just sitting on the fence and looking over the scenery; but when
you go to put the plow through again, your same old stumps loom up
again, solider than ever. I guess Daniel will come out all right; he was
raised on a farm and ought to know how to drive a straight furrow. By
the way, they telephoned me from Elizabeth House last night that there's
a vacant room there. Who's moved out?"

Mrs. Owen always prolonged the E of Elizabeth, and never referred to the
House except by its full title.

"Rose Farrell has left. Went unexpectedly, I think. I didn't know she
was going."

"Let me see. She's that girl that worked for Morton and Daniel. What's
she leaving for?"

"I'm going to see if I can't get her back," replied Sylvia evasively.

"Why Rose has been at Elizabeth House for two years and under the rules
she can stay a year longer. She ain't getting married, is she?"

"I think not," replied Sylvia. "I'm going to look her up and get her
back if possible."

"You do that, Sylvia. It ain't just your place, but I'll be glad if
you'll see what's the matter. We don't want to lose a girl if we can
help it."

Mrs. Owen rose and transferred a pile of paperbound books from a shelf
to her desk. Sylvia recognized these as college catalogues and noted
bits of paper thrust into the leaves as markers.

"I've been looking into this business some since we went down to
college. I had a lot of these schools send me their catalogues and
they're mighty interesting, though a good deal of it I don't understand.
Sylvia" (Sylvia never heard her name drawled as Mrs. Owen spoke it
without a thrill of expectancy)--"Sylvia, there's a lot of books being
written, and pieces in the magazines all the time, about women and what
we have done or can't do. What do you suppose it's all leading up to?"

"That question is bigger than I am, Aunt Sally. But I think the
conditions that have thrown women out into the world as wage-earners are
forcing one thing--just one thing, that is more important now than any
other--it's all summed up in the word efficiency."

"Efficiency?"

Mrs. Owen reached for the poker and readjusted the logs; she watched the
resulting sparks for a moment, then settled herself back in her chair
and repeated Sylvia's word again.

"You mean that a woman has got to learn how to make her jelly jell? Is
that your notion?"

"Exactly that. She must learn not to waste her strokes. Any scheme of
education for woman that leaves that out works an injury. If women are
to be a permanent part of the army of wage-earning Americans they must
learn to get full value from their minds or hands--either one, it's the
same. The trouble with us women is that there's a lot of the old
mediæval taint in us."

"Mediæval? Say that some other way, Sylvia."

"I mean that we're still crippled--we women--by the long years in which
nothing was expected of us but to sit in ivy-mantled casements and work
embroidery while our lords went out to fight, or thrummed the lute under
our windows."

"Well, there was Joan of Arc: she delivered the goods."

"To be sure; she does rather light up her time, doesn't she?" laughed
Sylvia.

"Sylvia, the day I first saw a woman hammer a typewriter in a man's
office, I thought the end had come. It seemed, as the saying is, 'agin
nater'; and I reckon it was. Nowadays these buildings downtown are full
of women. At noontime Washington Street is crowded with girls who work
in offices and shops. They don't get much pay for it either. Most of
those girls would a lot rather work in an office or stand behind a
counter than stay at home and help their mothers bake and scrub and wash
and iron. These same girls used to do just that,--help their
mothers,--coming downtown about once a month, or when there was a circus
procession, and having for company some young engine-wiper who took them
to church or to a Thanksgiving matinée and who probably married them
some day. A girl who didn't marry took in sewing for the neighbors, and
as like as not went to live with her married sister and looked after her
babies. I've seen all these things change. Nowadays girls have got to
have excitement. They like spending their days in the big buildings; the
men in the offices jolly them, the men bookkeepers and clerks seem a lot
nicer than the mechanics that live out in their neighborhood. When they
ain't busy they loaf in the halls of the buildings flirting, or reading
novels and talking to their bosses' callers. They don't have to soil
their hands, and you can dress a girl up in a skirt and shirt-waist so
she looks pretty decent for about two weeks of her wages. They don't
care much about getting married unless they can strike some fellow with
an automobile who can buy them better clothes than they can buy
themselves. What they hanker for is a flat or boarding-house where they
won't have any housekeeping to do. Housekeeping! Their notions of
housekeeping don't go beyond boiling an egg on a gas range and opening
up a sofa to sleep on. You're an educated woman, Sylvia; what's going
to come of all this?"

"It isn't just the fault of the girls that they do this, is it? Near my
school-house there are girls who stay at home with their mothers, and
many of them are without any ambition of any kind. I'm a good deal for
the girl who wants to strike out for herself. The household arts as you
knew them in your youth can't be practised in the home any more on the
income of the average man. Most women of the kind we're talking about
wear ready-made clothes--not because they're lazy, but because the
tailor-made suits which life in a city demands can't be made by any
amateur sempstress. They're turned out by the carload in great factories
from designs of experts. There's no bread to bake in the modern
mechanic's home, for better bread and cake are made more cheaply in the
modern bakeshop. Wasn't there really a good deal of nonsense about the
pies that mother used to make--I wonder? There were perhaps in every
community women who were natural cooks, but our Mary used to drive
grandfather crazy with her saleratus biscuits and greasy doughnuts. A
good cook in the old times was famous all over the community because the
general level of cooking was so low. Women used to take great pride in
their preservings and jellyings, but at the present prices of fruit and
sugar a city woman would lose money making such things. It's largely
because this work can't be done at home that girls such as we have at
Elizabeth House have no sort of manual dexterity and have to earn a poor
living doing something badly that they're not interested in or fitted
for. Women have one terrible handicap in going out into the world to
earn their living; it's the eternal romance that's in all of us," said
Sylvia a little dreamily. "I don't believe any woman ever gets beyond
that." It was a note she rarely struck and Mrs. Owen looked at her
quickly. "I mean, the man who may be always waiting just around the
corner."

"You mean every girl has that chance before her? Well, a happy marriage
is a great thing--the greatest thing that can happen to a woman. My
married life was a happy one--very happy; but it didn't last long. It
was my misfortune to lose my husband and the little girl when I was
still young. They think I'm hard--yes, a good many people do--because
I've been making money. But I had to do something; I couldn't sit with
my hands folded; and what I've done I've tried to do right. I hope you
won't leave love and marriage out of your life, Sylvia. In this new
condition of things that we've talked about there's no reason why a
woman shouldn't work--do things, climb up high, and be a woman, too.
He'll be a lucky man who gets you to stand by him and work for him and
with him."

"Oh," sighed Sylvia, "there are so many things to do! I want to know so
much and do so much!"

"You'll know them and do them; but I don't want you to have a one-sided
life. Dear Sylvia," and Mrs. Owen bent toward the girl and touched her
hand gently, "I don't want you to leave love out of your life."

There was an interval of silence and then Mrs. Owen opened a drawer and
drew out a faded morocco case. "Here's a daguerreotype of my mother and
me, when I was about four years old. Notice how cute I look in those
pantalets--ever see those things before? Well, I've been thinking that
I'm a kind of left-over from daguerreotype times, and you belong to the
day of the kodak. I'm a dingy old shadow in a daguerreotype picture, in
pantalets, cuddled up against my mother's hoopskirt. You, Sylvia, can
take a suit-case and a kodak and travel alone to Siam; and you can teach
in a college alongside of men and do any number of things my mother
would have dropped dead to think about. And," she added quizzically, "it
gives me heart failure myself sometimes, just thinking about it all. I
can't make you throw your kodak away, and I wouldn't if I could, any
more than I'd want you to sit up all night sewing clothes to wear to
your school-teaching when you can buy better ones already made that have
real style. It tickles me that some women have learned that it's
weak-minded to massage and paraffine their wrinkles out--those things,
Sylvia, strike me as downright immoral. What I've been wondering is
whether I can do anything for the kind of girls we have at Elizabeth
House beyond giving them a place to sleep, and I guess you've struck the
idea with that word efficiency. No girl born to-day, particularly in a
town like this, is going back to make her own soap out of grease and lye
in her back yard. But she's got to learn to do something well or she'll
starve or go to the bad; or if she doesn't have to work she'll fool her
life away doing nothing. Now you poke a few holes in my ideas, Sylvia."

"Please, Aunt Sally, don't think that because I've been to college I can
answer all those questions! I'm just beginning to study them. But the
lady of the daguerreotype in hoops marks one era, and the kodak girl in
a short skirt and shirt-waist another. Women had to spend a good deal of
time proving that their brains could stand the strain of higher
education--that they could take the college courses prescribed for men.
That's all been settled now, but we can't stop there. A college
education for women is all right, but we must help the girl who can't go
to college to do her work well in the office and department store and
factory."

"Or to feed a baby so it won't die of colic, and to keep ptomaine poison
out of her ice box!" added Mrs. Owen.

"Exactly," replied Sylvia.

"Suppose a girl like Marian had gone to college just as you did, what
would it have done for her?"

"A good deal, undoubtedly. It would have given her wider interests and
sobered her, and broadened her chances of happiness."

"Maybe so," remarked Mrs. Owen; and then a smile stole over her face. "I
reckon you can hardly call Marian a kodak girl. She's more like one of
these flashlight things they set off with a big explosion. Only time I
ever got caught in one of those pictures was at a meeting of the
Short-Horn Breeders' Association last week. They fired off that
photograph machine to get a picture for the 'Courier'--I've been
prodding them for not printing more farm and stock news--and a man
sitting next to me jumped clean out of his boots and yelled fire. I had
to go over to the 'Courier' office and see the editor--that Atwill is a
pretty good fellow when you get used to him--to make sure they didn't
guy us farmers for not being city broke. As for Marian, folks like her!"

"No one can help liking her. She's a girl of impulses and her impulses
are all healthy and sound. And her good fellowship and good feeling are
inexhaustible. She came over to see me at Elizabeth House the other
evening--had Allen bring her in his machine and leave her. The girls
were singing songs and amusing themselves in the parlor, and Marian took
off her hat and made herself at home with them. She sang several songs,
and then got to 'cutting up' and did some of those dances she's picked
up somewhere--did them well too. But with all her nonsense she has a lot
of good common sense, and she will find a place for herself. She will
get married one of these days and settle down beautifully."

"Allen?"

"Possibly. The Bassetts don't seem troubled by Allen's attentions to
Marian; but the real fight between Mr. Thatcher and Mr. Bassett hasn't
come yet."

"Who says so?"

"Oh, it's in the air; every one says so. Dan says so."

"I've warned Morton to let Edward Thatcher alone. The United States
Senate wouldn't be ornamented by having either one of them down there.
I met Colonel Ramsay--guess he's got the senatorial bee in his hat,
too--coming up on the train from Louisville the other day. There's only
one qualification I can think of that the Colonel has for going to the
Senate--he would wring tears out of the galleries when he made obituary
speeches about the dead members. When my brother Blackford was senator,
it seemed to me he spent most of his time acting as pallbearer for the
dead ones. But what were we talking about, Sylvia? Oh, yes. I'm going to
send those catalogues over to your room, and as you get time I want you
to study out a scheme for a little school to teach what you call
efficiency to girls that have to earn their living. I don't mean
school-teaching, but a whole lot of things women ought to be doing but
ain't because they don't know how. Do you get the idea?"

"A school?" asked Sylvia wonderingly.

"A kind of school."

"It's a splendid, a beautiful idea, but you need better advice than I
can give you. They talk a good deal now about vocational training, and
it's going to mean a great deal to women."

"Well, we must get hold of all the latest ideas, and if there's any good
in us old daguerreotypes, we'll keep it, and graft it on to the kodak."

"Oh, I hope there will always be ladies of the daguerreotype! One thing
we women have to pray to be saved from is intolerance toward our
sisters. You know," continued Sylvia with a dropping of her voice and a
tilting of her head that caused Mrs. Owen to laugh,--"you know we are
not awfully tolerant. And there's a breadth of view, an ability to brush
away trifles and get to the heart of things, that we're just growing up
to. And magnanimity--I think we fall short there. I'm just now trying to
cultivate a sisterly feeling toward these good women for whom Jane
Austen and Sir Roger de Coverley and the knitting of pale-blue tea
cosies are all of life--who like mild twilight with the children singing
hymns at the piano and the husband coming home to find his slippers set
up against the baseburner. That was beautiful, but even they owe
something to the million or so women to whom Jane Addams is far more
important than Jane Austen. It might be more comfortable if the world
never moved, but unfortunately it does seem to turn over occasionally."

"I notice that you can say things like that, Sylvia, without waving your
hands, or shouting like an old woman with a shawl on her head swinging a
broom at the boys in her cherry tree. We've got to learn to do that. It
was some time after I went into business, when Jackson Owen died, before
I learned that you couldn't shoo men the way you shoo hens. You got to
drop a little corn in a fence corner and then throw your apron over 'em.
It strikes me that if you could catch these girls that go to work in
stores and offices young enough you might put them in the way of doing
something better. There are schools doing this kind of thing, but I'd
like to plant one right here in Indiana for the kind of girls we've got
at Elizabeth House. They haven't much ambition, most of 'em; they're
stuck right where they are. I'd like to see what can be done toward
changing that, and see it started in my lifetime. And we must do it
right. Think it over as you get time." She glanced at the window. "You'd
better stay all night, Sylvia; it's getting dark."

"No, I must run along home. The girls expect me."

"That school idea's just between you and me for the present," Mrs. Owen
remarked as she watched Sylvia button her mackintosh. "Look here,
Sylvia, don't you need some money? I mean, of course, don't you want to
borrow some?"

"Oh, never! By the way, I didn't tell you that I expect to make some?
The publisher of one of grandfather's textbooks came to see me about the
copyright, and there were some changes in the book that grandfather
thought should be made and I'm going to make them. There's a chance of
it's being adopted in one or two states. And then, I want to make a
geometry of my own. All the textbooks make it so hard--and it really
isn't. The same publisher told me he thought well of my scheme, and I'm
going ahead with it."

"Well, don't you kill yourself writing geometries: I should think
teaching the youngsters would be a full job."

"That's not a job at all, Aunt Sally; that's just fun. And you know I'm
not going to do it always. I'm learning things now that I needed to
know. I only wish my mind were as sound as my health."

"You ought to wear heavier flannels, though; it's a perfect scandal what
girls run around in nowadays."

She rested her hands on Sylvia's shoulders lightly, smiled into her
face, and then bent forward and kissed her.

"I don't understand why you won't wear rubbers, but be sure you don't
sit around all evening in wet stockings."

A gray mist was hastening nightfall, though the street lamps were not
yet lighted. The glow of Mrs. Owen's kindness lingered with Sylvia as
she walked toward Elizabeth House. She was constantly surprised by her
friend's intensely modern spirit--her social curiosity, and the breadth
and sanity of her views. This suggestion of a vocational school for
young women had kindled Sylvia's imagination, and her thoughts were upon
it as she tramped homeward through the slush. To establish an
institution such as Mrs. Owen had indicated would require a large sum of
money, and there were always the Bassetts, the heirs apparent of their
aunt's fortune. Any feeling of guilt Sylvia may have experienced by
reason of her enforced connivance with Mrs. Owen for the expenditure of
her money was mitigated by her belief that the Bassetts were quite
beyond the need of their aunt's million, the figure at which Mrs. Owen's
fortune was commonly appraised.

She was thinking of this when a few blocks from Mrs. Owen's she met
Morton Bassett. The electric lamp overhead was just sputtering into
light as he moved toward her out of an intersecting street. His folded
umbrella was thrust awkwardly under his arm, and he walked slowly with
bent head. The hissing of the lamp caused him to lift his eyes. Sylvia
paused an instant, and he raised his hat as he recognized her.

"Good evening, Miss Garrison! I've just been out for a walk. It's a
dreary evening, isn't it?"

Sylvia explained that she had been to Mrs. Owen's and was on her way
home, and he asked if he might go with her.

"Marian usually walked with me at Fraserville, but since we've been
here, Sunday seems to be her busy day. I find that I don't know much
about the residential district; I can easily lose myself in this part of
town."

During these commonplaces she wondered just where their conversation at
Marian's ball had left them; the wet street was hardly a more favorable
place for serious talk than the crowded Propylæum. The rain began to
fall monotonously, and he raised his umbrella.

"Some things have happened since our last talk," he observed presently.

"Yes?" she replied dubiously.

"I want to talk to you of them," he answered. "Dan has left me. You know
that?"

"Yes; I know of it."

"And you think he has done quite the fine thing about it--it was what
you would have had him do?"

"Yes, certainly. You practically told me you were putting him to the
test. You weren't embarrassed by his course in any way; you were able to
show him that you didn't care; you didn't need him."

"You saw that? You read that in what followed?"

"It was written so large that no one could miss it. You are the master.
You proved it again. I suppose you found a great satisfaction in that. A
man must, or he wouldn't do such things."

"You seem to understand," he replied, turning toward her for an instant.
"But there may be one thing you don't understand."

There was a moment of silence, in which they splashed on slowly through
the slush.

"I liked Dan; I was fond of him. And yet I deliberately planned to make
him do that kind of thing for me. I pulled him out of the newspaper
office and made it possible for him to study law, just that I might put
my hand on him when he could be useful. Please understand that I'm not
saying this in the hope that you will intercede to bring him back.
Nothing can bring him back. I wouldn't let him come back to me if he
would starve without my help."

Sylvia was silent; there was nothing with which she could meet this.

"What I mean is," he continued, "that I'm glad he shook me; I had
wondered from the beginning just when it would come, and when I saw his
things going out of my office, it satisfied something in me. I wonder
whether there's some good in me after all that made me glad in spite of
myself that he had the manhood to quit."

Bassett was a complex character; his talk and manner at Marian's ball
had given her a sense of this which he was now confirming. Success had
not brought him happiness; the loss of Dan had been a blow to him, and
she felt the friendlessness and isolation of this man whom men feared.
He had spoken doggedly, gruffly, and if she had marveled at their talk
at the dance, her wonder was the greater now. It was inconceivable that
Morton Bassett should come to her with his difficulties. If his
conscience troubled him, or if he was touched with remorse for his
conduct toward Dan Harwood, she was unable to see why he should make his
confession to her. It seemed that he had read her thoughts, for he spoke
roughly, as though defending himself from an attack.

"You like him; you've known him for several years; you know him probably
better than you know any other man."

"I suppose I do, Mr. Bassett," said Sylvia; "we are good friends,
but--that's all."

He stopped short, and she felt his hand touch her arm for an instant
lightly--it was almost like a caress, there in the rain-swept street
with the maple boughs swishing overhead in the cold west wind.

He quickened his pace now, as though to mark a new current in his
thoughts.

"There's a favor I want to ask of you, Miss Garrison. Dan talked to me
once or twice about your grandfather's estate. He owned some shares in a
business I had helped to organize, the White River Canneries. The scheme
failed for many reasons; the shares are worthless. I want you to let me
pay you back the money Professor Kelton paid for them. I should have to
do it privately--it would have to be a matter between you and me."

[Illustration: A SUDDEN FIERCE ANGER BURNED IN HER HEART]

"Oh, no! Dan explained that to me; he didn't hold you responsible. He
said the company failed, that was all. You are kind to offer, but I
can't think of accepting it."

"Very well," he said quietly. And then added, as though to explain
himself more fully: "Your grandfather and Mrs. Owen were old friends. He
wasn't a business man. I promoted the canneries scheme and I was
responsible for it, no matter what Harwood says about it."

She had experienced sharp alternations of pity and apprehension in this
brief walk. He was a prominent man; almost, it might be said, a
notorious character. The instinct of self-protection was strong in her;
what might lie behind his confidences, his blunt confessions, and his
offer of help, she did not know. They had reached Elizabeth House, and
she paused on the broad steps under the shelter of the veranda. With her
back toward the door she looked down upon him as he stood on the
sidewalk, his umbrella deeply shadowing his head and shoulders. She
stood before him like a vestal guarding her temple from desecration. She
was conscious of a sharp revulsion of feeling, and a sudden fierce anger
burned in her heart. She spoke with a quick, passionate utterance.

"There is something you can do for me, Mr. Bassett. I'm going to bring
Rose Farrell back to this house. I want you to let her alone!"

He stood dumbly staring at the door as it closed upon her. He lingered a
moment, the rain beating down upon him, and then walked slowly homeward.



CHAPTER XXVI

APRIL VISTAS


"Is it _possible_? _Is_ it possible!"

Colonel Ramsay's entrances were frequently a bit theatrical, and on a
particular afternoon in April, as he opened the door of Dan Harwood's
new office in the Law Building, the sight of Miss Farrell at the
typewriter moved him to characteristic demonstrations. Carefully closing
the door and advancing, hat in hand, with every appearance of deepest
humility, he gazed upon the young woman with a mockery of astonishment.

"Verily, it is possible," he solemnly ejaculated. "And what is it that
our own poet says:--

     "'When she comes home again! A thousand ways
       I fashion to myself the tenderness
       Of my glad welcome: I shall tremble--yes--'"

"Stop trembling, Colonel, and try one of our new office chairs,
warranted to hold anybody but Brother Ike Pettit without fading away."

The Colonel bent over Miss Farrell's hand reverently and sat down.

"I've been trying to earn an honest living practicing law down at home
and this is the first chance I've had to come up and see what the late
lamented legislature left of the proud old Hoosier State. Is Dan locked
up inside there with some lucrative client?"

"I regret to say that I don't believe there's a cent in his present
caller."

"Hark!" At this moment a roar was heard from the inner room on which
"private" was printed in discreet letters. The Colonel was at once
alert.

     "'Ask me no more; the moon may draw the sea'
       But Isaac Pettit's jokes shall shake the land,--

with apologies to the late Laureate. So the boys are finding their way
up here, are they? I'll wait an hour or two till that compendium of
American humor has talked Dan to sleep. So you and Dan left your Uncle
Morton all alone in gloomy splendor in the Boordman Building!"

"Mr. Harwood made me an offer and I accepted it," replied Rose. "This is
a free country and a P.W.G. can work where she pleases, can't she?"

"P.W.G.?"

"Certainly, a poor working-girl"--Rose clasped her hands and bowed her
head--"if the initials fail to illuminate."

The Colonel inspected the room, and his eyes searched Miss Farrell's
desk.

"Let me see, I seem to miss something. It must be the literary offerings
that used to cluster about the scene of your labors. Your selections in
old times used to delight me. No one else of my acquaintance has quite
your feeling for romance. I always liked that one about the square-jawed
American engineer who won the Crown Princess of Piffle from her father
in a poker game, but decided at the last minute to bestow her upon his
old college friend, the Russian heir-apparent, just to preserve the
peace of Europe. I remember I found you crying over the great
renunciation one day."

"Oh, I've passed that all up, Colonel. I'm strong for the pale high-brow
business now. I'm doing time in all the night classes at Elizabeth House
where I board, and you'll hardly know your little Rose pretty soon."

"Fitting yourself for one of the learned professions?"

"Scarcely. Just fitting myself to be decent," replied Rose in a tone
that shifted the key of the conversation--a change which the Colonel
respected.

"That's right, Rose. This is a good place for you, and so is Mrs. Owen's
boarding-house. By the way, who's this school-teacher Aunt Sally has
taken up--saw her at the party-great chum of the old lady's."

"You must mean Miss Sylvia."

"Sylvia?"

"Miss Sylvia Garrison. Colonel Ramsay," continued Rose earnestly,
resting an elbow lightly on her typewriter, "you and I are old pals--you
remember that first winter I was over at the State House?"

"Very well, Rose."

"Well, it wasn't a good place for me to be. But I was a kid and hadn't
much sense. I've learned a good deal since then. It ain't so easy to
walk straight; so many people are careless about leaving banana peelings
lying round."

The Colonel nodded.

"You needn't apologize to me, Rose. It's all right now, is it?"

"You can be dead sure of it, Colonel. Miss Garrison caught me by the
heel of my shoe, just as I was going down the third time, and yanked me
back. There's a good many cheap imitations of human beings loose around
this world, but that's a woman, I can tell you!"

"Glad you struck a good friend, Rose. You did well to come along with
Harwood."

"Well, she fixed that, too, after I cut loose from _him_--you
understand? I guess Miss Garrison and Mr. Harwood are pretty good
friends."

"Oh!" ejaculated Ramsay. "So there's that, is there?"

"I hope so; they're all white and speak the same language. This is on
the dead. I'm only talking to you because you're an old friend."

An occasional roar from within testified to Mr. Pettit's continued
enjoyment of his own jokes.

"You know," Rose continued, "I learned a good deal those winters I spent
at the State House, when I was stenog to certain senate committees. I
see where you stand now, all right, Colonel. I always knew you didn't
belong in that bunch of lobbyists that was always gum-shoeing through
the marble halls of the State House. Thatcher sends somebody around to
look me up every little while to see if he can't coax something out of
me,--something he can use, you know."

"Thatcher oughtn't to do that. If you want me to, I'll pull him off."

"No; I guess I can take care of myself. He"--Rose indicated the inner
office with a slight movement of the head, "he never tries to pump me.
He ain't that kind of a fighter. But everybody that's anywhere near the
inside knows that Thatcher carries a sharp knife. He's going to shed
some pink ink before he gets through. Are you on?"

They exchanged a glance.

"Something that isn't nice?"

Rose nodded.

"I hate to see that sort of thing brought into the game. But they'll
never find anything. The gentleman we are referring to works on
noiseless rollers." Colonel Ramsay indicated the closed door by an
almost imperceptible gesture of interrogation; and Rose replied by
compressing her lips and shaking her head.

"He isn't in on that; he's a gentleman, you know; not a mud-slinger."

"He might have to stand for anything Thatcher springs. Thatcher has
developed into a shrewd and hard fighter. The other crowd don't laugh at
him any more; it was his work that got our legislative ticket through
last fall when Bassett passed the word that we should take a licking
just to magnify his importance. Is Thatcher in town now?"

"No; that boy of his with the bad lung had to go off to the Adirondacks,
and he went with him."

The inner door opened at this moment, disclosing the Honorable Isaac
Pettit, who greeted Ramsay effusively.

"What is immortality, gentlemen!" the Honorable Isaac Pettit inquired,
clinging to the Colonel's hand. "We had a little social gathering for
our new pastor up at Fraser the other night, and I sprung a new game on
the old folks. Offered a prize for anybody who could name all the
Vice-Presidents of the United States since Lincoln's administration, and
they couldn't even get past Grant--and Schuyler Colfax being right off
our own Hoosier pastures! Then we tried for the Democratic candidates
for President, beginning back at the war, and they couldn't even start.
One young chap piped up and said Jeff Davis--oh, Lord!--which reminds me
that the teaching of history in the public schools ain't what it ought
to be. They hadn't heard of Hancock, and when somebody said Blaine, the
teacher of the infant class in our Sunday School said Blaine who? That
reminds me of one time when I met Dan Voorhees, than whom God Almighty
never made a nobler soul; I met Dan down here in the lobby of the old
Bates House, carrying a 'Harper's Weekly' with one of Tom Nast's
cartoons spread wide open. You know Dan had--"

Colonel Ramsay had been edging toward the door of Harwood's private
room, and he now broke in upon the editor's reminiscences.

"You tell that story to Miss Farrell, Ike. I'm spouting myself to-night,
at a Christian Endeavor rally at Tipton, and want to see Dan a minute."

Miss Farrell was inured to Pettit's anecdotes of Dan Voorhees, and the
Fraserville editor continued, unmindful of the closing of the door upon
Dan and Ramsay.

Ramsay pushed his fedora to the back of his head and inspected Dan's new
furniture.

"Well, you did it! You've cut loose from your base and burned your
bridges behind you. I would have brought my congratulations sooner, but
I've had a long jury case on hand. You did it, my boy, and you did it
like a gentleman. You might have killed him if you had wanted to."

"I don't want to kill anybody," smiled Dan. "I want to practice law."

"That's a laudable ambition, but you can't go back on us now. What we've
needed for a long time was a young man of about your make-up who wasn't
afraid."

"Don't rub it in, Colonel. I was a mighty long time seeing the light,
and I don't deserve any praise from anybody. I mean what I say about
practicing law. I'm a free man now and any political work I do is going
to be along the lines of the simple, childish ideas I brought home from
college with me. I had begun to feel that all this political idealism
was sheer rubbish, but I put the brakes on before I got too far
downhill. If a few of us who have run with the machine and know the
tricks will turn and help the bewildered idealists, we can make idealism
effective. Most of the people don't want a handful of crooks to govern
them, but there's a kind of cheap cynicism abroad that discourages the
men who are eager to revolt. There are newspapers that foster that
sentiment, and scores of men who won't take time to go to a caucus keep
asking what's the use. Now, as for Bassett, I'm not going to bite the
hand that fed me; I'm simply going to feed myself. Pettit was just in
here to sound me as to my feelings toward Thatcher. Quite frankly, I'm
not interested in Thatcher as a senatorial possibility."

"That's all right; but if you had to make a choice between Thatcher and
Bassett?"

Dan shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"You mustn't exaggerate the importance of my influence. I don't carry
United States senatorships around in my pocket."

"You're the most influential man of your age in our state. I'm not so
sure you wouldn't be able to elect any man you supported if the election
were held to-morrow."

"You've mastered the delicate art of flattery, Colonel; when the time
comes, I'll be in the fight. It's not so dead certain that our party's
going to have a senator to elect--there's always that. But all the walls
are covered with handwriting these days that doesn't need interpreting
by me or any other Daniel. Many of the younger men all over this state
in both parties are getting ready to assert themselves. What we
want--what you want, I believe--is to make this state count for
something in national affairs. Just changing parties doesn't help
anything. I'd rather not shift at all than send some fellow to the
Senate just because he can capture a caucus. It's my honest conviction
that any man can get a caucus vote if he will play according to the old
rules. You and I go out over the state bawling to the people that they
are governing this country. We appeal to them for their votes when we
know well enough that between Thatcher and Bassett as Democrats, and
'Big' Jordan and Ridgefield in the Republican camp, the people don't
stand to win. It may tickle you to know that I've had some flattering
invitations lately to join the Republicans--not from the old guard, mind
you, but from some of the young fellows who want to score results for
policies, not politicians. I suppose, after all, Colonel, I'm only a
kind of academic Democrat, with no patience whatever with this eternal
hitching of our ancient mule to the saloons and breweries just to win.
In the next campaign I'm going to preach my academic Democracy all the
way from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River, up and down and back and
forth--and I'm going to do it at my own expense and not be responsible
to any state committee or anybody else. That's about where I stand."

"Good; mighty good, Dan. All the rest of us want is for you to holler
that in your biggest foghorn voice and you'll find the crowd with you."

"But if the crowd isn't with me, it won't make a bit of difference; I
shall bark just the same."

"Now that we've got down to brass tacks, I'll tell you what I've thought
ever since Bassett got his clamps on the party: that he really hasn't
any qualities of leadership; that grim, silent way of his is a good deal
of a bluff. If anybody ever has the nerve to set off a firecracker just
behind him, he'll run a mile. The newspapers keep flashing him up in big
headlines all the time, and that helps to keep the people fooled. The
last time I saw him was just after he put through that corporation bill
you broke on, and he didn't seem to have got much fun out of his
victory; he looked pretty gray and worried. It wasn't so easy pulling
through House Bill Ninety-five; it was the hardest job of Mort's life;
but he had to do it or take the count. And Lord! he certainly lost his
head in defeating those appropriation bills; he let his spite toward the
governor get the better of him. It wasn't the Republican governor he put
in the hole; it was his own party."

"That's the way with all these men of his type on both sides; they have
no real loyalty; they will sacrifice their parties any time just to
further personal ends, or in this case it would seem to have been out of
sheer bad temper. I didn't use to think Bassett had any temper or any
kind of emotional organization. But when he's mad it's the meanest kind
of mad, blind and revengeful."

"He's forced an extra session--he's brought that on us. Just chew on
that a minute, Dan. A Republican governor has got to reassemble a
Democratic legislature merely to correct its own faults. It looks well
in print, by George! Speaking of print, how did he come to let go of the
'Courier,' and who owns that sheet anyway? I thought when Thatcher
sprung that suit and dragged our Aunt Sally into it, the Wabash River
would run hot lava for the next forty years. But that night of the ball
she and Mort stood there on the firing-line as though nothing had ever
happened."

Harwood grinned and shook his head gravely.

"There are some things, Colonel, that even to a good friend like you I
can't give away. Besides, I promised Atwill not to tell."

"All right, Dan. And now, for fear you may think I've got something up
my sleeve, I want to say to you with my hand on my heart that I don't
want any office now or ever!"

"Now, Colonel, be very careful!" laughed Dan.

"No; I'm not up here on a fishing-trip. But I want you to know where I
stand and the friendly feeling of a whole lot of people toward you. You
say the younger men are getting tired of the old boss system; I'll tell
you that a lot of the old fellows too are beginning to get restless. The
absurdity of the whole game on both sides is beginning to get into the
inner consciousness of the people. You know if I had stayed regular when
the free-silver business came on I might have been in a position now to
play for the governorship--which is the only thing I ever wanted; rather
nice to be governor of your own state, and have your name scratched on a
slab at the State House door; it's even conceivable, Daniel, that a man
might do a little good--barely possible," he concluded dryly. "I'm out
of it now for good; but anything I can do to help you, don't wait to
write, just telephone me. Now--"

"I'm not so sure you can't make it yet; I'd like to see you there."

"Thanks, Daniel; but like you I'm in the ranks of the patriots and not
looking for the pie counter. Here's another matter. Do you mind telling
me what you're up to in this White River Canneries business? I notice
that you've been sticking the can-opener into it."

"Yes; that protest of the original stockholders against the
reorganization is still pending. As administrator of the estate of
Professor Kelton--you remember him--Madison College--I filed a petition
to be let into the case. It's been sleeping along for a couple of
years--stockholders too poor to put up a fight. I've undertaken to probe
clear into the mire. I've got lots of time and there's lots of mire!"

"Good. They say the succotash and peaches were all cooked in the same
pot, and that our Uncle Mort did the skimming."

"So they say; but believe me, I can attack him without doing violence to
my professional conscience. White River Canneries was never in the
Boordman office to my knowledge. This isn't vengeance on my part; it's
my duty to get what I can for the estate."

"Well, some of our farmers down my way got soaked in that deal, but it
never seemed worth while to waste their money in litigation. I'll be
glad to turn the claims I have in my office over to you; the more you
have, the stronger fight you can make."

"Good. I welcome business. I'm going to see if I can't get to the bottom
of the can."

As a _révolté_ Dan had attracted more attention than he liked, in all
the circumstances. Now that the legislature had adjourned, he was
anxious to give his energy to the law, and he did not encourage
political pilgrims to visit his office. He felt that he had behaved
generously toward his old chief when the end came, and the promptness
with which Bassett's old guard sought to impeach his motives in fighting
the corporation bill angered him. Threats of retaliation were conveyed
to him from certain quarters; and from less violent sources he heard
much of his ingratitude toward the man who had "made" him. He had failed
in his efforts to secure the passage of several measures whose enactment
was urged by the educational and philanthropic interests of the
community, and this was plainly attributable to the animosity aroused by
his desertion of the corporation bill. He had not finished with this
last measure, which had been passed by Bassett's bi-partisan combination
over the governor's veto. The labor organizations were in arms against
it and had engaged Dan to attack it in the courts.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sylvia's approval of his course had been as cordial as he could have
asked, and as the spring advanced they were much together. They attended
concerts, the theatre, and lectures, as often as she had time for
relaxation, and they met pretty regularly at Mrs. Owen's dinner table on
Sunday--often running out for long tramps in the country afterward, to
return for supper, and a renewal of their triangular councils. The
Bassetts were to continue at the Bosworth house until June, and when
Marian dashed in upon these Sunday symposiums--sometimes with a young
cavalier she had taken out for a promenade--she gave Dan to understand
that his difficulties with her father made not the slightest difference
to her.

"But, mama!" She spoke of her mother as of one whose views must not
weigh heavily against the world's general good cheer--"mama says she
_never_ trusted you; that there was just that something about you that
didn't seem quite--" Marian would shake her head and sigh suggestively,
whereupon Mrs. Owen would rebuke her and send her off to find the candy
in the sideboard.

Allen, relegated for a time to a sanatorium in the Adirondacks, amused
himself by telegraphing to Marian daily; and he usually managed to time
a message to reach Mrs. Owen's Sunday dinner table with characteristic
remembrances for all who might be in her house. To Dan he wrote a letter
commending his course in the legislature.

"I always knew you would get on Dad's side one of these days. The Great
Experiment is making headway. Don't worry about me. I'm going to live to
be a hundred. There's really nothing the matter with my lungs, you know.
Dad just wanted an excuse to come up here himself (mother and the girls
used me as an excuse for years, you remember). He's doing big stunts
tramping over the hills. You remember that good story Ware told us that
night up in the house-boat? You wouldn't think Dad would have so much
curiosity, but he's been over there to look at that place Ware told
about. He's left me now to go down to New York to see the lights. . . .
I'm taking quite a literary turn. You know, besides Emerson and those
chaps who camped with him up here, Stevenson was here, too,--good old
R.L.S.!"

Several times Sylvia, Marian, and Dan collaborated in a Sunday round
robin to Allen, in the key of his own exuberances.



CHAPTER XXVII

HEAT LIGHTNING


"We'll finish the peaches to-night, and call it a day's work," remarked
Mrs. Owen. "Sylvia, you'd better give another turn to the covers on
those last jars. There's nothing takes the heart out of a woman like
opening a can of fruit in January and finding mould on top. There,
Annie, that's enough cinnamon. Put in too much and your peaches will
taste like a drug store."

Spicy odors floated from the kitchen of Mrs. Owen's house on Waupegan.
The August afternoon sun struck goldenly upon battalions of glasses and
jars in the broad, screened veranda, an extension of the kitchen itself.
The newly affixed labels announced peach, crab-apple, plum, and
watermelon preserves (if the mention of this last item gives you no
thrill, so much the worse for you!); jellies of many tints and flavors,
and tiny cucumber pickles showing dark green amid the gayer colors. Only
the most jaded appetite could linger without sharp impingements before
these condensations and transformations of the kindly fruits of the
earth.

In Mrs. Owen's corps of assistants we recognize six young women from
Elizabeth House--for since the first of July Elizabeth House has been
constantly represented on Waupegan, girls coming and going in sixes for
a fortnight at the farm. Mrs. Owen had not only added bedrooms to the
rambling old farmhouse to accommodate these visitors, but she had, when
necessary, personally arranged with their employers for their vacations.

On the face of it, the use of her farm as a summer annex to the working
girls' boarding-house in town was merely the whim of a kind-hearted old
woman with her own peculiar notions of self-indulgence. A cynical member
of the summer colony remarked at the Casino that Mrs. Owen, with
characteristic thrift, was inveigling shop-girls to her farm and then
putting them to work in her kitchen. Mrs. Owen's real purpose was the
study of the girls in Elizabeth House with a view to determining their
needs and aptitude: she was as interested in the woman of forty
permanently planted behind a counter as in the gayest eighteen-year-old
stenographer. An expert had built for her that spring a model plant for
poultry raising, an industry of which she confessed her own ignorance,
and she found in her battery of incubators the greatest delight.

"When a woman has spent twenty years behind a counter, Sylvia, or
working a typewriter, she hasn't much ahead of her. What's the matter
with ducks?"

They made prodigious calculations of all sorts that summer, and
continued their study of catalogues. Mrs. Owen expected to visit the
best vocational schools in the country during the fall and winter. The
school could not be a large one, but it must be wisely planned. Mrs.
Owen had already summarized her ideas on a sheet of paper in the neat,
Italian script which the daguerreotype ladies of our old seminaries
alone preserve for us. The students of the proposed school were to be
girls between fifteen and eighteen, who were driven by necessity into
shops, factories, and offices. None should be excluded for lack of the
knowledge presupposed in students ready for high school, and the general
courses were to be made flexible so that those who entered deficient
might be brought to a fixed standard. The vocational branches were the
most difficult, and at Sylvia's suggestion several well-known
authorities on technical education were called into conference. One of
these had visited Waupegan and expressed his enthusiastic approval of
Mrs. Owen's plans. She was anxious to avoid paralleling any similar
work, public or private. What the city schools did in manual training
was well enough, and she did not mean to compete with the state's
technical school, or with its reformatory school for erring girls. The
young girl about to take her place behind the ribbon counter, or at a
sewing-machine in a garment factory, or as a badly equipped, ignorant,
and hopeless stenographer, was the student for whom in due course the
school should open its doors. Where necessary, the parents of the
students were to be paid the wages their daughters sacrificed in
attending school during the two-year course proposed. The students were
to live in cottages and learn the domestic arts through their own
housekeeping, the members of each household performing various duties in
rotation. The school was to continue in session the year round, so that
flower--and kitchen--gardening might take rank with dressmaking,
cooking, fruit culture, poultry raising, and other branches which Mrs.
Owen proposed to have taught.

"I can't set 'em all up in business, but I want a girl that goes through
the school to feel that she won't have to break her back in an overall
factory all her life, or dance around some floor-walker with a waxed
mustache. They tell me no American girl who has ever seen a trolley car
will go into a kitchen to work--she can't have her beaux going round to
the back door. Sylvia, we've got to turn out cooks that are worth going
to kitchen doors to see! Now, I've taught you this summer how to make
currant jelly that you needn't be ashamed of anywhere on earth, and it
didn't hurt you any. A white woman can't learn to cook the way darkies
do, just by instinct. That's a miracle, by the way, that I never heard
explained--how these colored women cook as the good ones do--those
old-fashioned darkies who take the cook book out of your hand and look
at it upside down and grin and say, 'Yes, Miss Sally,' when they can't
read a word! You catch a clean, wholesome white girl young enough, and
make her understand that her kitchen's a laboratory, and her work
something to be proud of, and she'll not have any trouble finding places
to work where they won't ask her to clean out the furnace and wash the
automobile."

The Bassetts had opened their cottage early and Morton Bassett had been
at the lake rather more constantly than in previous summers. Marian was
off on a round of visits to the new-found friends that were the fruit
of her winter at the capital. She was much in demand for house parties,
and made her engagements, quite independently of her parents, for weeks
and fortnights at widely scattered mid-Western resorts. Mrs. Bassett was
indulging in the luxury of a trained nurse this summer, but even with
this reinforcement she found it impossible to manage Marian. It need
hardly be said that Mrs. Owen's philanthropic enterprises occasioned her
the greatest alarm. It was enough that "that girl" should be spending
the summer at Waupegan, without bringing with her all her fellow
boarders from Elizabeth House.

Mrs. Bassett had now a tangible grievance against her husband.
Blackford's course at the military school he had chosen for himself had
been so unsatisfactory that his father had been advised that he would
not be received for another year. It was now Mrs. Bassett's turn to
cavil at her husband for the sad mess he had made of the boy's
education. She would never have sent Blackford to a military school if
it had been her affair; she arraigned her husband for having encouraged
the boy in his dreams of West Point.

Blackford's father continuing indifferent, Mrs. Bassett rose from bed
one hot August day filled with determination. Blackford, confident of
immunity from books through the long vacation, was enjoying himself
thoroughly at the lake. He was a perfectly healthy, good-natured lad,
whose faults were much like those of the cheerful, undisciplined
Marian. His mother scanned the reports of Blackford's demerits and
decided that he required tutoring immediately. She thereupon reasoned
that it would score with her aunt if she employed "that girl" to coach
the delinquent Blackford. It would at any rate do no harm to manifest a
friendly interest in her aunt's protégée, who would doubtless be glad of
a chance to earn a little pin-money. She first proposed the matter to
her aunt, who declared promptly that it must be for Sylvia to say; that
Sylvia was busy writing a book (she was revising her grandfather's
textbook), besides helping to entertain the Elizabeth House guests; but
when the matter was referred to Sylvia, she cheerfully agreed to give
Blackford two hours a day.

Sylvia quickly established herself on terms of good comradeship with her
pupil. Blackford was old enough to find the proximity of a pretty girl
agreeable, and Sylvia was sympathetic and encouraging. When he confided
to her his hopes of a naval career (he had finally renounced the Army)
Sylvia sent off to Annapolis for the entrance requirements. She told him
of her Grandfather Kelton's service in the Navy and recounted some of
the old professor's exploits in the Civil War. The stories Sylvia had
heard at her grandfather's knee served admirably as a stimulus. As the
appointments to Annapolis had to be won in competitive examinations she
soon persuaded him that the quicker he buckled down to hard study the
sooner he would attain the goal. This matter arranged, Mrs. Bassett went
back to bed, where she received Sylvia occasionally and expressed her
sorrow that Mrs. Owen, at her time of life, should be running a
boarding-house for a lot of girls who were better off at work. Her aunt
was merely making them dissatisfied with their lot. She did not guess
the import of the industries in Mrs. Owen's kitchen, as reported through
various agencies; they were merely a new idiosyncracy of her aunt's old
age, a deplorable manifestation of senility.

Sylvia was a comfortable confessor; Mrs. Bassett said many things to her
that she would have liked to say to Mrs. Owen, with an obscure hope that
they might in due course be communicated to that inexplicable old woman.
And Sylvia certainly was past; mistress of the difficult art of brushing
hair without tangling and pulling it, thereby tearing one's nerves to
shreds--as the nurse did. Mrs. Owen's visits were only occasional, but
they usually proved disturbing. She sniffed at the nurse and advised her
niece to get up. She knew a woman in Terre Haute who went to bed on her
thirtieth birthday and left it only to be buried in her ninetieth year.
Sylvia was a far more consoling visitor to this invalid propped up on
pillows amid a litter of magazines, with the cool lake at her elbow.
Sylvia did not pooh-pooh Christian Science and New Thought and such
things with which Mrs. Bassett was disposed to experiment. Sylvia even
bestowed upon her a boon in the shape of the word "psychotherapy." Mrs.
Bassett liked it, and declared that if she read a paper before the
Fraserville Woman's Club the next winter--a service to which she was
solemnly pledged--psychotherapy should be her subject. Thus Mrs.
Bassett found Sylvia serviceable and comforting. And the girl knew her
place, and all.

Morton Bassett found Sylvia tutoring his son one day when he arrived at
Waupegan unexpectedly. Mrs. Bassett explained the arrangement privately
in her own fashion.

"You seem to take no interest in your children, Morton. I thought
Blackford was your particular pride, but the fact that he was
practically expelled from school seemed to make not the slightest
impression on you. I thought that until you _did_ realize that the boy
was wasting his time here, I'd take matters into my own hands. Miss
Garrison seems perfectly competent; she tells me Blackford is very
quick--all he needs is application."

"I hadn't got around to that yet, Hallie. I'd intended taking it up this
week. I'm very busy," murmured Bassett.

His wife's choice of a tutor seemed inconsistent with her earlier
animosity toward Sylvia, but he shrank from asking explanations. Mrs.
Bassett had grown increasingly difficult and arbitrary.

"That's the American father all over! Well, I've done my duty."

"No doubt it's a good arrangement. We've got to keep Blackford in hand.
Where's Marian?"

"She's visiting the Willings at their place at Whitewater. She's been
gone a week."

"The Willings? Not those Burton Willings? How did that happen;--I don't
believe we care to have her visit the Willings."

"They are perfectly nice people," she replied defensively, "and Marian
knew their daughter at school. Allen Thatcher is in the party, and
they're all people we know or know about."

"Well, I don't want Marian visiting around promiscuously. I know nothing
about the family, but I don't care for Willing. And we've had enough of
young Thatcher. Marian's already seen too much of him."

"Allen's a perfectly nice fellow. It isn't fair to dislike him on his
father's account. Allen isn't a bit like his father; but even if he were
you used to think well enough of Ed Thatcher."

This shot was well aimed, and Bassett blinked, but he felt that he must
exercise his parental authority. If he had been culpable in neglecting
Blackford he could still take a hand in Marian's affairs.

"So I did," he replied. "But I'm going to telegraph Marian to come home.
What's the Willings' address?"

"Oh, you'll find it on a picture postal card somewhere about. I'll write
Marian to come home; but I wouldn't telegraph if I were you, Morton. And
if you don't like my employing Miss Garrison, you can get rid of her: I
merely felt that _something_ had to be done. I turn it all over to you,"
she ended mournfully.

"Oh, I have no objections to Miss Garrison. We'll see how Blackford gets
on with her."

Bassett was troubled by other things that summer than his son's
education. Harwood's declaration of war in the White River Canneries
matter had proved wholly disagreeable, and Fitch had not been able to
promise that the case might not come to trial, to Bassett's
discomfiture. It was a hot summer, and Bassett had spent a good deal of
time in his office at the Boordman Building, where Harwood's name no
longer adorned the door of Room 66. The 'Advertiser' continued to lay on
the lash for his defeat of the appropriations necessary to sustain
several important state institutions while he carried through his
corporation bill. They were saying in some quarters that he had lost his
head, and that he was now using his political power for personal warfare
upon his enemies. Thatcher loomed formidably as a candidate for the
leadership, and many predicted that Bassett's power was at last broken.
On the other hand, Bassett's old lieutenants smiled knowingly; the old
Bassett machine was still in perfect running order, they said, as
Thatcher would learn when he felt the wheels grinding him.

Bassett saw Sylvia daily, and he was wary of her at first. She had dealt
him a staggering blow that rainy evening at the door of Elizabeth
House--a blow which, from her, had an effect more poignant than she
knew. That incident was ended, however, and he felt that he had nothing
to fear from her. No one appreciates candor so thoroughly as the man who
is habitually given to subterfuge, evasion, and dissimulation. Sylvia's
consent to tutor Blackford indicated a kindly feeling toward the family.
It was hardly likely that she would report to Mrs. Bassett his
indiscretions with Rose Farrell. And his encounters with Sylvia had
moreover encouraged the belief that she viewed life broadly and
tolerantly.

There was little for a man of Bassett's tastes to do at Waupegan. Most
of the loungers at the Casino were elderly men who played bridge, which
he despised; and he cared little for fishing or boating. Tennis and golf
did not tempt him. His wife had practically ceased to be a figure in the
social life of the colony; Marian was away, and Blackford's leisure was
spent with boys of his own age. Morton Bassett was lonely.

It thus happened that he looked forward with growing interest to
Sylvia's daily visits to his house. He found that he could mark her
progress from Mrs. Owen's gate round the lake to his own cottage from
the window of a den he maintained in the attic. He remained there under
the hot shingles, conscious of her presence in his house throughout her
two hours with Blackford. Once or twice he took himself off to escape
from her; but on these occasions he was surprised to find that he was
back on the veranda when Sylvia emerged from the living-room with her
pupil. She was always cheery, and she never failed to say something
heartening of Blackford's work.

A number of trifling incidents occurred to bring them together. The cook
left abruptly, and Mrs. Bassett was reduced to despair. Bassett,
gloomily pacing his veranda, after hearing his wife's arraignment of the
world in general and domestic servants in particular, felt the clouds
lift when Sylvia came down from a voluntary visit to the invalid. He
watched her attack the problem by long-distance telephone. Sensations
that were new and strange and sweet assailed him as he sat near in the
living-room of his own house, seeing her at the telephone desk by the
window, hearing her voice. Her patience in the necessary delays while
connection was made with the city, her courtesy to her unseen auditors,
the smile, the occasional word she flung at him--as much as to say, of
course it's bothersome but all will soon come right!--these things
stirred in him a wistfulness and longing such as the hardy oak must feel
when the south wind touches its bare boughs with the first faint breath
of spring.

"It's all arranged--fixed--accomplished!" Sylvia reported at last.
"There's a cook coming by the afternoon train. You'll attend to meeting
her? Please tell Mrs. Bassett it's Senator Ridgefield's cook who's
available for the rest of the summer, as the family have gone abroad.
She's probably good--the agent said Mrs. Ridgefield had brought her from
Washington. Let me see! She must have Thursday afternoon off and a
chance to go to mass on Sunday. And you of course stand the railroad
fare to and from the lake; it's so nominated in the bond!"

She dismissed the whole matter with a quick gesture of her hands.

Their next interview touched again his domestic affairs. He had
telegraphed Marian to come home without eliciting a reply, and the next
day he found in a Chicago newspaper a spirited and much-beheadlined
account of the smashing of the Willings' automobile in a collision. It
seemed that they had run into Chicago for a day's shopping and had met
with this misadventure on one of the boulevards. The Willings' chauffeur
had been seriously injured. Miss Marian Bassett, definitely described as
the daughter of Morton Bassett, the well-known Indiana politician, had
been of the party. Allen Thatcher was another guest of the Willings, a
fact which added to Bassett's anger. He had never visited his hatred of
Thatcher upon Allen, whom he had regarded as a harmless boy not to be
taken seriously; but the conjunction of his daughter's name with that of
his enemy's son in a newspaper of wide circulation in Indiana greatly
enraged him. It was bound to occasion talk, and he hated publicity. The
Willings were flashy people who had begun to spend noisily the money
earned for them by an automobile patent. The indictment he drew against
Marian contained many "counts." He could not discuss the matter with his
wife; he carefully kept from her the newspaper story of the smash-up.
The hotel to which the Willings had retired for repairs was mentioned,
and Bassett resolved to go to Chicago and bring Marian home.

The best available train passed Waupegan Station at midnight, and he sat
alone on his veranda that evening with anger against Marian still hot in
his heart. He had yet to apprise Mrs. Bassett of his intended journey,
delaying the moment as long as possible to minimize her inevitable
querulous moanings. Blackford was in his room studying, and Bassett had
grimly paced the veranda for half an hour when the nurse came down with
a request that he desist from his promenade, as it annoyed Mrs. Bassett
in her chamber above.

He thereupon subsided and retired to the darkest corner of the veranda.
A four-hour vigil lay before him, and he derived no calm from the still
stars that faintly shadowed the quiet waters below. He was assailed by
torments reserved for those who, having long made others writhe without
caring that they suffered, hear the swish of the lash over their own
heads. He had only lately been conscious of his growing irritability. He
hated men who yield to irritation; it was a sign of weakness, a failure
of self-mastery. He had been carried on by a strong tide, imagining that
he controlled it and guided it. He had used what he pleased of the
apparatus of life, and when any part of the mechanism became
unnecessary, he had promptly discarded it. It angered him to find that
he had thrown away so much, that the mechanism was no longer as
responsive as it had been. The very peace of the night grated upon him.

A light step sounded at the end of the veranda. A figure in white was
moving toward the door, and recognizing Sylvia, he rose hastily and
advanced to meet her.

"Is that you, Mr. Bassett? I ran over with a new grammar for Blackford
that he will like better than the one he's using. I've marked his lesson
so he can look it over before I come in the morning. How is Mrs.
Bassett?"

"She's very tired and nervous to-night. Won't you sit down?"

"Thank you, no. If it isn't too late I'll run up and see Mrs. Bassett
for a moment."

"I think you'd better not. The nurse is trying to get her to sleep."

"Oh, then of course I shan't stop," and Sylvia turned to go. "How soon
will Marian be home?"

"To-morrow evening; I'm going up to get her to-night," he answered
harshly.

"You are going to the Willings to come home with her?" asked Sylvia,
surprised by his gruffness.

He spoke in a lower tone.

"You didn't see to-day's papers? She's been to Chicago with those
Willings and their machine was smashed and the chauffeur hurt. I'm going
to bring her back. She had no business to be visiting the Willings in
the first place, and their taking her to Chicago without our consent was
downright impudence. I don't want Mrs. Bassett to know of the accident.
I'm going up on the night train."

It satisfied his turbulent spirit to tell her this; he had blurted it
out without attempting to conceal the anger that the thought of Marian
roused in him.

"She wasn't hurt? We should be glad of that!"

Sylvia lingered, her hand on the veranda rail. She seemed very tall in
the mellow starlight. His tone had struck her unpleasantly. There was no
doubt of his anger, or that Marian would feel the force of it when he
found her.

"Oh, she wasn't hurt," he answered dully.

"It's very unfortunate that she was mixed up in it. I suppose she ought
to come home now anyhow."

"The point is that she should never have gone! The Willings are not the
kind of people I want her to know. It was a great mistake, her ever
going."

"Yes, that may be true," said Sylvia quietly. "I don't believe--"

"Well--" he ejaculated impatiently, as though anxious for her to speak
that he might shatter any suggestion she made. Before she came he had
sharply vizualized his meeting with Marian and the Willings. He was
impatient for the encounter, and if Sylvia projected herself in the path
of his righteous anger, she must suffer the consequences.

"If I were you I shouldn't go to Chicago," said Sylvia calmly. "I think
your going for Marian would only make a disagreeable situation worse.
The Willings may not be desirable companions for her, but she has been
their guest, and the motor run to Chicago was only an incident of the
visit. We ought to be grateful that Marian wasn't hurt."

"Oh, you think so! You don't know that her mother had written for her to
come home, and that I had telegraphed her."

"When did you telegraph her?" asked Sylvia, standing her ground.

"Yesterday; yesterday morning, in care of Willing at his farm address."

"Then of course she didn't get your message; she couldn't have had it if
the accident happened in time for this morning's Chicago papers. It must
have taken them all day to get from their place to Chicago." "If she had
been at the Willings' where we supposed she was she would have, got the
message. And her mother had written--twice!"

"I still think it would be a serious mistake in all the circumstances
for you to go up there in a spirit of resentment to bring Marian home.
It's not exactly my business, Mr. Bassett. But I'm thinking of Marian;
and you could hardly keep from Mrs. Bassett the fact that you went for
Marian. It would be sure to distress her."

"Marian needs curbing; she's got to understand that she can't go
gallivanting over the country with strangers, getting her name in the
newspapers. I'm not going to have it; I'm going to stop her nonsense!"

His voice had risen with his anger. Sylvia saw that nothing was to be
gained by argument.

"The main thing is to bring Marian home, isn't it, Mr. Bassett?"

"Most certainly. And when I get her here she shall stay; you may be sure
of that!"

"I understand of course that you want her back, but I hope you will
abandon the idea of going for her yourself. Please give that up! I
promise that she shall come home. I can easily take the night train and
come back with her. What you do afterward is not my affair, but somehow
I think this is. Please agree to my way of doing it! I can manage it
very easily. Mrs. Owen's man can take me across to the train in the
launch. I shan't even have to explain about it to her, if you'd rather I
didn't. It will be enough if I tell her I'm going on business. You will
agree, won't you--please?"

It was not in his heart to consent, and yet he consented, wondering that
he yielded. The rescue of Marian from the Willings was taken out of his
hands without friction, and there remained only himself against whom to
vent his anger. He was curiously agitated by the encounter. The ironic
phrases he had already coined for Marian's discomfiture clinked into the
melting-pot. Sylvia was turning away and he must say something, though
he could not express a gratitude he did not feel. His practical sense
grasped one idea feebly. He felt its imbecility the moment he had
spoken.

"You'll allow me, of course, to pay your expenses. That must be
understood."

Sylvia answered over her shoulder.

"Oh, yes; of course, Mr. Bassett. Certainly."

He meant to accompany her to Mrs. Owen's door, but before he could move
she was gone, running along the path, a white, ghost-like figure faintly
discernible through the trees. He walked on tiptoe to the end of the
veranda to catch the last glimpse of her, and waited till he caught
across the quiet night the faint click of Mrs. Owen's gate. And he was
inexpressibly lonely, now that she had gone.

He opened the door of the living-room and found his wife standing like
an accusing angel by the centre table. She loomed tall in her blue
tea-gown, with her brown braids falling down her back.

"Whom were you talking to, Morton?" she demanded with ominous severity.

"Miss Garrison came over to bring a book for Blackford. It's a grammar
he needed in his work."

He held up the book in proof of his assertion, and as she tossed her
head and compressed her lips he flung it on the table with an effort to
appear at ease.

"She wanted him to have it before his lesson in the morning."

"She certainly took a strange time to bring it over here."

"It struck me as very kind of her to trouble about it. You'll take cold
standing there. I supposed you were asleep."

"I've no doubt you did, Morton Bassett; but how do you suppose I could
sleep when you were talking right under my window? I had already sent
word about the noise you were making on the veranda."

"We were not talking loudly; I didn't suppose we were disturbing you."

"So you were talking quietly, were you! Will you please tell me what you
have to talk to that girl about that you must whisper out there in the
dark?"

"Please be reasonable, Hallie. Miss Garrison was only here a few
minutes. And as I knew noises on the veranda had disturbed you I tried
to speak in a low tone. We were speaking of Blackford."

"Well, I'd like you to know that I employed that girl to remedy your
mistakes in trying to educate Blackford, and if she has any report to
make she can make it to me."

"Very well, then. It was only a few days ago that you told me you had
done all you were going to do about Blackford; you gave me to
understand that you washed your hands of him. You're nervous and
excited,--very unnecessarily excited,--and I insist that you go back to
bed. I'll call Miss Featherstone."

"Miss Featherstone is asleep and you needn't bother her. I'm going to
send her away at the end of her week anyhow. She's the worst masseuse I
ever had; her clumsiness simply drives me frantic. But I never thought
you would treat me like this--entertaining a young woman on the veranda
when you thought I was asleep and out of the way. I'm astonished at Miss
Garrison; I had a better opinion of her. I thought she knew her place. I
thought she understood that I employed her out of kindness; and she's
abused my confidence outrageously."

"You can't speak that way of that young woman; she's been very good to
you. She's come to see you nearly every day and shown you many
kindnesses. It is kind of her to be tutoring Blackford at all when she
came to the lake for rest."

"For rest!"

She gulped at the enormity of this; it was beyond belief that any
intelligent being could have been deceived in a matter that was as plain
as daylight to any understanding. "You think she came here for rest!
Don't you know that she's hung herself around Aunt Sally's neck, and
that she's filling Aunt Sally's head with all manner of wild ideas?
She's been after Aunt Sally's money ever since she saw that she could
influence her. Did you ever know of Aunt Sally's taking up any other
girl? Has she ever traveled over the country with Marian or shown any
such interest in her own flesh and blood?"

"Please quiet yourself. You'll have Blackford and the nurse down here in
a minute. You know perfectly well that Aunt Sally started Elizabeth
House long before she had ever heard of this girl, and you know that
your aunt is a vigorous, independent woman who is not led around by
anybody."

Her nostrils quivered and her eyes shone with tears. She leveled her arm
at him rigidly.

"I saw you walking with that girl yesterday! When she left here at noon
you came down from the den and walked along to Aunt Sally's gate with
her. I could see you through the trees from my bed, laughing and talking
with her. I suppose it was then you arranged for her to come and sit
with you on the veranda when you thought I was asleep!"

He took a step toward her and seized the outstretched hand roughly.

"You are out of your senses or you wouldn't speak in this way of Miss
Garrison. She's been a kind friend to you all summer; you've told me
yourself self how she's gone up to brush your hair and do little things
for you that the nurse couldn't do as well. You've grown morbid from
being ill so long, but nothing was ever more infamous than your
insinuations against Miss Garrison. She's a noble girl and it's not
surprising that Aunt Sally should like her. Everybody likes her!"

Having delivered this blow he settled himself more firmly on his feet
and glared.

"Everybody likes her!" she repeated, snatching away her hand. "I'd like
to know how you come to know so much about her."

"I know enough about her: I know all about her!"

"Then you know more than anybody else does. Nobody else seems to know
_anything_ about her!" she ended triumphantly.

"There you go again with insinuations! It's ungenerous, it's unlike
you."

"Morton Bassett," she went on huskily, "if you took some interest in
your own children it would be more to your credit. You blamed me for
letting Marian go to the Willings' and then telegraphed for her to come
home. It's a beautiful relationship you have established with your
children! She hasn't even answered your telegram. But I suppose if she
had you'd have kept it from me. The newspapers talk about your secretive
ways, but they don't know you, Morton Bassett, as I do. I suppose you
can't imagine yourself entertaining Marian on the veranda or walking
with her, talking and laughing, as I saw you with that girl."

"Well, thank God there's somebody I can talk and laugh with! I'm glad to
be able to tell you that Marian will be home to-morrow. You may have the
satisfaction of knowing that if you _would_ let her go to the Willings'
with Allen Thatcher I can at least bring her back after you failed to do
it."

"So you did hear from her, did you! Of course you couldn't have told me:
I suppose you confide in Miss Garrison now," she ended drearily.

His wife's fatigue, betrayed in her tired voice, did not mitigate the
stab with which he wished to punish her references to Sylvia. And he
delivered it with careful calculation.

"You are quite right, Hallie. I did speak to Miss Garrison about Marian.
Miss Garrison has gone to bring Marian home. That's all; go to bed."



CHAPTER XXVIII

A CHEERFUL BRINGER OF BAD TIDINGS


The announcement that Harwood was preparing to attack the reorganization
of the White River Canneries corporation renewed the hopes of many
victims of that experiment in high finance, and most of the claims
reached Dan's office that summer. The legal points involved were
sufficiently difficult to evoke his best energies, and he dug diligently
in the State Library preparing his case. He was enjoying the cool, calm
heights of a new freedom. Many older men were eking out a bare living at
the law, and the ranks were sadly overcrowded, but he faced the future
confidently. He meant to practice law after ideals established by men
whose names were still potent in the community; he would not race with
the ambulance to pick up damage suits, and he refused divorce cases and
small collection business. He meant to be a lawyer, not a
scandal-hunting detective or pursuer of small debtors with a constable's
process.

He tried to forget politics, and yet, in spite of his indifference,
hardly a day passed that did not bring visitors to his office bent upon
discussing the outlook. Many of these were from the country; men who,
like Ramsay, were hopeful of at last getting rid of Bassett. Some of his
visitors were young lawyers like himself, most of them graduates of the
state colleges, who were disposed to take their politics seriously. Nor
were these all of his own party. He found that many young Republicans,
affected by the prevailing unrest, held practically his own views on
national questions. Several times he gathered up half a dozen of these
acquaintances for frugal dinners in the University Club rathskeller, or
they met in the saloon affected by Allen's friends of Lüders's carpenter
shop. He wanted them to see all sides of the picture, and he encouraged
them to crystallize their fears and hopes; more patriotism and less
partisanship, they all agreed, was the thing most needed in America.

Allen appeared in Dan's office unexpectedly one hot morning and sat down
on a chair piled with open lawbooks. Allen had benefited by his month's
sojourn in the Adirondacks, and subsequent cruises in his motor car had
tanned his face becomingly. He was far from rugged, but he declared that
he expected to live forever.

"I'm full of dark tidings! Much has happened within forty-eight hours.
See about our smash-up in Chicago! Must have read it in the newspapers?"

"A nice, odorous mess," observed Dan, filling his pipe. "I'm pained to
see that you go chasing around with the plutocrats smashing lamp-posts
in our large centres of population. That sort of thing is bound to
establish your reputation as the friend of the oppressed. Was the
chauffeur's funeral largely attended?"

"Pshaw; he was only scratched; we chucked him into the hospital to keep
him from being arrested, that was all. Look here, old man, you don't
seem terribly sympathetic. Maybe you didn't notice that it was _my_ car
that got smashed! It looked like a junk dealer's back yard when they
pulled us out. I told them to throw it into the lake: I've just ordered
a new car. I never cared for that one much anyhow."

"Another good note for the boys around Lüders's joint! You're identified
forever with the red-necked aristocrats who smash five thousand dollar
motors and throw them away. You'd better go out in the hall and read the
sign on the door. I'm a lawyer, not a father confessor to the
undeserving rich."

"This is serious, Dan," Allen remonstrated, twirling his straw hat
nervously. "All that happened in connection with the smash-up didn't get
into the newspapers."

"The 'Advertiser' had enough of it: they printed, published, and uttered
an extra with Marian's picture next to yours on the first page! You
can't complain of the publicity you got out of that light adventure. How
much space do you think it was worth?"

"Stop chaffing and hear me out! I'm up against a whole lot of trouble,
and I came to get your advice. You see, Dan, the Bassetts didn't know
Marian was going on that automobile trip. Her mother had written
her to leave the Willings' and go home--twice! And her father
telegraphed--after we left the farm. She never got the telegram. Then,
when Mr. Bassett read of the smash in the papers, I guess he was warm
clear through. You know he doesn't cut loose very often; and--"

"And he jumped on the train and went to Chicago to snatch Marian away
from the Willings? I should think he would have done just that."

"No; oh, no! He sent Sylvia!" cried Allen. "Sylvia came up on the night
train, had a few words privately with Marian, took luncheon with the
Willings, all as nice as you please, and off she went with Marian."

Harwood pressed his thumb into his pipe-bowl and puffed in silence for a
moment. Allen, satisfied that he had at last caught his friend's
attention, fanned himself furiously with his hat.

"Well," said Dan finally, "there's nothing so staggering in that.
Sylvia's been staying at the lake: I suppose Mrs. Bassett must have
asked her to go up and bring Marian home when the papers screamed her
daughter's name in red ink. I understand that Mrs. Bassett's ill, and I
suppose Bassett didn't like to leave her. There's nothing fuddlesome in
that. Sylvia probably did the job well. She has the habit. What is there
that troubles you about it, Allen?"

His heart had warmed at the mention of Sylvia, and he felt more kindly
toward Allen now that she had flashed across his vision. Many times a
day he found Sylvia looking up at him from the pages of his books; this
fresh news brought her near. Sylvia's journey to Chicago argued an
intimacy with the Bassetts that he did not reconcile with his knowledge
of her acquaintance with the family. He was aroused by the light touch
of Allen's hand on his knee. The young man bent toward him with a
bright light in his eyes.

"You know," he said, "Marian and I are engaged!"

"You're what?" bellowed Dan.

"We're engaged, old man; we're engaged! It happened there at the
Willings'. You know I think I loved her from the very first time I saw
her! It's the beautifullest thing that ever came into my life. You don't
know how happy I am: it's the kind of happiness that makes you want to
cry. Oh, you don't know; nobody could ever know!"

Dan rose and paced the floor, while Allen stood watching him eagerly and
pouring his heart out. Dan felt that tragedy loomed here. He did not
doubt Allen's sincerity; he was not unmoved by his manner, his voluble
description of all the phases of his happiness. Allen, with all his
faults and weaknesses, had nevertheless a sound basis of character.
Harwood's affection for him dated from that first encounter in the
lonely Meridian Street house when the boy had dawned upon him in his
overalls and red silk stockings. He had never considered Allen's
interest in Marian serious; for Allen had to Dan's knowledge paid
similar attentions to half a dozen other girls. Allen's imagination made
a goddess of every pretty girl, and Dan had settled down to the belief
that his friend saw in Marian only one of the many light-footed Dianas
visible in the city thoroughfares, whom he invested with deific charms
and apostrophized in glowing phrases. But that he should marry
Marian--Marian, the joyous and headstrong; Marian the romping, careless
Thalia of Allen's bright galaxy! She was ill-fitted for marriage,
particularly to a dreamy, emotional youngster like Allen. And yet, on
the other hand, if she had arrived at a real appreciation of Allen's
fineness and gentleness and had felt his sweetness and charm, why not?

Dan's common sense told him that quite apart from the young people
themselves there were reasons enough against it. Dan had imagined that
Allen was content to play at being in love; that it satisfied the
romantic strain in him, just as his idealization of the Great Experiment
and its actors expressed and satisfied his patriotic feelings. The news
that he had come to terms of marriage with Marian was in all the
circumstances dismaying, and opened many dark prospects. Allen stood at
the window staring across the roofs beyond. He whirled round as Dan
addressed him.

"Have you spoken to Mr. Bassett? You know that will be the first thing,
Allen."

"That's exactly what I want you to help me about? He's at Waupegan now,
and of course I've got to see him. But you know this row between him and
dad makes it hard. You know dad would do anything in the world for
me--dear old dad! Of course I've told _him_. And you'd be surprised to
see the way he took it. You know people don't know dad the way I do.
They think he's just a rough old chap, without any fine feeling about
anything. And mother and the girls leaving him that way has hurt him; it
hurts him a whole lot. And when I told him last night, up at that big
hollow cave of a house, how happy I was and all that, it broke him all
up. He cried, you know--dad cried!"

The thought of Edward G. Thatcher in tears failed to arrest the dark
apprehensions that tramped harshly through Dan's mind. As for Bassett,
Dan recalled his quondam chief's occasional flings at Allen, whom the
senator from Fraser had regarded as a spoiled and erratic but innocuous
trifler. Mrs. Bassett, Dan was aware, valued her social position highly.
As the daughter of Blackford Singleton she considered herself
unassailably a member of the upper crust of the Hoosier aristocracy. And
Dan suspected that Bassett also harbored similar notions of caste.

Independently of the struggle in progress between Thatcher and Bassett,
it was quite likely that the Bassetts would look askance at the idea of
a union between their daughter and Edward Thatcher's son, no matter what
might be said in Allen's favor. Bassett's social acceptance was fairly
complete, and he enjoyed meeting men of distinction. He was invariably
welcomed to the feasts of reason we are always, in our capital,
proffering to the great and good of all lands who pause for
enlightenment and inspiration in our empurpled Athens. He was never
ignored in the choice of those frock-coated and silk-hatted non-partisan
committees that meet all trains at the Union Station, and quadrennially
welcome home our eternal candidates for the joyous office of
Vice-President of the Republic. He kept his dress suit packed for flight
at Fraserville free of that delicate scent of camphor that sweetens the
air of provincial festivals. Thatcher never, to the righteous,
sensitive, local consciousness, wholly escaped from the maltster's
taint, in itself horrible and shocking; nor did his patronage of budding
genius in the prize ring, or his adventures (often noisily heralded) as
a financial pillar of comic opera, tend to change or hide the leopard's
spots in a community where the Ten Commandments haven't yet been
declared unconstitutional, save by plumbers and paperhangers. Women who
had never in their lives seen Mrs. Thatcher admired her for remaining in
exile; they knew she must be (delectable phrase!) a good woman.

"You know dad has had an awful lonely time of it, Dan, and if he has
done things that haven't sounded nice, he's as sorry as anybody could
ask. You know dad never made a cent in his life at poker, and his horses
have come near busting him lots of times. And sentiment against
breweries over here would astonish people abroad. It's that old Puritan
strain, you know. You understand all that, Dan."

Dan grinned in spite of himself. It was hardly less than funny to
attempt a defense of Ed Thatcher by invoking the shades of the Puritans.
But Thatcher did love his boy, and Dan had always given him full credit
for that.

"Never mind the breweries; tell me the rest of it."

"Well," Allen continued, "dad always tells me everything, and when I
spoke of Marian he told me a lot of things. He wants to put Bassett out
of business and go to the Senate. Dad's set his heart on that. I didn't
know that any man could hate another as he hates Bassett. That business
in the state convention cut him deep;--no, don't you say a word! Dad
hasn't any feeling against you; he thinks you're a fine fellow, and he
likes to feel that when you quit Bassett you put yourself on his side.
Maybe he's wrong, but just for my sake I want you to let him think so.
But he's got it in for Bassett; he's got his guns all loaded and primed.
Dad's deeper than you think. They used to say that dad was only second
fiddle to Bassett, but you'll see that dad knows a thing or two."

Dan drummed his desk. This reference to Thatcher's ambitions only
kindled his anger and he wished that Allen would end his confidences and
take himself off. But he pricked up his ears as Allen went on.

"I'm telling you this just to show you how it mixes up things for Marian
and me. I came to you for help, old man; and I want you to see how hard
it is for me to go to Mr. Bassett and tell him I want to marry Marian."

"Just a minute, Allen. Are you quite sure that Marian has made up her
mind to marry you; that she really wants to marry anybody?"

"I tell you it's all fixed! You don't imply that Marian is merely
amusing herself at my expense! It wouldn't be like you to think that. I
have always thought you liked Marian and saw how superb she is."

"Of course I like Marian," said Dan hastily. "My one hope is that both
of you will be happy; and the difficulties you have suggested only make
that more important. You will have to wait. I'm not sure but that you
had better keep this to yourselves for a while--maybe for a long time.
It would be wise for you to talk to Aunt Sally. She's a good friend of
yours, and one of the wisest of women."

It was not in Allen's eye that he sought wisdom. With him, as with most
people who ask advice, advice was the last thing he wanted. It was his
way to unbosom himself, however, and he forged ahead with his story,
with what seemed to Harwood a maddening failure to appreciate its
sinister import. "You remember that when we were up there on the
Kankakee, John Ware told a story one night--a mighty good story about an
experience he had once?"

"Yes; he told a lot of stories. Which one do you mean?"

"Oh, the best one of all--about the woman in the Adirondacks. You
haven't forgotten that?"

"No; I do remember something about it."

"You may not have noticed that while Ware was telling the story dad got
up from the bed in the corner and walked over to the stove, after Ware
had asked you--it was you, wasn't it?--to reach into the pocket of his
coat over your head and get the book he was talking about--it was you he
spoke to, wasn't it?"

"Yes; it comes back to me now," replied Dan, frowning.

"Well, I remember, because it struck me as odd that dad should be
interested; it was Emerson, you know; and dad looked at the book in the
light from the stove and asked me what the name was down in the inside
of the cover. It was the binder's name in small letters,--Z. Fenelsa.
Well, there's a long story about that. It's a horrible story to know
about any man; but dad had been trying to find something he could use on
Bassett. He's had people--the sort you can get to do such jobs--going
over Bassett's whole life to find material. Dad says there's always
something in every man's life that he wants to hide, and that if you
keep looking you can find it. You see--"

"I don't like to see," growled Harwood. "It's an ugly idea." And then,
with sudden scorn for Thatcher's views on man's frailty, he said with
emphasis: "Now, Allen, it's all right for you to talk to me about
Marian, and your wish to marry her; but don't mix scandal up in it. I'm
not for that. I don't want to hear any stories of that kind about
Bassett. Politics is rotten enough at best without tipping over the
garbage can to find arguments. I don't believe your father is going to
stoop to that. To be real frank with you, I don't think he can afford
to."

"You've got to hear it; you can't desert me now. I'm away up in the air
this morning, and even if you do hate this kind of thing, you've got to
see where dad's hatred of Bassett puts Marian and me."

"It puts you clean out of it; away over the ropes and halfway home!
That's where it puts you," boomed Harwood.

"Well, you've got to listen, and you've got to tell me what to do. Dad
had already investigated Bassett's years in New York, when he was a
young man studying in the law school down there. But they could get
about so far and no farther. It's a long time ago and all the people
Bassett knew at that time had scattered to the far corners of the earth.
But that book struck dad all of a heap. It fitted into what he had heard
about Bassett as a dilettante book collector; even then Bassett was
interested in such things. And you know in that account of him you wrote
in the 'Courier' that I told you I had read on the other side that first
time we met? Well, when dad and I went to the Adirondacks it was only
partly on my account; he met a man up there who had been working up
Bassett's past, and dad went over all the ground himself. It was most
amazing that it should all come out that way, but he found the place,
and the same man is still living at the house where the strange woman
stayed that Ware told about. I know it's just as rotten as it can be,
but dad's sure Bassett was the man who took that woman there and
deserted her. It fits into a period when Bassett wasn't in New York and
he wasn't at Fraserville. They've found an old file of the Fraserville
paper at the State Library that mentions the fact that Bassett's father
was very ill--had a stroke--and they had hard work locating Bassett, who
was the only child. There's only one missing link in the chain of
evidence, and that's the woman herself, and her child that was born up
there. Ware told us that night how he failed to get track of them later,
and dad lost the trail right there too. But that's all I need tell you
about it. That's what I've got hanging over me. And dad won't promise
not to use it on Bassett if he has to."

Harwood's face had gone white, but he smiled and knit his fingers
together behind his head with an air of nonchalance that he did not
feel. He knew that Thatcher meant to drive Bassett out of politics, but
he had little faith in Thatcher's ability to do so. He discredited
wholly the story Allen had so glibly recited. By Allen's own admission
the tale was deficient in what Harwood's lawyer's instinct told him were
essentials. The idea that Bassett could ever have been so stupid as to
leave traces of any imaginable iniquities plain enough for Thatcher to
find them after many years was preposterous. The spectacle of the pot
calling the kettle black, never edifying, aroused Dan's ire against
Thatcher. And Bassett was not that sort; his old liking for the man
stirred to life again. Even the Rose Farrell incident did not support
this wretched tissue of fabrication. He had hated Bassett for that; but
it was not for the peccable Thatcher to point a mocking finger at
Achilles's heel.

"Well," said Allen impatiently.

"Well," Dan blurted contemptuously, "I think your father's stooped
pretty low, that's all. You can tell him for me that if he's digging in
the muck-pile for that sort of thing, I'm done with him; I'm not only
done with him, but if he attempts to use any such stuff as that, I'll
fight him; I will raise a war on him that won't be forgotten in this
state through all eternity. You tell him that; tell him you told me your
story and that's what I said about it."

"But, Dan, old man--" began Allen pleadingly.

Harwood shook his head until his cowlick bobbed and danced.

"You'd better get out of here, Allen. If you think you can marry Morton
Bassett's daughter with that kind of a scandal in your pocket, I tell
you you're mad--you've plumb gone insane! Great God, boy, you don't know
the meaning of the words you use. You handle that thing like a child
with a loaded pistol. Don't you see what that would mean--to Marian, to
Blackford, to Mrs. Bassett--to Aunt Sally! Now, you want my advice, or
you said you did, and I'm going to give you some. You go right down to
that bank over there on the corner and buy a steamer ticket and a long
letter of credit. Then take the first train for New York and go back to
your mother and stay there till I send for you to come home. I mean
that--every word of it. If you don't skip I'm damned if I don't go to
Bassett and tell him this whole rotten story."

Allen, the tears glistening in his frightened eyes, turned toward the
door.

"Good-bye, Dan, old man; I'm sorry it had to end this way. I'm
disappointed, that's all."

He paused after opening the door, hoping to be called back, but Harwood
had walked to the window and stood with his hands in his pockets staring
into the street.



CHAPTER XXIX

A SONG AND A FALLING STAR


This was on Friday, and Harwood took the afternoon train for Waupegan.
He had found that when he was tired or lonely or troubled he craved the
sight of Sylvia. Sylvia alone could restore his equanimity; Sylvia who
worked hard but never complained of weariness; Sylvia who saw life
steadily and saw it whole, where he caught only fitful, distorted
glimpses. Yes; he must see Sylvia. Not only must he see her but there
were things he meant to say to her.

He needed Sylvia. For several months he had been sure of that. He loved
her and he meant to marry her. Since leaving college he had indulged in
several more or less ardent flirtations, but they had ended harmlessly;
it was very different with Sylvia! He had realized all that spring that
she was becoming increasingly necessary to him; he needed her solace and
her inspiration. He thrust one or two new books on the prevailing social
unrest into his suit case and added a box of candy, smiling at the
combination. Sylvia with all her ideals was still so beautifully human.
She was quite capable of nibbling bon-bons to the accompaniment of a
vivacious discussion of the sorrows of the world--he had seen her do
just that! With her ideals of life and service, she would not be easily
won; but he was in the race to win. Yes, there were things he meant to
say to Sylvia, and in the tedious journey through the hot afternoon to
Waupegan he formulated them and visualized the situations in which he
should utter them.

Dan reached Waupegan at six o'clock and went to one of the little inns
at the lakeside near the village. He got into his flannels, ate supper,
and set off for Mrs. Owen's with his offerings on the seven o'clock
boat. In the old days of his intimacy with Bassett he had often visited
Waupegan, and the breach between them introduced an element of
embarrassment into his visit. He was very likely to meet his former
chief, who barely bowed to him now when they met in hotels or in the
streets of the capital.

Jumping aboard the steamer just as it was pulling out, he at once saw
Bassett sitting alone in the bow. There were only a few other
passengers, and hearing Dan's step on the deck behind him, Bassett
turned slightly, nodded, and then resumed his inspection of the farther
shore lines. A light overcoat lay across his knees, and the protruding
newspapers explained his visit to the village. Dan found a seat on the
opposite side of the deck, resolved to accept Bassett's own definition
of their relations--markedly expressed in Bassett's back and shoulders
that were stolidly presented to him. Dan, searching out the lights that
were just beginning to blink on the darkling shores, found the
glimmering lanterns of Mrs. Owen's landing. Sylvia was there! It was
Sylvia he had come to see, and the coldness with which Morton Bassett
turned his back upon him did not matter in the least. It was his
pliability in Bassett's hands, manifested at the convention where he had
appeared as the boss's spokesman, that had earned him Sylvia's first
rebuke.

He was thinking of this and of Sylvia when Bassett left his chair and
crossed the deck. Dan barely turned his head, thinking he was merely
changing his seat for a better view; but as Bassett stopped in front of
him, Dan rose and pushed forward a chair.

"No, thank you; I suppose you came up on the evening train. I just
wondered whether you saw Fitch to-day."

"No, sir; I didn't see him; I didn't know he wanted to see me."

"He was here yesterday and probably hadn't had time to see you before
you left town. He had a proposition to make in that Canneries case."

"I didn't know that, of course, or I should have waited. I've never had
any talk with him about the Canneries business."

"So he said."

Bassett clapped his hand savagely upon his hat suddenly to save it from
the breeze that had been roused by the increasing speed of the boat. He
clearly disliked having to hold his hat on his head. Dan marked his old
chief's irritation. There were deep lines in Bassett's face that had
only lately been written there.

"I'll see him Monday. I only ran up for a day or two. It's frightfully
hot at home."

Neither the heat, nor Harwood's enterprise in escaping from it,
interested Bassett, who lifted his voice above the thumping of the
machinery to say:--

"I told Fitch to talk to you about that suit of yours and fix it up if
we can come to terms. I told him what I'd stand for. I'm not afraid of
the suit, and neither is Fitch, and I want you to understand that. My
reasons for getting rid of it are quite apart from the legal questions."

"It will save time, Mr. Bassett, if you tell Fitch that the suit won't
be dropped until all the claims I represent are paid in full. Several of
your associates in the reorganization have already sounded me on that,
and I've said no to all of them."

"Oh, you have, have you?" There was a hard glitter in Bassett's eyes and
his jaws tightened.

"All right, then; go ahead," he added, and walked grimly back to his
chair.

When the steamer stopped at his landing, Bassett jumped off and began
the ascent to his house without looking at Harwood again. Dan felt that
it had been worth the journey to hear direct from Bassett the
intimations of a wish to compromise the Canneries case. And yet, while
the boat was backing off, it was without exultation that he watched
Bassett's sturdy figure slowly climbing the steps. The signs of wear,
the loss of the politician's old elasticity, touched a chord of pity in
Harwood's breast. In the early days of their acquaintance it had seemed
to him that Bassett could never be beaten; and yet Dan had to-night read
defeat in his face and manner. The old Morton Bassett would never have
yielded an inch, never have made overtures of compromise. He would have
emerged triumphant from any disaster. Harwood experienced something of
the sensations of a sculptor, who, having begun a heroic figure in the
grand manner of a Michael Angelo, finds his model shrinking to a pitiful
pygmy. As Bassett passed from sight he turned with a sigh toward the
red, white and blue lanterns that advertised Mrs. Owen's dock to the
mariner.

"Well, well, if it isn't Daniel," exclaimed Mrs. Owen, as Harwood
greeted her and Sylvia on her veranda. "One of the farm hands quit
to-day and you can go to work in the morning, Daniel."

"Not if I'm strong enough to run, Aunt Sally. I'm going to have
forty-eight hours' vacation if I starve to death the rest of my life."

Rose Farrell had told him that Mrs. Owen was entertaining the Elizabeth
House girls in installments, and he was not surprised to find the
veranda filled with young women. Some of them he knew and Sylvia
introduced him to the others.

"When's Rose coming up?" asked Sylvia, balancing herself on the veranda
rail. "You know she's expected."

"Do I know she's expected? Didn't I have a note from you, Aunt Sally,
ordering me to send her up? She's coming just as soon as I get back, but
I think of staying forever."

"A man has come and he's come to stay forever," murmured one of the
young women.

"Oh, you're an event!" laughed Sylvia. "But don't expect us to spoil
you. The sport for to-morrow is tomato pickles, and the man who skipped
to-day left because Aunt Sally wanted him to help scald and peel the
tomats. Your job is cut out for you."

"All right," he replied humbly. "I'll do anything you say but plough or
cut wood. My enchanted youth on the farm was filled with those delights,
and before I go back to that a swift Marathon runner must trip me."

He was aware presently that one by one the girls were slipping away; he
saw them through the windows settling themselves at the round table of
the living-room, where Mrs. Owen was reading a newspaper. Not more than
a quarter of an hour had passed when he and Sylvia found themselves
alone.

"I haven't scarlet fever or anything," he remarked, noting the flight
with satisfaction.

"I suppose we might go inside, too," suggested Sylvia obtusely.

"Oh, I came up for the fresh air! Most of my nights lately have been
spent in a hot office with not even a June bug for company. How are the
neighbors?"

"The Bassetts? Oh, Mrs. Bassett is not at all well; Marian is at home
now; Blackford is tutoring and getting ready to take the Annapolis
examinations the first chance he gets."

"I saw Allen to-day," he remarked carelessly.

She said nothing. He moved his chair nearer.

"He told me things that scared me to death--among others that he and
Marian are engaged."

"Yes, Marian told me that."

"Ah! She really takes it seriously, does she?"

"Yes, she takes it seriously; why shouldn't she?"

"It's the first time she ever took anything seriously; that's all."

"Please don't speak of her like that, Dan. You know she and I are
friends, and I thought you and she were friends too. She always speaks
of you in the very kindest way. Your leaving Mr. Bassett didn't make any
difference with her. And you are the greatest of Blackford's heroes next
to Nelson and Farragut."

Dan laughed.

"So it isn't Napoleon, and Grant and Custer any more? I'm glad he's
settled down to something."

"He's a fine boy with a lot of the right stuff in him. We've been having
some lessons together."

"Tutoring Blackford? You'll have to explain the psychological processes
that brought that about."

"Oh, they're simple enough. He hadn't done well in school last year;
Mrs. Bassett was troubled about it. I take him for a couple of hours
every morning. Mrs. Bassett engaged me, and Mr. Bassett approved of the
plan. Allen probably told you all the news, but he didn't know just how
I came to go to Chicago cago to bring Marian home. It was to keep the
news of that automobile smash from Mrs. Bassett, and to save Marian's
own dignity with the Willings."

"Oh! You went at her father's instance, did you?"

"Yes. I offered to go when I found that he was very angry and likely to
deal severely and ungenerously with Marian. I thought it would be better
for me to go."

"As near as I can make out, you've taken the Bassetts on your
shoulders. I didn't suppose Aunt Sally would stand for that."

"Aunt Sally doesn't know why I went to Chicago. I assume Mrs. Bassett
knows I went to bring Marian home, but I don't know what Mr. Bassett
told her about it, and I haven't seen her since. It's possible my going
may have displeased her. Blackford came here for his lessons this
morning."

Dan moved uneasily. The domestic affairs of the Bassetts did not
interest him save as they involved Sylvia. It was like Sylvia to help
them out of their scrapes; but Sylvia was not a person that he could
scold or abuse.

"You needed rest and it's too bad you've had to bother with their
troubles. Bassett was on the boat as I came over. He had a grouch. He
doesn't look like a happy man."

"I don't suppose he is altogether happy. And I've begged Marian not to
tell him she wants to marry Allen. That would certainly not cheer him
any, right now."

"I'm glad you had a chance to do that. I told Allen to skip right out
for Europe and hang on to his mother's apron strings till I send for
him. This old Capulet and Montague business doesn't ring quite true in
this twentieth century; there's something unreal about it. And just what
those youngsters can see in each other is beyond me."

"You must be fair about that. We haven't any right to question their
sincerity."

"Oh, Allen is sincere enough; but you'll have to show me the documents
on Marian's side of it. She sees in the situation a great lark. The
fact that her father and Thatcher are enemies appeals to her romantic
instincts."

"I think better of it than that, Dan. She's a fine, strong, loyal girl
with a lot of hard common sense. But that doesn't relieve the situation
of its immediate dangers. She's promised me not to speak to her father
yet--not until she has my consent. When I see that it can't be helped,
I'm going to speak to Mr Bassett about it myself."

"You seem to be the good angel of the Bassett household," he remarked
sullenly. A lover's jealousy stirred in his heart, he did not like to
think of Sylvia as preoccupied with the affairs of others, and he saw no
peace or happiness ahead for Marian and Allen. "It's all more wretched
than you imagine. This war between Thatcher and Bassett has passed the
bounds of mere political rivalry. There's an implacable hatred there
that's got to take its course. Allen told me of it this morning when he
was trying to enlist me in his cause with Marian. It's hideous--a
perfectly rotten mess. Thatcher is preparing a poisoned arrow for
Bassett. He's raked up an old scandal, an affair with a woman. It makes
my blood run cold to think of its possibilities."

"But Mr. Thatcher wouldn't do such a thing; he might threaten, but he
wouldn't really use that sort of weapon!"

"You don't know the man, Sylvia. He will risk anything to break Bassett
down. There's nothing respectable about Thatcher but his love for Allen,
and that doesn't redeem everything."

"But you won't let it come to that. You have influence enough yourself
to stop it. Even if you hated him you would protect Mrs. Bassett and the
children."

"I could do nothing of the kind, Sylvia. Now that I've left Bassett my
influence has vanished utterly. Besides, I'm out of politics. I hate the
game. It's rotten--rotten clean through."

"I don't believe it's quite true that you have lost your influence. I
read the newspapers, and some of them are saying that you are the hope
of your party, and that you have a large following. But you wouldn't do
that, Dan; you wouldn't lend yourself to such a thing as that!"

"I'm not so sure," he replied doggedly, angry that they should be
discussing the subject at all, though to be sure he had introduced it.
"A man's family has got to suffer for his acts; it's a part of the
punishment. I'd like to see Bassett driven out of politics, but I assure
you that I don't mean to do it. There's no possibility of my having the
chance. He put me in the legislature to use me; and I'm glad that's all
over. As I tell you, I'm out of the game."

"I don't sympathize with that at all, Dan; you not only ought to stay
in, but you ought to do all you can to make it impossible for men like
Bassett and Thatcher to have any power. The honor of the state ought to
be dear to all of us; and if I belonged to a party I think I should have
a care for its honor too."

The time was passing. It was not to discuss politics that he had gone to
Waupegan.

"Come," he said. "Let's find a canoe and get out under the stars."

Sylvia went for a wrap, and they had soon embarked, skimming along in
silence for a time till they were free of the shores. There was no moon,
but the stars shone brilliantly; a fitful west wind scarcely ruffled the
water. Along the deep-shadowed shores the dock lanterns twinkled, and
above and beyond them the lamps of the cottages flashed and vanished.
Dan paddled steadily with a skilled, splashless stroke. The paddle sank
noiselessly and rose to the accompaniment of a tinkling drip as the
canoe parted the waters. There is nothing like a canoe flight under
stars to tranquilize a troubled and perplexed spirit, and Dan was soon
won to the mood he sought. It seemed to him that Sylvia, enfolded in the
silvery-dim dusk in the bow, was a part of the peace of sky and water.
They were alone, away from the strifes and jars of the world, shut in
together as completely as though they had been flung back for unreckoned
ages into a world of unbroken calm. The peace that Wordsworth sought and
sang crept into their blood, and each was sensible that the other knew
and felt it and that it was grateful to them both.

Sylvia spoke, after a time, of immaterial things, or answered his
questions as to the identity of the constellations mapped in the clear
arch above.

"I dream sometimes of another existence," she said, "as I suppose every
one does, when I knew a quiet lake that held the stars as this does. I
even think I remember how it looked in winter, with the ice gleaming in
the moonlight, and of snow coming and the keen winds piling it in
drifts. It's odd, isn't it? those memories we have that are not
memories. The metempsychosis idea must have some substance. We have all
been somebody else sometime, and we clutch at the shadows of our old
selves, hardly believing they are shadows."

"It's a good deal a matter of imagination, isn't it?" asked Dan, idling
with the paddle.

"Oh, but I haven't a bit of that. That's one thing I'm not troubled
with, and I'm sorry for it. When I look up at the stars I think of the
most hideous formula for calculating their distances from the earth.
When I read in a novel that it was a night of stars, I immediately
wonder what particular stars. It used to make dear Grandfather Kelton
furiously indignant to find a moon appearing in novels contrary to the
almanac; he used to check up all the moons, and he once thought of
writing a thesis on the 'Erroneous Lunar Calculations of Recent
Novelists,' but decided that it didn't really make any difference. And
of course it doesn't."

As they discussed novels new and old, he drew in his paddle and crept
nearer her. It seemed to him that all the influences of earth and heaven
had combined to create this hour for him. To be talking to her of books
that interpreted life and of life itself was in itself something sweet;
he wished such comradeship as this, made possible by their common
interests in the deep, surging currents of the century in which they
lived, to go on forever.

Their discussion of Tolstoy was interrupted by the swift flight of a
motor boat that passed near, raising a small sea, and he seized the
paddle to steady the canoe. Then silence fell upon them.

"Sylvia" he said softly, and again, "Sylvia!" It seemed to him that the
silence and the beauty of the night were his ally, communicating to her
infinite longings hidden in his heart which he had no words to express.
"I love you, Sylvia; I love you. I came up to-night to tell you that."

"Oh, Dan, you mustn't say it--you must never say it!"

The canoe seemed to hang between water and stars, a motionless argosy in
a sea of dreams.

"I wanted to tell you before you came away," he went on, not heeding; "I
have wanted to tell you for a long time. I want you to marry me. I want
you to help me find the good things; I want you to help me to stand for
them. You came just when I needed you; you have already changed me, made
a different man of me. It was through you that I escaped from my old
self that was weak and yielding, and I shall do better; yes, I shall
prove to you that I am not so weak but that I can strive and achieve.
Every word you ever spoke to me is written on my heart. I need you,
Sylvia!"

"You're wrong, you're terribly wrong about all that; and it isn't fair
to let you say such things. Please, Dan! I hoped this would never
come--that we should go on as we have been, good friends, talking as we
were a while ago of the fine things, the great things. And it will have
to be that way--there can be nothing else."

"But I will do my best, Sylvia! I'm not the man you knew first; you
helped me to see the light. Without you I shall fall into the dark
again. I had to tell you, Sylvia. It was inevitable that I should tell
you; I wonder I kept it to myself so long. Without you I should go
adrift--no bearings, no light anywhere."

"You found yourself, Dan; that was the way of it. I saw it and
appreciated it--it meant more to me than I can tell you. I knew exactly
how it was that you started as you did; it was part of your fate; but it
made possible the finer thing. It's nothing in you or what you've done
or may do. But I have my own work to do. I have cut a pattern for my own
life, and I must try to follow it. I think you understand about that--I
told you that night when we talked of our aims and hopes on the campus
at Montgomery that I wanted to do something for the world. And I must
still go on trying to do that. It's a poor, tiny little gleam; but I
must follow the gleam."

"But there's nothing in that that we can't do together. We can go on
seeking it together," he pleaded.

"I hope it may be so. We must go on being the good friends we are now.
You and Aunt Sally are all I have--the best I have. I can't let you
spoil that," she ended firmly, as though, after all, this were the one
important thing.

There was nothing here, he reasoned, that might not be overcome. The
work that she had planned to do imposed no barrier. Men and women were
finding out the joy of striving together; she need give up nothing in
joining her life to his. He touched the hand that lay near and thrilled
to the contact of her lingers.

"Please, Dan!" she pleaded, drawing her hand away. "I mean to go on with
my life as I have begun it. I shall never marry, Dan,--marriage isn't in
my plan at all. But for you the right woman will come some day--I hope
so with all my heart. We must understand all this now. And I must be
sure, oh, very sure, that you know how dear it is to have had you say
these things to me."

"But I shall say them again and always, Sylvia! This was only the
beginning; I had to speak to-night; I came here to say these things to
you. I am able to care for you now--not as I should like to, but I'm
going to succeed. I want to ease the way for you; I mean that you
mustn't go back to teaching this fall!"

"There, you see"--and he knew she smiled in her patient, sweet way that
was dear to him--"you want to stop my work before it's begun! You see
how impossible it would be, Dan!"

"But you can do other things; there are infinite ways in which you can
be of use, doing the things you want to do. The school work is only a
handicap,--drudgery that leads to nothing."

He knew instantly that he had erred; and that he must give her no
opportunity to defend her attitude toward her work. He returned quickly
to his great longing and need.

"Without you I'm a failure, Sylvia. If it hadn't been for you I should
never have freed myself of that man over there!" And he lifted his arm
toward the lights of the Bassett landing on the nearer shore.

"No; you would have saved yourself in any case; there's no questioning
that. You were bound to do it. And it wasn't the man; it was the base
servitude that you came to despise."

"Not without you! It was your attitude toward me, after that cheap piece
of melodrama I figured in in that convention, that brought me up with a
short turn. It all came through you--my wish to measure up to your
ideal."

"That's absurd, Dan. If I believed that I should think much less of you;
I really should!" she exclaimed. "It was something finer and higher than
that; it was your own manhood asserting itself. That man over there,"
she went on more quietly, "is an object of pity. He's beset on many
sides. It hurt him to lose you. He's far from happy."

"He has no claim upon happiness; he doesn't deserve happiness," replied
Dan doggedly.

"But the break must have cost you something; haven't you missed him just
a little bit?"

It was clear from her tone that she wished affirmation of this. The
reference to his former employer angered him. He had been rejoicing in
his escape from Morton Bassett, and yet Sylvia spoke of him with
tolerance and sympathy. The Bassetts were coolly using her to extricate
themselves from the embarrassments resulting from their own folly; it
was preposterous that they should have sent Sylvia to bring Marian home.
And his rage was intensified by the recollection of the pathos he had
himself felt in Bassett that very evening, as he had watched him mount
the steps of his home. Sylvia was causing the old chords to vibrate with
full knowledge that, in spite of his avowed contempt for the man, Morton
Bassett still roused his curiosity and interest. It was unfair for
Sylvia to take advantage of this.

"Bassett's nothing to me," he said roughly.

"He seems to me the loneliest soul I ever knew," replied Sylvia quietly.

"He deserves it; he's brought himself to that."

"I don't believe he's altogether evil. There must be good in him."

"It's because he's so evil that you pity him; it's because of that that
I'm sorry for him. It's because we know that he must be broken upon the
wheel before he realizes the vile use he has made of his power that we
are sorry for him. Why, Sylvia, he's the worst foe we have--all of us
who want to do what we call the great things--ease the burdens of the
poor, make government honest, catch the gleam we seek! Even poor Allen,
when he stands on the Monument steps at midnight and spouts to me about
the Great Experiment, feels what Morton Bassett can't be made to feel."

"But he may yet see it; even he may come to see it," murmured Sylvia.

"He's a hard, stubborn brute; it's in the lines of his back--I was
studying him on the boat this evening, and my eyes followed him up the
steps after they dropped him at his dock. It's in those strong, iron
hands of his. I tell you, what we feel for him is only the kind of pity
we have for those we know to be doomed by the gods to an ignominious
end. He's not worth our pity. He asks no mercy and he won't get any."

He was at once ashamed of the temper to which he had yielded, and angry
at himself for having broken the calm of the night with these discordant
notes. Sylvia's hand touched the water caressingly, waking tiny ripples.

"Sylvia," he said when he was calm again, "I want you to marry me."

"I have told you, Dan, that I can never marry any one; and that must be
the end of it."

"But your work can go on--" he began, ready for another assault upon
that barrier.

A sailboat loitering in the light wind had stolen close upon them, and
passed hardly a paddle's length away. Dan, without changing his
position, drove the canoe toward the shore with a few strokes of the
paddle, then steadied himself to speak again. Sylvia's eyes watched the
sails vanishing like ghosts into the dark.

"That won't do, Sylvia: that isn't enough. You haven't said that you
don't care for me; you haven't said that you don't love me! And I can't
believe that your ambitions alone are in the way. Believe me, that I
respect them; I should never interfere with them. There must be some
other reason. I can't take no for an answer; this night was made for us;
no other night will ever be just like this. Please, dear, if there are
other reasons than my own poor spirit and the little I can offer, let me
know it. If you don't care, it will be kinder to say it now! If that is
the reason--even if there's some other man--let me know it now. Tell me
what it is, Sylvia!"

It was true that she had not said she did not care. Her silence now at
the direct question stirred new fears to life in his breast, like the
beat of startled wings from a thicket in November.

Only the lights of the sailboat were visible now, but suddenly a girl's
voice rose clear and sweet, singing to the accompaniment of guitar and
mandolin. The guitar throbbed; and on its deep chords the mandolin wove
its melody. The voice seemed to steal out of the heart of the night and
float over the still waters. The unseen singer never knew the mockery of
the song she sang. It was an old song and the air was one familiar the
world round. And it bore the answer to Dan's question which Sylvia had
carried long in her heart, but could not speak. She did not speak it
then; it was ordained that she should never speak it. And Dan knew and
understood.

     "Who is Sylvia, what is she,
     That all the swains adore her?"

"_Who is Sylvia_?" Dan knew in that hour the answer of tears!

The song ceased. When Dan saw Sylvia's head lift, he silently took the
paddle and impelled the canoe toward the red, white, and blue lanterns
that defined Mrs. Owen's landing. They were within a hundred yards of
the intervening green light of the Bassett dock when a brilliant meteor
darted across the zenith, and Dan's exclamation broke the tension.
Their eyes turned toward the heavens--Sylvia's still bright with tears,
Dan knew, though he could not see her face.

"Poor lost star!" she murmured softly.

Dan was turning the canoe slightly to avoid the jutting shore that made
a miniature harbor at the Bassett's when Sylvia uttered a low warning.
Dan, instantly alert, gripped his paddle and waited. Some one had
launched a canoe at the Bassett boathouse. There was a stealthiness in
the performance that roused him to vigilance. He cautiously backed water
and waited. A word or two spoken in a low tone reached Dan and Sylvia:
two persons seemed to be embarking.

A canoe shot out suddenly from the dock, driven by a confident hand.

"It must be Marian; but there's some one with her," said Sylvia.

Dan had already settled himself in the stern ready for a race.

"It's probably that idiot Allen," he growled. "We must follow them."

Away from the shore shadows the starlight was sufficient to confirm
Dan's surmise as to the nature of this canoe flight. It was quite ten
o'clock, and the lights in the Bassett house on the bluff above had been
extinguished. It was at once clear to Dan that he must act promptly.
Allen, dismayed by the complications that beset his love-affair, had
proposed an elopement, and Marian had lent a willing ear.

"They're running away, Sylvia; we've got to head them off." He bent to
his paddle vigorously. "They can't possibly get away."

But it was not in Marian's blood to be thwarted in her pursuit of
adventure. She was past-mistress of the canoeist's difficult art, and
her canoe flew on as though drawn away into the dark on unseen cords.

"You'd better lend a hand," said Dan, and Sylvia turned round and knelt,
paddling Indian fashion. The canoe skimmed the water swiftly. It was in
their thoughts that Marian and Allen must not land at Waupegan, where
their intentions would be advertised to the world. The race must end
before the dock was reached. At the end of a quarter of an hour Dan
called to Sylvia to cease paddling.

"We've passed them; there's no doubt of that," he said, peering into the
dark.

"Maybe they're just out for fun and have turned back," suggested Sylvia.

"I wish I could think so. More likely they're trying to throw us off.
Let's check up for a moment and see if we hear them again."

He kept the canoe moving slowly while they listened for some sign of the
lost quarry. Then suddenly they heard a paddle stroke behind them, and
an instant later a canoe's bow brushed their craft as lightly as a hand
passing across paper. Dan threw himself forward and grasped the sides
firmly; there was a splashing and wobbling as he arrested the flight. A
canoe is at once the most docile and the most intractable of argosies.
Sylvia churned the water with her paddle, seeking to crowd the rocking
canoes closer together, while Marian endeavored to drive them apart.

"Allen!" panted Dan, prone on the bottom of his canoe and gripping the
thwarts of the rebellious craft beside him, "this must end here."

"Let us go!" cried Allen stridently. "This is none of your business. Let
us go, I say."

Finding it impossible to free her canoe, Marian threw down her paddle
angrily. They were all breathless; Dan waited till the canoes rode
together quietly. Sylvia had brought an electric lamp which Dan now
flashed the length of the captive canoe. It searched the anxious, angry
faces of the runaways, and disclosed two suit cases that told their own
story.

"I told you to keep away from here, Allen. You can't do this. It won't
do," said Dan, snapping off the light; "you're going home with us,
Marian."

"I won't go back; you haven't any right to stop me!"

"You haven't any right to run away in this fashion," said Sylvia,
speaking for the first time. "You would cause endless trouble. It's not
the way to do it."

"But it's the only way out," stormed Allen. "There's no other way. Dan
told me himself I couldn't speak to Mr. Bassett, and this is the only
thing we could do."

"Will you kindly tell me just what you intended doing?" asked Dan, still
gripping the canoe.

"I'd spoken to the minister here in the village. Marian was going to
spend the night at his house and we were to be married in the morning
as soon as I could get a license."

"You can't get a marriage license in Waupegan; your minister ought to
know that."

"No; but we could have driven over early to the county seat and got it;
I tell you I had it all fixed. You let go of that canoe!"

"Stand by, Sylvia," said Dan with determination.

He steadied himself a moment, stepped into Marian's canoe, and caught up
her paddle.

"Wait here, Sylvia. I'm going to land Allen over there at that dock with
the two white lights, and I'll come back with Marian and we'll take her
home. Flash the light occasionally so I shan't lose you."

A few minutes later when Allen, sulky and breathing dire threats, had
been dropped ashore, Harwood paddled Marian home, Sylvia trailing
behind.

It was near midnight when Sylvia, having hidden Marian's suit case in
Mrs. Owen's boathouse, watched the tearful and wrathful Juliet steal
back into her father's house.

Allen lodged at the inn with Dan that night and, duly urged not to make
a fool of himself again, went home by the morning train.



CHAPTER XXX

THE KING HATH SUMMONED HIS PARLIAMENT


The Great Seal of the Hoosier Commonwealth, depicting a sturdy pioneer
felling a tree while behind him a frightened buffalo gallops madly into
oblivion, was affixed to a proclamation of the governor convening the
legislature in special session on the 20th of November. It was Morton
Bassett's legislature, declared, the Republican press, brought back to
the capital to do those things which it had left undone at the regular
session. The Democratic newspapers proved conclusively that the demands
of the state institutions said to be in dire need were the fruit of a
long period of Republican extravagance, for which the Democratic Party,
always prone to err on the side of frugality, was in no wise
responsible. The Republican governor had caused the legislative halls to
be reopened merely to give a false impression of Democratic
incompetence, but in due season the people would express their opinion
of that governor. So reasoned loyal Democrats. Legislatures are not
cheap, taken at their lowest valuation, and a special session, costing
something like one hundred thousand of the people's dollars, is an
extravagance before which a governor may well hesitate. This particular
convocation of the Hoosier lawmakers, summoned easily enough by a
stroke of the pen, proved to be expensive in more ways than one.

On the third day of the special session, when the tardiest member,
hailing from the remote fastnesses of Switzerland County, was just
finding his seat, and before all the others had drawn their stationery
and registered a generous computation of their mileage, something
happened. The bill for an act entitled an act to lift the lid of the
treasure chests was about to be read for the first time when a page
carried a telegram to Morton Bassett in the senate chamber.

Senator Bassett read his message once and again. His neighbors on the
floor looked enviously upon the great man who thus received telegrams
without emotion. It seemed, however, to those nearest him, that the bit
of yellow paper shook slightly in Bassett's hand The clerk droned on to
an inattentive audience. Bassett put down the telegram, looked about,
and then got upon his feet. The lieutenant-governor, yawning and idly
playing with his gavel, saw with relief that the senator from Fraser
wished to interrupt the proceedings.

"Mr. President."

"The senator from Fraser."

"Mr. President, I ask leave to interrupt the reading of the bill to make
an announcement."

"There being no objection, the senator will make his announcement."

Senators who had been smoking in the cloakroom, or talking to friends
outside the railing, became attentive. The senator from Fraser was
little given to speech, and it might be that he meant at this time to
indicate the attitude of the majority toward the appropriations asked by
the governor. In any event, it was always wise to listen to anything
Morton Bassett had to say.

The senator was unusually deliberate. Even when he had secured the
undivided attention of the chamber he picked up the telegram and read it
through again, as though to familiarize himself with its contents.

"Mr. President, I have just received the following message from a
personal friend in Washington: 'The Honorable Roger B. Ridgefield,
United States Senator from Indiana, while on a hunting trip in
Chesapeake Bay with a party of Baltimore friends, died suddenly this
morning. The death occurred at a point remote from the telegraph. No
particulars have yet been received at Washington.' It is with profound
sorrow, Mr. President, that I make this announcement. Though Senator
Ridgefield had long been my political antagonist, he had also been, for
many years, a valued personal friend. The Republican Party has lost one
of its great leaders, and the State of Indiana a son to whom men of all
parties have given their ungrudging admiration. Mr. President, I move
that the senate do now adjourn to meet at ten o'clock to-morrow
morning."

Even before the motion could be put, Bassett was passing about among the
desks. The men he spoke to nodded understandingly. A mild, subdued
excitement reigned in the chamber. It flashed through the mind of every
Democratic member that that death in the Chesapeake had brought a crisis
in the war between Bassett and Thatcher. In due course the assembly,
convened in joint session, would mourn decorously the death of a
statesman who had long and honorably represented the old Hoosier State
in the greatest tribunal on earth; and his passing would be feelingly
referred to in sonorous phrases as an untoward event, a deplorable and
irreparable loss to the commonwealth. To Republicans, however, it was a
piece of stupendous ill-luck that the Senator should have indulged in
the childish pastime of duck shooting at an inconvenient season when the
Democratic majority in the general assembly would be able to elect a
successor to complete his term of office.

When the gavel fell, adjourning the senate, gentlemen were already
seeking in the Federal Constitution for the exact language of the
section bearing upon this emergency. If the Republican governor had not
so gayly summoned the legislature he might have appointed a Senator of
his own political faith to serve until the next regular session,
following the elections a year hence. It was ungenerous and disloyal of
Roger B. Ridgefield to have taken himself out of the world in this
abrupt fashion. Before the first shock had passed, there were those
about the State House who, scanning the newspaper extras, were saying
that a secret fondness for poker and not an enthusiasm for ducks had led
the Honorable Roger B. Ridgefield to the remote arm of the Chesapeake,
where he had been the guest of a financier whose influence in the upper
house of Congress was notoriously pernicious. This did not, however,
alter the immediate situation. The language of the Federal and State
Constitutions was all too explicit for the Republican minority; it was
only in recess that a governor might fill a vacancy; and beyond doubt
the general assembly was in town, lawfully brought from the farm, the
desk, the mine, and the factory, as though expressly to satisfy the
greed for power of a voracious Democracy.

Groups of members were retiring to quiet corners to discuss the crisis.
Bassett had already designated a committee room where he would meet his
followers and stanch adherents. Thatcher men had gone forth to seek
their chief. The Democrats would gain a certain moral strength through
the possession of a Senator in Congress. The man chosen to fill the
vacancy would have an almost irresistible claim upon the senatorship if
the Democrats should control the next legislature. It was worth fighting
for, that dead man's seat!

The full significance of the news was not wasted upon Representative
Harwood. The house adjourned promptly, and Dan hastened to write
telegrams. He wired Colonel Ramsay, of Aurora, to come to the capital on
the first train. Telegrams went flying that afternoon to every part of
Indiana.

Thatcher read the evening papers in Chicago and kept the wires hot while
he waited for the first train for Indianapolis.

One of his messages, addressed to Harwood, read:

     "Breakfast with me to-morrow morning at my house. Strictly private.
     This is your big chance."

Harwood, locked in his office in the Law Building, received this message
by telephone, and it aroused his ire. His relations with Thatcher did
not justify that gentleman in tendering him a strictly private
breakfast, nor did he relish having a big chance pointed out to him by
Mr. Thatcher. It cannot be denied that Dan, too, felt that Senator
Ridgefield had chosen a most unfortunate season for exposing himself to
the ravages of the pneumococcus. He kept away from the State House and
hotels that evening, having decided to take no part in the preliminary
skirmishes until he had seen Ramsay, who would bring a cool head and a
trained hand to bear upon this unforeseen situation.

He studied the newspapers as he ate breakfast alone at the University
Club early the next morning. The "Advertiser" had neatly divided its
first page between the Honorable Roger B. Ridgefield, dead in a far
country, and the Honorable Morton Bassett, who, it seemed, was very much
alive at the Hoosier capital. A double column headline conveyed this
intelligence:--

     BASSETT IS HIMSELF AGAIN

Harwood, nibbled his toast and winnowed the chaff of speculation from
the grains of truth in this article. He had checked off the names of all
the Bassett men in both houses of the assembly, and listed Thatcher's
supporters and the doubtful members. Bassett would undoubtedly make a
strong showing in a caucus, but whether he would be able to command a
majority remained to be seen. There were men among the doubtful who
would be disposed to favor Thatcher because he had driven a wedge into
the old Bassett stone wall. No one else had ever succeeded in imperiling
the security of that impregnable stronghold. The thought of this made
Harwood uncomfortable. It was unfortunate from every standpoint that the
legislature should be called upon to choose a Senator without the usual
time for preparation. Dan had already been struck by the general air of
irresponsibility that prevailed among the legislators. Many of the
members had looked upon the special session as a lark; they seemed to
feel that their accountability to their constituents had ended with the
regular session.

The "Courier," Dan observed, printed an excellent biographical sketch of
the dead Senator, and its news article on the Democratic opportunity was
seemly and colorless. The state and federal statutes bearing upon the
emergency were quoted in full, but the names of Bassett and Thatcher did
not appear, nor were any possible successors to Ridgefield mentioned.
Dan opened to the editorial page, and was not surprised to find the
leading article a dignified eulogy of the dead Senator. Then his eye
fastened upon an article so placed that it dominated the whole page. It
was the old "Stop, Look, Listen!" editorial, reproduced with minute
citation of the date of original publication.

Dan flinched as though a cupful of ice water had struck him in the face.
Whatever scandalous knowledge touching Bassett's public or private life
Thatcher might possess, it was plain that Bassett was either ignorant of
it or knew and did not fear exposure. In either event, the republication
of the "Stop, Look, Listen!" article was an invitation to battle.

It was in no happy frame of mind that Harwood awaited the coming of
Ramsay.



CHAPTER XXXI

SYLVIA ASKS QUESTIONS


The Wares had asked Sylvia to dine with them on Friday evening a
fortnight later, and Harwood was to call for her at the minister's at
nine o'clock. Sylvia went directly to the Wares' from school, and on
reaching the house learned that Mrs. Ware had not come home and that the
minister was engaged with a caller in the parlor. Sylvia, who knew the
ways of the house well, left her wraps in the hall and made herself
comfortable in the study, that curious little room that was never free
from the odor of pipe smoke, and where an old cavalry sabre hung above
the desk upon which in old times many sermons had been written. A
saddle, a fishing-rod, and a fowling-piece dwelt together harmoniously
in one corner, and over the back of a chair hung a dilapidated corduroy
coat.

It had been whispered in orthodox circles that Ware had amused himself
one winter after his retirement by profanely feeding his theological
library into the furnace. However true this may be, few authors were
represented in his library, and these were as far as possible compressed
in one volume. Shakespeare, Milton, Emerson, Arnold, and Whittier were
always ready to his hand; and he kept a supply of slender volumes of
Sill's "Poems" in a cupboard in the hall and handed them out
discriminatingly to his callers. The house was the resort of many young
people, some of them children of Ware's former parishioners, and he was
much given to discussing books with them; or he would read
aloud--"Sohrab and Rustum," Lowell's essay on Lincoln, or favorite
chapters from "Old Curiosity Shop"; or again, it might be a review
article on the social trend or a fresh view of an old economic topic.
The Wares' was the pleasantest of small houses and after Mrs. Owen's the
place sought oftenest by Sylvia.

"There's a gentleman with Mr. Ware: he's been here a long time," said
the maid, lingering to lay a fresh stick of wood on the grate fire.

Sylvia, warming her hands at the blaze, heard the faint blur of voices
from the parlor. She surveyed the room with the indifference of
familiarity, glanced at a new magazine, and then sat down at the desk
and picked up a book she had never noticed before. She was surprised to
find it a copy of "Society and Solitude" that did not match the
well-thumbed set of Emerson--one of the few "sets" Ware owned. She
passed her hand over the green covers, that were well worn and scratched
in places. The fact that the minister boasted in his humorous way of
never wasting money on bindings caused Sylvia to examine this volume
with an attention she would not have given it in any other house. On the
fly leaf was written in pencil, in Ware's rough, uneven hand, an
inscription which covered the page, with the last words cramped in the
lower corner. These were almost illegible, but Sylvia felt her way
through them slowly, and then turned to the middle of the book quickly
with an uncomfortable sense of having read a private memorandum of the
minister's. The margins of his books she knew were frequently scribbled
over with notes that meant nothing whatever to any one but Ware himself.
After a moment her eyes sought again irresistibly the inscription. She
re-read it slowly:--

     "The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their
     goings; they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein
     shall not know peace. Tramping in Adirondacks. Baptized Elizabeth
     at Harris's."

It was almost like eavesdropping to come in this way upon that curiously
abrupt Ware-like statement of the minister's: "Tramping in Adirondacks.
Baptized Elizabeth at Harris's."

The discussion in the parlor had become heated, and occasionally words
in a voice not Ware's reached Sylvia distinctly. Some one was
alternately beseeching and threatening the minister. It was clear from
the pauses in which she recognized Ware's deep tones that he was
yielding neither to the importunities nor the threats of his blustering
caller. Sylvia had imagined that the storms of life had passed over the
retired clergyman, and she was surprised that such an interview should
be taking place in his house. She was about to retreat to the
dining-room to be out of reach of the voices when the parlor door opened
abruptly and Thatcher appeared, with anger unmistakably showing in his
face, and apparently disposed to resume in the hall the discussion which
the minister had terminated in the library. Thatcher seemed balder and
more repellent than when she had first seen him on the floor of the
convention hall on the day Harwood uttered Bassett's defiance. Sylvia
rose with the book still in her hand and walked to the end of the room;
but any one in the house might have heard what Thatcher was saying.

"That's the way with you preachers; you talk about clean politics, and
when we get all ready to clean out a bad man, you duck; you're a lot of
cowardly dodgers. I tell you, I don't want you to say a word or figure
in this thing at all; but you give me that book and I'll scare Mort
Bassett out of town. I'll scare him clean out of Indiana, and he'll
never show his head again. Why, Ware, I've been counting on it, that
when you saw we were in a hole and going to lose, you'd come down from
your high horse and help me out. I tell you, there's no doubt about it;
that woman's the woman I'm looking for! I guessed it the night you told
that story up there in the house-boat."

"Quit this business, Ed," the minister was saying; "I'm an old friend of
yours. But I won't budge an inch. I'd never breathed a word of that
story before and I shouldn't have told it that night. It was so far back
that I thought it was safe. But your idea that Bassett had anything to
do with that is preposterous. Your hatred of him has got the better of
you, my friend. Drop it: forget it. If you can't whip him fair, let him
win."

"Not much I won't; but I didn't think you'd go back on me; I thought
better of you than that!"

Thatcher strode to the door and went out, slamming it after him.

The minister peered into the library absently, and then, surprised to
find Sylvia, advanced to meet her, smiling gravely. He took both her
hands, and held them, looking into her face.

"What's this you've been reading? Ah, that book!" The volume slipped
into his hands and he glanced at it, frowning impatiently. "Poor little
book. I ought to have burned it years ago; and I ought to have learned
by this time to keep my mouth shut. They've always said I look like an
Indian, but an Indian never tells anything. I've told just one story too
many. _Mea maxima culpa!_"

He sat down in the big chair beside his desk, placed the book within
reach, and kept touching it as he talked.

"I saw Mr. Thatcher," said Sylvia. "He seemed very much aroused. I
couldn't help hearing a word now and then."

"That's all right, Sylvia. I've known Thatcher for years, and last fall
I went up to his house-boat on the Kankakee for a week's shooting. Allen
and Dan Harwood were the rest of the party--and I happened to tell the
story of this little book--an unfinished story. We ought never to tell
stories until they are finished. And it seems that Thatcher, with a zeal
worthy of a better cause, has been raking up the ashes of an old affair
of Bassett's with a woman, and he's trying to hitch it on to the story I
told him about this book. He says by shaking this at Bassett he can
persuade him that he's got enough ammunition to blow him out of the
water. But I don't believe a word of it; I won't believe such a thing of
Morton Bassett. And even if I did, Thatcher can't have that book. I owe
it to the woman whose baby I baptized up there in the hills to keep it.
And the woman may be living, too, for all I know. I think of her pretty
often. She was game; wouldn't tell anything. If a man had deceived her
she stood by him. Whatever she was--I know she was not bad, not a bit of
it--the spirit of the hills had entered into her--and those are
cleansing airs up there. I suppose it all made the deeper impression on
me because I was born up there myself. When I strike Adirondacks in
print I put down my book and think a while. It's a picture word. It
brings back my earliest childhood as far as I can remember. I call words
that make pictures that way moose words; they jump up in your memory
like a scared moose in a thicket and crash into the woods like a cavalry
charge. I can remember things that happened when I was three years old:
one day father shot a deer in our cornfield and I recall it perfectly.
The general atmosphere of the old place steals over me yet. The very
thought of the pointed spruces, the feathery tamaracks, all the scents
and sounds of summer, and the long, white winters, does my soul good
now. The old Hebrews understood the effect of landscape on character.
They knew most everything, those old chaps. 'I will lift up mine eyes
unto the hills from whence cometh my help.' Any strength there is in me
dates back to the hills of my youth. I'd like to go back there to die
when the bugle calls."

Mrs. Ware had not yet come in. Ware lighted the lamp and freshened the
fire. While he was doing this, Sylvia moved to a chair by the table and
picked up the book. What Ware had said about the hills of his youth, the
woods, the word tamarack that he had dropped carelessly, touched chords
of memory as lightly as a breeze vibrates a wind harp. Was this merely
her imagination that had been stirred, or was it indeed a recollection?
Often before she had been moved by similar vague memories or longings,
whatever they were. They had come to trouble her girlhood at Montgomery,
when the snow whitened the campus and the wind sang in the trees. She
was grateful that the minister had turned his back. Her hands trembled
as she glanced again at the scribbled fly leaf; and more closely at the
words penciled at the bottom: "Baptized Elizabeth at Harris's." Thatcher
wanted this book to use against Bassett. Bassett was a collector of fine
bindings; she had heard it spoken of in the family. It was part of
Marian's pride in her father that he was a bookish man. When the
minister returned to his seat Sylvia asked as she put down the book:--

"Who was Elizabeth?"

And then, little by little, in his abrupt way, he told the story, much
as he had told it that night on the Kankakee, with pauses for which
Sylvia was grateful--they gave her time for thought, for filling in the
lapses, for visualizing the scene he described. And the shadow of the
Morton Bassett she knew crept into the picture. She recalled their early
meetings, that first brief contact on the shore of the lake; their talk
on the day following the convention when she had laughed at him; that
wet evening when they met in the street and he had expressed his
interest in Harwood and the hope that she might care for the young
lawyer. With her trained habits of reasoning she rejected this or that
bit of testimony as worthless; but even then enough remained to chill
her heart. Her hands were cold as she clasped them together. Who was
Elizabeth? Ah, who was Sylvia? The phrase of the song that had brought
her to tears that starry night on the lake when Dan Harwood had asked
her to marry him smote her again. Her grandfather's evasion of her
questions about her father and mother, and the twinges of heartache she
had experienced at college when other girls spoke of their homes,
assumed now for the first time a sinister meaning. Had she, indeed, come
into the world in dishonor, and had she in truth known that far hill
country, with its evergreens and glistening snows?

Ware had finished his story, and sat staring into the crackling fire. At
last he turned toward Sylvia. In the glow of the desk lamp her face was
white, and she gazed with unseeing eyes at the inscription in the book.

The silence was still unbroken when a few minutes later Mrs. Ware came
in with Harwood, whom she had met in the street and brought home to
dinner.

Dan was full of the situation in the legislature, and the table talk
played about that topic.

"We're sparring for time, that's all, and the people pay the freight!
The deadlock is clamped on tight. I never thought Thatcher would prove
so strong. I think we could shake loose enough votes from both sides to
precipitate a stampede for Ramsay, but he won't hear to it. He says he
wants to do the state one patriotic service before he dies by cleaning
out the bosses, and he doesn't want to spoil the record by taking the
senatorship himself. Meanwhile Bassett stands fast and there's no
telling when he'll break through Thatcher's lines."

"Thatcher was here to see me to-day--the third time. He won't come back.
You know what he's after?" said Ware.

"Yes; I understand," Dan answered.

"There won't be anything of that kind, will there, Dan?"

Dan shrugged his shoulders, and glanced at Sylvia and Mrs. Ware.

"Mrs. Ware knows about it; I had to tell her," remarked the minister,
chuckling. "When Ed Thatcher makes two calls on me in one week, and one
of them at midnight, there's got to be an explanation. And Sylvia heard
him raving before I showed him out this afternoon."

Sylvia's plate was untouched; her eyes searched those of the man who
loved her before she spoke.

"That's an ethical point, Mr. Ware. If it were necessary to use
that,--if every other resource failed,--would you use it?"

"No! Not if Bassett's success meant the utter destruction of the state.
I don't believe a word of it. I haven't the slightest confidence in
Thatcher's detective work, and the long arm of coincidence has to grasp
something firmer than my pitiful little book to convince me."

Dan shook his head.

"He doesn't need the book, Mr. Ware. I've seen the documents in the
case. Most of the evidence is circumstantial, but you remember what your
friend Thoreau said about circumstantial evidence--something to the
effect that it's sometimes pretty convincing, as when you find a trout
in the milk."

"But has Thatcher found the trout?"

"Well, no; he hasn't exactly found the trout, but there's enough,
there's altogether too much!" ended Dan despairingly. "The caucus
doesn't meet again till to-morrow night, when Thatcher promises to show
his hand. I'm going to put in the time trying to persuade Ramsay to come
round."

"You might take it yourself, Dan," suggested Mrs. Ware.

"Oh, I'm not eligible; I'm a little shy of being old enough! And
besides, I couldn't allow Ramsay to prove himself a better patriot than
I am. There are plenty of fellows who have no such scruples, and we've
got to look out or Bassett will shift suddenly to some man of his own if
he finds he can't nominate himself."

"But do you think he has any idea what Thatcher has up his sleeve?"
asked Ware.

"It's possible; I dare say he knows it. He's always been master of the
art of getting information from the enemy's camp. But Thatcher has shown
remarkable discretion in managing this. He tells me solemnly that nobody
on earth knows his intentions except you, Allen, and me. He's saving
himself for a broadside, and he wants its full dramatic effect."

Sylvia had hardly spoken during this discussion; but the others looked
at her curiously as she said:--

"I don't think he has it to fire; it's incredible; I don't believe it."

"Neither do I, Sylvia," said the minister earnestly.

The talk at the Wares' went badly that evening. Harwood's mind was on
the political situation. As he sat in the minister's library he knew
that in upper chambers of the State House, and in hotels and
boarding-houses, members of the majority in twos and threes, or here and
there a dozen, were speculating and plotting. The deadlock was becoming
intolerable. Interest in the result was keen in all parts of the
country, and the New York and Chicago newspapers had sent special
representatives to watch the fight. Dan was sick of the sight and sound
of it. In the strict alignment of factions he had voted with Thatcher,
yet he told himself he was not a Thatcher man. He had personally
projected Ramsay's name one night in the hope of breaking the Bassett
phalanx, but the only result was to arouse Thatcher's wrath against him.
Bassett's men believed in Bassett. The old superstition as to his
invulnerability had never more thoroughly possessed the imaginations of
his adherents. Bassett was not only himself again, but his iron grip
seemed tighter than ever He was making the fight of his life, and he was
beyond question a "game" fighter, the opposition newspapers that most
bitterly opposed Bassett tempered their denunciations with this
concession Dan fumed at this, such bosses were always game fighters,
they had to be, and the readiness of Americans to admire the gameness of
the Bassetts deepened his hostility. The very use of sporting
terminology in politics angered him. In his mind the case was docketed
not as Thatcher _versus_ Bassett, but as Thatcher and Bassett _versus_
the People. It all came to that. And why should not the People--the
poor, meek, long-suffering People, the "pee-pul" of familiar
derision--sometimes win? His pride in the state of his birth was strong;
his pride in his party was only second to it. He would serve both if he
could. Not only must Bassett be forever put down, but Thatcher also; and
he assured himself that it was not the men he despised, but the
wretched, brutal mediæval system that survived in them. And so
pondering, it was no wonder that Dan brought no joy to John Ware's
library that night. The minister himself seemed unwontedly preoccupied;
Sylvia stared at the fire as though seeking in the flames answers to
unanswerable questions. Mrs. Ware sought vainly to bring cheer to the
company:

Shortly after eight o'clock, Sylvia rose to leave.

"Aunt Sally got home from Kentucky this afternoon, and I must drop in
for a minute, Dan, if you don't mind."

Sylvia hardly spoke on the way to Mrs. Owen's. Since that night on the
lake she had never been the same, or so it seemed to Dan. She had gone
back to her teaching, and when they met she talked of her work and of
impersonal things. Once he had broached the subject of marriage,--soon
after her return to town,--but she had made it quite clear that this was
a forbidden topic. The good comradeship ship and frankness of their
intercourse had passed, and it seemed to his despairing lover's heart
that it could never be regained. She carried her head a little higher;
her smile was not the smile of old. He shrank from telling her that
nothing mattered if she cared for him as he believed she did. She gave
him no chance, for one thing, and he had never in his bitter
self-communing found any words in which to tell her so. More than ever
he needed Sylvia, but Sylvia had locked and barred the doors against
him.

Mrs. Owen received them in her office, and the old lady's cheeriness was
grateful to both of them.

"So you've been having supper with the Wares, have you, while I ate here
all by myself? A nice way to treat a lone old woman,--leaving me to prop
the 'Indiana Farmer' on the coffee pot for company! I had to stay at
Lexington longer than I wanted to, and some of my Kentucky cousins held
me up in Louisville. I notice, Daniel, that there are some doings at the
State House. I must say it was a downright sin for old Ridgefield to go
duck shooting at his time of life and die just when we were getting
politics calmed down in this state. When I saw that old 'Stop, Look,
Listen!' editorial printed like a Thanksgiving proclamation in the
'Courier,' I knew there was trouble. I must speak to Atwill. He's
letting the automobile folks run the paper again."

She demanded to know when Dan would have time to do some work for her;
she had disposed of her Kentucky farm and was going ahead with her
scheme for a vocational school to be established at Waupegan. This was
the first that Dan had heard of this project, and its bearing upon the
hopes of the Bassetts as the heirs apparent of Mrs. Owen's estate
startled him.

"I want you to draw up papers covering the whole business, Daniel, but
you've got to get rid of your legislature first. I thought of a good
name for the school, Sylvia. We'll call it Elizabeth House School, to
hitch it on to the boarding-house. I want you and Daniel to go down East
with me right after Christmas to look at some more schools where they do
that kind of work. We'll have some fun next spring tearing up the farm
and putting up the new buildings. Are Hallie and Marian in town,
Sylvia?"

"No, they're at Fraserville," Sylvia replied. "And I had a note from
Blackford yesterday. He's doing well at school now."

"Well, I guess you did that for him, Sylvia. I hope they're all grateful
for that."

"Oh, it was nothing; and they paid me generously for my work."

"Humph!" Mrs. Owen sniffed. "Children, there are things in this world
that a check don't settle."

There were some matters of business to be discussed. Dan had at last
received an offer for the Kelton house at Montgomery, and Mrs. Owen
thought he ought to be able to screw the price up a couple of hundred
dollars.

"I'm all ready to close the estate when the sale is completed," said
Dan. "Practically everything will be cleaned up when the house is sold.
That Canneries stock that we inventoried as worthless is pretty sure to
pan out. I've refused to compromise."

"That's right, Daniel. Don't you compromise that case. This skyrocket
finance is all right for New York, but we can't allow it here in the
country where folks are mostly square or trying to be."

"It seems hard to let the house go," said Sylvia. "It's given Mary a
home and we'll have to find a place for her."

"Oh, that's all fixed," remarked Mrs. Owen. "I've got work for her at
Elizabeth House. She can do the darning and mending. Daniel, have you
brought the papers from Andrew's safety box over here?"

"Yes, Aunt Sally; I did that the last time I was in Montgomery. I wanted
to examine the abstract of title and be ready to close this sale if you
and Sylvia approved of it."

"Well, well," Mrs. Owen said, in one of those irrelevances that adorned
her conversation.

Dan knew what was in her mind. Since that night on Waupegan, blessed
forever by Sylvia's tears, the letter found among Professor Kelton's
papers had led him through long, intricate mazes of speculation. It was
the torn leaf from a book that was worthless without the context; a
piece of valuable evidence, but inadmissible unless supported and
illuminated by other testimony.

[Illustration: SYLVIA MUST KNOW JUST WHAT WE KNOW]

Sylvia had been singularly silent, and Mrs. Owen's keen eyes saw that
something was amiss. She stopped talking, as much as to say, "Now, if
you young folks have anything troubling you, now's your time to come out
with it."

An old clock on the stair landing boomed ten. Mrs. Owen stirred
restlessly. Sylvia, sitting in a low chair by the fire, clasped her
hands abruptly, clenched them hard, and spoke, turning her head slowly
until her eyes rested upon Dan.

"Dan," she asked, "did you ever know--do you know now--what was in the
letter you carried to Grandfather Kelton that first time I saw you--the
time I went to find grandfather for you?"

Dan glanced quickly at Mrs. Owen.

"Answer Sylvia's question, Daniel," the old lady replied.

"Yes; I learned later what it was. And Aunt Sally knows."

"Tell me; tell me what you know about it," commanded Sylvia gravely, and
her voice was clear now.

Dan hesitated. He rose and stood with his arm resting on the mantel.

"It's all right, Daniel. Now that Sylvia has asked, she must know just
what we know," said Mrs. Owen.

"The letter was among your grandfather's papers. It was an offer to pay
for your education. It was an unsigned letter."

"But you know who wrote it?" asked Sylvia, not lifting her head.

"No; I don't know that," he replied earnestly; "we haven't the slightest
idea."

"But how did you come to be the messenger? Who gave you the letter?" she
persisted quietly.

"Daniel never told me that, Sylvia. But if you want to know, he must
tell you. It might be better for you not to know; you must consider
that. It can make no difference now of any kind."

"It may make a difference," said Sylvia brokenly, not lifting her head;
"it may make a great deal of difference. That's why I speak of it;
that's why I must know!"

"Go on, Daniel; answer Sylvia's question."

"Mr. Fitch gave it to me. It had been entrusted to him for delivery by a
personal friend or a client: I never knew. He assured me that he had no
idea what the letter contained; but he knew of course where it came
from. He chose me for the errand, I suppose, because I was a new man in
the office, and a comparative stranger in town. I remember that he asked
me if I had ever been in Montgomery, as though to be sure I had no
acquaintances there. I carried back a verbal answer--which was
stipulated in the letter. The answer was 'No,' and in what way Mr. Fitch
passed it on to his client I never knew."

"You didn't tell me those things when we found the letter, Daniel," said
Mrs. Owen reproachfully.

The old lady opened a drawer, found a chamois skin, and polished her
glasses slowly. Dan walked away as though to escape from that figure
with averted face crouching by the fire. But without moving Sylvia
spoke again, with a monotonous level of tone, and her question had the
empty ring of a lawyer's interrogatory worn threadbare by repetition to
a succession of witnesses:--

"At that time was Mr. Bassett among the clients of Wright and Fitch, and
did you ever see him in the office then, or at any time?"

Mrs. Owen closed the drawer deliberately and raised her eyes to Dan's
affrighted gaze.

"Daniel, you'd better run along now. Sylvia's going to spend the night
here."

Sylvia had not moved or spoken again when the outer door closed on
Harwood.



CHAPTER XXXII

"MY BEAUTIFUL ONE"


Miss Farrell was surprised to find her employer already in his office
when she unlocked the door at eight o'clock the next morning, and her
surprise was increased when Harwood, always punctilious in such matters,
ignored the good-morning with which she greeted him. The electric lights
over Dan's desk were burning, a fact not lost upon his stenographer. It
was apparent that Harwood had either spent the night in his office or
had gone to work before daylight. Rose's eyes were as sharp as her wits,
and she recognized at a glance the file-envelopes and papers relating to
the Kelton estate, many of them superscribed in her own hand, that lay
on Harwood's desk.

She snapped off the lights with an air that implied reproof, or could
not have failed of that effect if the man at the desk had been conscious
of the act. He was hopelessly distraught and his face appeared no less
pallid in daylight than in the electric glare in which Rose had found
him. As the girl warmed her hands at the radiator in the reception room
the telephone chimed cheerily. The telephone provides a welcome
companionship for the office girl: its importunities and insolences are
at once her delight and despair. Rose took down the receiver with
relief. She parleyed guardedly with an unseen questioner and addressed
Harwood from the door in the cautious, apologetic tone with which wise
office girls break in upon the meditations of their employers.

"Pardon me, Mr. Harwood. Shall I say you're engaged. It's Mr. Thatcher."

Dan half-turned and replied with a tameness Rose had not expected.

"Say what you please, Rose; only I don't want to talk to him or see him,
or anybody."

The clock in the court-house tower boomed nine sombrely. Dan distrusted
its accuracy as he distrusted everything in the world that morning. He
walked listlessly to the window and compared the face of the clock with
his watch. He had thought it must be noon; but the hour of the day did
not matter greatly.

"It's all right," said Rose meekly from the door. "I told him you were
probably at the State House."

"Whom? Oh, thank you, Rose." And then, as though to ease her conscience
for this mild mendacity, he added: "I believe I did have an engagement
over there at nine."

"He said--" Rose began warily; and then gave him an opportunity to cut
her short.

"What did he say?"

"Oh, he was hot! He said if you came in before he found you, to say that
if you and Ramsay didn't help him deliver the freight to-day he would
get action to-morrow; that that's the limit."

"He said to-morrow, did he? Very well, Rose. That's all."

Rose, virtuously indexing the letter-book, saw Harwood as he idly ranged
the rooms try the hall door to make sure it was bolted. Then he stood at
the window of his own room, staring at nothing. The telephone chimed
cheerfully at intervals. Ramsay sought him; Thatcher had stationed one
of his allies at a telephone booth in the State House corridor to call
the office at regular intervals. Newspaper reporters demanded to know
where Harwood could be found; the governor, rankling under the criticism
he had brought upon his party by the special session, wished to see
Harwood to learn when, if possible, the legislature would take itself
home. To these continual importunities Rose replied in tones of
surprise, regret, or chagrin, as the individual case demanded, without
again troubling her employer. The index completed, she filed papers,
smoothed her yellow hair at the wash stand, exchanged fraternal signals
with a girl friend in the office opposite, and read the "Courier's"
report of the senatorial struggle with complete understanding of its
intricacies.

"Rose!"

It was twelve o'clock when Harwood called her. He had brushed aside the
mass of documents she had noted on her arrival, and a single letter
sheet lay before him. Without glancing up he bade her sit down. She had
brought her notebook prepared to take dictation. He glanced at it and
shook his head. The tired, indifferent Harwood she had found at the end
of his night vigil had vanished; he was once more the alert, earnest
young man of action she admired.

"Rose, I want to ask you some questions. I think you will believe me if
I say that I shouldn't ask them if they were not of importance--of very
great importance."

"All right, Mr. Harwood."

Her eyes had fallen upon the letter and her lids fluttered quickly. She
touched her pompadour with the back of her hand and tightened the knot
of her tie.

"This is on the dead, Rose. It concerns a lot of people, and it's
important for me to know the truth. And it's possible that you may not
be able to help; but if you can't the matter ends here."

He rose and closed the door of his room to shut out the renewed jingle
of the telephone.

"I want you to look at this letter and tell me whether you ever saw it
before."

She took it from him, glanced at the first line indifferently, looked
closely at the paper, and gave it back, shaking her head.

"We never had anything like that in the office, paper or machine either.
That's heavier than the stationery you had over in the Boordman
Building, and that's a black ribbon; we've always used purple
copying-ribbons. And that letter wasn't copied; you can tell that."

"That doesn't answer my question, Rose. I want to know whether you ever
saw that letter before. Perhaps you'd better take another look at it."

"Oh, I can tell any of my work across the street! I don't know anything
about that letter, Mr. Harwood."

Her indifference had yielded to respectful indignation. She set her
lips firmly, and her blue eyes expressed surprise that her employer
should be thus subjecting her to cross-examination.

"I understand perfectly, Rose, that this is unusual, and that it is not
quite on the square. But this is strictly between ourselves. It's on the
dead, you understand."

"Oh, I'd do anything for you that I'd do for anybody, yes, sir--I'd do
more: but I refused ten thousand dollars for what I know about what
happened in the Transportation Committee that winter I was its stenog.
That's a lot of money; it would take care of me for the rest of my life;
and you know Thatcher kept after me until I had to tell him a few things
I'd do to him if he didn't let me alone. I'll answer your question
straight," and she looked him in the eye, "I never saw that letter
before, and I don't know anything about it. Is that all?"

"To go back again, Rose," resumed Dan patiently, "not many girls would
have the strength to resist a temptation like that, as you did. But this
is a very different case. I need your help, but it isn't for myself that
I'm trying to trace that letter. If it weren't a matter of actual need I
shouldn't trouble you--be sure of that."

"I always thought you were on the square, but you're asking me to do
something you wouldn't do yourself. And I've told you again that I don't
know anything about that letter; I never saw it before."

She tapped the edge of the desk to hide the trembling of her fingers.
The tears shone suddenly in her blue eyes.

Dan frowned, but the frown was not for Rose. She had already betrayed
herself; he was confident from her manner that she knew. The prompt
denial of any knowledge of the fateful sheet of paper for which he had
hoped all night had not been forthcoming. But mere assumptions would not
serve him; he had walked in darkness too long not to crave the full
light. The pathos of this girl's loyalty had touched him; her chance in
life had been the slightest, she had been wayward and had erred deeply,
and yet there were fastnesses of honor in her soul that remained
unassailable.

Her agitation distressed him; he had never seen her like this; he missed
the little affectations and the droll retorts that had always amused
him. She was no longer the imperturbable and ready young woman whose
unwearying sunniness and amazing intuitions had so often helped him
through perplexities.

"As a matter of your own honor, Rose, you wouldn't tell me. But if the
honor of some one else--"

She shook her head slowly, and he paused.

"No," she said. "I'm only a poor little devil of a stenog and I've been
clear down,--you know that,--but I won't do it. I turned down Thatcher's
ten thousand dollars, and I turned it down hard. The more important that
letter is, the less I know about it. I'll go into court and swear I
never saw or heard of it before. I don't know anything about it. If you
want me to quit, it's all right; it's all right, Mr. Harwood. You've
been mighty good to me and I hate to go; but I guess I'd better quit."

He did not speak until she was quite calm again. As a last resource he
must shatter her fine loyalty by an appeal to her gratitude.

"Rose, if some one you knew well--some one who had been the kindest of
friends, and who had lent you a hand when you needed it most--were in
danger, and I needed your help to protect--that person--would you tell
me?"

Their eyes met; she looked away, and then, as she met his gaze again,
her lips parted and the color deepened in her face.

"You don't mean--" she began.

"I mean that this is to help me protect a dear friend of yours and of
mine. I shouldn't have told you this if it hadn't been necessary. It's
as hard for me as it is for you, Rose. There's a great deal at stake.
Innocent people will suffer if I'm unable to manage this with full
knowledge of all the facts. You think back, six years ago last spring,
and tell me whether you have any knowledge, no matter how indefinite, as
to where that letter was written."

"You say," she began haltingly, "there's a friend of mine that I could
help if I knew anything about your letter? You'll have to tell me who it
is."

"I'd rather not do that; I'd rather not mention any names, not even to
you."

She was drying her eyes with her handkerchief. Her brows knit, she bent
her head for an instant, and then stared at him in bewilderment and
unbelief, and her lips trembled.

"You don't mean my friend--my beautiful one!--not the one who picked me
up out of the dirt--" She choked and her slender frame shook--and then
she smiled wanly and ended with the tears coursing down her cheeks. "My
beautiful one, who took me home again and kissed me--she kissed me
here!" She touched her forehead as though the act were part of some
ritual, then covered her eyes.

"You don't mean"--she cried out suddenly,--"you don't mean it's that!"

"No; it's not that; far from _that_," replied Dan sadly, knowing what
was in her mind.

He went out and closed the door upon her. He called Mrs. Owen on the
telephone and told her he would be up immediately. Then he went back to
Rose.

"It was like this, Mr. Harwood," said the girl, quite composed again. "I
knew him--pretty well--you know the man I mean. After that
Transportation Committee work I guess he thought he had to keep his hand
on me. He's like that, you know. If he thinks anybody knows anything on
him he watches them and keeps a tight grip on them, all right. You know
that about him?"

Dan nodded. He saw how the web of circumstance had enmeshed him from the
beginning. All the incidents of that chance visit to Fraserville to
write the sketch of Bassett for the "Courier" lived in his memory.
Something had been said there about Madison College; and his connection
with Fitch's office had been mentioned, and on the fears thus roused in
Morton Bassett, he, Daniel Harwood, had reared a tottering
superstructure of aims, hopes, ambitions, that threatened to overwhelm
him! But now, as the first shock passed, he saw all things clearly. He
would save Sylvia even though Bassett must be saved first. If Thatcher
could be silenced in no other way, he might have the senatorship; or Dan
would go direct to Bassett and demand that he withdraw from the contest.
He was not afraid of Morton Bassett now.

"I had gone to work for that construction company in the Boordman where
you found me. It was his idea to move me into your office--I guess you
thought you picked me out; but he gave me a quiet tip to ask you for the
job. Well, he'd been dropping into the construction office now and then
to see me--you know the boss was never in town and I hadn't much to do.
He used to dictate letters--said he couldn't trust the public stenogs in
the hotels; and one day he gave me that letter to copy. He had written
it out in lead pencil beforehand, but seemed mighty anxious to get it
just right. After I copied it he worked it over several times, before he
got it to suit him. He said it was a little business he was attending to
for a friend. We burnt up the discards in the little old grate in the
office. He had brought some paper and envelopes along with him, and I
remember he held a sheet up to the light to make sure it didn't have a
watermark. He threw down a twenty-dollar gold piece and took the letter
away with him. After I had moved into your office he spoke of that
letter once: one day when you were out he asked me how much money had
been mentioned in the letter."

"When was that, Rose?"

"A few days after the state convention when you shot the hot tacks into
Thatcher. He had been at Waupegan, you remember."

Dan remembered. And he recalled also that Bassett had seen Sylvia at
Mrs. Owen's the day following the convention, and it was not astonishing
that the sight of her had reminded him of his offer to pay for her
education. His own relation to the matter was clear enough now that Rose
had yielded her secret.

Rose watched him as he drew on his overcoat and she handed him his hat
and gloves. Her friend, "the beautiful one," would not suffer; she was
confident of this, now that Harwood was fully armed to protect her.

"Keep after Ramsay by telephone until you find him. Tell him to come
here and wait for me if it's all day. If you fail to catch him by
telephone, go out and look for him and bring him here."

In a moment he was hurrying toward Mrs. Owen's.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE MAN OF SHADOWS


The dome was a great blot against the stars when, shortly after eight
o'clock that evening, Sylvia entered the capitol.

All night, in the room she had occupied on that far day of her first
visit to Mrs. Owen, Sylvia had pondered. It is not for us to know what
passed in that still chamber between her and her friend; but it was the
way of both women to meet the truth squarely. They discussed facts
impersonally, dispassionately, and what Sylvia had assumed, her old
friend could not controvert. Not what others had done, not what others
might do, but what course Sylvia should follow--this was the crux of the
situation.

"I must think it out; I must think it out," Sylvia kept repeating. At
last Mrs. Owen left her lying dressed on the bed, and all night Sylvia
lay there in the dark. Toward morning she had slept, and later when Mrs.
Owen carried up her breakfast she did not refer to her trouble except to
ask whether there was any news. Mrs. Owen understood and replied that
there was nothing. Sylvia merely answered and said: "Then there is still
time." What she meant by this her kind old friend did not know; but she
had faith in her Sylvia. Dan came, but he saw Mrs. Owen only. Later
Sylvia asked what he had said, and she merely nodded when Rose's story
was repeated. Again she said: "Yes; there is still time."

Sylvia had kept her room all day, and Mrs. Owen had rigidly respected
her wish to be alone. She voluntarily appeared at the evening meal and
talked of irrelevant things: of her school work, of the sale of the
house at Montgomery, of the projected school at Waupegan.

"I'm going out for a while," she said, after an hour in the little
office. "I shan't be gone long, Aunt Sally; don't trouble about me. I
have my key, you know."

When she had gone, Mrs. Owen called one of the colored men from the
stable and gave him a line to Harwood, with a list of places where Dan
might be found. Her message was contained in a single line:--

     "Sylvia has left the house. Keep an eye out for her; she told me
     nothing."

Sylvia found consolation and courage in the cold night air; her old
friends the stars, whose names she had learned before she knew her
letters, did not leave her comfortless. They had unconsciously
contributed to her gift for seeing life in long vistas. "When you are
looking at the stars," Professor Kelton used to say, "you are not
thinking of yourself." It was not of herself that Sylvia was thinking.

She prolonged her walk, gathering strength as the exercise warmed her
blood, planning what she meant to do, even repeating to herself phrases
she meant to use. So it happened that Mrs. Owen's messenger had found
Dan at the State House and delivered the note, and that Dan, called from
a prolonged conference with Ramsay, saw Sylvia's unmistakable figure as
she reached the top of the stairway, watched her making inquiries of a
lounger, saw men staring at her. It crossed his mind that she was
seeking him, and he started toward her; but she had stopped again to
question one of the idlers in the hall. He saw her knock at a door and
knew it was Bassett's room--a room that for years had been set apart for
the private councils of the senator from Fraser. As Sylvia knocked,
several men came out, as though the interruption had terminated an
interview. The unveiled face of the tall, dark girl called for a second
glance; it was an odd place for a pretty young woman to be seeking
Morton Bassett. They looked at each other and grinned.

A single lamp on a table in the middle of the high-ceilinged room shed a
narrow circle of light that deepened the shadows of the walls. Bassett,
standing by a window, was aware of a lighter step than was usual in this
plotting chamber. He advanced toward the table with his hands in his
pockets, waited till Sylvia was disclosed by the lamp, stopped abruptly,
stared at her with eyes that seemed not to see her. Then he placed a
chair for her, muttering:--

"I thought you would come."

It seemed to her that a sigh broke from him, hidden by the scraping of
the chair across the bare floor. He crossed and recrossed the floor
several times, as though now that she had come he had dismissed her
from his thoughts. Then as he passed near her with slow, heavy step she
spoke.

"I came to talk to you, Mr. Bassett. Please turn on the other lights."

"Pardon me," he said; and she heard his fingers fumbling for the switch
by the door. In a moment the room was flooded from the chandelier
overhead, and he returned, and sat down by the table without looking at
her.

"I shouldn't have come here, but I knew of no other way. It seemed best
to see you to-night."

"It's all right," he replied indifferently.

He sat drooping, as though the light had in itself a weight that bore
him down. His face was gray; his hands hung impotently from the arms of
his chair. He still did not meet her eyes, which had taken in every line
of his figure, the little details of his dress, even the inconspicuous
pearl pin thrust through the loose ends of his tie. A man opened the
door hurriedly and peered in: Bassett was wanted elsewhere, he said.
Without rising Bassett bade him wait outside. The man seemed to
understand that he was to act as guard, and he began patroling the
corridor. The sound of his steps on the tiles was plainly
distinguishable as he passed the door.

"It's all right now," Bassett explained. "No one will come in here."

He threw his arm over the back of his chair and bent upon Sylvia a
glance of mingled curiosity and indifference.

"I understand," she said quietly, "that nothing has been done. It is
not yet too late. The situation here is as it has been?"

"Yes; if you mean out _there_. They are waiting for me."

"I suppose Mr. Harwood is there, and Mr. Thatcher."

He blinked at the names and changed his position slightly.

"I dare say they are," he answered coldly.

"I thought it best to see you and talk to you; and I'm glad I knew
before it was too late."

His eyes surveyed her slowly now from head to foot. Why was she glad she
had known before it was too late? Her calmness made him uneasy,
restless. It was a familiar characteristic of Morton Bassett that he met
storm and stress stoically. He was prepared for scorn, recrimination,
tears; but this dark-eyed girl, sitting before him in her gray
walking-dress and plain hat with a bunch of scarlet flowers showing
through the veil she had caught up over them, seemed in no danger of
yielding to tears. Her voice fell in cool, even tones. He had said that
he expected her, but she did not know what manner of meeting he had been
counting on in his speculations. After a long look he passed his hand
across his face.

"I hope you haven't thought--you didn't think I should let them bring
you into it."

He spoke as though this were something due her; that she was entitled to
his reassurance that the threatened cataclysm should not drag her down
with him. When she made no reply he seemed to feel that he had not made
himself clear, and he repeated, in other terms, that she need not be
concerned for the outcome; that he meant to shield her.

"Yes; I supposed you would do that; I had expected that."

"And," he went on, as though to anticipate her, to eliminate the
necessity for her further explanations, "you have a right to ask what
you please. Or we can meet again to arrange matters. I am prepared to
satisfy your demands in the fullest sense."

His embarrassment had passed. She had sought the interview, but he had
taken charge of it. Beyond the closed door the stage waited. This was
the briefest interlude before the moment of his triumphant entrance.

Sylvia smiled, an incredulous smile, and shook her head slowly, like a
worn, tired mother whose patience is sorely taxed by a stubborn,
unyielding child at her knee. Her lips trembled, but she bent her head
for a moment and then spoke more quickly than before, as though
overriding some inner spirit that strove rebelliously within her breast.

"I know--almost all I ever need to know. But there are some things you
must tell me now. This is the first--and the last--time that I shall
ever speak to you of these things. I know enough--things I have stumbled
upon--and I have built them up until I see the horror, the blackness.
And I want to feel sure that you, too, see the pity of it all."

Her note of subdued passion roused him now to earnestness, and he framed
a disavowal of the worst she might have imagined. He could calm her
fears at once, and the lines in his face relaxed at the thought that it
was in his power to afford her this relief.

"I married your mother. There was nothing wrong about it. It was all
straight."

"And you thought, oh, you thought I came for that--you believed I came
to have you satisfy me of her honor! I never doubted her!" and she
lifted her head proudly. "And that is what you thought I came for?" The
indignation that flashed in her first stammered sentences died
falteringly in a contemptuous whisper.

Her words had cut him deep; he turned away aimlessly, fingering some
papers on the table beside him. Then he plunged to the heart of the
matter, as though in haste to exculpate himself.

"I never meant that it should happen as it did. I knew her in New York
when we were both students there. My father had been ill a long time; he
was bent upon my marrying the daughter of his old friend Singleton, a
man of wealth and influence in our part of the state. I persuaded your
mother to run away and we were married, under an assumed name,--but it
was a marriage good in law. There's no question of that, you understand.
Then I left her up there in the Adirondacks, and went home. My father's
illness was prolonged, and his condition justified me in asking your
mother to wait. She knew the circumstances and agreed to remain away
until I saw my way clear to acknowledging her and taking her home. You
were born up there. Your mother grew impatient and hurt because I could
not go back to her. But I could not--it would have ruined all my chances
at home. When I went to find my wife she had disappeared. She was a
proud woman, and I suppose she had good cause for hating me."

He told the story fully, filling in the gaps in her own knowledge. He
did not disguise the fact of his own half-hearted search for the woman
he had deserted. He even told of the precautions he had taken to assure
himself of the death of Edna Kelton by visiting Montgomery to look at
her grave before his marriage to Hallie Singleton. He had gone back
again shortly before he made the offer to pay for Sylvia's schooling,
and had seen her with her grandfather in the little garden among the
roses.

Outside the guard slowly passed back and forth. Sylvia did not speak;
her seeming inattention vexed and perplexed him. He thought her lacking
in appreciation of his frankness.

"Thatcher knows much of this story, but he doesn't know the whole," he
went on. "He believes it was irregular. He's been keeping it back to
spring as a sensation. He's told those men out there that he can break
me; that at the last minute he will crush me. They're waiting for me
now--Thatcher and his crowd; probably chuckling to think how at last
they've got me cornered. That's the situation. They think they're about
rid of Morton Bassett."

"You left her; you deserted her; you left her to die alone, unprotected,
without even a name. You accepted her loyalty and fidelity, and then
threw her aside; you slunk away alone to her grave to be sure she
wouldn't trouble you again. Oh, it is black, it is horrible!"

Sylvia was looking at him with a kind of awed wonder in her eyes. For an
instant there had been a faint suggestion of contrition in his tone, but
it was overwhelmed by his desire for self-justification. It was of
himself he was thinking, not of the deed in itself, not of the woman he
had left to bear her child in an alien wilderness.

"I tried to do what I could for you. I want you to know that. I meant to
have cared for you, that no harm should come to you," he said, and the
words jarred upon his own ears as he spoke them.

In her face there was less of disdain than of marvel. He wished to
escape from her eyes, but they held him fast. Messengers ran hurriedly
through the corridors; men passed the door talking in tones faintly
audible; but the excitement in the rival camps communicated nothing of
its intensity to this quiet chamber. Men had feared Morton Bassett; this
girl, with her wondering dark eyes, did not fear him. But he was
following a course he had planned for this meeting, and he dared not
shift his ground.

"I don't want you to think that I haven't been grieved to see you
working for your living; I never meant that you should do that.
Hereafter that will be unnecessary; but I am busy to-night. To-morrow,
at any time you say, we will talk of those things."

There was dismissal in his manner and tone. He was anxious to be rid of
her. The color deepened in her olive cheeks, but she bent upon him once
more her patient, wondering, baffling smile.

"Please never propose such a thing again, Mr. Bassett. There is
absolutely nothing of that kind that you can do for me."

"You want to make it hard for me; but I hope you will think better of
that. It is right that I should make the only reparation that is
possible now."

This rang so false and was so palpably insincere that he was relieved
when she ignored it.

"You said a moment ago that your enemies, waiting out there, thought
they had you beaten. I want you to tell me just how you propose to meet
Mr. Thatcher's threat."

"What am I going to do?" he broke out angrily. "I'm going into that
caucus and beat Thatcher's game; I'm going to tell his story first! But
don't misunderstand me; I'm going to protect you. I know men, and those
men will respect me for coming out with it. I haven't been in politics
all these years to be beaten at last by Ed Thatcher. I've pledged votes
enough to-day to give me a majority of three on the next ballot; but
I'll explode Thatcher's bombshell in his own hands. I'm all prepared for
him; I have the documents--the marriage certificate and the whole
business. But you won't suffer; you won't be brought into it. That's
what I'm going to do about it!"

The failure of his declaration to shake her composure disturbed him;
perhaps after all his contemplated _coup_ was not so charged with
electricity as he had imagined. Nothing in his bald statement of his
marriage to her mother and the subsequent desertion had evoked the
reproach, the recrimination, for which he had steeled himself when she
entered the room. He felt his hold upon the interview lessening. He had
believed himself expert in calculating effects, yet apparently she had
heard his announcement, delivered with a brutal directness, without
emotion.

"This isn't quite all, Mr. Bassett," Sylvia began after a moment. "You
have offered me reparation, or what you called by that name. You can't
deny that I have a right to be satisfied with that reparation."

"Certainly; anything in reason. It is for you to name the terms; I
expect you to make them--adequate."

"Let us go back a moment," she began, smiling at the care with which he
had chosen his last word. "Last night I fought out for myself the whole
matter of your scoundrelly, cowardly treatment of my mother. You can
make no reparation to her. The time passed long ago for that. And there
is absolutely nothing you can do for me. I will accept nothing from you,
neither the name you denied to her nor money, now or later. So there is
only one other person whose interest or whose happiness we need
consider."

He stared at her frowning, not understanding. Once more, as on that day
when she had laughed at him, or again when she had taken the affairs of
his own household into her hands, he was conscious of the strength that
lay in her, of her power to drive him back upon himself. Something of
his own masterful spirit had entered into her, but with a difference.
Her self-control, her patient persistence, her sobriety of judgment, her
reasoning mind, were like his own. She was as keen and resourceful as
he, and he was eager for the explanation she withheld, as though,
knowing that she had driven in his pickets, he awaited the charge of her
lines. He bent toward her, feeling her charm, yielding to the
fascination she had for him.

"No," he said gently and kindly. "I don't see; I don't understand you."

She saw and felt the change in him; but she was on guard against a
reaction. He could not know how her heart throbbed, or how it had seemed
for a moment that words would not come to her lips.

"It is to you; it is to yourself that you must make the reparation. And
you must make it now. There may never be a time like this; it is your
great opportunity."

"You think, you ask--" he began warily; and she was quick to see that
the precise moment for the full stroke had not come; that the ground
required preparation.

"I think," she interrupted, smiling gravely, "that you want me to be
your friend. More than that, we have long been friends. And deep down in
your heart I believe you want my regard; you want me to think well of
you. And I must tell you that there's a kind of happiness--for it must
be happiness--that comes to me at the thought of it. Something there is
between you and me that is different; somehow we understand each other."

His response was beyond anything she had hoped for; a light shone
suddenly in his face. There was no doubt of the sincerity of the feeling
with which he replied:--

"Yes; I have felt it; I felt it the first day we met!"

"And because there is this understanding, this tie, I dare to be frank
with you: I mean to make your reparation difficult. But you will not
refuse it; you will not disappoint me. I mean, that you must throw away
the victory you are prepared to win."

He shook his head slowly, but he could not evade the pleading of her
eyes.

"I can't do it; it's too much," he muttered. "It's the goal I have
sought for ten years. It would be like throwing away life itself."

"Yes; it would be bitter; but it would be the first sacrifice you ever
made in your life. You have built your life on lies. You have lurked in
shadows, hating the light. You have done your work in the dark,
creeping, hiding, mocking, vanishing. What you propose doing to-night in
anticipating the blow of your enemy is only an act of bravado. There is
no real courage in that. When you thrust Dan Harwood into the convention
to utter your sneer for you, it was the act of a coward. And that was
contemptible cowardice. You picked him up, a clean young man of ideals,
and tried to train him in your cowardly shadow ways. When the pricking
of your conscience made you feel some responsibility for me, you
manifested it like a coward. You sent a cowardly message to the best man
that ever lived, not knowing, not caring how it would wound him. And you
have been a great thief, stealing away from men the thing they should
prize most, but you have taught them to distrust it--their faith in
their country--even more, their faith in each other! The shadows have
followed you to your own home. You have hidden yourself behind a veil of
mystery, so that your own wife and children don't know the man you are.
You have never been true to anything--not to yourself, not to those who
should be near and dear to you. And you have sneered at the people who
send you here to represent them; you have betrayed them, not once but a
hundred times; and you know it hasn't paid. You are the unhappiest man
in the world. But there's a real power in you, or you could never have
done the things you have done--the mean and vile things. You have brains
and a genius for organizing and managing men. You could never have
lasted so long without the personal qualities that a man must have to
lead men. And you have led them, down and down."

To all appearances she had spoken to dull ears. Occasionally their eyes
had met, but his gaze had wandered away to range the walls. When she
ceased he moved restlessly about the room.

"You think I am as bad as that?" he asked, pausing by the table and
looking down at her.

"You are as bad--and as good--as that," she replied, the hope that
stirred in her heart lighting her face.

He shrugged his shoulders and sat down.

"You have the wit to see that the old order of things is passing; the
old apparatus you have learned to operate with a turn of the hand is out
of date. Now is your chance to leave the shadow life and begin again.
It's not too late to win the confidence--the gratitude even--of the
people who now distrust and fear you. The day of reckoning is coming
fast for men like you, who have made a mystery of politics, playing it
as a game in the dark. I don't pretend to know much of these things, but
I can see that men of your type are passing out; there would be no great
glory for you in waiting to be the last to go. And there are things
enough for you to do. If you ally yourself with the good causes that cry
for support and leadership, you can be far more formidable than you have
ever been as a skulking trickster; you can lead men up as you have led
them down."

"The change is coming; I have seen it coming," he replied, catching at
the one thing it seemed safest to approve.

But she was not to be thwarted by his acquiescence in generalities. He
saw that she had brought him back to a point whence he must elect his
course, but he did not flinch at the flat restatement of her demand.

"You have done nothing to deserve the senatorship; you are not the
choice of the people of this state. You must relinquish it; you must
give it up!"

The earnestness with which she uttered her last words seemed, to her
surprise, to amuse him.

"You think," he said, "that I should go back and make a new start by a
different route? But I don't know the schedule; my transportation is
good on only one line." And he grinned at his joke.

"Oh, you will have to pay your fare!" she replied quickly. "You've never
done that."

His grin became a smile, and he said: "You want me to walk if I can't
pay my way!"

"Yes," she laughed happily, feeling that her victory was half won; "and
you would have to be careful to stop, look, and listen at the
crossings!"

The allusion further eased the stress of the hour; humor shone in his
gray eyes. He consulted his watch, frowned, bent his eyes upon the
floor, then turned to her with disconcerting abruptness.

"I haven't been half the boss you think me. I've been hedged in,
cramped, and shackled. All these fellows who hop the stick when I say
'Jump' have their little axes I must help grind. I've fooled away the
best years of my life taking care of these little fellows, and I've
spent a lot of money on them. It's become a little monotonous, I can
tell you. It's begun to get on my nerves, for I have a few; and all this
hammering I've taken from the newspapers has begun to make me hot. I
know about as much as they do about the right and wrong of things; I
suppose I know something about government and the law too!"

"Yes," Sylvia assented eagerly.

He readjusted himself in his chair, crossing his legs and thrusting his
hands into his trousers pockets.

"It _would_ be rather cheerful and comfortable," he continued musingly,
as though unburdening himself of old grievances, "to be free to do as
you like once in a lifetime! Those fellows in Thatcher's herd who have
practically sold out to me and are ready to deliver the goods to-night
are all rascals, swung my way by a few corporations that would like to
have me in Washington. It would be a good joke to fool them and elect a
man who couldn't be bought! It's funny, but I've wondered sometimes
whether I wasn't growing tired of the old game."

"But the new game you can play better than any of them. It's the only
way you can find peace."

With a gesture half-bold, half-furtive, he put out his hand and touched
lightly the glove she had drawn off and laid on the table.

"You believe in me; you have some faith left in me?"

"Yes."

Her hand touched his; her dark eyes searched the depths of his
soul--sought and found the shadows there and put them to flight. When
she spoke it was with a tenderness that was new to all his experience of
life; he had not known that there could be balm like this for a bruised
and broken spirit. This girl, seeking nothing for herself, refusing
anything he could offer, had held up a mirror in which he saw himself
limned against dancing, mocking shadows. Nothing in her arraignment had
given him a sharper pang than her reference to his loneliness, his
failure to command sympathy and confidence in his home relationships. No
praise had ever been so sweet to him as hers; she not only saw his
weaknesses and dealt with them unsparingly, but she recognized also the
strength he had wasted and the power he had abused. She saw life in
broad vistas as he had believed he saw it; he was not above a stirring
of pride that she appreciated him and appraised his gifts rightly. He
had long played skillfully upon credulity and ignorance; he had
frittered away his life in contentions with groundlings. It would be a
relief, if it were possible, to deal with his peers, the enlightened,
the far-seeing, and the fearless, who strove for great ends. So he
pondered, while outside the sentinel kept watch like a fate.

"Yes," Sylvia was saying slowly, "you can make restitution. But not to
the dead--not to my mother asleep over there at Montgomery, oh, not to
me! What is done is past, and you can't go back. There's no going back
in this world. But you can go on--you can go on and up--"

"No! You don't see that; you don't believe that?"

"Yes, I believe it. The old life--the life of mystery and duplicity is
over; you will never go back to the old way."

"The old way?" he repeated.

"The old unhappy way."

"Up there at the lake you knew I was unhappy; you knew things weren't
right with me?"

"Things weren't right because you were wrong! Success hadn't made you
happy. The shadows kept dancing round you. Mrs. Bassett's troubles came
largely from worrying about you. In time Marian and Blackford will begin
to see the shadows. I should think--I should think"--and he saw that she
was deeply moved--"that a man would want the love of his children; I
should think he would want them to be proud of him."

"His children; yes; I haven't thought enough of that."

She had so far controlled herself, but an old ache throbbed in her
heart. "In college, when I heard the girls talking of their homes, it
used to hurt me more than you can ever know. There were girls among my
friends whose fathers were fine men,--some of them great and famous; and
I used to feel sure that my father would have been like them. I
felt--that I should have been proud of him." And suddenly she flung her
arms upon the table and bowed her face upon them and wept.

He stood beside her, patiently, helplessly. The suggestion of her lonely
girlhood with its hovering shadow smote him the more deeply because it
emphasized the care she had taken to subordinate herself throughout
their talk.

"Do you think you could ever be proud of me?--that you might even care a
little, some day?" he asked, bending over her.

"Oh, if it could be so!" she whispered brokenly, so low that he bent
closer to hear.

The room was very still. Sylvia rose and began drawing on her glove, not
looking at him. She was afraid to risk more; there was, indeed, nothing
more to say. It was for him to make his choice. He was silent so long
that she despaired. Then he passed his hand across his face like one
roused from sleep.

"Wait a moment," he said, "and I will walk home with you."

He went to the door and dispatched the guard on an errand; then he
seated himself at the table and picked up a pad of paper. He was still
writing when Harwood entered. Sylvia and Dan exchanged a nod, but no
words passed between them. They watched the man at the table, as he
wrote with a deliberation that Dan remembered as characteristic of him.
When he had finished, he copied what he had written, put the copy in his
breastpocket and buttoned his coat before glancing at Harwood.

"If I withdraw my name, what will happen?" he asked quietly.

"Ramsay will be nominated, sir," Dan answered.

Bassett studied a moment, fingering the memorandum he had written; then
he looked at Dan quizzically.

"Just between ourselves, Dan, do you really think the Colonel's
straight?"

"If he isn't, he has fooled a lot of people," Dan replied.

He had no idea of what had happened, but he felt that all was well with
Sylvia. It seemed a long time since Bassett had called him Dan!

"Well, I guess the Colonel's the best we can do. I'm out of it. This is
my formal withdrawal. Hand it to Robbins--you know him, of course. It
tells him what I want done. My votes go to Ramsay on the next ballot. I
look to you to see that it's played square. Give the Colonel my
compliments. That's all. Good-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

Harwood called Robbins from the room where Bassett's men lounged,
waiting for the convening of the caucus, and delivered the message. As
he hurried toward Thatcher's headquarters he paused suddenly, and bent
over the balcony beneath the dome to observe two figures that were
slowly descending one of the broad stairways. Morton Bassett and Sylvia
were leaving the building together. A shout rang out, echoing hollowly
through the corridors, and was followed by scattering cheers from men
who were already hastening toward the senate chamber where the caucus
sessions were held.

Somehow Morton Bassett's sturdy shoulders, his step, quickened to adapt
it to the pace of his companion, did not suggest defeat. Dan still
watched as the two crossed the rotunda on their way to the street.
Bassett was talking; he paused for an instant and looked up at the dome,
as though calling his companion's attention to its height.

Sylvia glanced up, nodded, and smiled as though affirming something
Bassett had said; and then the two vanished from Dan's sight.



CHAPTER XXXIV

WE GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING


"Sylvia was reading in her grandfather's library when the bell tinkled."

With these words our chronicle began, and they again slip from the pen
as I begin these last pages. When Morton Bassett left her at the door of
Elizabeth House she had experienced a sudden call of the truant spirit.
Sylvia wanted to be alone, to stand apart for a little while from the
clanging world and take counsel of herself. Hastily packing a bag she
caught the last train for Montgomery, walked to the Kelton cottage, and
roused Mary, who had been its lone tenant since the Professor's death.
She sent Mary to bed, and after kindling a fire in the grate, roamed
about the small, comfortable rooms, touching wistfully the books, the
pictures, the scant bric-à-brac. She made ready her own bed under the
eaves where she had dreamed her girlhood dreams, shaking from the sheets
she found in the linen chest the leaves of lavender that Mary had strewn
among them. The wind rose in the night and slammed fitfully a blind
that, as long as she could remember, had uttered precisely that same
protest against the wind's presumption. It was all quite like old times,
and happy memories of the past stole back and laid healing hands upon
her.

She slept late, and woke to look out upon a white world. Across the
campus floated the harsh clamor of the chapel bell, and she saw the
students tramping through the swirling snow just as she had seen them in
the old times, the glad and happy times when it had seemed that the
world was bounded by the lines of the campus, and that nothing lay
beyond it really worth considering but Centre Church and the court-house
and the dry-goods shop where her grandfather had bought her first and
only doll. She bade Mary sit down and talk to her while she ate
breakfast in the little dining-room; and the old woman poured out upon
her the gossip of the Lane, the latest trespasses of the Greek
professor's cow, the escapades of the Phi Gamma Delta's new dog, the
health of Dr. Wandless, the new baby at the house of the Latin
professor, the ill-luck of the Madison Eleven, and like matters that
were, and that continue to be, of concern in Buckeye Lane. Rumors of the
sale of the cottage had reached Mary, but Sylvia took pains to reassure
her.

"Oh, you don't go with the house, Mary! Mrs. Owen has a plan for you.
You haven't any cause for worry. But it's too bad to sell the house. I'd
like to get a position teaching in Montgomery and come back here and
live with you. There's no place in the world quite like this."

"But it's quiet, Miss, and the repairs keep going on. Mr. Harwood had to
put a new downspout on the kitchen; the old one had rusted to pieces.
The last time he was over--that was a month ago--he came in and sat down
to wait for his train, he said; and I told him to help himself to the
books, but when I looked in after a while he was just sitting in that
chair out there by the window looking out at nothing. And when I asked
him if he'd have a cup of tea, he never answered; not till I went up
close and spoke again. He's peculiar, but a good-hearted gentleman. You
can see that. And when he paid me my wages that day he made it five
dollars extra, and when I asked him what it was for, he smiled a funny
kind of smile he has, and said, 'It's for being good to Sylvia when she
was a little girl.' He's peculiar, very peculiar, but he's kind. And
when I said I didn't have to be paid for that, he said all right, he
guessed that was so, but for me to keep the money and buy a new bonnet
or give it to the priest. A very kind gentleman, that Mr. Harwood, but
peculiar."

The sun came out shortly before noon. Sylvia walked into town, bought
some flowers, and drove to the cemetery. She told the driver not to
wait, and lingered long in the Kelton lot where snow-draped evergreens
marked its four corners. The snow lay smooth on the two graves, and she
placed her flowers upon them softly without disturbing the white
covering. A farmboy whistling along the highway saw her in the lonely
cemetery and trudged on silently, but he did not know that the woman
tending her graves did not weep, or that when she turned slowly away,
looking back at last from the iron gates, it was not of the past she
thought, nor of the heartache buried there, but of a world newly
purified, with long, broad vistas of hope and aspiration lengthening
before her. But we must not too long leave the bell--an absurd
contrivance of wire and knob--that tinkled rather absently and eerily in
the kitchen pantry. Let us repeat once more and for the last time:--

Sylvia was reading in her grandfather's library when the bell tinkled.

Truly enough, a book lay in her lap, but it may be that, after all, she
had not done more than skim its pages--an old "Life of Nelson" that had
been a favorite of her grandfather's. Sylvia rose, put down the book,
marked it carefully as on that first occasion which so insistently comes
back to us as we look in upon her. Mary appeared at the library door,
but withdrew, seeing that Sylvia was answering the bell.

Some one was stamping vigorously on the step, and as Sylvia opened the
door, Dan Harwood stood there, just as on that other day; now, to be
sure, he seemed taller than then, though it must be only the effect of
his long ulster.

"How do you do, Sylvia," he said, and stepped inside without waiting for
a parley like that in which Sylvia had engaged him on that
never-to-be-forgotten afternoon in June. "You oughtn't to try to hide;
it isn't fair for one thing, and hiding is impossible for another."

"It's too bad you came," said Sylvia, "for I should have been home
to-morrow. I came just because I wanted to be alone for a day."

"I came," said Dan, laughing, "because I didn't like being alone."

"I hope Aunt Sally isn't troubled about me. I hadn't time to tell her I
was coming here; I don't believe I really thought about it; I simply
wanted to come back here once more before the house is turned over to
strangers."

"Oh, Aunt Sally wasn't worried half as much as I was. She said you were
all right; she has great faith in your ability to take care of yourself.
I'm pretty sure of it, too," he said, and bent his eyes upon her keenly.

There was nothing there to dismay him; her olive cheeks still glowed
with color from her walk, and her eyes were clear and steady.

"Did you see the paper--to-day's paper?" he asked, when they were seated
before the fire.

"No," she replied, folding her arms and looking at the point of her
slipper that rested against the brass fender.

"You will be glad to know that the trouble is all over. Ramsay has the
senatorship, all but the confirmation of the joint session, which is
merely a formality. They've conferred on me the joy of presenting his
name. Ramsay is clean and straight, and thoroughly in sympathy with all
the new ideas that are sound. Personally I like him. He's the most
popular and the most presentable man we have, and his election to the
Senate will greatly strengthen the party."

He did not know how far he might speak of the result and of the causes
that had contributed to it. He was relieved when she asked, very simply
and naturally,--

"I suppose Mr. Bassett made it possible; it couldn't have been, you
couldn't have brought it about, without him."

"If he hadn't withdrawn he could have had the nomination himself!
Thatcher's supporters were growing wobbly and impatient. We shouldn't
any of us care to see Thatcher occupy a seat in the Senate that has been
filled by Oliver Morton and Joe MacDonald and Ben Harrison and Dave
Turpie. We Hoosiers are not perfect, but our Senators first and last
have been men of brains and character. Ramsay won't break the apostolic
succession; he's all right."

"You think Mr. Bassett might have had it; you have good reason for
believing that?" she asked.

"I could name you the men who were ready to go to him. He had the
stampede all ready, down to the dress rehearsal. He practically gave
away a victory he had been working for all his life."

"Yes; he is like that; he can do such things," murmured Sylvia.

"History has been making rapidly in the past twenty-four hours. Bassett
has bought Thatcher's interest in the 'Courier,' and he proposes editing
it himself. More than that, he was at my office this morning when I got
there, and he asked me, as a special favor to him, to take a few shares
in the company to qualify me as secretary of the corporation, and said
he wanted me to help him. He said he thought it about time for Indiana
to have a share in the general reform movement; talked about it as
though this were something he had always intended doing, but had been
prevented by press of other matters. He spoke of the Canneries case and
wanted to know if I cared to reconsider my refusal to settle it. He put
it quite impersonally--said Fitch told him he couldn't do more than
prolong the litigation by appeals, and that in the end he was bound to
be whipped. And I agreed, on terms that really weren't generous on my
part. He said all right; that he wanted to clear up all his old business
as quickly as possible. As he left my office I almost called him back to
throw off the last pound I had exacted; he really made me feel ashamed
of my greed. The old spell he had for me in the beginning came back
again. I believe in him; I never believed in any man so much, Sylvia!
And if he does throw his weight on the right side it will mean a lot to
every good cause men and women are contending for these days. It will
mean a lot to the state, to the whole country."

"And so much, oh, so much to him!"

Just what had passed between Bassett and Sylvia he only surmised; but it
was clear that the warmth with which he had spoken of his old employer
was grateful to Sylvia. He had not meant to dwell upon Bassett, and yet
the brightening of her eyes, her flash of feeling, the deep inner
meaning of her ejaculation, had thrilled him.

"I've said more than I meant to; I didn't come to talk of those things,
Sylvia."

"I'm glad you thought I should like to know--about him. I'm glad you
told me."

They were quiet for a little while, then he said, "Sylvia!" very
softly.

"Not that, Dan; please! I can't bear to hear that. It will break my
heart if you begin that!"

She rose and faced him, her back to the wall.

He had come to complete the declaration which the song had interrupted
on the lake, and at the first hint the chords that had been touched by
the unknown singer vibrated sharply, bringing back her old heartache. He
crossed to her quickly that he might show her how completely the memory
of that night had been obliterated; that it had vanished utterly and
ceased to be, like the ripple stirred to a moment's life by the brush of
a swallow's wing on still water. He stood beside her and took both her
hands in his strong clasp.

"We are going to be married, Sylvia; we are going to be married, here,
now, to-day!"

"No, no!"

She turned away her head, but his arms enfolded her; he bent down and
kissed her forehead, her eyes, and her lips last of all.

"Yes; here and now. Unless you say you don't care for me, that you don't
love me. If you say those things I shall go away."

She did not say them. She clung to him and looked long into his face,
and kissed him.

Harwood had chosen the hour well. Sylvia had met bravely the great
crisis of her life, and had stood triumphant and satisfied, weary but
content in the clear ether to which she had climbed; but it was a relief
to yield herself at last to the sway of emotions long checked and
stifled. Save for her grandfather's devoted kindness, and the friendship
of Mrs. Owen, her experiences of affection had been singularly meagre.
She had resolved that if Dan should speak of love again she would be
strong enough to resist him; but she had yielded unhesitatingly at a
word. And it was inexpressibly sweet to yield, to feel his strong arms
clasping her, to hear his protestations and assurances, to know that her
life had found shelter and protection. She knew that she had never
questioned or doubted, but that her faith had grown with her love for
him. Not only had he chosen the hour well, but there was a fitness in
his choice of place. The familiar scene emphasized her sense of
dependence upon him and gave a sweet poignancy to the memories of her
childhood and youth that were enshrined within the cottage walls. In
this room, in the garden outside, on the campus across the Lane, she had
known the first tremulous wonderings and had heard the first whispered
answers to life's riddles and enigmas; and now she knew that in Love
lives the answer to all things.

After a little she rested her hands on his shoulders, half-clinging to
him, half-repelling him, and he pressed his hands upon her cheeks, to be
ready for the question he had read in her eyes.

"But," she faltered, "there are things I have promised to do for Aunt
Sally; we shall have to wait a long time!"

"Not for Aunt Sally," he cried happily. "Here she is at the door now. I
left her and John Ware at Dr. Wandless's."

"Well, well!" exclaimed Mrs. Owen, advancing into the room and throwing
open her coat. "You said you meant to get back to the city in time to
catch that limited for New York, and you haven't got much margin,
Daniel, I can tell you that!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed to the people who heard of it afterward a most romantic
marriage, that of Sylvia and Dan Harwood; but whatever view we may take
of this, it was certainly of all weddings the simplest. They stood there
before the mantel above which still hung the broken half of a ship's
wheel. Mrs. Owen, very tall and gaunt, was at one side, and Dr. Wandless
at the other; and old Mary, abashed and bewildered, looked on with
dilated eyes and crossed herself at intervals.

John Ware drew a service book from his pocket, and his fingers trembled
as he began. For none in the room, not even for Sylvia, had this hour
deeper meaning than for the gray soldier. He read slowly, as though this
were a new thing in the world, that a man and a woman had chosen to walk
together to the end of their days. And once his voice broke. He who, in
a hill country far away, had baptized this woman into the fold of Christ
the Shepherd, wavered for an instant as he said:--

"Elizabeth, wilt thou have this man--"

Sylvia lifted her head. She had not expected this, nor had Dan; but Dr.
Wandless had already stepped forward to give her in marriage, and as she
repeated her name after the minister, she felt the warm, reassuring
pressure of Dan's hand.

And so they went forth together from the little cottage by the campus
where they had first met; nor may it have been wholly a fancy of Dr.
Wandless's that the stars came out earlier that white, winter evening to
add their blessing!



A POSTSCRIPT BY THE CHRONICLER


Those who resent as an impertinence the chronicler's intrusion upon the
scene may here depart and slam the door, if such violence truly express
their sentiments. Others, averse to precipitous leavetaking, may linger,
hat in hand, for the epilogue.

I attended a public hearing by the senate committee on child labor at
the last session of the general assembly, accompanying my neighbor, Mrs.
Sally Owen, and we found seats immediately behind Mr. and Mrs. Daniel
Harwood.

"There's _E_-lizabeth and Daniel," remarked Mrs. Owen, as they turned
round and nodded to us. I found it pleasant to watch the Harwoods, who
are, as may have been surmised, old friends of mine. The meeting
gathered headway, and as one speaker after another was presented by the
chairman, I observed that Mrs. Harwood and her husband frequently
exchanged glances of approval; and I'm afraid that Mrs. Harwood's
profile, and that winning smile of hers, interested me quite as much as
the pleas of those who advocated the pending bill. Then the
representative of a manufacturers' organization inveighed against the
measure, and my two friends became even more deeply absorbed. It was a
telling speech, by one of the best-known lawyers in the state. Once I
saw Dan's cowlick shake like the plume of an angry warrior as his wife
turned toward him inquiringly. When the orator concluded, I saw them
discussing his arguments in emphatic whispers, and I was so pleased with
the picture they made that I failed to catch the name of the speaker
whom the chairman was introducing. A nudge from Mrs. Owen caused me to
lift my eyes to the rostrum.

"The next speaker is Mrs. Allen Thatcher," announced the chairman,
beaming inanely as a man always does when it becomes his grateful
privilege to present a pretty woman to an audience. Having known Marian
a long time, it was almost too much for my composure to behold her
there, beyond question the best-dressed woman in the senate chamber,
with a single American Beauty thrust into her coat, and a bewildering
rose-trimmed hat crowning her fair head. A pleasant sight anywhere on
earth, this daughter of the Honorable Morton Bassett, sometime senator
from Fraser; but her appearance in the legislative hall long dominated
by her father confirmed my faith in the ultimate adjustments of the law
of compensations. I had known Marian of old as an expert golfer and the
most tireless dancer at Waupegan; but that speech broke all her records.

Great is the emotional appeal of a pretty woman in an unapproachable
hat, but greater still the power of the born story-teller! I knew that
Marian visited Elizabeth House frequently and told stories of her own or
gave recitations at the Saturday night entertainments; but this was
Marian with a difference. She stated facts and drove them home with
anecdotes. It was a vigorous, breathless performance, and the
manufacturers' attorney confessed afterward that she had given him a
good trouncing. When she concluded (I remember that her white-gloved
hand smote the speaker's desk with a sharp thwack at her last word), I
was conscious that the applause was started by a stout, bald gentleman
whom I had not noticed before. I turned to look at the author of this
spontaneous outburst and found that it was the Honorable Edward G.
Thatcher, whose unfeigned pride in his daughter-in-law was good to see.

When the applause had ceased, Mrs. Owen sighed deeply and ejaculated:
"Well, well!"

As we walked home Aunt Sally grew talkative. "I used to say it was all
in the Book of Job and believed it; but there are some things that Job
didn't know after all. When I put Marian on the board of trusteees of
_E_-lizabeth House School, it was just to make good feeling in the
family, and I didn't suppose she would attend a meeting; but she's one
of the best women on that job. And _E_-lizabeth"--I loved the way she
drawled the name, and repeated it--"_E_-lizabeth says they couldn't do
without her. I guess between 'em those girls will make _E_-lizabeth
House School go right. That investment will be a dividend payer. And
there's Morton Bassett, that I never took much stock in, why, he's
settled down to being a decent and useful citizen. There ain't a better
newspaper in the country than the 'Courier,' and that first editorial,
up at the top of the page every morning, he writes himself, and it's got
a smack to it--a kind of pawpaw and persimmon flavor that shows it's
honest. I guess settling up that Canneries business cost him some
money, but things had always come too easy for Morton. And now that
they've moved down here, Hallie's cheered up a good deal, and she shows
signs of being cured of the sanatorium habit."

We were passing round the Monument, whose candelabra flooded the plaza
with light, and Mrs. Owen inveighed for a moment against automobiles in
general as we narrowly escaped being run down by a honking juggernaut at
Christ Church corner.

"It seems Morton has grown some," she resumed. "He's even got big enough
to forgive his enemies, and John Ware says only great men do that.
You've noticed that 'Hoosier Folks at Home' column in the 'Courier'?
Well, Ike Pettit runs that; Morton brought him to town on purpose after
Edward Thatcher closed out the Fraserville paper. I read every word of
that column every day. It gives you a kind of moving-picture show of
cloverfields, and children singing in the country schools, and rural
free delivery wagons throwing off magazines and newspapers, and the
interurban cars cutting slices out of the lonesomeness of the country
folks. It's certainly amazing how times change, and I want to live as
long as I can and keep on changing with 'em! Why, these farmers that
used to potter around all winter worrying over their debts to the
insurance companies are now going to Lafayette every January to learn
how to make corn pay, and they're putting bathrooms in their houses and
combing the hay out of their whiskers. They take their wives along with
'em to the University, so they can have a rest and learn to bake bread
that won't bring up the death-rate; and when those women go home they
dig the nails out of the windows to let the fresh air in, and move the
melodeon to the wood-pile, and quit frying meat except when the minister
stops for dinner. It's all pretty comfortable and cheerful and busy in
Indiana, with lots of old-fashioned human kindness flowing round; and
it's getting better all the time. And I guess it's always got to be that
way, out here in God's country."



THE END





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